Category Archives: Author Interview

Leigh Michaels

This month I would like to introduce Leigh Michaels. I’m sure that her readers are going to be thrilled to know she has a new book coming out. It is my pleasure to have Leigh spend a little time on Adventures in Writing. If you have not heard of this prolific author, now is the time to get acquainted.

Where are you from?

I’m an Iowan from birth – grew up in west central Iowa, went to Drake University in Des Moines, landed in Ottumwa, Iowa for my first real job while still in college, and am still there a long time later. J

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always been a writer! There’s poetry in my baby book which I composed but dictated to my big sister when I was somewhere around four years old. My first book was published in the US in 1984 – I wrote and burned six books before submitting a manuscript.

What do you write?

After more than 20 years of writing sweet traditional contemporary romances for Harlequin (Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Presents), I got a bad case of burnout. Instead of thinking “boy meets girl”, I started thinking fondly of “boy KILLS girl”… and I thought when I finally went back to writing that I might tackle mystery.

Instead, after a couple of years of not writing fiction, I found myself back in the romance field, but I changed everything that could possibly be changed – except the happy endings.

My new books are historical (set in Regency England), long, single title, and sensual! And each of the historicals is a triple story – three heroines and three heroes whose stories are interwoven.

Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

My new books are coming out from Sourcebooks Casablanca – and I can’t say enough about the great enthusiasm and support from my editor and the sales and publicity people. My editor, Deb Werksman, instantly saw the fun of a triple story, and she’s really pushed these books.

My agent is Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. Christine and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and after she read my first historical and we talked about our vision for the book and for a new direction in my career, she offered to represent me and I happily agreed. Unlike many agents, Christine doesn’t just negotiate the contract (though she does a brilliant job of that); she stays involved in the process. Anytime there’s a question or concern, Christine is on top of it. I’ve had agents before, but never one who was so easy to reach and so involved in every bit of the author/publisher experience.

 How many books have you published so far?

80 sweet contemporary romance novels which were published by Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Presents, three historical romance novels coming out in 2011 from Sourcebooks Casablanca, and a slew of non-fiction books including On Writing Romance, which was published by Writers Digest Books. Many of my backlist titles, long out of print, are now available again as ebooks in Kindle and ePub formats.

Do you outline?

Not much to start with. When I begin writing a book I know who the characters are, what their initial external conflict is, and roughly what the happy ending will be. I usually know if someone has big secrets, and I almost always know what the black moment will be. Then as I write, I start a list of scenes for each set of characters – just a rough order of which events will happen. And before I’m done I always have a pile of scratch-paper notes with a line of dialogue or a reminder on each bit of paper (because those are easy to sort and rearrange).

I find that the neater and more organized I try to be, the more cliché the story turns out. If I just scratch things down, my characters are free to take unexpected turns which surprise me (and will, I hope, surprise the reader).

About how long does it take to finish a book?

My third historical – the latest book I finished – was fondly known as “The Book That Will Never End”, because it took me eight months to write. But I suppose that’s about right, because at 95,000 words, my historicals are almost twice as long as my previous books were. Plus dealing with three stories woven together is more complex than writing three separate, shorter books. (And I hadn’t outlined enough this time – if I’d known more about the characters, I’d have had a much easier time finishing this book!)

What is your writing day like?

I start the day by checking email and looking in on the classes I teach online at Gotham Writers Workshop ( Then I open the current book and read what I wrote the day before, fixing minor problems and filling in where I left gaps. I spend 4 to 6 hours writing, and in the last few minutes of my writing day I try to move ahead to get a big chunk of what happens next down on paper in a very rough form. No attention to grammar or technical detail, no worrying about logic or phrasing. When I start writing again the next day, I polish up that section, and by then I’m back into the flow of the story.

 I try never to finish the day at the end of a chapter or scene. Though it’s such a wonderful feeling to actually FINISH something, it makes starting up again the next day – facing a totally blank screen – very difficult.

Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

I happened to contact Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks about my backlist titles, and as we were chatting she asked what I was writing. I said, “A Sexy Regency about a house where every resident falls in love” and she said, “Can I read it when you’re done?” So I sent it to her, and she loved it.

Do you have anything that just came out?

The Mistress’ House comes out in February 2011. It’s set at Number 5 Upper Seymour Street, London – isn’t that a lovely aristocratic-sounding address? Lord Hawthorne buys the house, intending to use it as a love nest because it’s conveniently around the corner from his mansion on Portman Square. Instead, he falls in love…

Readers who pre-order The Mistress’ House can also get a free e-book, For the Love of Tea… It’s a non-fiction book I’ve written which includes party plans, menus, and recipes for tea parties everything from a comfortable coze (as the Regency heroine would say) for two best friends, to an elegant reception for two hundred. (More info at )

What are you working on now?

At the moment, I’m taking a break after writing three big books in two years. But I’m thinking about historical number four – which is supposed to be another triple story set in the Regency era.

 Do you have some words of wisdom for the rest of us?

I’ve taught writing for many years, in person, at seminars, and online, and I see lots of people with storytelling talent. But the ones who make it in this business also have a wagon load of persistence. They don’t limit themselves to one story or one kind of story; they keep writing and exploring. They never look back at a story without trying to improve it. And perhaps most importantly, they don’t wait for inspiration or reward – they find their inspiration by writing and their reward by finishing.

Thanks Leigh, I find the process of writing facinating and feel privileged to have had a peek at how you do it.


Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Author Interview


Introducing Debra Ginsberg

191_debbooks2It was the first minute of my first day and my first impulse was to run.  Just turn around and get the hell out of there as fast as I could.  In that frozen moment between initial response and subsequent action, I stood mute, my vision tunneled to the desk in front of me.  It was piled to toppling with files, pink message slips, newspaper clippings, and indeterminate scraps.  A multi-line phone was half buried in the middle of this chaos, its angry flashing call buttons casting a blinking orange glow across the papers.  What struck me with the greatest force, though, was the sheer number of words I saw in front of me.  With the exception of the phone, every inch of the desk was layered in a dizzying collage of blue-black fonts and scribbles.  And every word was screaming at me to pay attention and respond.  This was my desk.  This was my job.                        

 An excerpt from Blind Submission


Thought about writing and publishing a book?  Maybe you need to read Debra Ginsberg’s novel Blind Submission.  Someone in one of my writer’s groups recommended this one to me and I enjoyed every minute of it. It is definitely a keeper.  It had the inside information about the publishing world with all its warts, including the proverbial boss from hell.

Hope you enjoy our interview:

VirginiaWhere are you from?

Debra – I’ve lived all over – from London, England to Brooklyn, New York, Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles.  I’ve been living in San Diego for over twenty years now, though, so this is definitely home.

VirginiaHow long have you been writing?

Debra – I’ve been writing since I can remember.  When I was about four or five, before I had mastered the mechanics of writing, I’d dictate stories to my mother.  But by about six or seven I was at it full time.  But I didn’t just want to write – I wanted to be published.  That dream of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on a shelf has been with me from the womb.

Virginia – What do you write?

Debra – I’ve written – so far – three memoirs (“Waiting,” “Raising Blaze,” and “About My Sisters,” and two novels (“Blind Submission” and “The Grift”).

VirginiaTell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Debra – My memoirs were published by HarperCollins, and all are still in print through Harper in paperback.  My novels (including the one I am finishing now) are with Shaye Areheart Books, a fiction-only imprint of Crown Books, which is itself a division of Random House.  My agent is Linda Loewenthal of The David Black Agency in New York.  She’s fabulous – smart, funny, warm, and with amazing instincts.  We’ve been working together for four years (I had another agent prior to her for the memoirs).

VirginiaHow many books have you published so far?

Debra – Five – and I’m currently working on #6, which will be published sometime in 2010.

VirginiaWhat is your writing day like?

Debra – I’m at my best in the morning, though oddly that isn’t when I get most of the words in.  I’m pretty early taking care of business on the computer, emailing, etc., then I take a long walk (essential) and then get down to writing between 11 AM and noon.  At the beginning of a book, I’ll work (if I’m not interrupted, which I very often am – the perils of having one’s office in the middle of the house) until 5 or 6 PM.  But when I’m near completion and trying to get it in on time (like now), I usually put in twelve-hour days and don’t get up from the desk until 8 or 9 PM.

VirginiaCan you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Debra – I’d had some experience working in publishing before my first book came out (I worked for a few literary agents), so I was familiar with the process.  My first agent and my first editor were actually two women I had worked with.  I was introduced to my current agent through another editor who, in turn, used to work with my current publisher.  Ultimately, publishing is a pretty small world.  If you’re in it long enough you start to know everyone!

VirginiaDo you have anything that just came out?


Debra – The paperback edition of my most recent novel, “The Grift” has just come out.  Also, I must mention that my son (the subject of my memoir, “Raising Blaze”) has just written his own, absolutely brilliant memoir titled EPISODES: My Life As I See It and that will be in stores in a few weeks, on September 1, 2009.

VirginiaWhat are you working on now?

Debra – A novel of psychological suspense title “The Neighbors Are Watching.”

VirginiaDo you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Debra – The publishing landscape really is changing.  There are more and different opportunities for writers now, from print-on-demand to electronic books.  But the core of it still remains the same – and that is just to keep at it.  I tried to “give up” my writing habit for many years because it just seemed too difficult to get published and make a living from my writing (and even though I’m on my sixth book, it’s still a challenge to sustain myself on writing income alone). But this is all I’ve ever wanted to do and so it wouldn’t let me go.  If you want it badly enough, you will make it happen.  I still recommend having a good agent and I highly recommend having your manuscript edited before you begin the submission process by a reputable freelance editor.  I can’t tell you how helpful this can be.  And read.  Read often and read everything.

I’m happy to share my website: and my son’s website: where you find information and links.  You can also find me on facebook – my new home at home.

Thanks so much for the interview Debra.

Happy reading and writing for everyone else.


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Posted by on August 29, 2009 in Author Interview


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Meet Jennie Bentley

Jennie PhotoDo you like to read and are you a do-it-yourself type person? If so, I’d like to introduce Jennie Bentley, the author of the DIYseries.  Along with a most satisfying read, especially if you are a cozy mystery fan, she provides do-it-yourself advice that she used in the story.  In Spackled and Spooked she shows how to make a peek a book shower curtain and how to turn a dresser into a bathroom vanity, among other creative suggestions.

I will be reviewing Spackled and Spooked later this week.  In the meantime, here is my interview with Jennie:

Spooked and Spackled

Virginia – Where are you from?

 Jennie –I was born in Northern Europe and came to the US in my late teens. Yes, English is a second language for me.

 Virginia – How long have you been writing?

 Jennie – Um… forever?

 I remember writing and illustrating a little six-page volume about a black poodle named Top before I started school. In first grade, my teacher warned my parents I’d grow up to be an author. The impetus was a book—a notebook—I filled with the adventures of a small elf in green pajamas.

 More recently, I started writing A Cutthroat Business—the book that started it all—in 2005. That was when I got serious about wanting to be published. A Cutthroat Business will be released next summer, but before I found a publisher for it, it crossed the desk of an editor at Berkley Prime Crime, who offered me the opportunity to write a series of Do-It-Yourself home renovation mysteries for them. The time from I started writing the book until I signed the contract for three other books took about two years. 

 Virginia – What do you write?

 Jennie –Funny, romantic mysteries. Specifically, the Do-It-Yourself home renovation mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime, and—starting in June 2010—the Cutthroat Business mysteries for PublishingWorks. The DIY-books are sweet and cozy; the Cutthroat Business mysteries a little less sweet and a little more sexy, but still on the traditional or cozy end of things.

 Virginia- Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

 Jennie-Ihave two publishers: Berkley Prime Crime is an imprint of the Penguin Group, the second largest publisher in the world. They publish the DIY Home Renovation mysteries featuring Avery Baker and her boyfriend and business partner, handyman Derek Ellis, who renovate houses in the tiny—and fictional—town of Waterfield, on the coast of Maine. They also publish a lot of other, similar, crafty-type cozy mysteries.

 PublishingWorks is a smaller, independent publisher which has only recently ventured into genre publishing from children’s books and non-fiction. They have all the departments and outlets the bigger publishers have—sales, marketing, etc.—but on a much smaller scale. The benefit is that I get more input on things like cover art and marketing, which I don’t get with the bigger publisher, where everything is more automated.

 My agent is Stephany Evans, president of Fine Print Literary Management. She represents mostly women’s fiction, and is especially interested in anything health-related.   

 Virginia- How many books have you published so far?

 Jennie-Two books published, Fatal Fixer-Upper & Spackled and Spooked, both in the DIY series. Four more are under contract. DIY#3, Plaster and Poison, will be released in March 2010, with DIY#4 and DIY#5 in the pipeline. A Cutthroat Business, first in the Cutthroat business series, is coming in June 2010. One more book in that series is written, with a third about halfway done. 


 Virginia- What is your writing day like?

 Jennie-Assuming I don’t haveanything to do besides write—like a signing or TV interview or similar—I get up around 6 am, get the kids ready for school, take them there—or send them off with my husband—and sit down at the computer. By then it’s about 8 o’clock or so. I spend 20-30 minutes checking email, Facebook, Twitter, any blogs I’ve posted recently… what have you. Then I get down to business. I read over at least some of what I wrote the day before to get into the voice and the flow of things, and then I’m off. Usually I take a break for lunch sometime around 11 or 12, although I don’t always remember. By 2:30 I have to stop to go pick up the kids from school again. After that, it’s family time until they’re in bed around 8:30. If I’m under deadline—and I usually am—I’ll put in another hour or four at that point, depending on how close to deadline I am and how far away I am from finishing. Some days I manage 1,000 words, some days 6,000. The word count grows exponentially the closer I get to having to hand the manuscript in, I’ve noticed.

 Virginia- Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

 Jennie-I found my agent through, which is a very useful website. I sent the traditional cold query: I’d never met my agent, didn’t know anyone who knew her, didn’t have an introduction—she agreed to represent me based on the query letter and manuscript I sent her. Both publishing contracts came through her efforts in sending out the manuscript to editors.  

 Virginia- Do you have anything that just came out?

 Jennie-Spackled and Spooked, DIY#2,  was released on August 4th.

 Virginia- What are you working on now?

 Jennie-I’m promoting Spackled and Spooked, revising Plaster and Poison, and writing DIY#4, tentatively titled Mortar and Murder. If I can finish by the end of the year, we might be able to get it out by the end of 2010! After that it’s on to DIY#5 and finishing Cutthroat #3. I’ve also got a YA mystery that I have to work on to get that ready to submit.

 Virginia-Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

 Jennie-Besides reading a lot and writing a lot, I have two:

 1)      Finish the manuscript you’re writing. The new, bright, shiny idea you just had sounds great, and would undoubtedly be great fun to write about, but if you never finish a manuscript, you’ll never get published. Later on in the process you’ll be able to sell on proposal only, but at first, having a completed manuscript is essential.

2)      Learn as much about the business end of writing as possible. By which I mean the ins and outs of getting that finished manuscript from the computer to the bookstore. You don’t want to do what I did back in 2001 or so, when I got a two-page rejection letter from an editor at Harlequin, detailing everything that was wrong with the synopsis I had sent her and giving me suggestions for how I could remedy the problems. Now I know that this is code for “Fix this and send it back to me,” but then, I put the letter in a drawer and never looked at the synopsis again. Please don’t make that mistake. I’m still kicking myself. Not because I didn’t get published anyway, a few years later—once I figured out where I’d gone wrong the first time—but because it was an opportunity, and those should never be squandered. 

 My website is I blogat the Good Girls Kill for Money Club every other Monday, and at the Working Stiffs the first Friday of every month.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview.  I look forward to more adventures with Avery.

Until next time,



Posted by on August 9, 2009 in Author Interview


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Interview with a Poet – Dennis Maulsby

n1467420117_3962It is my pleasure to introduce a friend and local poet, Dennis Maulsby.  I know Dennis because we both belong to the Border’s writing group.  This group has been around for over 10 years.  It started out at the local Barnes and Noble but migrated to Borders a few years back.  Because it is a public group, our demographics change frequently. Dennis has been a great addition.  The group has been a success story, in that several members have published.  So if you happen to be in the Des Moines area around 7:00 PM on a Tuesday night, feel free to stop by and join us.

 Dennis has published in several publications and I think of him as our local poet laureate.  He writes mostly about his experiences while in Vietnam and I felt this would be appropriate so close to July 4th

 Virginia – Where are you from?

 Dennis – If I was to respond typically, I would say: I was born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, graduated from Marshalltown High School (1960), and Grinnell College (1964), Grinnell, Iowa.

 Responding as a writer, I would say: I was from war.  I was driven to writing after a year in Vietnam that featured the battle at Kai San and the Tet Offensive.

 Virginia – What do you write?

 Dennis – Most of my poems and short stories deal with that experience.  All my Vietnam poems spring from the personal emotional impact of that war and its relentless memories.  Some of the poems have some elements that I did not experience directly, but relate to veterans’ common experience, both as soldiers and civilians.

 My memories of Vietnam have not dulled with the years.  At night in dreams, or in pensive moments, they have refreshed themselves too many times.  Perhaps, this is the way it is with all veterans.

 There is no question that PTSD plagued me.  My first six months after being dumped back into civilian life were hell.  I learned that this was an affliction that must be worked constantly, like an alcoholic – once scrabbling day at a time.  In casting around for ways to cope, I discovered creative activity pushed the demons back.  Writing has been the best.

 Virginia – How long have you been writing?

 Dennis – Ten years ago, I joined a writers’ group and the creative writing process has been the most successful therapy.  I can only speculate on the reasons.  However, I believe writing to have an almost limitless canvas, especially in English.

There are over a million words in the language, as compared to French, for example that gets by with somewhat less than four hundred thousand –pauvre Francais. The various combinations, arrangements and permutations of a million words with new ones being added everyday must be almost infinite.  Certainly, enough to last my creative lifetime – so, I am a poet, a short story writer and perhaps, a novelist.

 I started building a literary resume by submitting individual works, both poetry and short stories, to journals I thought matched my style.

 Virginia – How many books/poems have you published so far?

 Dennis – There are lots of rejections, but sometimes lightening would strike.  My writings have been published in the last eight volumes of Lyrical Iowa, the annual anthology of the Iowa Poetry Association.  Others have appeared in the Des Moines Register, The Hawkeye, Peregine, The North American Review, Tapestries, Types and Shadows, Fiele-Festa, and The Hawai’i Pacific Review.  Some on Internet sites including Writetherapy, Speaking Leaves, Words on a Wire, Brick & Mortar, Voices in Wartime  and the International War Veterans’ Poetry Archives.  In May 2004 my poem 6 June, Omaha Beach  was featured with a musical background on National Public Radio’s Themes & Variations.  Listen for yourself: 

 My first book of poetry, Remembering Willie, and all the others was published in 2003 and won the Military Writers Society of America Silver Medal Award.

 Remembering Willie is included in the Veterans’ archives of The Library of Congress and is on display at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. From Remembering Willie:

             Memory of a Eurasion Working Girl


            I hope she knew why I was so quiet,

            When we held hands at night in her strange land,

            Uninvited and lost.


            It must have made her uneasy, watching for cues

            From this twice her size round-eyed male creature,

            So large pored and hairy.


            Blood-warm breeze felt so comfortable.

            Her perfume riffing in the air,

            Set time for the music.


            That evening she pierced my blind stare,

            And helped me lay down my mountain of stored up death,

            So weary with the weight.


            Whether she was aware or not,

            She did what women have done for soldiers

            These thousands of futile years.


            Fingers entwined our primal spirits touched

            And I remembered

            What my soul should look like.


I write often – both poetry and prose – because I must.

 Virginia – What is your writing day like?

 Dennis – Most of my early ideas come from 3:00 to 4:30 AM sweat-soaked dreams about my experiences or nightmarish variations on them, some from daydreams or flashbacks.

 At this time, the process is more normal and poetry/story ideas come from the observation of people and places, imagination and research flesh out the details.  I have recently completed drafts of a book of linked short stories and a book of poetry.

 Virginia – What are you working on now?

 Dennis – I’ll be retiring from my day job on July 31st, 2009 and plan to work on the drafts until they are ready to submit.  I have a list of 147 small presses.  Do you think those will be enough?

 I also have developed a one to two hour (your choice) workshop.  In a relaxed group setting, participants discuss some very old forms of Japanese poetry (Tanka, Haiku, and Senryu) and how they evolved.  Once grounded, we examine how they impacted American poets and how American poets have impacted them (The American Sentence). We practice writing a few lines while simultaneously looking for ways the forms can give us insight into the poetic moment.  And, how looking for these moments may improve our other poetry and our prose.  Email me, if you are interested.  (

 I have had great good fortune of being supported by several exceptional local writers’ groups. 

 Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

 Dennis – Writing the material was good therapy, but reading to a group increased the healing value by several orders of magnitude.  My first group encouraged me to assemble my book and helped with the editing and layout.  I owe them a lot.

