Q: How did you get started writing?
A: I started writing stories when I was little. I even won a blue ribbon at the Santa Clara County Fair for a book about a ladybug when I was in third grade! But the reality is that I tried to focus on my writing as something I wanted to do for a job, so I worked at becoming a journalist (not realizing that I really wanted to write fiction). I wrote for the jr. high and high school newspaper, becoming News Editor and Editor n’ Chief. I worked for the daily newspaper in town, then went to college and wrote for the college paper and started taking Public Relations writing courses. I wrote press releases and articles for the alumni magazine. I wrote a 70-page long honor’s thesis. Once I graduated I started writing for national magazines like Cat Fancy. In my senior year in high school I had started with a scene I could see vividly in my head and wrote a dozen or so pages about it and then tucked it away. During my first few years in college I tried a Writer’s Digest course and got frustrated because I hadn’t developed a thick enough writing skin to understand what a good critique was and how to use it. It wasn’t until I joined Romance Writers of America in 1993 that I got a clue what I was really trying to do–write romantic fiction. It took me three years to train myself to easily jump out of the journalist mode of writing and into the fiction mode of writing. Both require very different skills. One tells and the other shows. One is objective and the other is completely subjective to the characters involved.
Q: Who is your favorite author?
A: Good question. I like so many authors that it’s difficult to pick just one. When I want to read something sassy that makes me laugh out loud I like Janet Evanovich. When I want fast-paced romantic suspense, Cherry Adair. For a tweak of science fiction and action, James Rollins. For the perfect regency-set historical, Julia Quinn or Kathryn Caskie.
Q: What do you like to read?
A: Everything! I grew up an avid reader, despite being dyslexic and I love to learn new things, so I often read for pleasure and for research.
Q: What book inspired you in a love of reading?
A: Probably The Tower of Geburah. My mom always read out loud to us and she would give each of the characters a different voice. It was completely captivating. This book in particular was interesting because there were three kids and it had a fantasty element to it that was just as addictive to me then as Harry Potter books are to kids now.
Q: What is your typical day like?
A: I wish I had a typical day! Honestly it varies that much. Usually I’m up by 5:30 or 6:00 to work during the week and work until 3 pm when the kids get home from school. Sometimes I’ll wait until every one goes to bed and do my draft writing when the house is quite and the phone isn’t ringing and save my editing for during the day where I don’t have to go in and out of my writing state. Since I work a day job from home, I often have to juggle multiple things at once. I’ll write in 15 min. snatches or give myself an hour before tackling other projects to do with the book, like research or marketing.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: Everywhere! Honestly, I had a hairdresser ask me that once and I made up a story on the spot about a hairdresser who uses a new product on her clients with the unintentional result that it makes them ultra intelligent, the problem is she uses it on one client who becomes an evil genius and tries to take over the world and she is the only one who can stop him… I swear writer’s brains are just wired differently. It’s not that we can’t come up with a story, it’s picking which one to write next and shutting out the stories clamoring for attention long enough to finish a full book.
Q: What is your writing process like?
A: I tend to be a plotter. Often a line of dialogue or a scene will spark off the book and then I plot it out on a large board with a grid of squares. Each square is a chapter. Then I think of the story and the characters and what they are likely to do and jot down every scene I know has to happen. Once I have those on sticky notes, I tack them in the appropriate square and see where I’m missing things. Then I’ll start writing. Usually I get to about page 100 before I have to go back and retweak things to make everything come together. It often takes me that long to really understand my characters. Once I write a draft, I’ll probably edit it a dozen times in different ways to get it to where I will send it out. Then comes the other parts of writing a book, edits from the editor, marketing, updates to websites, scheduling interviews and signings, creating promotional material. There’s a lot to do that’s not about the book!
Q: You write a lot of different things, what do you like to write most?
Right now it's steampunks and paranormals. I love the research and love being in another time and I love the creativity paranormal and steampunk offer. I get to create the most wild inventions for my characters! Sometimes I like the character so much I just want to hang out with him or her. It all depends. I'm a gemini, so I get bored if I only have one thing to do at a time!
Q: How much do you make?
A: More than a dishwasher and less than a surgeon!
Q: How can I get started?
A: Write down your ideas and start poking around on the web. You’ll find there are dozens of sites with free how-to articles to help you get going. Once you’ve got a story started, consider finding a writing group that can help you along like Romance Writers of America, or Mystery Writers of America. You can also check out the how-to section in your library for books like How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James Frey to get the basics. Then keep writing. You can’t sell the book until you finish the book! Once you finish a book, you can look for an agent at places like AgentQuery.com. Then sit your butt in the chair and write some more!
Q. How did you find your agent / who is your agent?
A. I did it the old fashioned way, sending out query letters to agents and pitching them at writing conferences. I amassed a half a foot thick rejection file of single page replies before I got my first agent. Don't give up! Every no is closer to the yes you are looking for. My current agent is Holly Root with Root Literary. She's amazing! Again, if you are looking for an agent, start with AgenyQuery.com and you'll find what agents are looking for in the query and how they prefer to be contacted.