Cate: Please welcome Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter. Sandy, will you please share a short bio with us?
Sandy: Thank you for having me, Cate. I went into the Air Force in 1971 from my hometown of Muncie, Indiana, where I lived with my grandmother since 1959 and loved reading and writing. I met my husband at Scott, AFB, married in 1973, went to Ohio, got bitten by the adult writing bug in 1989, had 2 sons in there, got an English degree from Ohio State, sold 2 books to the Wild Rose Press and White Rose Publishing in 2007 and 2008, had 2 granddaughters, and here we are.
Cate: Tell us about The Winds of Fall and where it's available.
Sandy: Winds is based on 2 dreams I had as a child and I started the rough draft in 1990. I took many years to actually get it in its present form because I didn’t know what I was doing back then. Winds is a The Stranger Within meets Men In Black, fish-out-of-water tale. Skye’s an artist/astrophysicist and an alien though she doesn’t know it—yet. Joe’s an alien and recognizes what Skye is immediately when he sees her arm imbedded in his painting at an art gallery. Winds is a psychological study of a man’s defiance against his family’s Mafia-like rules, and a woman’s slipping sanity due to torment from a creature no one can see and her horrifying dreams, set against an impending invasion only she can stop. It makes an emotional read that those who’ve read it say they can’t put down. We’re all held back by and struggle against societal and familial rules that keep us from learning and growing into what we truly should be. It’s available through me for an autographed copy, through Wild Rose Press’s website, Barnes & Noble’s website, or Amazon.com.
Cate: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Sandy: I actually started writing in 3rd grade when I turned my dreams into short stories. The adult writing bug bit me in October, 1990, when I wrote an article about a family trip to an animal auction in Kidron, Ohio, and it was published by a local weekly paper. The novel bug bit me that same year with a comment from my oldest son when we were sitting in the driveway beside a car I’d recently wrecked. The call wasn’t a call but an e-mail from The Wild Rose Press and it came when I was in intensive care because I had stopped breathing. That didn’t matter compared to the news my DIL gave me when she checked my e-mail on December 8, my birthday, and saw THE e-mail. That, and breathing again, made my birthday in 2007 the best ever.
Cate: Wow, that's quite a story, Sandy! I'm glad you had a happy ending as well!
Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Sandy: My father was doing some writing before he died in 2001, mostly poetry. My brother teaches college and is working on some writing projects as his landscaping business, teaching, and being a preacher allows him. Several members of my immediate family just tolerate my writing and being published--to each his own I guess! My ex-SIL is an unpublished romance writer, and she’s finally working consistently on a suspense novel located in Ohio’s Amish country set against upheaval and the collapse of America’s political system and the effect on one family.
Cate: Describe your writing in three words.
Sandy: Unexpected romantic fiction OR Oddly unexpected romance.
Cate: How many hours a day do you write?
Sandy: I’d say about 1½-6 hours a day. In the winter, I substitute teach many weekdays and have about 1½ or more hours free during the teacher’s lunch and planning time. I come home, have supper, then before I go to bed for the next day I try to type in the changes I made to the printed pages during the day, sometimes I can’t. I take my MIL to her hairdresser appointment/shopping every Thursday, run my oldest son around on days he doesn’t feel well after kidney dialysis, teach English 101 in local male prisons and grade their papers, watch certain shows with my hubby after he gets off work, and a ton of other things. In the summer, there’s gardening and yardwork; I’m my MIL’s landscaper and my own. I think I average about the same 1-6 hours a day but I spend at least 2 hours a day doing promotional work and a few art projects I can’t get done in the winter.
Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Sandy: When I get home from subbing I decompress with the hot tea and check the e-mail accounts and handle any business they may need. If my husband isn’t home, I enter new text, research, or make changes on a chapter in the computer until about 6, eat supper, then go back to the writing until he gets home. I check e-mail just before bed. On my days off, I write about 6-10 hours with time for answering e-mails as needed.
Cate: How do you pick the character’s names?
