With Love: An Interview with Genilee and Sharon
by Judy Spring
Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up to the authors of Twist of Fate, F. Sharon Swope and Genilee Swope Parente. This mother-daughter writing duo has offered insight into their lives, collaborative process, and a bit about the upcoming sequel in their Sam Osborne Detective Series, Wretched Fate.
Sharon and her husband Robert live in Woodbridge, Virginia, while Genilee lives a little ways down the road in Dumfries with her husband Ray and daughter Christina. Although Sharon has had dogs most of her life, she currently doesn’t have any pets. Genilee’s household is shared with a mom cat and two kittens, and a dog that would like to make friends with the feline crew, but hasn’t yet succeeded. Music is a must in this family, and Genilee thanks her ma and pa for the introduction to swing music from the wonderful 40s, as well as a shared love of classical music. In addition to listening to acoustical folk music, country, and Irish music, Genilee offers an extended thanks to her daughter for sharing the popular genre, and also to her talented brother for a love of instrumental.
In down time, Sharon relaxes by playing games of any kind: card games, mahjong, and computer games are a mentionable few. Genilee, however, relaxes by “doing ANYthing but play games. Mom did not pass down the competitive gene. I read, write, and watch movies.”
Each of these ladies had a favorite quote to share. Sharon believes in fairness and hard work, citing two quotes that demonstrate these qualities to her: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and, “God helps those who help themselves.” Genilee shared the quote: “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” She says that this quote has been overused in recent years, but she has a copy of it on her refrigerator. She applies this quote to her craft with these words, “Writing is about focusing on those moments.”
When asked what advice they would give to their younger selves, they offered a ponderable thought. Sharon shared this piece of heart, “Don’t wait so long to pursue your dreams.” This is a powerful observation by one who is respectably pursuing and achieving her dream. It’s no wonder her daughter Genilee offered the same words of wisdom following it with, “But never give up on them, as they can happen at any age.”
Below are a few detailed questions, followed with replies from both of the authors, and we hope you enjoy.
Who is your favorite author?
Sharon: Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsay, and Mary Higgins Clark.
Genilee: Mary Higgins Clark, Sandra Brown, Anne Tyler, and Jodi Picoult.2.
Do you have a favorite genre? What draws you to this genre?
S: Historical romances and mysteries, because I have a curious and romantic nature.
G: Mysteries and women’s fiction. Mysteries because mom gave me that thirst, and women’s fiction because women tend to delve into the psychology of why people do what they do, which is always on my mind.
Does it differ from the genre you write in?
S: My mystery romances are set in modern day rather than in history.
G: Our books have the mystery aspect. I’m working on the women’s fiction angle.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
S: I began writing my first story when I was in junior high. My friends liked it so well that I couldn’t write fast enough [for them]. Stories have been running through my head ever since.
G: Always. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to write.
What’s the best part of being an author?
S: Seeing something you love in print—it’s a little like holding your first-born baby.
G: Taming words to get them to do exactly what you want them to do. It’s a creative release.
S: Waiting for the book to get published.
G: I can’t do it as my full time job … yet.
Do you have any writing rituals?
G: Because I work full time, I get up every morning at 6 a.m., let the dog out, feed the cat, and then allow one hour of writing before I switch to my [day]job.
In your writing process, do you use an outline to write your stories?
S: No, I just sit down and write as it comes to me. Since the first book, I do keep the details of each chapter in a rough outline, but haven’t laid out the story itself.
G: Because of my experience writing in collaboration with mom, I am creating an outline as I go for my own books. By the time I actually sit down to finalize them, I will have a rough idea what’s going to happen.
Have you developed a series outline?
S: I did have a basic outline for the book series – i.e. book one introduces the detective Sam; book two develops Sam’s character, shows more about the way he thinks, and tells a bit more about his background; in book three Sam falls in love; book four deals with Sam’s great loss that is addressed in all the other books: the kidnapping of his son.
G: And we’re already discussing where Sam will go from there.
Can you explain how collaboration works between you both?
