My Interview with the Author!
Thank you for agreeing to give everyone a look behind your writing process! What made you wake up one day wanting to write the Morna’s Legacy series? Where did that idea spring from?
I know some people have the incredible ability to wake up one day with an idea fully formed in their head. I certainly don’t have that. The idea was a slow build and an intentional one. I knew that I enjoyed writing so after I decided that I was going to try and write a book, I knew I had to come up with an idea that I wouldn’t only enjoy during the initial planning process, but that I would still enjoy when I was in the dreaded middle of the manuscript. It needed to be an idea that I liked enough to help me push through those tough days when I absolutely didn’t want to write. That’s where the idea started – I needed to write a story that I would also enjoy reading. From there, I thought of the things I love the most: big, sexy, men (preferably with accents, obviously), places that aren’t here (as in anywhere close to me), and time-travel. I mean who wouldn’t want to step back into another time, at least just for a day? Anyhow, from there it just took me a long time to think, brainstorm, and then re-think the really crappy ideas until I had the manuscript semi-outlined.
What kind of challenges did you face during the writing? What were the easiest parts and the hardest parts?
It’s not the act of writing itself that is the biggest challenge, it’s getting myself to sit down in the chair long enough to get any writing done. It requires such focus, it’s really easy to find an excuse to allow yourself to become distracted. Honestly, I’m not sure if there are easy parts, but once I get myself seated and zoned in, actually writing is my favorite part.
About how long did it take, from inception to perfection?
The first book, “Love Beyond Time,” took me several years, but it was a very on again-off again process. It took me about a year and a half to get the first half of the manuscript finished simply because there would be months where I would write, and then months where I wouldn’t look at it. Once I really threw myself into it full-time, the second half of the manuscript came together in a few months.
What do you really want readers to take away from your books?
I know that nothing I write will ever be considered masterpiece literature, and that’s absolutely fine. It is certainly not my goal. I love reading any type of book, but more often than not, I seek out light reading – something with a happy ending that allows me to escape for a few hours or a few days. That is what I hope readers find and take away from my books–an escape that lets them step away from real life for awhile and into a world where men are how we wish they were in real life and stories that allow us to ask, “what if?”
Now I know your bio says that you originally went to school to be a teacher. How did it feel, deciding to 180 from that and become a writer, an arguably much-less-stable career choice?
It felt incredible and liberating in the most fantastic sort of way. I love kids, but deep down I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. More than that, I dreaded the day I would be in charge of a classroom of kiddos. Every second I spent in class preparing to become a teacher just ate away at me. It wasn’t my path, and I knew it.
I chose teaching because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I did know what I wanted to do – I wanted to write – but I didn’t think it was something that I could make a living doing. Teaching seemed like the next best thing, but I had no business majoring in it. My heart wasn’t in it, and teaching is the last thing somebody needs to do without passion. It’s such a tough and important job.
Deciding to abandon that career path was terrifying, but only for a brief second. Nothing in my life has ever felt so right. To be doing what I always wanted to do full-time, after spending years floundering, knowing that I was working toward the wrong thing, well, that is an incredible relief, and I am so happy with the way it has all worked out so far.
Not for a single second.
I’m going to assume that at least some of main character Bri is based off of you and your experiences. Besides the teaching, what else would you say the two of you have in common?
Many things. I think a small part of me wrote Bri as a reflection of myself, as a way to write myself into my very own fairytale. I’m still waiting for the real-life thing, so in the mean time, that was my way of giving myself the “dream.”
When it comes to actual personality traits that are similar between the two of us, I definitely have the same – routine is my friend – I like things neat and tidy – as Bri. Sort of like Monica from Friends; I think that is a fair comparison of both Bri and I. I can also be slightly anti-social like Bri. I love to travel and to go and do things, but when it comes to things that people my age are supposedly “supposed” to be doing – going out, staying up all night, dating – I really have to be pushed into doing it. Thank God, I have friends like Mitsy that do try to get me out of the house occasionally.
Looking back from this finished standpoint, is there anything you would change, about the books or the series?
I think, at least, I hope, that my writing improves with each book, so there are definitely aspects of my writing that when I look back at “Love Beyond Time,” I cringe just a little bit, but as far as the plot/storyline for “Love Beyond Time,” no nothing.
