Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Introducing: My New Self, by Natalie Charles

I sometimes wish I was more interesting. Like when I meet a non-writer who wants to know all kinds of things about my fascinating second job and the creative process, like where I get my ideas, or how long it takes me to write a book.

I squirm a little and shrug. Where do I get my ideas? Magic, maybe? Although lately I suspect they're left by moody gnomes. How long does it take me to write a book? Uh, too damn long, because I'll set down the wrong path a few times before I realize where I'm going. The gnomes don't leave maps. Stupid gnomes.

(Oh my gosh, I was totally kidding! Please keep leaving me ideas.)

These are disappointing answers from a writer who falls short of the Writer Ideal I'd always envisioned. Who wants to believe that the person writing their books is a self-flagellating artist with a mild addiction to caffeine and a day job? Is that the kind of person I want writing my books and telling me stories? Of course not. I want my writers to embody a fantasy. I want them to live in palaces heated by burning money. And when I ask them where their ideas come from, I want a concrete answer, damn it!

So, breaking news, I'm inventing a more glamorous writing persona. She is the new, improved! Natalie, and she is kicking ass and taking names. Maybe she goes by Nat, because it's kind of androgynous and she wants men to pick up her romance novels, too. Anyway, here, let's practice for the next picnic:

Where do you get your ideas? - I cultivate them in Petri dishes with samples of daily news, things I overhear, and life experiences. I'm fortunate to have an exciting life that provides a constant supply of ideas. Each time I sit down and stare at the blank computer screen, I have a million story lines to draw from. Seriously, a million, maybe more, all potentially award-winning and carefully indexed. It's just a matter of choosing one.

What's it like to be a writer? - It's sort of like being a spy: it's fast-paced, there's lots of sex, and every now and then I have to take a break to save the world.I have a fancy car and a feather boa, and my martini glasses have ridiculously thin stems. When I write--which, believe me, with a high-intensity life like mine isn't very often!--I write at a desk hand-constructed from the wreckage of sixteenth-century pirate ships. It smells faintly like the ocean and reminds me of the fragility of life.

How long does it take you to write a book? - Oh gosh, you mean when I focus? I don't know, it all happens so quickly! Let me tell you: writing those fluffy romance novels? Piece o' cake. You just follow the formula. There's a man and a woman, some conflict, and a happily ever after. I can bang one out over the weekend, then enjoy several months of James Bond-style living before anyone asks questions. Hey, your glass is empty--can I get you a refill? My treat--did I mention I'm rich?

So let's hear it: who would you be if you were living the writer's fantasy life?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mechanics on Monday: Writing the Alpha hero by Tina Vaughn

As we strive to write unpredictable and emotion-filled stories, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to create memorable characters–and to me, there's nothing so powerful or pleasing as the Alpha hero.

Whether a CEO or vampire, the Alpha hero is a leader; he's in a position of power and is in complete control of his life…or so he thinks.

Character development is complex. And over the years I've done my best to simplify my approach to writing the Alpha hero by creating a three-pronged method to his development.

First, we see the perfection or facade of the hero. This is who he wants everyone to think he is. He might even believe this is who he is.

Second, we glimpse the imperfection and insecurities of the hero. This is what he tries to hide from the world, and especially our heroine.

And last, we see the real hero, who he is when he's in love with the heroine. He's not perfect, but he's perfect for our heroine.


This is the outer layer, the trappings or wrapping, so to speak, of the Alpha male.
When I begin to write an Alpha hero, I know there are intrinsic characteristics and attributes he may have, including but not limited to, intelligence, good looks and/or a commanding presence, physical strength, wealth, a powerful profession, etc. He may be authoritative, dictatorial, bossy or by all appearances, cold and calculating. He's intimidating in his success and power. Men fear and respect him. Women want him. On the surface, he's…well, perfect.

Where does this appear in the story? We'll see this “perfection package” in its entirety in the beginning and certain characteristics intermittently as the story progresses. For example, if you're targeting a category romance line where wealth and glamor is part of the line's promise, then you'll continue to reference that wealth throughout the novel. Maybe our hero flies the heroine to Paris in his private jet. Maybe he buys her diamond earrings or a priceless piece of art.
Conversely, our hero's autocratic ways may dissipate as the story progresses, especially if this domineering characteristic is a mechanism for distancing himself from our heroine.


This is where we, and most importantly, the heroine get a glimpse of our hero's insecurities or vulnerabilities. In my opinion, this is also how our heroine sees past the surface attraction to identify with the real person rather than the ideal image our hero has created. As a writer and reader, I need to know that the hero and heroine feel more than sexual attraction. I want them to see a bit of themselves in each other. I want them to connect on an emotional level, even when neither one is ready to admit that such a thing exists.

Where does this appear in the story? For me personally, this glimpse appears in the first chapter and with increasing frequency as the story progresses. Yes, our hero is physically and sexually attractive to our heroine from the beginning of the story, but I also need her to see beyond the physical, beyond the perfection. Ideally, we're revealing our hero to be a mere human, rather than an untouchable god. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including:
  • a shared moment of empathy (The hero has a wayward sibling and so does our heroine.)
  • a quirk (humming as a distraction.)
  • a brief moment of weakness (yawning.)
  • an embarrassing situation (food in his teeth.)
  • a tender moment (his cat jumps in his lap and he gives Kitty some love.)


