We love brand new authors here at The Book Pushers! Fresh new voices in our favorite genres gives us another person to cyber-stalk and glom onto! We figured since there are always new authors getting published through both the big New York publishers, as well as the smaller digital first publishers, we should take the time and hunt them down and introduce them to you.
It’s a pleasure to be here. Chatting about romance books is one of my favorite things in the world to do.
Explain to us your journey to publication:
I’m not going to lie, it was a tough five years of trying. I liken my publication journey to birthing my second child (my firstborn was ushered out via scheduled c-section). After 45 hours of stalled labor and 4 hours of pushing, I had a beautiful, screaming baby in my arms. My pregnant sister-in-law, who was trying to decide between a scheduled c-section or VBAC with her second child, shouted to me over the baby’s cries, “Well, was it worth it to go through labor and delivery?” Panting and exhausted, I wiped the snot and sweat from my face, cast my teary eyes at her, and said, “That was the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever done, but I’m telling you now—you gotta really want it.” The same is absolutely true for getting published: lots of sweat and snot and tears, along with a heaping dose of perseverance…but when that editor call came and when I held that first book in my hands, it blew my mind.
What’s your first published book about (start of a series, a stand alone, we want details!):
The Trouble with Cowboys is a mash-up of western and culinary romance novels, with a cowboy hero who not only raises prime beef but knows what to do with it once it hits the kitchen and a heroine who’s a failed reality Chef show contestant (a lá Top Chef) who’s returned to her small town home to open a restaurant featuring locally grown food. It’s the first of a trilogy.
Amy, the star of the first book, has a serious weakness for everything cowboy. As she tells her sister Jenna, she’s the only woman she knows who gets turned on when the song ‘Desperado’ comes on the radio. She attributes her epic fail on television to a conniving fellow contestant posing as a cowboy and has sworn off cowboys for good to focus on her career. So it figures that her key supplier is Catcher Creek’s most eligible bachelor, Kellan Reed—exactly the sort of Stetson-tipping bad boy she finds impossible to resist.
Do you have anything in the works? (contracted or not?)
I’ve got to be the luckiest writer in the world because the same week I got the call for The Trouble with Cowboys series from Kensington, I also got a call from Harlequin Romantic Suspense with an offer for my enemies-to-lovers adventure in Mexico, Seduction Under Fire, which debuts in November of this year. Then, 2013 will see the release of my second cowboy book, tentatively titled The Secret to Loving a Lawman and (hopefully) more Harlequin Romantic Suspense titles.
What are your overall dreams, goals and expectations for your future as an author? (want to stick with specific genre, try multiples, different pen names, etc.)
My big goal in life is to write the kinds of books women want to take on vacation or that whisk readers away on a mental vacation right in the middle of their busy lives. Because, really, life is tough and we all deserve a break (along with some hot, swoon-worthy romance). Reading romance rocks because you can be sitting on a bus or watching your kids play at McDonalds and get swept away to another world populated with gutsy, smart women and sexy, larger-than-life men. My number one professional goal is to provide that experience, and keep doing that consistently year after year. Genre-wise, right now I’m dividing my time between my love of small town contemporary romance and romantic suspense. I’m happy to stick with those for a while, but you never know what the future will bring. The possibilities are endless and thrilling.
What’s your writing process like? Has it changed from when you first started writing?
What first sparks in me, creatively, is a character concept—a theme, personality trait, or inner conflict that intrigues me. From there, I build characters until they feel like real people, with histories and flaws and quirks. Then I move on to setting. As an obsessive traveler, a book’s setting is a huge deal for me. I only set books in places I’d love to visit, which means any off-the-beaten path small town around in the world.
Even after I’ve figured out who my characters are deep down and have my setting locked in, I don’t start writing until I can actually hear my characters’ voices in my head talking to each other. Crazy, right? That’s okay; I embraced the crazy a long time ago and I figure that as long as the voices are talking to each other and not me, I’m golden.
When did you start writing? What was your very first story about?
I was born a book geek. Seriously. I’m talking about asking Santa for a thesaurus (true story) and begging my mom to let me attend summer school for reading and writing. I thought it was so unfair that only the kids who were struggling in those subjects got to go! Though I always knew in my heart that I’d eventually write a book, I was way too busy being practical to consider writing as a career. The thing is, I grew up poor, worked an afterschool job nonstop since I was fourteen, and paid my own way through college. I wanted a career that would bring me cold hard cash and health insurance. Hence, Miss Cutler the high school English teacher was born.
The big whammo that propelled me to write my first book happened when I was thirty and a random brain tumor bitch-slapped me into re-examining my life. I thought, you fool, you might die without doing the only damn thing on your bucket list. So after the tumor came out and was determined to be benign, I used the four titanium plates the docs put in my head to channel my writing muse (only joking about the power of the plates. They don’t even set off metal detectors, which stinks.) Halfway through that first book, I knew that writing romance was what I wanted to do every single day for the rest of my life.
Who were some of your inspirations for becoming an author?
One of my greatest inspirations is the public library. Growing up, we couldn’t afford to buy books, but my mom took me to the library all the time. It’s always been my happy place. Then, when my kids were super little, my local library designated the endcap closest to the children’s section for paperback romances. It was the only adult book section I could browse while still keeping an eye on my kids. I believe I read Every. Single. One. I’d been reading romance since I was a young teen, but there in the library with those paperbacks was when I figured out that if I was going to ever follow my dream and write, it would have to be romance. Life’s too short to read books with unhappy endings.
Give us the story about when you got “The Call”
Becoming a great writer and getting published are two very different goals. In the months leading up to “The Call”, I endured several rejections and harsh critiques that devastated me. Mind you, this was five years into my journey and I’d powered through hundreds of rejections from agents and editors, along with an equal number of discouraging contest results and critiques. I realized that my publication quest was beginning to interfere with my goal of becoming a great writer because it was taking away my joy of the process. So a few days before “The Call”, I decided to take a six month break from trying to get published to concentrate on growing as a writer.
I was totally at peace with my choice. The day of the call, I’d taken a hike and written longhand in a spiral notebook while sitting in a beautiful valley of a nature preserve. My soul was filled to the brim with the joy of writing. Fifteen minutes after returning home, Shana Smith of Harlequin called…and changed the course of my life. Four days later, Megan Records of Kensington called with a three book offer. And then the real rollercoaster began. I still smile every time I think about that week, and I imagine I always will.
Who is the author you would most like to meet living or deceased and why?
Great question, even though the answer would change every day for me depending on my mood. Wouldn’t Mark Twain be cool to talk to? Or Dr. Seuss? And I think almost every romance writer wants to have a chat with Jane Austin. Today, though, the author I’d most want to sit down and pick her brain would be Susan Mallery. She embodies what I want most to be—an author whose books evolve ahead of trends and who has fostered a genuine connection with her readers in innovative ways.
My thanks to The Book Pushers for hosting me today. Now I have a question for you. Since The Trouble with Cowboys is all about celebrating locally grown food, I want to know: what local food or dish do you most enjoy where you live? For me here in Southern California, locally grown avocados are what I crave. Cut one in half, sprinkle on a little salt, and hand me a spoon. Yum! I’m giving away a print copy of The Trouble with Cowboys to one commenter. Best of luck!
This contest is open wherever Book Depository ships. The winner will be announced on Wednesday September 26th.