This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter and best-selling author, Laura Kaye!
Laura will be giving a workshop at our conference in October. The Secrets Behind Becoming A Best Seller is just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.
For more information on our conference, on when registration opens, and other popular questions, please visit our website at http://www.njromancewriters.org.
Please welcome Laura!
How did you come up with the idea for Hard As It Gets, the first book in your Hard Ink series?
I had been writing contemporary romances featuring active duty military and veterans for a while, so I took that base and added a more military-centered suspense plot to it, and then set it all in the sexy and gritty setting of a tattoo parlor. Specific influences were that I worked for the military for eight years as a professor at the Naval Academy and that I’ve always been fascinated with tattoos (I have two…).
I want to ask where and of what, but I think I’ll call you out at the conference with that. *winks* How long did it take you to write Hard As It Gets?
It took me four and a half weeks to write it, but I only cranked it out so fast because I had to. When I sold the Hard Ink series to Avon, my writing schedule was already totally booked for 2013, so I knowingly overloaded my schedule to be able to write this series.
WOW! That’s an amazingly short amount of time! What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?
I think my editor loved the combination of the military heroes, the brotherhood of the team, the sexy tattoo setting, and the suspense plot combined with the fact that the team is operating outside the law. I kept getting feedback that there was a “Sons of Anarchy” vibe, but at the time I’d never watched the series so I had no idea what they were talking about. Then I went on a SoA Netflix binge and got it!
I take it you’re addicted now? What was the most difficult aspect of writing Hard As It Gets?
Two things: how fast I had to write it, and the fact that I had to plot out the suspense elements. I don’t usually plot, but I find I can’t write suspense without doing so.
How much research did you conduct for Hard As It Gets and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?
What didn’t I research for this book? LOL There was a lot to research while writing this – everything from Baltimore neighborhoods to Maryland gang activity to the heroin trade to growing heroin in Afghanistan to how to use a gun and what kind of equipment you use to scan for surveillance bugs to how to do tattoos. And this list only scratches the surface. Plus, since it was the first book in the series, a lot of research was required to just build the world. I also watched a whole slew of documentaries on the Army Special Forces – that was fun!
Why did you decide to write romantic suspense?
Actually, I don’t think I chose to write it. I thought I was setting out to write more military romance. Because I don’t plot and because I sold this series on proposal with only the first chapter of the first book written, I really had no idea how central the suspense plot was going to become. Having done it now, I really respect romantic suspense authors!
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’m definitely a pantser, except for the romantic suspense elements, as I’ve said above. I need to know the characters very well, and they’re usually what come to me first, and I need to know the conflict. Then I just open up a Word document and start writing. I’m very linear; I can’t skip around when I write.
Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?
Not really, unless you consider music a tool or aid. I pick one song that reflects the song or characters to me and listen to it on repeat the whole time I’m writing.
OMG, I do the same thing! Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?
I write one draft, but I edit as I go. So, each day when I sit down to write, I re-read what I wrote the day before and revise it. That gets me back into the story again to write new pages. I also have beta readers who read behind me as I write, and I incorporate their edits as I go, too. By the time I write “The End,” I’m done.
How do you make time to write?
For four years, I balanced writing with a full-job teaching job at the Naval Academy. Last year, I took a leave of absence to write, and in December I retired from teaching entirely to write full-time. I’m very lucky to be able to do that. Now, I treat it as a full-time job committing five days a week to a minimum 8:30am-5pm schedule, usually much more. I’ve given up a lot of hobbies and relaxation time to write, too.
When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?
Who has had the most influence on your writing?
I feel like I’ve learned a lot about what I know about how to write male point of view by reading J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.
*sings, “love it!”* Have you had any “ah ha” moments as a writer?
I have lots of them when I’m writing. As a pantser, there are many times when something you do early in the manuscript makes sense much later (like you planned it!) and it’s totally surprising.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Lots: first and most important, there’s no one right way to do this! Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Some things that have been useful for me are: write as close to every day as you can – you can’t revise or sell what you haven’t written; surround yourself with other writers pursuing publication (through writing groups or critique partners); never give up!
