An interview with award winning authors, Liz McMullen and Shelia Powell

Feb 15th, 2017


Welcome award winning Sapphire Author's Liz McMullen and Shelia Powell to the Sapphire Gem Room~ We've asked the ladies a few questions about their new release, Finding Fire which is the sequel to the award winning book, Finding Home. We've also asked them some questions so that you can get to know them better. So let's start the polishing.



Ladies, tell us a little bit about yourself, so the readers can get to know you. The Reader’s Digest version please:


Liz: I am passionate about dancing the night away at a club, reading books when the weather is bad or just when I want to tumble into a world of someone else’s making. I also love to travel; historical homes and haunted tours are always on my to do list.


Shelia: I am a true southerner with the accent to match. I am passionate about my family which includes my wife, 3 children (with various spouses and boy/girlfriends) and 4 grandchildren. They are my life. I love to travel and will be going on the Sapphire/Olivia Alaskan cruise in June.

2.       What’s the name of your book, and how did you come up with that title?


Liz: Finding Fire’s title has several meanings. Emotional, in that Kayla needs to find her inner strength. Literal, since the heroes in this novel all wield fire. And finally, the goal is to rescue a firestarter named Magnolia.


Shelia: Finding Fire. The book is about what a family with special gifts will do in order to save one of their own. The title points to the characters in the book who have fire as a power.

3.       What are the names of your characters?


Liz: Scarlett Weiss is the main character whose mission it is to find her niece and rescue her from an evil King, who just happens to be her father and Magnolia’s grandfather, Giovani. Tia is Magnolia’s mother; she runs a group home for foster kids with magical abilities. There are four foster children living in the group home: Kayla, Lilith, Pandora and Luke. These characters are Scarlett’s family in the Dark Realm: her mother Vivian, brother Rayne, and cousins Jet and Onyx to name a few. There are many other characters in the mix that would be too complicated to name in shorthand.


Shelia: Liz said it best! ;-)

4.       Do they have any significance either to you personally, or to how you’d like them perceived?


Liz: I think authors always show up on the page in one way or another and there are parts of me in all the characters, both is positive and negative characteristics. I can say that I admire my favorite characters. Scarlett is tough and extremely loyal; she has a moral compass that you might not expect in a demon, especially one who makes a living as an assassin and spy. She’s also really funny and loves her family deeply. Magnolia may be a sweet young child, but she is also a champion who won’t stand for anyone mistreating those around her, even the big tall scary types. She’s also compassionate and loving. I could go on and on about the cast of characters in this novel, I love them so much that I wish they were real.

Shelia: I most closely identify with Tia as she is the loving southern momma bear. A lot of my characteristics ended up in her…especially always trying to feed people and make sure that they have some sweet tea.


5.       What has been the biggest challenge to writing this book?


Liz: When Shelia and I first wrote Finding Fire, it was far too complicated and hard to reign in. Once we created Scarlett, our hero, we were able to focus on her perspective and keep the plot engaging, focused and easy to follow.


Shelia: Finding the viewpoint character was tough. We wanted to use one of the foster kids but it was not a fit so we had to come up with a kick-ass assassin.

6.       What have been the biggest surprises?


Liz: Unfortunately, my answer would lead to a spoiler. Let’s just say, characters are not as they first seem in this novel. Enemies can turn into allies, while family ties can fall apart.


Shelia: The biggest surprise for me is that Liz and I managed to write the Goldie Award winning 1st book of the series, Finding Home, in only 6 weeks and we did it from 1000 miles apart. We write by phone. It’s a process.

7.       Do you find writing difficult or does it come fairly easy to do?


Liz: At the moment, I’m plot-less. I know what I want to write, namely a romance with characters who are more like the people I’ve spent a lot of time with. I’m not rolling in the dough, so I’d like to write a romance where the characters are not fabulously wealthy or owners of successful businesses—either of the white or blue collar variety. So, I know what I want, but I don’t have a specific plot or characters to inhabit that world. I’m a planner, so I need a plot, an outline and at least a rough idea of how the story ends before I start.

That said, it’s not the writing I find difficult, but the drive to sit down every day and write can be a challenge. It’s hard to gain momentum, but once I am on a roll, I can bang out a novel in a month or so. Without a plot though, I have no wheels. So I am hoping for some inspiration to strike for the romance I want to write.


Shelia: It depends on what I’m writing. I can write comedy and paranormal pretty easily but romance doesn’t come at all easy for me.

8.       Do you have any personal routines that you follow when you write?


Liz: I must have quiet, with no distractions. I’m both dyslexic and have ADD. My thought process can be shot if there is too much noise around or someone walking in and out of my space. I usually sit in my comfy leather chair and write one to two thousand words in a sitting, sometimes twice a day, depending on how inspired I am.


Shelia: Diet Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Diet Pepsi!

