(I honor my Native American heritage name with my writing. My name means Joyful Night Water Child.)
Old enough to appreciate Life and young enough to still live it!
Where are you from?
USA. Born in North Carolina; Raised in Tampa Bay, and retired in Middle Tennessee.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc .
Growing up, I enjoyed classes in grammar and literature, but I wouldn’t call myself a “reader.” Music captured my heart at that time. I spent twelve years running an entertainment business while holding down full time administrative jobs. I sang for various events, DJ’d for high school reunions, played 16 different instruments, and gave private lessons to several children. Their success has been my reward.
Hubby & I worked hard, saved our money and took an early retirement. We moved from the beaches of Florida to the mountains of Tennessee, where we live a peaceful existence with our rescue animals.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Since our last interview, so much has happened. I gained tools and confidence from a local author’s group and jumped outside of my comfort zone. After completing my “At Home Series” (which were a blend of fact and fiction), I was challenged to use my imagination. I created my “Metaphysical Murder Mysteries.” The main character, Mel, and her friends became very real to me. I enjoyed the twists and turns of their adventures. Apparently, others also enjoyed them because THREE SQUARED made it to #6 on Amazon. The books that followed were MYSTIC BIRTH and GUILT OF THE UNDEAD.
My latest mystery, LAID TO REST introduces the reader to Dr. Marty Shafer. He longs for a slower pace of life, leaves his job as an emergency room doctor in Tampa, and moves to the small town of Lenoir, North Carolina. He becomes a funeral director and is haunted by the death of a child. Marty confides in the local pastor, wondering if perhaps he chose the wrong profession. The men form a strong bond and find themselves knee-deep in a strange situation. One review described this book as “Dean Koontz meets Beverly Lewis!” That was quite a compliment.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started a book the day I turned forty, however, Life got in the way. The notes ended up in a drawer and I forgot about it until I retired. Moving from a tropical paradise filled with modern conveniences to a rural mountainous area was a tough adjustment. Writing in a journal helped me to express those emotions. I never dreamed that my journal would become my first book, but with encouragement from my literary friends, I set it free. When I saw how many people were helped by my experiences, I felt the need to continue.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I thought I experienced that feeling when I held my first book however, I didn’t completely see myself as a successful writer until recently. My name wasn’t well known in the literary world. Book signings were downright painful as people would walk into the store and avert their eyes to the floor to avoid “the salesperson” sitting at the table with a bunch of books. At my last signing, I arrived at the bookstore to find people waiting to talk with me. THAT is when I considered myself a REAL writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It wasn’t a WHAT for me…it was a WHO! Catherine Seybold worked with me at the University of South Florida, Tampa Campus. We were both going through a lot of challenges at that time and she found strength through my positive attitude. When she watched how I handled my injuries from an elevator accident she said, “Girlfriend, you need to write a book!” She reminded me every year, for fifteen years, that my experiences might help others. I finally listened…and I’m so glad I did.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I choose to write in different genres, but everything I do contains SOUTHERN CHARM, QUIRKY HUMOR and a LIFE LESSON. One author said that I “write with my heart.” How kind! Even my mysteries are pert-near squeaky clean, written with the squeamish reader in mind. I write for the reader who wants just a little “BOO” without needing to check under the bed at night. No matter which walk of life the character is from, I see them as normal and treat them as such in my books. A Christian minister and a psychic reader get the same respect from me, because part of my message is: Do not judge others just because they are different from you!
I also play a game with each Table of Contents. It is a separate mystery that may, or may not, have anything to do with the book’s content.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Sometimes the title comes first, as in the case of my favorite title, GUILT OF THE UNDEAD. It came to me; and the storyline formed around it. Other times, I almost have the story completed before a title enters my thoughts.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Absolutely! No matter which genre I choose, there is always a Life Lesson. My characters are either sharing lessons I have learned, or lessons that I need to learn. I feel that each of us should work to improve ourselves every day. For example, in LAID TO REST, there is a subtle theme throughout the book that encourages us not to judge those who hold different beliefs.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
My first three books in the “At Home Series,” were a blend of fact and fiction. Actual events happened to me, or to some of my close friends. Names, places and details were changed or eliminated to protect loved ones. I wrote the books to help people, not hurt anyone. Since that series, everything has been purely fictional.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some characters are actually based on people I know. Others possess characteristics I may have observed. Most of my characters “visit” me in the middle of the night. It is like someone stands at the bottom of my bed and tells me what to write. I call them the VOICES. I appreciate the ideas they bring to me.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life?
I still treasure my fourth grade book, Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition. Yes, I’m a full-fledged nerd! I enjoy a variety of self-help reading. THE PASSION TEST by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood helped me to find balance after retirement.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Western & Sci-Fi writer, Troy D. Smith, has given me wonderful advice and encouragement. I also love reading comments offered by Stephen King, even though his genre of books are not my personal taste.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished THE OUTCAST by Jolina Petersheim. Loved it! It is a modern-day Scarlet Letter with an Amish twist.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Kim Scott, writer of Maine Historical Fiction, held my interest on a subject I was afraid would bore me to tears. Instead, I found myself on the edge of my seat, waiting to turn the page. She is also a terrific human being who helps new independent authors find their way in the crazy world of self-publishing.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN will honor every emergency first responder. Just as I did with BEANS AND GREENS and LAID TO REST, I plan to use my next project to help raise money for a good cause. This time, local volunteer fire departments will receive a portion of the sales. I hope to release it in the Spring of 2015.
