She loves all things French and writes SoCal beach stories

The short
version could likely be similar for a lot of women of a certain age: I’m a wife
(41 years and counting), mom (adult son and daughter), mom-in-law, grandmother
(two girls, one boy), a former teacher (middle school reading; subbing; tutoring;
writing workshops); and now I’m well into that season of life defined by such
things as: not concerned about
coloring the grey; navigating through the Smart TV is a bit of a challenge; my
mom doesn’t always know who I am; and middle age is becoming a tiny dot in the
rearview mirror. I was born and raised in Moline, Illinois, and now live in San
Diego.
Sally, you don’t know this yet, but it was
your book, Castles in the Sand, that
made me know what kind of stories I wanted to write—stories about relationships.
Tell us about your newest releasing book.
Oh wow!
Really?! That tickles me to no end – and makes me grateful once more for how
the stories touch readers in so many ways. I think your response is a first,
though.
Heaven Help Heidi is set in a make-believe San Diego beach
community, Seaside Village. It’s another story about women’s friendships at the
Casa de Vida, a cozy group of rental cottages we met in Between Us Girls.
When
Heidi’s life is turned upside down, she moves in. As a successful real estate
agent, she never ever would have chosen this place to live. She struggles to
adjust as well as to ask for and to accept help from the other residents.
Piper, a
resident, faces her own life-changing decisions. Can she move beyond her grief
over her fiancé’s death? Can she let go of a job she adores for something
different? Can she let Hud into her heart?
Liv, Casa
owner and woman of a certain age,
mentors the young ones and deals with a deep hurt from her past.
By the end
of the story, all three women are living examples of how God is never finished with healing us and is always creating something new in
our lives. They’re in a space of love and acceptance.
Where do you get your ideas for your books? What
sparked this story?
The seeds
for ideas come from real life. Writers are observers. When something
interesting happens, we write notes on paper napkins, palms, and receipts. I
have learned to send myself a text message but that’s still not my first
thought. The news also provides story ideas (and proves that life is stranger
than fiction).
These seeds
offer the starting point to ask “what if” questions. Imagining the answers is
what develops into stories.
Heidi’s roots came from the idea for the Family of the Heart
Series.
I wanted to create a safe harbor for people, something we all desire.
I’ve done many stories about marriage and family. With these new stories I
wanted to explore the power in women’s friendships. (Harvest House suggested
“family of the heart” after I had started. It’s a great phrase for the series.)
From there I simply began to imagine women. The practical: what did they do for
a living? The catalyst: what stumbling blocks might be thrown onto their paths?
I created
Casa residents as minor characters, incorporating a variety of life
experiences. Piper came along in Between
Us Girls
, a fashionista who offered exactly what Jasmyn needed when her
clothes were stolen. She intrigued me. How was she dealing with her deep grief?
(Current news: Iraq and Afghanistan and our great losses.) I chose to make her
a major character in the new book.
Heidi came
from—I’m not sure! LOL. With the large population here in Southern California,
real estate is a huge deal. Every other day an agency ad lands on our doorstep
or in the mailbox. (Last week I received a nifty tool from one of them: a
flashlight/screwdriver! It’s better than the magnets and notepads.) I decided
Heidi could be successful in this work, happy as a lark, good at what she does.
What could bring her down? The economy and a physical injury that disrupts her
everyday life for months on end.
Did anything strange or funny happen while
writing this book?
Roaming
several blocks from home one day, I happened upon a walled courtyard. I peered
through the locked gate and laughed. It was totally the Casa’s courtyard! The
cottages weren’t there (the place is an inn, although it doesn’t look like
one), but the ambience enveloped me exactly as I had imagined my characters
feeling when they entered the Casa.
That’s so cool about that courtyard! Did you
always want to be a writer?
Always!
Reading fiction kept me sane as I was growing up. More than an escape or
entertainment, it remains a source of insight. A favorite quote of mine is
“stories give us eyes other than our own with which to see the world.”
The thought
of writing fiction was a wild and seemingly unattainable dream. Until I was 35
years old, I believed Carolyn Keene lived in New York City along with every
real writer in the U.S. Seriously.
Where do you write, a coffee shop, attic
nook, or a cave?
Today I’m
actually in the process of moving from a bedroom to a corner in the living
room. Last week at a consignment shop I found a “secretary,” a small desk with
drawers and nooks and a hutch. Next to it is a narrow window; I can see a slice
of the patio surrounded by a low concrete block wall. Between my potted
succulents on it, I can see heads and shoulders of people as they walk by. The
neighbor’s hot-pink bougainvillea droops into the space. This makes for dappled
sunlight.
I’m partial
to desks. Okay, I drool over desks. For years I wrote on a huge one that I’d
bought at a Salvation Army. I left that in Illinois. At our next house I
claimed a bedroom (without a bed) as an office and filled it with a brand new
desk and matching bookcase. Three books later, a wildfire claimed that set and
the house.
I wrote the
next couple of books on a folding table in a bedroom. Eventually I bought an
inexpensive, drawer-less desk and enjoyed it. But, seven years later, it’s
saggy. The alley outside the window and the bed are totally disrupting the feng
shui… So here I am. 
Sally, of all your characters,
which was your favorite and why?
As a group,
the women in The Beach House hold a
special place in my heart. I had never tried to write from four points of view
before, but those ladies marched front and center into my imagination before I
realized what was happening. Jo, Molly, Char, and Andie carried me to a new
writing arena.
Padre
Miguel (Ransomed Dreams) is an
all-time favorite. He would show up and take over. I never knew what he would
do or say. And I didn’t even have a bio on him beyond the basics: he was short,
a priest in Mexico, loved God, and had a faith was as big as all outdoors.
Share a few of the techniques you learned
that changed the way you write.
Outlining
is necessary for me. I learned this early on from a multi-published author.
Like her, I could write scenes, but stringing them together into a coherent
story took some forethought.
I’ve
learned to trust the process. My outlines aren’t as detailed as they were early
on. Although I never planned exactly how a story would end, in recent years
I’ve seen how organic storytelling can be. Once I have the big picture in place
(plot, setting, characters, theme), the story can unfold. I might know Point A
and Point B, but situations and characters get me from one to the next when I
don’t have a clue.
Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your
readers might not know about you.
  • My all-time
    favorite movie scene is from Stranger
    Than Fiction
    , when an author (played by Emma Thompson) meets her fictional
    character (played by Will Ferrell), in person.
  • I’m 5’ 7”.
  • During
    college, I lived for one semester in Grenoble, France, and I love all things
    French.   
If you were a musical instrument, what would
you be and why?
A clarinet.
It can be made of wood and uses a reed (both earthy). It has shiny keys (a
little “glitter”). The sound is low and smooth, a steady undercurrent that
supports other instruments. Alone, it can make beautiful music…when it’s played
right. 
Heaven Help
Heidi
Young and
successful real estate agent Heidi Hathaway is totally in control of her own
life. That is, until an accident leaves her injured, unable to work, and
questioning the purpose of her life. That’s when she moves to the Casa de Vida,
an ocean-side community that becomes so much more than a place to rest and
recover.
It’s there
she meets Piper Keyes, a young woman reeling from the loss of her fiancé in
Afghanistan. Piper knows Jared isn’t coming home, but she struggles to open her
heart again.
The two
women couldn’t be more different, but they need each other now. In their
friendship, they discover God’s grace and mercy, and with that comes hope,
healing, and the promise of new love.