Monday, July 9, 2012

Dancing into an Interview with Laura Sheehan

Laura Sheehan's debut novel Dancing With Danger was released in May 2012. You can read what I thought about it here.  Here's the quickie synopsis, (because everyone loves a quickie):
Lily Brookstone, the daughter of a workaholic United States Senator, defies her father's wishes by moving to Los Angeles in pursuit of a dancing career. But the tough town hasn't been easy on her, and after two years she finds herself disowned by her father, dropped by her agent, recovering from a dance injury, and working three jobs to make ends meet. Oh, and she's somehow picked up a stalker.  Yeah, Los Angeles has not been kind.

Then she meets Marc, an LAPD officer with an uncanny knack for reading people. Can she overcome her untrusting nature and allow him to protect both her life and her heart? 

1) What most surprised you about the process of becoming published with Red Sage?

Definitely the speed with which it happened. I submitted my query letter and first few pages of the manuscript, and within a few weeks, I received a request for the full.  A few weeks after that, I got the offer, and once I accepted, my release date was set only a little over a month from then.  It was crazy!  It took me about a year and half to write, a year to revise and submit to agents/editors, and then once I got The Call, it all happened so fast!

2) We all put bits of ourselves into our characters - and totally make other stuff up. What part(s) of Lily do people assume are autobiographical that are totally NOT?

Well, I grew up in Las Vegas and have been a professional dancer since I was in my late teens. You put those two phrases together ("Vegas" and "professional dancer") and many people automatically assume: STRIPPER.  Or, at least: TOPLESS SHOWGIRL. But I assure you, I have never done either profession! It's not that I look down on those careers, it's just never something I've been able to participate in (being only 5'3", there's no production on the planet that would hire me as a showgirl! Most are 5'9" or taller, and if you're shorter than 5'7", you'll be cut at the first round of auditions; trust me, I know.)

So, although I have danced in a variety of professional environments, Lily's experience as a topless dancer in DANCING WITH DANGER is not actually based on my real life experience. (I'm sure my dad is breathing a sigh of relief about now).

3) Tell us about the process of researching Lily's stint at Vixens from Dancing With Danger .

In my circle of friends, whenever one of us turned 18, the celebration included going to an all-nude strip club called Li'l Darlin's. Apparently, this is unusual, but at the time, it seemed perfectly normal.  Growing up in Vegas may sound exciting, but because the legal drinking age is 21, the vast majority of "fun" things to do in Vegas were restricted to people over that age.  It was impossible to find a dance club that would allow teenagers in, and you couldn't even go to the shows on the Strip without being accompanied by someone 21 or older (since they served alcohol in the lobby). (In fact, at age 18 I could DANCE in one of those shows, but couldn't go SEE the show without an "adult" accompanying me.)

But back to your question: I visited strip clubs fairly frequently in my late teens, and enjoyed tipping the dancers who were particularly talented. During my college years, a high school buddy visited me in LA and we went to a strip club for old time's sake. I was the only woman in the audience, and the DJ targeted me to join some of the dancers, which I did, and and then was taken backstage. It was silly and fun, and I got a peek at the "back end" of the club, which I have to admit, was pretty unimpressive.  I took tons of mental notes as I explored their dressing room and witnessed the dynamics between the dancers. I'm sure each club is different, but what I witnessed backstage was the inspiration for the backstage scenes in DANCING WITH DANGER.

4) Is there anything Lily does that ticks you off? Was she difficult in any particular way when you were writing her story?

Nothing about her really ticked me off, which might not be a good thing (as author's we're supposed to push the limits, right?). But I did struggle with her fiercely independent nature... I am a big communicator, I love to share my story with others, seek support from friends when needed and offer it back in return when they need it, so it was hard for me to not let Lily do that too easily.

5) You yourself are a dancer and a writer. How do you transition from one role to another? Do you ever "dance out" a story?

The dance sequences in this book were some of my favorite scenes to write!  As a kid who was in and out of the hospital a lot, I'd taught myself to learn choreography by watching it (which helped me keep my dancing chops while bedridden), and to choreograph moves in my head, without having to perform them out.  This was extremely helpful when writing the dance sequences, as I don't have a stripper pole in my living room to choreograph things in actual life!

However, I did employ my husband to help with some of the physically romantic sequences... I wanted to get the love scenes "just right," and the best way to do that is research, right? :-)

6) Have you, or would you want to, work with a crit group? Why or why not?

