Name: Rhonda Hopkins
Old enough. 🙂
Where are you from:
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:
I grew up in a small town in Texas where just about everyone knew everyone else – or so it seemed. If I even thought about doing something I shouldn’t, my mom knew about it before I ever made it home. I have a sister that I fought with every day of my childhood, who is now my best friend and my folks are still together after fifty-three years of marriage. I received a bachelor degree in business, but nearly had enough credits for a degree in psychology as well.
I planned to go to law school, had been accepted, and all set to go when an injury made it not possible that year or the following. I sort of fell in to doing investigations for nine years with the state and then another ten years with the family courts in my county. So with twenty years of experience working with the best and the worst of society, I have a ton of story ideas.
Currently I live in a small town just outside of Fort Worth with my blue russian cat, Samantha. She’s pretty awesome, intelligent, and cuddly. And believe it or not, she even talks. 😉 Oh, yeah. We have a ghost or two as well. But they’re friendly. 🙂
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The second in my zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL, should be out soon! I’m excited and can’t wait to get it out there for people to read.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written ever since I can remember. I’ve always loved telling stories. My mom still has the story, How the Raccoon Got His Mask, that I wrote when I was eight.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s such a strange thing. A lot of people don’t consider someone a writer until they’re actually paid for writing. But I think a writer, writes. Period. So I’ve thought of myself as a writer since I was a child. But I never actually thought about publishing until around 2002. I think the terrorist attacks the year before made a lot of people re-evaluate their lives. And it was then that I decided I wanted to leave something lasting behind.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had written little stories most of my life, but had never considered writing a full-length novel until after a trip to California during college. My friend and I had so many adventures during those two weeks, it inspired a book idea and I sat down and wrote it. It wasn’t great. But, it was the first time I knew I could actually do it. I ran across that handwritten “masterpiece” a couple of months ago and re-read it. It brought back a lot of great memories. Who knows? Maybe I’ll rewrite it one day.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I usually have the main character(s) in mind, along with a vague idea of the beginning and even vaguer idea of the ending. How I get to the end is always a surprise to me. I’m definitely a pantser. Outlines kill my creativity. Of course, I sometimes get a little lost and have to find my way back, so it’s extra work. But I usually glean something from those wayward segments that help meld the book together.
Once I decided to publish, I got stuck in the “editing the first chapter to death” mode and could never move on. I wanted it perfect. When I realized what I was doing, I remembered the thrill of just getting the story down. So now I write it all out. Then I do a rewrite where I add layers. Action and dialogue come easily for me. But I have to go back through and add all the sensory details. Then I edit as much as I can in the third go around before it goes to the editor.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
SURVIVAL came pretty easily. I was asked to be a part of the LET’S SCARE CANCER TO DEATH anthology with all proceeds going to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. Most of the stories in the book are about zombies, as is mine. I added a character with cancer to Survival. Between the cancer and the zombies, the whole theme was about surviving.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The theme of the Survival series is basically: “Some days, the only plan is…survival.” I think that pretty much sums up life in general. We are all stronger than we think we are and we are capable of so much. It’s all about taking one day, one problem at a time and coming out the other side, much better, stronger, and more knowledgeable, so that we can experience all the joys that life has to offer.
I write dark fiction. But I always add a little light. A little hope. I want my characters and my readers to see good overcome evil and to know they should never give up.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
As realistic as a zombie apocalypse can be. 🙂 I think my characters are true to life and experience the range of emotions (and actions/reactions) that anyone would during life-changing events.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Characters are strictly from my imagination. But I think most writers probably use things they’ve learned from the world around them. I know I do. While no one character is exactly like someone I know, I use quirks or other mannerisms, dialect, etc. from those I’ve come in contact with. Same with experiences. Some of those may find their way into my books. I base most of my novels in Texas because I’ve lived here all my life. It only makes sense to me to use what I know.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
While I was loved and cared for as a child and had a wonderful family, I was very, painfully, shy and never quite fit in. So I didn’t have a lot of friends. The library was my salvation and especially the Nancy Drew novels. I would take home the limit of books every two weeks and devour them. I think I got my love of investigation from that series.
As for a mentor, I’d have to say my aunt. She is strong, and loving, and always there for others. She taught me to make decisions and be okay with those – consequences and all.
My mom is also a reader and she writes beautiful poetry. I got my love of reading and writing from her.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I read several books a week, but currently, I’m reading the latest in the Judge Carew Mystery series by Bill Hopkins (no relation).