For “Love Beyond Reason,” I only have one real regret, but I still don’t think I would change it. I wish Blaire and Arran hadn’t had to be separated for so much of the book. But with the way things were left at the end of the first book and with what happened in the beginning of “Reason,” I don’t think there was any way around it. I know that it was definitely not as light-hearted as the first or subsequent books. It had a heavier air to it, but in the end, that’s okay. I hope it still left readers satisfied and ready for book 3.
And as far as “Love Beyond Hope,” goes, I wouldn’t change a thing. I think it’s my personal favorite book so far. I just love Mitsy, and I really wish I was way more like her.
So really, nothing really that I would change. I can, however, tell you a something I am very glad that I did change before the final draft of “Love Beyond Time.” In the earliest draft, I killed off Adelle in like the second chapter of the book. That was originally how I planned to get Bri to Scotland. Adelle would be murdered while on a dig in Scotland, and Bri would leave to try and help solve it. In the end, early readers hated that and it never really felt right to me either. The more I wrote, the more I liked Adelle and now she’s become such a great part of all the books (she even has her own novella) so I am so glad that I kept her around.
Writing is solitary, but you have to have a lot of support. I assume your family was on board? How did they feel about your writing?
Absolutely. None of this could ever have happened without the support of my family. They couldn’t have shown more support or belief in my ability to make my dreams come true. When I sat them down to tell them that I was stopping college to pursue this full-time, that I didn’t want to teach, I really expected my father to have a heart attack. He’s always a little more hesitant of anything that’s off the beaten path, so to say. Instead, he was surprisingly open and understanding to the idea. Way more so than I thought he would be. I’m pretty certain there was some serious divine intervention involved there.
I knew my mom would be on board. She’s so much like me that she understands the way I think and, although I have consistently made decisions that were not…I can’t think of the right word…customary? Expected, maybe? Anyway, she always trusts my judgment. She knows how much thought I put into everything (too much thought, really), and she has by far been my greatest supporter through all of this. Helping not only by giving me emotional support, but by truly working full-time right along with me. She’s studied so much on marketing techniques and helped with the business side of things so that I could focus on writing. I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had, so quickly after release, without her.
You recently published the third and final book, Love Beyond Hope. Congrats, by the way! But now that Morna’s Legacy is finished, do you have other projects on the horizon?
Well, actually….Morna’s Legacy, is nowhere near finished. I just enjoy the world and the characters too much to stop now, and I still feel like there are many more stories and characters to explore. The fourth book in the series, “Love Beyond Measure,” will be released in June.
In addition, I’m really playing around with some ideas for an entire new series. I’ll still keep up Morna’s Legacy, but I would really like to expand into something else as well. It will be romance for certain, but whether that new series is time travel, historical, contemporary, I’m really not too sure yet. More details to come in the following months.
Any tantalizing details? 😀
Hmmm….”Love Beyond Measure” is what I’m working on right now, so I’m trying to think of something that I can tease. How about this? I can tell you that readers will get a glimpse into what E-o writes in the journals he was always scribbling away in during “Love Beyond Hope.”
What kinds of books would you say influence you the most, as a reader and a writer?
I love “love” I guess you could say. And not, “Oh, geez, I think you’re sexy, let’s jump into bed and get busy,” love. Sometimes, that’s very enjoyable to read, but it doesn’t come across as love to me. At least, that’s just not how I operate. I think there’s a lot to be said for tension and allowing your characters to have that scary, exhilarating, give-and-take sort of thing that usually happens before you give yourself over to someone. I think that build makes the “get busy” part even more incredible.
So…I guess where I’m going with that is, it’s the books that show that sort of tension that I gravitate toward most as a reader and what I believe have influenced me most as a writer. Sometimes, the not-touching – the longing, the almost love-making, followed by the heart-wrenching pull away, are the best display of love. And it’s those scenes in books that make me all fluttery and weepy when the couple finally does come together.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading some heat just as much as any girl, but as I sit here thinking back on the books I read over and over, that’s the under-lying theme. I think tension is important in every relationship, and I hope that comes across in my writing.
You’ve written historical romance, and done a great job. Do you think you’d ever write in a different genre?
Yes, definitely. I’m playing around with some ideas right now.
So you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. It is my full-time job, and I treat it as such. I keep strict hours and spend all day in my office, just like I would if I had a job in an office building somewhere, or if I actually had become a teacher. Pretty much all of my time is spent working on my writing career in some way or another. Whether it’s writing, editing, plotting the next book, marketing, working on business stuff, I put in at least a 50-hour work week.
One of the things that surprised me most when I discovered you was that you were a self-published author. Talk about that journey. What was the hardest part? How did you go about getting such a professional demeanor?
After I dove into this full-time, the next big decision I had to make was whether I wanted to pursue a career in traditional publishing or to go Indie. I truly didn’t know which direction I wanted to go until I attended RWA’s national conference in Atlanta, last year. I wanted to make the right decision for me, and I knew from talking to people in both areas of the business that there are pros and cons to both.
I left for RWA with the intention of educating myself in both areas so that I could make an informed decision. With my goal for the conference set, I decided to split my time on workshops aimed at traditional publishing and workshops aimed at Indie publishing. My plan worked for about a day and then I ended up spending the rest of the conference in Indie workshops. Everything that I listened to about Indie publishing just clicked with me, and it excited me more than anything else ever had. I listened to successful Indie authors such as Liliana Hart, Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Tina Folsom and sat there thinking, I can do this. This was made for me. Everything about the process just seemed to fit my control-freak personality completely.
On the way home, I drew up a to-do list and a business plan and got busy. I met with an accountant that next week, opened up a business checking account, contacted a website designer, editors, formatters, etc. and hit the ground running.
The hardest part, frankly, is just the sheer amount of work involved. While it is awesome to have complete control over your product from beginning to end, it also means that you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. You can literally work 24 hours in the day and not get to a stopping point.
I’m very pleased that you believe I give off a professional demeanor. It was certainly a primary goal with everything I did. We are visually-driven creatures, and how professional your website, covers, and everything appear, impacts the way people perceive the quality of your work. I truly believe having all of that in place before I ever released a book was a big contributing factor to my success.
Are there any tips you could endow to other aspiring self-published authors?
If Indie publishing is your goal and moving full steam ahead with that, be willing to throw all of yourself into the process.
After you’re committed to making it work, go buy and read every word of the book “The Naked Truth About Self Publishing” by The Indie Voice. It is an amazing resource written by people who know what they are doing. I got so much great advice and refer back to it often.
Next, seriously consider writing a series!!! Series sell. I heard that over and over but saw the truth of it after my last release, “Love Beyond Hope.” After you release the next book in your series, the sales of all your other books go up.
There’s so much more I could tell you, but I’ll give aspiring self-published authors one last tid-bit. Be prepared to write your ass off and release consistently and at a much quicker turn out rate than someone in traditional publishing. It’s important to keep things in front of readers in order to get your name out there, positively impact the algorithms, and stay on, for example, Amazon’s bestseller lists.
Would you like to be traditionally published some day, or do you plan to stay indie?
I am open to whatever opportunities come my way. Like I said, there are pros and cons to both sides of the business, and I can definitely see some advantages to having say a “hybrid” career. So I am content to wait and see what happens.
What has been your absolute favorite parts of being a published author?
Well, I’m not sure if this sounds materialistic of me, but frankly, being able to make a living doing what I love most. It’s a dream come true.
Secondly, every time I get an email from a fan who enjoyed my books, it totally makes my day. The first one I ever got I could hardly believe it, and I don’t think that is something that will ever get old.
Lastly, there is something just completely amazing about holding the book you’ve written in your hands. It’s bizarre and a little overwhelming, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a little when the first paperback proof copy of “Love Beyond Time” came in the mail.
What are your biggest challenges when you’re writing, and how do you overcome them? What about writer’s block?
The biggest challenge when writing are the business distractions that come up throughout every day. It’s so easy to get pulled away by an email that needs answered, etc. that it gets hard to get totally zoned in to the writing. As a result, it seems to take me longer to finish every chapter than I originally think it will. As to how I overcome it, I try to schedule specific hours for writing where I don’t check an email or do anything but write until I’m done writing for the day.
