Saturday, January 02, 2010
For the near future, I’m focusing on the books I already have under contract. In the past twenty-four months, I’ve signed contracts for nine books: six contemporaries and three historicals. I’m currently writing contracted book #5 (the first book in a new contemporary series) and working on edits of contracted book #4 (the second book in the historical trilogy). I have four books to write in the next fifteen months, so between that and marketing each book as it releases, that’s pretty much what I see on the horizon—and I’m loving every minute of it. It’s what I always wanted to do.
Tell us a little about your family.
As a thirtysomething single woman, my household is comprised of just me, myself, and I. Which is why I travel as often as possible to go visit the rest of my family—my parents, who have recently retired to my dad’s hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas, and my grandmother and my sister and her family who live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My large extended family (my mother is the oldest of six children) is the inspiration for the large Guidry family in the Brides of Bonneterre series. While we’re much more geographically scattered than the Guidrys, it was fun imagining what our family dynamics might have been if we’d all stayed in Baton Rouge as the Guidrys have stayed in Bonneterre.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
I don’t know it’s so much writing that’s changed my reading habits as it is a combination of two things: graduate school and working as an editor for the past several years. In graduate school, they taught us to read critically—to break a book down into its basic elements—plot, characters, themes—as well as critique it for craft. Then I started working full-time as an editor, which trained me to stay aloof from what I was reading and view it as a technical piece of writing not as a “story” which I was allowed to lose myself in. It’s very hard to turn off that internal critic/editor—but that’s how I know if a story is well written: if I can get lost in the story and not focus on the technicalities of the writing. Of course, between my own writing and the freelance editing I do, it’s hard to convince myself to sit down and read when I’ve spent eight or nine hours that day staring at words or developing a story.
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing up the first book in my next contemporary series with Barbour. The series is called The Matchmakers and the first book is Love Remains. And as soon as I finish it, I’ll start on the final book in the Ransome Trilogy—in which we finally get to meet the pirates!
What outside interests do you have?
I love British and American history, everything from William the Conqueror to the late 19th Century American frontier. Because of this, I love costume-drama movies and miniseries. I’ve also recently taught myself to knit, and have become a master at producing “lap blankets” and scarves. (I’m great at the straight-line knit and purl stitches!) I hope to do a lot more traveling this year as well—I’d love to be able to take my first overseas trip (to England) before the year’s out.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
I started developing the city of Bonneterre, Louisiana, in 1992 when I was a student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As a laugh, I started writing a “where will we all be in five years” story for my best friend, featuring us and some of our closest friends from school. Well, what started as a lark started to grow—and grew into a 300,000-word behemoth (about the length of three full novels!). I needed to fictionalize it, though, so I renamed all of the characters along with the college and the city. And that’s how Bonneterre came into existence. Once the city existed, I had to populate it, and that’s when the Guidry family came to be. Because I had worked within that fictional setting for more than ten years, it was only natural to use it for Stand-In Groom and its sequels, Menu for Romance and A Case for Love, because I knew it better than any other place I’d ever been. For my next contemporary series, I chose Nashville as a setting because, after living here fourteen years, I know it pretty well by now—and I love the idea of showing readers the Nashville I know, not the stereotype outsiders expect.
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
How to do it. I started writing when I was twelve or thirteen years old, but it wasn’t until I was thirty years old that I had any training in how to actually craft a novel. If I’d had training earlier in life, I think many of the negative experiences that kept me from doing it until I was in my thirties probably wouldn’t have “stunted my growth” as a writer for so long.
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
Back in 2001, I made a prayerful goal that by the time I turned thirty-five (in 2006) I would be well along the path toward publication. The year I was thirty-five, I finished my master’s in Writing Popular Fiction, won second place in the ACFW Genesis Contest with my master’s thesis (Stand-In Groom), and signed with my wonderful agent, Chip MacGregor. The next year (2007), I signed my first book contract. In 2008, after two years working full-time at a publishing house, I prayed God would help me prepare to eventually be able to stop working full-time and be able to support myself with a combination of writing and freelance editing. In July 2008, I was laid-off from my job. Since then, there have been a few rough financial patches, and when I prayed about it, about whether or not I was supposed to go back out and work again, He “blessed” me with another three-book contract as well as a regular freelance editing job that basically equates to a part-time position (with the company from which I was laid-off). With four books to complete in the span of about fifteen months as well as the freelance work, He’s definitely teaching me perseverance—and to be careful what I ask for!
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
First, though the work is hard, stick with it. Seek out knowledge and mentorship, and learn how to take, process, and utilize criticism to make your work better. Don’t get antsy or impatient and jump out ahead of where God wants you to be on this journey. Take it one step at a time—and if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Second, understand that this is a business. Even though we write the stories we feel God has given us, the people making the decisions as to whether or not to publish your work are making business decisions. It’s not about ministry, it’s not personal. It’s business. Learn to interact with others—writers, agents, and editors—as a businessperson and build those networking contacts in a professional manner.
Third, don’t pin all your hopes to one story. Write, write, and keep writing. The more completed manuscripts you have, the more opportunities you have to submit—and the more manuscripts you complete, the better your skill becomes. Once a manuscript goes out for consideration, move on; write something else. Editors and agents want to know that an author has more than one story to tell. And if you’d like to write in more than one genre (such as contemporary and historical romance), having both manuscripts complete is a great way to prove that you can do it.
Tell us about the featured book.
A Case for Love is the third and final (?) book in the Brides of Bonneterre series, and it gives readers the story they’ve been clamoring for—that of everyone’s favorite control-freak, Forbes Guidry:
The Alaine Delacroix that all of Bonneterre knows is the carefully polished image she puts forth every day on her noontime news-magazine program. When her parents’ home and small business is threatened by the biggest corporation in town, Alaine is forced to choose between her image and fighting for the life her family has built.
Lawyer Forbes Guidry is used to making things go his way. But when he’s asked to take on a pro bono case for a colleague, he’ll learn that he can’t control everything—including his feelings for his new client: Alaine Delacroix.
Alaine’s only option to help her family is hiring Forbes, but can she bring herself to trust the handsome, disarmingly charming lawyer? And will Forbes Guidry be able to make a case for love before losing his job and family? Can both trust that God will present a solution before it’s too late?
Please give us the first page of the book.
“You did what?”
Forbes Guidry sank into the tall-backed leather chair, extremities numb, and stared at the couple sitting across the desk from him. As a partner in the largest law firm in Bonneterre, Louisiana, he’d heard a lot of shocking things over the fourteen years he’d been practicing. But nothing had hit him quite like this.
“We eloped.” His sister held up her left hand where a diamond wedding band had been added below the antique engagement ring she’d sported for the past three months. “I know you were looking forward to being Major’s best man, which is why we’re telling you before breaking it to the rest of the family.”
He hardly spared a glance at his best friend—now his brother-in-law—before pinning his gaze on his sister. “Meredith, this is a joke, right? What about the meeting Monday with Anne—the plans we discussed?” Sure, Meredith had been a little too quiet in that meeting, had voiced concerns about how big the wedding seemed to be growing, but she’d been coming off of working a huge event that weekend and had been tired . . . hadn’t she?
“Things were getting out of hand—had already gone too far.”
“Stop.” Forbes fought the urge to press his hands over his ears. “Way too much information.”
Major chuckled; Meredith frowned at both of them. “Oh, for mercy’s sake. I’m talking about the wedding plans. Neither of us wanted a big wedding, but every time we met with Anne—or you or anyone in the family—it grew exponentially. Especially once Mom and Dad stuck their oars in and started making lists of all of their business acquaintances that needed to be invited.”
Forbes stared at his sister, dumbfounded. He prided himself on knowing exactly what each member of his family was thinking before they ever thought it. How had this blindsided him so completely?
I love it. I can hardly wait to read the book. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Kaye, for spending this time with us.
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