In Dark Illusion (Berkley, Sept.), an honorable immortal Carpathian warrior and his human lifemate must destroy an evil book of spells.

What inspires the grit and strength of your female characters, such as Julija, the heroine of this story?

I grew up with 10 sisters and an amazing mother who wanted all of us to be strong women. I happen to do martial arts. I’m capable of beating someone up if I have to, or at least I was in my prime. But I don’t necessarily think that’s the best way to deal with somebody. I believe that women have a quiet strength that is often understated, and I want to show that often in various ways. Women are so strong. I think they can overcome so many things. I’ve worked with some people who have had terrible things happen to them, and writing is my way of reaching out to others like them and saying, “You can get to this place. There are horrible things that happen, but they make you stronger. You’ve got it inside you. Reach for it, build on it, and it can make you a stronger person.” I want people to have hope. I want them to see that it’s their strength that can carry them through.

What drives your writing process?

I’m very disciplined. When I was a child, my father was very disciplined about work—he had to be, he had a lot of kids—so he gave me a very strong work ethic, and then I was in martial arts for years. I learned pretty early on that if I wanted to write and do other things, I had to manage my time well. Also, I’ve learned how to write a certain way. I sit down and I work at one thing. There’s no editing, there’s no researching, there’s no surfing the internet, I’m not taking calls. All I can do is put words on a page. I’m actually in competition—my son writes as well, and he is fast. He lays some hard words down in an hour, and I’m not going to let him beat me. Sometimes he puts up this whiteboard and taunts me—I have to put my word count up, and he has to put his word count up. After I do my writing, I can edit if I want to. Then in the evening, for fun, I often will just write a story I want to write, by myself. Sometimes I’ll put in half an hour, and sometimes I’ll be sitting there from seven at night until midnight, just because I like doing it.

You are extremely prolific—how do you write so quickly without sacrificing quality?

That’s important to me. I sometimes drive my editor crazy. I have been known to write a whole book and throw the entire book out—and then, starting from page one and not using one single thing from the book before, write the book again. If I say to myself, “This book isn’t right,” I write it again, even if my editor thinks it’s fine. I’m very picky. It has to feel right. I can tell if anyone has messed with my work, because each line really has a rhythm to it. And when they change it? It hits this kind of jangle in my head.