Interview with Chambersburg Public Opinion

June, 2011

What inspired you to write a book?

My mother always said I should be a writer but I just thought of it as something I would do someday, when I wasn’t so busy with family and career. Yet it was my habit to capture ideas on bits of paper and store them in a folder. When the idea came to me for Set Apart, the someday had still not arrived. So, instead of being a writer looking for an idea, I was a person with an idea who had to become a writer to put it on paper.

What inspired you to write on the topic of national health care?

The original idea actually centered on the mystery part of the novel – about the power of data and how it can be misused. I was an information systems specialist then, for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which perhaps made me more sensitive than the average person to the power of medical data. While President Clinton was in the White House, Hillary was having meetings about national health care behind closed doors. Her efforts fizzled at that point but I figured it was only a matter of time before the subject would come up again. The notion of government-controlled health care was both intriguing and scary to me, and I realized it would be a good backdrop for the novel.

Is the information on health care based on your research while working at DHHS?

Yes, ideas for the book came from things I was exposed to while at DHHS – electronic medical records, for instance. There were other things as well, but I dare not mention them here because to do so would give too much of the story away. The book is pure fiction, though. No insider information. But I believe the things that happen in the book could really happen, if they aren’t happening already. I later researched Canada’s Medicare and, to a lesser degree, the British National Health Service, and came away with much material for the book.

How long did it take you to write the book?

It took two years to write and another full year to edit (all before national health care became such a heated subject). During that whole time, I feared one of the Michaels, either Connelly or Palmer, would get the same idea and beat me to it.

How long have you lived in Waynesboro? Is the rural setting based on Waynesboro?

My husband and I moved to Waynesboro in 2005. I was completely charmed by the small-town atmosphere and the German Baptists – charmed enough to include a small town and some German Baptists in the book, and give it a city-versus-country, bad-versus-good structure. Pieces of my fictional town of Dorsey were definitely taken from Waynesboro. The town square and courthouse, though, were inspired more by Chambersburg.

What’s your second book called and what is it about? Plans for future novels?

My next book is a World War II era historical novel. In it, a young soldier from Pennsylvania is captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge, and ultimately becomes one of 350 Americans thrown into Berga, a Nazi slave labor camp. I hope to follow this book with another of the same time period.

What are your interests and hobbies?

For several years, as a creative outlet, I designed costumes for theatre, so I can always dust off my scissors and measuring tape if I ever run out of pens and paper. I like to read of course, and I enjoy movies. But mostly I’m consumed with writing. Not just the writing itself, but all facets of it. Everywhere I go I’m thinking about writing, capturing bits of dialogue and fragments of story lines with greater purpose and zeal. It has enriched my life to a degree I never expected.

Anything else to add?

Now that summer’s on the way and people have more time to read, perhaps they’ll pick up a copy of Set Apart to take on vacation. I’m told it makes great beach reading. The book can be purchased at most bookstores, including Northwood Books on North Main Street in Chambersburg. It’s also available on Amazon, in paperback or Kindle.