Current Release: Unwrapped
Describe your current release in two sentences?
Mia Patterson is a twenty-five-year old virgin who finally discovers the joys of the flesh in the arms of the one man she had never let herself desire--her best friend, Derrick Fox. But it's up to Derrick, and a little Christmas magic, to prove that they're a love match made to last a lifetime.
What have you had to give up to pursue your writing career?
A little sleep, a little sanity... You know, the usual.
In actuality, I'm extremely lucky. I've been a stay-at-home mom--other than running a few small businesses from home--since my oldest daughter was five. She's now twenty-two, and I have a seventeen and fourteen-year-old, as well, so they're all old enough to handle themselves when I'm busy writing. My husband's always been very supportive, which is a huge blessing.
That doesn't mean I can write 24/7. There's still the usual stuff to deal with--the kids' activities, errands, bills, appointments, chores. But I know I have it pretty easy compared to the writers who deal with all that and also hold down a day job. I don't know how they do it!
I'm a champion time-waster, so that is probably the biggest thing I've had to try to curb, if not give up entirely. I can sink into a Facebook game (Castleville, anyone? I actually did have to block that one!) or a project and not surface for hours, which is a problem if there's a story waiting to be written. My schedule is the one thing I battle constantly.
What are you working on?
As of this writing, I'm putting the final touches on Unwrapped, a short contemporary Christmas romance that will be available by the time this interview goes live. (Short description above.)
Once Unwrapped is completed, I will get back to work on my next novella, Remember Me, which is a reincarnation-y/ghost-y love story set in Washington state. It's about three-quarters finished now, so I hope to have it available by early spring, along with a shorter Valentine's Day story in time for all the hearts and flowers.
After that... there are eighteen other short stories and novellas in the queue! And two full-length novels in need of heavy revision, plus a new series I'm fleshing out, which is something I haven't done before.
I'm pretty excited about each of those projects, which makes it tough to decide which one to work on first, but what a great quandary to have!
What is your ultimate writing goal?
World domination through the printed word.
Ha! Just kidding. My ultimate writing goal is really just to touch someone's emotions with my work. If I can help a reader forget the little exasperations in their day, or take someone who is suffering into another world where they can immerse themselves in another life and temporarily escape that pain, if my stories make them laugh and cry and fall in love for a little while, then I have accomplished everything I could ever hope for. Books saved me in a big way when I was young. Writing is my way of paying that gift forward.
Do you have a comfort food? What is it?
Oh, several! Chocolate is my standard answer to that question, or pizza, but when I am really in need of comfort food, I go back to my family recipes. Two of my favorites are black bean soup, which looks like black mud but tastes so good, especially on a chilly day; and my mom's peanut butter cookies. I'm also heavily addicted to diet Pepsi.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Finding that perfect writing space is a continual challenge. Our house has an open floor plan and no office where I can go close the door to block everything out. Our main computer is in the family room, which is always noisy and crowded.
I know plenty of writers who can work in all sorts of environments and noise levels and nothing bothers them, or writers who listen to music--even with lyrics--while they write. That's not me. I like it to be very quiet and prefer to be alone, though I do enjoy it when my writer friends and I get together to work once in a while.
There's a very comfy recliner in my living room. I tried that for a while--I'd put my feet up, snuggle up in a blanket with my laptop. And fall asleep. It's very difficult to write that way!
Currently, I have taken over our dining room table. I have my laptop, several large notebooks and craft and research books spread all over the place. It's not ideal--it's still open to the kitchen and family room--but if it's a busy time in the house, I can put my headphones on and listen to instrumental music. That helps, although, as I said, I really prefer to write in silence. I think I'm just too easily distracted, and it amazes me that anyone can write with regular music in the background--I'd end up singing along (badly) and forget all about the writing!
Someday, I would love to have an office with a door that shuts, or if I'm really dreaming big, a little retreat I can go to on my own. A friend of mine is renting a cottage on an island in Puget Sound and she goes out there to write four days a week. That would be heaven!
What are your plans for the next year? Any books you are looking forward to?
Next year is going to be a busy one, in very good ways. Writing-wise, I've got a slew of projects on the slate, and I plan to make a big dent in them.
This past year was partly about figuring out my writing rhythms and schedule, so hopefully I can put that knowledge to use and make 2013 even more productive. I'm a slow writer, but by planning out my releases a bit more carefully, I'll be able to increase the number of stories I can get into the hands of readers compared to this year.
