• Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What prompted you to write your first manuscript?

    Books became an escape for me as a teenager. My mother gave me my first romantic suspense novel, MOONRAKER’S BRIDE by Madeleine Brent, whom I later discovered, to my surprise, was a man. I also enjoyed Victoria Holt and read just about every book she ever wrote. However, my reading slacked off as I got older, met my husband, had my daughter, and decided to stay at home and build by own travel agency business. It wasn’t until the age of 43, when I picked up a Nora Roberts novel for a quiet family vacation to the lake, that I fell back into reading for pleasure. As I read her first book of an Irish trilogy, I remembered that young teenager who desired to write her own novel. When I returned from that vacation, I started my writer’s journey.

  • Where did you come up with the idea for your first manuscript?

    The storyline began as a dream, and as dreams usually go, I awoke before the end. I wanted to know what would happen to these characters. I’d had this dream years before, and sometimes when I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d imagine the rest of the story. Unfortunately, I’d always find myself drifting off to sleep. As with the original dream, I never saw my characters past the first couple of chapters. I knew they would be in my first story because I was dying to know how their lives would end up.

  • Why do you write romantic suspense?

    First of all, I’m a romantic at heart. Historical romances were the books I gravitated to when I was looking to get lost in another world. When the small blip popped in my head in those early years of yearning to write a novel, it would have been an historical romance. But I hadn’t met my husband yet, who it turns out had always wanted to be in law enforcement as far back as he could remember. A year after we started dating, he entered the state police academy and became a state trooper. After we married five years later, it was hard to avoid hearing about the day to day police work he was involved in (very exciting stuff), not to mention the camaraderie and hilarious stories, especially the interactions cops have with each other. So it was inevitable I would combine both of our passions: romance and murder. (Not that murder is his passion, only solving them.)  It also helps to have a source when you’re researching information for your story.

  • What sparks a story and its plot?

    Dreams, of course, can be a catalyst to a story. A lot of times it’s a benign incident. For example, my husband woke up on a Saturday morning to find his back tire flat on his cruiser. After careful inspection, he found he had picked up a nail. He obviously had run it somewhere along the way. Not a big deal, no smoking guns, and we changed it together in less than an hour. But then I got to thinking, what if it was intentional? What if someone purposely hammered that nail into his tire? What if this was a sheriff’s patrol car, not a state trooper’s, and the sheriff was a woman newly elected to the distress of the rank and file who adamantly opposed having a woman for a boss? There you have the makings of a suspenseful novel, throw in her romantic counterpart, murder, a subplot or two, and a red herring, and you have a stew pot boiling over with a good thriller.

  • Are your stories/characters based on real people and events?

    No. There may be life situations that people face in their occupations or work from which I draw my stories. My debut novel, Relentless, is the story of a woman who owns and operates a horse rescue farm. I got the idea from the same type of operation down the road from me, but the specific plot/story is unique to my character(s). It’s interesting, but as a writer you find the characters take on a life of their own, most times they dictate what’s going to happen next, and sometimes they even surprise the writer.

  • What genres and authors do you like to read for enjoyment?

    Of course, romantic suspense. I have to admit since I started reading again I haven’t gone back to historical novels. I find the modern day romantic  thrillers interest me more. I enjoy reading Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, Karen Robards, and Karen Rose.

  • How do you go about researching your books?

    A lot of time is spent on the internet. But I find the best research comes from professional people in that field, such as police officers, FBI agents, attorneys. So I interview, visit their place of business. Most are very kind and happy to assist me by spending time with me and offering tours of their operation. I still own my travel agency and have a tremendous amount of resources available when researching a particular setting, and if need be, I will travel and scope out that particular city and its surrounding area. There’s nothing like seeing a  particular town firsthand and then writing about it. You’ll find a fair amount  of my settings begin in Maryland, my home state, and branch off somewhere  altogether different.

  • Is P.J. O’Dwyer your real name?

    Now that’s a trick question. P and J are the initials of my first and middle name respectively. O’Dwyer is my maiden Irish ancestral surname before they immigrated to America. So, on a stretch I’m going to say I consider it very near and dear to my real name.

  • Any advice for someone who wants to become a writer?

    Absolutely. Follow your dream. I never had any formal training as a writer, just the desire to write and put my thoughts and stories on the computer screen. Like anything else, it takes practice and commitment. Writing is a craft, and with time your writing becomes better, sharper, and stronger. I definitely recommend joining a critique group, which has been invaluable to me. What’s nice about this type of group is that they are brutally honest, which I appreciate. Their candor has made me a better writer. I also have a few trusted friends who are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to proofread and critique my work as well. I also highly suggest you invest in creating your own library of resources. I have many worn how-to books that sit on my bookshelf. My favorites are: THE WRITER’S JOURNEY 3rd EDITION by Christopher Vogler, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass, REVISING FICTION by Kirt Hickman, and because I write romantic thrillers I added to my resource library WRITING ROMANCE 3rd EDITION by Vanessa Grant.

    In today’s market I find that agents are looking for manuscripts that are polished and need very little copyediting. If you can afford it, I also suggest hiring a copyeditor to proofread your manuscript to catch any grammatical errors. I am lucky to have found one that also edits for style, plot, characterization, dialogue (basically every element of writing) and am very fortunate in that regard.

    Just remember, writing is a journey that never ends.

  • Is there a formula to your stories?

    I’d like to think so. I strive for strong, likeable characters readers can identify with. A plot with a high level of anticipation, uncertainty, anxiety, and sometimes even terror/fear—that’s why they call them thrillers. Whenever possible I like to create one surprise, something the reader didn’t see coming, usually placed toward the end of the story. And, of course, there’s got to be great chemistry between the two protagonists and a burgeoning love story that warms the heart as menace and mayhem unfold around the pair.

  • What compelled you to write spin-off stories of our characters?

    It’s funny, but in the beginning that wasn’t my intention at all. But I found my critique group and friends who had read my first manuscript, DEFIANT, gravitated toward Kate Reynold’s sister Bren Ryan and my sleuth/college intern Robbie Duncan, suggesting I find stories for these two characters. I liked the idea and have finished Bren’s story, moving her up to the first book in the Fallon Sisters Trilogy, with Kate’s following a close second, and added a third sister, Dani Flynn, to round out the trilogy.

    As for Robbie, her story, DEADRISE, has a completed first chapter with the “what-ifs” still rolling around in my head, waiting to be fleshed out into an outline.