In The Mind of Nancy Herkness – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter and fabulous romance author,Nancy Herkness! Nancy will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, Sell Your Book, Not Your Sould: How to Write a Commercial Book of Your Heart, just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.

Please welcome Nancy!

How did you come up with the idea for the Whisper Horse series?

I grew up in a small town in the mountains of West Virginia, so that seemed a natural setting for my series. Thinking of my younger years reminded me of my pony Papoose, who was my constant companion back then. So I decided to put horses in my series. As I strolled down memory lane, I remembered telling Papoose all my troubles, especially when I was an angsty teenager. I always felt better after I did. That was where I got the idea that in my fictional town of Sanctuary, people find a special Whisper Horse who helps share their burdens.

What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy the first Whisper horse novel TAKE ME HOME?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I’ll have to ask her. LOL! I do remember her mentioning she was blown away by the pacing and the emotional depth. She loved the payoff of Claire and Tim’s first kiss after all the build-up.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing your most recent release THE PLACE I BELONG (coming June 3rd)?

I hated how much I had to make my chef hero Adam Bosch suffer. He’s a recovering alcoholic so he had a dark road to walk before he could believe himself worthy of Hannah and Matt’s love.

How much research did you conduct for THE PLACE I BELONG and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?

My research encompassed three major elements: veterinary medicine, alcoholism, and being a chef. Quite a mix! Researching what it was like to be an executive chef was the most fun. I was forced—forced!—to eat at the fabulous Barcelona Wine Bar in Greenwich, CT, where my critique partner’s son is the area director. I sat at the chef’s table and peppered the poor head chef with question after question as he was handling all the crises of a busy night’s business while serving me exquisite food. I was so stuffed by the end of the night that I practically rolled home.

Why did you decide to write contemporary romance?

While I love reading historical romance, I like the edge that contemporary romance offers. And I’m much too lazy to do all the research required to be historically accurate.

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I pants. I start with the two main characters, their conflicts both internal and external, and an ending scene. I think about those three elements a lot before I write a single word. Then I sit down at the computer, type Chapter 1, and go straight through from there. Although it sounds very logical and efficient, I take many detours and sometimes get lost which is why it requires a good nine months for me to write a full-length novel.

Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?

Chocolate, a thesaurus, and walking the dogs. Chocolate is self-explanatory. The thesaurus is a necessity because my mental retrieval system is not what it used to be; I know there’s a perfect word for my sentence but I have to see it to remember it. I walk the dogs to get my brain unblocked. Literal forward motion seems to help when I can’t figure out what comes next. Physical movement breaks through the psychological barrier.

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

My first draft is very clean, but as my critique partners will tell you, I generally need to amp up the conflict because, as I mentioned in question 3, I am soft-hearted when it comes to my characters. Those conflicts are what generally gets added during revisions.

How do you make time to write?

When I had children at home, I wrote every morning right after I dropped them off at school. Now that my daughter and son are both out on their own, I appear to have more time to write, but feel like I have less. I blame Facebook.

When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

Writers are control freaks so I am almost always in the driver’s seat. However, there are a few wonderful moments when a character shows some new facet of himself or herself I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes that takes the plot in a new direction. Those are gifts from the Muse and to be honored.

Who has had the most influence on your writing?

My college creative writing teachers, who were all working poets. They showed me how to handle criticism constructively and without taking it personally. They also taught me that it doesn’t matter what I think I said; it only matters what the reader thinks I said.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Read both in your genre and outside it. Absorb the structure of story into your bones so it comes to you without conscious thought. When you set out on the first draft, have fun and write it just for yourself. You can think about pleasing editors, agents, and readers when you do the revisions. Finish the book; it’s amazing how many people don’t. Then write another one. If you want to succeed as a published author, you have to be able to produce good books regularly.

Why did you decide to become a romance author?

I fell in love with Mr. Rochester in JANE EYRE at an early age, then moved on to Georgette Heyer and Kathleen Woodiwiss. Romance has always been my comfort read. When I commuted to New York City, I read romance on the PATH train, running through all my favorite authors rapidly and finding it difficult to discover more good romances. So I decided I would write the kind of romance that I wanted to read.

Would you tell us your story of getting “the call?”

I was in the car with my husband and two children, driving south to celebrate Thanksgiving with my extended family when my cell phone rang.
Back then, only the babysitter called my cell so I had to really dig to the bottom of my pocketbook to find it. When I answered, I was shocked to hear my agent’s voice. She told me Berkley wanted to buy A BRIDGE TO LOVE. I have no idea what I said in return, but after I got off the phone, there was a lot of “I can’t believe it!” and hyperventilating. My children were young and had no idea why mommy was behaving so oddly. It was a grand Thanksgiving.

What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?

Walking into my local Barnes and Noble and seeing my book on the shelf was a major thrill. It made the whole publishing experience concrete. My husband took a photo of me standing next to my book right before a Barnes and Noble clerk told us photography was not allowed in the store. To this day, that rule puzzles me.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?

