Tell me about the inspiration for “Secret of Coffin Island.”
While visiting Sullivan’s Island for continued research on the series, I discovered some history about why they named Folly Island — along the South Carolina coast — Coffin Island. Some believe it is due to the fact that ships entering the Charleston harbor dropped off sick and dying people on the island to avoid becoming quarantined. Others believe it’s from a shipwreck that occurred off the coast of Folly in 1700, which led to many of the bodies of those onboard washing up on the beach. Then in 1987, there were skeletons discovered in an archaeological dig on the island that were headless and facing west. It was determined they were from the 55th Massachusetts Regiment from the Civil War. This story was just waiting to be written novel.
This is the fourth in a series. As you progress through the series, what have you learned about your characters?
I’ve learned that I have a hard time putting them away when the story ends, which is why the series works so well. I’d say that my protagonist, Marie, has continued to grow throughout the series with her psychic ability. She now accepts it and realizes there’s a need for her to help other young adults who have psychic abilities. I think the SIPS team has learned to rely on each other more as they go through each new ghost investigation, not to mention helping solve the murders that take place throughout the series novel.
What have you learned about yourself as a writer?
The joy that I get every time I sit down to write never goes away. It feeds my soul. There are times that life gets in the way and I have to put my stories on hold, and when I come back to it, I wonder if I can continue where I left off. The answer is always “yes.” I might need an extra nudge every now and again, but once I get my thoughts on the page, it’s euphoric novel.
When it comes to mysteries, it’s about plotting. Tell me about your writing process.
When a story starts to resonate in my mind, I usually start jotting things down in my journal as a very rough first draft. I usually have a beginning, middle and end at that point. Then the research begins on many levels, i.e. setting, introducing new characters, antagonist, etc. But I have to say I’m a bit of a “pantser,” and many times I write on the fly. Whatever pops into my head, especially with dialogue, I put it down. The key is to just write. Once I’ve finished the first typed draft, I edit … and edit … and edit. Editing is never-ending, which is a thrill for me because that’s when you can really make the story come alive. If I find myself straying from the plot or it’s feeling awkward, I’ll walk away for a bit, maybe pick up one of my favorite authors’ books. Reading helps my creative flow and usually puts me back on track novel.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a completely different book. It’s still in the early stages and is a romantic comedy written in first person, which is new for me. My protagonist is a struggling photographer and on the trail to bring back her niece from France who has been kidnapped. Throw in an Irish FBI agent who is chasing her for robbing a bank, which adds the romantic element, and then a few series of mishaps along the way. It’s been a great deal of fun writing this story, as well as challenging novel.