Friday, September 28, 2012

About Us: Natalie Charles

It's almost October, so I thought I'd treat you to a Halloween picture. An oldie but goodie.

Welcome to the next installment of our 'About Us' series, where we expose ourselves in a strictly figurative sense. This week my blog sisters have put me in the Hot Seat, so while I'm squirming around and trying to come up with something clever to say, go ahead and help yourself to something chocolate. 

How and why did you get involved with The Hot Pink Typewriter?

This site started as an email exchange between me and Olivia Miles. I think it was as simple as one of us saying, “We should start a group blog.” The idea eventually evolved, and our objective was to create a platform on which to showcase our fellow writers and discuss writing topics that we found interesting. We sought out talented romance writers from various sub-genres to reach a wide range of interests and to highlight different voices.

What sub-genre of romance do you write and why?
I write romantic suspense, and my books lean more toward mysteries. Basically I write the stories I enjoy reading! I love a good whodunit, one that gets my heart and mind racing. Maybe this sounds macabre, but I just think that most stories are better when there’s a dead body and a detective involved: the stakes are high and it’s a race against time to find the killer and restore order to the world. Add a hot hero who knows how to handle a gun and a tough-as-nails heroine who doesn’t take any crap, and I’m up way past my bedtime!

I also love to geek out on forensic science, so I find the research element endlessly fascinating. Then there’s the challenge of fitting a compelling romance into a satisfying suspense plot. It keeps me busy!

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What prompted this interest?
I’m not sure there was ever a point at which I declared that I would be a fiction writer. Writing is something I’ve always done. I couldn’t not write. Well, maybe I could, but then a part of me would die.

Did contests play a role in your writing journey? If so, in what ways did you find them beneficial? And what if any were the drawbacks?
Yes! The only writing competition I’ve ever entered was Mills & Boon’s 2011 New Voices. It resulted in The Call, so I can’t complain.

What point are you currently at in your writing journey?

My book The Seven-Day Target is out now as part of the Mills & Boon Introduces anthology, along with books by Andrea Laurence and Soraya Lane. A different, extended version of The Seven-Day Target will be published in April, 2013 as part of the Harlequin Romantic Suspense line. I’m currently at work on my next project for HRS.

Describe what makes a perfect hero for you. And what makes a perfect heroine?
I love strong, sensitive heroes. They can be a little crabby, a little damaged, but they should always be gentlemen. The perfect heroine is smart and knows (or thinks she knows!) who she is. She doesn’t need a man to take care of her. I love a heroine who can hold her own. Both hero and heroine should be a little vulnerable, emotionally. They can’t fall in love if they are emotional fortresses.

Oh, and the ‘perfect’ hero and heroine should be imperfect. I like flaws.

What does HEA mean to you?

To me, the HEA is that point at which the reader knows that two people are in it forever, through thick and thin. We’ve seen them overcome all odds, and we know that they will never question their destiny again. It’s that moment when you sigh and know that even though you don’t know what lies ahead, you know they will get through it together.

It’s completely sappy and it makes my heart melt each and every time. Yes, I write about dead bodies, but I’m a sucker for a good romance in fiction and real life. There is nothing more beautiful than two people who commit their hearts to one another for a lifetime and see that commitment through. I cry at weddings. I’m a softie.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

I never write about real people, but I draw a lot of my inspiration from real life. The Seven-Day Target touches on a few personally painful topics. The mystery elements in the book(s) I’m working on now are inspired by real forensic cases that I’ve read about. Music is an endless source of inspiration, and I often try to capture the mood of a particular song in my writing.

Name your five favorite movies/books, or those that have influenced you the most and how. 
This is a tough question! A confession: I’m not a movie person. Will you settle for television series? I’m going to skip my childhood favorites and go directly to adult favorites, which seem more relevant. Also, I’m going to cheat and name a few authors instead of books.

1. Breaking Bad (television series) – Okay, the series isn’t finished yet, but the writing! Oh, the writing! Brilliant, layered, heart-pounding writing. My favorite show of all time, followed by The Wire and The Sopranos.

2. Margaret Atwood – I don’t know that I read her as much as I wander through her literary gardens, hovering over beautiful phrases. The Blind Assassin is a favorite.

3. The Brothers Karamazov – I own two different translations and I once read it while on vacation in Mexico. It appeals to the part of me that’s always in a state of existential crisis.

4. Shakespeare – He was one of the great romance writers, and As You Like It is a particular favorite.

5. A Fish Called Wanda – All right, one movie. I don’t know that it’s influenced me, but it makes me laugh.

Tell us about your greatest writing challenges and how you work through them.

I struggle with writing with abandon. I have a very critical internal editor who has strong opinions—it’s all part of my perfectionist tendencies. I find it’s best to keep going and to not re-read my work on most days. If I re-read, I start to get hung up on criticism.

I'm also not a very fast writer. I can write quickly, and I had to after winning New Voices, but I don't feel comfortable working that way. Consequently, my shitty first drafts end up being fairly polished.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Live with urgency.” I think of it every time I’m tempted to put something off until tomorrow, or I find myself getting bogged down in negativity or irrelevant concerns.

What are your hopes and aspirations for your career?

My only aspiration right now is to write another book. When I finish that one, my aspiration will be to write another one. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Struggles with Monogamy: By Natalie Charles

It’s been going on for a while now, part of my ongoing issue with over thinking and over complicating. Every time I commit to one story—one couple, one romantic suspense plot—another one calls me. I succumb to temptation and spend time with that other, more attractive couple and romantic suspense plot. Inevitably things sour. Plots stall, characters start doing ridiculous things that make me question their motivation, and I go crawling back to the first story….until it misbehaves. Then I’m back to story number two.

I feel like I’m leading a double life.

It started innocently enough. I sat down to write a new book, but it became so complicated that I realized that what I was really doing was writing two books. I pulled them apart, and now I can’t decide between them. As soon as I start thinking about one, I have a breakthrough with the other, and I can’t help but think that maybe I’m short-changing both by working this way.

So I ask honestly: do any of you work on multiple books at once? Is this a legitimate ‘thing’? Or should I be focusing on monogamy right now and seeing each work in progress through to the end? 

Friday, September 21, 2012

About Us: Jennifer Faye

Nope that’s not me, not even on my worst bad hair day. LOL. But my very furry kitty loves when I show her off. When I get a real photo of myself I’ll post it. Promise.


About Us: Jennifer Faye

Hi everyone! Looks like I’m next up in this series about us interviews--featuring the ladies of The Hot Pink Typewriter! So grab your favorite blend of caffeine and have a seat while I tell you a little about myself and my writing journey. And make sure you stop back next Friday for another installment by another Hot Pink lady.


How and why did you get involved with The Hot Pink Typewriter?

I knew some of the ladies from M&B New Voices and the boards. But it was Victoria James, who is a fellow SYTYCW finalist, who invited me to be a part of this exciting new blog. Since I had yet to venture into having a blog of my own, having no idea what I would have to say *G*, I was thrilled to share a blog with a bunch of wonderful writers from different backgrounds.

What sub-genre of romance do you write and why?

I write Contemporary series romance that contain a rollercoaster of emotions and a feel good ending. I remember picking up my very first Harlequin when I was a teenager. It was a sunny afternoon and I was with my friends checking out a sidewalk sale in town where there were boxes upon boxes of books. I remember buying a Harlequin with the pretty purple cover. Couldn’t tell you who wrote it or its title. But once I read it, I was hooked.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What prompted this interest?

In short—YEP! I wasn’t even in school when I knew that I would one day write a book. I grew up watching The Waltons and learned that John Boy had to have a typewriter if he wanted to be published. So my big item on my list for Santa that year was a typewriter (yep, I was so young I still believed in Santa). And I got it. I was thrilled. It was gray and had white keys. And I started typing poetry. You know… Roses are red, Violets are blue… I didn’t have a clue how to form a story. That came later in elementary school where I devoured books. And who read the most books for those Read-a-thon’s. Yep, that was me. LOL.

Did contests play a role in your writing journey? If so, in what ways did you find them beneficial? And what if any were the drawbacks?

Contests most certainly played a role in my writing journey. *G* All you have to do is look at my website to see that for a while I was focusing on contests where the final judge was an editor I was interested in. I learned a lot from those contests and from the judges who volunteered their time. But in the end, the most important thing I learned was to trust my gut.

The contests that were my favorite were the ones sponsored by Harlequin / Mills & Boon, from editor pitches to Fast Tracks to New Voices and SYTYCW. Each played an important role in my journey as did the fabulous people I met along the way.

What point are you currently at in your writing journey?

Every day I get a step closer to my dream of being published. *G* I have some stuff in the works. *VBG*

Describe what makes a perfect hero for you. And what makes a perfect heroine?

Okay, so whoever made up these questions isn’t about to leave us off easy, huh? J

I love a tough but wounded hero with a crusty shell that my equally strong, feisty heroine must break through to find his soft/tender center.

I enjoy throwing these two flawed characters together and watching them learn from the other how to trust, forgive, or whatever is holding them back from their HEA.

What does HEA mean to you?

Is it just me or are these questions getting harder as I go on? LOL.

Let’s see, what does HEA mean to me? Hmm…I guess the best way to describe it is that my hero and heroine must grow throughout their journey, overcoming and learning from each obstacle.

Their HEA is being able to take a risk on love and in return be loved for who they are on the inside.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?


I’ve literally been playing the “What if” game my entire life. You wouldn’t believe some of the scenarios I’ve concocted. It’s amazing what your imagination is capable of if you let it loose. By writing, I seem to tame its tendency to meander. *G*

Name your five favorite movies/books, or those that have influenced you the most and how.

1.      The Waltons (TV series)-As I said earlier, this is what first gave me the idea of being a writer as a very young child. In fact, looking back it surprises me that at that tender age I knew what would make me happy. Life is truly amazing.

2.      Gone with the Wind (movie)-This was my first exposure to romance. My mother was horrified that at seven or eight I was totally enthralled with the movie. I refused to go to bed on time. I just had to watch Scarlet and Rhett. He was the dreamiest.

3.      Harlequin’s-As I said earlier, this was my first exposure to romance books (my mother had no idea. LOL) I can still vaguely see the purple cover and I’m betting if I saw it again, I’d recognize it. After that I was addicted.

4.      Kathleen Woodiwiss books-I devoured her books in high school. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning turning page after page. I couldn’t get enough. And even though I had to be out the door at 6:30 in the morning to catch the bus, I just had to get to the end. Boy was it hard staying awake for class. LOL.

5.      Johanna Lindsey books-She is another author I’ve followed since I was a teenager. Those rakes took my breath away and had me riveted to the page. When I reached the end I was so bummed. It was like I’d lost some good friends. *G*

Tell us about your greatest writing challenges and how you work through them.

Setbacks and rejections have been the biggest challenge. Each one makes me pause and say, “Am I good enough?”

Last year was my toughest writing year…ever. It seemed like everything I wrote or touched was wrong. I was very, very frustrated. But my very dear friend, Michelle Styles (HQ Historical author), reminded me that the important thing wasn’t the “R” or the contest rejects but what I did with my writing afterward. So I kept going.

I decided that if I never got published I would still write. I love it. I would be lost without it.

And if the worst happened and my treasures never made it in the world, I figured some day when I’m gone from this world my kids and grandkids might get a kick out of my ms’s.

So quitting has never really been an option (even if I’ve threatened it from time to time. *G*). It’s a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and to keep going. Sometimes you have to slow down and catch your breath but you can never ever stop.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Almost at the end and someone throws in another toughie. J

I’ve been given so many wonderful bits of advice that I don’t know how to narrow it down to the “best”. Hang on I’m thinking…

-          Keep it simple and go deep

It’s one of my favorites, although I have many. I have a tendency to unnecessarily complicate my stories and insert threads that distract instead of deepening the core conflict. So I have to think before I add something: “Is it necessary? Does it add depth to the central story?”

What are your hopes and aspirations for your career?

I hope that I keep writing stories until I’m so old that my arthritic fingers can no longer punch a keyboard… but then I’ll buy some voice-activated software. *G*

So I guess I hope to write the rest of my life and entertain my readers by tugging on their heartstrings before giving them a happy sigh as the H/h achieve their HEA. What could be better than bringing a smile to a reader’s lips?

