Today I’m chatting with a multi-published author friend from Prism Book Group, Alice Wootson.
Tell us a bit about you and your background
I grew up in Rankin, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Rankin is one mile long and six streets wide. I was the oldest of seven children. I worked a year between high school and college as a nurse’s aide. I’m a retired teacher/reading specialist. I taught in the Philadelphia public schools for many years.
What’s the logline that describes your writing?
Romance. Many of my eleven published novels are romantic suspense, but one was described by a reader as ‘chicklit’. I laughed because I am way past the ‘chicklit’ age’. Even the lighter novels, Dream Wedding and Perfect Wedding, have serious undertones.
What are your hobbies away from the computer?
Reading, watching television. (I work on puzzles while I watch so I don’t feel guilty about spending so much time watching television), traveling with my husband and exploring the places we visit. I attend poetry readings in and around Philadelphia.
Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?
Usually it’s a plot idea that gets me started, then I think of the main characters who might be in the situation and why.
Is your writing style planned or freestyle?
Freestyle, definitely freestyle. I wish I could plan first. It would be so much easier, but when I get an idea I have to run with it. I always know the specifics of how it will end. It’s the middle I have to fill in.
What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?
When I get an idea I have to ask the basic questions: who, what, when, where and why. Then I have to work out the how. All of these are important, but I have to know the ‘why’ before I begin. I research background details needed to give the story a feeling of authenticity. We spent several winters in Brownsville, Texas and I travelled the surrounding areas extensively. The main characters in Border Love and Border Danger (which is next), are Border Patrol Agents so I did a lot of research about that government department. I took a helicopter ride in Hawaii and interviewed several helicopter pilots over there because Jeanine in Aloha Love is one and I needed to know the details of flying a helicopter. (I got airsick.)
We spend winters in Florida now. Hot air balloon rides are popular. Once one almost landed in the community where we were staying. That triggered part of the idea for Kindred Spirits. I had to use a balloon in a story, so I contacted the owner of a company, told him what I was doing and he invited me to an orientation. I told him I wasn’t going for a ride. (I didn’t want to repeat my helicopter experience with airsickness.) He invited me to come to the meeting anyway. Then I had to build a story around a hot air balloon. I always do the research as soon as I have an idea. Sometimes I reach a point where further research is required so I do it then.
Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?
I’ve spent a lot of time in all the locations I write about. I even went out to check the color of the South Carolina soil Missy stepped down into in my second book, Dream Wedding. If you follow the routes my characters in my books take, you’ll arrive at the location they come to. For example, if you follow the directions Jeanine follows in one scene in Aloha Love, you’ll end up at the coffee plantation.
Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?
- I make a list of at least 10-15 things that could happen next & mentally follow each one while weeding out some as I go.
- I might go for a walk. (My favorite exercise.) I walk my neighborhood which has wide quiet streets. I have a 3-3 1/2 mile route that I take 5-7 mornings a week. Many times the walk helps me iron out problems and move the story forward.
What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?
I kind of revise and edit as I go. It’s the writing that holds surprises. In Aloha Love a secondary character, Nate, tried to take over every scene he was in. I had to promise him his own story before he behaved. (I haven’t done so yet & every now and then he reminds me.) I was going to take him to Washington and completed six chapters, but I decided a few days ago to bring him to the Orlando, Florida area where I am now. He’s a helicopter mechanic so he’ll be one here. Details are still percolating in my head, but the story will be a romantic suspense. This is one of the rare times where I start with a character, but I promised him so I have to keep my promise so he’ll leave me alone.
What’s your dream vacation destination?
Hawaii. (Did you hear me sigh?) We’ve been there six times but it’s so far from Philadelphia. It’s a long flight there and a longer one back. I also think it would be nice if we Prism Book Group authors take a cruise together. We could offer to present writing workshops. (They might give us a discount.) I already have an idea for a novel set on a cruise ship.
Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?
I’ve drawn plans and made calendars for some of the books. In Escape to Love I had to sketch a building floor plan to get Angela to the elevator when somebody was chasing her and trying to kill her. I also use actual maps.
Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?
We have three dogs all from the same litter although they don’t look alike. Their mother was a yellow lab mix & their father was a mutt, too. Somebody watched Nanook when we went to Pittsburgh to celebrate my sister’s birthday. They said their male was fixed. He wasn’t. Nanook had 9 puppies the following December 23, six years ago. Buster is the alpha & weighs 120 pounds. Buddy weighs about 116. (He has a story of his own. I call him the ‘Return to Sender’ dog because he was sent back three times. I once had to give him a timeout for talking back.) Princess weighs 112 pounds.
What do you hope readers gain from your stories?
Several things: 1. First of all an enjoyable read worth the time they spent. 2. An escape from reality for a little while 3. Insight into some aspects of human nature
Border Patrol agents Brooke Hudson and Darien McKee experience different situations while on assignment that shake their faith. She considers resigning, but will try reassignment instead.
Darien is forced to transfer from the Yuma Sector after an incident in the desert. They are assigned as partners. A personal relationship develops between them. An incident occurs that makes it necessary for them to be assigned different partners, but they continue to see each other socially.
Brooke’s new partner makes a rash decision that puts her in jeopardy. Will her faith help her out of the dangerous situation?
Darien realizes he loves her. When she disappears, he finds his faith returning as he searches for Brooke. Will he find her in time?
Brooke Hudson drew her gun and crouched behind a thick bush, grateful for the tropical climate of Brownsville, Texas. She pressed her face so close to the ground, she could smell the musty, rotting leaves that covered this section of land.
The footsteps that caused her to take cover came closer. Birds scattered from the ground into the air announcing the path of the person approaching. The steps were slow, but the person didn’t try to keep quiet. Brooke frowned.
Even illegal intruders who got lost knew to move quietly. She shifted softly until she faced the sound. Unless they were armed and didn’t care if they encountered anybody.
She thought of a week ago when an officer’s body was found thirty miles north of where she was now. Lord, please be with me, she prayed. She pulled her mind back to the sounds, eased behind a vine-covered tree, and waited.
When the noise was almost on top of her, she stood with her back against a tree and aimed her weapon at the direction of the sound coming through the brush. She waited and watched. A final thrashing through a thick clump in front of her sent a ground squirrel scampering across the tiny clearing and brought the person almost out of cover.
“Dente! Halt! No te mueve! Don’t move!” Brooke ordered just as a young woman stepped into view. “Are you alone?” she asked in Spanish as she scanned the area surrounding the woman. Then Brooke looked back at her and frowned. This wasn’t a woman. This was a girl not even in her teens.
Brooke scanned the area again; slowly this time. Mexico was only a few hundred yards on the other side of the fence across the road, but nobody this young would cross alone. Somebody was with her. How many? And where were they?
“I absolutely loved this book. It fed my need for high paced tense action and romance all at the same time. “
“The setting, too, was unique, the border agent angle was a clever twist on the classic romantic suspense. Great characters, well written, fantastic story. “
Alice Greenhowe Wootson is a retired teacher and award-winning author of eleven novels. She is also a prize-winning poet. She’s a member of The Philadelphia Writers Conference, Mad Poets Society, Romance Writers of America and The Authors Guild. She meets with book clubs and readers.
Alice is a member of several ministries at her church: Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
She uses any spare time she can find reading, traveling and spending time with her husband, her sons and grandchildren. She is always working on her latest novel or piece of poetry. For more information on her other releases, please visit her website.