|Author's Spotlight: Wendy Byrne|
I know it's been a 'VERY' long time since I featured an author but you know how it is. Life happens and things fall by the wayside. Needless to say I'm back with a bang and a fantastic author. This isn't bull I'm giving you. I've read her work and I do believe you're going to love her. Now without further ado I would love to introduce you to Wendy Byrne. Wendy had her first two books, Fractured (published Dec. 2011) and Mama Said (published April 2012) from Genesis Press. This past Christmas Wendy self published her first novella, The Christmas Curse.
Dyanne: Welcome, Wendy. Thank you for the interview. I'd like to begin by giving the readers a bit of information about you. Would you tell us a bit about where you're from and a bit about your background, please?
Wendy: Hello, Dyanne. First I'd like to also wish a Happy New Year to the readers and to thank you for having me. Now, about me. I grew up just outside Chicago in the south suburbs. I am the third of four girls in a very traditional family. My father was a teamster (truck driver); my mother was a stay at home mom. My two oldest sisters are eighteen months apart and then I was born nine years later; my younger sister five years after me.
I worked as a secretary for a law office until I got pregnant with my first child. At that point, I started to take classes to get my college degree. Twelve years later I graduated with a masters degree in social work. I worked in the child welfare field for twelve years (suddenly realizing I do things in twelve year increments) progressing from case manager to supervisor. The work was hard and exhaustive but the emotional component required sapped most of my creative energy. When I decided to leave the field and go into education, I knew I could put more emphasis on my writing. That’s when I began in earnest with the goal of publication. I joined Windy City Writers and learned so much I can’t even begin to explain. I found many friends and like-minded people and was relieved that others had these characters running about their heads trying to get their stories told.
Dyanne: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer? And what was it that inspired you to start writing?
Wendy: For the longest time I thought everyone had these people and their stories running throughout their head. At first I didn’t do anything with them, just let their story unfold in my head. Then I progressed to writing in down long hand, then later to a computer. I didn’t realize at the time I was writing a story about people I could change and make them perfect, and, above all, have a happy ending. I would watch a movie and think, no that should have been different. That’s not how people would react so I re-wrote it in my head as to how I would have done things differently.
Being around writers who’ve ‘made it’ helps aspiring writers realize that anything is possible and also their journey is never over. Every writer I know even those on the NY Times list still is striving to be better in their craft. Knowledge truly is power. The knowledge can come through books, or workshops, or just writing, writing and more writing.
Dyanne: LOL. I should ask you if your characters reacted any better than the people you knew in real life but I won't. I think I already know the answer. Here's a safer question. When did you write your first book?
Wendy: That depends on if you mean on paper or in my head. When I was young I can remember thinking about stories and talking to myself—a lot. Thankfully, my parents didn’t think I was crazy. Either that, or they were too busy since I was number 3 of four girls. I’m sure there was a whole lot of drama going on in my house at one time or another.
I started out writing down stuff in long hand in my twenties or so, then progressed to computer eventually. It didn’t occur to me that this was something I could actually try to do until later. I bought some writing books and started to research. I wrote my first book—which was absolutely horrible by the way—and sent it off to an agent. He wisely rejected it. I was devastated. Then I learned about Windy City RWA and that’s when the magic truly happened.
Dyanne: I am in total agreement with you about first books or at least about my first book. But no matter how bad the book is it shows a couple of things: Commitment, perseverance and a willingness to learn how to do it. Its definitely not as easy as many people think. And Windy City RWA. What can I say but, Thank God they were there. Wendy, how many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
Wendy: Probably 10-12. My favorite book will always be Mama Said… I love the character, Gabriella. She’s the woman I want to be when I grow up: tall, gorgeous, with an incredible singing voice. Since that will never happen, I live vicariously through her and her relationship with her man, Shane. It’s the first book where I could feel Gabriella talking through me. I know that sounds a little crazy, but if a writer can get into their character’s head, that’s kind of how it feels.
Dyanne: I absolutely love, Mama Said. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Wendy: Before I tell you I have to explain that my father—as much as I loved him—was very old-fashioned about his girls. He believed that girls needed to be taken care of by a man. As a result, I never really thought about career goals. We (my sisters and I) were never encouraged to attend college or think about future careers. As a result I assumed I would work in an office like my older sisters had done. It wasn’t until after I got married that I came to the realization that I wanted more out of a career and went to college.