This is who the hero really is. He finally reveals the person he's tried to hide from the world for so many years. Our heroine has helped him face his weaknesses and insecurities, and he's ready to risk everything he has (the perfection) for a lifetime of happiness with her.

Where does this appear in the story? I always reveal our “true” Alpha hero just before the black moment. In my opinion, the hero and readers need to see how happy and wonderful the hero can be…just before he loses it all. (Yeah, I know. I'm a meanie.) However, I think this strengthens the story because when our hero finally does grab his happily ever after (a final and forever revelation of his true self) and offers our heroine the world and a lifetime of love and passion, then we know it's going to last. By the time our story ends, our Alpha hero has finally ditched his perfect shell in order to embrace a meaningful, real and unshakeable love, despite his insecurities.
He and the heroine and especially their love becomes an absolute certainty. Truth.

As I conclude this post, three things strike me as particularly important regarding the Alpha hero:

  • as we all know, perfection isn't interesting. And if our hero is perfect just as he is, then he doesn't need our heroine or love. Make him human.
  • it's not that an Alpha hero doesn't have feelings or emotions, it's just that he's buried them under a tough-guy exterior or a layer of power and perfection.
  • when the Alpha hero finally humbles himself, when he bares all and dares to love, he loves completely and without restraint. (Feel free to swoon.)

Do you enjoy reading stories with Alpha heroes? Who are some of your favorite Alpha heroes and why? What are some of your favorite characteristics of an Alpha hero? If you're a writer, what are some of your tips for creating likeable Alpha heroes?

Thanks so much for visiting with us today.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Did you write about me in your book?" by Victoria James

I know that's a question that any writer has heard at least once.  Before I pursued publication, I used to semi-seriously tell one of my girlfriends that I'd love to cast her as a heroine in one of my books because her profession was so exciting.  And then when I told her I was published she of course squealed with delight, along with my other friends that night...and then slowly her smile faded, a frown formed and her head tilted to the side as she looked at me:  "You didn't really write about me did you?"  Of course I didn't...

But sometimes, a little bit of reality does get thrown into my books.  And I'm wondering how alone I am in this.  I mean, all the events that have occurred in our lives have shaped us, have been absorbed by us.  The memories and experiences remain-sometimes buried, but they're still there.  I think the best tweet I read this year was from author Anne Lamot..."You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."

That floored me.  First it made me laugh and think of all the miserable people I've encountered through the years, and how that would be such a great rebuttal if I ever did write them into a book, and they questioned me about it.  And while I have never written someone's actual history, I would say that subconsciously, certain people may have helped shaped some characters in my books.  Perhaps even one or two of the more hilarious and absurd things that have happened to my heroines may have happened to me-I will neither confirm nor deny if questioned :-)

There are also certain topics I know that are just too close to home, to personal, to painful to write about.  This summer we're dealing with my father's prostate cancer and doing daily trips to the cancer center.  Thankfully my father should be fine.  But the impact that area of the hospital has had on me-the other patients, the doctors, the support staff has been profound.  It's too close to home and the emotions are too raw to put on paper-now.  Maybe a few years I'll be able to revisit this summer in my mind and bring to life some of the spectacular, courageous people I've met.  For now, it's something I'd just like to shut the door on.

I think some of the best fiction I've read has had true to life characters and real emotion.  And I don't think you can have either of those if you haven't brought in a touch of reality into your book...

What about you?  Have you ever loosely based a character on someone you know?  Have you ever included an embarrassing moment into your book?  Do you think that our experiences have a great impact on our writing?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Creating A Believable World (Part 2) by Lindsay J. Pryor

Part one of this blog post was primarily about internal worldbuilding: how strongly developed characters are essential in creating a convincing world. I also highlighted how vital it is to ensure that the place/situation you have chosen is a catalyst for conflict – conflict that needs to feel real to your reader, however fantastical your world may be. This time, I’m slanting even more toward external worldbuilding though, if working well, internal and external worldbuilding are interdependent.

1) What is the purpose of the setting?

Essentially, your external world (your backdrop) should be a careful selection of features most useful in developing or revealing character and plot development. It is there to maximise opportunities for interaction between your hero and heroine and reveal character traits both in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Your chosen setting should be the most impactful ‘stage’ for your conflicts to be played out on.

Your setting should define the type of romance you have written by reflecting or even enhancing the ambience of the developing relationship. Is the romance going to be intense, dark and sensual? Is it going to be light-hearted, relaxed and fun? Decisions about your setting should be with your romance at its core, to the point that you would lose something integral by altering the backdrop.

You may not have complete free choice though. Some of your setting choices will be dictated by plot, particularly the role of secondary characters. If interactions with family, business colleagues and friends play a huge role in your hero and heroine’s relationship, you can’t set your story on a reclusive desert island. Whereas if your romance is claustrophobically focused on the hero and heroine, it would be preferential to cut off the outside world as much as possible.

2) What atmosphere are you trying to create?

Your sub-genre may play a key role in this. First and foremost, know the atmosphere you want to create between your hero and heroine. Do you want to create an immediate, explosive sense of intense and sensual intimacy? Or do you want to create a gradual, suspenseful build up over several scenes or chapters? If your characterisation is solid, it should be immediately apparent how the romance will evolve (see part one). And once this is clear in your mind, you can build external atmosphere around your hero and heroine to intensify their relationship.

3) How can the physical environment enhance atmosphere?

