1) When did you start writing? Or if you've been writing all your life, then when and how did you decide to pursue publication?
I've been writing something for eons, it seems. I actually have the first "book" I wrote in 5th grade. Here's a shocker -- it was a romance. I started writing my first real book while I was in college, but schoolwork kept getting in the way. I kept piddling with that book after I graduated and started work as a newspaper reporter. I got really serious and started submitting after my local RWA chapter was formed in 1996.
2) What books/authors have influenced you?
When I was young, I loved things like the Little House books, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson. A friend and her mom introduced me to romance novels by Kathleen Woodiwiss when I was in high school. Today, I really admire the writing of people like J.R. Ward, Stephenie Meyer, Pamela Morsi, Meg Cabot and many others -- including lots of my friends who've gotten published. I'm also inspired by good TV writing for programs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Jericho, LOST and Heroes. I'm a big fan of teen dramas, and my current obsession is catching up with back seasons of Smallville.
3) Describe your writing process.
I'm a hybrid between plotter and pantser -- what I like to call a plotser. I like to have some character work and backstory done as well as notes on a few scenes before I start, and I usually write a rough synopsis before writing the actual manuscript. But I can't do extensive plotting work or the story just dies.
4) Tell us about your current Work In Progress and what is next for you?
I recently finished revisions on a paranormal YA project that my agent is shopping. The last thing I wrote? My PRO Liaison Report for the RWA board meeting next week. :) Next up will be another set of revisions for a book that is going to Harlequin American.
5) Any advice for others or personal observations?
As Nike says, "Just do it!" Don't make excuses. If you want this bad enough, you'll put in the hours of work and make the sacrifices necessary to make the dream a reality.