Friday, September 14, 2012

About us: Victoria James


About Us: Victoria James

Hi and welcome!  This is the first in a series of about us interviews-featuring us!  Pull up a chair, grab a mug of coffee and get to know each of us a little better.  Every week one of The Hot Pink ladies will be posting their own interview. 


I'm up first, so here we go!


How and why did you get involved with The Hot Pink Typewriter?

Well, some awesome ladies (Natalie and Olivia) asked me! I absolutely loved the idea of being part of a blog with different authors, writing different sub-genres for various publishers. It's also a great way to stay motivated and connected, and root each other on.


What sub-genre of romance do you write and why?

Contemporary series romance.  I love reading the next step seemed to be writing series. I love that the story has to be tight and that the romance takes center stage.  With shorter word count, series books have to deliver a heck of a lot of emotional impact without sacrificing any of the romance.  I guess I love a challenge ;-)


Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What prompted this interest?

Yes! I still remember telling my doctor when I was seven that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up! I loved reading from a very young age. I think it may have been my childhood obsession with Little House on the Prairie and wanting to be like Laura Ingalls Wilder, LOL. Not joking :-) I was also an avid reader and would devour all sorts of books.


Did contests play a role in your writing journey? If so, in what ways did you find them beneficial? And what if any were the drawbacks?

I did enter a few contests and I have mixed feelings about them. I think they're great opportunities to get your writing in front of editors, for sure. But I also think you have to be careful about the types of contests you enter. I think it can be very easy to get caught up in what some of the judges have to say about your writing, and you can waste so much time on interpreting their comments. I read a quote by Diana Palmer once and it was something like 'don't ever give your writing to someone who isn't in a position to buy it.' I really think this can apply to certain really careful who the judges are before you go investing too much into what they think. I think the best contests are those where the judges are editors. Hands down.


What point are you currently at in your writing journey?

A very exciting one! This last year I sold my first book to Entangled Publishing's Indulgence line. And shortly after sold two more to them. I'm living the beginning of my writing dream. It's been a thrilling ride so far, and I feel so fortunate to be with such an awesome publisher.


Describe what makes a perfect hero for you. And what makes a perfect heroine?

Hero-I write alpha's I've been told :-) Funny, because I never really view a lot of my heroes that way-and I think maybe that's because of my heroines. She's usually a force to be reckoned with and can balance out that alpha. I love writing about people who have really had to deal with some sort of pain and really strive to come to terms with their pasts and move forward. Heroes/Heroines who are self-made, witty, smart, successful-and of course, flawed-are perfect to me :-)


What does HEA mean to you?

I think I make my hero and heroine really work for their HEA. So, after they've had to grow emotionally, having any kind of HEA where they've been able to work past their demons in order to be together, is a HEA for me.


Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everywhere! Really, people in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the doctor's office, stories in the news...anything that makes me stop and think...wonder what that person's life must be like. 


Name your five favourite movies/books, or those that have influenced you the most and how.

  1. The Pursuit of Happiness-I LOVE this movie and the message of never giving up. I'm in awe of Chris Gardner because all the events that were thrown at him would have made it so easy for him to give up. It makes me feel horrible to complain about being too tired to write! Or silly for ever complaining about a rejection letter. It's a great movie if you're feeling low and need that kick in the pants!
  2. The Bell Jar-Sylvia Plath-so this was a required English Lit read in University but it had such an impact on me as an observer of people and propelled me to be a more analytical person. It also took a huge emotional toll on me and really spoke to me at that time in my life. So much so, that I couldn't open it again. I have it sitting on a shelf and I refuse to re-read it. How's that for impact?
  3. Almost Heaven-by Judith McNaught. This was the first romance novel I ever read. It's a historical romance, but what hooked me were the characters. I then proceeded to read everything else Judith McNaught had written, and am a true fan of all her romantic fiction. I knew after reading her books that romance was the genre I wanted to write.
  4. Anne of Green Gables movies-I know, I know, I'm a total nerd. But I loved these movies...I loved Anne and thought she was such a great role model. She was smart, defiant, and gutsy. And she got her man in the end.
  5. Little House on the Prairie-I already admitted my nerdy tendencies didn't I? This TV series was my absolute favourite childhood show.   I still watch the Christmas episode every year during the holidays!  And then I became obsessed with the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder as well, and as I mentioned above, that inspired me to become a writer.

