Dr. Norene M. Moskalski writes about the intrigues and perils of university life. She strives for authenticity in her writing by visiting and researching all of the international places and university settings that she describes in her novels. Each novel presents a variation on a theme, using literary techniques and musical innuendos to move the action forward. Her plots revolve around the unexpected: what if the most beautiful things in the world turned out to be the most dangerous? Iridescent bubbles of sea foam – what exactly is sea foam? Your best friend next door – what does she actually do for a living?
Tell everyone a little about yourself, Norene.
Norene: I enjoy walking the beaches of the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, collecting sea glass, minerals, unusual shells, and artifacts from colonial shipwrecks. A naturalist and environmentalist by nature, and a medical diagnostician by avocation, I have a Ph.D. in University Administration from Penn State University, a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Slippery Rock University. I’ve presented my peer-reviewed, published research on faculty work at international business and engineering conferences, and served as administrator, professor, researcher, grant writer, and mentor at research universities for over fifteen years. I am a member of various writing and environmental organizations, such as The Eastern Shore Writers Association, The Nature Conservancy, The Sierra Club, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, The National Wildlife Federation, and The Smithsonian Institute.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Norene: I fell in love with the idea of writing a novel in elementary school when my English teacher taught us how to recognize the literary elements in the book she assigned for our class to read. The hunt began! After that experience, reading novels held a whole new dimension for me, not only reading for enjoyment but analyzing how skillfully the author used those techniques. When I became an English teacher, I realized we needed more contemporary novels suitable for classroom use that held the students’ attention while they learned how to analyze a novel. I often thought, “I really ought to try writing one,” but as a working Mom, my time constraints were prohibitive. Once the children were grown and off on their own, though, I began writing in earnest.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?
Norene: My goals for writing during my professional career very much depended upon the current task, whether writing a successful grant proposal or a doctoral dissertation. My goals for writing fiction are very different: I seek enjoyment in wordsmithing, peace in passing on life’s lessons, and inspiration from God.
Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Norene: Each novel I write in the Kate and Jake Connors Series will examine critical contemporary issues through multiple perspectives. I want my readers to understand that there are many variables in life that affect a person’s decisions to act the way they do.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Norene: The Kate and Jake Connors series begins with Nocturne, Opus 1: Sea Foam, an international eco-thriller. Kate and Jake are university research professors at Atlantic University’s Institute for Public Policy and Safety in Dover, Delaware. They are also covert operatives for a secret, scientific subdivision of the Institute known only as the Agency. While vacationing at Venice’s Lido Beach, they witness the collapse of Kate’s sister on a sea foam covered beach. Her illness propels them into a seventy-two hour race against time and across continents to find the cure for Bacillus nocturne, the rogue scientist who created it, and to stop the bacteria from contaminating the world’s aquifers.
How do you draw your characters?
Norene: I draw my characters from real-life experiences with people I have met recently or known a very long time. Usually my characters are a composite of all those intriguing personality traits people have.
How do you develop the settings in your stories?
Norene: My settings are all places I have visited and researched in order to make them as authentic to the reader as possible. I want my readers to feel like they are in the scene right beside the character.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Norene: Kate is the most likeable character in the story because she has achieved great heights in her career, yet inside is just like everyone of us coping with life’s variables and having our own flaws.
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Norene: Oh, no, I wish I did! Because I write from inspiration, I often have to rearrange scenes to put them into a more exciting order. That takes considerable time because suddenly, a statement in Chapter 32 doesn’t fit the story line anymore. I’ve never been big on outlining, so I’m always looking for a way to handle this problem. A seminar that Lisa Gardner gave at ThrillerFest a few years ago helped me a great deal. I adapted it to my “flat filing system” (on the floor), and now spread out printed chapters on my office floor, moving them around to get the best order of events and to see where I need to add a few more chapters. What fun! What a mess!
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Norene: Immensely! We’re always taught to write about what we know, and I always thought that nothing really adventurous was occurring in my life, so how could I write about what I know? Now I understand–that statement really means to put what you know about in the descriptive details of your story. If you know what the sun feels like shining on your face on a very cold winter day, put that in your scene. If you’ve driven a clunker of a car driving on fumes past Empty, have a character do that. If you know about rocks and minerals, add a few to your scene details. If you love gold gemstone jewelry, wrap your character in it. It works and you get to write about some of the things you love.
Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
“I forgot I was reading a work of fiction. The characters were so real.”
What are your current projects?
Norene: The next novel in the series and a nonfiction book about cats. Hmmmm. Maybe I can combine the two!
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Norene: My website is www.NoreneMoskalski.com and my publisher’s website is www.DivinityPress.com
My book is at http://www.amazon.com/Nocturne-Opus-1-Sea-Foam/dp/0988381176
Thanks for joining us today, Norene.
Norene: Thank you for the opportunity to answer your interview questions.