1. Our readers love hearing success
stories. Could you tell us a little about your road to getting a traditional publisher, and your publishing success?
I started writing my first novel,
“She’ll Take It” in January 2002— it was my New Years goal to write a novel. In the beginning my sights
were not set on publication, I just knew it would be something I could be proud of, something I’d always wanted to accomplish.
I have always been a writer, but up until that point I had only attempted short stories, essays, poetry, plays and a screenplay.
With the help of a ton of books on writing and an online writing course, I started the task of writing my own novel.
By the end of the first year, I had made quite a bit of headway, but the project wasn’t finished and I hadn’t
been working on it consistently. Enter New Years goal number two— finish the novel! By September of 2003
I had done just that.
Now thoughts of publication started creeping in.
I asked half a dozen friends (who were also big readers) to read the book. Results were positive, and I decided to take
the next step of finding an agent. I bought The Literary Marketplace Digest, and read through pages of agents, what
types of books they represented, where they were located (I wanted New York) and what their submission requirements were.
I sent 15 query letters, and received thirteen rejections and two requests to read the manuscript. The first agent to
read the manuscript called me, and although she was turning down the book, she gave me encouragement and invaluable feedback
as to what she didn’t like about it. Some of her notes struck a chord with me, and I knew the changes needed to
be made. I was in the process of outlining how I could make those changes (she said she’d be willing to read it
again if I didn’t get another agent) when my current agent called, said he loved the manuscript and offered to represent
me. His only note was that it was too long for a first novel-- I think it was 94,000 words at the time and he wanted
it around 80,000. At the same time I made the cuts, I also incorporated the notes I had received from the first agent.
Four months later the manuscript was sold to Kensington Books. “She’ll Take It” came out in March
of 2006, one year later.
2. Do you have a writing routine?
If so, what is it? Do you write daily, certain hours, have set goals?
I wish. I do not yet make a living as a writer
or I would have an exact writing routine and I fantasize about it daily. I would wake up around 7 am, work out vigorously
(I told you this was fantasy), dress, and head out with my laptop for one of my favorite coffee shops. I’d write
anywhere between four and six hours, take a break, and then spend a few hours on research, reading books on writing, or polishing
what I had written the day before—and of course some of that time would also be spent sipping my latte, running back
and forth to the loo, chatting with strangers, eavesdropping on strangers, wondering if I should have ordered what strangers
were eating, (after all I had worked out vigorously that morning) and googling myself. I’d knock out a chapter
a day. It would be a brilliant life.
What I really do—is write around my work schedule,
which varies since I work freelance, and sometimes I’m on a job where there is some “down time” so I am
able to knock out a little bit at work. Last month I was working 2:30 to 8 so I would write from 9 to noon or so and
then get ready for work. This week I was working 9 to 3 and I didn’t write as much, but I did manage between 3 and 7
pages a day. With “Accidentally Engaged” I had nine months to write it, and it’s so much easier to be motivated
when you have a deadline looming. I believe I ended up writing five days a week, four hours a day.
My third book is not yet under contract, but I am
still working on it five days a week, a few stolen hours here or there. (I’m going to have to increase the pace
soon). I’ll find out next week if the book is going to be picked up by the same publisher or if we are going to
shop it around. I’m daydreaming about taking a month off from my paying job to see what it would be like to have
my writing job fantasy come true, although I’m not looking forward to the vigorously working out bit.
3. Do you write from an outline, or do you let the story unfold
as it goes?
I started “She’ll Take It” without an outline, and at the end
of the first year I found myself stuck in the mud. The book had taken way too many detours because I wasn’t exactly
sure where I was going. Characters, like children, act out if they’re given too much freedom, and they need a little
guidance. In one draft of “She’ll Take It”, my character ran off to Florida and lived on a boat.
She ended up meeting the wrong kinds of people, they pushed themselves into the
spotlight, and suddenly I’d completely lost her story. I had to cut, cut, cut, and bring her back into focus.
I couldn’t blame her, she sensed I didn’t know where she was going—and who wouldn’t run off to Florida
at the hands of such an irresponsible writer? If you have an outline and a major character suddenly gets a great new idea,
you are able to step back and figure out whether or not it fits into the grand scheme of their life, or if you’re character
is simply having a total mid-life crisis. (Since books don’t last as long as real life, mid-life crises can happen
to a character of any age). It’s your job to encourage their good ideas (sure you can take yoga) and squelch the
bad ones. (No, I don’t see you running over him in a Jaguar convertible).
So, even though I like writing outlines about as much as I like going to the dentist,
(which reminds me I’m overdue), I’ll never go without. I also do a character sheet on every major character in
the book. That said, I give myself permission to veer from the outline and allow surprises to pop up while writing.
I decide whether or not they fit, and then sometimes I’ll go back and revise the outline.
4. For our readers who want to write chicklit type novels, what advice
can you give?
