1) You got your agent - and book deal - through being a fabulous writer, obviously, but also through building an online presence and networking. Let’s say someone is old school - they have a great novel which has been polished like a diamond, but they have ZERO online presence. With your knowledge of the publishing world today, would you advise them to go ahead and start querying, then begin building their online presence while waiting for replies? Or, in your opinion, would it be wiser to invest six months to a year in building an author platform, before querying?
I’d been working on my online presence for a little over a year and had built up a good following by the time I signed with my agent. BUT I didn’t start blogging or doing anything until I had completed my first novel and wanted to start querying it. (That novel is under my bed now.) So I didn’t wait to query while I built the presence. And if you’re writing fiction, platform is an asset but not a necessity upfront like it is with non-fiction. A fantastic book is the necessity. But I will say that Sara, my agent, says she’s pretty much getting to the point where a person not having a website is a deal breaker for her when she’s considering a client.
So what I would suggest is before you query, get SOMETHING out there whether it be a simple blog or a static author site. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to have a whole bunch of followers. Just get something out there so that agents know you are computer savvy enough to do it and that you are aware online is part of the deal. You want to be able to send them somewhere online to find out more about you.
2) Your writing schedule - do you write every day? Write steadily, then blog, then Twitter breaks, or check your e-mail first, or is it all dogpiled together?
My three year old goes to preschool for four hours each morning, so that is my golden time. I tend to check email and get my blog written within the first hour or so, then spend the rest of the time writing or editing, while taking Twitter breaks, of course. Unfortunately, it seems I always hit my stride right when it’s time to pick the kidlet up, lol. But I’m not complaining. The first three books I wrote (one of them being CRASH INTO YOU) were written while the kidlet was home 24/7, so basically writing erotic romance while listening to Barney and Super Why on PBS. Very sexy.
3) When do you get your reading in? What do you read - how much do you allow yourself to read for pure fun, and how much is Official Research?
Reading is part of my writing process. I’ve found that when I put aside reading, my temperamental muse goes on strike. So I try to read at least a little bit 3-4 days a week. Usually this is done in the evening either while kidlet is bathing or while my husband is putting him to sleep. Plus, my husband travels a lot, so after kidlet goes to bed, I get some time as well. The bulk of my reading is in romance (mostly contemporary) and YA. Those are my two favorite genres—and yes I know they’re kind of on different ends of the spectrum, lol. But what can you do, I like what I like. Basically I’m a sucker for anything with a romantic thread and great sexual tension. And it’s all research AND pure fun. If it feels like work, then the book must not be good.
4) Although your blog is PG-13, you write dark erotic suspense material, and you’re open about using your own name and photo, not a pseudonym. Tell us about the thought process that went into that decision, and how your (extended) family feels about it.
Well, first, my last name is actually a pseudonym. Roni is my real first name though and yes, that’s my picture. I chose to go with a different last name mainly because I have a son and I live in a conservative area, so I didn’t want there to be any stress on him. However, having said that, I’m not ashamed of what I write, so it’s not some big state secret in my family. I’ve facebooked about my book on my personal account where all my real life friends are. My family and the hubby’s family knows. I’ve asked a them not to read the book because I don’t want it to be awkward. Though my mom rolled her eyes and said—“Like I’m not going to read your book. I’m a grown-up. I know what sex is.” :-) I heart my mom. She would literally be proud of whatever I do as long as I wasn’t breaking any laws, lol. But really, I’m just kind of over worrying about what other people think. I’m a normal, happily married, dedicated wife and mom. Yes, I write about things that are dark and sexual. Yes, it doesn’t fit with the image people have of me—the shy, good girl who went to Catholic school and graduated with straight As from college and graduate school. (The PG-13 person I am on my blog.) But I’m still all those things. I also can write sex scenes that could set off smoke alarms. :-) I refuse to apologize for any of that.
5) After the big to-do over erotic romance author Judy Mays, do you have any qualms about the local PTA, Little League, church choir, etc., knowing what you do?
