Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: That depends on the book. The current WIP, On Angels’ Wings, has taken me forever. A century? Years? Anyway, a Christmas story of redemption and the power of love to change individuals and communities, it became the proverbial albatross hanging around my neck. On the other hand, Pete’s Dragon, a story about a lonely young boy who imagines that he and his single mom live next door to an actual dragon (in reality an embittered man in a wheel chair), took under a month. It just came out in a rush of images and words. I don’t think that the length of time affects the final book. It just seems to be a factor of the creative process.
Q: What, exactly, is the creative “process”?
A: Famously, it’s been described as sitting in front of the computer, slitting yours wrists and bleeding all over the keys. I have no idea what it is–I know only that when I’m in the grip of storytelling, it’s as though I’m in a trance, seeing and hearing people as if I were at a movie. I love it! Except there’s no popcorn, of course.
The process is different for each creative person. For some, it’s dealing with a mess of ideas and images and inchoate thoughts. Sort of like driving down the road with one headlight, as my friend Cathie Linz has described it. You know stuff as it pops up in the headlight. Everything else is a mystery!
Q: Okay, let’s talk money. How much?
A: Let’s not! Enough. And not enough!
Q: How does your family feel about your writing, uh, “hot” scenes?
A: My mother-in-law sweetly wonders where I get my “ideas.” My twenty-four-year old son and his friends aren’t allowed to read them. Or if they do, they can’t tell me!
Q: Why do you enjoy reading and writing romance?
A: I love the stories, the emotions, and, yes, quite frankly, I love the assurance of the happy ending. In a troubled world where so much is out of our control, there’s real comfort in knowing I’m going to enter a fictional world for a time where good things are possible. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, I confess!.
Q: Share how you as a writer go about effectively creating the “pace” of a story so that your story is a page-turning romance?
A: The assumption here, thank you!, is that my story is a page-turner! I do try to give the reader a book that will keep her reading late into the night. I’ve learned that pacing depends on a lot of variables: my voice, the particular scene, and chapter structure. For instance, my voice tends to be southern and descriptive. As a result, I try to use that as a strength in emotional scenes and in lovemaking scenes. In other scenes, primarily action scenes, I focus on using short, subject-verb sentences and lots of dialogue to create a fast, slam-band pace. In a chapter where the focus is chiefly on action, I sometimes use short, popcorn scenes–Mary Higgins Clark does this a lot, and it automatically speeds up the pace.
Q: How do the “voices” of your characters emerge?
A: Hmmm. Dunno? I hear them in my head. Until that happens, the story doesn’t take off. Once the characters start “talking,” I’m on a roll. Sometimes I hear a voice I hadn’t expected, and that changes the story. I had a villain in Dark Moon, for instance, suddenly appear, and I hadn’t known he/she was the killer! Same thing in No Surrender. I thought the evil-doer was one person–nope! Suddenly a different character–and I’m not going to say whom!–just started chatting away in my head!
Q: What qualities do you seek in a romance novel that make it a “keeper”?
A: For me this answer is the same whether the book is a romance, a mystery, lit light, or serious literary fiction. A book that touches my emotions and makes me lose track of where I am becomes a keeper for me. Sometimes that will happen because of the story situation, characters, or the writer’s particular voice. Usually it will be a combination of all three.
Q: What makes the romance genre unique and exciting as opposed to any other genre?
A: I’m really uncomfortable with the word ‘opposed.’ It suggests a kind of ranking to me, and that’s not how I feel about books. Like many romance readers, I read widely and broadly depending on what reading experience I’m hungry for. I don’t see the romance genre as in ‘opposition’ to any other genre, but as a rich, wonderful offering on a buffet of reading possibilities.
The genre does, and uniquely, I think, afford writers the opportunity to explore an incredible variety of story lines and ideas–from historical periods, kiss and kill books, to paranormal and alien worlds. The romance genre doesn’t feel restrictive to me the way some other storytelling formats do. The romance genre seems to be, like many women, adaptable and open to new elements. That openness, I strongly believe, is one of its greatest strengths.
I am a fan of the genre because of its specific emphasis on emotion and connections, on creating a universe where family bonds and male-female relationships have the power to make the world better. I think these themes are important because they remind us of the best instincts of humankind–to nurture, to create, and to love. Yeah, you bet I love the romance genre!
Q: So when are you going to write a “real” book?
A: Hey, if you don’t think these books are “real,” come sit down in front of my computer and figure out how to create a world and the people in it–while keeping a reader turning the pages! Do I sound as if this is a sore point? It really isn’t, but it’s a question that frequently comes up. I suspect people who ask it don’t really understand the romance genre, which accounts for over half of all books sold. This genre incorporates everything from science fantasy to the kiss and kill books. Because many of them are marketed as series (part of a line of books from a publisher) doesn’t make them “not real.” It just means that they’re marketed differently and consistently so that X number of books come out every month. As for length and effort? Shoot, sugar, a manuscript for one of my Intimate Moments, for instance, comes in at just under 400 ms. pages. Extensive research is also involved. Believe me–I’m writing real books!
One difference is that an essential part of a romance is the happy ending. Sometimes people see that as “unrealistic.” Sure, it is. But…like mysteries which usually have a “happy ending” in that the evildoer is caught or dealt with, romances are no different. The happy ending” of a romance, though, is one that reinforces the notion that love and connections are possible. Not a bad message to put out in the world, is it?
Q: Is one happy ending more valid than the other?
A: Nope. Just different, that’s all.