Hi Wanda, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up on a farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas. I am descended from a long line of educators going back as far as anyone can remember, so it seemed a natural course for me to take at a time when few careers were open to women. A career in education coincided nicely with marriage and children and allowed me the flexibility to be home when they were while still pursuing my love of literature. My recollections of life on the tallgrass prairie are evident in much of my writing. I am fascinated by the untold stories of past generations and the impact they have on those who follow. So close to my home state, and a fellow history buff, awesome!
Discuss your newest book.
Set in the birthplace of the John Birch Society during the turbulent years of the early 1960’s, The Stone House Legacy, reveals mankind’s stubborn inclination to repeat the mistakes of past generations. For nearly a century the old stone house has kept its secrets hidden deep in the limestone hills of central Indiana. But when a charismatic young minister and his wife embark on a controversial mission to develop the site as a retreat for ecumenical thought, they are haunted by the ghosts of those who preceded them on the journey. The Stone House Legacy is the first book in the Legacy Trilogy which traces the Kingsley family through three generations. The story focuses on the lives of Simon and Tessa Kingsley as they negotiate the difficult path between activism and passivism during the turbulent days of the early 1960’s. The characters are thrown into the chaos of the times and must struggle to find their way when they come under attack from ultra conservative hate groups. The Stone House Legacy is a fast-moving tale of youthful idealism in conflict with mid-western isolationism against a backdrop of fear and greed. Sounds interesting!
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I am a late-comer to the field of writing. I used to write stories as a child and always thought I would one day become a writer, but life has a way of intervening in the best of plans. I retired after 38 years as a teacher and administrator and decided to reinvent myself as an author and pursue a dream that had been deferred since childhood. I love how writing frees your mind. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, the thoughts and the words are your own. If someone else benefits from your writing, so much the better!
What are your current projects?
The Steel Canyon Legacy is Book II of the Legacy and is due out in the fall of 2016. It picks up the family in decade of the 1970’s. In some ways the decade was a continuation of the 1960’s. In other ways, however, it was a repudiation of all that gone before. The American character had changed. For Tessa Kingsley and her family it is a decade of tears and triumph.
Finding herself alone and responsible for her two sons and an aging mother, Tessa Kingsley must find her way through a world filled with fragmentation and skepticism. As a woman reentering the workforce, she finds herself facing the same kind of discrimination and lower wages that she and Simon had previously fought so hard against. The way of life she had always dreamed of now seems outdated and out of reach.
Tessa’s journey takes her through the glittering nightlife of Miami, Chicago, and Las Vegas. But, ultimately, she is unable to escape the demons from the past that follow her. She soon finds herself drawn into a world of drugs, gambling and mob vengeance before she finally finds the strength to break free. In the process she also discovers her own sensuality and individuality. It’s a legacy she will pass on to her children in the years to come. COMING SOON!
The Steel Canyon Legacy is a gritty and poignant reminder of a lost decade. It is filled with passion and intrigue, and the divergent story lines will keep the reader guessing until the very end.
What books have most influenced your life?
I love historical fiction and read everything I can get my hands on in this genre. I also love stories of personal heroism against all odds.
What inspired you to write your first book?
All across the country, the landscape is dotted with abandoned farmsteads and buildings whose walls are filled with stories of heartache and happiness. These are the stories I tell.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
I am inspired by real-life characters and relationships. My characters are generally strong men and women who must come to grips with their own mistakes and limitations to triumph over hardship. I try to create characters that remind the reader of ordinary people they might actually know. Then I place them in the midst of political or cultural upheaval to see how they navigate their way through life. They must dig deep to find their inner power and strength to persevere through the difficulties of the times they live in.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I believe that we all leave behind a footprint in time to help guide those who follow us on their journey through life. The older I get, the more I realize that our journey through life is relatively short and that we all approach certain decision points in our lives that could change the course of events in a variety of ways. I like to speculate on what would have happened if a character had chosen one path over another. I hope this series offers a glimpse of understanding into the legacy each of us leaves for succeeding generations.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I honestly haven’t given this much thought. I have always believed that the beauty of literature over film is that the reader is free to cast the role as they see it. I guess that’s why I’m always a bit disappointed when I read the book and then see the movie. My interpretation does not always match the director’s view.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to write. I just felt compelled to do it.
Why do you write?