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
These days I tend to read mostly indie authors. I recently read a new (to me) author, Melissa F. Olson. I love her Scarlett Bernard and Boundary Magic series.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m of course working on the SURVIVAL series. I’m also starting work on a brand new young adult urban fantasy series, the GEMINI PROPHECY, about twins separated as infants and reunited to fulfill an ancient witches’ prophecy. And, I plan to begin work on a middle grade horror series very soon. I have nieces and nephews that I want to write for. 🙂
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Gosh, I am blessed to have the support of so many people. To name just one? Hmmm…I guess I’d have to say author D.D. Scott and her WG2E (Writer’s Guide to ePublishing) website. I found it, along with D.D., and an amazing bunch of other indies who began the WG2E facebook group for support of indie authors. I wasn’t sure I could actually publish my books myself until then. So, if I haven’t said it lately — Thank you, D.D. and the WG2E!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely! That injury I mentioned above? Well, I’ve had multiple surgeries because of it and it finally became impossible for me to walk without crutches or support of some kind and with the chronic pain, investigations became impossible. So writing basically saved me. It soothes my soul and helps me to forget the pain, if only temporarily.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I can always find something to change. LOL Nothing is ever perfect enough. No matter how many times I read it, an editor or two goes through it, or it’s read by numerous beta readers — there’s always more to find. I finally just have to let it go. So no – not in my latest book. I wouldn’t change anything. I am however, adding about double the words to my award-winning short story, THE CONSUMING. It was written as a short and published in an anthology, but I always wanted to write more and I’m doing that now. Newsletter subscribers (and those who have already purchased it) will get the new edition FREE.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Not really. It was so long ago. I began reading at a very early age and the idea of telling stories of my own was there for as long as I can remember.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure! Here’s an excerpt from SEVERANCE: A Gemini Prophecy Prequel (It’s a very rough draft, so please excuse any typos or other issues.)
Twin wails resounded from the second story nursery.
“Sounds like the girls are awake. I’ll go change them if you’ll get their lunch ready. I made some fresh this morning and it’s in the fridge.” Kaitlyn ruffled her husband’s thick brown hair as she passed him on the sofa.
“Sure. I got the better end of that deal.” He folded the newspaper and stood. Grabbing her hand, Dyllan pulled her into a tight embrace. “Katie, love, how is it that you look more beautiful every day?”
Kaitlyn laughed and tilted her head back. “Flattery will get you everywhere, Mr. McCrae.” She stood on tiptoes and placed a quick kiss to his lips. “How about tonight, we —”
“What was that?” Katie pulled away and started for the stairs, but Dyllan passed her in two long strides.
“It sounded like it came from the girls’ room.”
He took the steps two at time. When he reached the doorway to his daughters’ room, he froze. A man dressed all in black held Kelsi in the crook of one arm, while reaching for Sage. A shattered lamp lay on the floor next to the dresser.
“Who are you?” Dyllan forced the words past the lump of fear that had leapt into his throat. Kaitlyn gasped as she came up behind him and he put his arm out to stop her from dashing into the room.
The man straightened and turned to face them, his eyes black hollows. The demon held out his hand where a fireball grew and swirled before being cast toward them. Kaitlyn pushed Dyllan aside, and he stumbled to the floor. The flame flew past, blowing a hole into the wall, plaster exploding outward. The fire caught and flickered toward the ceiling. Within seconds, a smoke alarm screeched throughout the house.
Kaitlyn raised both arms, her fingers pointed up, and her palms facing the demon. “Be still.”
The demon froze, but Dyllan could tell it took all of her concentration to keep him that way. She moved forward, her power slipping with each step.
Dyllan rose into a squat. His right hand reached for the knife tucked away in the sheath of his left boot. He froze when he saw a small shape to his side.
“Daddy, what’s …” a small boy stood near the top of the stairs.
“Aidan! Go back outside!” When the child didn’t move, he yelled, “Now, Aidan!” A panicked look crossed the boy’s face as he fled into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
“Dyllan! I can’t hold him!” Kaitlyn stood near the demon, close enough to touch, but her arms were shaking.
Dyllan grabbed the knife by the hilt, rose to his feet, and flung it into the throat of the fiend holding his infant daughter. Kaitlyn’s hands grasped Kelsi just as she started to fall, pulling her against her chest. She placed herself between Sage’s crib and the black-eyed creature. The babies’ terrified cries competed with the alarm.
