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Interviews

*Annette Blair*
* Susan Vaughan*

More to come!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Just a little? But there's so much! My "real job" is as a copy editor at USA Today, based in suburban Washington, D.C. I've had three books published by Five Star. The second, Caught in the Act, was a RITA finalist in 2004, and the third, Found Wanting, just earned a Daphne du Maurier honorable mention from the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA.

How long did you write before you received "The Call?"

That's a tough one, because I wrote off and on for many years while I went to college and pursued my journalism career. Overall, I'd been writing novels for about 15 years when I received "the call" in summer 2001.

What advice would you offer unpublished authors?

Develop a thick skin. Follow your instincts. Don't let anyone steal your joy. Write because you enjoy it, not because you think you'll make a lot of money. Be sure you have lots of friends who share your writing obsession. Keep your sense of humor.

Tell us about your writing schedule and how you keep motivated?

When I'm on a roll, I write for a few hours before going to work and a few hours after getting home from work, probably about four hours a day. That varies widely, though. On weekends, I try to put in eight hours a day (emphasis on "try"). Life often intrudes, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I figure that as long as I can complete a novel in a year, I'm doing OK. As for keeping motivated: I have several close friends who are also authors, and they're really good about giving my chin a nudge up when I need it. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have friends who are also writers. Writing can be such a solitary endeavor, so the more support you can get, the better.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how do you handle criticism?

I LOVE my critique group. There are four of us. We all write some form of romance but in different subgenres. Criticism hasn't been much of a problem for me, mainly because the people delivering it are diplomatic and always, always mean well. If I don't agree with the criticism, I move on. There's no point in getting your feelings hurt or obsessing, because it's your story, so you get to do whatever you want with it. And if you get criticism on a book that's already published, well, there's nothing you can do about that.

How do you keep track of your story: note cards, graphs, etc?

I have several files on my PC for each book, besides the actual file that the book is in: PLOT, TIMELINE, CHARACTERS, CUTS. The PLOT file is obvious. It's a running narrative of what I expect the story to do. I go back to this file often and change it as the story evolves. It comes in handy big time when it's dreaded synopsis-writing time. TIMELINE includes the history of my characters (Sally left town five years ago and returned two years ago; Ben got divorced three years ago) and the sequence of events ("inciting incident" happens on Wednesday, Sally and Ben meet on Thursday, etc.). CHARACTERS includes everything about the characters (duh): ages, what they look like, relationships, family, what they want, etc. CUTS is the file I store all my wrong turns and scenes that don't work, just in case I can use them later. I also sometimes use a legal pad to brainstorm ideas and think through different scenarios. Something about having a pen in my hand makes me think differently than when I'm typing. I don't know why. It helps that pretty much everything is on my PC so I don't have to deal with a messy desk or hauling lots of notes around. Naturally, I have all this information backed up and even carry it around with me on a keychain flash memory drive.

You're stranded on a deserted island and can take only one person, one animal and one book with you. What choices would you make and why?

What? No food?!?!? The person would be my best friend, Lisa, because she keeps me entertained and we can laugh at just about anything. She'd also make an excellent hunter and gatherer. The animal would be my cat MacArthur. Unconditional love in spades! And the book (this is really a tough choice!) would be Watchers by Dean Koontz. It's got everything: romance, action, science-fiction, cute dog, monster, great characters, great writing. I could easily read that book over and over again.

 

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An Interview with:
Teagan Oliver, Romantic Suspense Author

www.teaganoliver.com

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up on the coast of Maine in one of those picturesque fishing villages that you see on postcards and calendars. The great thing about a small community is that it's like a stew pot. There are a ton of different flavors of characters that are set to simmer and when a little heat or conflict is thrown into the pot... watch out. The bad side is that there isn't anything that you do that someone doesn't know about... It made it very hard to stay out of mischief. But the wealth of experiences have led to my writing.