The weather, lighting, temperature, background noise or lack of it, the time of day, crowds, cleanliness, green space, high-rise blocks, glitz and glamour etc all have an impact on the atmosphere you are trying to create. Decide on the relevance of these features and how to best use them. Do you want a sense of intimacy? Maybe loneliness? Awe? What about a sense of urgency? Is it a casual and relaxed environment or are there threats looming on every corner?

We all know to utilise the five senses, but selective use can powerfully draw attention to key aspects of a scene. The reader doesn’t need to know the smell, feel or sound of everything. In a scene of building tension with an argument about to erupt, is the texture and taste of breakfast relevant? Would the heroine even notice or care? Or should the focus be on the constant, penetrating scrape of steel against ceramic as the hero scoffs his meal oblivious to her escalating tears. Include total silence, maybe a stuffy room, and the atmosphere is already building.

4) Do your characters’ reactions and interactions support the atmosphere?

A huge amount can be determined about a setting and the world you have created from your characters’ perceptions of and reactions to that place (and I touched on this last time). Is the environment welcoming or hostile? Is there an air of suspicion and resentment? Is there a sense of excitement? Is it relaxed and jovial? How do others respond to your character? Is there a sense of wariness? Competitiveness? Hostility? Do you want to create a sense of unity in this world you’ve created or do you want fragmentation? At the core is how your character responds to all the above. Are they scared? Vulnerable? Empowered? Frustrated?

However well selected, creative or fantastical your backdrop is, your characters are core to maximising your world. Wherever possible, unravel it through your characters eyes. Readers get the greatest sense of your world not through ingenious description but through character responses, dialogue, actions and interactions. Let them react and hopefully your reader will react with them.

5) Constructs and mythologies.

If you’re a romance writer under the broad umbrella term of speculative fiction, you’ll have the greatest fun in exploring many more core elements of worldbuilding. There’s potentially aspects such as inter-species dynamics to consider, social constructs, unique mythologies, laws and regulations, languages, science and technology... the scope is huge. Great chunks of your creation may never make it onto the page (based on all the reasons above), but it’s still essential that you know your world inside out. The more real it is in your head, the more real it will become on the page. Get it right and even the most extreme worlds will become touchable for your reader just as the most familiar of worlds, if not well executed, can become disappointingly unreal.

In summary:
  • Weave setting into your story so it becomes interdependent with the storyline.
  • Keep emotional response at the forefront in describing setting. Strong feelings about the setting will make it feel more real.
  • Stronger internal worldbuilding creates stronger external worldbuilding.
  • It’s your characters’ perceptions, reactions and interactions to and within your world that gives your reader a real sense of where they are and what is at stake.
  • Don’t over-saturate with unnecessary detail. Overkill kills pace. Let readers use their imagination too.
  • Even if the world you’ve created is beyond your reader’s experiences, universal emotions are not. Use them to their full potential. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Q&A with Author CJ Miller

Today we're excited to welcome CJ Miller, debut author for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. I first met CJ during Mills & Boon's New Voices 2011, when I read her romantic suspense entry and thought, "Wow, she's good." Harlequin agreed, and CJ received the call soon after. Nearly one year later, she's counting down the days until her first book hits the shelves. We at The Hot Pink Typewriter are thrilled to celebrate this exciting time with her. 

Q: Welcome to the hot seat, CJ, and congratulations on your debut! Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

Thank you for inviting me to the Hot Pink Typewriter!

My first book for Harlequin Romance Suspense, Hiding His Witness, is about Carey Smith, a woman on the run who witnesses a crime and Reilly Truman, the detective assigned to her case who must keep her safe from the two men who want her dead - a deranged serial killer and her former boyfriend, the man who sent her on the run.

Q: Why do you write romantic suspense?

I think most romance writers are also big romance readers. Around nine or ten years old, I discovered my grandmother's collection of romance novels. She, my mom, and my aunt read and shared them, passing them amongst each other and their friends. While my grandmother wouldn't let me read them, as I got older, I'd find a way to sneak off with a few.

I started writing contemporary romance and no matter how hard I tried to keep the book contemporary, the suspense plots forced their way into the story. It dawned on me to write the stories that came most naturally. Romance suspense is my favorite sub-genre of romance and it took time for me to find the balance between romance and the suspense in my stories.

Q: As any writer knows, the journey to publication involves lots of ups and downs. What was your journey like?

Some of my first books were laughably bad. Luckily, I knew better than to send those to publishers for consideration. My husband and I still joke about some of my early mistakes: wandering plot lines, lack of conflict, and no real antagonist. But I had fun writing those books and I learned so much from each one.

I committed myself to being published and kept my eyes on my goal. While one book was on submission, I was working on the next. I gleaned every ounce of information I could from rejection letters, saved them, and promised that the next book would not make those same mistakes. Although in most cases, I made other mistakes, I finally submitted a book that an editor at Harlequin felt had promise. She was willing to work with me through several rounds of revisions to get the book just right.

I participated once in a Harlequin Pitch Contest, which are held on Harlequin.com from time to time. Although the book I sold was submitted through the slush pile, I recommend the Harlequin contests to hone pitching skills and to connect with editors and other writers.
Q: Can you tell us about your writing process? Do you have any quirky writing rituals?

I write 6 nights a week after my son goes to bed. If I'm revising, I set a number of pages to edit or if I'm writing fresh, I set a word count goal and work until I meet those targets.

