Q: Barbara, congratulations on your success with Entangled and Harlequin. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication with Harlequin Romance and then with Indulgence?
Pull up a chair, because this might take a while. I started trying to get published in the mid 1990s. In fact, I sent my first manuscript out shortly before my son was born. I got the call a couple days before his 15th birthday in 2009. In between there were a lot of close calls and manuscripts that should have been under the bed. Oh, and a couple books that were sold when POD first came into existence. Those books barely saw the light of day because the publisher quickly went under. (Like most of them back then.)
Anyway, the tide turned when I finalled in the Golden Heart. The first time – 2005 – I lost to Jennie Lucas. Then in 2007, I won! The book was Weekend Agreement. Mills & Boon passed on the manuscript, but asked me to work with an editor on developing a new story. A year later, my debut Cinderella Bride was sold.
Meanwhile, I still thought Weekend Agreement had potential. A chance conversation with author Marie Force encouraged me to take the story out and give it another chance. I had heard great things about Entangled Publishing and knew they were looking for category length books. I sent the story in, they bought it, we revised it for what was probably the fourth or fifth time, and it was published this March. Proof that good books a) will find a home and b) are revised as much as they are written.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the difference between what you write for Romance and Indulgence?
The biggest difference is the sex and sensuality. Indulgence allowed me to spend more time in the bedroom showing the more intimate moments of Charlotte’s and Daniel’s courtship. My Harlequin Romances, while sensual, close the door during sex.
Q: What are some of the challenges in writing for two different lines?
Um, keeping both houses happy? Seriously, the biggest challenge lies in the workload. Both houses have been terrific about working with me. My goal is to manage my deadlines so I honor my contractual obligations and deliver quality work to them on time. At the moment, by the way, I am not under contract with Entangled. But who knows what lies in the future?
Q: How do you balance writing, social media/promotion, and family?
I’m lucky. My son is now 18 and heading to college, which means I have from 9-5 to focus on writing. I’ll be honest and tell you the balance stuff is still tricky. I can spend way more time on Twitter than I should. On the flip side, if I’m deep into a story, I can ignore all social media for days. Neither is a good thing. I try to do a little bit of everything every day. It helps that once upon a time I had a corporate job that required many hats.
Ultimately, though, the writing is the most important thing. I’m a big believer that all the promotional work in the world won’t help you unless you deliver a quality story.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
I’ve always likened my process to chipping my way through a tunnel a little bit at a time. The hardest part for me is the beginning. I probably write the first chapter four, five times before I’m truly comfortable moving forward with the story. The last book I turned in for HQ...I wrote the first three chapters no less than 7 times.
Once I’m comfortable with the beginning, I can usually pull the rest of the book together. Then, once it’s done, I wait for comments from my editor. With those suggestions in mind, I break the book down scene by scene, and decide what works, what needs to be revised and what needs to be tossed out completely.
As an aside – both the editors at Harlequin and at Entangled have been invaluable to me when it comes to revising. I am one of those authors who really loves editorial feedback. With both houses, the suggestions I get from the editorial staff have made for stronger books. I may grouse about having to do the work, but only because I’d rather be brilliant the first pass. Since that’s not going to happen, thank God for them.
Q: What is a typical work day like for you?
I get up around 6:30. Have coffee with my husband and walk my dog. Then I sit down to play on Twitter, answer email and, if it’s a blog day, post my blog. I get to work around 10AM and tend to write till around mid-afternoon. After that I focus on taking care of family business. Sometimes I’m more productive than others. I try to keep this schedule Monday through Friday.
If it’s close to a deadline, however, all bets are off. Then it’s seven days a week, twenty-four/seven till the book is done.
Q: Self-promotion is so important now for authors, especially those just starting out. Do you have any advice or tips on what you think is essential for a published author?
Promotion is important, but not nearly as important as the actual writing. Nothing is better promotion than a good book.
Also – and perhaps this is because I’ve been floating around the industry for so many years, be authentic. I see so many writers tweet or spam FB with links, reviews, excerpts, etc. The key word in social media is SOCIAL. True promotion (and this is my Public Relations background speaking) involves building relationships. The public can smell phoniness. If you are yourself, if you engage people, chat with them, act real around them – they will buy your book.
And, getting back to that first point – if it’s well written, they’ll keep buying books.
Q: Your latest book, Weekend Agreement, from Entangled was a huge success. I absolutely loved the book and especially the chemistry between Daniel and Charlotte. I also loved how strong a heroine Charlotte was, and that she was able to bring out a softer side in Daniel. Your characters were so vivid and real. Do you have any favourite characters? Do some characters stay with you longer than others?
Thank you for saying that ! I love all my characters. Daniel is one of my favorites because he’s so broken inside. I wanted so badly for him to have a happy ending.
In fact, I have a real soft spot for broken heroes in general. My second favorite hero I’ve written is Jake Meyers from The Heart of a Hero. He too was a shattered soul.
As for strong heroines – I believe that the best relationships are borne of equals. If you’re going to have a powerful man, or a strong man – then they deserve a woman who can go toe to toe. Charlotte is particularly special to me because she’s an historian. However, in all my books the women tend to be intelligent and strong.
Q: Can you tell us what you're busy working on now and what/when your next release will be?
My next book is a Harlequin Romance entitled Mr. Right, Next Door! People who follow me on Twitter might know it better as the Reluctant Cougar – it’s Twitter handle. The book hits shelves in early September. I’m looking forward to hearing what readers have to say.
Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today!
Thank you for having me!