The demon grabbed the lethal wound at his throat. He gurgled a few words and closed his eyes. When the eyes opened again, they were the normal brown eyes of a confused man in pain. He fell to the floor. Dyllan grabbed a baby blanket, knelt, and pressed it against the gushing blood, but the man gave a last shudder and stilled.
“Wh…what the hell just happened?” Kaitlyn put Kelsi in the bed beside her sister, her hands never stopped moving. She checked them both to make sure neither had any injuries, making soothing sounds as she worried over them.
Dyllan’s gaze kept returning to the man’s eyes, now glazed over in death. He sat down on the floor, his hands holding the blood soaked blanket.
“Dyllan, are you okay?” Kaitlyn pressed her hand against his cheek. When he didn’t respond, she pressed a little harder, making him look at her. “Are you okay?”
As he glanced over to her, light flickered in his peripheral vision. Turning, he saw flames dancing up the wall and across the ceiling of the hallway. “Sh…” He jumped to his feet and ran to the hall closet. He grabbed the fire extinguisher, and pulled the pin. Squeezing the handle, he aimed the nozzle, spraying until the fire was out. The screams of the alarm pierced his brain. He threw the extinguisher to the floor and yanked the device from the wall, flinging the batteries aside. Silence slammed into him. He coughed from the cloying sulfur stench and smoke clinging to the air around him.
Returning to the babies’ room, he found it empty, except for the dead man on the floor. He nearly panicked until he heard noise in Aidan’s room. Kaitlyn backed through the doorway, holding both babies and urging Aidan to follow. Dyllan took one of the girls from her and scooped Aidan up in the other arm. “We should go outside. There’s too much smoke up here.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding the time to write all the things I want to write. I have two more series planned, but with all the other projects I have going, there’s just no time to start them yet.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Dean Koontz is my all-time favorite. He can tell a story that will keep you mesmerized from the first word. And he can scare the pants off you without the blood and gore.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No travel necessary. Although that would be really cool. 🙂
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Jeffrey Kosh Graphics designed covers for THE CONSUMING and my SURVIVAL series.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
In SURVIVAL, there are a lot of emotions and scary situations. Getting all that emotion down in words and actions can be difficult and draining at times. I tend to “feel” what I’m writing.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That I enjoyed writing about zombies. Who knew? 😉
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you love. Get is all down and then go back and add the layers. Make sure you have a good grasp of grammar, punctuation, etc. If you don’t know the basics, take a class or two and then take some creative writing classes. Writing for your high school teachers or college English professors is very different than writing commercially. Join a writers’ workshop or critique group. One that will really give you the fair, but hard critique to make your writing better. Those that offer mutual pats on the back with no real substance are just a waste of your time. But most importantly, no matter the endeavor, BELIEVE in yourself.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you. I know your time is valuable and I really appreciate it when you decide to spend some of that time with me and my characters. And a special thank you to those of you who have gone out of your way to tell me how much you enjoyed my work or taken the time to write a review. You rock!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. I was reading by the time I was four. I do remember a book that had a figure skater on the front, but no idea what the title was.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Oh, anything can set me off laughing. I try to find the humor in most situations. And I try to keep people around me who are positive and funny. I hate crying, so try to steer clear of any books or movies that I know will have a sad ending. But we can’t avoid all the unpleasantness of the world. Anything that hurts a loved one or a friend, hurts me. So it’s usually those kinds of things, along with other societal injustices that will make me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’ve always been fascinated by Katharine Hepburn and the characters she played. I always thought of her as a strong female in a man’s world. I’d love to meet her. And of course, Jensen Ackles — for the obvious reasons. 😉
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
That I was a good person, a good friend, and a loving family member. Our relationships with others are the most important things in the world.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love traveling, but haven’t been able to do much of that lately. So I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I like playing games and having family time. And reading, obviously.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch TV nightly. But I do binge watch a day every two weeks or so. Some of my favorites are Supernatural, Grimm, The Walking Dead, Major Crimes, Sleepy Hollow, How to Get Away With Murder, The Big Bang Theory, and Pretty Little Liars. And I’m loving the new series — Zoo, Mr. Robot, and The Astronaut Wives Club.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: I love TexMex and Italian. Ice cream (especially chocolate almond) is my weakness.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’m fortunate in that I love my career as an investigator. It was often heart-breaking, but I enjoyed it. I’m glad I didn’t end up going to law school. I don’t think I really would have liked being an attorney. But when I was younger, I thought about being an archaelogist and a marine biologist. I think both would be interesting.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do. It’s http://rhondahopkins.com/
Thank you so much for interviewing me, Fiona, and for the great questions!