 Don’t be afraid to write honestly.  Sometimes that requires you to go mentally naked with friends or relatives, or to violate the restrictive cultural codes we were taught.  I would also recommend the summer workshops at the University of Iowa.  They have a Summer Writing Festival consisting of one week or weekend workshops on most every type of writing (poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, memoirs, children’s books, etc.) all taught by experienced authors.  People come from all over the world for these sessions.  Check it out (http://continuetolearn.uiowa,edu/iswfest/).


Posted by on July 22, 2009 in Author Interview


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Introducing: Cheryl St. John

cherylstjohn1If you love a story that touches your heart, you need to read everything Cheryl St. John writes.  Cheryl belongs to the Heartland Writers Group out of Omaha, Nebraska.  I met her too many years ago to admit and have been hooked on her books ever since. 

 Here is out interview –

 Virginia – Where are you from?

 Cheryl – I’m a Midwest girl, born in Iowa, but raised in Nebraska.  I live in a big city, however, so don’t ask me about cows or corn – unless it’s Cornhuskers, and then I’m all over that.  Go Huskers!

 Virginia – How long have your been writing?

 Cheryl – I’ve always written in one form or another.  As a child, I wrote stories, drew the covers, and stapled them into mini-books.  My first rejection came at age fourteen when I submitted a romantic short story to Redbook Magazine.  I still have the form rejection.  I was crushed.

 I wrote long hand off and on after that, occasionally typing a story on my Grandma St. John’s manual typewriter.  For years, I pretty much dedicated myself to my family, and raised my four kids.  I used to read only horror, mystery and mainstream novels, but I read a few Victoria Holt’s I’d received from the book club and found them appealing, yet somewhat unsatisfactory in some way I couldn’t define at the time.

 On a whim one day, while browsing the store shelves, I bought Lisa Gregory’s The Rainbow Season and LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird.  Imagine that out of all the books available, I chose those two classic romances for my first taste of romance!  Needless to say, I was hooked from that day forward.  I devoured everything either of those two authors ever wrote, and went on to Janelle Taylor, Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, Francine Rivers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss.

 When my youngest daughter went to Kindergarten, I was lost without her.  In retrospect, it was empty nest syndrome, but instead of having another baby, which many women do, I decided it was time to write the novel that would launch me to stardom.

 Yeah, right.  The rest of the process took a little longer.  And I’m still not sure about the stardom part.

 Virginia – What do you write?

 Cheryl – I’ve written several contemporaries, but I love writing historical romance set in the American West or Midwest, and I love cowboys.  I love stories with an underdog, and those in which a character is pretending to be someone he or she is not.

Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

 Cheryl – Harlequin publishes my books.  I’ve written for several lines and worked with a few different editors over the years.  My agent is my intercessor and the left side of my brain, so to speak.  She handles money and contracts and leaves the creative side to me.  She believed in me from the beginning and sold my very first book for me.

 Virginia – How many books have you published so far?

 Cheryl – See, now this is a tough question – because I am so not a numbers person.  I always have to go count when someone asks me this.


The Preacher’s Wife is my thirty-second published book.  I’ve written number thirty-three and it’s scheduled for next year.  I’m working on two more right now.

 Virginia – What is your writing day like?

 Cheryl – It’s changed over the years as my life has changed.  I went from dropping off kids at school to having an empty nest and am now back to dropping off one child-my grandson-at school most mornings.  I get up and feed him and get him ready and drop him off at school.  Sometimes I stop at the grocery store or if it’s Thursday or Friday, I scope out every garage sale in the vicinity on the way back.  It inspires me.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

 Once home I make a fresh pot of tea – chai is my preference – read through my email, take care of the things that are pressing that day, and then open my Word file.

 I read over what I wrote the day before, edit a little, as I go, and then continue forward.  Many nights after supper and my favorite evening shows, like American Idol and Bones, I go back to my desk and work.  If my brain is too tired to write much past 11 or 12, I do promo work and blog.

 I teach an online class each month, so the night I need to prepare lessons, I’m sometimes up until 2 03.

 Bookmark my workshop:

 Virginia – Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

 Cheryl – The really stupid way, I assure you.  I was clueless, unlike the beginning writers today who have the Internet and online communities.  I didn’t even know any other writers to ask about the process.  Looking back on my amateurish manuscript preparation, all the stories with no plot or conflict, and the volume of editors I sent the manuscripts to is a humiliating, yet laughable experience.  I can’t believe I did that!  I wrote in a vacuum for years, reading how-to-books from the library and sending stuff out to everyone in The Writer’s Market.  Those early books are still on a shelf in my basement, along with a few others. And rightly so.

 Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?


Cheryl – My December Her Montana Man was picked up by Doubleday and Rhapsody Bookclubs in hardcover, and I was excited about that!  It has a stunning cover – one of my all time favorites.


June 2009 is the release of my first Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, and I couldn’t be more pleased with this venture into the inspirational market.  It’s a story I wanted to tell for a long time, and then this wonderful venue opened up for me to leap into.

 Virginia – What are you working on now?

 Cheryl – I’m writing a Love Inspired Historical novella for a two-in-one anthology for Mother’s day of 2010.  And putting together a sequel to The Preacher’s Wife – its Elizabeth’s story.

 Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

 Cheryl – Believe in yourself and your ability.  All the techniques of writing are learnable, so stay open to those, but the gift of storytelling and the desire to write are talents you were born with.  Your talent doesn’t up and desert you when life is difficult or you’re struggling.  Some of my best work was done during times of emotional upheaval.  Let those times be a catharsis for your work.  Stories are about feelings.

 I’ve just launched a brand new website and I’d be delighted for you to drop by and visit.

 Visit me on the web:

 Look who’s blogging:

 Thanks Cheryl for taking the time for this interview and I look forward to seeing you soon!


 Author Alert: If you would like me to post an interview with you on my blog, please comment and let me know.

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Posted by on July 22, 2009 in Author Interview


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Do You Like Your Romance Novels to Sizzle?

HolliFrancesca Hawley is the type of person who can walk into a room and light it up.  I think she carries that gift over into her books.  I attended a program where she explained the different steaminess levels of sex scenes in the romantic genre, from the sweet romance that usually stops at the bedroom door to the explicit scenes needed for erotica.  She had a lot of information and if any other writing groups are looking for a speaker for this subject, I would highly recommend Francesca.

The following is our interview:

 Virginia – Where are you from?

 Francesca – I was born in Minnesota and raised in Iowa.  I’ve lived in Iowa since I was about three.

 Virginia – How long have you been writing?

 FrancescaI’ve written stories all my life.  I used to spend my lunch hours in high school writing fiction – bad fiction – but I was trying.  I’ve been writing with the intent to publish since 2002 or 2003.

 Virginia – What do you write?

 FrancescaI write erotic romance.  Most of the time I inject paranormal elements into a story, but that isn’t always the case.

 Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

 FrancescaAt this time, I am un-agented.  My publisher is Ellora’s Cave.  They’ve been around since the early 2000’s – last November they celebrated their 8th birthday.  I started reading EC books about the time I started writing seriously because my dream publisher was Ellora’s Cave.  I loved the books I read and I wanted to write books as good as those I read.  EC published Romantica®, which are stories that must be both erotic and romantic.  I was thrilled to bits to have an opportunity to pitch to Raelene Gorlinsky, the publisher, at the RWA national conference in 2007.

 Virginia – How many books have you published, so far?

 Francesca – I have a short story – Alpha v Alpha – published in an anthology called – Paranaughty. It was published by Draumr Publishing in 2005.  This short story launched my shape shifter world.  In January 2009, my first novel – Protect and Defend– was published by Ellora’s Cave. Protect and Defend is an urban fantasy.  My short pitch is “CSI meets shape shifters.”


The blurb for Protect and Defend is:

            Mikaela Laughlin discovers a whole new world, and an entirely new species, when she tours the crime lab to meet Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf while researching her next book.  She’s lusted after “Delicious Diarmid” from afar for a long time, but meeting him sets her body on fire.  It doesn’t take long for Mikaela to discover there’s more to him than meets the eye.  Diarmid is far more delicious up close than she ever dreamed.

            Diarmid has bad guys to catch, but one look at the voluptuous writer has him wanting to catch her instead.  His shape shifter blood recognizes his true mate and he wants her naked body arching beneath his.  Now.  But with a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose, Diarmid has one shot at his future and he will not fail.  Because this time, the killer wants Mikaela.  (This was a 2006 Stroke of Midnight Finalist for Passionate Ink).


I recently sold my second book to EC too.  Seeking Truth is a medieval, paranormal, erotic romance set during the troubled reign of King Stephen in the 1100’s.

 Virginia – What is your writing day like? 

 Francesca – Well I work as a librarian, so during the day I answer reference questions and plan programming for my library.  I also write a weekly column in the local newspaper.  When I get home from work, I sit down at the computer and read over the last chapter or two I wrote so I can “get into” the story again.  I may make some edits if I see things that need adjusting then when I reach the point I stopped I start typing.  I work for a few hours in the evening.  I may do some research on the internet or in the collection of books I have about a topic.  Sometimes I hit a point in my writing where I need a quick answer so I research on the fly then keep going.

 Virginia – Can you tell us about how you found a publisher and/or agent?

 Francesca – With my first publisher, Draumr, I happened to be on a critique list with other authors who like to write BBW’s (big, beautiful women) as heroines.  The group was writing short stories to pitch for an anthology with Draumr, a small independent press.  Rida Allen liked my story and included it.

 For my second work, I had Ellora’s Cave in mind when I was writing it.  To me it was kind of a pipe dream… a pipe dream that came true.  I kept thinking “Wouldn’t it be great if the leading publisher of erotic romance wanted to publish my book? I joined RWA in late 2006 and decided to attend the national conference in 2007 – primarily because I knew Ellora’s Cave, Looseld, and Samhain Publishing would be present.  I was in PRO (because I’d completed my first manuscript and proven it to RWA) and so I had a jump on the general attendees and secured a pitch session with Raelene Gorlinsky, the publisher of Ellora’s Cave.  Raelene was way cool, and her hats totally rock any outfit she wears.  I tried to keep my cool – or at least keep my sweaty palm from grossing her out – a pitched my little heart out.  She liked the concept for my book and told me to send it as a submission.  I sent it in August of 2007.  In January 2008, I knew an editor had pulled it to read.  In April, my editor Mary Moran offered me a contract for the book.  I was thrilled.  Since this was my first novel, I hired a literary lawyer – Elaine English – to vet my contract.  Elaine was amazing and well worth the attorney fees.  She negotiated a contract that I liked and was wonderful to work with.  I completed edits last fall and my book was released in January of 2009.

 Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?

 FrancescaProtect and Defend, my first novel with Ellora’s Cave was released in January 2009.  I recently sold a second book to EC.  Seeking Truth was released on May 29, 2009. I’m thrilled they liked this book.  Here’s my blurb for Seeking Truth:



Baron   Eaduin Kempe, a man of intense passions, seeks a healer at a nearby abbey.  When the abbess introduces convent-raised Lady Verite de Sauigni, he knows he’s hell bound for desiring her.  He wants to tie her to his bed until she sobs with the pleasure of his touch.

 Eaduin offers Verite marriage in exchange for easing the pain of his dying foster mother.  Years ago, Verite secretly watched Baron Eaduin arouse a lover and has dreamed of him ever since.  She desires him enough to risk exchanging the imprisonment of convent life for that of marriage.  On their wedding night, Eaduin craves dominance and Verite submits with enthusiasm.  Each heated encounter thereafter binds them closer together.

 When Verite’s father accused her of witchcraft because she won’t use her psychic gift of seeing truth to aid him, she begs Eaduin to kill her so she doesn’t suffer.  Instead, Eaduin challenges her father to trial by combat, determined to save her because she owns both his passion and his heart.

 Virginia – What are you working on now?

 Francesca – I’m developing two ideas right now.  The first is another book in my shapeshifter universe, which I’ve tentatively titled, Leader of the Pack.  And the second is a follow-up to Seeking Truth, entitled Seeking Peace.

 If readers would like to share your opinions about my work, please visit my web site at and send me feedback via my contact page.  I’m always interested in hearing from my readers.

 Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

 Francesca – Never give up.  Never ever, give up. It takes perseverance even in the face of rejection.  You have to believe in you because if you don’t know one else will.  I know it’s really hard when those rejection letters come in, but don’t let them get your down.

 Find a critique partner or critique group.  They’ll tell you the truth when your work is crap and when it’s good.  My crit partners have helped me brainstorm and patted me on the back to say “it’ll be all right.”

 Never ever, forget that this is a business.  Think like the entrepreneur that you are.  Save your receipts so you can write off expenses on your taxes.  Find a trusted person to do your taxes (if you aren’t a financial whiz kid).

 Attending conferences, paying for organization memberships, the cost of classes and books are all a part of the cost of doing business. To be sure what qualifies, talk to your tax preparer for information.  Start now.  This year.

 If you are offered a contract but you’re not represented by and agent, good for you.  If you’re unable to secure an agent to handle negotiations, all is not lost.  Before you sign on the dotted line, as a literary lawyer to vet the contract for you.  I was so glad I contacted Elaine English about vetting my contract.  Not because I don’t like my publisher or don’t trust them, but because it’s just smart business. Contract clauses are negotiable.  Not all of them, but the worst that happens when you ask for a change is that they’ll say no.  A literary lawyer specializes in literary contracts.  They know that typical, where you can negotiate, etc.  They also do not need to live in the same city you do.  Elaine English practices law in Washington D.C. but her web site is out there.  She’s also a literary agent, so for me she was the perfect person to ask for assistance.

 Finally start promoting YOU as a brand before you’re published.  Buy and internet domain name and get a web site going.  If you have the time and energy, start a blog.  Make contacts.  Network.  It helps… a lot.

 As a final note, Francesca’s novel, Protect and Defend was recently reviewed and rated 4 ½ out of 5 stars by Romantic Times magazine.  The reviewer even called the book “a keeper.”

 Thanks to Francesca for taking the time to give us a little insight into her experience as an author.

Until next time,


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Posted by on July 22, 2009 in Author Interview


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Getting to Know: Carla Cassidy

Carlacassidy (2)The headline said ‘The Butcher of Crows Creek Strikes Again.’ Allison Clemen’s father had spent the past fifteen years in prison for butchering her mother, sister and brother.  Somehow, she’d survived being knocked on the head and strangled before the killer posed her in her own bed.  Now the nightmare had started over in Crows Creek, Kansas.  Had they convicted the wrong man and was the real killer just waiting to finish the job?

 Carla Cassidy’s newest release titled – Last Gasp. It will keep you breathless with each twist and turn.  If you haven’t yet read Carla’s books, I’d like to introduce you to this multi-published author.  She has been kind enough to grant me this interview.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed visiting with her.

 Virginia – Where are you from?

 Carla I was born in Lawrence, Kansas but spent the first twelve years of my life in the small town of Lansing, Kansas.  At that time, we moved to Kansas City and that’s been my home.

 Virginia – How long have you been writing?

 Carla – I started writing when I was in junior high school, but I didn’t get serious about a career in writing until I’d married and had children.  My first book was published in 1988, so I’ve been doing this for a while.

 Virginia – What do you write?

 Carla – Right now, I’m almost exclusively writing romantic suspense.  It’s a genre I love, but I’ve also written straight romance and a coupe of paranormals.

 Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

 Carla – I write for Harlequin, Silhouette and NAL and my agent is from the Curtis Brown Literary Agency.  I love writing the shorter formats for Harlequin and Silhouette and then exploring longer stories for NAL.

 Virginia – How many books have you published so far?

Carla – To be honest, I’m not sure of the exact number, but I think it’s over a hundred.