Sandy: Oh geez, that’s a good one, hum, I use many family and friends names, in fact, my grandmother and grandfather, Lona and Edward Resler, are the grandparents in my first novel, Cottonwood Place. Then I use names I like or make up from objects around me. The 200-year-old shape-shifting secretary, Mrs. Euncer, in one of my WIPs got her name from the bottle of Eucerin lotion on my desk. I always put my brother Greg, my high school friend, Rita, and my husband’s best friend and his wife, Dennis and Cindy, in my novels. Almost all my heroines’ names start with S, and my heroes seem to start with J, though I change them sometimes.
Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Sandy: Lately, the most challenging is finding a quiet place to write without interruptions because too many people live with us (youngest son, his wife, their two children, and our oldest son) until my DIL graduates from college. It’s very frustrating, but I do get to see my granddaughters daily, something many grandparents don’t have. Easiest aspect...hum...I’d say coming up with the basic plotlines and story ideas, I thrive on that!
Cate: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Sandy: There are so many I can hardly list them all. For me, the first is the chance to research, I drool over researching, get excited about odd tidbits that add authenticity and accuracy to the setting and other important parts of a story, and to learn many new things, anything to ward off Alzheimer’s! Secondly, there’s the writing itself, I get lost in the story as I write, just like we hear so many other authors say, and time stands still. The last most rewarding aspect is what we hear many other artists say about their craft, the journey of doing the work, the daily writing, the rush of coming up with a plot breakthrough.
Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Sandy: Well...yes and no. They do haunt my dreams in one sense because that’s where I get many of the ideas for my stories. I woke up at 4 the other morning plotting out the sequels for Cottonwood Place and couldn’t shut it off and go back to sleep-ack! No, in that they don’t live with me like you hear other authors say. I mostly think about the book I’m working on 24-7 until I finish it, not quite to the obsession level but almost.
Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Sandy: Years ago a publisher who published paranormals rejected The Winds of Fall saying it was “too weird for their readers,” and in almost all the reviews of Cottonwood Place, the reviewers all say they want to go stay in the Cottonwood Place Bed and Breakfast Inn and have their problems solve by Megan and Ian—that’s just plain weird!
Cate: That certainly goes against the lovely comment by Anne Seymour, your editor for The Winds of Fall: "Ms. Wickersham-McWhorter makes writing an artwork, painting beautiful characters that vividly glow like Monet’s Impression, Sunrise."
So who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Sandy: That’s an easy one! Anything by Deborah Simmons, Flora Speer, Phyllis Whitney, Jules Verne, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clark, Mary Stewart’s King Arthur series from the ‘70s, and Conrad Richter’s trilogy about the settling of Ohio-The Trees, The Fields, and The Town. I’m reading Lori Foster’s Servant: The Awakening and Mary Janice Davidson’s Fish out of Water right now.
Cate: What's next for you?
Sandy: Finishing The Winter Road (readers, you can download Chapter 1 here) and Orion Comes in Winter and getting them to my publisher so I can hopefully have a new book out next year. That will leave me free to write a sequel to Cottonwood Place that has been nagging me to get it written.
Cate: Where can you be found on the web?
Sandy: on my website at www.sandywick.com, every 3rd Friday of the month on the Central Ohio Fiction Writers Ohio Romance Authors blog on MySpace- http://www.myspace.com/romanceauthors, and I’ll soon be blogging at least monthly the White Roses in Bloom blogspot regularly http://whiterosesinbloom.blogspot.com.
Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Sandy: Of those who answer my question I’ll pick the best answer for an autographed copy of either of my books-Cottonwood Place or The Winds of Fall. I was raised by my grandmother and she made me a nature nut. I feed birds year-round and recognize many species by sight and their call, have a dog I’d die for, 7 very old goldfish in my outdoor pond that I treasure, and many favorite tree species, especially my 85-foot female cottonwood in my backyard and the mulberry tree across the road that’s as big as a three-story house. I have many treasured memories of being outdoors both as a kid in the ‘50s and ‘60s and as an adult. The question to you is what is your one most treasured memory of being outdoors?
Cate: Readers, you heard Sandy. She's giving away a book to a random commenter... so start commenting. She'll pick a winner on Sunday, July 26, so be sure to check back!