Dyanne: Knowing about your time in social work and teaching I know your intuition was working. Both of those fields you're able to not only help but influence the lives of young people. Well done. I'm always being asked this question so I'm going to ask you the same thing. How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Wendy: It depends on the length of the book, but usually 4-6 months, although I have been known to write faster given an incentive like a challenge from a critique partner or if the story is flowing easily.
Dyanne: LOL. I' always write much faster when my critique partner challenge me. Wendy, can you tell us where the ideas for your books come from?
Wendy: Usually from an interesting news story, or an overheard conversation (heads up—writers like to eavesdrop), just people watching or sometimes an idea pops up out of nowhere or after a dream when your subconscious is hard at work.
Dyanne: ROFL. You weren't supposed to warn people that we eavesdrop then make up stories. Where is your favorite place to write, where do you feel most creative?
Wendy: I sit on my couch with my laptop in the mornings. I’m always the first one up and the house is quiet free of distractions. I sit down with my cup of Chai tea and after checking emails, start to write. If I’m on a writing roll, I can keep the writing going all day. If not, I try to make a page count even if it kills me.
Dyanne: Do you have any role models? Have there been any other writers that have inspired you?
Wendy: I have some great friends who are writers. As a general rule, we tend to be more introverted than most others, but love to talk about stories when we get together. The vibe from being around like-minded people is contagious, even if you think your imagination has gone and left you and you’ll never think of another story, one night with writing friends gets the juices flowing again. So writers who’ve inspired me have been my critique partners. When we get together it’s magic.
Dyanne: You know Wendy, I think that's one of the reasons I'm always pointing aspiring writers toward RWA and Windy City in particular. There is more than camaraderie in being around writers. You feed each other creatively. There's an automatic cheering squad waiting there for you to succeed and crying with you over the rejections. Thank you, Wendy. I'm so glad you brought that up. So tell us, when you're not writing, what do you like to do for fun?
Wendy: Like most writers, I love to read. I read a lot of romances, but also other genres as well. Variety is a beautiful thing and makes reading less predictable, although I do require a satisfying ending.
I love to listen to music, everything from current stuff to blues. It makes me happy. My husband and I like to go to concerts either in Chicago or at an outdoor venue in the area called Ravinia. We’ve seen Diana Krall, John Haitt, Counting Crows and Van Morrison and way back when, Marvin Gaye—which was to-die-for.
I also quilt. I’ve sewn as far back as I can remember and used to make my own clothes and actually thought at one point I’d be a dress designer when I started classes at junior college. I quickly learned I didn’t want to do that for a living. Then I started making quilts and that’s pretty much all I sew nowadays.
Dyanne: Do you have anything that you'd like to say to your readers?
Wendy: My hope, as a writer, is that my book has allowed you the time and space to escape everyday life and enter a world that is full of twists and turns and always happy endings.
Dyanne: What kind of advice would you give to new writers?
Wendy: Write, write, write—every day—even when you don’t feel like writing. Set a daily page count and stick with it, even when the words you are putting out sound like crap, just keep writing, eventually it all comes together.
Be patient and don’t give up even when you feel like it will never happen. Believe me, I’ve been there—and still visit that place occasionally—if you’re a writer you won’t be able to quit.
No writer than I know of is an overnight success. They’ve worked hard at their craft for years before they’ve made it, even if it seems differently.
Find a supportive writing group and, hopefully, a great critique group that you can count on to help you weather the trials and tribulations of what being a writer entails. Everyone needs a support system and while your significant other can be a support, nobody like a fellow writer can both feel your pain and celebrate your joy. Only they know all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into your masterpiece.
Dyanne: Yeah!! Wendy has agreed to give us a little sample of her books. Thanks Wendy.
Fractured, Genesis Press, December, 2011
Isabella burrowed further into her jacket, and readied her gun. Despite the dark, she could sense their beady-eyed presence; hear them scurrying around in the over-full trashcans, and suppressed a shudder. No way no how would a bunch of rodents deter her.
Besides, they were the least of her problems. She fingered the worn edges of the handkerchief tucked into the pocket of her jeans for luck. Waiting in an alley, in this neighborhood at this time of night was dangerous. And stupid. Landry had taken down a gangbanger not even a block from here only about a week ago.
