QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
How did you get the idea for FAST TRACK?
It began as a writing exercise about a personal experience -- witnessing a car/train collision in 1959 which killed three people at this grade crossing in Chadwick, Illinois. As I wrote, I also remembered hearing a radio news report of a similar accident in which an infant survived. I started asking myself "what if" questions. The answers turned into FAST TRACK.
How much of FAST TRACK is based on personal experience?
FAST TRACK is a work of fiction and is not about persons living or dead. However, all writers draw upon personal experience for inspiration. In my case, some of the inspiration for the novel comes from my sister's suicide in 1980. FAST TRACK is set in South Central Wisconsin in the fictional town of Pine Bluff, which resembles Stoughton, where I used to live, and La Crosse, where I grew up.
How long did it take you to write the novel?
It took four months to write the first draft in 1995. It took another year-and-a-half of tweaking before I had the courage to let anyone else read it. I've been blessed with many friends whose honest feedback prompted fourteen major rewrites and a subsequent book deal with ArcheBooks.
How did you get an agent?
I got my first agent by networking and getting referrals from author friends, then sent a one-page query letter to ten agents. Several asked to see all or part of the manuscript, and one agent actually wanted to represent me. We had a very good relationship, but then, just as I delivered a major rewrite to him, he informed me that he was leaving the business. So, I was in agent-search mode again. I met Barbara Casey, my current agent, in the summer of 2004 at the Hariette Austin Writer's Conference at the University of Georgia.
Why didn't you just self publish your novel?
I thought about it, but decided it's not for me. While self publishing is a great way to get your book into print quickly, there are many obstacles, too: distribution mostly depends on your willingness to slavishly promote your book, and many book stores don't carry self published works. I feel that the critical eye of an experienced agent, coupled with the editorial oversight of a publisher are the best ways to make your book the best it can be -- and put it into the hands of the most readers.
Your second novel is BLUFF. What can you tell us about that?
I began writing BLUFF in 2001 while still trying to find an agent to handle FAST TRACK. In BLUFF, my protagonist, Lark Chadwick, is working as a reporter for her friend and mentor, Lionel Stone, at the Pine Bluff Standard. She digs deeper into the mysterious death of Lionel’s daughter, Holly, along the famed Inca Trail in Peru. As part of my research, I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (4 days, 25 miles, 14,000 feet) in the fall of 2007.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on TROUBLED WATER, the third novel in the Lark Chadwick mystery-suspense series. In this sequel, Lark moves from Wisconsin to Georgia to work as a reporter on a daily newspaper. But before she even gets to town, she discovers the body of a murdered teenager and soon gets caught up in the search for a serial killer.
Are you related to that guy who ran for president?
No. He misspells his name Dukakis.
What else do you like to do?
I play the drums, tennis, hike, bike, read, and I LOVE stimulating conversations with friends -- but the next day I rest.
FAST TRACK is an excellent choice for your book club. If you're not in a discussion group, I encourage you to form one, or check with your library or a bookstore to find groups already meeting in your area.
You get 55% off the retail price if you order the paperback in increments of 5 from the publisher's web site: http://archebooks.com/PDP.htm. The hardcover is 42% off.
In addition, if you contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, we can make arrangements for me to speak to your group via speaker phone or in person.
Here are a few standard pump-priming questions to get your group talking:
Questions for more in-depth conversations: