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

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