I'm a huge Nora Roberts fan, so I always look forward to her new releases, but I also have several friends who have work out to editors and agents right now, and I'm excited to hold their books in my hands. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that will happen for them in 2013.
How was your road to publication?
My road to publication is still developing in front of me, really. I've always written--I wrote my first two-hundred page book when I was eight. I earned my degree in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside way back in 1993. Then I got married, bought a house, had three kids...
I worked in retail, owned several small businesses, bounced around from idea to idea, trying to find just the right thing. I kept writing, in one form or another, all through that time, but it wasn't something that I dedicated a lot of energy to, and I never felt serious about it.
I did well in school, but my university writing program was heavily focused on literary writing. One complaint I heard over and over was that my work was too commercial. Since I loved genre fiction and read it almost exclusively (except for school), that was fine with me! But the idea that my work was subpar because it didn't fit the literary mold stayed with me for a long time and was hard to shake. I was afraid to put my work out there.
In 2009, I finally decided it was time to get serious. My kids were old enough that I could start doing some things on my own again, and I knew if I didn't take charge of my writing and really give it a shot it would be something I'd always regret. I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) and several of their local and online chapters and started writing regularly for the first time in years.
Even then, the path wasn't smooth. I decided I needed to take a bunch of classes to brush up my skills, which is something I firmly believe in--continuing to learn and improve. But I took too many and burned out. I had too many voices in my head telling me the "right way" to write, but it didn't work for me, and I felt stupid and frustrated when I couldn't force myself into that mold.
Finally, in October of 2011, I was ready to give it up permanently. Writing wasn't fun anymore. I was caught up in rules and research and world building, not writing anything creative at all, and I was spending a lot of money going to conferences, workshops, taking classes, joining chapters. My husband never complained, but I felt it wasn't fair to expect him to continue forking over so much money for me to have fun socializing if I wasn't truly pursuing my dream.
I made him a promise: If, by the end of 2012, I had not made significant progress toward publication, I would quit.
At that point, I got very nervous. In hindsight, I can see that was my subconscious screaming at me not to give up, but all I knew at the time was that what I'd been doing wasn't working, and I needed to try something new.
I put away the novels I'd been working on (researching a nine-book fantasy series) and decided to write a sexy short story, just for fun, just for myself. I never intended anyone else to see it, but I wanted just to write--no rules, no critical shoulder monkey watching my every move. That story became Pearls of Wisdom, a novelette I published in May, 2012.
Once I set aside all of those rules and voices that were not my own, once I got back to writing short stories, just for fun, something clicked. Writing became enjoyable again. At the same time, I had several key conversations with writer friends whose opinions and experience I value greatly. With their encouragement, I decided to go the indie route and just stop messing around--to get my work out there. I published my first short story, Pearls of Passion, in February. My third, Pearls of Pleasure, went up in September, and Unwrapped is my Christmas release.
The past year has been one giant learning curve, but I am loving the entire experience. I still have dreams of a New York publishing contract someday, and I have a couple of projects in mind for that path, but for now, I really like the control of doing it myself.
If you could time travel, where would you travel to and why?
I'd love to go back to Renaissance England, just for the clothes and the romance of it all. That's my favorite time period to study, and I love going to ren faires in my garb, which allows me to play while retaining the benefits of indoor plumbing!
If you could live in a world created by an author, which book / world would you jump into?
Oh, boy. This may not be the coolest answer for a romance author, but anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. One great big ginormous nerd. My kids gave me a personalized acceptance letter to Hogwarts last year, and that is my favorite gift ever. I cried and cried! If I could walk into the pages of those books, I'd never be heard from again. The theme park in Orlando, Florida is a good substitute, but seriously, if I could do it...
If I had to pick a romance world to jump into instead, it would have to be the Donovan series from Nora Roberts. It's set in Monterey, California, and the main characters are hereditary witches. I'm a California native and love that part of the state--throw in some real life witches like the Donovans, and I'd be all over it! I love those characters and their relationships with each other, and their individual love stories are ones I reread quite frequently. Plus, they get to visit their family seat in Ireland, my very favorite place on earth (outside of Hogwarts, at least), so that series has just about everything I could want.
Thank you so much for the fun interview, and thank you to the readers on Night Owl Reviews for perusing my ramblings. Happy New Year, everyone!