How did you start writing?
I wasn’t one of those prodigy child-type of things. I could barely read in third grade. My mom had to buy me hooked on phonics and I did it until about fifth grade. I hated reading. I hated that I pronounced everything too slow and could never guess what the word was I was supposed to be saying. I hated sounding things out that sometimes were pronounced one way and sometimes another. It didn’t make any sense. And I was frustrated that I couldn’t get it. And I hated reading all the books we were forced to in school. They were horrible. I would litterly flip through the pages for thirty minutes pretending to read. On top of all that, none of books I was reading seemed to connect with me or mean anything. I didn’t officially start reading until high school. Until I found an author my mom had been reading and told me to give it a try. The authors’ name was Francine Rivers. And she was the start that changed my life.
After I read through all of Francine Rivers’ books I started searching for more books that were similar to hers and slowly I started to find them. I stumbled upon a Julie Garwood book for sale at the library for $1.00. And when I finished the book, I was shocked. It was AMAZING! I could bow down to Julie Garwood. I was like where have these books been all my life!!! Whoa! Books can be about romance! I need to find more. Must find more. Now. So good! I started actively going to book stores, going into the romance sections and buying tons of books to read. Instead of going out and partying at night, I was in my room reading a book–devouring each word, the characters and the romantic tension between them.
I had just decided I wanted to change my major from Finance to Math and since I was in my last year, my school gave me the gut-wrenching no. It was a horrible feeling, to finally feel like you knew what you wanted and what you wanted to be in life and have them say no. I was so bummed I just sat in my room, staring at the walls, thinking what am I going to do now. And I said. Write a book. Get lost in your book. I opened my laptop, sat down at my desk and wrote the first ten pages of Sparked (what was then called Saving Vienna).
Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere and nowhere. Friends, movies, books, standing in the shower, things that I see, dreams that I have. I’m all over the place. I normally get a spark though, or a vague idea. The plot starts to take shape once I sit down and talk to someone. I have to verbally get it out. If I don’t, it’s really difficult for me to see the ending and to figure out who my characters are. I need my writer friends to ask me questions about where the plot is going, why certain characters are acting that way and so on in order for me to puzzle it out.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Ha! My first book took me four years. One year to finish the book completely. And, when I did, I was so proud. It was my baby. Sigh. My wonderful, perfect baby. And then I went back to page one to start reading it from the beginning. Two sentences in, I was bored. It stunk! It was terrible. Perfect baby blah.
The next one to two years were lost simply to discover how to write. Where commas should go, how to create tension, how to use each scene to move the plot forward, how to make your characters have vulnerabilities. Only when I learned that was I able to start re-writing.
How would you recommend me to find a publisher?
First, write the best book you can. Second, network. Go to conferences where you can pitch in person to agents and editors and get their feedback on your story ideas, and they may ask to see a sample of your story. Meet people. Establish relationships. That’s how I found mine. I was introduced to Soul Mate Publishing through a friend, I pitched my book at the RWA National Conference to them and they asked to see the full.
You can try blind query submitting but I heard that is very difficult. Join RWA and start attending conferences so you can pitch to people and meet them face to face.
Why did you name your dog Aladdin?
I love really cool, funky names. First I wanted to name him after a Greek Island, like Mykonos. But really Mykonos is the coolest of the Greek island names. So then I went to Disney characters. I started with Ariel’s hero, Eric. Didn’t like it. Went to Sleeping Beauty’s hero, Phillip. Nope. Went to Jasmine’s hero, Aladdin. And I stopped. Aladdin? Hmp. And the name worked.