Dancing with the New York City Ballet. (If only.)

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?

That publishing is a strange combination of commerce and art. You have to write great books that are also commercially viable. I’m giving a workshop called “Sell Your Book, Not Your Soul” about combining these two aspects of publishing because that was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.

With so many changes in publishing over the past year, where do you see the future of publishing going?

If only I had a crystal ball! I think more and more books will be published, by publishers large and small and by authors themselves. Therefore, the name of the game will become that awful word “discoverability”. Anyone who figures out how to make their books stand out from the crowd will be successful. So I’m always trying to imagine what that amazing new marketing idea will be, because it changes all the time.

Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

A Kindle Paperwhite. I love it because I can enlarge the print and read easily after a long day at the computer.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?

I snorkeled with sea lions, penguins, and hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos. The coldest and scariest thing I’ve ever done is fall out of the raft while whitewater rafting in Alaska. I’m not really an adventurous person, so those two situations were way out of my usual comfort zone.

Tell us your latest news.

My second Whisper Horse novel COUNTRY ROADS was nominated for a RITA™ award! Right after that, I signed a two-book deal with my publisher Montlake Romance for a new series about three sexy billionaires who meet in an exclusive New York Club and make a wager about finding true love. It was a good couple of weeks!

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite writing quote is by Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Where do you write?

I write in a small room on the third floor of my house, right up under the eaves. I call it my garret, as in artists starving in their garrets. It has a lovely arched window that looks out over my backyard. The rest of the room is a mess.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing all my life, but I date my writing career as beginning the year I sold A BRIDGE TO LOVE, so that would be 2001. It was published in 2003. Boy, was that a long wait!

If you were a millionaire would you still write?

It’s a terrible addiction.

Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? 

Favorite color: Purple, it’s regal.

Favorite number: I’m a writer so I have favorite words, not numbers.

Favorite Actor: Tommy Lee Jones.

Favorite Actress: Cate Blanchett.

Wine or liquor? Champagne.

Tea or coffee? Peppermint tea.

Decaf or caffeinated? Decaf.

Boxers or briefs? Boxer briefs.

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate, preferably dark.

Donald Duck or Goofy? Never been a classic Disney cartoon fan.

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? Frozen.

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Hugh Jackman.

Want to meet or attend Nancy’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register! 

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In The Mind of Leigh Duncan – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter and fabulous romance author, Leigh Duncan!

Leigh will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, A Walk in the Plot, just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.

Please welcome Leigh!

How did you come up with the idea for The Bull Rider’s Family?

A number of factors came together when I started working on The Bull Rider’s Family.  First, readers loved, loved, loved Rancher’s Son, and I received quite a few emails and letters asking for more stories set on the Circle P, the ranch Seth Judd managed. At the same time, my editor wanted me to stretch a little by writing a series. In Rancher’s Son I’d given Seth and his wife, Doris, five grown sons. At the time, I didn’t know why that was important, but I fell in love with these five tall, dark-haired former rodeo stars the moment they appeared on the page at their father’s funeral.  And I knew, starting with Colt, they each deserved to find love and begin new lives on the spread their family had ranched for four generations. 

How long did it take you to write The Bull Rider’s Family?

According to my contract, I should have 4 months to write each book.  But edits on the previous book eat into that…a bit.

What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?

The Bull Rider’s Family combines many of the key ingredients our readers expect to find in Harlequin American Romances.  It’s a family-centered story, set in a small town (or, in this case, on a ranch), and—bonus!!—it features hunky cowboys.

I love hunky cowboys. <g> What was the most difficult aspect of writing The Bull Rider’s Family?

Getting the details right, I guess.  Which is why the answer to the next question was so important.

How much research did you conduct for the Glades County Cowboys series and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?

I’ve lived in Florida most of my life, so I already knew a lot about the Sunshine State.  But working on Rancher’s Son and the three (so far) books in the Glades County Cowboys series meant learning more about cattle ranching.  Did you know Florida is the 3rd largest beef-producing state east of the Mississippi?  Neither did I, when I started Rancher’s Son.  Fortunately, my cousin, Paula Crews, owns a ranch in South Florida.  Visiting her, listening to her stories and spending time caring for her cattle, that was by far the most interesting—and best—research I did for The Bull Rider’s Family.

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I never was much of a Sunday driver. I’ve always had a destination in mind before I slipped behind the wheel.  I approach writing in much the same way.  Before I open my laptop, I break out character and outline sheets.  I know all the major plot points, the twists and turns when I start working on that first scene. There are still surprises.  A hero who finds his life purpose in helping a kid play baseball.  A heroine who chooses what’s best for her children over her new love.  Enough surprises to keep me and, I hope, the readers, turning the pages.

