Lighthouse on Tortola was published this spring, and it concerns Andra, a photojournalist on assignment in the Caribbean. Shortly after she arrives on Tortola, she meets Michael, an engaging tour guide. They hit it off right away, but it’s not long before Andra realizes something mysterious is going on in Michael’s life. She’s eventually drawn into his world of intrigue, risking her life to help him clear an innocent person’s name.
Tell us something about yourself.
I live in North Carolina with my husband, Rick, and three cats, although I’m originally from South Carolina. I wasn’t named after Dale Evans Rogers, but I think the actress and author made my parents feel they could give me part of my mother’s maiden name, Dale, even though I’m a girl. I started writing more when I was on my high school newspaper staff, then again after majoring in English at the University of South Carolina.
What inspired you to write this book?
After my husband and I visited the Caribbean, I thought Tortola would be the perfect setting for a novel, since its shore is lined with giant boulders known as The Baths. I based my book on our arrival in the Caribbean with the adventure thrown in.
How did you celebrate when you finished writing the book? When it was published?
I actually finished writing Lighthouse on Tortola several years before it was published, and I kept adding to the story. It was released March 27, 2020.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
Since my mother and older sister both wrote for newspapers when they weren’t teaching English, I guess it’s in my blood. I’ve always loved the written word, and spelling was my favorite subject. A few years after Rick and I married, I kept telling him stories about my time at a great summer camp when I became a teenager, and he finally said that I should write a book about it. I started a novel about the camp while in my late twenties, but I didn’t have the discipline to complete it until years later. When I started my second novel, I fell into a rhythm I’ve stayed with ever since.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? (i.e., Do you outline and plan your story or do you just sit down and write?)
I usually have some idea of where the story is going, but I don’t do much outlining. I’ll jot down notes every time I have an idea (sometimes when I’m trying to sleep), but I’m not as organized as some writers.
Do you have a daily or weekly writing schedule, or do you write only when you are inspired? How many words or pages do you complete in a typical day?
I used to write only when inspired, but I now like to work in the early afternoon, when the lighting in our study is at its best. I’ve been known, however, to write in the car or in a lounging chair while on vacation—anywhere—if I have a pen and paper and feel the urge to add to my story. I might not write as much in one day as some writers, but I think about it a lot, always aware of anything interesting I can add.
How many drafts did you write before publishing your most recent book?
I just kept revamping my first draft, which included switching computers a couple of times (yikes!). That’s probably why my editor at the publishing company complained about my format!
What software do you use to write? Or do you prefer to write longhand or dictate your work?
I’ve almost always started writing my stories by hand, so I can mark out & jot down notes in the margins. I feel more relaxed that way. I don’t have to worry about typos or accidentally erasing everything, plus it’s easier to work in all kinds of settings. After I go through my first draft, making changes and adding details, I type it into my computer, using the correct format, using Word. That’s when I feel like I’m really getting somewhere with my writing.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would read through my manuscript a little more before sending it to the publisher. Even when reading through the galley, I found little things I wanted to change, and it’s less difficult to make changes when I’m working with my original document.
Do you read reviews?
Yes. I don’t have that many yet, and seeing positive responses to my work makes me feel that all the effort was worthwhile. Just thinking about a negative review makes me cringe.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
First of all, make sure you have a good handle on sentence structure, correct grammar, spelling, etc. These elements are the backbone of anything you write. After that, read lots of books that reflect the genre you’re interested in. This will give you an idea of how to format your story. I also read several books on writing. It’s actually more complicated to write fiction than nonfiction. Make sure you’re really happy with your piece before you submit it to a publisher. No matter how good it is, an editor will find something to change.
Do you have friends who are writers? How do you help each other to become better writers?
Besides my sister who writes, I have several writer friends on Twitter. One in particular has helped me to understand more about description, and we all post each other’s novels to bring more attention to them.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
The perfect reader would be someone who loves romance, adventure, intrigue and travel in a clean read. I feel our world is dark enough, so I try to make my writing bright, even though there’s always conflict and sometimes danger involved.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?