This week, I am pleased to feature an interview with indie author P.C. Zick, who stops by to chat about her latest release, Trails in the Sand.
Trails in the Sand follows environmental writer Caroline Carlisle as she reports on endangered sea turtles during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As she delves into the story, she uncovers secrets about the past that threaten to destroy her family unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies.
Her journey reveals the truth behind mysteries that have plagued her family for three generations.
Lost journals, a fake tablecloth, and nesting sea turtles lead her to discover why her uncle committed suicide, why her sister developed anorexia, and why her mother only wanted acceptance from those she loved.
Caroline and her husband Simon discover love lasts despite decades of separation when he was married to Caroline’s sister. Caroline’s niece Jodi, caught in the crossfire of family tensions and lies, struggles to find a way to forgive the past so she can move into the future.
Trails in the Sand explores the struggles to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both head to disaster. Through it all, the ancient sea turtle serves as a reminder that life moves forward despite the best efforts to destroy it.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have always been a writer and reader. I dabbled with writing during vacations from teaching. I always received praise for my writing. As a high school English teacher, I became known as the “writing teacher” and taught creative writing and gave writing workshops to other teachers. When I burned out on teaching students to write, I began getting more serious about my own writing, and one summer I finished a novel that had been languishing in a file cabinet drawer for ten years. A small publisher picked it up after my tenth query letter. Then I began writing press releases for local groups. That led to an offer from the local paper to begin writing human-interest pieces. By the end of 2000, I realized while teaching full time, I still managed to earn $5,000 for my writing. I retired from teaching in June 2001 and began working as a journalist while writing novels in the evening and early morning hours. I’ve never looked back. It’s very exciting to be involved in the new revolution in writing and publishing today. I’m learning something every day that teaches me I still have much more to learn.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I read one too many poorly written and formulaic novels by “bestselling” authors. I decided I could do better or at least as well as them.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I would like readers to come away from reading Trails in the Sand knowing that it is never too late to restore peace or find love.
Are the events in your book or your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I always create characters that are composites of people I know, or I’ve read about. In Trails in the Sand, the chapters on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster are from actual news clips and press releases. The rest comes from my imagination, although my husband is an avid gardener as is Simon, Caroline’s husband in the book. In addition, I used my grandfather’s journal about his coming to America in 1900 from Cornwall in the description of Caroline’s grandfather making the same trip in 1920.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Writers write. Writers must also read both superbly written books and poorly written works. They both have something to teach us. Every writer needs an editor and trusted beta readers. In this new world of self-publishing, we must all put out our very best efforts to the public, or we all will suffer.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Good writing entertains. Readers must be transported and forget they are reading a story. Fiction must have some elements of believability. Fiction also requires research. If you are writing about a medical procedure, you can’t just make it up. You need to do your research. If you’re writing about a real place, the details must be accurate. I recently read a book with a kayaking scene in it. I’m a kayaker, so when the author had the male lead place the woman in the kayak, and he jumped in the same seat behind her, the author lost me as a reader. She also referred to the paddles as oars (used in canoeing). Writers must know the essentials of grammar. I was a high school English teacher and then a journalist so I had the background. However, writing fiction requires some different skills, and writers must be able to adapt. I keep several grammar books near me as well as the AP Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style (mostly used in fiction), Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and many other research books on nature and the environment (usually an important element in my fiction.). One more piece of advice: Whatever style you use, be consistent throughout your book. Trails in the Sand mentions “oil rig” and “coal mine” throughout the story. The dictionary says these words can be either one word or two words. I chose to keep them as two separate words, but I made sure I did that throughout the entire novel.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Trails in the Sand is about restoration and redemption in both nature and human relationships. It also asks the question: Can we make up for something we destroy? As the main character, Caroline struggles to save her family, she’s also reporting on efforts to save wildlife from the oil spill. Her reporting leads to writing about the efforts to save sea turtles nests as oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Her husband Simon is also grieving the death of his cousin and best friend Jason who was one of the miners killed in the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion in West Virginia weeks before the oil spill.
I was embroiled in the real-life drama as a public relations director for Florida’s fish and wildlife agency. I handled the media from the sea turtle nest relocation project that took place during the summer of 2010. At the same time, I was beginning a new relationship with a lost love from thirty-five years ago and was in the process of moving to Pittsburgh. Two weeks prior to the oil spill, twenty-nine miners were killed in a coal mine explosion in West Virginia, just a few hours from where I was moving. It all fell into place to write about the oil spill and coal mine disaster and our quest for profit and fossil fuels at any cost and the obstacles facing reunited lovers under trying circumstances.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read quite a bit, but I love being outdoors. I kayak, boat, golf, and spend quiet moments with my husband.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband is very proud of me. He’s an engineer so the literary world is unfamiliar to him, but he loves what I do, and he supports my quest to see what I can do as an author of fiction. I depended on him for help with technical details in Trails in the Sand because he’s familiar with the coal mining industry. My daughter Anna is an artist – she paints – and she was my earliest cheerleader for leaving teaching and pursuing what I love. She’s one of my trusted beta readers because she’s honest and interested in seeing that I put out my very best work. The rest of my family pretty much ignores it, although sometimes one or two family members will read one of my books.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I am a storyteller. I write to entertain and to inform. When someone tells me they laughed or cried at something I wrote, I’m moved. When a reader tells me, I made them stop and think about life, I feel successful. I am grateful to all the folks out there who read my work.
Thanks for hosting me on your blog today, Michele.
My pleasure. Best of luck with your book!
Purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/Trails-in-the-Sand-ebook/dp/B00ANVD6DE
Author bio: P.C. Zick’s career as a writer began in 1998 with the publication of her first column in a local paper. By day, she was a high school English teacher, but at night and on vacations, she began writing novels and working as a freelance journalist. By 2001, she left teaching and began pursuing a full-time gig as a writer. She describes herself as a “storyteller” no matter the genre.
Currently, she writes two blogs. Trails in the Sand is her fifth novel
Her blog and her novels contain the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.
She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert.
Connect with P.C. Zick on the web: