Before we begin this interview, I need to check that you’re still grounded and that your head isn’t swollen from all of your success, so with that in mind, what was the last thing you bought at Target, and do you know how much a loaf of bread costs? (grin)
Hey, do they actually have Target in the U.K.? They don’t have them in Canada, where I live, but I do shop at an equivalent—a store called Zellers. And I bought LOADS of stuff there over the holidays. Most recently a “Diva Karioke” machine for my 3-year-old who is a little star. As for the loaf of bread, my men servants always buy them and never tell me the price—sorry! 🙂
Actually, we don’t have Targets in the UK… yet. *g*
What were your favourite books as a child?
I am currently suffering from post Triple Deadline Dementia, and drawing a serious blank. I can only say that I loved to read, and read voraciously—everything. It’s the main reason I started writing my own books from the time I could first hold a pencil. Judy Blume was one of my favourite authors, though (and I’ll have an essay in a collection of essays about how she affected young women’s lives next year…).
Did you read romance books as a teenager?
Actually, I didn’t! Well, I did read a lot of Sweet Valley High, which had romance plots in different books in the series. So if that counts, yes. But I didn’t read my first Harlequin romance until my early twenties—at which point I thought, “Hey, I should be writing these!”
I guess every girl read SV High books when they were teenagers huh?
What does a typical day as a writer consist of?
Ha ha ha ha ha. Okay, now that I’ve stopped laughing, I have to ask—are you serious? Well, I suppose you are. So. Well. It definitely consists of procrastinating until the sun goes down.
At least when I’m trying to write the first draft. It’s easy to be distracted since my daughter isn’t in full time daycare (something I need to rectify!) and she wants my attention pretty much the whole day. Plus, no matter how I might try to change my schedule, I create best at night.
Try writing at night and getting up in the morning to be a mother.
I’m liking the sound of your men servants Kayla, can I borrow them sometime? *g*
Name your top five favourite books of all time.
To Kill A Mockingbird, The Chrysalids, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Envy (by Sandra Brown), and Where Are The Children?
Which authors are you glomming at the moment? (reading a lot of?)
Oh, just discovered Carl Hiassen! He sets his hilarious mysteries in Miami, a place where I lived for a while and adore. Also, since a writing partner and I have set a chick lit mystery in Miami, I thought it was fitting to start reading his stuff. I didn’t know he was so much fun. I’m having such a blast reading the Carl Hiassen books that I know I’ll be disappointed when I get through them all.
Do you have other close romance writer friends, and if so who are they?
I have lots of romance writer friends, and my closest is Brenda Mott, who is my writing partner for the chick lit novel I mentioned. The book is called How To Kill A Guy In Ten Days, and I have to say, it’s hilarious!
Nina Foxx is one of my newest friends (don’t ask about the cruise to the Bahamas…!) Tina Wainscott is also a great friend, and each year we throw the Wild and Wacky Be A Diva Party at the Romantic Times convention—which is quite scandalous and lots of fun. I’ve met practically all the big names at various conferences, including Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Jennifer Crusie . . . and the list goes on.
Ooh what a name dropper, lol! Bahamas eh, my imagination’s just gone wild!
When did you realise that you wanted to write books, and who or what inspired you?
Honestly, I have been telling stories since before I could hold a pencil, and started writing them as soon as I was physically able. My desire to write has been with me right from the beginning. I even sent my first book to a publisher when I was 13 years old!
How long has it been since you first got published?
My first book hit the shelves in 1998. I got that contract at the end of 1996.
How did you get your first book published? Did you have a mentor?
No mentor! I’m the type of person who tends to work alone and I want only the editor’s input! No critique group for me, thank you very much. When it comes to stuff like grammar, I never had a problem, as I was an English major.
I knew instinctively that I had what it took to become a published writer, once I put my mind to it, which I did on January 1, 1996. It was my New Year’s Resolution to have a publishing contract by the end of the year—and I did! What helped me was going to the national RWA conference and meeting with editors and agents. I met an editor from Genesis Press there who requested my book (which I told her was written, but neglected to tell her it was written as a screenplay).
After frantically writing the book to meet her requested deadline (September), I heard in December that they were offering me a 2-book contract.
Which of your books do you feel that you are best known for?
Definitely If You Want Me. I get more fan mail about that book than any others, and if I meet people who have read my books, it’s usually that one. Also, a lot of people know me for The Sisters of Theta Phi Kappa (mainstream), which was an Essence Bestseller.
Have any of your books been optioned for a movie?
So far, one – Sweet Honesty. Unfortunately for me, Viacom bought out BET just before they were going to go into pre-production for my book, and everything was put on hold. Currently, two producers are very interested in another couple of my books: Sister’s In Pink(sorority hazing leads to murder) and Getting Even (launching Harlequin’s Spice line in May).
Earlier this year, Harlequin bought Arabesque books from BET, what were your thoughts on this, and what do you consider are the pro’s and cons of such a move, and also, what do you think the future holds for Arabesque books now?
You know, I’m not really sure. Harlequin is a powerhouse, so I’m sure the books will see much wider distribution. I also think that with them buying BET, it shows that they know African American romances are here to stay.
I like that an author’s backlist (like mine) should be get a second chance at life with hopefully larger distribution. But, in a way, I’d prefer to see Harlequin incorporate AA romances into their other lines, which they are doing to a small degree.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the advantages and disadvantages of shelving African American romance books, separately from general romance books, what are your thoughts on this? Should AA books be shelved separately, or should they be kept together?
I think that a combination of both options should be explored. Some stores definitely benefit from the separate section. The patrons who want those books head straight there and find a whole lot to choose from. But in more multicultural stores, I think it’s wise to do a combination of both separation and integration—to reach as many customers as possible.
If you could have a one-to-one conversation with a famous historical figure, who would it be with and what would you talk about?
Oh, great. You’re throwing in a serious question. Well, I’d have to say Jesus. I’d love to talk to Him and ask all the questions of the universe that we currently don’t have answers to!
Something along the lines of how come we women bleed for a week, without dying you mean? *g*
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your writing?
First and foremost, I want a career for many years. If I achieve that, then it’d be a career-high thrill to hit the New York Times Bestseller list.
How has the romance industry changed from when you first started writing, and which of these changes were you happiest/unhappiest with?
I see a lot more diversity now with ethnic characters (African American, East Indian, Chinese, etc) and the biggest change is the move toward chick lit. I actually like this change. I find that change helps keep things fresh and interesting and I’m devouring lots of chick lit as well as romance these days.
In this day and age, do you think it’s possible for new romance writers to make it without having some kind of presence on the internet?
I think it is possible. Especially if your publisher gets behind you and promotes you in a seriously big way. That said, and internet presence is certainly helpful. I need to revamp my website, which I hope to do soon.
In your experience, what would you say was the most effective method of marketing a romance novel?
Hmm… Advertising in Romantic Times Magazine.
Which of your books is dearest to your heart, and why?
I’d have to say my first book, Again My Love. That’s my baby. My firstborn.
I first stumbled upon your work in a Mother’s Day anthology, published by BET, since then, I’ve noticed that you seem to write in a lot of anthologies, was this a deliberate choice on your part, and if so, why?
It wasn’t a deliberate choice, but I’m happy to do it because, like your own experience proves, a new reader can find me through an anthology she might have picked up because of another author. They’re also short and sweet and fun to write.
I’ve always wondered about this, but as an author, once your books are published, do you actually go back and read them yourself, and if so, are you able to enjoy them, or do you perhaps see things that make you want to chew your own arm off in frustration? (grin).
You know, I can’t say I’ve re-read one of my books in its entirety, but I definitely will pick one up, open to a passage, and read. And yes, I’m entertained! I’m usually pleasantly surprised, and sometimes amazed at what I wrote in terms of not remembering I actually wrote that.
For me, it affirms that my stories come from somewhere deep inside of me I have no control over until I’m in front of the computer. There are some books that I definitely cringe a little at wishing I could re-write something, but I don’t obsess over it because I can’t change it, so what’s the point?
Has anything a reviewer or reader said or written about you changed the way you write?
Yes! One reader once told me I used “Oh my God” too much. Since then, I try to cut down on the usage, but it’s a common expression people use every day, so I can’t eliminate it entirely.
