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Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere and nowhere. From songs, commercials, snippets of conversation, a news story, literally anything can trigger a story. Sometimes the story grows and ends up not being anything like the original seed. Sometimes it just gets filed in my idea document and molders there. There is a great T-shirt I’ve seen being sold by writing chapters:
BEWARE OF WHAT YOU SAY. IT MIGHT BE USED IN MY BOOK.
That about sums it up.
Do you ever put real people in your books?
Sometimes. It’s a neat way to honor my friends and family. There have been times where a friend has just “popped” into a story. I see a character as that person. I love when that happens. Other times, I fit them in. They’re almost always minor characters, since I have to get so intimate with my main characters. It would feel a bit weird to “see” that character as a friend. I mean, come on, I see them naked! And doing, er, adult things. I really don’t want to picture my good friends doing those things.
I do use their traits or sayings at times. As for putting in a cameo appearance, I always ask their permission. (I’ve only had one person say no, though I’m not sure why.) The difficult part is capturing them. As well as I know them, it’s very hard to capture that person and his/her quirks. So usually the character is a composite of them, not a duplicate.
Yeah, okay, but do you put people you hate in your books and make them bad or kill them off?
Very, very carefully.
Your books seem like they’d make great movies. Can you have one made?
I have had some interest on my books over the years, but so far nothing has come of it. It amuses me that some folks seem to think I have control over these things, like I could just get it done but haven’t thought of it yet. I have control over nothing buy my books themselves. And even then, it can become doubtful. Getting a book made into a movie is a long, chancy, one in a million happening. It can take years and years even after they buy the rights, and after that, it can still fizzle. I’d be very excited about having a book made into a movie, even though I know they’d probably change the script, the characters, and the ending and then I’d probably hate it, but I’d still go for it. I think it will happen someday, but until then, I’ll just focus on the books.
How can I get published?
I get asked for advice from time to time. Being a writer is great fun. Being a published writer is hard, hard work. There are books and books written on the subject, and I suggest reading every one of those books and find the advice therein that rings true to you. Find a writer’s group in your area. If you write romance, join Romance Writers of America (www.rwanational.com). It’s a great resource.
Overall, I try to be encouraging, because I think everyone should follow their dreams. As long as it really is their dream and not others saying, “You write so well, you should get published.” Once you decide to write professionally, and once you’ve got a real handle on the craft of writing itself, then you have a whole lot to learn about the business of writing. How to find a publisher, where does your book fit in the marketplace, do you need an agent, how do you get an agent…all I can say in this short space is, learn, learn, learn. (And check out my For Writers link) Network with other writers, search the Internet (but don’t believe everything you read), don’t ever pay for an agent to read your work or to edit your work, and don’t give up when you get your fiftieth rejection if the desire burns within you.
I’ve got a great idea, but I can’t write. Want to write it for me?
I get this question a lot at booksignings. One man actually brought notes and pictures to discuss with me. One couple wanted me to ply them with drinks and dinner and then they’d share their story. Everyone has a story inside him or her. I have fourteen thousand, two hundred and fifty-three story ideas inside me, all waiting to get out. I won’t get to write all of them, so I definitely won’t be able to write yours. I encourage you to write it out, see if there’s enough of a story to make a book out of it. Maybe you can sell it yourself and get to keep all the money.
Will you ever do another body change story?
Probably not. I enjoyed writing them immensely (ON THE WAY TO HEAVEN, SHADES OF HEAVEN, and SECOND TIME AROUND), but I feel I’ve written them the three ways they could be written. I’ve taken the plain-jain girl and given her a model’s body, a husband who can’t stand her, and a rich lifestyle. I gave the model her comeuppance by putting her into a pregnant, small town waitress married to a stock car driver. And I gave a girl who’d been in a wheelchair a good part of her life a second chance to woo the man she’s been in love with for years. Another writer and friend, who was inspired by my first book, killed off a guy and brought him back in a woman’s body. (Gracie McKeever, NEW LIFE INCOGNITA) I didn’t have the guts to do that! I have explored the avenues I wanted to explore and now I’m writing different kinds of books. But I never say never.
Do you have a writing schedule?
Absolutely. You have to be disciplined if you hope to write for a living. Treating your writing like a regular day job is a good way to approach it, even if you already have a day job and write at night. I worked full time at a computer software company and wrote during the evenings and on the weekends. Then I worked part time for a while. It took about five years of being steadily published before I was comfortable enough to do it full time. Oddly enough, when you have more time to do it, you still feel as though you never catch up. I still get up early, early for me, anyway, and get to work by 9 am. The only time the television goes on is when I break for lunch. Television is a huge temptation, except for the music-only channels.
I can’t find one of your books. Can you help?
Most of my St. Martin’s Press titles are available via order from your local bookseller. Occasionally one may become unavailable, most recently, SHADES OF HEAVEN. If you can’t locate it, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get one for you.
As for my Harlequins, try to order them from your bookseller or on-line. For the most part, they’re out of print and available only used. If you’d like a crisp, new copy, you can try going to www.harlequin.com to see if you can order one or email me.
Why did you change the name of the city/town that you set your book in?
Sometimes I keep the setting, such as Naples, Florida in A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. Most of the time I change the name so I can take some literary license as far as landmarks and geographical aspects go. That means I can run a river right through the center of town if I want or change the way the town lays out.
I also do it to protect the law. Specifically, my books often involve situations where the heroine gets no help from the law. I don’t want her to get help; that’s the point. I want her on her own, fighting for justice and her life. I try not to make the police or sheriff numbskulls, but they usually have reasons for not wanting to help or not believing the heroine. Sometimes they’re downright corrupt. Particularly when I’m dealing with a smaller town or city, I don’t want to offend the real life law enforcement officials.