When Kay Thomas and I discovered we had the same release dates coming up for our new stories (hers: Hard Target, mine: Have You Any Rogues) we sat down and interviewed each other and shared our thoughts about writing and life. Ok, Kay came up with all the questions, but I did all the hard work. Teehee.
EB: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing?
KT:The more you write, the more addictive it becomes. If I had know this beforehand I might have taken up, oh, I don’t know—marathon walking or scrapbooking instead. I can’t imagine not writing today, but part of that is because I’ve been doing it for so long.
I’ve heard people talk about characters that just won’t leave them alone, and I never understood that whole concept until writing the Elite Ops series. Hard Target was an addictive writing experience for me. I loved the characters, the location, the adventure, the growth arcs, and the relationships.
While this first book didn’t write itself, the story came much easier than others I’ve written in the past. For the first time I could hear the characters talking in my head and they wouldn’t let me rest, till I wrote down what they were saying. Currently, I’m working on Book 2 in the Elite Ops series and I’m happy to say that I’m having a similar experience with “hearing” those characters’ voices.
EB: What do you like to do in your “spare” time?
KT: Free time?? Hmm… I’m not sure I’m familiar with this concept?
Joking aside. My ideal “free day” would include: making pancakes, (well okay, eating the ones my husband makes since I don’t cook much) sitting around with my family and having breakfast together, watching an old movie or renting a new one, playing a game of dominos (we have ongoing tournaments at our house), and of course, reading a good book in front of the fire, or lying in the hammock.
EB: Do you have a particular writing regimen?
KT: I hesitate to call what I do a regimen. It doesn’t feel quite that structured…but during the summer and on holidays I write early in the morning while everyone is asleep at my house. During the school year, I write after my son goes off to school. I’m more productive on story in the mornings. I use the afternoons for email, publicity, etc. Or that’s my goal. In an attempt to manage my time better I read a great book a few years ago called “Never Answer Email in the Morning”. I got some great tips, but ultimately I’m not sure the lesson took.
EB: Do you outline an entire book before writing it?
KT: Sadly, no, though I could spare myself much grief and gnashing of teeth if I did. I’m a “pantser” who is trying to become more of a plotter in the interest of saving myself time and aggravation (ie – not writing myself into corners). I usually have an idea of a story before I start a project, but I generally have to just sit down and start typing before the bulk of the plot comes. There’s a magic for me about my fingers hitting the keyboard. I can’t “talk it out” in terms of plotting. I have to “write it out.” That’s where my stream-of-consciousness-writing comes in.
I use a storyboard with sticky notes to keep my thoughts in order. It’s not terribly organized looking to anyone but me.
Still, I can keep the pace hopping, even when I don’t know exactly where I’m headed. That’s why I’m working hard at becoming a bit more plotting-oriented before I start, so I don’t write myself into that corner I was speaking of earlier! But the challenge for me is keeping the story fresh if I’ve plotted it too much beforehand. For me, if I plot the storyline too thoroughly before I write it, that joy of the discovery isn’t there as I type, and it comes across as flat on the page…not new. So it’s a balance for me to plot enough to have a destination, but keep the reins loose enough to go wherever I need in order to still enjoy the ride.
EB: Is there one book you find yourself reading over and over?
KT: Black Ice by Anne Stuart.
I adore her entire Ice series, and no one writes a bad boy hero like Anne Stuart.
EB: How do you do your research? Do you travel or do it online?
KT: These days I do most of it online. In writing my second book, Bulletproof Texas, I had a terrifying experience when I insisted on learning how to rock climb myself because my character was going to climb in the book. The equipment at the rock climbing gym malfunctioned, and I fell about 12 feet—flat on my back—in front of my husband and child. That scared them both worse than it scared me. For the record, my agent had begged me not to do this. I’ve now learned my lesson and do any “extreme research” online only!
Hard Target—my first book in the new Elite Ops series—takes place in extraordinarily remote locations in Mexico and one area in particular where drug cartels are quite active. I have no desire to do a live research trip there, but on-line I’ve made a wonderful discovery. You can find English speaking expat bloggers in pretty much any place you’d like to set a story, along with YouTube videos that can “take you” almost anywhere.
EB: What do you like best about your hero, Leland? What drove you crazy about him?
KT: I love that Leland Hollis is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Anna Mercado safe, even if it means driving her away. Her safety is far more important to him than her thinking he is a nice guy. When the book opens Leland is rethinking a lot of things in his life. He’s disillusioned with the career path he’s chosen and knows that he doesn’t have all the answers. Basically, he’s looking for redemption and finds it in helping Anna and her son. That kind of searching humility is very appealing to me, and the whole badass-southern-boy-with-a-heart-of-mush persona makes me melt.
The thing that drove me crazy about him was something I did to myself when I created his character. When the book opens Leland is recovering from a drug bust gone horribly wrong and he’s wearing one of those walking boot casts. I’ve had to wear one of those myself, and I thought at the time that I was being oh-so-smart in “writing what I knew.” What I didn’t consider was how awkward that boot would be if one was on the run from a Mexican cartel, traipsing through the jungle and um…having sex.
EB: What’s your best advice for aspiring writers?
KT: Don’t give up on your dreams. When those rejections come (and they will…it happens to everyone) send out another query or request immediately. Then go have that chocolate bar, glass of wine, long hot bath, or all of the above to soothe the hurt feelings. I’ve always thought that I got published initially because I was too stubborn to give up.
EB: What’s next for you? Can you tell us a little about it.
KT: Book 2 in the Elite Ops series (working title: Personal Target) is about a case of mistaken identity and a very personal vendetta against former SEAL/CIA operative, Nick Donovan. From Dallas to Mexico, across the African Savanna, to the shores of the Mediterranean it’s a race against time for Nick to save the woman he loves but lost years before.
You can find out more about Kay Thomas and her wonderful romantic suspense novels at her website.