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

One of the great things about writing for Harlequin is their fantastic editorial staff.  Each book goes through at least three edits:  a revision, which addresses the broad-stroke problems, like a black moment that really isn’t; a line-and-copy edit which takes a very close look at word choices, sentence structure and flow;  and a final pass, called Author Alterations, to catch any errors that crept in or got overlooked during the previous edits.

How do you make time to write?

When I worked full-time and had children at home, I’d set the alarm for four a.m. and write for a couple of hours before the rest of the house stirred.  Once my kids were out on their own and I didn’t have to work outside the home, I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be to carve out writing time.  It seemed like everyone expected me to run their errands since I wasn’t “working.”  Fortunately, I have a great group of writing friends—Roxanne St. Claire, Kristen Painter and Lara Santiago—and we were all in the same situation.  Together, we started Writers Camp.  We meet three or four times a week at each other’s dining room tables.  There are rules!  No cell phones, email or on-line shopping.  No lunch until everyone at the table has written 1000 words. We routinely work until 5 each day and have produced more than 30 published books in the past three years.  No matter what your circumstances, it takes dedication to be a writer. 

What advice do you have for other writers?

Soooo much advice.  First, get serious about writing as early as you possibly can.  Don’t wait until your kids are in school…or are grown…or you have more time.  Like with any career, it can take years to build a successful track record and following in writing. Every year you let slip by without finishing your book is a year you can’t get back. Don’t. Wait.

At the same time, don’t be in too great a hurry to publish.  Learn the craft. Enter contests.  Get feedback.  Don’t assume the editor who rejected your work is off her rocker and self-pub, not until you’ve take the time to learn the craft. Rushing to publish a story before every word sparkles only hurts you as a writer.

Beautiful advice. What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?

There are so many “firsts” after you sign your first contract.  Your first book signing—mine was at Turn The Page Books with Nora Roberts! The first time you see your book on the shelves—hubby took pictures!  Your first fan mail. The first time you win a contest as a published author.  Recently, I was buying some cookie mix at a craft fair, and the owners of the booth recognized my name.  Now, that was the most exciting moment I’ve had in a long time. 

How does your family feel about your career as a romance writer?

They are my most ardent supporters.

What books can we expect to see in the near future?

Look for The Bull Rider’s Family from Harlequin American Romance in May 2014.  This is the first book in the Glades County Cowboys series and takes readers back to the Circle P Ranch they first fell in love with in Rancher’s Son. The next book in this series, His Favorite Cowgirl will be available in October, followed by Rancher’s Lullaby next spring.   

With so many changes in publishing over the past year, where do you see the future of publishing going?

I think I’m pretty safe in predicting that, no matter what else changes, talented writers who take the time to learn the craft and perfect their work will find a publisher.

Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

I recently traded up from my dependable Nook to an Ipad Air. This way, I can have my Nook and Kindle, too, through apps.  

If you could have one special, supernatural power, what would it be?

Oh, I don’t think I’d like one! No skulking around as the Invisible Gal, listening in on conversations or reading the minds of those around me.  I’d probably hear or learn things I didn’t want to know.

I see your point, although in my 9-5, that’d make life easier! <g> What are you reading now?

I run the Romance Readers Circle at my local Barnes & Noble, and this month’s selection was Crazy Thing Called Love by Rita finalist Molly O’Keefe.  Loved it!

What is your favorite quote?

As a writer of women’s fiction, I might not save the world, but I might save one woman for one afternoon.   –Barbara Samuel

What’s your favorite place in the world to visit?

Wherever my children and my husband are.

Who’s on your auto-buy list for authors?

Roxanne St. Claire—I think I have everything she’s written

Kristen Painter—love her urban fantasy!

Lily Everett—she’s a great story teller

All the Harlequin American authors

Cat or dog person?

Dogs.  I don’t have one now, but wish I did.

Which actor and actress would you chose if one of your books were brought to film, and which book would that be?

One of the best days in planning a new book is the day I determine what the hero and heroine look like.  For me, that involves combing through photos of actors, actresses and celebrities until I find just the right “look.” Previous heroes have included Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey, Ian Somerhalder and Blake Shelton. 

Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? 

Favorite color: Green

Favorite number: Seven

Favorite Actor: Timothy Oliphant

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep

Wine or liquor? Wine, a dry red

Tea or coffee? Both

Decaf or caffeinated? AM or PM?

Boxers or briefs? They both have their good points

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate, unless it’s Haagen-Dazs

Donald Duck or Goofy? Goofy

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? Tangled

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Dr. McDreamy

Want to meet or attend Leigh’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register! 

Leigh Duncan

In The Mind of Julie Rowe – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter and fabulous romance author, Julie Rowe!

Julie will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, Taming Twitter, just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.

Please welcome Julie!

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I’m a cross between a plotter and a pantzer. I need to know key scenes and the conflict of the main characters before I begin writing. Sometimes I write sequentially, sometimes a great idea will occur to me in the middle of something else. I’ll stop to write that idea so I don’t lose it.

Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?

I free write first – so no editing – how it comes out is how it comes out. I edit later. I typically write dialogue and action first, then layer in description and emotion later.

How do you make time to write?

When my kids were small I’d write in 15 minute blocks, because that’s how much uninterrupted time I could get. Now I write in 30 to 60 minute blocks at various times throughout the day.

When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

I’m in control, but the characters talk to me a lot during the writing process – that includes edits too. They often complain if I’ve written something they decide is stupid or too real to be believed, because fiction has to be believable.

Have you had any “ah ha” moments as a writer?

My biggest “as ha” moment arrived when I realized I was asking the wrong question as I wrote. I asked “What next?”, when I should have been asking, “How any I make things worse?”

Amen! I’ve heard that’s the best thing for a book. Speaking of which, what advice do you have for other writers?

Persist. Write. Repeat until you reach your goals, then make new goals.

Why did you decide to become an author?

Decide? Ha! No one chooses to become a writer. Writing chooses you. 99% of writers I know write because they can’t stop themselves from writing.

What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story?

I hope they take away a satisfying emotional journey. I hope they learn something new about themselves through the story. I hope they put the book down feeling hope.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you knew before The Call?

I wish I knew how time consuming everything about writing that isn’t actual writing is. Marketing, promotion, conferences, swag, accounting all take an enormous amount of time. Social media sucks a lot of my writing time in a black hole somewhere.

Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

I have a kindle 3G. It’s about 4 years old now. I’d like to get a kindle paper white next. I have a Kobo tablet, but I don’t use it for reading much.

What makes a man attractive to you?

Attractive man = smart, funny, great smile, strong but gentle hands, mustache.

Remind me to show you a picture sometime of Mr. Stone and his throwback to the 70’s with the “stash.” What is your favorite quote?

You don’t concentrate on risks.  You concentrate on results.  No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done. – Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager.

How long have you been writing?

Since 1998 – wait, that long???

<LOL> Who’s on your auto-buy list for authors?

Nalini Singh, Thea Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Mercedes Lackey, Elizabeth Moon and Lee Child for sure.

All FABULOUS Authors. Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?   

Favorite color: Blue

Favorite number: 7

Favorite Actor: Johnny Depp

Favorite Actress: Jennifer Lawrence

Wine or liquor? Tea

Tea or coffee? Tea

Decaf or caffeinated? Both

Boxers or briefs? Who cares, they both come off.

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate

Donald Duck or Goofy? Goofy

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? Frozen

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Johnny Depp

Want to meet or attend Julie’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register! 

Julie_Rowe

In The Mind of Joanna Shupe – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter, NJRW member, Golden Heart winner, and all-around technical guru, Joanna Shupe!

Joanna will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, Tech Tips for Writers is just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.

Please welcome Joanna!

How did you come up with the idea for THE COURTESAN DUCHESS?

I love historicals set outside of England, and I also love Venice. So the first half of the book takes place there. The idea for me usually starts with the hero, and this book was no exception. I thought, “How naughty can I make my duke and still have readers care about him?” 

How long did it take you to write THE COURTESAN DUCHESS?

Four months for the first draft.  

What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?

The non-traditional setting was a part of it, and I think the naughtiness may have played a part.  

What was the most difficult aspect of writing THE COURTESAN DUCHESS?

This was the first book I sold and also the book that caught the attention of my agent. When I wrote it, I literally wrote the exact book I wanted to read with no thought to deadlines or marketability or reader response. This one is for me.

How much research did you conduct for THE COURTESAN DUCHESS and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?

Well, of course I researched courtesans of the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras. What fascinating ladies! Many were the rock stars of their day. Society ladies even copied their fashions and hair styles. 

Why did you decide to write historical romance?

I find historicals a bit more liberating in what I can get away with. I try to bring a little crazy-sauce to every book, something to surprise the reader with, and that is a bigger challenge in contemporaries, I think. Someday, I might try my hand at something else, however. 

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I try and plot the tent poles of the story before I write it. For me, it’s like acting—you have to know where to hit your marks on the stage before you go out. But other than that, I probably don’t have much plotted before I start writing. 

Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write? 

Scriviner is my friend. 

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

I think I write a fairly clean first draft. I always start out the day by editing what I wrote the previous day. That said I could tinker with a manuscript to DEATH. It’s never quite perfect enough, but at some point you have to let it go.

How do you make time to write?

I wake up at 5AM. There’s no other way for me to do it. I have a job and two small kids. By 8:30 pm, I’m wiped out.

When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

Me. I can beat them into submission when necessary. 

Ha! Nice! Would you tell us your story of getting “the call?”

My agent, Laura Bradford, called me early on a Monday morning to offer representation. I was floored. I had sent her the manuscript over the weekend and never expected to hear so soon. As soon as I hung up the phone, I wanted to scream and call all my critique partners so we could squee together…and then my youngest daughter puked all over the couch. Needless to say, squeeing was postponed for several days.