How long did you write before you received "The Call?"
The easy answer would be that I wrote for 12 years before the call. But if you count that I had two kids along the way I would say that the true answer would be that I wrote with the purpose of being published for about six years. When I finally did sell I sold two books within six months and the great thing was that they were both complete when I sold.

What advice would you offer unpublished authors?
Pay your dues... as corny as it sounds don't beat yourself up if you don't sell that first book you write. Very few authors do sell their first books and there is something to be said for persistence and taking the time to learn your craft. Without a polished, complete manuscript you don't have much chance of selling it. The other piece of advice is to get your behind in your writing chair. You need to find the time to write... and find the time that works the best for you. I worked for seven years from 3-11 and I wrote most times after I got home at 11. I also got really good at writing on my breaks and lunches. 

Tell us about your writing schedule and how you keep motivated? For me, my best writing time is at night. I work full time (days now) I will usually start working on my writing after the dinner dishes are done and the kids are getting ready for bed. I'll work into the night and depending on my sleep deprivation level I can usually get quite a lot done. As for staying motivated? This is a constant battle, but I when I feel it flagging it is usually because my patience with the storyline or something in the story is off... then I'll sit down with a book like the Writer's Journey from Christopher Vogel and try to work through whatever is wrong. Sometimes it happens right away and sometimes you just have to keep slogging through until it gets better.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how do you handle criticism? I don't belong to a formal critique group. I do have a selective group of friends who read my work and offer honest feedback and I do the same for them. It doesn't bother me when they tell me that something isn't working because I trust them. I also have a fairly optimistic attitude... I was born with it and that helps when you get one too many rejections in a row.  

How do you keep track of your story: note cards, graphs, etc? I lose notecards and graphs don't always work out for me the way that they should. I guess I just see things in a different way than others. But what I do try to do is keep track of my writing through a great excel worksheet that was given to me by Donna Caubarreaux. It not only keeps track of pages, but it keeps track of any queries that I send or even any promotional items that I send out.

You're stranded on a deserted island and can take only one person, one animal and one book with you. What choices would you make and why? Wow, this is a tough one! Let's see... I guess the person would have to be my husband since I don't cook and I can only live so long on coconuts. The animal would have to be my 19 year old cat named Moose because he has been with me for so long that he's my first kid and the book would be the one that I was working on so that I had something to pass the time.  

Tell a little about your future publications and what you're working on now.
For now, I am in between releases. Obsidian, my romantic suspense from Five Star was released in January. My second release is a sweet Cinderella type story from Wings called The Three Truths of Katie Talmadge will be out in July. In the meantime, I have more Irishmen who are storming the pages of my latest books and even an modern Welsh Warrior with an ancient past that keeps haunting him.  

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

Let's see. I taught school for many years, but now I work only three mornings a week doing special education testing for the local school district. My husband and I live in the Mid-Coast area of Maine with our dog, a big black mutt with a gentle soul. She likes to sleep next to me when I write. I started writing seriously for publication with children's stories. A correspondence course taught me the basics of fiction writing as well as the discipline of choosing words carefully. I had one young adult novel published as an e-book and then decided to write what I like to read, romantic suspense. I had many rejections until my third manuscript was published by Silhouette Books. Dangerous Attraction won the Golden Leaf award for Best First Book and the Lories award for Best New Author. My fourth for Silhouette, Breaking All the Rules, will be released in February. When I'm not making up stories or reading them, I enjoy walking the dog, sailing, gardening, and travel.

How long did you write before you received "The Call?"

If I don't count the years of writing children's fiction, it was about five years. The first chapter of the manuscript that became Dangerous Attraction finaled in five contests in 1998. The editor who finally bought it was the final judge in one of them. She wrote a note on the chapter's last page requesting the full manuscript. The rest is history.

What advice would you offer unpublished authors?

My advice is to hone your craft. Learn as much as you can about what elements make a good story. Study your favorite writers and what it is that brings you back to them. And write every day. Study the market so you know what types of books are issued by the various publishing houses and lines. When you submit to publishing houses, don't give up when you receive rejections. If an editor makes comments and suggestions, that's a "good" rejection. Pay attention to those suggestions and keep revising and keep writing. Hang in there. Getting published is often the result of hard work, persistence, and luck, not just talent.

