What first got you interested in writing? What has kept you doing it?
I loved listening to stories and reading from an early age. And I decided I wanted to create stories when I was still in grade school. The one thing keeping me doing it, before I began to actually see my novels find publication was my grandmother, Granny. As a teenager, she knew my dreams of writing and one day showed me something she wrote when she was about to graduate from school, a “Class Prophecy”. It was well written in the flowery style of the period and I asked her why she didn’t pursue a writing career. With a far away look in her eyes, she said, “I couldn’t but you can and you should.” She couldn’t – she married young, had children, worked when it wasn’t common for women to work outside the home, lived through two World Wars, outlived two husbands and divorced another – and I understood that but her confidence in me fueled me to keep going when there were honestly times I thought about giving it up.
Do you have the support of your family and friends? Has that support always been there, or has it changed since being published?
My dad – who passed away three years ago – was always one of my strongest supporters and he died before any of my novels were published. I like to think he’s still supporting me from whatever afterlife we may have. Most of my family (and I come from a large one) is very supportive, especially on my dad’s side. Some of the others were a little slower to show support but when they’ve begun to realize I have 18 novels out, they’re climbing aboard.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Strangest habit? Is there anything you have to do before you start writing?
Before I open up my laptop each morning, I have to brush my waist length hair and then put it up in a clip. It’s my way of saying “okay, time to get serious, time to work” or something. My writing quirk is probably I can tune out almost anything when I’m into writing – something I learned when I worked in radio. I could air a sports game, never miss a cue but I couldn’t tell the score because I tuned it out. Strangest habit? I like to listen to music and it has to fit what I’m working on. When writing “In The Shadow of War”, I listened to 1940’s music.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Prepare to work hard and for long hours. Understand you’d better love writing because you’re going to do a lot of it and love your WIP because you’ll revisit it over and over. Learn editors are there to help, not hinder. A good editor – and I’m blessed with having several – has an eye for strengths and weaknesses. And grow the thickest skin you can.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
It would be getting my first novel published. Before I was offered my first contract, I sent out dozens of queries and had written four novels by that point. There were so many times I thought it would never happen but it did.
Has a reader ever complimented you on your writing? What was the best thing you ever heard, and who told it to you?
I love reader comments. They make my day when I get one. The best one ever – so far – would be from a former student. Before my novels took off, I was a substitute teacher for the local school district, mostly with high school age students. Most of the youth liked me – they used to call me “the awesome sub” and I shared with a lot of the kids I wrote. When my first Rebel Ink Press novel, Love Never Fails,came out in print, one of my former students, one of my “favorites” read it. By then he was out of school, 19 years old but he contacted me to tell me how much the book resonated. For one thing, he’d never seen his hometown described in a novel but he thought it was all spot on. And the other thing is my hero in it, Reid Ramsey, is a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. So was my former student and Reid made him feel as if he could succeed in life – and love too.
What are you working on now? Could you give us a little taste?
It’s called Devlin’s Grace. It’s about an Iraq veteran who’s more wicked than maybe he should be and a young woman who’s a little bit too timid. He’s going to teach her how to live a little more and she’s going to tame him a little along the way.
Here’s a little snippet:
“Want a ride?”
She did but the idea of climbing astride behind Devlin and taking off on a motorcycle ignited an inner terror. As a kid, Gracie couldn’t even always manage to balance her bicycle. If she said yes, she might do something awkward and they’d both take a spill. As she hesitated, Devlin cut the engine and stared at her, eyes intent. “You’re scared, aren’t you?” he asked after a long few moments. His perception surprised her.
Gracie nodded. “I am, a little.”
“You’ve never ridden a motorcycle.” It wasn’t a question but she responded.
“What about a bike? Surely to Christ you had a bike.”
Her shy tongue responded, almost against her will and with more candor than she offered anyone else. “I did and I skinned my knees every time I tried to ride it.”
