When author Nicole Seitz starts work on a new novel, she reaches back to her journalism experience.
The major difference, of course, is her subjects are just figments of her imagination. Nonetheless, she starts with a character and lets him or her dictate the direction of the book.
"It's like an interview," said Seitz, a Hilton Head Island native. "You have an idea of where it might go. But you have those unexpected surprises. That's sort of how it is writing a novel. You go, you start asking questions and you don't know the ride you're about to go on."
Seitz's latest novel, "Beyond Molasses Creek," is her sixth with Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. It involves a flight attendant who returns home, starts to repair the relationships of her past and encounters a young woman from Nepal who escapes a life of slavery. Like most of her novels, her latest is set in the backdrop of the Lowcountry.
"You can see God all over the place, in the marshes or in the sunsets," she said. "The people are just as lovely or as terrible as you'd find everywhere else. You can explore the harming and healing of a human being in the Lowcountry."
Before Seitz graduated from Hilton Head Preparatory School in 1990, she spent three weeks in the Soviet Union as part of the People to People Ambassador program, exposing her to a world outside her tiny island home.
She got her journalism degree from the University of North Carolina. Growing up, she always was a fan of "60 Minutes." Relying on her childhood pageant experience, she felt she could be good on camera. But the cutthroat realities of moving up in the business didn't appeal to her.
She got a degree in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design, art being another lifelong passion of hers. While she got her degree, she wrote stories for The Bluffton Packet. Her favorite were the feature pieces.
"I would record the whole conversation," she said, "I just loved remembering all the details. I realized years later that prepared me to be an author."
Her first novel, "The Spirit of Sweetgrass," was published in 2007. One of her acrylic paintings adorned the cover.
Since then, she's written a book nearly every year. Now, her contract is up, and she's figuring what to write next. Whatever it will be, she'll have to reach into her Lowcountry past and find the people who intrigue her.
"I fall in love with characters, and they start speaking to me," she said. "By the grace of God, their stories have come together."