Below is the blurb and excerpt for The Winds of Fall.
Unknown to Skye Worthington, the people most important to her are keeping unearthly secrets from her. If not revealed and faced, these secrets will cause death for untold billions of people, Skye included. Rebelling against his family and their deadly, but necessary, secrets which kept him a recluse in a Caribbean paradise, Joe Allen meets Skye. They fall into a love forbidden to Joe. Can two people with unimaginable secrets—and more in common than either know—overcome a force capable of entering dreams and taking humans through outer space without life support to other planets? This is the dilemma facing Skye and Joe as she fights to keep her sanity, and her identity as a human being.
Powerless to resist, Skye Worthington watched her hand rise to the huge artwork in front of her. Her fingers played in the blades of blue plastic grass swaying in a soft breeze from tiny fans in the artwork.
Though she didn’t want them to, her fingers caressed the little wooden people’s silken clothes. Green ceramic hills next drew her hand to them to enjoy their enameled smoothness. From somewhere in her mind, she knew these small hills represented real hills she’d seen some time before.
She heard the people of the real hills pleading to her mind, Return home to fly with us on your green hills.
Skye hated the feeling of aloneness flooding her mind because she couldn’t fly over these familiar slopes, as she’d done many times before.
To be free you must join the people in the artwork. Her inner artist thought.
No, that’s not a true statement. Her inner scientist thought back.
Her face started moving toward the artwork, and she couldn’t stop it. Fans in the hills blew her hair around as she got closer. Tears flowed down her cheeks as a nauseating homesickness overwhelmed her.
The inner-scientist panicked, silently screaming, This isn’t logical! Artworks can’t talk. Fight!
She willed her gaze to move from the canvas. It didn’t.
She tried to scream. She couldn’t.
She tried to back up. Her foot hit the wall in front of her instead.
She wanted her fingers to leave the artwork.
They didn’t move.
The painting’s people shouted to her mind, Return home, or you will die!
Nothing could break the magnetic bond between her hand and the white-capped acrylic ocean.
Joseph Allen liked the St. Louis’s gallery’s open arrangement. The main room’s partitions only went up eight feet of its fifteen-foot height. Three or four artworks hung on each partition’s sides, giving private settings to ponder the art; the part he liked best. Skylights, and the room’s shape, reminded him of a room he didn’t see much since he became vice-president of his family’s company.
He’d decided to check his contest entry before going to his hotel for the night, and he’d waited until the gallery was almost empty. The gallery’s owner had hung his entry in the best place, the back. Joe could let his guard down there. He strolled around the partitions, looking at the other contest entries.
When he turned the corner to his entry’s area, he saw a woman near his canvas. She was touching it. Wasn’t she aware of art gallery etiquette? “Hey, get your hand off my painting.”
“Leave me alone. I want to go home. I must go home.” She said in a monotone voice.
He stepped closer, and his heart jumped into his throat. Her left hand had entered his artwork, and her forearm slid in as he watched! Joe moved closer and said, “Get away from my canvas.”
He could hardly breathe as he prayed no one would see them. The consequences would be unimaginable.
The woman slowly turned her head toward him. Like in some nightmarish horror movie, she looked at him with vertical cat’s-eye pupils instead of human pupils. A gasp escaped his lips. He wanted to run, to hide from what he knew the future would now bring, but horrified fascination glued his feet to the floor.
A cobalt-blue emptiness gradually replaced her green irises and the cat’s-eye pupils. He’d never seen human eyes do anything remotely like this. He blinked away his shock and regained enough control
to say, “You must get away from my painting! Now.”
She didn’t respond.
Fear of being seen made Joe close the short distance to her and shake her shoulder. “If anyone sees what you’re doing—”
“Leave me alone. I want to go home. I must go home.” She replied in the same monotone. Her elbow slid into his entry as she spoke.
As her face turned back to his artwork, a knife of horrendous loneliness sliced through Joe’s mind. He had to find out what made her feel that empty and alone. People can’t survive such loneliness.