Earlier this year, RWA attempted to try to define romance, and it caused a bit of a furore round the romance blogosphere, due to the limitations of the definitions. What were your thoughts on this at the time, and do you think it’s possible/necessary to define romance in a way that doesn’t exclude other sub-genres?
I’m all for opening up the definitions. I think the romance genre is growing up to reflect the times, at least where the reader and writer are concerned. We’re not babies. We can handle some “blurring.” If you read Gimme An O! then you know that the hero is technically married when he gets involved with the heroine.
A reviewer wrote that had she been reading for pleasure, she would have closed the book at that point, but since she was reading for review purposes, she kept going, and was glad she did because she said she thoroughly enjoyed how the story played out—something she would have missed if she judged the book by the “constraints” of the romance definition.
When was the last time you went overseas and where did you go?
The Bahamas. On an author cruise put together by TJ Butler. This is where I roomed with Nina Foxx …
Oh aren’t you gonna spill? Pretty Please?
Who are your favourite romance hero and heroine of all time?
Does it have to be in a book? Because I love Bo and Hope from Days Of Our Lives dearly and will always love them as my favourite romantic couple.
I’ll let you have Bo and Hope *g*
What kind of characters would you say you typically wrote?
Hmm… Characters with issues of trust.
If only one person could read your book, who would that be? (as in the person who you would want most to read your book)
If you had to pick, who would you say has been most influential within the romance genre?
What was the last movie you saw?
At the theatre: After the Sunset. At home: Cheaper by the Dozen. Hilarious!
Name your top five favourite romantic films.
When Harry Met Sally, The Mirror Has Two Faces, While You Were Sleeping, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, and I’m drawing a blank. There are so many to choose from! Just realized that I chose all romantic comedies. I also loved the combo of Before Sunrise/Before Sunset.
What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
I read Paranoia by Joseph Finder (his High Crimes was made into a movie with Morgan Freeman). I was BLOWN AWAY by this book. It was over 500 pages and I didn’t want it to end! I also love the suspense genre quite a bit.
Have you ever written a book that you didn’t particularly care for, and do you cringe if you see people picking it up to read it?
I don’t cringe. But I have some that I’m less fond of. Usually, I get lots of mail re those with people telling me how much they love them! Like Fool For Love.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
My flexible schedule.
What do you least enjoy about being a writer?
The fact that my flexible schedule leads to a lot of procrastination.
As well as being a successful writer, you have a major interest in drama. You’ve appeared in several stage shows as well as films, and you’ve also worked behind the camera. Is the movie industry, an area you’ll continue to be involved in along side writing, or is it something that you’ve put on the back burner for now?
It was on the backburner, but now, I’m really feeling the urge to find a way to produce and direct my own film. Furthering this dream is a new program I picked upt that helps you edit videos and pictures to make your own DVDs. Over the last 5 days, I’ve made around 10! I was up till 6 a.m. this morning working on that—not my revisions for my book (shh! Don’t tell my editor!). I really want to find a way to produce a feature film within the next two years.
As you’ve been there, done it, and have the badge to prove it, what is the number one advice that would you give to aspiring writers out there?
Don’t give up! Persistence really is key.
Since all authors are readers, too, do you have any books you’ve especially enjoyed over the last year or so that you’d like to recommend to readers who’ve enjoyed your books?
Paranoia by Joseph Finder, The Givenchy Code by Julie Kenner, Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen and everything else he’s written! I can’t say I read a lot of romance last year, but that’s okay.
Finally, when’s your next book due out, and what’s it about?
I’m really excited about my next book, Getting Even. It’s launching Harlequin’s new SPICE line and it’s what I like to call erotic chick lit. Don’t look for any real romance though (the big clue is that the title is GETTING EVEN).
Three women who are screwed over by the men in their lives plot some delicious revenge. It’s a lot of fun, and it hopeful in terms of a romantic note, but I wouldn’t call it a romance.
Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer these very nosy questions!
Your welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my men servants are waiting….
Ooh please, don’t let me hold you up *g* Thanks Kayla!
OK, that’s it for this week, next week, Julia Quinn will be in the hot seat! (Hopefully) *g*
Ciao for now!