Which author influenced your writing the most, and how do you prepare yourself to write an erotic love scene?
I don’t know that there is one single author who has most influenced my writing. As a kid I read almost constantly. I was one of those cliché kids that hides a flashlight under the pillow and reads until all hours of the night. Even at a very young age I gravitated toward adult novels and I read everything I could get my hands on. My biggest influences were probably writers such as Judy Blume and Erica Jong, who taught me that not only can women craft fabulous stories, but those stories could (and should) be free to discuss all aspects of the character’s lives, the good, the bad and the sexual. Other writers, like Anton Myrer and Erich Segal, made me realize that my favorite stories are those in which you learn so much about the characters you feel like you know them personally. And countless writers from novelists to poets taught me to write about love, in all its most wonderful and most painful moments.
As far as erotic love scenes go, I prepare myself for them the same way I prepare to write any scene. All of my stories play out in my head like movies. I watch them over and over, taking in the details and listening to the dialogue until I can transcribe the whole thing. Then I write. I try to make sure that I have put myself in the mind and body of every character so I know exactly what they’re thinking and feeling. It doesn’t matter if I’m describing a meal they’re having, a laugh with a friend, a flirtatious moment, or the steamiest of sex scenes. The method of writing is the same: be in the moment with the characters.
Do you have a daily writing goal or do you stick to an outline?
I don’t have daily writing goals (unless I’m working on some sort of deadline). There are some days where I practically write nonstop and others where I don’t write at all. If I’m in a good groove on a particular story it’s not unusual for me to churn out 3-4k words in a day. Other days I can’t put together a paragraph. On those days I know it’s best to do something other than write.
As far as outlines go, I don’t create formal ones. As I said, before I write I need to see the story. The full story. So I do know where I’m headed when I’m writing. Sometimes I see certain scenes so clearly I’ll write them, even if I haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet. I think that’s unusual as most of my writer friends tend to write in the order in which the story plays out. For me, if I’m seeing a scene and I don’t capture it at that moment, it loses some of its potency, so I make sure to write what I see when I see it. Sometimes that means writing the last scene in the book before I’ve written the middle, or writing the middle before I’ve written the opening. Sometimes it also means writing a scene while sitting in the bank drive-thru or on a scrap of paper while leaned up against a supermarket shelf. The scenes don’t always come to me at the most convenient times.
When I go back to edit I will occasionally make an informal outline, after the fact, just to make sure there aren’t any things that I know that haven’t quite found their way into the text of the story.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I think the toughest criticism for most authors is when someone says they didn’t “get” what you were doing or that they thought your characters did something unrealistic. I strive for realism in my books, so that’s definitely the worst thing for me to hear. Reading is subjective, and I understand that. God knows there are several super popular books and classic novels that most people adored and I can’t stand. Of course I’d prefer if everyone loved my writing, but I totally get that that’s impossible. When someone says they think something a character did seemed unnecessary or pulled them out of the story, that’s upsetting. It’s tempting, as an author, to try to explain why the characters did what they did. Writers always know why. But, if the reader questions it, it no longer matters that the writer knew, what matters is that the writer failed to get it across in the telling of the story. That’s tough to hear.
The best compliment? Speaking in general terms the best compliments are when people tell you they laughed and cried while reading something you wrote. And it’s always wonderful to hear that a reader wants to read everything you’ve written or can’t wait for the next story. The single best compliment I’ve probably ever received, though, was an unusual and unexpected one.
Back while I was submitting Meant To Be to agents and publishers I had a friend from a writing forum give me a critique. I knew that he was a fantastic editor and critquer, but also that he was tough as nails, tended to be a bit crotchety and wasn’t at all good at couching his criticism with niceties. I also knew that I was sending him a romantic work of women’s fiction—not at all his genre of choice. I was nervous, to say the least, while he read. When he finished he sent me a long email critique and in that message he said that he’d enjoyed my characters, particularly my portrayal of Daniel. I quote: “He’s damn near perfect….hell, he’s so perfect I’d leave my woman for him.” Not only did that give me the best laugh I’d had in ages, but it’s hands down the best compliment he could have given me.