What books can we expect to see in the near future?

My first book, THE COURTESAN DUCHESS, comes out on April 7, 2015. THE HARLOT COUNTESS comes out in May, 2015. And THE LADY HELLION comes out in June, 2015.

What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story?

I want the books to be pure escapism. I want them to be a fast-paced thrill ride at an amusement park.  

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?

Always be writing. When Nora Roberts spoke to the Golden Heart finalists last year, she said, “So you wrote one great manuscript. That’s nice. What are you going to do next?” I’m paraphrasing her words, but the sentiment is the same: Don’t pat yourself on the back for too long. Get back to work.

Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?   

Favorite color: Purple

Favorite number: 13

Favorite Actor: Bill Murray

Favorite Actress: Bette Davis

Wine or liquor? Wine, but happiest with a beer

Tea or coffee? Coffee

Decaf or caffeinated? Caffeinated

Boxers or briefs? Why wasn’t commando an option? (LOL! Nice, I’ll have to fix that)

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate

Donald Duck or Goofy? Neither! Both creep me out.

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? I love Flynn Rider, but I have to say Frozen because I have two little girls who remind me of Elsa and Anna.

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Of the two, I would say Channing because he’s got some serious dance moves. And he looks good in a thong. (Amen!)

Want to meet or attend Joanna’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register! 

89d5eece7e8b8beb94b167550ff09fca

In The Mind of Jennifer Probst – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter, speaker, and best-selling author, Jennifer Probst!

Jennifer will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, and is our Special Presentation Speaker! Sweet, Snarky, or Sexpot: What Makes A Good Heroine? and Trade Secrets of Bestselling Authors – What You Need to Know to Hit the Bestseller List! are just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.

Please welcome Jennifer!

How did you come up with the idea for Searching for Perfect?

I’ve been wanting to write about a beta hero nerd with a makeover theme, so Searching for Perfect was my opportunity! Especially pairing him up with a polished heroine who is broken on the inside. I also wanted to incorporate a lot of humor in this book.

How long did it take you to write?

Searching for Perfect took me three months to write.

What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?

My editor and I work closely together with what we think will make each book special, and she loved my idea from the beginning.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing it?

The most difficult part of writing Searching for Perfect was straying from my usual alpha billionaire heroes I’m known for and love to write about. It was a challenge to write a more beta hero, and make him hot enough to want to be ranked as the number one book boyfriend of readers!

How much research did you conduct for your book and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?

I had to research golf and aerospace engineer dynamics which was difficult. Science isn’t my thing. I griped about this to my husband, who asked why I wrote him as a rocket scientist if I didn’t want to do the research, and I grumpily told him I had no choice! My hero sprang up and told me who he was–I had to write it. So I learned a lot about physics and the NASA program.

Why did you decide to write romance?

I’ve always loved writing sexy contemporary romance with some erotic themes and I will continue to do so for a long time – hopefully!

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I am a complete pantser. I need to start from chapter one, page one and cannot skip out of sequence. I always start with characters – they are the backbone for my entire book.

Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?

I use my street team to help me brainstorm for names, or plot twists when I’m stuck, but I hate colored post its and charts and anything that looks too scientific. My brain rebels! Many times it’s a simple drive, a walk, or a shower that helps if I’m blocked.

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

The first draft is the main guts of the story. The second is the main edits. The third is just copyedits.

How do you make time to write?

I’m lucky enough to write full time now, so I have no excuses. No waiting for inspiration to strike – I get my butt in the chair every day and write for as many hours as possible.

When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

I’m in control of certain things and then my character takes over. Usually they tell me who they are and what they do, I write the first half, and they take over the second half.

Who has had the most influence on your writing?

Great contemporary romance authors such as Susan Elisabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Jayne Ann Krentz, Sandra Brown, etc.

Have you had any “ah ha” moments as a writer?

I am sure I have throughout every manuscript I write. One of my main aha moments was after an RWA conference when I realized I was treating my writing like a hobby and not a career. I changed my mental state and began selling regularly.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Write all the time. I held down a full time job, commuted 3 hours per day, and had two kids in diapers. I wrote on my lunch hour, plotted in my car, and wrote late at night. Also never give up. Ever.

Why did you decide to become an author?

I always knew I was golng to be a writer since I was very young– it was my true North.

Why did you decide to become a romance author?

I always knew i”d write romance because it was a genre that spoke to me, made me happy, and gave me hope.

Would you tell us your story of getting “the call?”

I had submitted to a pub who finally called, said she loved the book, but wanted big changes like the addition of a villain. I did what she said, she called me back, and said she was going to publish it. When I told my family they didn’t believe me. They were awestruck I had actually done it because I’d been working for a long time.

What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?

Well, my first book really didn’t do much of anything but it was still a thrill to hold it in my hand, do a signing, and see my work validated. It helped foster more confidence to keep going and then I was able to break into another publisher and sell again.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?

I have no idea. Not really living.