Q: How do you deal with writer's block?

When I have problems with a work in progress, I set aside that book and write something else, like a scene that's been on my mind or an idea I have for a new book. I also find that story ideas stop flowing when I'm overtired, overstressed, or haven't read anything in while. A nap, a cup of tea, and an hour or so with a good book helps get me back on track. I try not to read other romance suspense books while I'm writing because it makes it harder for me to stay in my characters' heads. I save those books for revisions.

Q: What inspires you?

Real life inspires my books and characters. While I'm writing, I sometimes realize one of my characters or a location is based on someone I've met or someplace I've been. I'm fortunate to have interesting friends and family members who share their adventures in dating and life with me. With dramatization, some of those stories make it into my books.

Q: What's up next?

The hero in Hiding His Witness has two equally amazing brothers. I've submitted the other two brothers' stories to Harlequin and I hope they'll be available soon for readers who enjoyed Reilly's story.

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for joining us today, CJ!

Available here: Harlequin || Amazon || Barnes and Noble

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mechanics on Monday: Infusing Your Book With Emotion...by Victoria James

I remember one of the very first articles I read about writing craft was about making your characters bleed.  Making them hurt.  Sometimes this can bring you pain as well-or make you uncomfortable.  And I think I truly 'became' a writer when I squirmed in my seat before writing a few scenes that a few years ago I wouldn't have been able to write.  It was scary to dig deep and truly inflict real pain.  But I also think that's part of the reason that book resonated with my agent and editor (let's hope readers too!).

In the third book I sold to Entangled, Indulgence coming out sometime 2013, my heroine has faced some pretty hard self-image/esteem issues.  Growing up in our society, I think this is something that any woman could identify with on some level.  I started that book with a general idea of her pain and issues.  And then as I became wrapped up in the characters, certain pieces of her past became clearer to me.  And I squirmed.  I thought, can I really do that to her?  Could I actually humiliate her that much-and then have her tell the hero?  I really didn't want to.  I thought maybe we could just slip it past him, and no one would be the wiser.  And that's when I knew-I would be leaving out key pieces of her past and her personality.  The essence of who she was and how she became the grown woman she was in the book.  The reader wouldn't root for her as much, without that knowledge.  So, I did it.  I wrote the mortifying scene and I had her tell the hero.  And I winced as I wrote it-I had to look at it with one eye open.  And I hope that means that the reader will also feel the emotion as they read that scene.

I had also made things pretty bad for the hero in that book.  I gave him a past that no one in his family knew about.  One that he was ashamed of-and one that kept him away from believing he and the heroine could ever be together.  When I finally had him confess everything to the heroine, I was again, fighting tears and feeling really sorry for him (I may have reached for a glass of wine as well).  And I was quick to end that scene, because it was too difficult to deal with.  I went in and out as quickly as I could.  When I spoke with my agent, she mentioned that scene and that she found it was very powerful.  It was on my final edit of that book, before it was pitched to my editor, that I expanded on that scene.  I knew I had to do it.  I knew I had been a wimp in not carrying that scene further.  So I added in the thoughts and images I had of my hero as a young boy, and put them into words, onto the page.  And yeah, it was difficult.  But I think it's much stronger now.

What I'm hoping is that all of this translates into a book that's packed with high-stakes, intense emotion and true-to-life characters. 

Here are some of the things I've learned along the way to ensure that I've injected enough emotion and 'pain' into my characters:

1) Have I gone too far?  I think this sometimes-and I'm always wrong.  No, I haven't gone too far-I'm a wimp!  Which means I should be going kilometres passed what I deem 'too' far.  Push the limits, stretch your boundaries.

2) Do I get uncomfortable when I'm reading or writing an important scene?  I think for me this is pivotal.   If I'm not biting my lip, reaching for wine, or thinking up excuses as to why I should stop writing for the day, then I know I haven't infused that scene with enough emotion.  You shouldn't be able to read/write a very dark moment for your character without feeling something yourself.

3)  Do you feel 'sorry' for your hero/heroine?  Okay, now I know that sounds a little wacky, but seriously, if at some point during the writing of that book, you don't feel bad for all the 'mean' things you caused that poor person, you haven't done your job.  I'm not saying you have to torture them, or that all characters need to come from truly horrible backgrounds-not at all-but at some point they have to hurt.  And you have to make them hurt.

Hopefully, some of this helps you along the way.  I'm amazed by how much I learn every day, with every new scene, with every new book.  It's an endless journey, but one that I'm so thrilled to be on. 

What about you?  Do you struggle with injecting emotion onto the page for your characters?  Does it come easily for you-or are you a tad on the wimpy side, like me? ;-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Q & A with Entangled Author Michelle Smart by Lindsay J. Pryor

In the hot seat today, I’d like to welcome fabulous author Michelle Smart, recently signed by Entangled Publishing! For anyone in the know, Entangled Publishing has received some fantastic reviews and huge successes since launching last year. Line up in the envy queue as we expose Michelle’s very honest back-story and find out just how she got there.

Q) First of all, huge congratulations on being offered publication with Entangled Publishing! I know you can’t talk about Tempted By Trouble yet, but can you tell us more about what you write and why those sub-genres in particular?

