How did you get started writing?
Iíve always been a writer. Thereís poetry in my baby book, written down by my sister at my dictation. My education is in journalismĖ I intended to be a newspaper reporter and write fiction in my spare time Ė so Iíve always been writing one thing or another, all my life.
How did you sell your first book?
The first book I sold was the first one Iíd ever submitted, and it was purchased by the first publisher to look at it. Iíd written six books before that, though, and burned them Ė page by page. That was how I learned what worked and what didnít in storytelling. When I finished the seventh book, I knew it was better and different and that Iíd learned as much as I could on my own. So I sent it in, expecting that Iíd get a rejection but hoping the rejection letter would help me take the next step. Instead, the editor saw potential and advised me on how to revise the book, and after I did that work, she bought it.
Where do you get all your ideas?
Sometimes a news story or a comment from a friend is enough to spark a story. Years ago I clipped a newspaper story about an attorney who filed his clientsí divorce papers overseas instead of in the state where they lived, and they were finding out they might not be divorced after all. Eventually that story sparked my novel Maybe Married.
How long does it take you to write a book?
When I was writing contemporary series romance, I wrote three or four romance novels a year, so as soon as I finished a book I started thinking about the next. The active writing phase for my series romances was usually from four to eight weeks.
Now that I'm writing longer single title books, each one takes from six to nine months from beginning to finished product.
Do you work on a schedule or when youíre inspired?
Iím a professional writer, so I treat my writing like a regular job. I usually start my day by checking email and looking in on the writing classes I teach. Then I spent the late morning and the afternoon writing. I usually work five or six days a week. But when Iím finishing a book or doing a revision, I may work 16 to 18 hours at a stretch for a few days.
Whatís your favorite book?
Whichever one Iíve just done the finishing work on, so I canít be asked to do another single thing! Seriously, I do like some of my books better than others. But thatís often because of what was happening as I wrote them Ė for instance, did I have to struggle with every sentence, or did the story flow very smoothly? The books I like more arenít necessarily better books Ė so I prefer not to answer that question.
After writing so many books, do you still remember them all?
Absolutely. I donít recall every word or every comparison, but the people in my stories become very real to me and I remember their stories and their emotional struggles.
How do you make each book different?
Actually I donít, the characters do. If you put ten people in a particular situation, each of them will react just a little differently. So will characters Ė if theyíre not stereotypes. So even if we start with the same basic premise, the stories will be different because the people in the stories are different.
What advice do you give young people who want to write?
Take every opportunity to write Ė whether itís classroom work or the school newspaper or letters to the editor. And study everything you can. Donít limit yourself to your favorite fields -- explore as widely as possible because you never know what you might be writing about. Calculus and art appreciation can be equally valuable for the writer.
What about writers in general? What do you suggest to them?
Read a lot. Read carefully, looking for clues about how the author did it, and why she did it that way. And write a lot. Writing is a skill, like piano playing - -the more we practice, the better we get (as long as we're practicing and not just pounding on the keys!)
I would have given anything, years ago when I started writing, to have a mentor, so I've tried to pass along to others what I've learned. Many, many writers have found my classes helpful, and many published writers still use the activities and worksheets in my non-fiction books.
There's a section of this website called Classroom on the Web, where you can look at and download many of the activities and worksheets that I use and share with students.
Sometimes I can't find your books in stores. What can I do?
My single-title historicals should be available through any bookstore as well as from online retailers who sell books.
Series romance novels are often on the shelves for only a few weeks before they're replaced by the next month's titles. This is one of the reasons why I'm re-releasing my titles in e-book formats. If you're looking for particular older titles, or if you prefer "real" books, drop a note to bkorders @ mchsi.com (without the spaces).
How do I get you to come talk to my writers' group?
When my schedule permits, I enjoy traveling to give seminars, workshops, or talks. I offer a number of programs for writers and for general audiences. A partial list can be found here.
Speaking fees are negotiable, though all reasonable expenses (ticket/mileage, hotel, basic meals) must be covered by the sponsoring group.
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