What is the most unexpected thing one of your characters ever did that you didn't plan on them doing?
My hero in Secret Harbor was hell-bent on avenging his parents’ murders when he found himself in a dark cave below the villain’s plantation house, waiting for his nemesis to return. Don't want to reveal what happened next, but he stumbled onto something horrific. Instead of wreaking the revenge he'd sought for eight years, he did something extraordinary. He changed into a man he didn't think he could be. I put him in the situation, but the resolution of the dilemma was entirely his own.
What was the original inspiration for you writing your heroines the way you do?
All the strong women who took care of me after my mother died. And the fascinating way history neglects to tell us about women who have done what had to be done over the centuries. Don’t tell me “women wouldn’t have done that.” I see it all the time in obscure references.
What are the three best practices that you always remember to employ when doing your research?
- Go for original, not secondary, or tertiary sources
- Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions
- Sometimes the truth is unobtainable. There are times when writers have to channel characters to get at the truth. I’ve seen this in many great works of historical fiction—most recently The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.
What interests you most about the time period you write about?
I write in various time periods, including contemporaries. What interests me most is the sea and the sailors who take her on.
What was the wildest thing you discovered while doing research?
How much money the blockade runners made for the owner syndicates on each trip into Southern ports - $1 million in 1800s money. In today's currency, that would total $28.4 million.
What are some of the true historical facts that inspired some of your character's dimensions or backgrounds?
- A number of British sea captains on half pay leave from the Royal Navy during the American Civil War used that time to run the blockade into Southern ports.
- Napoleon III really did have designs on interfering in the Civil War and gaining an advantage on his plans for Mexico. But he was frustrated in his efforts by the English who wanted to stay neutral and didn’t want France getting involved.
What is it about your own writing that gets you excited?
Delving into another time and place and meeting fascinating characters.
What is it about the writing of some of your favorite authors that inspires you?
They are just so darned good, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how they do it.
What helps you grow as a writer?
Reading the work of and networking with other writers. Read. Write. Repeat.
How has writing your characters impacted your life and your outlook on life?
I look at men differently now that I’ve spent years learning why they think and act the way they do. There are heroes all around us.
If you were to go on a sailing adventure with your heroine, where would you go?
Back into Charleston Harbor—to show her how much has changed.
What one thing would you like your heroine to do that you can't have her do because of the constraints of the period and/or setting with which you place her in your writing?
Break free of the suffocating class distinctions.
When building your character's arc, what is the boldest accomplishment you want them to make?
I want them to be better than they thought they could be.