 Virginia – What is your writing day like?

 Carla – My writing day starts about fifteen minutes after I roll out of bed.  I make the coffee, then sit down at the computer.  The computer stays on and I work until bedtime with breaks for the usual cleaning and cooking.  My office is my cave and I’m rarely out of it for any length of time.

 Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?

 Carla – On April 7th, my latest release from NAL hit the stands.  Last Gasp is a romantic suspense novel set in western Kansas.

 Virginia – What are you working on now?

 Carla – At the moment I’m working on a new book for Harlequin Intrigue entitled, Scene of the Crime: Brightwater, Texas.  Next month I have a release from Harlequin Intrigue. Interrogating The Bride is the first of a three book series.

 Virginia – Do you have any words of wisdom for us unpubs?

 Carla – I wish I had the magic secret for getting all writers published, but unfortunately, I don’t. You need to educate yourself, attend conferences, study the markets, join a writers’ group.  Probably the most important thing a writer needs to survive to get published is patience and perseverance.  I know writers far talented than me who never got published because they received a couple of rejection letters and gave up.  So, my advice would be if this is your dream, write, write, write!

 Now go check out Last Gasp.

 Carla Cassidy is the award-winning author of more than one hundred books.  She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband.  Visit her Web site at


 Keep coming back for more great interviews.  Also, follow me as I write my novel with the Write a Novel series of blogs on this site.  Writing can be lonely, let’s do it together.

 Until next time,


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Posted by on July 21, 2009 in Author Interview


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Lois Greiman’s Views On Novel Writing

Maybe knowledge is power, but it’s damned hard to think a burglar to death. – Glen McMullen, defence of the Beretta under his pillow.

Interview picGlen McMullen is a character created by Lois Greiman and he lives in her (Unzipped, Unplugged, Unscrewed, and Unmanned) series.  Picture Chrissy McMullen, a thirty something, single psychologist, who is treating a famous football player for impotency and ends up having him chase her around her desk…unzipped… and discovers that he definitely was lying about that little problem. She doesn’t have time to worry about it though because he has the bad manners to drop dead at her feet.  Next thing she knows, a sexy police detective with an attitude is determined to prove that Chrissy had a more intimate relationship with her dead client and is out to prove that she killed him.

Unzipped Cover

Lois writes more than just mysteries, if you’re  into steamy romances, do check out her website for the full list of books she’s written.  In the meantime, she was kind enough to allow me to interview her for this blog.

First of all, I’d like to thank Lois again for taking the time for this interview.

Virginia – Where are you from?

LoisA cattle ranch in North Dakota.

Virginia – How long have you been writing?

LoisI started seriously writing in about ’87.  Wow.  That’s a long time ago.

Virginia – What do you write?

Lois – Mostly mystery and historical romance.  But I’ve written some contemporary romantic comedy and children’s fiction.

Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

LoisI write historicals for Avon Books and have since about ’91.  I’m writing my mystery series for Bantam/Dell/Random House.  I also have a new faerie anthology coming out from St. Martins Press.  As for my agent, she’s my fifth… but my first true love.

Virginia – How many books have you published so far?

Lois – About 30. I used to think authors must have to be a little retarded in order to lose track, but well… maybe I’m a little retarded.

Virginia – What is your writing day like?

Lois– Right now it’s nuts cuz I have a book due in three weeks and the book hates me.  but usually I feed my horses, get some exercise, check my blog, then write from 10-4, depending how things are going.  For the first draft I write about ten pages a day.  For the other drafts I edit 20-50 pages a day.

Virginia – Can you tell us about your 5 draft system?

Lois– For the first draft it’s just kind of a mind dump.  I write as quickly as I can so my internal editor doesn’t have time to get too outraged by all the mistakes I make.  I just get down the story and don’t worry about names, typos, or even logic really.  I just write.  Second draft I begin to make it make sense.  I know the characters a little bit now, so I can figure out why they do what they do.  By the third draft it should start showing some promise.  Or at least some hope.  Then I start fleshing out the characters, making changes as needed to sentence structure, character, logic, etc.  Fourth draft is mostly about fixing the flow.  I read that draft out loud to myself and let the characters tell me what I’m doing wrong.  Fifth draft is all mechanics and last minute hysteria.

Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?

Lois Seduced By Your Spell, which has been getting really nice reviews (thanks everyone) was just released Feb. 24th and One Hot Mess hit the shelves on March 24th.

One Hot MessSeduced Cover

Virginia – What are you working on now?

LoisThe third Witches of Mayfair.  Right now it’s called Charming the Devil… but hmmmm… not sure if I like that or not.

Virginia– Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Lois– Hang in there unpubs.  It’s a tough course.  At least it was for me.  (and still is sometimes.) But if you want it enough to work really hard for it you can make it happen.

Under Your Spell was nominated for Romantic Time’s best Historical Love and Laughter Award.  Lois Greiman is also a nominee for Career Achievement for Most Innovative Historical.  you can contact Lois at

Author Alert– If you would like to be featured in a future blog, please contact me at to let me know.

Follow my own journey as I write a novel with my Write A Novel With Me blog. You can watch over my shoulder as I take it from idea to a completed novel and hopefully on to publication.  I also want you to tell me about your struggles and accomplishments along the way.

Until next time,

Lois Greiman


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Posted by on July 17, 2009 in Author Interview


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