9.       What does your writing environment look like?


Liz: My office has a desk I never sit at, but it is the home to my character and plot binders, books on writing and on topics that I write about. There is so much stuff under my desk, I couldn’t sit at it if I tried. Mostly I sit in my leather chair, but I do write a lot while sitting on my own bed or in the bed in the guest room.

Shelia: For some reason, I feel best writing in the dining room. So, I set up my laptop on the table and keep the Diet Pepsi at my right hand.


10.   How long does it take you to finish a book?


Liz: Some books have developed over years, but I usually finish a rough draft in 6 to 8 weeks.


Shelia: It depends. 6 weeks for one and 2 years for another. It depends on how involved I am in the plot.

11.   Is that from start to finish, from idea and concept, to the final period in the book?


Liz: It depends on whether or not the book has legs. I need to cultivate and maintain momentum. I’ve had to completely rewrite two books because the first drafts were not working. In the case of my debut novel, I had to cut 90 pages, and nearly start from scratch. My beta reader didn’t like my main character and felt that the cause and effect within the plot were out of proportion. So I dug deep, kept what I felt was necessary and worked on making sure my readers loved my main character as much as I did. Thankfully, that effort was successful.


Shelia: From start to finish…but then comes the editing! LOL!

12.   What’s been the most important piece of advice someone has given you?


Liz: You can’t edit what is not there. Anything can be fixed and improved, but nothing can be done to a blank page.

Shelia: Amanda Kyle Williams told me to write what you know! She was spot on. This makes it lots easier to get something down on paper.

13.   What kind of advice would you give someone thinking about taking up writing?


Liz: Once you have a rough idea of your plot, sit down and keep going until you finish your draft. Self-censorship has killed many novels and often leads to an incomplete manuscript. Keep binders on your characters and on the plot as it develops. It’s best to have these writing guides to help you keep on track and avoid errors. This is especially true for series. I was reading a book where the main character was 5’8” in the first novel and 6” in the second. This may seem like a small issue, but readers notice and will start to lose faith in you if you can’t keep your characters consistent from appearances to back story.


Shelia: READ, READ, READ. This gives you a knowledge of the ebb and flow of dialogue and plot. You also learn what syncs with what you want to write.

14.   What are some of your pet peeves?


Horribly edited books, riddled with errors. Books that go on and on and nothing is really happening. Painstakingly slow books that I have to force myself to finish.


Shelia: I agree with Liz and thank God and Chris that we have a great editor! Shout out to you Heather!

15.   So here are a few rapid-fire questions for you so that the reader can get to know you better

a.  coffee or tea?


Liz: Both. Lattes and hot tea made from loose leaves.

         Shelia: Sweet tea


b.      Finish the sentence I like to write when...


Liz: it’s late at night and no one is awake.

         Shelia: I like to write when inspiration strikes…no matter the time or place.


c.       my favorite food is


Liz: gnocchi, but ravioli is a close second.

         Shelia: Lasagna.


d.      dress-up or jeans and T-shirt?


Liz: Mostly cotton graphic tees with cargo pants/shorts, with comfy sneakers. Though I can and do enjoy dress up from time to time.

          Shelia: Shorts and t-shirts with either flip-flops or bare feet. I live in South Florida y’all!


e.      Thesaurus or synonym dictionary?


Liz: Both.

          Shelia: Both.


f.        Writing by hand, dictation, or on the computer?


Liz: Computers, spell check, and cut and paste are my friends; especially because I am dyslexic and need to be able to easily modify my work.

          Shelia: I am learning to like the computer better but love to write longhand in a journal. I have many stacked everywhere with partial stories in them.


g.       Favorite vacation spot?


Liz: Interestingly, it’s not the spot that is most important, it’s the accommodations. I love a spa bathroom and tons of space in general. I will never be a tiny living candidate.

         Shelia: Anywhere there are tree’s and mountains and water!


h.      Early bird or night owl?


Liz: Night owl.

         Shelia: Night Owl.

16.   Can you share something with the reader they would never have guessed about you?


Liz: I’ve been a body guard and a bouncer.

Shelia: I’ve been the psychic-medium on a Ghost Adventures show.

17.   Is there a genre you haven’t tackled?


Liz: Historical fiction and Sci-fi are two genres I don’t think I can pull off. From the period appropriate language to the world building necessary to get it right is beyond me.

Shelia: Totally agree with Liz on this one!

18.   What genre are you just dying to try out?


Liz: I haven’t written a mystery or a suspense thriller yet, but I definitely will at some point.
Shelia: Something with a serial killer!


19.   What’s next on your writing agenda?


Liz: A romance novel.

Shelia: Finishing Happy Lesbian Housewife 2 (Written under the nom de plume Lorraine Howell) as well as a romance…probably with some humor in it.


Thanks ladies for letting us get to know you better. If you'd like to pick up their latest release. Click on the cover. Stay tuned as we bring you more blog posts from Sapphire Gems.


Sapphire Books Publishing