1. What prompted you to write the Clubmobile Girls series?
I have always been drawn to WWII novels, and shortly after I attended my second RWA annual conference, I decided to write a historical romance set during the WWII years. I read Emily Yellin's excellent book Our Mother's War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II, which describes the many roles that women played beyond the iconic defense plant work of Rosie the Riveter. I discovered that the Red Cross deployed thousands of women overseas (all over the world, not just Europe) and that the work of these women often took them closer to the front lines than even the combat nurses. These women were also extraordinary trailblazers in that they all had a college degree, some career experience, and possessed a mix of intangible attributes such as charisma, resilience, and resourcefulness. Further, the contributions of these daring and courageous women had largely been lost to history, and I knew I wanted to tell their stories.
2. What's coming up in this series?
I plan to write at least 5 Clubmobile Girls novels. Red Cross Girls served all over the world, so I expect to set the five novels in Europe, the Pacific theater, India, the Mediterranean theater (North Africa into Italy), and China. I may also write novels or novellas set in Iran, Cuba, Iceland, Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, and Burma.
3. What is the most challenging part of writing this series?
Balancing the need to provide authenticity and a clear period feel without inundating the reader with too much historical backstory is a battle in every scene. I hope historical details and slang add color and context without overwhelming readers with too much information.
4. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I adore my developmental editor, now a friend, Laura Mitchell. I am also quite pleased with my custom illustrated cover art created by Rafael Andres of Cover Kitchen. As an indie author, it's smart to invest as much as you are able in top-notch editing and quality cover art.
5. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before writing a book?
I typically start with a few big-picture sources, and I then make notes on angles that I might want to focus on further. For each of my first two Clubmobile Girls novels, I probably spent a few months reading broadly and generally about the relevant theater of operations (Europe or the Pacific). I then read every Red Cross Girl memoir written by women who served in that locale. I spent another month or more reading and conducting online research to narrow down the military role for my hero and the various locales in which I wanted to place both my hero and heroine. People who served in the Pacific theater moved frequently -- not just the military personnel but also the Red Cross Girls, combat nurses, and Women's Army Corps as well. Once I settled on where they would be stationed, I began to request more specific research materials through interlibrary loan. I gathered an immense amount of research material during trips to the National Archives in 2017 and 2019. My research is also ongoing to a large extent. I research some details at almost every writing session, as many small questions pop up in the course of mapping out a scene.
6. How many hours a day do you write?
This is an evolving answer! Generally, I devote 2-3 hours on weekdays to writing. Weekends may yield more writing or none at all, depending on family plans.
7. How did you choose the titles for your Clubmobile Girls novels?
The titles come from the speeches and writings of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Courage to be Counted
"When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted." -- Eleanor Roosevelt
This quote is always included in compilations of "greatest quotations" from Eleanor Roosevelt. Tracking down where and when she said it, and most importantly, her motivations or the context of the remark has been challenging.
It possibly is connected to Eleanor's involvement in a controversy surrounding African-American opera singer Marian Anderson. Howard University had invited Anderson to sing as part of a concert series, but they lacked a venue space large enough to accommodate the expected audience. Howard University requested permission to host the event at the DAR's Constitution Hall, but DAR policy at the time only permitted white performers. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her DAR membership. Howard University then approached the federal government to ask if the concert might be held outdoors on the National Mall. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes arranged for Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and introduced her. The concert attracted an audience of at least 75,000 people and marked an important step in the struggle for civil rights. She performed at Constitution Hall at the invitation of the DAR in January 1943 and several times in the decades thereafter.
Carry a Crusading Spirit
"Human beings forget so fast, if the generation that fights today is to lay the foundations on which a peaceful world can be built, all of us who have seen the war at close range must remember what we see and carry a crusading spirit into all of our work."
Eleanor Roosevelt, "My Day" column, 30 August 1943
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote this column from Wellington, New Zealand, one of the first stops on her month-long tour of the South Pacific in 1943.
In this particular column, though she has only begun her tour, Eleanor pays tribute to the nurses and the Red Cross Girls. "There are never enough people to do the work, and yet it gets done. My hat is off to every woman working in this area."
8. What is the first book that made you cry?
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. If I ever needed to cry on command, I only need to recall Old Dan and Little Ann and that red fern. See, now I'm crying!
9. Have you ever gotten reader's block?
Yes! After I devoured Stephenie Meyer's debut novel, Twilight, I found myself unable to read anything else for a period of time. It lasted at least a month, and as a life-long bookworm, it was terrifying.
10. Do you expect each book in the series will be a stand-alone novel, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Generally speaking, each Clubmobile Girls novel can be read on its own. Several historical figures may appear in multiple novels. Curtis LeMay commanded the 305th bomb group in Chelveston, England, as depicted in my debut novel, Courage to be Counted. His career took him from India to Guam, and he does make a brief appearance in Carry a Crusading Spirit. He very well may appear in the CBI books as well.
Vivian Lambert, my heroine in Courage to be Counted, roomed with several other Red Cross Girls while she trained in Washington, D.C. in late 1942. Those roommates, though there are only passing references to them in Vivian's story, will be the heroines in later books and will likely hear from or make reference to Vivian and the other heroines.
11. Have you read anything that made you feel differently about fiction?
The French Lieutenant's Woman profoundly influenced me as both a reader and a writer. Author John Fowles inserts himself directly into the narrative, both interrupting the action to speak directly to the reader at different points and physically appearing as a character in one scene. In these authorial intrusions, Fowles essentially engaged in reader response theory. Reader response theory holds that readers are not bound to the author's interpretation or even the text itself within a work of fiction. This literary theory posits that readers are active participants in creating the novel as they read it and on equal footing with the author in its creation and individual interpretation. Fowles left the reader with three possible endings and ultimately challenged readers to consider whether any or all of these three endings were valid and cogent resolutions for the characters. Fan fiction communities thrive through adherence to reader response theory.
12. What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I've mentioned a few of them in this Q&A already, but I will always pre-order and read a new release from these authors (in no particular order): J.K. Rowling, Diana Gabaldon, Jennifer Robson, Sara Ackerman, Meg Waite Clayton, Stephenie Meyer, Caroline Leech, Kristan Higgins, Tracy Brogan, Gayle Forman, Mhairi McFarlane, Josie Silver, Rainbow Rowell, Sharon Kay Penman, John Green, Jacqueline Winspear, Kate Quinn, Ruta Sepetys, Elizabeth Wein, and Katherine Center. Some of my favorite authors are deceased, including Laura Ingalls Wilder, Noel Barber, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Herman Wouk. I enjoy certain novels by Stephen King and Larry McMurtry. In addition to the influence of Noel Barber already mentioned, Herman Wouk's classic Winds of War and War and Remembrance were also favorites and early influences drawing me to fiction set during the WWII years.