If some of you hang out at the Petit Fours & Hot Tamales blog, you may have seen this post there a while back. Apologies for the rerun, but with 2 deadlines this month, I'm trying to be frugal with my online time. The comments are always fresh, though. ;)
As the published author of nearly 50 books, I get invited to present workshops at conferences, speak at book clubs, etc. I get fan mail and reader e-mail. I socialize on Facebook and Twitter, and am learning Google+. I blog here on the Intrigue Authors blog, post regularly on the http://community.harlequin.com/ boards, and post a monthly newsletter on my website. Plus, I grocery shop, attend my son’s music and school events, work with the community theater and treasure time with my family and friends. In other words, there is plenty of opportunity for people—readers and non-readers alike—to ask me about my writing.
Some questions make me laugh out loud; others make me wrinkle my brow and wonder what planet that person just transported from. Many questions are from aspiring writers seeking to learn all they can, and the teacher in me feels right at home answering them. A few comments touch my heart. As any shy person (like me) out there knows, it’s easier to jump into a conversation when someone asks me a question, and so I’m grateful to all the queries I’ve been asked over the years. I’ve started some wonderful friendships from just one little question.
Today I thought I’d share some of those questions that I’ve heard more than once over the years. And I’ll give you a bit of my responses as well. Enjoy!
1. Is that you and your husband on the cover?
Yes. Look at the cover of AT YOUR COMMAND. I’m a tall, willowy blonde with a slammin’ body, and my hubby is a 6’4” lean, mean, muscle-packed Marine who goes through his daily life without a shirt.
Okay, that’s sarcasm. Wishful thinking. I’m married to the Marine’s comic sidekick. I’m leaning toward middle age and have a sedentary job. The only thing “slammin” about my body is when I trip down the stairs. But I appreciate anyone who thinks we resemble the heroes and heroines on my covers. Really. Thanks!
2. Your characters feel so real. You’ve lived through those experiences, right?
I write romantic suspense, folks. Happily, I’ve never been a serial killer. And while yes, I’ve been the victim of crime, I’m far less brave than my fictional counterparts. I get a lot of my information from “life”, too. In my other life as a teacher and IMPROV trainer and processor, I’ve been fortunate to work with trauma nurses, DEA agents, undercover cops, detectives, rape counselors, doctors, attorneys, ranchers, firefighters, computer techs, reporters, business executives and more. I’m lucky that I’m a great observer of people. I’m luckier that these people enjoy my company and are willing to answer my questions. I’ve also worked with a lot of teenagers who’ve been through some unspeakable things as well as the usual issues all teens face. I grew up in a Marine Corps family and am married to a former juvenile probation officer, so I’ve got a pretty good idea how military personnel and cops work, too. Plus, I’m an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, a television watcher and movie fan. I immerse myself in how others portray the characters and situations I’m interested in—then I internalize those real feelings and responses and bring them out in my own unique characters. It’s an acting technique I learned in the theater that also works well in writing fiction.
3. I have a great idea for a story, will you write it for me? (and split the money, of course)
Um, no. I have far too many stories of my own playing inside my head—stories I’m anxious and excited to tell. It seems that with each story I write, new characters and situations pop into my head—a supporting character who calls to me to be featured in his/her own story, a plot-line that I’d like to try with a different character or setting to see how it would play out, etc.
I hope that these people learn how to write for themselves, or make the time to write their stories for themselves, whichever the case might be. Those are THEIR stories to tell, not mine. I need to conserve my creative energy and sore typing fingers for my own career. But best of luck! It’s a great time to be a writer, and there are numerous opportunities out there to get one’s work in front of readers.
4. Are your characters real people? Did the events in your stories really happen? Where is this precinct/bar/school/hospital/etc. where your characters work and hang out so I can meet them?
Again, I’m writing fiction, folks. While I try to make my characters as realistic as possible, they’re all figments of my imagination. My Precinct books for Intrigue are set in Kansas City, Missouri—a very real, diverse, rife-with-potential-settings, city. However, while I pepper in the name of a highway or art museum, historic landmarks, etc., in my stories to give it an accurate sense of place, the homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, etc. are created by yours truly to meet the fictional needs of each particular story. I’ll take a real K.C. building and turn it into a local pub or penthouse lab
One fun thing I do for my family and friends is to drop in the mention of something real from our lives into a story—only the family member or friend will get the reference, but it’s a fun way to personalize a book without the readers never knowing. For example, almost all the pet names I’ve used in my books are the names of pets I’ve had or have, or the names of friends’ pets. So, there are some real inspirations in my books, but they’re truly works of fiction.
5. Where do you get your ideas?
The short answer? Everywhere. Observations of life. Favorite tv shows, movies, fictional characters. Travel. Learning history. News. Reading other books. Writing my own books. My imagination. As a shy kid growing up, I spent a lot of time inside my head, creating stories to entertain myself so that I was never bored. It’s a habit that has continued my entire life.
So, do you have any questions you’d like to ask? These, of course, were on the more humorous side of things, but I’m happy to talk more seriously, too, if you have questions about my books, about writing your own stories, the publishing market or whatever. I’ll give away a copy of KANSAS CITY COWBOY to someone who posts a question or comment.
USA TODAY Bestselling Author
Breathtaking Romantic Suspense