I am not against it, but I haven't yet found a group that I've clicked with.  My mother is an excellent writing partner, and my husband is great resource when I'm suffering from writer's block, but it would be nice to find a local crit group to work with. I really enjoy helping others with their manuscripts and have recently been volunteering as a judge for RWA chapter contests.  I received some excellent critiques from contests that I submitted to, and they made my manuscript so much stronger. I like the idea of helping others in the same way, and I will definitely take advantage of those critique opportunities again with my next novel (once I finish it!)

7) You entered Dancing With Danger in a number of contests. Was this pre- or post- Red Sage contract? Do you feel it helped secure a publishing contract (if before) or boosted sales (if after)?

I submitted to four contests, plus the Golden Heart, all before receiving the offer from Red Sage. I finalled in three out of the four, and won first place in one. The first (which was the one I did not final in) was a bad match for me. I was so excited to have finished the manuscript, that I submitted it to the next available contest, which didn't have a romantic suspense category... so I'm not surprised I didn't get very far!  The other three contests were great, however.  It was lovely to receive positive feedback. 

The critiques were varied, some I disagreed with, some I grudgingly acknowledged, but one critique in particular was absolutely amazing.  She was one of the harshest judges, but her comments were spot on and her suggestions for improvement made my manuscript so much better.  I received these suggestions just after accepting the Red Sage contract, and implemented the changes after discussing it with my editor (who then proceeded using the revised version).

8) Are you still a contest-entering writer? Why or why not?

Right now I am spending more time judging than writing, but hope to remedy that after this last batch of entries has been completed.  But I absolutely will submit my next WIP to contests when I'm done.  It's a good way to get your manuscript in the best shape possible before trying to sell it. (and who knows: maybe the final judge will be an agent or editor who will fall in love with it!)

9) I read on Veronica Scott's blog you're working on a fantasy romance. Why the jump in genre - and what excites you about the new novel?

Fantasy was my first love, I didn't discover romance novels until I was an adult. I've read that as a new author, I should stick to one genre until I become established, but this fantasy story has been bouncing around my brain for years and is gaining momentum everyday.  I just can't ignore it!  When trying to fall asleep, scenes from this yet-to-be-written novel play out in my mind, when I'm stuck in traffic, my mind wanders to characters that will appear in the book... it's a story that simply won't be ignored, so I've just got to get it out!

Plus, romantic suspense and fantasy romance can be quite similar.  Both can be chock-full of action and adventure, dangerous situations and romantic interludes... the main difference is the setting.  One takes place in our current world, the other in a more fantastical world. To my mind, it's not much of a leap. The possibilities with a fantasy are endless. I'm not constrained by the confines of reality. I can make magic, create cultures, build continents, discover exotic creatures... I am almost overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities!

10) What question have you not yet been asked, that you're dying to answer (and what's the answer?)

Well, first off: this has been such a treat! Your questions were intriguing and so much fun to answer.  Thank you for having me as a guest.  I guess the most frequent comments I've received from readers who know me is: Is Marc based on your husband? And the answer is: yes.  It's no coincidence that me and my heroine share the same first initial, and the same is true for my husband and my hero.  Marc is different in many ways (he has a sharper temper, for example) and there are many aspects of my husband's personality that didn't make it into Marc's character (such as my husband's infinite creativity), but overall, a great deal of Marc's character was inspired from my real-life hero.  In fact, most of Marc's best one-liners are word for word from real life, including the final romantic scene on the dance floor.  I'm one lucky girl!

I also freely stole borrowed Laura's Heat Guide and incorporated it here on my Some Like It Hot page. Laura rates Dancing with Danger as a 4 - Steamy, and I agree.

Image of Laura Sheehan
 Laura Sheehan grew up in Las Vegas but currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, a thoroughly-spoiled cat, and a handful of fish who keep her thoroughly-spoiled cat entertained. When not working at her office day job, she can usually be found in a dance studio, on a softball field, writing at her computer, snuggling with her amazing husband, or eating milk chocolate. Sometimes she can be found doing more than one of these at a time, although when doing so she has to be careful not to get chocolate on the computer keyboard (or on the amazing husband... although now that she thinks about it, that might not be such a bad thing).

Laura writes suspense, paranormal, and fantasy romances. 

DANCING WITH DANGER (Red Sage Publishing) available now on Amazon and B&!

Anything here blow you away?
More questions for Laura?