Thursday, August 1, 2013

This post was written for Nancy Christie's blog: 

How long have you been writing? When did you start? Why did you start —what triggered your writing?
As a child I loved horses, action, and adventure. Naturally, I discovered the Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and became addicted to them as soon as I could read. In the fifth grade our teacher asked my class to write a story. Some wrote about waking up, brushing their teeth, and eating cereal. I wrote a scene with a boy and an old man trailering a horse to the races. Something was wrong and the boy was worried. That’s all I remember. But I do remember this – after the teacher asked me to read it to the class, several kids, genuinely interested, asked, “What happens next?” There is no greater compliment a writer can get than to have that question asked, and I knew I had something.
What does the act of writing bring into your life? Why do you want to write?
Writing makes me feel complete. When I’m “in the zone,” anything that is wrong in my life becomes unimportant.
Who are three of your favorite authors and why?
Michael Connelly, Robert Crais and Sue Grafton. They are so talented. They create a world where I like to spend time.
Courtesy of James Lipton, host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio”: what profession other than that of a writer would you like to attempt?
I already did it. I was a breeder, rider, owner, and trainer of Thoroughbred race horses. I loved it, but it is a game for the young.  I might also like to teach mystery writing.
About your writing process
Where is the strangest place you’ve written?
In the Anne Arundel County, MD, cancer infusion center while receiving intravenous drips of Rituxan for lymphoma.
Where was the most inspirational?
On a jet to Fort Lauderdale to visit Gulfstream Park, the site of The Sea Horse Trade, immediately after I’d been diagnosed with cancer.
What stimulates your creativity or serves as a writing inspiration?
Reading a great book. Attending an intense writer’s conference.
Conversely, what creates a major writer’s block for you?
Those negative feelings that all writers experience from time to time – the plot is no good, the writing doesn’t sing, I’ll never finish this book. Those sorts of feelings.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? The least?
The last fourth of the novel where everything is coming together, moving fast, and I know I’ve got it. The least? The first fourth of a novel.
How do you begin your novels: with a character, a setting or dialogue?
First I have to have a plot. Setting, dialog, conflict is easy for me. Knowing where the story will go next is not. I have to have a road map so I can keep driving.
Beautiful woman with perfect skin
The Sea Horse Trade
Where do you come up with your titles—what is the story behind the title for The Sea Horse Trade?
I was attending classes at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and jotted down words like, “sea horse, trade winds, waves, white slave trade, ocean,” and asked class members if they could help me come up with a title. Author Patrick Hyde suggested, “The Sea Horse Trade,” and I loved it.
About your writing projects
What inspired The Sea Horse Trade?
The idea of female abduction and slavery has always fascinated and horrified me. How could I weave the subject into a story about my jockey Nikki Latrelle? As a breeder, owner, and avid fan of race horses, I had occasion to visit Gulfstream Park racetrack located in Hallandale Beach, on the coast between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. I spent time at the track, toured Fort Lauderdale and Miami and saw the glitz, the glamour, the sex, the horses, and the money. A man could work at a desk for forty years and not earn a fraction of what it would cost to buy the immense yachts and huge mansions I saw there. Who owns something this valuable? Where does the money come from?
One morning, I got up early and walked down to the beach. A cold wind blew off the sea. Far, far out on the horizon, I saw a huge container ship shrouded in mist. It was creepy, like seeing a ghost on the water. The white caps were roiling, and a keen awareness of the depth of the water, the distance to the yacht, and the ice cold spray made me wonder how anyone could possibly feel safe out there on the ocean.
What if Nikki Latrelle was working the January meet at Gulfstream? What if her oldest friend’s daughter was missing, a girl Nikki has never met? What if that first night in Hallandale Beach a girl is shot dead at Nikki’s feet? The story all came together. What a perfect safe harbor a city like Fort Lauderdale would be to spawn the trade of human trafficking. I had to write this story. I flew home to Maryland and rented the documentary, Human Trafficking. It was appalling, but it was fascinating, it was shocking, but it was engaging, it was disgusting, but it was believable. More than ever, I wanted to write my story, so I did.
How did your real-life experience with a stalker influence some of the story?
My real life experience with a stalker helped me understand the fear and uncertainty that overcome you when you are forced to realize that with today’s legal system, you are on your own. By defending my husband against this man who hounded us, I had warrants out for my arrest. Fortunately, a local retired Police Detective helped me out, and we got through it.
In the first chapter of The Sea Horse Trade, Nikki is alone on the street with a dying girl and she tells the reader, “We were on our own.”
Seems like the perfect place to break this interview! Stop back on August 15th for the second half of Sasscer Hill’s interview on One on One!