Why did you decide to become an author?
Hmm. I’m not sure I decided this. I was already a non-fiction author before I started writing fiction. But in 2008 I had a brain injury and as I healed I was struck with a very strong creative urge that included, among other things, the urge to write a book. Three months after I started writing, I had my first draft. It literally took over my life. But once I’d finished that first book, it was a part of me and I never looked back.
Why did you decide to become a romance author?
I love the hopefulness of the romance genre, in which every book tells you no matter the obstacles or hurdles or pain in your life, you deserve and can find your happily ever after. Plus it’s fun!
Would you tell us your story of getting “the call?”
My first real “call” story came after I already had two books published. I’d submitted a book to Harlequin’s Nocturne line and editor Tara Gavin called to buy that and one more like it. THAT was SO exciting and I danced around my office and scared my dog. But by far the most thrilling call I got was when my agent (who I got after I’d sold 16 books on my own) called to say HarperCollins was making an offer on my Hard Ink series. Totally surreal.
What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?
Most exciting thing was—and still is—hearing from readers that something you created touched them in some meaningful way.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
I’d still be teaching American history at the U.S. Naval Academy.
How does your family feel about your career as a romance writer?
My family is very supportive of me and excited for me. I couldn’t do this without them!
What books can we expect to see in the near future?
I have a lot of releases in 2014 in three series, including:
4/22/14: East of Ecstasy (Hearts of the Anemoi #4)
5/12/14: Dare to Resist
July: Heroes series book
8/19/14: Hard to Hold On To (Hard Ink #2.5)
October: Heroes series book
11/25/14: Hard to Come By (Hard Ink #3)
What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story?
I just want my readers to have been touched by the story or characters in some way. But, honestly, someone finding they can just lose themselves in my world for a few hours is also very rewarding. We all need to escape sometimes.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?
Persistence and resilience. You’ll hear a lot of no’s/rejections and get negative feedback, but you have to carry on.
What was the defining moment that you considered yourself an author?
The moment I finished my first complete draft, to be sure. Lots of people say they want to write a novel and lots of people start to write a novel, but actually finishing one is a rarer thing.
If you could choose anyone, past or present for a mentor, who would you choose?
Yegads. J.R. Ward.
With so many changes in publishing over the past year, where do you see the future of publishing going?
I think we’ll see all formats continue to be available for writers and readers in the future, but I also think we’ll continue to see the trend of author control and autonomy continue, which will probably force the publishers to offer more author-friendly terms to remain competitive.
Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?
I do much of my reading on the Kindle app on my phone.
If you could have one special, supernatural power, what would it be?
Ability to move/travel anywhere just by thinking it.
What makes a man attractive to you?
One of the most attractive things about a man is the way he shows his love for his woman.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
LOL. Um. *winks* I’ve done lots of interesting things. Traveled throughout Europe for 4 weeks with my husband before we had kids. Did archaeological work at the Jamestown Fort site the summer we proved the original 1607 fort hadn’t been eroded away into the James River. Met the U.S. president and took a picture with him in the Oval Office.
Where do you write?
Most days, I write at a Panera Bread with my best friend and fellow author, Lea Nolan.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing in 2008 after a brain injury left me with a new creative urge. My first book was published on April 20, 2011.
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: Eleven
Favorite Actor: Channing Tatum. Heh.
Favorite Actress: I don’t really have one.
Wine or liquor? Wine
Tea or coffee? Tea
Decaf or caffeinated? No preference – caffeine has no effect on me!
Boxers or briefs? Boxers
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Donald Duck or Goofy? Neither! LOL
Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? I haven’t seen Frozen yet but I loved Tangled.
Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Ha! I answered this already! 😉
Thank you, Laura! We’re all cheering you on, girl!
Want to meet or attend Laura’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org and register come June 1st!