Writer’s block is usually more than anything, procrastination. It’s tough, but I think it’s important to not allow it to set in. Just sit down and write something, even if you know it’s terrible. Fix it later.
What were the three biggest things you learned from the experience of writing and publishing Morna’s Legacy to keep in mind for future projects?
1. I always underestimate the amount of time it is going to take me to complete a manuscript. So whatever deadline I come up with for myself first, I need to add at least a month to that before I set the official deadline.
2. It is okay to unplug for a while. I’ve never been a huge social media person, or someone that was texting all day long, but since self-publishing, I find myself clicking the refresh button on my sales page a hundred times a day. I don’t necessarily think it’s a good thing to be soooo connected to all of that information every second. Sometimes, I have to give myself permission to not look at any of it for a day or two and just step away and enjoy life. After all, the numbers are just not what life is about.
3. No matter how much plotting you do before you sit down to write your first draft, often times the story or characters will change themselves as you write. That’s ok. If it works, go with it. Trust your gut.
Any general tips to writers out there that you wish you’d known before going in?
I think I did sort of know this going in, but I do think it’s important for writer’s to know. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other writers to ask for advice or help. It’s a pretty tight-knit community and most are more than happy to share their experiences with you. Also, join organizations, go to conferences, and never stop learning.
Where is your favorite place to write? How is your organization? What does an average day look like for you?
I have a pretty nice office set up in my garage, and that’s where I do all of my writing – with a corner desk so that I can see my story board, computer, and organizational board all at one time. It’s the perfect set up.
My organization is possibly a little extreme. I want to know where everything is at all times and, at the end of every work day, I organize my desk, make a list for the next day, and make sure it’s clean and tidy. It’s a bit of a problem – I can be a little uptight.
Every day, the first thing I do when I get up is track my sales from the previous day on my gigantic spreadsheet that I created that lists every retailer and book filled with formulas to track royalties, etc. After those numbers are on the spreadsheet, I get ready for the day, play Frisbee with my sweet dogs (this task is repeated over and over throughout the day), and sit down to work.
Once I’m in the office, I check emails and, if it’s a writing day, I write in the mornings and do business tasks in the afternoon – usually taking a break to get away from the desk and workout sometime during the day.
Who was your favorite love interest from your books?
Oh, great question. There are things I love about all of them. But…if I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Eoin, maybe because he was the first fictional love interest that I created. I also love that he’s a little rough with Bri sometimes. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Let me try to explain what I mean. He respects her, once he learns she’s not a witch of course, but he’s also not afraid to throw her over his shoulder and ravage her against a pile of rocks, ya know? I really like the idea of a man who respects my independence and recognizes how strong I am, but also makes me feel like a woman, you know? Somebody that isn’t afraid to express how much he wants me.
And of course, what was your favorite steamy scene to write?
The very first love scene with Eoin and Bri – right after their wedding. They don’t even actually have sex, but when he practically drags her into his bedchamber and holds her against him while he…well…just go read the scene haha. I guess it goes back to that part of me that likes his roughness and his confidence that she’s going to enjoy whatever it is he decides to do to her.
Speaking of, did you find that part hard? Writing the, shall we say, more intimate encounters?
At first, it was a little, but it’s gotten easier with every book. What’s hard is having my mother read them. Although she tries to act like it doesn’t bother her, I can tell that it does. She told me once that she’d rather me be out doing this stuff rather than writing about it. And while, I still don’t quite understand that response, nor do I believe it, I think my response to her was, “Yeah? Well, you and me both.”
Why Scotland? Of course it’s a beautiful country, and you’ve really brought it to life, but what was the reasoning behind the setting?
Two words. The accent. I don’t know what it is, but I find nothing sexier than a man who speaks with a Scottish accent, especially if the voice is deep and husky…think Gerard Butler. Everybody that knows me even the tiniest bit knows of my decade long imaginary love affair with him. I don’t care what anybody thinks about him, he just embodies sexy male to me, and I could listen to that beautiful man speak all day long!
Plus…I just think it’s beautiful. The greenness of it, the castles, I just think everything about it is magical.
Thanks so much for answering so many questions! Any last words?
Thanks so much for all of the wonderful questions. I was so flattered when I stumbled across your feature of “Love Beyond Time,” on your blog.