Studioenp: Silence or noise when writing?
Stephanie: I prefer background instrumental music. I listened to jazz guitar when I wrote my first release, A Witchly Influence. For Division Tennessee, my latest novel, I listened to Classical Goes Pop on Pandora.
Studioenp: Cool! What’s your latest release?
Stephanie: Division Tennessee. Wild Dreams Publishing, my publisher, is releasing it on June 1st, 2018. It’s a fresh spin on the zombie genre where, rather than the story taking place at the beginning or in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, it is set in a post-apocalyptic world. Society is under Reconstruction, much like what the USA saw after the Civil War. Zombie Response Team, or ZRT, is based in the capital of each state with branches throughout to cover the cities attempting to rebuild. Divided into teams of four, each one is led by a team leader and their job is to eliminate any remaining threats from the undead.
Hordes suddenly appear out of nowhere and, during their search for the source of the outbreaks, Team Mayfair discovers a plot that could throw the entire town of Pine Valley into chaos. Will they be able stop whatever is causing the outbreaks and save Pine Valley or will the zombies spread and yank the world back into war?
Studioenp: Wowsers. Really does sound fab. How did the plot come about for it?
Stephanie: Candidly, the plot came about as I wrote it. I enjoy dystopian novels and thought it’d be fun to write my own zombie tale. I wrote the first scene and it wasn’t until I got to the third one where Team Mayfair is introduced that I decided I had more depth for the direction I wanted to take. I didn’t want it to be about blood, gore, and death. Don’t misunderstand me, there are those things, but I wanted to focus more on the relationships people have as they’re healing from a war that nearly destroyed the world.
I had an overall idea by the end of the third scene of what I wanted to do and, like most writers, little twists and turns just popped up along the journey. These characters are so real in your head, and the best justice you can do is really bring them to life on paper for others to love as much as you do.
Studioenp: Agreed! How long did it take you to write it?
Stephanie: I took me eight years to complete it, but I wasn’t working on it that entire time. It was Christmastime and I was working in the office on site for a general contractor. Almost everyone was away for vacation while I was alone in the office. There was a skeleton crew outside, and I had no other tasks left to do. Sitting at my computer, I took advantage of my time alone and wrote the prologue to what would become Division Tennessee. I had always loved to write and, feeling exhilarated, continued to write the opening scene of chapter one.
After that, I emailed a copy of it to myself and didn’t get back to it for eight years. I had started working in the evenings as an assistant MMA coach, so my days and nights were filled. Even my weekends were dominated with work because I was always out of town to coach fights or jiu-jitsu tournaments. I did that until I decided to move to Nashville and, while I was no longer a coach, I still went to work as a project assistant during the day and trained at night at a MMA gym near my new home.
I got married, and my husband was stationed in Hawaii. I had an awful experience with a local company and quit and was really at a loss. For the first time I wasn’t super busy each day. My husband asked me what I wanted to do, and I honestly didn’t know. I went through my old files and found my story that I had started so many years prior and dragged out an old notebook where I promptly began writing notes. They’re basic notes that every writer has: character names, features, their quirks, etc. I had always wanted to write a book and I was hesitant to tell my husband that this was what I wanted to do. I was standing at the sink washing dishes and just blurted out, “I’ve been writing again. I want to finish this. I want to write a book.” He was extremely supportive and, about seven months later, Division Tennessee was completed.
Studioenp: Excellent that you have such great support. What’s next on your writing list?
Stephanie: I completed a novel, The Immortal Prudence Blackwood, but it’s undergoing revisions and tweaks at the moment. When I’m not working on that, I’ve been writing for my fourth project. This one is different for me because it’s set in a realistic world where there’s no magic or a dead human trying to eat you or a mysterious immortal creature. I watched Fried Green Tomatoes recently and decided that I could also write a Southern tale and that’s what I’m doing. (Sorry, Mom, you’re going to need your waterproof mascara if I do my job correctly.)
Studioenp: LOL. Plotter or panster?
Stephanie: I am one hundred percent a pantser. I tried to write an outline for my fourth project because I was inspired by someone in my writers’ group. The woman had displayed a wall filled with sticky notes painstakingly showing every moment that was going to happen as well as a five-page character backstory and explanation for each character she had created.
That’s definitely not my style. I found myself getting bored knowing what was going to happen, which is a ridiculous thing to say because it’s coming out of my own head, but not everything is supposed to make sense. I kept the overall plot points but scrapped my outline. The best way to describe this feeling is thinking of William Wallace shouting, “Freedom!”
Studioenp: Em’s a punster, so she can relate. What is your go-to form of procrastination?
Stephanie: Online window shopping. I don’t shop often, but I seem to really enjoy putting items in a bag and then moving on before actually making a purchase. God, it’s such a waste of time.
Studioenp: But a satisfying one. How many hours per week do you write?
Stephanie: I get to write around twenty hours a week. Sometimes it’s more and sometime it’s less. It just depends on what’s happening that week.
Studioenp: Yes, life gets in the way! What’s one genre you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t—and will you ever write it?
Stephanie: I’d really love to be able to write a great psychological thriller, but I’m realistic. It’s not going to happen. I’d be afraid that people would see the outcome from miles away and, honestly, I don’t want to write another book that’s so serious. I have a quirky sense of humor that’s seen in both A Witchly Influence and Division Tennessee. When I wrote The Immortal Prudence Blackwood, I took it very seriously because it’s about a serial killer. It was tough to write and, while I’m proud of my work, it’s a challenge I don’t want to take again.
Studioenp: What’s the best book you’ve written?
Stephanie: The best book I’ve written? Shhh, they’ll hear you. I can’t answer that. That’s like asking me which of my two cats is my favorite. I honestly couldn’t say because I’m proud of all of them.
Studioenp: Good for you! Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today, and we wish you oodles of success with your books.
Dear readers, today we have banoffee pie for those who like a bit of nana, and raspberry roulade for those who don’t. Or you could take a slice of each, we’re not watching. Enjoy!