Frequently Asked Questions

About my stories...

My stories should be read in the order that they call to you.  Which grabs your attention first?  Which pulls you in?  Which happens to be written in your favorite genre?  Read that one first.  Then, see where that experience leads you next.  Doesn't matter which or why; follow your own reading pleasure and nothing else.

The ideas... anything can spur one. So, of course everything I read or see, everything I try or do or experience, anything someone says or does—or another's art—can offer the little spark that becomes "a story idea." Ideas are everywhere; you just have to be receptive to them, open to them, or they'll just flit by unnoticed and probably be lost to you forever. And, when you do catch them, you have to write them down, or they are lost to you forever!

Most of my own story ideas come from "what if" scenarios that popped into mind: what if someone saw something unexpected when they played back the footage captured on their GoPro camera, what if an atheist was suddenly confronted by the existence of God himself, what if someone was driving down the road and heard a mysterious thump in the trunk of their car, what if the darkness itself was a monster? The full story unfolds, backwards and forwards, from a simple little "what if" scenario.

The idea for my science fantasy epic was only one sentence I woke up with one morning: "he remembered everything." I knew the "remembering" was a huge deal, a game-changer, this character wasn't supposed to "remember everything." From that one sentence, I had to uncover the rest of the story: who, why, what, when, and everything in between. The biggest stories can come from the tiniest, most innocent-seeming ideas!

For me, as the author, Almighty is neither. And for each of its readers, it's meant something completely unique, delivering a different "message" for each of them. Almighty is a perfect example of how a story is different for everyone who reads it, even different from what it is or was meant to be by its creator/writer. It's been terribly fun—fascinating—to see proof of that in readers' views of Almighty.

I would wish that every reader, of any story, focuses on their own experience and what the story means to them—that is a story's purpose, I believe—but Almighty has triggered a lot of questions about the author's intentions, even my own personal religious beliefs. Maybe religion is still a "hot topic" for some; maybe some, believing there is a message in the text, are very concerned about identifying the intended message rather than just feeling what they feel by the end of reading it. Some of Almighty's readers swear I'm a Christian myself, preaching that the Christian God exists. Some assume I'm a staunch atheist or anti-religion or that I'm an agnostic searching for answers myself. The truth is, I'm none of those things.

A little story wrote itself from what I thought was a very interesting, potentially fun "what if" scenario: what if someone who considered himself an atheist was actually confronted by the existence of a god? What would that be like for him? What would it take for him to believe? And what would that "god" be like? What would that god think of the atheist, in turn? The answers I found, for this story, are in Almighty. The story could've been written an infinite number of ways. All that matters is what does the story mean to you?

About my writing process and my reading influences...

Neither—both! I love to write and read both, and I'd never be able to choose between them—nor would I try to define that sometimes very fine line between them. If my stories tend to lean toward one or the other, it's purely by chance, purely dependent on the story idea I happened to choose to focus on next and where that story happens to take me!

I don't have one.  How could I possibly cite just one??  I follow my reading nose, my in-the-moment interests, wherever they take me, whether that's through a few of one author's oeuvre—one after the other—or hopscotching from one author to another (and back again... or maybe not).

Some say my stories prompt them to reminisce about their favorites written by Roald Dahl or Neil Gaiman, Poe or Bradbury or O. Henry.  I do thoroughly enjoy those authors' tales; they are some of my favorites.  When I was young, I flew through every R.L. Stine, Lois Duncan, and Christopher Pike title.  When I was even younger, I ate up Curious George and Dr. Seuss and old German fairytales.  When I was an insatiable teenager, I flew through Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, John Saul, Peter Straub, a bit of Stephen King, H.G. Wells, Henry James, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anne Rice and all her pseudonyms, and a variety of literary classics—the longer and more intimidating, the better.  Later on, I followed Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey, and Frank Herbert wherever they chose to lead my imagination.  Later yet, I got hooked on the boldness of Ayn Rand, then the honesty of Anaïs Nin... and the thoughts and ideas of endless travel writers and philosophers and explorers and fellow artists.

Every book offers something new, something to discover.  So does every author.  When I'm asked who my single favorite author is, I can't help but think of all those I haven't even read—or discovered—yet.

I do love a good "literary" novel, just as much as speculative fiction, an intriguing autobiography, or a fascinating nonfiction topic, etc. A good story (and fascinating subject) is a good story. I can't say that a great literary—or any other category—novel inspired my writing. For me, books and reading inspire life... reminding you of all the little things that make life grand, or fascinating, or endlessly mysterious, and they fill your head with possibility. The more possibilities you realize/learn life holds, the better... for living your own, for living it the best way you can—for ensuring you don't miss anything.

