I have Kay Springsteen author of Lifeline Echoes in the hot seat.
Janice: Tell us about yourself?
Kay: I grew up in Michigan but transplanted to the south about 10 years ago and now reside in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia with my five small dogs and two bigger ones. Two of my four children live nearby, a married son who has a daughter of his own, and one of my twins. The other twin lives just outside of USMC Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. My oldest daughter still resides in Michigan. When I’m not writing, I transcribe and edit medical reports. Besides being an avid reader, my hobbies include photography, gardening, hiking and camping, and of course spending time with my terrific G-baby. I really am a firm believer in happily ever after endings and I believe there’s one out there for everyone; it just may not be exactly what you expect or think you want.
Janice: When did you start writing?
Kay: I think from the time I could hold a pencil. I loved writing the essays for school and the book reports. I loved telling the classic back-to-school story of how I spend my summer vacation. I wrote stories off and on for years but I only began to seriously write while my kids were young, about 10 years ago. Then I put it on hold again, when I found myself a single mom. But last year I found myself living on my own, kids all out in the world, and unemployed from my medical transcription job. While I looked for a new job, I started writing. I was introduced to a wonderful friend, who became a writing mentor and a most awesome crit partner, mystery author J. Gunnar Grey. J. Gunnar is Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) to my Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) from the Karate Kid 2010. Everything I wrote before J. took me on as a crit partner was lacking. The embers of the stories were there but the flames, the ability to present them wasn’t polished.
Janice: Who was the biggest influence on your writing?
Kay: Other than my crit partner, I would have to say my mom was a great influence because she got me interested in books and in reading, and she used to tell stories off the top of her head when I was small. My dad used to love everything I wrote, which of course encouraged me tremendously. In terms of authors, it was all things romance for a while, then on to science fiction, back to romance, into mystery. I was, and still am, a voracious reader. So there isn’t one single influence.
Janice: It sounds like you have two very supportive parents. How do you go about your writing? Do your prefer pencils to pens or is it all straight computer work?
Kay: It’s all about the computer. I type over 100 wpm, not quite as fast as I think but close, and someone who types for a living thinks in terms of letters instead of words. It’s easier to work on the computer for me. I do carry a notebook to jot ideas when not near the computer, but the stories themselves pop out on the computer.
Janice: What influences you in your writing?
Kay: Music, movies, reading, or straight research? A combination of all these things. I make sound tracks for my stories and have certain theme songs for the characters and the moments. When writing the scenes, a song might be put on repeat on the MP3 player until the scene is finished. But movies and TV are a huge part of my life also, not for the story lines but because I watch the actions of the actors during various scenes, and as I’m watching them, I think in terms of how I would write the description. It helps me keep the action beats going in a story when, for instance, I pay attention to how two cops in a car all day chat back and forth, what they talk about not being nearly as important as their tiniest idiosyncratic actions that can be described. And as far as research, the nature of my day job is research, so that comes naturally to me. I like my stories to be as authentic as I can make them, so when I wrote a blind character, I researched all things to do with blindness. For Lifeline Echoes, it was things like rock climbing, or the things firefighters and dispatchers did 10 years ago. I talk to people, research on line, go to the library. Pretty much whatever it takes to learn enough to be comfortable in writing what I need to write.
Janice: When do you write morning or evening, or are you a late into the wee hours of the morning person?
Kay: My best stuff seems to come just before I start my job, so it often has to be put on hold for 6-7 hours. But when I stop working at 11 p.m., it’s usually had time to steep and when I’m ready after work, it just spills out. I might write until 4 a.m. on those nights.
Janice: Who’s in charge you or your muse?
Kay: It’s a combination. I have an ability to write in my head and maintain the integrity of the story until I get to the computer. So if I’m on the road driving and the muse wants to work, we put on some music and go for it. Then when I can get to the computer, again, it all spills out.
Janice: That’s a very good talent to have. Use only one word to describe your writing style?
Kay: Descriptive. Or at least what you want your readers to take away from your writing. My vibe. That is, the vibration from the creative strings I’m plucking when I put words together.
Janice: What other books have you written?
Kay: My debut novel was a digital publication released March 1, 2011, called Heartsight, the story of a U.S. Marine who had been blinded in battle, and was more or less hiding out in his house on a secluded beach…until a divorced woman and her daughter with Down syndrome arrived and shook up his world.
Janice: That sounds like a wonderful story. What influenced your recent book, the one you are promoting here today?
Kay: Lifeline Echoes came about as the result of a challenge between myself and my crit partners. Originally, we were supposed to write a Harlequin-length novel – we were to choose a line from Harlequin and research the requirements. I thought perhaps a suspense. But I didn’t have a clue what to write, and I was sitting at my desk with my MP3 player on wondering about it, when Garth Brooks came on, When You Come Back To Me Again (it’s from the movie FrequencyI ). Basically, the song is about someone who’s in trouble and he finds hope in knowing someone’s out there who still believes in him. The chorus goes “On a prayer, in a song, I hear your voice and it keeps me hanging on…” That was my premise. A voice lifeline and falling in love with just the voice. It morphed a little from the original thought, since I was torn between a military theme and a firefighter theme. I considered using a September 11 story but really wanted this to be my own and didn’t want to steal from the importance of that day. So I moved the story to the West Coast, created an earthquake, and stuck a firefighter under a building and a dispatcher in the office, who would try to give him the will to live until help could get there. As soon as I set that in place, the story took off on its own. I had the first 90K draft written in under three months, way more than a Harlequen but it didn’t matter. My main crit partner told me it was a winner, with the right amount of tears, laughter, and suspense. And if you ever read any of J. Gunnar Grey’s stuff, you’ll understand why I found hearing those things very uplifting. My editor told me she stayed up all night reading my submission; she couldn’t put it down. When people say those things, I know I’ve done something right.
