What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?
For those who don’t know, I’m primarily a historical fiction writer. The contemporary romantic comedy just sort of happened from my desire to see a finding Mr. Right story for those of us over 30 who are still single. I may write more contemporary novels in the future (I have several ideas), but historical fiction is where my heart truly lies.
In an ideal world, I’d be the Nora Roberts of historical fiction who happens to write hilarious rom-coms now and again. Of course, I’d be on the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists with every book. Who doesn’t want that? I’d be a full-time author who has the means and time to travel as part of my research and attend several conventions a year.
I really do want to be one of those break-out indies like Coleen Hoover or Bella Andre. I want the success and perks, but I really like being in charge of my own career.
What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?
I don’t watch much TV anymore (that’s part of my strategy to have more time to write), so I’m picky about what I watch; no more guilty pleasures. I love Orphan Black, Inspector Lewis (actually, most British TV shows), Murder in the First and Supergirl. I guess Supergirl would be the closest I get to guilty pleasures, but I don’t really feel guilty about it because a) it has several strong female characters and b) Jeremy Jordan. Nuff said.
But in the spirit of fun, I did used to love the reality show Rock of Love. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I ate the first season up. (The second season was just gross.) Oh and I think I watched the Charm School season. Musicians are my weakness, and I LOVE hair bands, so it couldn’t be helped. And I will admit that a bit of Mia in Been Searching for You may have been influenced by Laci (Mia also has a real-life influence, but I’m not going there).
Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?
Absolutely. My certainty isn’t something I can explain, especially given that I haven’t met my soul mate yet, but I know he is out there. I believe there is some big Universal plan (created by that higher power I call God/Goddess, but who goes by so many names) and I also think there is an equivalent of The Adjustment Bureau out there keeping us on track.
I also believe that we tend to hang with the same souls throughout lifetimes. I know I’ve had at least two great loves throughout mine. One of them was someone I thought I’d end up with this time around, but it wasn’t meant to be; we influenced each other positively, and he’s happily married with kids now, so I can’t ask for a better outcome for him. The other person is the one I know I will end up with in this life.
What is the strangest fact about you?
Oh I am so strange, there’s a lot to choose from. I was born three months premature back in 1979. I weighted 1lb 15 oz. The doctors told my parents that the only reason I lived is because I was a girl and girls fight harder. I’m really lucky not to have any major health issues as a result. The few I do have are manageable. All I know is I was in a hurry to get this life going! And I’ve done things the hard way ever since.
Which writers inspire you?
My mentor is Deborah Harkness, #1 NYT Bestseller of the All Souls trilogy. I was one of six authors chosen to take a week-long writing intensive with her in March 2014. I also really, really love Patricia Bracewell, Susanna Kearsley, Elizabeth Gilbert and Alyson Noel, all of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. I’m also inspired by Robin LaFevers, Geraldine Brooks, Jennifer Lee Carrell, Anne Fortier, Carol Goodman, MJ Rose, Erin Morgenstern.
What are you working on right now?
At this exact moment I’m wrapping up promotions for my latest book, Madame Presidentess, a historical fiction about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President in the United States in 1872, which was 48 years before women had the right to vote. As soon as that quiets down and the voices in my head start talking again, I’m hoping to get back to Mistress of Legend, the third and final book in my Guinevere’s Tale historical fantasy series. If that doesn’t come to life, I’ll begin research on the story of a real-life WWII heroine from France who is virtually unknown outside of her native country. (I’m attracted to the stories that have nearly been forgotten; I see it as my mission to revive them for future generations.)
Why do you write?
Because I have to. As I once told my boss at my day job, writing is breathing. I don’t think I could exist without it. Even if only family and friends read my books, I’d still be writing because it is what I’m truly passionate about. Just as some people feel called to be teachers, nurses, accountants, etc., I feel called to be a writer.
I also have characters talking in my head, asking – sometimes demanding – that I tell their stories. I want to do right by them, regardless of whether they are historical or fictional. And I also want them to shut up.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?
1. Read everything you can on self-publishing before you begin.
I did a six-month crash course before I published my first book and am still learning. I have a list of books I recommend on my web site here. I update it as I finish new books. That way, we can learn together.
2. Give yourself ample time.
It will take longer than you think. I hire out my editing, cover design and formatting (which I would recommend everyone do), and that all takes many weeks. I didn’t know this when I scheduled the release of my first four books, so I ended up having three books going at once. You don’t want to do this. Trust me. Releasing four books in seven months like I did is not a good idea, especially when you have a full-time job. Give yourself at least 3-4 months per book.
3. Hire a team of experts.
Self-publishing doesn’t mean doing it alone. As I mentioned above, you’ll want to gather a team to help you. I highly recommend getting a cover designer, editor and proofreader and layout expert at the bare minimum. Yes, you can do that stuff yourself, but if you want your work to be as high-quality as the traditionally published stuff, you’re better off working with the professionals. If you do an audio book, please use an experienced actor and don’t try to narrate it yourself unless you have professional acting training and very versatile vocal skills. You may also want to consider working with a publicist, if your work has media tie-in and you can afford it.
4. Give it time.
I’m learning this the hard way. Self-publishing is slow to show results and gain traction, mainly because we don’t have the resources/methods of discoverability that traditionally published authors do. Don’t freak out if you’re not a success overnight. Your audience will find you if you put a little effort into marketing and connecting with your ideal readers. I’m only seven months in, and I’ve learned that the old adage that “nothing sells a book like the next book” is really true. Which brings me to…
5. Keep writing.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the marketing once you have a book published (I know from experience), but you need to keep your focus on writing new material. That’s why you started this in the first place, right? And make sure you write what you love, not necessarily what the industry is looking for. Your passion for your subject will show through (and lack thereof shows through even worse). Chances are that if you care about it, someone will want to read about it.
6. Don’t ever give up.
It’s the only way to fail. Ignore your critics (easy to say, not easy to do). Don’t read reviews. If you cave and read your reviews and you get a bad one, go read the 1 and 2 star reviews on Goodreads or Amazon of your favorite writers or of those the critics love. You’ll see that EVERYONE gets negative reviews. Then shake it off (or drown it in wine) and go on to writing the next thing. Prove them wrong through your great writing.
What books are you currently reading?
It’s usually easier to ask me what I’m NOT reading. At the moment I’m reading:
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (audio): A wonderfully written account of WWII, focusing on the Ravensbruck concentration camp. It’s gutting, but fantastic.
Food, a Love Story by Jim Gaffigan (audio): I needed something light to counterbalance Lilac Girls.
Sun Born By W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear: Pre-history historical fiction about the Cahokia Indians. Reading for review for the Historical Novel Society.
Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber: Gaslight dark fantasy. Reading for review for the Historical Novel Society.
The Grotto’s Secret by Paula Wynne: Suspense, sort of like Dan Brown.
And I have roughly eight other books on hold. Okay, fine, maybe more like a dozen.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I’m on social media, too: