HOW DID YOU GET INTERESTED IN WRITING?
Like most writers, I was an avid reader, first. My mother was an English teacher, and furthermore a writing specialist, which meant that, as a kid, the very LAST thing I wanted to do was write. But in my late twenties, I flew home for a visit, and on the airplane, I read a book by a Famous and Successful author. It was terrible, and when I got off the plane, I announced to my mother that even I could write a better book. She bet me a dollar that I couldn’t. Not that I’m competitive or anything, but I took that bet and sat down to write my first book. Although it was not my first book published, that story was eventually published as KILLER INSTINCT.
HOW DID YOU SELL YOUR FIRST BOOK?
My first published book, BEHIND ENEMY LINES, finaled in and eventually won the Golden Heart contest for unpublished authors sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. As a result of finaling in that contest, Lynda Curnyn of Silhouette agreed to read the manuscript and ultimately bought it.
ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO PUBLISH MY FIRST BOOK?
Writing contests are still a great way for writers to catch the attention of editors. Take a look at who the final round judges are in various contests and enter the ones with editors from the publishing houses you’d like to work with. That said, publishing is changing radically and rapidly . Now, any author can reasonably self-publish a book. But be aware that a LOT of people are doing this (hundreds of thousands every year). It’s darned hard work to get noticed and sell enough books to grow your career. One of the keys is to keep writing and keep publishing. Readers are more inclined to buy books from an author with five books out rather than just one. And quality is a must–not only in the story itself, but also in spelling, grammar, and formatting. Writing classes, critique groups, and hiring professional editors are all good courses of action.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FOR YOUR STORIES?
Great question. Everywhere! I pull from my military career, from the news, from my medieval gaming hobby, and of course, from my own rather twisted imagination. I have to confess, conversation around the dinner table at our house can get pretty weird when I’m in story brainstorming mode. Speaking of which, I’m a big fan of gathering a bunch of my smartest non-writer friends, plying them with cheap wine and expensive chocolate, and seeing what they can come up with.
DO YOU EVER GET WRITER’S BLOCK AND WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT IT?
I do occasionally get frozen at my computer. Usually, it’s becuase I don’t know where I’m going with my plot, or because I’ve taken a wrong turn and something’s not feeling right about the direction I’m heading. It’s important to listen to your instincts. If the direction you’re taking with a story doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right! In these cases, I stop writing and give myself permission to think about my story and do a planning session instead of a writing session.
There’s another kind of writing stoppage people often call writer’s block that I actually find to be burn out. It comes from writing too much and living life too little. It’s vital to writers to watch the world around them. To see new people and places and things and events. Whatever your source of ideas is, it’s critical to build time into your life to refill your creative well.
Beyond that, I have an entire drawer full of writing exercises, worksheets, questionnaires, diagrams, spreadsheets, and the like. Whenever I’m feeling totally stymied, I dive into the drawer and look for some tool that will shake loose my thoughts and get the creative juices flowing again. What works is different for every book and for every blockage within a book.
My last adivce regarding writer’s block is to give yourself permission to write crap. Perfectionism and self-crticism are death to the creative process. You have to allow yourself to write something awful on the assumption that you can go back later and edit it into something beautiful. But that’s a WHOLE lot easier than editing a blank page into a great piece of writing! Very few writers create perfect prose the first time around. All writers tweak, edit and rewrite outright before their books take their final, effing gorgeous form.
HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU WRITE PER YEAR, ANYWAY?
It varies: as few as four and as many as eight. Some books write themselves at the speed of heat, while others are like pulling teeth to write at half my usual speed. I find that, the more I learn about writing, the more things I’m thinking about when I write, and the slower I write. That said, on a good day, I write 20-25 pages. On a slow day, I might do 7. The key to writing quickly for me is to write every single day. No exceptions, 365 days a year. As soon as I skip a day, it gets easier and easier to skip another day and another. And before I know it, I haven’t written for weeks and I’ve forgotten how to do it! Getting back into the habit of writing daily after a big break is the pits. Take it from me. I know.