- When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I don't know that there was a specific time when I realized I wanted to be a writer – it just sort of always did it. English and literature were my best subjects in school and my imagination was always shaping stories about everything I looked at and heard around me. As long as I can remember, I was spinning stories in my mind when I would encounter something that inspired me, whether it was a song I heard, an image I saw.... or my favourite television show, I'd just create tales. I started writing them down with serious intent to telling the stories about 26-27 years ago, but I've always written in one form or another.
- When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first completed novel was written when I was 23, I think – so a long time ago! J I sent it to the actor who inspired the story and 13 DAYS later while on the set of his television series, he picked up the phone and called me during a break – said he'd just finished reading my gift and it was better than what he was filming at the time. He told me to keep writing, it was obvious I had a gift for it. When you really admire someone and they tell you that about your first serious effort, it stays with you!
- How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I've written more books and stories than I can even remember. I never read my own work, so I have no idea if any of them are even worth the time it took to write them, honestly. I leave that decision to the people who read the books. At this point, working from memory and including all the amateur stuff I had published as fan fiction – I've done in the vicinity of 450+ stories, novels, and novellas.
If I was forced to pick a favourite I think it would have to be AS FATE DECREES simply because it's my first internationally published novel, and is available all over the world in bookstores. I just discovered it was for sale in Italy, and for me personally that was very exciting!! FATE was ten years in the making from the time I started writing it until the day we had the launch party at my favourite local bookstore. Amazing experience all the way around...
- What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I work 12-14 hours a day, every day of the year. It's an insane schedule, but it hasn't killed me yet. There is mail first, then newsgroups and lists to check in with, MySpace, Facebook, Fan Page, and website maintainance. Plus, I run an online romance magazine. The days are full, and I often don't get time to write with all the other things that require attention. Somehow it all works itself out with time.
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
The one everyone remarks on – I never read my own books. I never have and I never will, probably. I line read for typos and continuity, but to just sit down and read it as a book – have never done it. I've forgotten half the character names and things I've created... I just keep moving with it all.
- Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Ideas come from everywhere. A snatch of overheard conversation, an image I run across. Sometimes a particularly vivid dream. My biggest inspiration is music. I love it, and there is always a "soundtrack" in my mind when I create a story. I can hear a song and it fills my mind with a story...
Information is the second best part of writing – you get to read, watch DVDs, and just learn so much. I love research as much as I love writing.
- What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Sleep mostly, it seems like most of my life is connected to what I do in one way or another. I watch shows or movies on DVD, occasionally, and I listen to music at the end of every day to wind down... mostly Italian, and mostly romantic, because it is soothing and creates peace in my mind.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That what you write can inspire someone else, and in some cases help them understand things about themselves and those they love. That's one of the best things about it – you can offer your personal life experience through fiction, and maybe save another person a bit of heartache. Wisdom comes with age, and I'm a lot older than many of my readers, so there's an interesting relationship there. Most people find it surprising to get to know me, because I'm sort of a paradox to what I often create.
- What do you think makes a good story?
Strong characters that readers can identify with on some level. Even in fantasy, there has to be a core that is reachable to the average reader. If you can't "get into" the book, you can't enjoy it to any great degree, no matter how well written it is. So, humanity has to be present in some form. In romance that is particularly true. Passion is the universal emotion, and if you bring it to the relationship you're creating, it's what everyone responds to. So, good writing makes a difference, but good story-telling is by far more important to reaching the heart of the reader. Let them feel what your characters are feeling, and live it with them... Ultimately, we as story-tellers are entertainers, just like any other artists, so you have to do your job and make someone smile, shiver, think, any and all of those things is the mark of a good job done!
- Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer?
Pay attention to the details, and most of all, employ all five of your senses with your writing. This is something I have told many people who have asked this question. A simple thing to do, and I've said "tape it to you computer monitor so you can see it as you work" – ask yourself as you approach the scene – what does it look like, what does it taste like, what do you hear, what do you smell, and most of all, what does it make you feel? Answer those questions and you've got a scene that "lives and breathes" for your reader to experience.
The second thing is to never believe what your best friend or your family tell you about your work – take it out and get an impartial and honest opinion from someone who doesn't love you. They have no vested interest and will not be as reluctant to tell you what is flawed in your book. There is NO SUCH THING as a perfect book, so get that notion out of your head right away, and accept that all books can be improved, and editors are there to help make that happen, not destroy your work. Be open to help offered, and ignore bad reviews!
I guess that's more than one piece of advice, isn't it? Also, feel free to ignore twits like me!! J