Tell us about your writing schedule and how you keep motivated?

I try to write every day, at least Monday to Friday. Four hours at a stretch in the morning or afternoon is a good schedule for me, with time out to walk the dog or go to the gym. Keeping motivated is usually not difficult. My stories keep nagging to be written. When I do procrastinate, I have one trick to keep me moving ahead. It's a grid of the book's total number of pages, divided into tens. When I finish a square of ten pages, I shade that in. This method seems silly, but it's satisfying to see that shading move from page 10 to page 120, where I am right now, and on to page 300. I also keep track on the same grid how many pages I write each week.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how do you handle criticism?

I have belonged to critique groups both in person and on-line since beginning to write. After several years of critiquing, I can perceive which comments to work with and which to let go. If more than one person picks up on confusing wording or a plot hole or a characterization inconsistency, I know I need to work on that.

How do you keep track of your story: note cards, graphs, etc?

Funny you should ask. I'm what Deb Dixon calls a "propeller head"-a left-brained plotter and organizer. I have note cards, character and plotting charts, a chapter chart, and the book progress tracker I mentioned before. All of these are on my PC, so I can reproduce them for each book.

You're stranded on a deserted island and can take only one person, one animal and one book with you. What choices would you make and why?

The person and animal are easy. My husband, because he's handy and my best friend and hero. Then I'd have to take the dog because we couldn't leave her behind. For a book, I'd take a volume of Shakespeare's plays. He has it all-romance, mystery, comedy, drama, tragedy-and you can read his work over and over.

You mentioned earlier your next release. Tell a little about your future publications and what you're working on now.

Breaking All the Rules is the third in my series about the men and women of ATSA, the Anti-Terrorism Security Agency. Bad-boy operative Simon Byrne appeared as a secondary character in two previous books, and readers have asked for his story. To bring down an international criminal, Simon must work with a woman from his past. Janna is his opposite, a by-the-book geek, and a troubled woman with a dark secret only Simon can help her with. The next book in the series will be released in August, Deadly Memories. The operative hero and the beautiful American tourist he's protecting go on the run in Italy, from Venice to Tuscany. My current project will be the last book in the ATSA series-at least for now. "Royal Temptation," my working title, is set in England and features a Middle-Eastern princess whose younger brother has been kidnapped by a terrorist and the ATSA operative who first taught her about love.

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An Interview with:

Lina Gardiner, Paranormal Author

www.linagardiner.com

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I worked as an Administrative Assistant for the Department of Agriculture for years, and retired early, last year. I have two beautiful children, a son and a daughter, and a very supportive husband, who is quite proud of the fact that Iím published.  

How long did you write before you received "The Call?"

Iíve always wanted to write.  I dabbled and took creative writing courses, but didnít dive into it seriously until 2000.  I hadnít even finished a book until then.  That first year I wrote three full-length manuscripts (romantic Suspense).   Since then Iíve written 7 fulls and several partials.

What advice would you offer unpublished authors?   

Donít ever give up.  Never let anyone dissuade you from believing in yourself.  If you really have what it takes to be a writer, no one can take that dream away from you. For myself, my aim is to always improve my writing. Iím not one of those people who can read a ďhow-toĒ book and grasp the more abstract concepts right away. Voice, smooth dialogue, scene and sequel. Occasionally, I pick one element of writing and focus on it intensely. When it came to dialogue, I read about writing better dialogue, highlighted good dialogue in my favorite books, listened to dialogue on television. Anything dialogue related was my focus until I felt more comfortable with it. Same thing with narrative, scenery, etc. Thereís something to be said for the satisfaction of the ďAHAĒ moment when the concept crystallizes. The harder I have to work for it, the more satisfaction I get when I feel Iíve learned to do it better.

Tell us about your writing schedule and how you keep motivated?