Yes, I do. I actually have an alternative teacher certification that would allow me to teach high school English. I know that once I’m published, that career path will be shut off from me because of close-minded people. It’s not fair. I have a Masters degree in social work. I graduated at the top of my class. I’ve worked with middle school kids who had concurrent mental and behavioral disorders. I’ll be a published author. But people will not see me as “safe” to teach their children. At least not in a place as conservative as Texas. It’s ridiculous to me, but it is what it is. All I can do is try to educate people who I know. The line between erotic romance and sexy romance is so fine that I bet most of the people who would be appalled at the idea of erotic romance probably already read the stuff that’s a hairsbreadth away from it. We are just way too knotted up about sexuality (female sexuality in particular) in this country, in my opinion. Would Judy Mays have gotten all that drama if she’d been a guy writing violent serial killer novels? Probably not. That guy probably would’ve been lauded as—wow, our English teacher is a published author! (And that’s about as political as you’ll ever hear me get online, lol. So I’ll stop before I get on too much of a rant, lol.)
6) You’ve blogged and written about how much you love your genre, but your first novel was YA. Any plans to go back to YA, or perhaps try another “flavor” of romance, perhaps sci-fi or fantasy?
I love, love, love YA. I read almost as much of that as I read romance. So no, I haven’t ruled out writing YA again. Although, obviously, I’d pick another name. As for a different flavor of romance, I do have a contemporary romance under consideration with another publisher. It’s sexy vs. erotic and more light and fun vs. dark. Hopefully that one will be on the shelves one day too. J
7) What was your biggest challenge in the two books you have coming out now? Was there any hump (no pun intended) you had to get over?
CRASH INTO YOU flowed pretty easily for me because I kind of was writing it on a whim. I had never written erotic romance before and was just kind of “trying it out.” I had no idea that it would turn out to be the book that landed me the agent and book deal. So it was this nice no pressure situation. However, I just finished my first draft of the follow-up MELT INTO YOU and that one definitely was a tougher road. It was the first time I’d written on a deadline, the first time I’d written a continuing series, the first time I’d had not just one but two heroes. I hit a snag in the middle that literally had me blocked for like 6 weeks. I’m a pantser, so I have nothing really plotted out ahead of time and that hurts me when I get to a block. I can’t jump ahead. But I eventually pushed through it and finished the draft in a little over 6 months. Not ideal, but still ahead of deadline which is what counts, lol.
8) You have an agent, who you love. How closely are you working with her on your upcoming books, and how closely are you working with your editor(s)? How frequent is contact among all of you?
I email with Sara at least weekly about this that or the other thing. She’s so easy to work with so I feel comfortable reaching out to her whenever I have questions and such. For instance, if I’m trying to decide whether I should go down rabbit hole A or B with the plot, I’ll send her a quick email and she’ll weigh in. I don’t often do that since I’m kind of a cave drafter, meaning I don’t ask anyone’s opinion until I’m done with the first draft, but sometimes I just can’t decide and her professional opinion is invaluable. Communication with my editor is not as frequent yet because my book is still a ways out from pub date, but she’s fabulous as well. Her feedback and support has been awesome.
9) Without giving away too much, what three things are we going to love about the main characters in CRASH INTO YOU?
What I love about this story is that I was able to tell a dual timeline narrative, so every other chapter alternates from the present to ten years before. So I’m able to chronicle both the story of Brynn and Reid’s relationship when they first fell in love and then ten years later when they meet again. So you get to see both of them before and after life has intervened and see how they’ve grown and changed. Plus, despite the darker themes of my book, both my main characters have serious sarcastic streaks, so there’s also a lot of humor threaded into the story. And one thing I’ve heard from every single beta reader/blurb-er/agent/editor who’s read CRASH has been that they fall in love with Reid’s best friend, Jace, who plays a big role in CRASH but is the star of the second book. So I hope that trend continues because I’m in love with him too! :-)
10) What question have you not yet been asked by anybody that you are just dying to answer - and what’s your answer?
Lol, now there’s a question. Hmm, let’s see…how about: What’s the theme song for CRASH INTO YOU? Answer: Surprise—it’s not Crash Into Me by Dave Matthews Band, though that’d be on the playlist. It’s actually “Outside” by Staind.
Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts—yeah, that’s it.
Her debut novel, CRASH INTO YOU, will be published by Berkley Heat January 3, 2012! (And, it's available now as a pre-order.)
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