Author's Ink

We grow writers!

Heather's interview, by Courtnie Dotson


Where are you from?

               I am from the Central New York area.  I grew up in a suburb of Syracuse and I have spent the majority of my life here.  I moved to Western New York while I completed my undergraduate degree.  I also lived in Tours, France for a short time while I was completing my Bachelor’s degree in French.


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?


               Currently, I am a high school French teacher who dreams of growing up to be an accomplished author/ballerina.  I have always loved reading, especially horror novels


               I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in French, Spanish and Education and a Master’s Degree in Secondary French Education.  I am in my eleventh year of teaching and I use literature as a means to teach all aspects of language.  I guess my love of literature has spilled over into the classroom! 


               Also, I live on a hobby farm.  Right now we have two horses, two dogs, a cat, six chickens, two parakeets, two fish and two hermit crabs (and a partridge in a pear tree!).         


 What do you do when you are not writing?


 I have danced since the age of three.  I have done several different types of dance, including tap, jazz, acro, but I prefer ballet (pointe to be exact), modern and ballroom.  I actually danced with the Kaleidoscope Dance Theater for a brief time before real life made me grow up and get a job.


In addition to teaching and writing I am also an avid equestrian and a mom of two beautiful little girls.  In my free time, (free time, what’s that?) I enjoy volunteering and raising money for the American Cancer Society.


But I think what I do more than anything else is read.  I ALWAYS have a book in my hand.  It doesn’t even have to be a good book.  I can find something of value in every book even if it’s something I want to avoid doing in my own writing.


How long does it take you to write a book?


               I have been working on Immortal Storm for a little over two years.  By the time I publish, it will have taken me about two and a half years.  I am hoping that they go faster after that.  I had a very slow learning curve.  I had never written before and one day I decided that I wanted to write a book.  Needless to say, my first attempts were weak at best and I had a LOT of revising to do.  If it weren’t for the folks on Author’s Ink, I never would have finished!  Now that I know the basics, things have been moving along much faster. 


Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?


               The first horror series I read was Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.  I would say that this series really opened my eyes to the whole genre.  It isn’t that it was scary per se, it just got my adrenaline pumping.  I found it refreshing to read things that didn’t always end happily ever after. 


               I also really connected with Where the Red Fern Grows.  That is the first book that made me cry.  It was then that I realized how powerful stories could be.  I recognized the importance of the written word and the strong emotions literature could invoke.


               As an adult I am truly moved by The Little Prince by St. Exupery.  This book taught me to be a thinking reader.  It taught me about the importance of sub-plot and symbolism.  It taught me that in life the most important things are not seen with the eyes but with the heart.  In my opinion, this is a book that everyone should read.  It is truly a beautiful contribution to the world of literature.


               Finally, I am so moved by the brilliance that is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  These books taught me the importance of the perfection of words and the patience it takes to make a book perfect.  It took Hugo (in my opinion the best author to ever grace this planet) 12 years to write his masterpiece.  Hugo would pour over every page, making sure the flow of his syntax was perfect.  He worked for over a decade on a story that is timeless.  His genius inspires me!


Do you ever research real events, legends or myths to get ideas?


               I did a little research into Virginia’s history to write Immortal Storm, but in general, I try to write about things I already know about.  If I come across a gap in my knowledge off to google I go!


Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?


               Everything in my book is pure fiction!  My life is not that thrilling, I just summed it up in a few paragraphs…nothing that could support a novel!  My imagination is much more interesting.


What scares you?


               Um…everything!  Alright, well there’s the biggies like cancer/sickness/death for me and my family, but apart from that some pretty silly things.  I am afraid of spiders (eight legs are totally unnecessary!), the dark and ghosts (yes I think they are real – I write horror remember?).


What do you think makes a good story?


               I think a good story is well thought out and has a superb ending.  I like to try and figure out the ending before I read it.  I see it as a kind of mental competition between the author and myself.  I am constantly looking for clues as to what the ending will reveal.  If I can figure it out, then I’m bored.  I love to be surprised by something I didn’t see coming.  I don’t want to outsmart the author.  The ending has to be great as well.  I don’t want to read for several hundred pages and then have the author wrap it up in three pages and everyone lives happily ever after.  Nope I’m not buying that!


What does your family think about your writing?


               My husband has been nothing but supportive.  I am truly blessed to have someone who is willing to basically give up his wife for hours upon hours without complaint.  He is my biggest fan!  My children are too young to really understand what Mommy is doing.  My Aunt, Peazy Monellon, has been an unbelievable coach throughout all of this as well.  Without her, I never would have finished my project. 


What book are you reading now?


               Currently I am reading Catching Fire, book 2 of the Hunger Games series.  I will finish the series in the next two days and then move on to another horror novel I can borrow from the library!


Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?


               Several authors come to mind, but specifically, Peazy Monellon, Kristen Smith Selleck and Anthony Miller. 


Peazy has a sort of gritty quality to her writing which to me somehow rings true.  I like the fact that she isn’t afraid to be honest in her writing.  She doesn’t sugar coat anything.  The raw reality strikes a chord in me.  She is brilliant.


Kristen Smith Selleck has a way of writing characters that instantly earn a place in your heart.  Within the first few paragraphs I had already fallen in love with her protagonist.  She has her characters interacting flawlessly.  I agonize over dialogue but hers is effortless.  She does so much research that her stories might just be truth and that makes them scarier.  There is also the romance aspect which basically makes her work the perfect trifecta.


Anthony Miller is a master of humor.  I am awed by the way he can absolutely crack me up!  I have a hard time making jokes in my stories, but when I read his work I can’t stop chuckling.  His descriptions are so spot-on and yet original, you can’t help but be impressed.  He is a must read for sure!


A lesser known, up and coming author is Jonathan Mogensen.  His writing has a way of making you sit up and take notice.  Once he has your attention, you are sure to be sucked in to his work.  Keep an eye out for him, he is definitely worth reading.


What are your current projects?


               I am currently in final revisions of Immortal Storm, the first book in the Shield of Night series.  Once that is published, I will begin work on the second book in the series.  To fend off writers block with my novels I like to write short stories as well.  When I have amassed a significant amount I will publish them as a collection.


Can you share a little of your current work with us?


               I would love to, but rather than type it here, you can check out the prologue to Immortal Storm on my page on the Author’s Ink website.


Will you have a new book coming out soon?


               Immortal Storm will be out in late March or early April.  Keep checking for it!


Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?


               B.I.C!!!  Butt in Chair.  If you want to finish your work, you have to keep at it.  Don’t get discouraged.  Set aside specific time and work!  It will never get done if you don’t make it happen.