Whatever genre you want to write in, read everything you can in that genre.
The good, the bad, the ugly. Read books that are so well written they depress you because you think you’ll never
be able to write that well and you’ll decide on the spot you’re never going to write again and you’ll start
watching infomercials on how to earn millions doing nothing from home. Cry and eat ice cream. Wallow for days.
Then immediately pick up something that is so poorly written you wonder who they slept with to get it published. You’ll
swell up with superiority.
You’ll put all the sharp objects away and realize you can live to type another
page. If you’ve already ordered the make-millions-from-home-doing-nothing kit, stick it in the closet and save
it for the next book—(because those feelings are like weeds—they always grow back). You’ll get a sense
of what’s out there, what you like, and why you think your book has a place among them. I can only hope that right now
somebody is reading my book, wiping tears from her eyes while putting away the Hagen Daas and the butcher knife, muttering,
“My dog can write better than this.” If it only happens once, I’ve done my job.
But when you actually sit down to write, don’t worry about genre. You
want unique characters and situations, you want them to become living, breathing people. I was discouraged from writing
my first novel by the online writing instructor whose course I was taking. He wouldn’t read our actual writing,
but he would ask and answer questions about plot, structure, characters, etc. When he found out my heroine was—God
forbid!—a kleptomaniac, he said (and I quote)”You’ll never sell a novel where the heroine is a kleptomaniac.”
(Please immediately go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and type in— “She’ll Take It”).
Granted, I knew having a character with that major of a flaw would be a challenge.
But by this time I knew and loved my character Melanie. I couldn’t NOT make her a klepto, that’s who she
was. That was her struggle in life and her story had to be told. Who was I to judge her? And if I loved
her, if I understood her, if I rooted for her, wouldn’t others? Granted, some people have read my book and they
didn’t love her like I do. That’s okay. Some people think because my first two books were chicklit,
they should be dismissed. I don’t let those people take up too much space in my head—believe me, it’s
crowded enough up there.
And I’m happy to say, I was right—- the majority of readers loved Melanie
too. They may not have loved what she was doing, they wanted her to learn, to grow—but they stayed with her.
But that wasn’t an anomaly; it happened because I loved her first. That’s the key. Write what you
have to write. Write about characters in struggle. Who is the loudest character in your head? They’re
the ones dying to get out; they’re the ones with something to say. If I had followed “chicklit rules” I
may have become confused. I may have ignored my little voice. So do your research and then let it go. The
muse always rules—and you are your first audience. Write for yourself. Develop a critical eye. If
you’re bored, your readers will be too. Love your characters. Believe in them. If you’re there
for them, believe me they’ll come through for you in ways you never imagined possible.
5. Your characters are very believeable, and you write with a wonderful mixture of interesting plot and fun, sexy romance. Where do your ideas come
from? Do you have your main characters well-fixed in your mind before
writing? And of course, we all want to know
if your Tarot reader is based on a real person!
Thank you. I think I actually jumped ahead and talked about this a little.
I start with writing about things that excite me. After my first novel, I had started a second book about a female detective
investigating mates who cheated. I had a couple of hundred pages and I sent it to my agent. Always polite, he
said, “I like it, but I don’t love it.” That was all I needed to hear. I dumped it. I
realized I felt exactly the same way. Life is short and busy, who has time to waste on so-so? Who wants to read
something they “like”? Who wants to date someone who they aren’t madly in love with? So it all comes
back to—what do you love?
Well, even though I’ve never had any real luck with it—I love the idea
of psychic powers and Tarot readings. I love talking about psychic phenomena. I love hearing other people’s
stories. I want things to happen when I read a book. So that’s where “Accidentally Engaged”
started. I knew my main character would be a Tarot Card reader, and I knew she was at work at a psychic fair.
Honestly, this doesn’t always happen, but the first three chapters wrote themselves. It happened so fast that
I immediately sent the pages to my agent, thinking it was for his eyes only at this point. Well this one he did love,
and he immediately sent them to my editor who said—I love it—where’s the outline?!
So next thing I know (literally an hour after sending the first three chapters
to my agent) I get a phone call asking if there was any way I could now come up with the 15 or so page outline in the next
hour? I might be exaggerating here, but it went something like that. So I freaked out and wrote an outline.
Luckily, my editor said I didn’t have to feel bound to it. Thank God, because boy did that story take on its own
twists and turns. I won’t go into them or I’ll spoil it. Bottom line, even if my characters are “loosely
based” on someone I know, they always take on their own life. And I’m sure, a little bit of me is always
in every character I write, but that may be more of a topic for a shrink’s couch than an author interview.
6. Any last thing you'd like readers to know about your books?
I would just like to thank everyone who took time
to read this, and I hope you’ll enjoy “She’ll Take It” and “Accidentally Engaged”.
And if you’re a writer too, good luck and keep going. It’s a great ride. Readers can contact me through