1. You're an expert with short stories. How do you manage to fully develop your characters and add cliff-hanging conflict to each story? Which is your favorite short story?
PST: Wow what a first question, Nona! Thank you for having me on your blog today. As for fully developing my characters/conflict - I have to give God all the glory because without HIM I wouldn't have written the first word much less be considered by my peers as an 'expert' at anything, especially short stories since I thrive on details LOL! As for technique in developing the characters/plot - these are the same as a full length novel - every story must have the major elements: CGM as well as believable characters and reasonable resolution to conflict. I must say out of the stories I've written, A Hero for Jessica and In His Sight run hand-in-hand as my favorite.
2. What inspired you to start writing? Did you have a favorite author that inspired you?
PST: Actually no favorite author inspired me as I've always read numerous authors voraciously. I've been an avid reader all of my life and hooked on sweet romances as a young teen. By the time I hit high school age, I'd discovered historical romances. Writing actually came much later - at around age 22. After reading one-too-many disappointing stories, I thought I could do much better. A bit arrogant as it turns out, LOL, but that was the catalyst to my writing career. Although no favorite author inspired me to start writing, Nora Roberts and Francine Rivers have inspired me to keep writing.
3. Tell readers about some of the struggles you've faced in the writing business?
PST: Challenges have been numerous, Nona but no more than many other writers face. I've had contracts expire without the book(s) published; publishing companies fall apart before they ever got off the ground, etc. And, since I write 'outside the box' I have been unable to crack the door of traditional CBA houses. However, God is faithful to this vision He has given me and I'm happy to be published with the small press companies and have my novels & stories out there - after all, for me - it's all about the message and I trust Him to get the message out to whomever needs it most.
4. “Inspirational with an Edge” is your tag line. What does that mean to you? What does that mean for your readers? “Steamier and Grittier” is also associated with your writing. What does that mean to you?
PST: When I first began writing I wrote romance as I'd read for so many years....steamy, sensual, explicit - however when I recommitted my life and committed my writing to Christ my focus changed. Although the faith element came in to each characters life, I still wrote fully developed (steamy, sensual, explicit) love scenes - that is until I started submitting and realized those were TABOO in the "Christian" market. Once I found out about the guidelines, I revised & rewrote, edited, and toned down until I didn't even recognize my own story! Finally in pure frustration I cried out to God and simply decided to write as He indicated I should, and trust Him to get the stories published - which He did.
Simply put - 'steamier, grittier, and edgier' mean the characters sensual feelings are not glossed over or ignored but developed and shown while maintaining biblical principles, though not necessarily ultra-conservative guidelines.
5. The Tempered series is very popular. Did you know when you began with “Tempered Hearts” that a family saga was being born?
PST: No. Initially I had plans for 2 stories - Tempered Hearts (book 1) and Tempered Fire (book 3). Tempered Dreams (book 2) developed out of another idea - I'd written scene of an automobile accident involving a battered woman and her abusive husband having no idea when or where it would develop. When Dr. Scott Hensley came on the scene in Tempered Hearts, I just knew he would be the perfect hero for the battered woman in that scene and Tempered Dreams was born at that point.
Tempered Joy (book 4) evolved when Ace appeared in Tempered Fire and Tempered Dreams as an eight-yr-old boy, so much like his father Craig (charming, roguish) that I couldn't resist finding the perfect heroine for him. Of course she would have to be a lot like the women in his life (his mother and sister) ...strong, beautiful, and passionate. My initial thoughts were Scott & Trina's daughter but with the question of whether Scott and Craig were actually blood relatives still unknown at the time, and the fact Ace would be at least eight (or possibly more) yrs older than Scott and Trina's child (should they even have a daughter) I decided they would need to adopt a daughter - and Lexie showed up. I've indicated here the order of the series but to recap they are: Tempered Hearts, Tempered Dreams, Tempered Fire & Tempered Joy.
6. You've been a widow for almost two years. How has the grief process affected your writing?
PST: For a long time after my husband's death I couldn't even function properly much less consider writing and when I did, romance was the last thing I cared about. I mean, how can you write about love and romance when you buried your heart?
I did finish one short story which I started writing while my husband was still alive but that was out of determination fueled by the fear if I didn't at least finish that one story, I may never write again. In His Sight was published in July 2010 by White Rose Publishing.
I did continue working in the industry however, editing and promoting and wrote several non-fiction articles and essays - so I never really quit altogether. Also, my debut women's fiction novel, The Visionary which was pitched prior to my husband's death was contracted in that first year afterward, which gave me something else to look forward to. This book is due for release in November by Five Star Expressions.
I haven't completely gotten back to writing full-time and still get overwhelmed and question whether I can/should/want to - but I have started a few stories, tinkered with a couple more, and am currently editing a women's fiction novel that I wrote years ago and haven't had time to deal with.
7. Love has recently and unexpectedly come your way again. How has this affected your writing?
PST: It has given me hope and helped me believe in the power of love to heal and in happy-ever-after—in God's promises and in the desire of my heart to share those promises through my writing.
8. Your writing is primarily Christian and Inspirational. White Rose Publishing formerly an imprint of The Wild Rose Press proudly claims you as one of their authors. Have you considered or do you plan to write for a secular reading audience?
PST: I've toyed with the idea of writing a traditional romance, even have a few scenes written for one, but have yet to sit down and flesh out that story.
9. How has the advent of electronic publishing affected your career? To who or what do you accredit your success?
PST: Wonderfully! I love the idea of having my books offered in more than one format and the fact that all of my short stories are electronically published gives me more options on what I want to write.
As beauty is to the eyes of the beholder so is success—it is, in and of itself: SUCCESS.
For me personally writing is not about the money, it's about the message and I accredit God for whatever success I have attained. That's not to say I don't do my part—I write, I promote, I affirm (believe in my heart and confess with my mouth) that I am an anointed and successful writer—and like many authors I get frustrated in what seems like a lack of 'success' as the world defines it. In fact, about a year ago I was so frustrated that I said this prayer: "Lord, I've said all along that my writing is not about the money, it's about the message but I don't know the message is getting out, if there are no sales."
I am happy to say since praying that way and continuing with my affirmations and leaving the results in HIS hands, my overall sales have increased every quarter—Praise HIM the message is getting out!
10. Besides being an author you're also an editor. Tell us about that aspect of your profession.
PST: I enjoy every aspect of the publishing industry and editing gives me the opportunity to not only share my knowledge and experience with others, but to help them achieve their dreams of publication.
11. You co-founded the Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, LA in 2002. It's a successful group with an annual conference. Why do you think writers need a writing group?
PST: I think writers need encouragement, education, and inspiration and being involved in a writers group (whether online or one that meets in person) provides those things.
12. Last, but not least, what is your dream regarding your writing career? Where would you like to be in five years? If you couldn't write what would you do?
PST: My dream is to continue to grow as a writer, improve my craft and know God's message of hope and healing is reaching a hurting world. As for where I'd like to be five years from now--I've never really been able to think or plan that far ahead. Of course, in five years I hope to still be writing but I'd also like to be in the position to help other writers through speaking, teaching, editing, and ministering to the creative spirit within them.
If I couldn't write - I think I'd enjoy being a life coach.