Thank you Lindsay! I mostly write Contemporary Romance with the occasional dabble into more paranormal realms when I fancy a change. I suppose it’s like my tea drinking – I drink gallons of cups a day and then suddenly fancy a coffee.
I love the emotions that reading a good contemporary can dredge up – the tears, the laughter, the fears and the joy, all of which I hope to replicate for the reader in my own books.

Maybe paranormal is the wrong word to describe my other books which, so far, been for my own consumption. They’re just quirky takes on the ‘what if’ questions I am always asking myself.

Q) What’s been your personal journey to signing that contract?

Eek! The journey has been long and torturous! It has also been completely worth it.

I’ve written all my life – I once worked as a business journalist but please don’t hold that against me – but it was only around four or five years ago I decided to take writing for publication seriously. I love reading all genres but it’s romance I adore writing, so I decided to try my hand at writing a Mills & Boon. My first two manuscripts were a pile of doggy doo and were rightly rejected out of hand. By then the writing bug had well and truly bitten me on my bottom. My third book got to the RnR stage on the partial and was ultimately rejected.

My fourth was my first full request and is the book that went on to become Tempted By Trouble (TBT). Ultimately it was rejected after three rounds of revisions. By the time I hit send on the third set I had a bad feeling it was not going to fit. At this point I started getting my head around not limiting myself to one publisher. I had worked too hard and loved the book too much to just give up on it.

However, I was incredibly wary about going elsewhere – say what you like about Mills & Boon but they are an incredibly formidable publishing house and produce some fantastic books by fantastic authors. Many of my writing buddies were sending work to different publishing houses with varying degrees of success. For one reason or another, none of them appealed to me. And then I heard about Entangled and the staff it had on board and I researched them a bit further. I had already completed two more books between all the revisions so on a whim I entered one into a pitch contest. I failed. Weeks later I entered a second pitch contest: lo and behold, the full manuscript was requested! By the time TBT was rejected I already knew I wanted to send it to Entangled too.

Q) Although rejected by M&B, you found yourself in the enviable position of having two other publishers interested in Tempted By Trouble. Why did you choose Entangled?

The quality of the editors. The only reason I sent TBT to another publisher was because Entangled already had a full sub of mine and I knew it was bad form to send more than one sub at a time. This other publisher was a newbie too but it had backing from a major publishing house, which for me lowered the risk you associate with start-up publishers (you could say it would have been more of a risk to go with Entangled, but I can’t stress enough how the quality of the editors sold that publisher to me – if those fantastic editors believed enough in it then that was good enough for me).

I honestly thought it would take months before I heard back from the other publisher, which I thought would be ample time to hear from Entangled on the other sub. Except I received an offer-for-contract twenty four hours after hitting send…

I emailed Entangled and explained the situation. I was told to send it to Alethea, who got back to me a couple of days later saying it could, with a few changes, be perfect for Indulgence. I can be a bit ditsy at times – it took a full two weeks before I realised they actually wanted to contract it!

Incidentally, I’m still waiting to hear on the other sub *cough*.

Q) So Tempted By Trouble went through 3 rounds of revisions with Mills and Boon before the eventual thumb down. What did you learn during that process?

So much! Obviously a lot of it is specific to Mills & Boon, such as the need to keep secondary characters to a minimum and to ensure a rough 60/40 split between narrative and story. But I also learned about keeping characters and their reactions true to themselves, and not to throw a plot device in to drive the story onwards *coughs again*.

Q) You say you got back to the original story with Entangled. How did that come about?

During the first set of revisions my hero changed so much that, in a way, he no longer belonged to me and what I had originally created. This was as much down to my own inexperience in my original creation as to anything else – if I had nailed his character to begin with, the problems would never have occurred. Remember what I said about keeping characters and their reactions true…? By the time I’d completed the third set (and remember, I already knew in my gut it wasn’t working properly) the story had changed beyond all recognition and, much as the editor there wanted it to work, we had both reached the stage where we had, for want of a better way to explain it, become blind to it.

When Adrien-Luc was appointed as my editor at Entangled, he was able to look at it with fresh eyes. When he sent me the first batch of edits (a polite way of saying revisions in this case), the vast majority of his suggestions led to the story going back to what I had originally envisaged, but with characters that were now true to themselves. Incidentally, Adrien-Luc is fantastic to work with and I could not be happier than I am working with him.

Q) You also currently have a requested partial with Mills and Boon, which we’ll refer to as Nico and Rosa for now. Can you tell us more about what’s happening with that?
The wonderful editor there who has taken me under her wing (bless her heart for having so much faith in me), was very happy with the partial but felt it lacked a certain spark between the h/h, who are two very repressed people. The situation I have put them in is very emotional and she wants me to do it justice. She made one tiny suggestion and pow! That one suggestion has lit the spark and I’ve now sent her the first 30,000 words which I am sure I will hear her thoughts about in due course. I know I am in a very privileged position with her – she really has gone above and beyond the call of duty with me.

Q) Has working with an editor affected your writing?

Absolutely. There is so much out there at the moment about the wonders of self-publishing but it is not something I could ever contemplate without going through an editor first. I’m blessed in that I am working with two superb editors who want me to succeed. They see my strengths and want me to build on them. They see my weaknesses and want me to address and overcome them. As a writer you can become blind to any faults in your work and I’m not talking about typos. A good editor will catch any character inconsistencies and any glaring error and get you to fix it. They make suggestions for improvement and point out areas that are not working as well as they could be. I could never do this on my own.

Q) What do you find most challenging about the writing process?