How does your family feel about your career as a romance writer?

My family is very supportive. My husband is incredible, he actually gives out my website to the people at his job and always tells everyone when I have a new book out. Everyone is proud of my achievements.

What books can we expect to see in the near future?

Searching for Beautiful and Searching for Heaven are the next two books in the Searching For series. You will also see The Last Seduction which is part of the Invitation to Eden series. And I”ll be working on the sequel to Beyond Me, my new adult romance.

What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story?

I want them to have laughed, and feel satisfied and happy at the end of the book. Then I’ve done my job. People need escape.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?

Never give up on your dream. No matter what it is, having a dream and working toward it every day is priceless. Writing has taught me key lessons in patience, perseverance, and joy.

What was the defining moment that you considered yourself an author?

I wrote my first young adult romance at twelve years old, bound it in a folder and read it to my junior high classmates/friends. Then I knew I was a writer because I shared my stories with readers.

With so many changes in publishing over the past year, where do you see the future of publishing going?

It’s an exciting time to be a writer. I think the digital market will keep increasing, especially overseas, and you’ll see authors love to be hybrid – traditional and self published together to complement each other.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you knew before The Call?

Don’t sign a bad contract. God, please everyone, I’ve done it TWICE and it’s horrible. Get someone to look it over for you if you don’t have an agent.

Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

Yes, Kindle.

If you could have one special, supernatural power, what would it be?

Talk to animals.

<laughs> What makes a man attractive to you?

Easy going personality and a wicked sense of humor

What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?

Give birth to my children. That was pretty damn awesome.

Tell us a little about the state/country you live in.

Upstate New York in the Hudson Valley. I live by the mountains, near the water, and I have cows down the road from me, yet I can jump on the train and see a broadway play in over an hour.

What are you reading now?

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins.

What is your favorite film? Music? Color? Food? Smell?

Can’t pick a fave movie I have too many! Music? Anything by Rob Thomas or Lifehouse. Food? lobster. Or chocolate if that’s a food group. Smell? Fresh cut grass, yum.

If you were a millionaire would you still write?

Yes.

Cat or dog person?

Dog.

Which actor and actress would you chose if one of your books were brought to film, and which book would that be?

The Marriage Bargain – Zooey Deschanel for Alexa and Chris Hemsworth for Nick

I think I just got lost in the fantasy of Chris….one sec. <winks> If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?

Best Day Of My Life by American Authors

Favorite reader-fan story?

A male fan emailed me he’d stolen his wife’s books and was now hooked on my stuff and was afraid to let anyone see his Kindle. He said I wrecked him and now he adored romance novels. That was awesome!

Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?   

Favorite color: yellow

Favorite number: 22

Favorite Actor: Leonardo Dicaprio

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep

Wine or liquor? wine

Tea or coffee? coffee

Decaf or caffeinated? caffeinated

Boxers or briefs? briefs

Chocolate or vanilla? chocolate

Donald Duck or Goofy? Donald Duck

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? Frozen

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Depp

Want to meet or attend Jennifer’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register! 

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In The Mind of Susan Mallery – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter, speaker, and best-selling author, Susan Mallery!

Susan will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, and is our Keynote Speaker! Screw the Muse, I’m on Deadline is just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.

Please welcome Susan!

How did you come up with the idea for the Fool’s Gold series?

I’d been writing series about families—the Buchanans, the Bakery Sisters, the Marcellis—when the brilliant Debbie Macomber suggested I should write about a town, instead because I wouldn’t be limited to the number of siblings one family could reasonably have. I wanted Fool’s Gold to be a special town, so I needed to create a strong sense of place right from the very beginning. I knew I wanted there to be a lot of humor, and I knew I wanted it to be the kind of small town where people are there for each other no matter what.

While the idea of a town was in the back of my mind, I read a story about the then-upcoming 2010 census. (The Fool’s Gold series launched in 2010, so I was in brainstorming mode in late 2008 and early 2009.) I asked myself, “What’s the most embarrassing thing a town could learn about itself from the census results?” And then I thought, “What if there aren’t enough men?”

Fool’s Gold started out as a town with a man shortage, which really ticked off the women who lived there because they did not want the world thinking of them as desperate, lonely spinsters. They were doing just fine, thank you, and any man who wanted to get with them would have to earn the right.

The man shortage was a comedic hook to get readers intrigued, but the hook that keeps them coming back is that Fool’s Gold is filled with strong, independent women they can relate to. I adore writing these books.

Why did you decide to write contemporary romance?

When I was first published, I had two books come out the same month. One was a contemporary romance for Special Edition, a category line. The other was a historical romance. I’m not sure I ever earned out on the historical romance, but that category brought more royalties with each new statement. I’m not saying that’s always the case, but that’s how it was for me, and I knew that if I wanted to make writing a career, I needed to be smart about it.

