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.