I have so many stories to tell. It is inherent in the oral tradition of the past that each generation desires to pass along the stories and experiences of their lives and the lives of those who preceded them. Writing is a way to preserve the past and underscore the lessons of life teaches us.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I approach writing as an art more than a craft. I needed time to concentrate on it. Once I could set aside the demands of a stressful career, I finally had time to focus on it.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Part time. I am still working part-time as an education consultant. Besides, I have 14 grandchildren to spoil! The best job one can do is spoil their grandkids so they have many happy memories.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Getting past the doubt. Having studied and taught literature for so many years, I am my own worst critic.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Writing a trilogy had been more difficult than I imagined. Keeping the characters and the story lines fresh enough to stand alone, while still making a strong connection to the preceding characters and story lines has been daunting.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
If it was easy, everyone could do it. Only those who are driven to write should attempt it.
What book are you reading now?
Benediction, by Kent Haruf
What is one random thing about you?
I was raised on a farm in Kansas. My mother’s name was Dorothy. I was once blown away in tornado and I love red shoes! (All true!) Must hear more about the tornado!
What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer?
Computer. It thinks almost as fast as I do and I love that it edits as I go.
What does your writing process look like?
It comes in spurts. I get an idea and sometimes I write nonstop for days. Other times, I just cogitate on the story or the characters until I have a clear idea of where to go next. I equate my writing style to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I am constantly moving around the pieces until it all fits together.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Not really. But I find that I have my best ideas around 4:00 in the morning.
How important are names to you in your books?
Extremely important. I want the name to reflect something about the character and the times they live in. No one did this better than Dickens. His character names have actually come to represent character types.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Marketing is a real challenge for me. But I am also challenged by creating realistic characters and settings.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I admit that I haven’t spent as much time on this as I should. To be successful, one must devote as much time to marketing as they do to writing.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
In the face of difficulty or stress, I recite the Serenity Prayer. It always helps me put things into perspective.
What is your favorite book and why?
The last book I read is always my favorite. It stays with me long after the last page is turned. I reflect on the characters and what they reveal about the human condition.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you love and don’t worry too much about what others may think.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I volunteer with a charity that raises money to support abused and neglected children and children in poverty, at Children’s Fund. That’s wonderful.
From where do you gain your inspiration?
I have always been intrigued by the patterns of behavior that are passed down through the generations. I base most of my writing on personal experiences because I believe it allows the reader to more readily identify with the characters and their situations.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
When I started, I had no previous experience with publishing and I wanted to learn the business first hand. In self-publishing, the author assumes the responsibility for making sure the book is professionally edited, designed and brought to market. I did use the services of a professional cover designer and editor, and I have been extremely pleased with the results.
How do you market your books?
I have offered some limited-time free downloads on Kindle and some reduced price specials on the Amazon paperback versions. I have done launch parties and book signings. I have sent Press Releases to local publications, but social media had proven my most successful marketing tool.
Why did you choose this route?
I like being in control. At my age, I want to be able to set my own deadlines.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
No. It depends on what they have to offer that is different from what I’m doing.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
I’m not in a position to give advice on this since I’m still learning and experimenting with different ways to market myself.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Less than I should. It’s a delicate balancing act.
What do you do to get book reviews?
I shamelessly beg for them. When someone mentions that they enjoyed by book, I ask for a review. I have even enclosed an “Author’s Note”, at the end of my books asking the reader to post a review and leaving a website where they can do so.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
No. Does anyone know of one?
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Sometimes a bad review can generate as many sales as a good one. The real benefit of reviews is to show that people are reading your books. For the writer, the really thoughtful reviews can help you hone your skills for the next book.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
I was invited to do a book signing in a library in a tiny town in Kansas. They advertised the event on the bank’s marque and entire junior high was invited to attend. Unfortunately there were only a total of 12 students in grades 6-8! But it was still fun and the students asked some great questions. Not a complete loss. 🙂
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
I find that most of my followers are other writers looking to promote their own books. It’s not the best way to reach readers or people who will actually buy your books.
Which social network worked best for you?
Facebook and Twitter
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
There are many guerilla marketers out there who will be happy to take your money and promise amazing results. Do your research and invest wisely.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I’ve never been particularly enamored by fame. It is the unsung heroes that fascinate me the most.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
To Kill a Mockingbird. The book and its message are timeless. Telling the story through the eyes of a child was a stroke of brilliance. Somehow it makes the story and its theme that much more poignant.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t be afraid to step out in faith. Don’t worry that people will not like what you have written or that you do not understand the publishing and marketing end of it. There are people out there who are eager to assist you and technology has opened the door to a wealth of knowledge. Self-publishing is an excellent way to learn the ropes and get yourself out there. Even if you never write the next Great American Novel, you will have left behind a part of yourself that no one can take from you.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Check out my blog at
or follow me on Facebook and Twitter at
You can purchase my books on Amazon or Goodreads at