Waiting! Touch wood, the actual writing comes easy for me; it’s all the associated parts I struggle with, especially as I’m about as patient as a child queuing to get into a sweetshop. I am also easily distracted so keeping off twitter is a challenge in itself! This is not a problem when I am working to a deadline but if I’m writing under my own steam…

Q) What’s the most rewarding aspect of writing for you?

Oh gawd… everything. I get to sit on my lazy backside all day and fall in love. I get to look at pictures of Johnny Depp and David Gandy for inspiration. One day I might even earn some money doing it!

Q) Can you tell us what’s coming next for you?

Hopefully I will hear about that other sub that’s sitting with Entangled soon, and I have another book I would like to offer them too. Then of course there’s Nico and Rosa I’m writing for Mills & Boon – ideally I would love a career writing for both publishing houses. Whatever happens, I will never stop writing.

Huge thanks for joining us today, Michelle!

Hopefully Michelle will come back in a couple of months to talk about the release of her book and what happened in-between. In the meantime, if you’d like to keep a close eye on her progress, you can find her here:

Twitter: @chellebellwrite

Monday, August 6, 2012

What Skeleton is Rattling in Your Closet? by Jennifer Faye

This post came to me as I was hit with a set of editor-suggested revisions for my latest story. I noticed a similarity between this set of revisions and the ones I previously completed for another story.

The biggest thing I noticed was that I had laid the ground work for my H/h’s backstories, I’d hinted at it, I’d teased about it, but I failed to swing open that closet door and let their skeletons and the ghosts that haunt them into the full sunlight.

It was all there in my head. I’d plotted and outlined. Their backstories were all neatly filed away, but I failed to put it on the page. <sigh>

I think perhaps I was hesitant because I’ll admit it. <raising hand> Hi, my name is Jennifer. And I’m a recovering contest junkie. There I publicly admit it. *G* Anyway while I was entering contest after contest, I heard a lot of “too much backstory.” I’m betting a lot of you have heard the same.

The thing is the comment was meant for the opening chapter, which is the average length of an entry in a writing contest. However, if you hear something long enough, I think it subconsciously sticks in your brain. For myself, I must have computed: backstory = bad.

Not true!

I’ve got to retrain my brain into believing that the pertinent part of a character’s backstory is my friend—in reasonable proportions. However, keep in mind that you don’t want to bog down the reader in the opening chapter. But you want to disperse the background information as it pertains to the character in their current situation.

Our backstories mold each one of us. Think about your past and how it affects the decisions you make today. For example: if you hated peas as a child but you were made to sit at the dinner table until your plate was picked clean, even if it meant sitting there for hours, you probably don’t eat peas even now as adult. Even though as you’ve grown and matured and most likely your tastes did too, I’d be willing to bet you still don’t like peas. The mere reminder of being miserable at the dinner table will keep you from giving those green little marbles a second chance. Sure, this is a simplistic example but you see what I’m saying. Your past is always with you and will in some way help influence your future.

However, a good friend of mine reminded me to mention that as well as the skeletons, you should not forget the importance of a character’s Ghost—the unhealed part of the backstory, which is going to directly influence your story. These are the things the H/h long to keep hidden and will do everything in their power to hide, but you must unearth them if the reader is to understand and sympathize with them and their choices.

For example, Casablanca’s ghost is Rick’s affair with Ilse. NOT his backstory of being a gun runner.

Not all backstory is equal!

It’s the stuff that will make a difference that you want on the page.

So don’t be afraid of those ghosts in the closet—at least not the ones belonging to your H/h. *G* Embrace them. Swing open that closet door and air out those ghosts. They are your friends. They will help make your H/h into well-rounded characters. They will provide motivation for the H/h actions. And they will provide you with a beginning for your character arc.

BTW, this is my very first blog entry. Hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Q&A with Bestselling Author Nicola Marsh By: Victoria James

A very big welcome from all of us at The Hot Pink Typewriter to USA TODAY Bestselling author, Nicola Marsh!

USA TODAY bestselling author Nicola Marsh writes flirty fiction with flair.
She’s had 32 books published with Harlequin Romance and Presents series, a fun, flirty contemporary mainstream romance BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD with Entangled Publishing (nominated for Romantic Book of the Year 2012) and sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
Her first category romance for Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence series, NOT THE MARRYING KIND, releases July 2012, with another category contemporary romance FALLING FOR FLYNN releasing with Crimson Romance October 2012.
Her urban fantasy young adult novel SCION OF THE SUN releases November 2013 with Month9Books.
She’s also a Waldenbooks and Bookscan bestseller, has finaled in a number of awards, including the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, HOLT, Booksellers’ Best, Golden Quill, Laurel Wreath,
More than Magic and has won several CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
A physiotherapist for thirteen years, she now adores writing full time, raising her two little heroes, sharing fine food with family and friends, and her favorite, curling up with a good book!

Now, I can't start this interview without first listing the jaw-dropping list of publishers/books Nicola has been writing for...Nicola currently has a mainstream contemporary romance out with Entangled Publishing (BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD) and NOT THE MARRYING KIND her first category romance for Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence series just released. She also writes for Harlequin Romance & Harlequin Presents (has published 32 books with them), has another category romance releasing with Crimson Romance in October and her Young Adult urban fantasy series launching with SCION OF THE SUN released Nov 2013 with Month9Books.


She's also a mother to two young children and a wife...Nicola, please tell me you drink lots of coffee?

