Interview with Author Nancy Wood

My guest today is Nancy Wood.  Hello, Nancy!  Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?

My latest book is my first book. It’s called Due Date and it was published by Solstice Publishing in May, 2012. It’s a thriller: there are no dead bodies, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat! You can find it on Amazon, Barnes &Noble, Smashwords, and in the Solstice store. 

 Is there anything that prompted your latest book? Something that inspired you? 

Due Date originally started out as a story of an open adoption and the somewhat difficult relationship between the intended mother and the birth mother. I took this book to a publishing workshop, where I was encouraged to change it into a mystery. At first I was skeptical. I had no idea how to write a mystery. Where to start it? How do you plant clues? How do you keep tension? But I started reading exclusively in the genre and began to study how mysteries and thrillers are put together. Now I’m hooked: I seem to gravitate toward this genre and rarely read or write anything else! 

Great!  So, when did you know you wanted to write? Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

I’ve been writing for a long, long time. In fourth or fifth grade, I started writing a mystery with a friend of mine. I’d love to find that manuscript now! I’ve been writing in earnest for about twenty-five years and have a few unpublished books under my belt: a memoir and two novels. I have published a few short stories over the years. Due Date took about five years from start to finish, so I’m pretty slow!

Do you have any favorite authors? 

I’d have to say that mystery/thriller authors are now my favorite authors. As I mentioned above, when I decided to write a mystery, I dove into the genre, and started out by reading the First Novel Edgar nominees for the past several years. I was floored by all or it: the characters, the settings, the plots. An Edgar nominee that I read and re-read is called A Field of Darkness.  The author is Cornelia Read. The protagonist, Madeline Dare, is funny, brave, heroic, and complex. The novel has nuanced characters and a strong sense of place. But the writing was the best: Ms. Read’s writing just sparkles. A Field of Darkness made me understand the genre could hold anything a writer wanted to make of it.

Do you write in a specific place?  Time of day?

Every morning, before breakfast, and before other family members get up, I’m at the keyboard. I try to write for an hour first thing, every day. I sometimes sit on the sofa with my laptop, but lately I’ve taken to writing in my office. The window looks out on the huge palm tree in our front yard (yes, here in Santa Cruz in Central California, there are palms), and I can watch the day begin. On good writing days, I’m reluctant to switch computers (I have two – one for writing, one for work) and start on whatever technical documentation is at hand. On bad writing days, I’m so thankful I can get to something that’s structured and known and knowable!
Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers. Any advice?

Read everything you can in your genre. And keep writing. That’s key. Just like everything, your writing will get stronger with practice.

Here is the blurb for Due Date.
Surrogate mother Shelby McDougall just fell for the biggest con of all—a scam that risks her life and the lives of her unborn twins.

Twenty-three year-old Shelby McDougall is facing a mountain of student debt and a memory she’d just as soon forget. A Rolling Stone ad for a surrogate mother offers her a way to erase the loans and right her karmic place in the cosmos. Within a month, she's signed a contract, relocated to Santa Cruz, California, and started fertility treatments.

But intended parents Jackson and Diane Entwistle have their own agendaone that has nothing to do with diapers and lullabies. With her due date looming, and the clues piling up, Shelby must save herself and her twins. As she uses her wits to survive, Shelby learns the real meaning of the word “family.”

Here is an excerpt from Due Date. 

Chapter One

The Beemer driver, right on our tail, tapped his horn a few times, and sat on it. My brother Dexter swerved the SUV toward the dented guard rail separating the gravel shoulder from a steep drop into the Santa Cruz mountain valley below. But the BMW driver didn’t take the hint. He just edged closer, veering in and out of the lane, still trying to pass. 

“What the...?” shouted Dexter as the Beemer’s right front fender hooked our left rear with an explosive crunch.

Suddenly we were sliding out of control, skidding across the narrow road as if it were black ice. Dexter fought the wheel and pumped the brakes, but the pedal plunged to the floor. Yelling “Hold on,” he yanked the parking brake. 

Metal screeched and our CRV fishtailed to the right, jerking to a halt inches from the cliff. Dexter turned the ignition off and there was welcome silence.  

He whacked the steering wheel with the palm of his hand.

“I am so dead,” he groaned. “Jessica is going to kill me.”

He reached over to unclip my seat belt then looked at me, horrified. “Jesus, Shelby, we need to get you to a doctor.”

“I’m fine,” I said, cradling my substantial belly with both hands. “Thank God the airbag didn’t go off.”  

“If I ever catch that asshole...” Dexter tried to start the car but the engine just whirred, clicked, and died. He swore, wiggled his phone out of his pocket, pressed the on button, and swore again. He shook it, as if that would help. “Can I try yours?”

“If you can find it,” I said.

I gestured behind me, where my entire life was crammed into boxes, suitcases, and duffel bags. 

“Don’t have that much time. Gotta get you and those babies to a doctor.”

He opened the car door. “I’ll be back in a half-hour, tops,” he said. “Don’t go anywhere.” 