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

Oh, I’m a big-time plotter. I come up with an idea, then write a synopsis. When I’m ready to start the book, I sit down to write the first chapter. That’s what makes the characters really click for me. As soon as I know them, I stop writing and thoroughly plot the story before continuing.

Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write? How do you make time to write?

I write 4-5 books per year and have been doing so for some time, and I’ve developed some very effective strategies for getting the pages done even when my brain and spirit stop cooperating. I’ll share these strategies during my “Screw the Muse, I’m on Deadline” workshop at the PYHIAB conference.

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

I dream of the day my editor will call me and say, “You’re missing a comma on page 283. Other than that, it’s perfect.” Hasn’t happened yet. Because of all of the prep work I do, my first drafts are pretty clean, but they always need revision after going through editorial. For example, in the first Mischief Bay book, which will be out early next year, my editor didn’t like the character I loved the most. I had to step back and figure out why what I felt for her hadn’t come across on the page.

Why did you decide to become a romance author?

Because I love romance. Let me reword that: I looooooooove romance! I’d been reading romance ever since I’d stumbled across the treasure trove of my best friend’s mom. Romance affirms my belief in the world as a just and loving place. The guy gets the girl and all is right in the world.

What books can we expect to see in the near future?

Next year I’ll continue the Fool’s Gold series with another trilogy. Earlier in the year, I’ll launch a new women’s fiction series set in Mischief Bay, California. The first book is tentatively titled THE BEGINNER’S CLASS, which is very exciting for me. It’s the first time since FALLING FOR GRACIE that my working title has been approved by editorial and marketing. Yay, me!

What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading UNTIL WE TOUCH, the final book in this year’s Fool’s Gold trilogy?

The Fool’s Gold romances aren’t “lesson” books. You might not learn anything! Mostly, I just want to give readers a great time. This year’s trilogy—WHEN WE MET, BEFORE WE KISS, and UNTIL WE TOUCH—are some of the funniest, sexiest books I’ve ever written. UNTIL WE TOUCH is my nod to the boss/secretary trope, which has always been one of my favorites. Larissa is Jack’s personal assistant and personal masseuse. He played football professionally, so he has a lot of muscle injuries. Larissa helps him with that, and they’ve become great friends. But everything changes when Larissa’s mom tells Jack that her daughter is in love with him. Suddenly, he sees her in a new light, and every touch feels… different.

If you could have one special, supernatural power, what would it be?

My first reaction was going to be “the power to think a book and have it be magically written.” But that would be no fun. I like writing books. However, I’d love the power to make all the other stuff go away. Snap my fingers, and the marketing is done and every one of the millions of romance readers would have the book.

What makes a man attractive to you?

A strong sense of honor and self-confidence. He’s a man who does the right thing without thinking about it. He protects those who are weaker because that’s what a man does. He tells the truth because that’s what a man does.

Of course, a killer body doesn’t hurt!

Who’s your favorite hero?

My favorite hero is always the one I’m writing at the moment. Which at the moment is Kipling Gilmore, an ex-Olympian who’s heading the new search and rescue operation in Fool’s Gold.

A favorite reader-fan story?

When people sign up for my mailing list on my website, I ask them for their zip code. I started doing that so I could send an email to readers who lived within 100 miles of a scheduled book signing. However, a couple years ago, I was doing a signing in Atlanta, and we accidentally sent the notice to my entire mailing list. I was shocked to learn that several readers came from a few hundred miles away! They drove 5, 6, even 7 hours to meet me. I was so honored, truly. And slightly bemused. I worry about whether I’m that interesting! You know how it is. I work at home all day every day in my comfy clothes. I don’t get out much.

Anyway, from then on, I started sending notices of my signings to the whole mailing list in case other readers would want to make the drive. I only do a handful of signings per year, so I don’t email the list too often. (You can sign up at www.susanmallery.com.) Usually about once a month.

Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?  

Favorite color: Pink is my signature color.

Favorite number: Number 1, of course!

Favorite Actor: Keanu Reeves

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep

Wine or liquor? Wine

Tea or coffee? Coffee

Decaf or caffeinated? Caffeinated, or what’s the point?

Boxers or briefs? Either, or, neither, nor…

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate

Donald Duck or Goofy? Goofy because he doesn’t waddle around without pants.

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? I can’t choose. I love them both!

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? I can’t choose. I love them both!

Want to meet or attend Susan’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register!

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In The Mind of Stella Cameron – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter, speaker, and best-selling author, Stella Cameron!

Stella will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, and is our Luncheon Speaker! People Make Your Story is just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.

Please welcome Stella!

How did you come up with the idea for “OUT COMES THE EVIL”?

Sitting at the edge of the River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water in England and watching children play on flat rocks just under the surface.

What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?

The story’s irresistible, characters, fantastic plot, clever relationship ploys, amazing background and atmosphere and the absolutely nerve destroying tension.

How much research did you conduct for “OUT COMES THE EVIL” and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research? 