I try to write a minimum of 5 pages a day, and if I donít write, I at least try to do revisions. Nothing motivates me more than getting together with my writer friends and talking shop!  I love it. I usually come home invigorated and anxious to write.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how do you handle criticism?

Yes, I belong to a great critique group.  We used to work on each othersí manuscripts a lot more often, before the majority of us got published. We still do if someone wants a critique, but for the most part, we work on our own. The safety net is still there, though, all we have to do is ask. 

Everyone in the group says I handle criticism the best. I always look for something of benefit in criticism and do my best to learn from it. For the most part, rejections donít bother me as much as they do some writers Ė I keep thinking of them as another notch in my belt. The lumps you have to earn to make it as a writer.

How do you keep track of your story: note cards, graphs, etc?

I used to be a pantser for the most part.  Iíd write a 2-5 page synopsis, but that was about it.  When I listened to the Character Grid information on the RWA National Tapes, I found a fabulous tool and I love it. It really is a great way to make sure all of the necessary elements are in your story.

You're stranded on a deserted island and can take only one person, one animal and one book with you. What choices would you make and why?

Iíd take my husband, a chicken (for eggs) <G> and a survival guide. Okay, I know Iím taking that too literally, LOL  --  I watch Survivor and Iím a fan. Can I bring some flint?  Fishhook earrings? Iíd take my husband, a dog, and Tom Sawyer.

Tell a little about your future publications and what you're working on now.

Before my first book ďGrave IllusionsĒ even hit the shelves my editor offered me a series, so Iím working on book two of the Jess Vandermire Vampire Hunter Books. Iíve also got a requested proposal at Harlequin Nocturne right now (another series).  Iíve still got three or four romantic suspenses that Iíd like to resubmit some time.  But not until Iím finished with the two Iím working on right now.

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An Interview with:

Avon Author, Cindy Kirk

www.cindykirk.com

How long did you write before you received "The Call?"

I started writing in January of 1996 after taking a class that fall at the local community college on "How to Write a Romance Novel."  Once I mastered the basics of writing, my main problem was making my characters come alive.  When I switched to writing inspiration romance on my fifth book, it suddenly all came together.  I sold on June 17th, 1999 at approximately 3:28 in the afternoon.  The book that sold--originally entitled "Faith on a Harley"-- was released as Unforgettable Faith in May of 2000.  It had won a contest and the first prize was a critique by Patience Smith at Silhouette.  She not only read and critiqued the manuscript, she bought the book for the Love Inspired line.  I later revised the fourth book I'd written and that became my third sale.  Rewriting that one I discovered it often takes more time to revise something old than it does to write something new....so I didn't go back to the other three.  

What advice would you offer unpublished authors?

Decide how much you really want to pursue publication.  If it's important to you, then figure out a way to make it happen.  Hone your craft by attending workshops, retreats and conferences...or taking online classes.  Find some knowledgeable authors to critique your work.  Enter contests to get feedback.   Most importantly, make writing a priority in your life. 

Tell us about your writing schedule and how you keep motivated?

I still work full time at a day job, so I write all my new pages on Saturday (when I'm the most mentally refreshed)  My goal is twenty new pages.  I write them in longhand, then on Sunday I key them in and edit them as I go.  I then print them off and revise continuously throughout the week.  I have two critique partners and we meet weekly.  By Friday, I should be done with that chapter and ready to write some new pages on Saturday.  If I have copy edits or other things to do on a manuscript that has currently been submitted, I fit them in...but that doesn't change my twenty page goal for that week. 

I think it's easy to stay motivated when you're seeing results....the pages are getting written and the story is moving forward.

Do you belong to a critique group?

Yes, I have two critique partners.  I meet with them separately.   We email the current week's work the night before so it can be printed off and gone through before we meet. When going through the material, we look for everything from sentence structure and repeated words to inconsistent characterization and plot problems.   

If so, how do you handle criticism?

I prefer to think of it as "constructive comments"....and I say bring those comments on.  I'd rather have my CP's draw my attention to something than the editor.  We make a conscious effort to also make positive comments.