He grinned at me. We both knew I wouldn’t.  

I watched his bright red t-shirt disappear through the redwood grove up the twisting road, under the blue California sky. He’d be at least an hour. Dexter never could tell time. 

I angled the seat back and was rewarded with the familiar poke of a baby foot between my lower ribs, then another on my left side. See? I wanted to tell Dexter, we’re all fine. All three of us. And just because you’re my big brother, you can’t always tell me what to do. 

I reserved that privilege for Jackson and Diane Entwistle, the intended parents of my unborn twins. Although we didn’t know each other that well yet, Diane insisted on taking me in now that Jessica, Dexter’s pushy wife, had kicked me out. So instead of being shoe-horned into an all-purpose office-guest-craft room, I’d have my own cottage. Six hundred square feet all to myself on their expansive Santa Cruz mountain ridge-top estate. Even though the arrangement would only last a few months, until the babies were born, I was looking forward to quiet country living.

I locked the doors, twisted around in the seat for my purse, and busied myself in a fit of organization. I excavated gum wrappers, used movie tickets, wadded up tissues, balls of hair from my brush, bits of broken shells I’d collected on my morning beach walks, keys to Dexter’s house that I wouldn’t be needing anymore, and a dangly red and white African beaded earring I’d assumed was long lost. The trash went in one pile, the earring in my coin purse, and I stashed the keys to my former life in the glove box. 

I’d just have to remember to tell Dexter they were there.

* * * *

Forty-five minutes later, I was flipping through the Sunset magazine I’d found under the passenger seat when I smelled smoke. 

Campfires weren’t unusual up here in the hills, where there were at least three state parks, and at first the tendril of what looked like mist winding through the upper redwood canopy didn’t worry me. I was reading about kitchen makeovers, something I couldn’t yet imagine at twenty-three, but maybe someday, after the babies were born, after I finished graduate school, after I found that perfect guy. 

Then I started coughing. And I looked up again. The smoke was as dense as beach fog on a summer morning. This was no campfire. 

I felt a sudden surge in my throat: on the side of the road, near the hairpin curve where Dexter had disappeared, licks of red and orange flame were traveling lazily up the trunk of a spindly shrub. I jumped as it ignited with a crack, sparking in fiery traces like a welding torch. 

As quickly as I could, I unlocked the door and eased out, trying not to look down. A slope as steep as a ski jump yawed beneath my feet. Only an inch of slippery gravel lay between the toes of my flip-flops and the lip. I baby-stepped around the car, taking peeks up the hill, hoping I’d see Dexter running toward me, arms outspread in a victory lap. 

If you wanted something enough, the universe would provide, right? But only a backdrop of flames glowed through the swirling smoke. 

Now whole trees were hissing in the distance as they burned. A power line sparked in a deafening pop. I looked around for my best escape route. I couldn’t follow Dexter. No one could navigate that path, not even a fully-suited firefighter with an oxygen tank. I knew Dexter was somewhere safe by now. Probably as worried about me as I was.

I waddled fast downhill, and ten minutes later, I was in almost-clear air again, the blaze just a memory clinging in sooty, sweaty rivulets to my hair and clothes. My eyes still burned and my tongue felt singed, but a familiar blue sky arched above and the feathery ash only floated down occasionally, gentle as mist. 

I knew it would be just a matter of time before the fire caught up to me, though, and I couldn’t walk forever. 

As if my prayer had been answered, the faint whine of an engine percolated the still afternoon. Gears ground as the vehicle labored up the grade. I dodged off the road and crouched behind a tree. Maybe it was the hormones, but paranoia had been a constant companion since I signed my surrogacy papers. Nobody liked surrogates, I’d learned, especially once they realized the amounts of money involved. 

But I needed a lift. Shaking off my worries, I straightened up, ready to flag down the vehicle. “Shelby Emma Stearns McDougall,” I said. “Get a grip.” 

Above me, a pair of crows squawked, raspy and piercing. I adjusted my huge belly, leaned back against the tree trunk, and waited.

Author Bio

Nancy lives in Santa Cruz, California, with her family, where she’s been lucky enough to make writing her career. For many years she made her living as a technical writer, working in software documentation. About six years ago, she set up her own shop and is now a writing consultant and contractor, happy to spend every day grappling with words and sentences. 

Due Date is Nancy’s first published book and she’s now hard at work on the second book in the Shelby McDougall series.

Connect with Nancy here:


Awesome!  Thanks, Nancy, for visiting Writing in the Modern Age today!  Your book sounds interesting!


  1. This sounds like a terrific book, so I just bought it for my Kindle. Can't wait to read it!

    1. Thanks Sandy and thanks for stopping by Marie's blog! I hope you enjoy the book.

  2. Marie, excellent interview with a most interesting guest. The book sounds like a winner and one I'll be sure to check out.

    1. Hi Micki,
      Thanks for stopping by -- Marie asked great questions!


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