Devlin didn’t laugh. “It’s going to rain. If you want a ride, all you’ve got to do is hang on. I won’t dump you out on the street, I promise. How far away do you live?”
“It’s not far, on East McDaniel off National,” Gracie told him and gave him the full address.
“Hop on and I’ll get you there before you get soaked.”
She parted her lips to tell him thanks but no thanks but instead her feet took control. Gracie walked over to the bike and climbed onto the seat behind him. Her purse ended up between his back and her chest. Always safety conscious, she asked, “Shouldn’t I wear a helmet?”
“Yeah, you’re supposed to but I don’t have a spare with me.” Devlin turned his head around so she could hear his reply. “Hold on.”
Gracie put her hands on his sides, barely touching and he reached back. His large hands grasped hers and placed them snug around his waist. “When I say hang on tight, I mean it.”
Before she could protest or make a sound, Devlin took off, the bike gliding over the pavement with increasing speed. The same wild, irrational fear she experienced on every carnival ride she’d attempted took wing and panic threatened to erupt. Gracie yelped but she didn’t think Devlin heard her. As he rolled the bike faster, she clung to him, eyes closed. At the first traffic light, he paused and shouted in her direction, “Okay so far?”
Unwilling to admit she’d been frantic, she yelled, “Yeah.”
This time he launched with more speed and she grasped him tight. As they sped over the streets, light rain began falling on them, little more than mist. For a stray second or two, her angst yielded to exhilaration, intoxicating and sweet. Gracie resisted an urge to raise both hands in the air and yell ‘whee’. The brief moment faded as Devlin slowed and eased over to the curb. “Is this it?”
“Yes,” Gracie said. She swung her leg over the seat and dismounted, managing to bump him with her leg. Her klutziness embarrassed her. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t sweat it.”
By then she stood on the sidewalk, the old frame house looming behind her. “Well, thanks for the ride. I appreciate it.”
His deep brown eyes fixed on her face and his lips curved upward into a smile, larger than the previous one. “No problem, Gracie. I’ll see you next week for class?”
“Sure,” she replied. “Thanks again, Mr. Devlin.”
The smile vanished and he frowned, transforming his face into a foreboding mask. “Don’t call me that,” he said and she realized he wasn’t joking. “It’s just Devlin.”
Her mother taught her proper manners, old-fashioned ones long out of style. Calling someone she just met by his last name only didn’t seem correct. Gracie would rather use his first name but he hadn’t shared it. “Okay,” she said, chastised. “I’m sorry. It’s just I don’t know your first name and…”
Devlin reached out from his perch on the Honda and touched a finger to her lips, silencing her immediately. “You don’t need to apologize for everything. It’s cool. If you want, call me Dev. It’s that or Devlin or Devil. I don’t use my first name.”
In three sentences, he created a dozen questions but Gracie wasn’t sure what to ask first. Devilmust be a nickname and if so, it explained his horned helmet and mirror but she wondered why. The question popped out before she considered he might not want to share the reason. “Why do they call you ‘Devil’?”
He never blinked, not once. “I did a lot of evil things once, in Iraq.”
“Oh.” Gracie couldn’t find anything else to say and stood, silent and self-conscious.
Tell us about your latest book.
In The Shadow of War is a romance between two people of different backgrounds set against the backdrop of World War II. It’s poignant because the war created a lot of additional angst for young people in love. It’s set in the small town where I live and the Army camp, Camp Crowder, was once real too. A small part remains as a Missouri National Guard Training Facility but the actual Army post was the prototype for the real “Camp Swampy” from the Beetle Bailey comic strip.
How can people find out more about you?
Facebook: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
A Page In The Life: http://leannsontheimermurphyblogspotwriterauthor.blogspot.com
Rebel Writer: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy: http://leeannsontheimermurphy.blogspot
Seanachie Stories: Tuesday Tales And More: http://seanachiestories-tuesdaytalesandmore.blogspot.com