Tell us about your greatest writing challenges and how you work through them.

I think for me time is always a challenge. But this summer, I found that emotional issues are even harder to deal with than time restraints. I've always been able to go-go-go...and this summer dealing with family issues and kids, really snapped a lot of my mental energy. I struggled with “getting into the zone” like I never have before. This is something I'm really going to have to watch for as I move forward-I have deadlines and there will always be something that comes up in life that makes it challenging to get the writing done.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Some people dream of success, others accomplish it.” It wasn't exactly given to me as a piece of advice, but it's the quote on the coaster that's sitting on my desk. Usually it's covered up by a half-filled coffee mug, but every time I lift that cup, I'm reminded of why I should keep writing. That quote meant even more to me a little over a year ago, when I didn't have an agent, and their was no book sale in sight!


What are your hopes and aspirations for your career?

I hope that I can continue doing what I'm doing...that I'll keep growing as a writer, that people will love my books. Of course, when you love what you do, you do it with passion :-)

Thanks for reading!
Lots of love,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Taking the Heat (Part Two): Revisions by Olivia Miles

For the second installment of my Taking the Heat series, I am discussing...revisions! There comes a point in most writers’ careers where they will be asked to make revisions. In the submission phase, this is fondly referred to as an R&R, or a revise and resubmit. I have heard stories of people receiving these and seeing them as a rejection, or seeing no point in doing the revisions, assuming it will just lead to another rejection. This baffles me. Yes, this is a business of rejections, but if you don’t try, you will never get ahead. But I digress, a revision letter is just that: the editor (or agent, or what have you) sees promise in your story and wants to help you make it better. They have taken the time to not only read it, but also to comment on it. This type of feedback is golden. The first partial I sent to Harlequin came back with an R&R/full request. Did the manuscript ultimately get rejected? You bet it did! But I sold the next submission, and I learned a lot from that first revision letter.

Revisions at any stage are a learning opportunity. The process forces you to look at your own work more critically, to see it through an objective person's eyes. The feedback, while often specific to plot points or conflict in the specific manuscript, can typically be extended to future projects as well. Before I wrote this post, I tried to think if I have ever been given a suggestion or note that I wholeheartedly disagreed with and I decided I never have. Each time, the editor has come back to me with keen insight and fresh perspective. They haven’t been staring at this manuscript for months as we (the writers) have. They can step back and see the areas for improvement. Take it for what it is: this is an expert in the industry, a person who has read hundreds, if not thousands of books in this genre, supporting you in this endeavor and sharing ideas based on their extensive knowledge. That is quite an opportunity.

So what do you do once the revision letter arrives? Here are some things I do:

1.      Read the entire letter and then put it aside. Come back to it later, after you have thought about the feedback. 

2.      Read the manuscript as it currently stands from start to finish, making notes as you go along. In many cases, it will have been months since you last visited with this particular book, and your mind has probably been very focused on another project. You will need to remember the little details, not just the big picture. 

3.      Go through the revision notes and decide which points to tackle first. I tend to work chronologically as the book progresses, but everyone has their own system. 

4.      To track or not to track? It’s always a good idea to ask the editor if they’d like to see the marked-up manuscript, but also consider how you work best. Tracking changes can be very messy (though colorful). 

5.      If you start to feel overwhelmed, just stop. If you start to feel like you have ruined your book, just stop. Come back to it. 

6.      When you think you have finished making all the changes, take a few days off and come back to the manuscript. Read it again from start to finish as it stands in its revised state. Chances are high you will make even more changes as you go through it again.

7.  Go over your revision letter again. Check each off each point to make sure you addressed it.

8.   Repeat Step 6.  (Yes, I know that re-reading your own work by now can lead to thoughts of hating the book altogether, but trudge through. You owe it to yourself.)

With any set of revisions or notes, there is also usually feedback on what IS working for the story. I realized recently that this isn’t simply flattery--this is a very, very useful tool. Don’t just learn from where you went wrong; learn from where you went right. And do it again. 

Happy revising!