Landry Taylor . . .geez, thinking about him or anything remotely connected to him could only distract her. Right now she needed to focus. But every time she tried, he popped into her head. Why? Maybe because he’d tell her how crazy she was for taking this kind of risk. Maybe because it had been six months since they’d broken up. Maybe because he was tall, dark and sexy and she had a serious need to get laid.
The sound registered seconds before the bullet knocked her off her feet with the ferocity of an NFL linebacker. Searing pain spread through her chest and lungs leaking into her kidneys and abdomen.
“What . . .the . . .he . . .?” Her chest hitched while she struggled to breathe.
Mama Said . . . Genesis Press, April, 2012
Gabriella shifted, clumsily finding the right gear. The Porsche responded with a lurch, the wheels spinning for a second or two before taking hold on the slick pavement. At three a.m. on a Thursday morning, I-294 North, the highway connecting Illinois with Wisconsin, was nearly deserted. After a glance in the rearview mirror, she drew in a long deep breath.
Her passenger moaned in his seat, excruciating pain etched onto his face. At least he was still alive. For a terrifying couple of minutes, she wasn’t sure he was still breathing.
Despite the circumstances, she nearly smiled as she envisioned the headline: Gabriella Santos Saves Shane O’Neil
She imagined the details that would follow: Gabriella Santos, stiletto-wearing blues singer, courageously saves big bad Shane O’Neil, all six foot four inches and two hundred pounds of him. Then again, she shouldn’t get ahead of herself.
G.I. Jane she wasn’t. But still, by some kind of miracle, she’d pulled it off. At least for the time being.
Apprehensive after everything she’d gone through in the last several hours, she peeked at his still form. He definitely needed a doctor. But before he passed out, she had promised him no cops and no hospital. Since they had both been preoccupied dodging bullets at the time, she hadn’t asked for an explanation. For the time being, she felt obligated to honor his wishes. Fighting the urge to poke him just to hear him moan so she’d know he was still alive, she settled for finding a centimeter of skin not bruised or swollen and touched it. When he felt warm but not feverish, she let out a sigh of relief.
Since leaving Florida a month ago, she’d been followed, mugged, threatened and shot at. She wasn’t in law enforcement like her brothers. She wasn’t even gainfully employed most of the time. She was a blues singer, flitting from one gig to another, never quite knowing where she’d find herself.
But the very last place she would have expected to be during the early morning hours of August twenty-fourth was running from a carload of bad guys with a nearly dead man sitting next to her. How could she possibly take care of a half-dead guy when she couldn’t even take care of herself?
The Christmas Curse, November, 2012
Ten days until D-Day
Tessa Stevens grimaced as she fought to ignore the drunken carolers singing an off-key and rather lewd version of “Jingle Bells”. bahumbug.
Christmas was her Achilles’ heel. Her kryptonite. The mother of all curses. She was a menace to society and shouldn’t be out in public.
But to get this over with, she’d agreed to come to the home of her soon-to-be-ex Max, despite the warning bells ringing inside her head. With only ten days left until Christmas, she should be in hiding, not traipsing into the night to remedy this last little glitch in their divorce.
Max, of all people, should remember the curse that voodoo priestess cast on the women in her family, the one that was especially potent at Christmas. But nooooo, he had to have the papers signed tonight, not after New Year’s. He’d recited something about tax liabilities and a vacation to St. Mortiz, but she’d blocked out the details.
With the prospect of finally having this whole marriage fiasco behind her, she’d thrown her coat over her leopard print pj’s, stuffed her feet into her Uggs, started up her trusty Toyota and made the short drive to his brownstone. While she’d never been to his house, she knew the neighborhood well—upscale, trendy and uber expensive.
Max was a flashy kind of guy so his home choice wasn’t too surprising. She, on the other hand, liked to keep a low profile and had a home/artist’s studio on Printers Row in Chicago.
With the two of them being such polar opposites, she shouldn’t have married him in the first place. She’d never loved him. But then, not loving him was the point. The cautionary words of her great grandmother reverberated in her ears, ‘Never marry for love, or it will surely bring disaster.’
Dyanne: Wendy, thank you so much for the interview. This is the last thing I promise. Can I have your web address so readers can find you and a buy link for your latest work?