I recently participated in Love Romances Cafe's Publisher Day for Musa Publishing. There was a question and answer section of the day. I've reproduced some of the questions and my answers below.
How long have you been writing? What inspired you to pick the pen up one day and create characters that capture the imagination?
I've been writing since at least 6th grade, and that's a long time ago. I stopped writing after high school and didn't start writing fiction again until about 12 years ago. I'd had a very vivid dream and woke my poor husband up to tell him about it. I knew I had to get the scene on paper before I forgot it forever. Once I did that, I needed to figure out what happened before and the conclusion.
What influenced you to get published? How long did it take for your first book to get published?
I wanted to get published to share the characters I loved so much with other people. My first published short story was in October, 2011. Musa will be publishing my first books in 2012.
What makes your characters so vulnerable yet strong? Can you describe them to us?
I try to show that my characters are as flawed as the rest of us. They have some real strengths as well as weaknesses and blind spots. In an upcoming story from Musa, Sea Serpent's Tale, one of my characters is a sea dragon. She destroys ships and the men who sail them because hundreds of years earlier a mage sailed into her waters and slaughtered her children. Needless to say, it would be easy to make her a monster. In this story, however, she spares the ship because it has a child on board. She befriends the child. To find out what happens next, you'll have to wait until Musa releases the story.
What do you do when characters stop talking to you when writing?
I've been lucky enough not to have this happen often. Usually, it means I've lost the story thread. I need to stop forcing words onto the page. I'll then try to visualize the scene and let the characters move about without my overt interference. So far, the technique’s worked, and I've been able to convince the characters to start talking to me again.
What about the heroines for these strong determined heroes? What makes them equal to the heroes and capture the heart of one of these alpha males?
I usually start with the heroine and try to ensure the hero is good enough to capture her heart. My heroines are experts in at least one area and very self-sufficient. The hero has to provide her with some trait or characteristic she needs, and vice versa.
When a new book comes out, have you ever been nervous over readers’ reactions to it? How much does reader reaction mean to you as an author? What do you hope readers get from your books?
I get nervous about readers’ reactions when I send the story out to my beta readers. The nervousness doesn’t seem to stop. Obviously, I want readers to like the stories and care about the characters as much as I do. Reader reaction is very important, which is why I ask people whose opinion I trust to read the story before I submit it for publication. I hope my readers enjoy the time they spend with the characters and that the story stays with them.
What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both? Do you use mood music, candles, no noise, when you write?
I’m still playing with the writing process. Until about 2 years ago, I was completely a “pantser” or discovery writer. I usually started with a character, idea or scene and go from there. The down side was that I spent a lot of time re-writing to find the story. Then I tried outlining “everything” and found that writing became a chore. I’d done all the discovering and writing the story didn’t bring me joy. Lately, I’ve been outlining the story high points and conflict and discovery writing the rest. It seems to be a good balance for me. I have a rough outline, which keeps me from falling down the rabbit hole, but I have enough room to go off the path if a better road to the conclusion presents itself.
I need noise in the background to write. Generally, I’ll have the music playing. Sometimes I will have the TV on. Experience has shown that if the TV is on, it needs to be set to something I’ve seen before otherwise the TV will win the ADD tug-of-war and no writing will get done.
What do you feel is the most important aspect for all new authors to remember when writing or creating their own stories? Any advice for aspiring authors?
Keep writing, and learn to effectively use critiques. Even if you only manage a page a day (about 250 words), you need to write. The story won’t get written if you don’t spend the BIS (Butt in Seat) time.
Critiques are your friend. Try not to get defensive when someone points out an issue they see with what you’ve written. Breathe deeply, and then look at the comments with a more dispassionate eye. If more than one reviewer/ beta reader points out an issue, they probably are onto something. It might be time to go back to the story to address the issue.
What is on tap for the rest of 2012? Do you have other WIP’s you want to get published? Can we get a taste of what is to come from you in the future?
Musa has contracted for six of my short stories which should come out in three anthologies in 2012.I mentioned Sea Serpent’s Tale earlier in this post.
Three stories – Kalypso’s Song, Best Dressed and Obsessed, and Laurel Branches – are Greek Myth retellings. I’m working on a fourth retelling – Pythia in Training – that I hope Musa will offer a contract on when it’s complete.
In Lightning Strikes, Falcon must find a stolen horse before her wrongfully accused best friend is put to death for the crime.
Flashes of Life is an urban fantasy. Vonna is a psychic whose talent defies classification until she’s assigned to a murder investigation.
I’m also looking to sell my high fantasy novel, The King’s Falcon. Falcon, the main character in Lightning Strikes, has given up her life as a princess and become a spy. As the trusted agent of Queen Sabryna of Fayette, Falcon never lets her investigations get personal. Yet, when she is ordered to Fayette for an assignment, she’s drawn into a conflict that requires her skill as a princess and spy to resolve. Mordent, a sorcerer and lord, uses the wealth of Falcon’s realm to rebuild his own war torn country. When their lives collide, neither will ever be the same as their clash draws Falcon inescapably closer to her abandoned throne.
I’m also working on an urban fantasy, The Nocebo Effect, in which Vonna, from Flashes of Life, tracks a serial killer.