S: I write the plot and create the characters; Genilee adds more description, corrects errors in plot, researches details and edits the story.
G: These are mom’s stories, her characters, her created mysteries. However, she has allowed me to add flourish, descriptions, depth to her characters, and smooth out the mystery and plot. We meet about once a week to discuss fine points of the novels and work out the kinks.
What is the theme for Twist of Fate?
S: With love, any bad environment can be overcome.
For Wretched Fate?
S: With love, any bad environment can be overcome.
Are these themes tied into an overall theme for the Sam Osborne Detective Series?
G: The reason the first book was called Twist of Fate is because mom takes characters in challenging situations and twists their fates together. Some of the challenging situations in the series include being the victim of attempted murder, losing your parents, losing your children to kidnapping, being betrayed. Love gets people beyond their challenges.
What is it about Sam Osborne that makes his character ideal for his own series? Can you offer a little more insight into his character?
S: Sam is sympathetic to others. He’s a mild man who lives to solve the puzzles of other peoples’ lives. He is lonely and lives with a deep sorrow in his own life that he cannot solve. He is selective on the cases he undertakes (independently well-off), sympathetic to the characters and methodical in solving a problem.
G: He comes a little more to life in each book, and we see him begin to solve his own problems along with other people’s [mysteries].
What inspired the creation of Twist of Fate?
S: When I was 14, I was in love with a movie star who portrayed boys in environments similar to the main character Danny. I kept trying to put the character down on paper, but couldn’t find a way to make him strong, [but] not tough; someone who was admired, [and] not pitied. It wasn’t until the idea of Gus, his mentor, came into my head, that I was able to really write Danny like I envisioned him all along.
Where did the idea for Wretched originate?
S: I just sat down at the computer and there they were: Rosalie and Jacob, the main characters. The plot followed their birth.
Was there any personal reason to explore the particular subject matter buried in Wretched Fate?
S: Not the subject matter so much, but the main character was inspired by the feeling I’ve had when I look in the mirror and get disgusted with the way I look. I wanted to help Rosalie through that feeling.
The mystery in Wretched Fate surrounds statues of Kuan Yin. Why was she chosen as the statue for the story?
S: No particular reason. My son researched famous statues and there she was.
G: We told my brother Mark we were looking for expensive Asian statues of a woman that looked graceful. Kuan Yin is the goddess of Mercy and appears in many East Asian countries where Buddhism is practiced, so there are multiple figurines and statues available.
How much of your time do you devote to marketing your books?
S: Fortunately, I rather enjoy it because I spend more time than I ever imagined doing it.
G: Mom has amazed me in that she has drug my dad all over our area setting up book signings and events. I have a full time job, so [for me] it’s hard to find time.
What’s your view on social media for marketing?
S: Unfortunately, I’m an old timer and I can’t see that social media has accomplished anything in the marketing of our book.
G: It’s hard for mom to see the computer screen well enough to do much with social media. I know that’s an important medium, so I’m learning as quickly as I can.
Can you offer any tips on what to do, or not to do, regarding marketing?
S: Use your imagination and don’t be afraid to ask people to showcase your books.
G: I agree. You’ll be amazed how many people think writing a book is a great accomplishment and will want you to speak about it or show off your work.
Do you have any further advice for aspiring authors?
S: It works best if you put aside time every day to write … it doesn’t have to be at the same time each day or for the same amount of time each day; but do it every day and don’t put it off.
G: Keep reminding yourself why you write. If the answer is for fun or for pleasure, you’re in the right field.
Can you give us a hint about the next book in the Sam Osborne Detective Series?
G:The third book is called Fate of the Violet Eyes, and in it, Sam is asked to find a small child who has been missing for a couple of years. The main characters are the kidnapper and the little girl with the violet eyes. However, Sam also falls in love during the course of the investigation.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Please visit our blog site at www.swopeparente.com,
Our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/genileesharon.swopeparente.
Genilee is also struggling to learn Twitter @GenileeParente.
And we welcome direct correspondence at firstname.lastname@example.org.