How do you keep track of your story: note cards, graphs, etc?

In my head.  I'm a pantzer, not a plotter.  I have to come up with a  synopsis to sell on proposal but my books rarely end the way I've indicated in the synopsis.  

You're stranded on a deserted island and can take only one person, one animal and one book with you. What choices would you make and why?

Wow, this is a hard one.  I think I'd take some person who was a survivalist since I consider staying at Motel 6 to be camping and I wouldn't be much help.  If I had to take one animal, I'd probably take a cow...for the milk and because I think they're sweet.  The book?  Hmmm, probably some book on natural first aid techniques.  Can you tell I'm a practical person <g>  Though I'd love to take a novel, I could entertain myself with all the stories in my head.

Tell a little about your future publications and what you're working on now.

My first book for Avon, When She Was Bad, is on the shelves now!  Woo-hoo, finally it's out!!

In August 2007, The Tycoon's Son, will be released. It's part of Harlequin's Mediterranean Night's continuity (12 books with a story thread that goes through all of them.  But the book stands on its own so if you don't want to read any of the others, you won't feel like you're missing anything.

In May 2008, One Night Stand will be out.  This book brings back Marcee, the secondary character from When She Was Bad, and gives her a book of her own.  

Right now I'm revising some chapters for a proposal for a Silhouette Special Edition and then I'll move on to my next proposal for Avon.

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An Interview with:

Berkley Author, Annette Blair

Bestselling Bewitching Comedy

www.annetteblair.com

Tell us a little about yourself.

After 21 years as a Development Director at a New England Prep school, I retired so that I could play hooky and do what I love most, write to my heart's content.

How long did you write before you received "The Call?"

I began writing at the beginning of 1988 and made my first sale, three novels, in June of 1998.

What advice would you offer unpublished authors?

Obviously from my own experience, I would tell them never to give up.  Keep writing and keep submitting.  If you don't, you'll never sell.

Tell us about your writing schedule and how you keep motivated?

 

I write every day, unless a family event or the business of writing gets in the way.  When I'm really "in" the story, I can write for 16 to 18 hours a day.  I've written for as long as 24 hours nonstop.  Writing is the only thing I can do that will cause me to forget to eat.  I'll sleep a few hours then keep going, because that story's in my head like a horse at the gate before a race, anxious to hit the track.  My story is anxious to make it onto paper.  I was the same when I was unpublished, but now deadlines are an added incentive.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how do you handle criticism?

I don't belong to a critique group, because of time constraints.  I do a lot of brainstorming and always come out with something brilliant that I'm excited about.  I handle constructive criticism well.  I always want to make my work better.

How do you keep track of your story: note cards, graphs, etc?

I use storymapping sheets that I designed on a data base, index cards, a pad of paper assigned to that book for random notes, and a clear plastic accordian folder with the title of the book on the front to keep it all in.

You're stranded on a deserted island and can take only one person, one animal and one book with you. What choices would you make and why?

What no paper and pens?  Yikes!  One person: my husband.  He's my favorite person to go anywhere with.  One animal: A cow pregnant with twins, hopefully a male and female, to keep us eating for a while.  One book: The complete works of Nora Roberts. :)

Tell a little about your future publications and what you're working on now.

My next contemporary romantic comedy release, SEX AND THE PSYCHIC WITCH, the first in my Triplet Witch Trilogy, is out this month, August 2007.  The second triplet's story, GONE WITH THE WITCH, will be released in May 2008.  I'm currently working on the third triplet's story, tentatively titled, IT HAPPENED ONE WITCH, with a release date to be announced.  

After that I'm writing two concurrent series: 

One is a series of mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime about an amateur sleuth, Maddy (Madeira) Cutler, who gets psychic vibes snapshots from vintage clothes that help her solve crimes.  The first story will revolve around an antique wedding dress and her sister's wedding.  We have no series title or release dates yet.

The other is another series of contemporary romantic comedies about witches for Berkley Sensation. 

 

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