This year, I began working with a publishing advisory group called Mountain Haven Press. It is nice to have the professional resources available when I need them. This entity moves me somewhere between the self-published category and large publishing companies. I enjoy working with experts who can advise me without the restrictions of a large corporation.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Riverbank Books in Sparta, Tennessee. While I could give credit to other entities, this one store has sold more books for me than all of the others combined. I also received unbelievable support! My first book contained the word DEVIL in the title. That didn’t fly here in the Bible Belt, and I was crushed, because the book was about my life and the obstacles I had overcome. It had nothing to do with Satan. The experience was a nightmare, and I wanted to quit writing. The owner, Tonya Carter, and other local authors associated with her bookstore helped me through this tough time and encouraged me to continue writing. I’m so glad I listened.
(Side Note: Riverbank Books was destroyed by fire on November 25, 2014. The community and local authors, such as myself, are banding together to help rebuild our hometown bookstore in a new location.)
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. It didn’t start out that way. I was going to write one book, check that off my “bucket list” and move onto another hobby. I was bitten by the writing bug and now, I can’t stop. I never expected people to want to read my words, but before I knew it, people were asking me when my next book would be available. Some say that I’m living the dream, but I never dreamed anything like this would ever happen to me, so I’m just enjoying the ride.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I wouldn’t change a thing in LAID TO REST. I would like to revisit my first books, SUSPENDED, THE LIE AND TRUTH BEYOND THE LIE and combine them into a larger novel written with different characters.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My grandfather was a wonderful storyteller. So, my interest in storytelling began as a child.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN: Local firefighters asked me to write a book to draw interest to their profession. I had to find a way to take hundreds of similar stories and form a cohesive, interesting tale about one guy, his friends and family. I thought I was finished until the bookstore burned down. Now, I’m working on a revision to include that event in my story. My heart tells me it is the right thing to do.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I usually work on at least three stories at the same time. Some subject matters are dark. While I feel it is important to touch on these issues, I have to be careful not to let myself get “sucked into the black hole” of emotions. I suffered from depression in the past, so I have to back off sometimes. If I feel myself getting too involved, I have to bounce to something lighter and approach it again when I feel I can handle it better.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I would have to say it is a tie between Don Miguel Ruiz and the late, Betty Malz. I find myself re-reading their works because I like to keep an open mind. I find a perfect balance between the two styles. Ruiz is deep, but holds such clarity. Malz’s writings are more conversational, but both help me to keep a positive attitude.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
In 2014, I traveled quite a bit. LAID TO REST took me on a book tour out of state. I see the benefits of leaving my little nest if I want to seriously promote my books. This year, I jumped WAY outside my comfort zone and traveled to Hungary, Austria and Germany for research on upcoming books. I also did quite a bit of networking, which was very beneficial.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I design my own covers. I was forced to drop art for music when I was in school, so it is exciting to return to another thing I love to do.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Editing! Once you have poured out your soul onto the pages, it is so hard to cut out sections and change things, but it must be done to have a complete, correct work.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learn something from every book I write, but I don’t realize exactly what Life Lesson I’ve learned until I start to write the back cover explanation. When I must condense the concept into a few words, I am sometime surprised by what I have learned. For example, I didn’t realize that GUILT OF THE UNDEAD had such a strong message about drunk driving until the cover design stage.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing! Even if you only keep a journal or notes on a napkin, write down everything that crosses your mind. When you least expect it, the thoughts will all come together and make perfect sense. I keep an “IDEA” file full of strange dreams or something funny I said in passing. When writer’s block hits me, I thumb through that file and find things I forgot all about. Find what works for you and stick with it.
Also, surround yourself with people of like mind. Go to the library. Find a writer’s group. Only connect with positive people on Facebook who understand what you are trying to accomplish. Search the web for sites that talk about writing and learn everything you can.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
THANK YOU! You give me love, support and encouragement. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. Remember to PLEASE leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads and other sites. Tell your friends about it. Post your thoughts on social media. Word of mouth is the best advertisement and it is greatly appreciated.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not really. My family did not read. They didn’t take me to the library, so I’m just now getting a chance to read the classics I missed as a child.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have a quirky sense of humor and will laugh at unusual things, like a squirrel darting up a tree. I cry at every sappy commercial on television.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
While writing my very first book, reflecting on my childhood, I discovered that I had a different birth father. In my second book, THE LIE, I take the reader along with me as I try to discover my true self. I would like to meet my birth father since I never had the chance, but I would most like to speak with the man who raised me as his own. I would like to thank him for loving me. I always knew he was a wonderful man, but I had no idea HOW wonderful!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I am an avid ancestry researcher and have tromped through more cemeteries than the average person, so you will find my answer to be very strange. I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered on some mountaintop. I wish to be surrounded by the beauty of nature. If anyone wishes to remember me, I want him or her to have a great view. As for an epitaph, I would want to leave my loved ones with a poem written by Mary Elizabeth Frye in 1932: “Do not stand at my grave and weep…”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I enjoy working in my flower and vegetable gardens. Home improvement projects and cooking are also my favorite pastimes.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy the cooking and home improvement channels the best. A few of the reality competition shows are my guilty pleasure. I have no patience for movies.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I love to cook different ethnic foods. I have no favorites. I love them all. My office is accented with turquoise, which I love. My choice of music is as eclectic as my food choices. I’m happy quietly listening to classical music or head-banging to a screaming guitar of classic rock.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I already did it. As I enter the September of my life, writing is a perfect way to reflect and hopefully leave a legacy for the family. Now, if I can only remember it all…ha.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I completely revamped my website: http://www.kokonervellibooks.com . My Blog is still a work in progress.