Nicola: Don’t hate me but I’m not a regular coffee drinker! I started writing just before my first child was born and was working full time as a physiotherapist, so my writing time was confined to night. With limited writing time, I got used to writing fast, and thankfully that habit has stuck with me. While raising my kids I’ve stuck to the nightly writing routine and it has served me well. Caffeine-free!

Q: Whenever I see your tweets or read your blog, I'm so inspired by your drive and energy. Seriously, if I did half of what you did, I'm sure I wouldn't ever have time to sleep. Ever. Do you have a daily routine that you follow? What is a typical work day like for you?

Nicola: Sadly, I don’t have enough sleep as I would like! I get 6 hours a night when I could do with 8 minimum (I had kids who didn’t sleep through the night until they were older so I need to catch up on a few years’ worth!) This is the first year my youngest is at full time kinder so my routine has changed. From 9-11am I check emails, update blogs and do general social media stuff. 11am-1pm is when I squeeze in writing or revisions. Then my best writing time kicks in between 8.30-10.30pm. I squeeze this in around the rest of my life so I pretty much fall into bed around midnight!

Q: How do you balance writing, social media/promotion, and family?

Nicola: Family always comes first. Always. That said, I’ll be honest and say I’m guilty of plonking the kids in front of TV during school holidays at times to finish urgent galleys or a deadline book!
With the social media, I love Twitter and my can be found tapping away at my phone day and night!

Q: BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD has been a huge success, congratulations. What was the most challenging part in switching gears from category to single title?

Nicola: While I love the challenge of writing category romance, I found the switch to longer mainstream books quite liberating. Being able to expand on secondary characters and plotlines was fun!

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?

Nicola: Be professional at all times. In whatever medium (Twitter, FB, Goodreads, blog, etc…) remember that once you say something it’s out there forever. So however much you hate that shoddy review, curb the impulse to vent. And don’t engage with unhappy readers. Be gracious. Class always shows.

Q: Can you tell us what you're busy working on now and what/when your next release will be?

Nicola: I’ve just started writing book 33 for Harlequin, featuring a WAG and a publishing CEO. Promises to be huge fun!

NOT THE MARRYING KIND ($2.99 e-book) released this week with Entangled Publishing and I’m super excited (I love this book!)

Next up is MARRYING THE ENEMY (Harlequin Presents Extra), releasing in September, closely followed by WEDDING DATE WITH MR. WRONG (Harlequin Romance) and FALLING FOR FLYNN (Crimson Romance) in October.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us, Nicola and best of luck on all your future books!

Nicola: Thanks again for having me.  I’ve had fun!

Who said marriage had to be convenient?
LA party planner Poppy Collins has kept her side business—planning divorce parties as the Divorce Diva—under wraps, but keeping her sister's company afloat is proving tougher by the day. When a new divorce party prospect gives Poppy the opportunity to save the day and boost her bottom line, she can't pass it up. But this time, she's about to get way more than she bargained for…

Vegas golden boy Beck Blackwood knows Poppy's secret, and he's not afraid to use it to get exactly what he wants—a wife. With his reputation and corporate expansion plans on the line, the only way he can repair the damage is by getting hitched, and fast. And if blackmail is the only way to get Poppy to the altar, then so be it…
But they're in the city of high stakes, and Poppy has a few aces up her sleeve. Now it's time to find out if they're playing to win…or if they're playing for keeps.
You can read an excerpt of Not The Marrying Kind here
Not The Marrying Kind is available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Nicola loves interacting with readers so you can find her at:
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/Nicola_Marsh

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And we have a Winner!!!

Thanks to a random number generator, we have a winner for Michelle Style's 'His Unsuitable Viscountess.'

Drum roll please....

Amy, you are the winner.

Huge congratulations!!!

If you could email me with your full name and snail mail address, we'll get your prize sent out to you.

Thank you everyone for stopping by and commenting. We loved having you. Stop back soon. We have some great blog posts coming up!!!



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Historical Author Michelle Styles is in the Hot Seat!

And we have a Book Giveaway!!!

Michelle, welcome to the Hot Pink Typewriter! We’re thrilled to have you. Congratulations on your latest Harlequin Historical “His Unsuitable Viscountess” is available this month.

And thank you for graciously offering a copy of “His Unsuitable Viscountess” to one lucky commenter. Don’t you just love prizes? I know I do. And what could be better than a new release? *G*

My thinking entirely!!!

Would you mind sharing a little about your book? What was your inspiration? How did you familiarize yourself with the locale and time period?

His Unsuitable Viscountess is about a Regency business woman who is forced to make a marriage of convenience in order to save  the family firm because of her step father’s will. My inspiration was the real life regency business woman Eleanor Coade who ran Coade stone as I had read about her in a book about women and gardening.

When I started to do my research, I was surprised to learn that one of the Lady Patronesses of Almack was also the senior partner of a successful bank. Lady Jersey inherited Childs Bank from her grandfather because he did not approve of her mother eloping with the Earl of Westmorland. There were successful Regency business women, if you know where to look.

It is said that Jane Austen modeled Fanny Price’s odious aunt on Sara Rice who among other things ran the carrier pigeon service that first brought news of Waterloo. Jane had been displeased when Sara refused to give Sara’s eldest a certain vicarage. Sara wanted something else for her son. Jane took her revenge in the way only an author can!

