Q:How long have you been writing?
I’ve been seriously writing and trying to publish since about 2003.
Q:How long did it take you to publish?
About a year and a half.
Q:How many manuscripts do you have hidden away/ under the bed/in storage?
Only my orphaned Bombshell, Intended Victim. Silhouette asked me to make significant structural changes to it (break it into 2 books), so I did, but the line folded before either book could be released. I may go back and rework the original as a single title, but that’s really a backburner project for me.
Q: Do you have a writing schedule and if so, what is it?
I currently have a full-time job, which means my focus is not on the writing right now. I’m trying to be gentle with myself and not expect myself to write when I’m exhausted or already overbooked with activities. Some writers can do that, and more power to them, but I’m simply not capable. I have only so much mental energy, and I’m practicing now doing one thing at a time (as in, only washing dishes instead of washing dishes and thinking about the plot, or washing dishes and fretting over edits). I’m not under contract, so I can write as I choose to, which is very freeing.
Q: Do you have a critique group? If yes, how many are in the group?
The three lovely writers I work with are always supportive and interested in each others’ work, and I owe them a great deal.
Q: If this is not the only critique group you’ve participated in, how many others did you have before finding the one that worked?
I had a previous group (also a foursome) when I first got started writing romance.
Q: When developing an idea for a new story, which comes first – the plot or the title or the characters?
A feeling, actually. I get a feeling that wants to come onto the page, and then the protagonist follows as an answer to the question, Who would feel that feeling?. In order to carry that feeling, the protagonist has to have a reason for doing so, so there’s usually a scene in there somewhere spelling out who the protagonist is emotionally and where she’s come from. Then, I write that scene, and see what comes out on the page. My busy brain likes structure, so it’ll start building a framework of plot around the protagonist after that, starting, of course, with the dark moment — what’s at stake.
Q: How do you handle new story ideas that pop up when you’re in the middle of a project? (ex: notebook by the bed/separate word file, etc?)
I write down whatever notes or thoughts I have in a separate Word file. Each idea has its own file, which can get pretty big. Everything in the file is fodder and much will end up discarded, but capturing each idea honors it.
Q: Have you ever gotten to the middle of a project and got bored or lost your momentum? If so, how did you handle it?
Sure, I’ve gotten bored in the middle of a project. For me, getting bored signals one of two situations: There’s not enough conflict or enough at stake that’s driving to the dark moment and climax, or (more likely) I just don’t want to write at that moment. What I’ve learned, however, is that it’s okay not to want to write. I used to break out the two-by-four and beat myself over not getting out enough pages — there’s a deadline, or perhaps the overall project seems intimidating — or over not having the desire to do the work. But not wanting to do the work is usually a sign of my not being "present" — I want to be doing something else when this task, the writing, is front of me right now. That’s a state of mind that can only be changed through, for me, meditation or practicing mindfulness. (Am I good at practicing when I feel this way? Let’s just say I’m getting better at it, but very slowly….)
So once I start peeling back the layers of "lost momentum," I see there are a couple of practical things I can do, such as reviewing the story for "what’s at stake," and sitting for a time in meditation. Q: Finish this sentence: If I could write anything I wanted and knew it would sell, it would be…. The next book. I don’t have a "book of the heart" as some writers do. I do have stories I know that I’m not ready to put on the page yet, but I’m patient and can wait until it’s time.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received in regards to your writing career?
"If you want to write a book, you’ve already written it." This was said by a roaming writer whose name escapes me, but she was teaching a class in how to write a book in six weeks or less. The idea was that the basic book is inside, ready to come onto the page, but the author often isn’t ready to write it for one reason or another. She also said there’s no such thing as writer’s block, and that the only reasons for lack of creativity are grief and fear. Writer’s block, she said, was simply a self-deception when what we really want to say is, "I’m afraid." Both of these tidbits have been very helpful to me.
Q: What is the worst?
Take out all these "the’s". Write shorter sentences. Don’t use adverbs. No, that’s writing advice. As far as writing career advice, I tend to take what I like and leave (and therefore forget) the rest. Everyone’s journey is different.
Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Exploring the protagonist’s journey, not in a Chris Vogler sort of way, but in an emotional, "what’s the worst that can happen to this character" kind of way. I love identifying the stakes for the character, finding her motivation that heightens those stakes, and then taking away what she most wants. Bwahahahahaha.
Q: What is you least favorite?
The moment after I send the manuscript to the editor. I just know there’s something I’ve forgotten to fix….
Q: Which came first for you – the editor or the agent?
The editor came first. I met her when I won the BAWL Conference contest and have worked with her since.
Q: How many contests did you enter before you sold? How many did you final in?
Entered two, finaled in one.
Q: How do your promote your books?
With resentment. I dislike keeping up a web site (anyone else’s web site, great! Mine? Yuck!) and am not particularly sociable, so I find it very difficult to promote myself. So when I get a chance to do something like participate in the Romantic Times book bags sponsored by my agency last year, I jump on it. That was a minimal labor kind of deal and the bags looked great.
Q: Free form – your chance to tell us anything you’d like – tidbits, advice, funny stories, pet peeves, hopes, dreams, etc.
Phew! I think I’ve said plenty! Thank you!