So far I’ve had to suffer through three trips to England while researching this series. Shocking sacrifice. I am English by birth which means that a great deal comes naturally—I rarely need help with common terms, speech that sounds natural, or local customs.  It has been interesting to keep up to date with those elements that do change—social behavior, some obvious loosening of language, police procedure (although I’m not writing police procedurals, it’s impossible to pull off a story with both crime and in my case, male/female relationships, without have all the details at my fingertips). My interviews with many levels of policing were probably the most interesting part of my research, but learning the ins and outs of running a pub and pub life in general had its high points.

Why did you decide to write romantic mystery?

Even as I call the genre romantic mystery I’m unsure if that categorizes the books appropriately. I’ve always incorporated a sizeable dose of mystery in all of my books.  Now the balance leans more heavily into mystery—there would be no story without mystery.  My interest in strong relationships comes naturally and a building love interest we can get deeply involved with is a natural part of my stories.

That said, I need another serious thought here…I don’t choose a story, the story chooses me.  As with many writers, ideas cascade in regularly but the tale that will be told keeps jumping to the front of the line and won’t leave me alone.

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I’m both a plotter and a pantzer, depending on where I am in the story.  I’m not sure I could be as excited as I am about writing if I wasn’t open to surprises.  Events pop up, unexpected events and I love to go with them, to see where they’ll take me.  But I also have to stop and plot.  A lot of serious, “why, when, what, where and how?” goes into any story.  Neglect these questions and you’re likely to have a mess on your hands.

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

Many drafts and I never feel a story couldn’t be improved even if only a little.

How do you make time to write?

My career already counts as long… Writing has been a huge part of my life, always.  When my children were young I would have had much more to say on this topic, now, in truth, I write because I must and whenever I must.

When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

Probably a combination.

Who has had the most influence on your writing?

Too many wonderful writers to name.  I’ve been very fortunate in my mentors.

Have you had any “ah ha” moments as a writer?

Yes, thank goodness.  Many, many of them.

Would you tell us your story of getting “the call?”

The first sale call came in while I was looking down into the garden to check on my children who were on a climbing frame—something I always distrusted.  My mind completely blanked and I’m lucky I didn’t say something ridiculous like, “You want to buy my book?  You can’t be serious.”  I didn’t hear most of what the editor said but what a wonderful day that was.

*Smiles* Sounds lovely.  How does your family feel about your career as a romance writer?

My family like and respect my being a writer.

What books can we expect to see in the near future?

More romantic mysteries.  More of almost anything that tells me to hop aboard and go along for the ride.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?

There is no fictional situation that can’t be worked out.

If you could choose anyone, past or present for a mentor, who would you choose?

Louise Penny.

With so many changes in publishing over the past year, where do you see the future of publishing going?

Gosh, we must hang on to our hats and be ready for change, change and more change.  I do see even more of an explosion in digital reading.  The ratio, print to digital, has flattened somewhat but I don’t think it will ever be stagnant.

Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

Yes.  Kindle.

If you could have one special, supernatural power, what would it be?

Telepathy.

What makes a man attractive to you?

Strength, intellectual, physical.  A sense of humor, gentleness, passion in all things.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?

Lots of interesting things, really.  Paddled in an outrigger canoe has to be a favorite.

What are you reading now?

Raven Black, Anne Cleaves.

What is your favorite quote?

“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”—Charles Dickens.

How long have you been writing?

Twenty-eight years full-time.  All my life in some ways.

What comes first—characters or the plot?

This is not so simple.  An idea (situation) may come first, but almost at once, characters are jogging alongside.  But it is the people who make your story.

Who’s on your auto-buy list for authors?

Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick  Deborah Crombie. Louise Penny. Donna Leon.  Tana French.  Nicci French.  Lee Child.  Tess Gerritsen, Alan Bradly, Alistair McCall Smith, Elizabeth Lowell, JD Robb, Mary Deheim, PD James, and I don’t have enough time left before getting back to work for all of my automatic buys.  Don’t want to leave any out but, my word there are hoards of them.

Do you write to music? Do you make soundtracks for you stories? If so, what was on the soundtrack for your latest release?

I write to music, don’t make soundtracks, have broad and eclectic tastes.  At the moment I listen primarily to Mario Frangoulis since I tend to listed to the same discs over and over during a project.

What’s your biggest dream?

Justice for all.

If you were a millionaire would you still write?

Yes.

Cat or dog person?

Both, and a horse, goat, elephant, kangaroo, you name it, I love all animals.  I am afraid of a few, though.

Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? 

Favorite color:  blue

Favorite number: 7

Favorite Actor:   Allen Leech

Favorite Actress:  Judy Dench

Wine or liquor?  Wine

Tea or coffee? Tea

Decaf or caffeinated? Caffeinated.

Boxers or briefs?  Depends on the body.

Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla

Donald Duck or Goofy?  Goofy

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled?  Tangled.

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp?  Johnny Depp

Want to meet or attend Stella’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register!

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