I'd have to say I was most inspired by the longer or "meatier" literary novels I read when I was young: the Iliad and Odyssey, The Grapes of Wrath, Gone with the Wind, giant collections of Sherlock Holmes tales, Agatha Christie's, Isaac Asimov's, Shakespeare's, Edgar Allan Poe's. I was amazed by the level of detail, the unfolding drama, how a story could go on and on and have no "boring bits," how an author seemingly never ran out of ideas and that the variety of stories out there is endless. You could say, I'm inspired by "variety" more than anything else. When I discover a new, great author, I'm in awe of them but don't necessarily immediately read everything they've written, if ever. I turn to new-to-me authors constantly. I'm inspired by variety in perspectives, lives lived, and lives imagined.

I never know how my stories are going to end up—and that's the fun of it. That's why I write! Every story's an adventure, a mystery, an experience waiting to unfold. That's the whole appeal for me. If I'm not having fun writing a story, I imagine no one else is going to enjoy reading it. No outlines exist for my stories. My stories aren't planned; they're dreamed. At most, I may get flooded with ideas for a story while writing it, then have to keep up by jotting them all down and maybe needing to put them in chronological order to refer to them later. But I've found I'm not happiest with even "fun ideas" in a little list to write into the story; that's when creative writing turns into academic writing with a pre-determined end goal, and all the fun is sucked out of it. My process is to start with a wee story idea—the simpler and less-detailed, the better. Then, I start writing from the beginning...

About my other creative interests...

At this moment, I don't have any plans for a photography book, but I've captured so many interesting moments and scenes around the globe that I've always wanted to share them somehow so others can be amazed or laugh or wonder at it all too. For now, that's just on my website and on Twitter.

About me...

"The Director" is a playful handle I use in casual writing to refer to my husband, film director Devon Avery.  The habit developed as an inside joke.  Once upon a time, we attended a film festival that printed my badge with the sole identification "The Director's Wife."  We laughed—so did everyone else who spotted the label I had to wear around my neck all weekend—and my creative companion and comrade-in-arms thenceforth became known as THE DIRECTOR.

Yes! My author biography is 100% true! Hand me some aluminum parts, and I can weld them—and I'll do it neatly and efficently. Quality and time are money in an industrial setting! The 18-year-old me had a nice "welder's tan" from all the UV and IR radiation from the electric weld arc, burn holes in my jeans from the sparks, always a few metal splinters in my hands that made it through my gloves, and I was covered head-to-toe in the black soot of magnesium oxide but still smiling beneath my goggles—8 to 12 hours a day, 4pm to midnight or 4am, five days a week, sometimes six or seven. You can't beat the opportunity for overtime or double-time when you're getting paid by the hour...

And you can't beat the experience of true manual labor, nor working in an industrial setting—great memories, great stories.

I was just graduated from a high school in Central America and returning to the U.S. to attend a Midwestern university for a chemical engineering degree. Unfortunately, I was considered a "resident"—for tuition cost purposes—of whichever state I lived in when last in the U.S., I wasn't blessed with parents willing to pay my exorbitant college tuition—as an in-state resident or not—and there's no financial aid for young "dependent" students whose parents can afford to pay for your tuition but choose not to and aren't willing to co-sign on tuition loans. So, to fulfill my then-dream of attending college, I had to work it out on my own: by legally becoming an "in-state resident" of the state where my chosen university was located. I moved in with my aunt and uncle on the family farm where my mother grew up, paid them rent, got my first U.S. driver's license and opened my first U.S. bank account, bought and registered my first car, registered to vote, and started paying state and federal taxes. To do all that, my aunt found me my first full-time job: running an industrial sewing machine and sewing together seat backs for Jeep automobiles where my aunt worked. Once I got the hang of factory life, punching a time card, and getting paid minimum wage, and I earned my way to the most esteemed position available on the factory floor, I "upgraded" by leaving for a higher paying, second-shift job at another factory where I was taught to weld. And there, I finished out my required year to establish myself as an in-state resident for tuition purposes.

But... I still didn't have enough saved to pay for a full year of tuition and living expenses, and U.S. universities (at least at that time) don't offer loans to students under the age of 21. I still had to sort out, for myself, how to earn the right to stay in college once I started. And that... is yet another story.

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