Contest: I would love to give a free PDF copy of Lifeline Echoes to one of your commenters by drawing.
Voices form a powerful connection. The day the earth rocked LA, Sandy Wheaton became a voice lifeline over the radio for trapped firefighter, “Mick.” Less than twenty four hours later, she had fallen in love with him. Shattered when she learned that rescue came too late, she sought solace Wyoming, the home state he had loved. Now, seven years later, she’s made a life there as the owner of a popular local bar. But her wounds are still fresh, and she longs to let go of the past and her lost love so she can begin living again. That opportunity presents itself when the local prodigal son returns home. The attraction between them is instant. It feels like she’s known him far longer than just a few days.
Sixteen years ago, Ryan McGee left home in the midst of controversy. After living through a harrowing trauma, he finally returns home when his family needs his help through some troubling times. All he wants to do is make amends with those he hurt most and to get back to the life he’d never wanted to leave in the first place. When he meets the sexy bartender, he starts thinking in terms of forever. But there’s still someone out there he wants to find, someone who once believed in him and gave him hope.
The job was all that mattered now. Sandy made herself disregard the toppled shelves and scattered books. She blocked out all thoughts about the likely state of her own home. As she listened to the chatter on the official channels, she kept meticulous handwritten notes regarding the status of each unit checking in.
“Battalion 9 Alpha, this is Engine Squad 9-¬Bravo, do you copy?” The connection was filled with static and the voice was muffled, hard to hear.
Sandy waited for the response of the battalion chief on scene. None came.The callout was repeated, the voice sounding a bit more urgent.
“This is L.A. Engine Squad 9-Bravo, dispatched to the Convention Center—” Again static broke the transmission.Following protocol, after the second unanswered call, Sandy intervened. “Copy you, ES-9-Bravo. This is central dispatch. Your transmission is breaking up.”
The response was drowned out by a loud burst of static in the earpiece.
“Nine-Bravo, be advised you’re breaking up,” she repeated.
More harsh squawks of static burst from the receiver. Sandy winced, feeling like her head might explode. Then, amid the static, she clearly heard the code every dispatcher dreaded.
“Nine-Bravo is 10-¬60, this location. Code three, code three, code three . . . trapped. . .”
The code for imminent danger!
Static filled the airwaves again as Sandy punched buttons on her console, frantically trying to boost the signal.”Dispatch, are you there?” The voice was screaming. “Central! This is 9-¬Bravo in need of assist. The building’s coming down around us!”
Afraid to switch over to relay, with the risk of losing contact altogether, she motioned to Ellen, the dispatcher sitting next to her.
Quickly, Sandy wrote on her notepad in bold black ink: UNIT IN TROUBLE.
At the next desk, Ellen nodded and switched channels to contact the Battalion 9 squad leader over the comm.
“Nine-Bravo, this is Central Dispatch,” Sandy acknowledged. Only with great effort did she prevent her stomach-wrenching fear from leaking into her voice. Dread shot out little tentacles of hopelessness to curl around her lungs, squeezing the breath out of her. “I’m reading you, sending help your way. What’s your location?”
“Civic Center parking garage—A level. The building’s coming apart! We need extraction.” The voice was still urgent but now without the panic.
She had to get her own panic under control and keep it that way, Sandy reminded herself, or she couldn’t help anyone.”Copy you, 9-¬Bravo. Who am I speaking with?”
“Mick-” More static, then, “Mic-key.”
Sandy scribbled everything she could make out into her hand-¬written notes. “Mickey, you’re breaking up very badly. How many do you number? How long have you been trapped?”`
“Two confirmed, dispatch, possibly three. I can feel my partner.He’s not moving. I heard someone else moaning down here earlier. I don’t know how long it’s been. I think I’ve been unconscious—I’m pinned—can’t move. It’s dark—can’t see a thing.”
Sandy passed off the information to Ellen so her coworker could convey it to the battalion chief. The sarcastic part of Sandy’s mind registered the irony of having crossed into the twenty-first century and being reduced to the mockery of a child’s game of telephone.
With a pointed shake of her head, Ellen caught Sandy’s eye and handed her a message from the battalion chief. As she read, Sandy’s heart fluttered in her chest briefly before moving upward to stick in her throat.
Her free hand came up of its own volition to cover her mouth, as if to prevent herself from saying the words she was reading. Her stomach threatened to pitch up her breakfast.
The Convention Center had collapsed with several men inside.Some of them were buried under four floors of rubble, while above them, the fire from the gas main explosion burned fully involved and uncontained. Rescue efforts would be delayed and prospects for extraction were grim. A chaplain was en route.
God help them all! How could she tell someone he wasn’t going to be rescued? What could she say to a man when her words were likely to be the last he’d ever hear?