It’s All About Me !
Q: How did you get started?
A: I”ve been telling stories since before I was old enough to make letters. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I saw my first fictional work in print, a fractured fairytale in my elementary school newspaper. I have boxes of unfinished novels, but didn”t get serious about getting published until I was supplementing my stay-at-home Mom income selling stuffed animals in a local art fair and a former English professor stopped to condescendingly comment, So this is what you”re doing with your college education. I told her I was also a writer, to which she said disdainfully, That”s nice, and walked quickly away. I was so infuriated by her attitude that I went home and started my first start-to-finish book. I never did sell that one, but I sold the next, and have been using my college education quite nicely since then, thank you very much.
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: I’m a very focused writer and make use of every spare second I can get at the keyboard. I complete the entire book before I do any rewrites or editing. I’m rarely working on just one book, I’m usually writing actively on one project while working up a proposal for the next series, and am in the final editing process with the publisher on yet another, so timeframes are flexible and dependant upon deadlines. And that’s all scheduled around my 9-to-5. I still manage three 400-pagers a year.
Q: Do you do a lot of research?
A: Research is one of my favorite parts of writing, probably because of a background in journalism and history. Before the Internet, I carried more library cards than credit cards and spent hours in the resource room taking notes. I have a hefty personal reference library on everything from the history of weapons and running a Regency household to safecracking, ghost busting and why women kill (that one always made my family rather nervous when it was on the coffee table!). I only use about a quarter of the facts I gather, but the rest helps shape my plot in the development stage. I think of research as a tasty spice rather than the main ingredient.
Q: Do you use a formula to write your books?
A: If I had a magic formula, it would be for weight loss while I type.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: Ideas are everywhere. As a writer, you soak them up like a creative sponge. I’ve created an entire novel based on impressions as innocuous as a sentence in a history book, a picture on an album cover (yikes, I’m dating myself), and riding a down escalator to the subway train in D.C. I never watch a movie or read a book without developing my own ending before I’m half way through it. I love to plot. I just wish I had time to write them all into books.
Q: When are you going to write a real book?
A: If they aren’t real books, those must be imaginary stacks holding up my box springs. Contract, covers, pages, publisher, royalties = real book. With over half of the paperback mass market comprised of romance novels, I’d say that’s pretty darned real. I’m not ashamed of being a romance writer. My main goal has always been to entertain.
Q: Where can I find your older books?
A: Unfortunately books, especially series romances, have a short shelf life. The majority of my titles are out of print. If you can’t find them on line or at your local used bookstore, I do keep a limited quantity of my back list (see above: holding up box springs). E-mail me if you’re looking for a particular title. Now, with digital reprint and e-book technology, books will be available a lot longer.
Q: Are you ever going to finish your earlier western series?
A: The most frustrating thing about a series is getting involved with its characters then, like a Fox TV show, having it get prematurely cancelled. Unfortunately, publishers rarely buy all the books in a potential series upfront and there’s always the risk that marketing expectations aren’t met and the final installments never make it to the shelves. I still get reader mail asking for the last books in my Bass, Pride County and Warrior series that were outlined but never purchased. On a happy note, enthusiasm for my Midnight vampire series led to a continuation of the characters through a different publisher, with ImaJinn releasing six more titles to follow the original three.
Q: Why do you write under other names?
A: I’m very prolific and have written for several different publishers at one time. Sometimes they’ll ask that you take a pseudonym to separate your work for them from the other houses you’re writing for. Having more than one pen name allows you to get more books out per year and to write in different genres. I’ve written mainly under my own name, but also have published books as Lauren Giddings, Dana Ransom and Rosalyn West. If I publish in YA paranormal or suspense, I may use another pseudonym there, too.
Q: Do you get to pick your titles, covers, etc.?
A: Usually everything that sells the book is a marketing decision. Sometimes a publisher will involve the author, sometimes not. Was REBEL VIXEN the title on my manuscript? I think not. When I worked with ImaJinn and now with Pocket, I’ve been very actively consulted for ideas, titles and even cover copy.
Q: What kind of books do you like to read?
A: I’ve always been an avid reader. I love suspense, paranormal/horror (i.e. Dean Koontz), romance and Sci-Fi, in that order. I try not to read in the genre I’m currently writing. As in my television preferences, I prefer action-oriented fiction to reality. I have enough reality in my life already.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
A: Getting lost in the process, getting drawn into the lives and worlds I create, and touching the readers emotions. I love hearing that I made someone laugh out loud or reach for tissues. Or being told that they were afraid to put the book down in case they missed something I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.
Q: What’s the worst thing about being a writer?
A: The business. I love having an agent and dream of hiring an assistant.
Q: I have this great idea for a story if you could write it . . . Could you read my manuscript?
A No. Sorry. I have my own stories to write and not enough time to write them as it is. Because of liability, I never read unsolicited materials. I suggest you look closer to home for writing help. Check with a local library or book store to find area writers critique or book groups, or check on line with Romance Writers of America for chapters near you. A good critique group that I trust is what keeps me on track.
Q: Do you make lots of money writing books?
A: “Lots” is a relative term. I make more than I would if I wasn’t writing, but since I’m a sole breadwinner, I still depend on my weekly 9-to-5 paycheck versus advances and twice a year royalties. And, as with any business, you have to invest money back into it by going to conferences, doing promotion, researching, and even maintaining a web site. A small percentage of writers actually make their living on writing alone. An even smaller number make a darned good living.
Q: Have you had jobs other than writing?
A: I worked in a department store, sold donuts, worked for Triple A in claims, sold life and health insurance for Farm Bureau, and for the past ten years have been the right hand assistant for an attorney doing workers compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury at Redmond, Redmond & Yokom. I love working with our clients (writing is a solitary business), but the commute during a Michigan winter is something I could happily do without.
Q: What does your family think of your writing?
A: I only developed cred with my boys when I wrote a horror movie novelization and got listed on IMDB (International Movie Data Base). To them, Mom’s a writer. It’s what I’ve done as long as they can remember. They’re very blas about it except when they get their pictures in the local paper with me or when I used to come in to speak to their classes at school. I didn’t work outside the home until they were in high school so I had the luxury of being room Mom, scout assistant, field trip monitor and on call at all times. I think my boss gets a bigger kick out of it than they do. He’s always saying, Did you know my assistant writes books?
Q: Do you like to hear from your fans?
A: Having fans is a humbling experience. They tend to put writers on some sort of mysterious celebrity pedestal, whereas I see it as just my job. Hey, I’m excited to meet somebody who knows how to caulk a tub or identify the strange noise in my rear wheel bearing. There’s nothing glamorous about turning on the computer at 5:00 a.m. in your sweats, drinking coffee a few feet away from the laundry basket and bills waiting to be paid. There’s nothing mysterious about the long hours of creative work, the frustration of rewrites and the heartbreak of rejections. What is magical is being able to use words to inspire imagination and fire emotions, and have other people “get it.” It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve brought joy, excitement or even chills into someone else’s life.
I try to be very approachable. I love to discuss writing and the characters that start out just talking in my head then speak to others on the page. Unfortunately a 40-hour per week job limits the amount of time I have available for signings and attending conferences. I’m rather timid when it comes to technology . . . but I’m learning.
E-mail me, follow me on Twitter or visit me on FaceBook. We’ll talk writing or characters or tub caulking.