Q: How do you get your ideas?
A: Several different ways. When writing medievals, snippets in history books and articles have sparked ideas. For example, when I read about the 1455 battle of St. Albans, I learned that troops actually marched through people’s yards and gardens on their way to the town marketplace. Combined with the “What if…?” prompt many authors use, that fact became: “What if an army marched through the heroine’s garden?” That question led more questions…who is she, how would she react, who would the hero be, etc.
Life experience also provides ideas. I’ve worked as an extra in many movies and TV shows, and thought the ups and downs of extra work would be interesting to incorporate into a manuscript. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction! Only my hairdresser knows how much is true.
Also, scenes have just popped into my head. For My Once and Future Love, I saw a wounded man running through the forest at night. Then I had to figure out the who, what, where, etc. Who was he running from? How did he get wounded? Who was he? Who might help him?
Q: Describe your writing process.
A: I’m a pantser, not a plotter. Which means I write from the seat of my pants instead of planning what’s going to happen in advance. I don’t write the synopsis (summary of the book’s conflict, character development and plot) first. I start with whatever gave me the idea for that project and go from there.
I’ve tried using various pre-plotting tools, attended workshops and read books about writing synopses before the manuscript, because doing so is supposed to help you discover the path your story will take, make sure you have sufficient conflict and help avoid the dreaded sagging middle. But when I sit down to plot, nothing happens. I stare at a blank screen. When I sit down to write, I see what the characters are seeing and scenes unfold. I know several best-selling, award-winning authors who are pantsers, so it can be done well!
I write scenes as they pop into my head, which aren’t always in chronological order. It’s like a puzzle… which pieces do I have and which are missing? Some authors write drafts. I edit what I’ve already written before moving on, so by the time I reach the last chapter the rest of the chapters are good to go.
I prefer to set aside blocks of time for writing, so I can get into the zone without having to make sure I won’t to be late for something. I commend those who can write even if they only have 15 minutes in the car waiting for their kids to finish playing soccer. It took a while, but I’ve learned to write on a laptop at a quieter coffee shop.
Q: How do you decide what kind of book to write?
A: I started with medievals because I loved reading historical romance novels and historical fiction. The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss remains one of my favorite HRNs, and Margaret George’s The Autobiography of King Henry VIII is one of my favorite HFs. And I enjoy perusing detailed history books…but wanted to have a reason to buy and delve into them.
My historicals are set in late medieval England during the period we now call the Wars of the Roses, from 1453-1485. I chose it partly because fewer novels are set during the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV, and partly because after having a small role in Shakespeare’s Richard III in college, I wanted to know what really happened during that time.
After I completed the first two manuscripts, I continued with this era because I’d invested in so many wonderful research books on 15th Century England.
Q: And you’ve written paranormals and contemporaries, too?
A: Until I started my first paranormal, I didn’t appreciate the freedom the author has while world building. With historicals and contemporarie, you need accurate research about your hero/heroine’s careers, current events, what they wear and eat, where they go. With paranormals, I can make the rules (as long as I’m consistent) and give my imagination and characters free reign. Thinking outside the box is a lot of fun. And paranormals with a time travel element let me combine my love of history and historicals with a contemporary voice.
Each subgenre has its advantages and disadvantages. Contemporaries set in my home town are fun because I’m familiar with the streets my characters walk on. I can describe actual buildings or landmarks, if needed. I don’t have to worry about anachronisms, though certain cultural references can date a manuscript. Also, they say, “write what you know,” and it’s easier to know modern day living than medieval life.
Q: Do you have a day job?
A: I’m a voiceover and on-camera actor (for more information please visit ruthtalks.com), and do some freelance writing and editing. I also give online and in person workshops on a variety of topics. This mix works well, because on days I don’t have auditions or bookings I can concentrate on writing.
Rejections: One ‘No’ Closer to ‘Yes’
A few lucky authors pursuing traditional publication will sell their first manuscript to the first editor they submit to or get an offer of representation from the first agent. For everyone else, rejections are a fact of life. And almost every author has received a bad review. No matter the stage of your career, you’ll have to learn to deal with and learn from rejections. Most of us will experience some or all of these types of rejection: Read more…
Want to be in a movie?
Have you ever wanted to be in a movie or on a TV show? Depending on where you live, it may be easier than you think to sit or walk near famous movie stars and appear on the big or small screen. Here’s a Q&A about how to be an extra and what it’s like to work as one based on my experiences as an extra on 60+ movies and TV shows filmed in Chicago. Other cities may have different policies and procedures. Read more…
Perfect Pitch: Tips for editor/agent appointments
The mere thought of pitching to an editor or agent strikes fear in the heart of many authors. Here are some suggestions I’ve developed after giving numerous pitches and watching others pitch. I hope some resonate with and help you. Almost everyone gets nervous. The key is to learn to turn your nerves into positive enthusiasm for the opportunity to discuss your work. Read more…