Rhonda Hopkins is a self-published author from Texas with two decades of experience working within the Family Court system. She writes often quite dark stories featuring zombies. She also has a non-fiction book in the pipeline which will be a guide for people encountering the Family Court for the first time.
I began our conversation by asking her about life in her native Texas. For me “Texas” invokes memories of old cowboy films, vast cattle ranches, rodeos and Dallas – both the TV series and the city with its glass and steel towers. I wondered how accurate was that image.
“That’s a great question and one I’ve never been asked before. Texas is amazing. We have just about everything here. Large cities, small towns, and wide-open spaces. We have a large variety of trees, my favorite being pecan. We had several in our yard when I was a child and l loved climbing them. I’d sit on a large branch, lean back against the trunk, and read for hours.
My grandmother and other relatives always had ranch animals, cows, horses, donkeys, mules, chickens, etc. So, I had the pleasure of having that experience. We still have cows and chickens. And of course, we have wildlife that come into the back – coyotes, foxes, raccoons, possums, and more. I actually posted about a run in I had with a raccoon previously.
As for rodeos – I grew up going to those.
My uncle is a champion bareback rider.
We live in a small town in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so I feel like I have the best of both worlds. Big cities with everything you could want available and a small-town atmosphere where you know all your neighbors and have an active community.
We have canyons, an ocean, rivers, lakes, and mountains. I feel very fortunate to have been born and raised in Texas and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have traveled to many other wonderful states in the U.S. and would love to visit them again, but Texas is home.”
I ask her about her years working in the Family Court system. She has a section of her website devoted to providing information for prospective users of the service, but I wonder to what extent her experience feeds into her fiction.
“I’ve worked within the Family Court system for nearly twenty years. The first nine and a half were at Child Protective Services where I dealt with child abuse and neglect. I was an investigator for most of those and a supervisor for the rest. I then did investigations/custody evaluations for the Family Courts. I met the most evil people and the most wonderful during those twenty years. There were funny, horrific, scary, and amazing experiences. All of that, I use in my writing. Most of my fiction is dark, but the best part to me is finding the light within the darkness. I try my best to show the hope and human spirit and endurance within my books.
I also have a new non-fiction book coming out soon, NAVIGATING FAMILY COURT: IN THE BEST INTEREST OF YOUR CHILD. It will offer an insight into what to expect if one has to go through custody litigation and how best to prepare yourself and your children. Co-parenting tips are also included. I’m very happy that I can use my experience to help others through a really difficult time. I’ll have a new website just for that topic once it’s released and I’ll transfer all my former blog posts there, so people will have access to the articles about domestic violence, child custody, and substance abuse.”
On her website she offers her books free of charge to serving members of the defense forces. She got the idea from Anna Erishkigal, a fellow author who writes epic fantasies Rhonda describes as amazing. “I think it’s important that we give back to those that sacrifice so much for our freedoms,” she adds.
I ask what drew her to write about zombies and what she would you say to someone like me, who has never read that genre and has no inclination to do so, to make me change my mind.
“I was asked to participate in LET’S SCARE CANCER TO DEATH, a charity anthology. The proceeds go to The V Foundation For Cancer Research. The theme was zombies. I love watching and reading about zombies, but never intended to write about them. But, when the offer to participate came up, the short story just sort of appeared fully formed. That short story was supposed to be the extent of my zombie work. But, I fell in love with the characters and their stories of survival. More characters came to me and they all seem to be begging me to tell their stories. So, a series was born. My first full-length novel DEAD OF WINTER should be out at the end of August or so.
While the SURVIVAL series has blood and guts – it’s zombies after all – that’s not the focus or even the main theme. I care, and I want my readers to care, more about the survivors and their stories, their perseverance and ability to overcome such a horrific apocalyptic event.
I don’t think zombies would even be the biggest threat in that world. I think it would be other humans.
So my books show the good and the bad of humanity and how my survivors cope with it all – the light within the darkness.”
Previous writers who have featured here have embraced controversial subjects in their writing – the Holocaust, FGM and the grooming of underage girls for sex. When I ask if she thinks it’s wise for writers to tackle such subjects she says that writers should write whatever touches their hearts.
Some writers have a special space for writing, or a time of day reserved for the activity. Rhonda has
a desk and an area set up, “but mainly I write from my big comfy chair on my laptop. But, I’ve been known to write just about anywhere or anytime the muse strikes.”
Currently writing is her only creative activity, but she wishes she could paint.
“My aunt is an amazing artist, but my stick figures don’t even look like stick figures. 😊 She is teaching me to crochet though, so we’ll see how that goes. I love cooking and baking. I especially enjoy baking special things for my nieces and nephews – like the Christmas Tree cake I made this past holiday. I did make ceramics a long time ago when my mom was into it. I might have to try that out again. Although, I’ve been thinking about trying pottery recently.”
I wonder if she uses professional help with preparing her work for publication.
“I use beta readers for the first read through, then a professional editor. I want my work to appeal to readers and be as well developed as possible.
As an indie, I strive to be professional and hire editors and cover designers.”
Her favourite author is Dean Koontz.
“I read many different genres and there are many authors I consider must reads, both traditionally and indie published. However, Dean Koontz is my favorite author. I’ve been reading him since I was about twelve and I believe I have read just about everything he’s ever written. I would hope I could manage to speak if I were having dinner with him – I’m such a fan girl. LOL He’s a magnificent writer, with a wonderful imagination. I’d love to be able to string words together like he can. After just a few sentences, I’m completely immersed in the story and even forget I’m reading. I don’t think that can be taught, but if it could, I’d hope he’d share that ability with me.”
I thank her for the frankness of her answers and she surprises me with an offer – a free copy of SURVIVAL for one of my followers. Here’s how to qualify to receive it: simply be the first to tell me, in a comment, what is Rhonda’s favourite tree.