I love doing research so I read a lot. I also visit old houses, make various recipes, try to figure out how people could move in the clothes they wore.  For His Unsuitable Viscountess, I also did research on sword-making and how an early 19th century foundry would have operated. Luckily I was able to visit a replica in Sheffield.  I also visited the local Living History museum Beamish as it is good to listen to the sounds and experience the smells.

With all of the research involved in writing historical romances, it must keep you busy. Can you share with us how you balance your writing with the rest of your life? Do you have a regular schedule? Any quirks?

Balance is always key. I write every day except Christmas. When I am seriously chasing a deadline, I start at 9:30 am and write until I have 2 -3 k written.  I find I have to turn the internet off or I keep making excuses to check various bits of info etc.

I wake up early about 5:30 am to get my exercise in. I do an hour and half of Tracy Anderson. Then breakfast and do my admin. In theory this leaves me free to see my family in the late afternoon/early evening.

For you, what is the most challenging part of writing a book? Beginnings? Middles? Ends? How do you conquer these problem areas?

Every book is different for me. Just when I think I have a problem area conquered, a new one rears its head. It is very hard to predict. Every book and set of characters has their own unique set of tortures for the writer. I wish I could say that they get easier to write. They don’t. They are just all different but that is part of the fun of it. If I didn’t find it challenging, I wouldn’t enjoy it half as much.

Not only do you write on a regular basis but you’re also an editor of The Pink Heart Society, run your own blog, and provide excellent advice on the Harlequin SubCare forum. How important do you feel social media is to an author’s career? Any tips on balancing social media with your writing?

I do social media because I enjoy it. I do think it is a way of letting people know about books etc. The most important thing for a writer’s career is to write a book that engages the reader and keeps them turning the page because they are emotionally involved with the characters.

It is important to limit your time on the internet. When I am seriously behind, I have to switch the internet off. I tend to use the internet in the same way that Georgette Heyer used to use playing solitaire. It allows my subconscious to work out knotty problems.

I would also say, try to think of other subject/hobbies you are interested in and get involved with the social media side with that hobby. You don’t want to be just interacting with authors and members of Romancelandia. There is a whole wide world out there of literate people who enjoy reading books, particularly of authors with whom they have had some interaction. So think about what you like and don’t be afraid to speak up on certain sites.  It is all a very soft sell so you should only do it if you enjoy the experience, rather than thinking of it as promotion.

You should also remember that you are not talking with your friends. Keep things you want private in emails, rather than sharing out them out loud in public when you never know who will be listening.

The big thing authors hear these days is self-promotion, especially for newbies. Could you give us tips on the essential must-do’s for an author?

The best thing to do is to figure out how to get your books into the hands of readers. You want to find the readers who are going to engage with your characters. Not everyone will, but you are not writing for everyone, you are writing for the people who enjoy your books.  I always do a Goodreads giveaway for my new releases as their members are readers.

You should always remember that PR and self promo does take a long time and you can never be sure what actually is going to work or why a book is popular. It is very tempting to think if only or some author is doing brilliantly with x,y,z. You need to do what is right for you.

The best promo is to write the next book. The last page of your latest sells the first page of your next book so you want to have your books coming out at regular intervals. And you never want to sacrifice quality for speed because it is the reading experience the reader wants. You don’t want to become the author a reader used to love, you want to be the author that the reader can’t wait for her next book for.

You also need to remember that in order to promote, you always need to have something in the shop window.

If there was one thing you wished you’d have known before you got published, what would it be?

It never gets any easier to write a book. The craft of writing can never fully be mastered but it is worthy trying. Craft provides the engine which allows the jet fuel of talent to burn with purpose.

It is truly dedication, desire, discipline, determination and perseverance. Nora Roberts took 16 years of being published before she hit number 1.

And with publishing, everything always seems to take longer than you expect. Publishing operates on its own time.

What’s the title of your next book to hit the shelves? When can we expect it?

The next one hits the shelves in November Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match.

The blurb reads:


In the eyes of the ton Hattie Wilkinson is a respectable widow, content with her safe, if somewhat modest life.

On the other hand Sir Christopher Foxton prides himself on being regarded as one of London’s most notorious rakes, with a particularly mischievous streak!

Upon their first meeting Kit threatens to shatter Hattie’s well-ordered peace—and her reputation!—if only she’ll allow herself to succumb to his playful advances. This time they’ve both finally met their match…

Set in July 1816 Tyne Valley

And after that, the next one is published in April 2013 and features Sophie Ravel from To Marry A Matchmaker (the woman who took a frying pan on an elopement and was not afraid to use it)

Thank you so much for stopping by The Hot Pink Typewriter!!! We loved having you and hope you’ll stop by again.

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment and be entered in the book giveaway. One very lucky commenter will receive a copy of “His Unsuitable Viscountess.”

You can find Michelle at:


From hard-headed businesswoman…

A lifetime of living in a man’s world has given sword-making factory owner Eleanor Blackwell some very definite opinions – particularly about the duplicity of men!

…to blushing bride?

Benjamin Grayson, Viscount Whittonstall, seems to be cut from a different cloth—Eleanor responds to his touch with a passion normally only reserved for fencing! She may be spectacularly unsuited for aristocracy, but Ben has different ideas when he plans to safeguard her business with a very convenient proposal...

Set in County Durham during the Regency period

You can read an excerpt of His Unsuitable Viscountess here