Author of: The Next Girl to Die (coming May 1, 2019)
Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?
It was a piece for a creative writing class in 9th grade, about a man who was turned into a potted plant (mistakenly) by a witch.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?
I wouldn’t say I’m pursing it as a profession, I have a day job that I love immensely and need a challenge both in writing and in my non-writing career. I try to look at them as different beasts that don’t overlap. One is never going to replace the other. That being said, I started writing my first “novel” in my early twenties. I wrote the beginning of that novel around 437,000 times. Then, probably around 2006, I told myself it was either time to do it or stop thinking about it. I sat down, spent around a year writing the first (AWFUL) draft. The second book I wrote was much easier, and faster (though if you ask me, not much better). Though I did sort-of query the first two books, I wasn’t serious about it. My third project, a YA Paranormal Romance, was the first book I realized I wanted to seriously pursue. It wasn’t until I finished my fifth MS, and queried that, that I ended up signing with an agent.
Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?
There have been so many amazing people in my life that have helped me on this journey, and of course I can’t name them all here. My critique partner (and one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met), Elesha Teskey, for one – I don’t know where I’d be without her. A writing group I had while I lived in Connecticut helped me immensely understanding the market, shaping my query, and realizing how much work marketing a book really is. And then my agent, Laura Bradford, has been fabulous and helped me in so many ways on this journey, giving me the advice I need to improve my work, and of course finding a place for it in the world.
Do you exclusively write thrillers or have you written in other genres?
I write thrillers, fantasy, and romantic suspense for the adult market. I also write paranormal romance, historical fantasy, and thrillers for the young adult market.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?
When I’m writing a draft, I write during my lunch break at work (if I can), and then I write once my son goes to sleep for the night. Typically my writing time is 8pm to 11pm (or midnight, depending on how long the coffee keeps me up). It can be very difficult to maintain work/life balance with writing, especially in the draft stage, because I tend to become completely immersed in the story.
How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?
It really varies by project. But my fastest draft (40k words) was two weeks. My most recent draft (60k words) was 17 days, I think. Something like that. On average though, I’d say a first draft takes me 4-6 weeks. Edits are a completely different beast. I usually set something aside to think about it after the draft. So, it can take me anywhere from six months to a year to get through revisions, readers, etc.
Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?
It depends on which market I’m writing. Most projects, at the very least, I start out with a very detailed outline, and a character spreadsheet. For my historical projects, I look at the general time period/location I want to write about – then I fill in more of the historical details during the revision period. I have one exception to this, which is a novel that I spent over a month researching because it was very important to me to capture the location/history of the setting – as I saw the setting as its own character in a way.
Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?
That I’d never want anyone to know? Nah, not really. I’m a pretty open book about being peak-weird. I do find that I do my best writing during thunderstorms. I write all of my drafts/edits on paper. Though I can write on the computer, and I have challenged myself to do one entire MS on the computer instead of long hand, I find it doesn’t flow as well or as easily for me that way. I also have to write with the window open. And when I’m writing/editing a project, I fully immerse myself in similar genres/time periods for all the books, TV shows, and movies I’m watching/reading at the time. The one exception to this is SVU, because SVU transcends all.
Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?
I haven’t done a literary pilgrimage, though I would LOVE TO. I’m currently editing a project about a sanatorium, and I cannot tell you how badly I want to go traipse around some abandoned sanatoriums. I have gone to walk through an orange grove for inspiration for one particular character. There is also a creepy mansion I’ve visited a few times that appears in one of my novels.
Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?
For some, yes. For others, it was more than likely a spark of inspiration while driving. My current project actually came upon in a stranger way than usual. This character was meant to be connected to another book, and while writing some of her origin story, I ended up falling down a plotting rabbit hole and writing an entirely different book.
Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?
I love thrillers, historical, romantic suspense, anything with kilts, fantasy – and anything creepy or weird.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?
I haven’t yet – but now I might ?
Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?
I don’t base any characters on people I know. I have some characters that have historical influences, but I think that’s the closest I’ll ever get to having a character based on a real person. Usually I start with a base idea for what I think a character is going to be, and halfway through the draft I really know them.
Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.
Diary by Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club gets so much attention, but Diary is my favorite book.
Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.
I don’t feel guilty about reading books, so I can’t think of one that I would consider to be a guilty pleasure.
Be honest: Do you Google yourself?
Nope, I let Google do that for me. Google Alerts ?
As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?
Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?
Spelling. I am AWFUL at spelling. It was something I always had trouble with in school.
What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?
Be patient, keep going no matter what. And don’t edit as you write, edit AFTER your first draft is complete.
What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?
Try to find a balance between promo for your book, and the other things you love. It’s important to remember that the whole world isn’t the book release. And – if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Don’t feel like you’re alone with your release. Ask other authors, friends, betas, family members, there are so many people that would love to help.
In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?
Every month on my blog I do critique giveaways, some are for queries, some for queries and pages. I will also do flash query giveaways on twitter sometimes. The writing community was so integral to keeping me writing and helping me find an agent, it’s super important to me to give back.
Want to know more about Dea?
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Solving the case will avenge her sister—unless the killer finds her first.
It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.
Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.
When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.