By far the most frequently asked of my frequently asked questions is this:
Q. What are you working on?
A. I’m hard at work on book three in the Rules of Scoundrels series–NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED–Temple’s story, which will be out in Fall 2013.
Look for Cross’s book, ONE GOOD EARL DESERVES A LOVER, January 29, 2013!
Q. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you first know you WERE a writer?
A. When I was in high school, a teacher in some English class asked us to make an “About Us” card–it’s a half a piece of construction paper with a picture of 16-year-old me and a bunch of random facts…favorite book, favorite movie, weakness, etc. One of those things was “dream job.” I wrote Romance Novelist. So, I don’t know when, exactly, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but it was pretty early on.
As for the second half of that question, well…I guess it shows a bit of my weakness that I don’t usually show…but I still don’t think of myself as a writer. It’s such a scary, amazing, unbelievable thing…it’s almost like I’ll jinx myself if I actually say the words out loud.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. Everywhere. Movies, music, friends, plays, dance performances, my husband’s jokes, my mom’s stories about her childhood. If I know you, it’s entirely possible that something you say will spark an idea that turns into a book.
But I also think there’s something weird and magic about ideas come and characters happen. I am very happy that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love agrees.
A. One word at a time. No. Really. I wish I was kidding.
I love the idea of having a process, but mainly I spend a lot of time being insane before I actually get myself into a zone. My books take between 4 and 6 months to write, and then require another 2 or 3 months for editing and revisions. I’m very lucky to work with one of the most incredible editors in the world–she’s brilliant and insightful, and she makes me look like a far far better writer than I actually am.
As for process, now, six books in, I’ve come to realize that every book is different. Some are heavily outlined, some aren’t. Some begin with characters, some with conflict. Sometimes the beginning comes easy, like opening a tap, and sometimes I have to pull and fight to get 100 pages written.
This makes my process harried and harrowing–but boy is it awesome when you write that last word!
Q. What’s your favorite part of writing? Your least favorite?
A. Revisions are my favorite part, because that’s the time when you’re really working to make it a terrific book. Editors are incredible. My editor is one of my favorite people in the world because she looks at my messy, unpleasant manuscript (which I invariably hate and want to burn) and sees the gold in it. And then she helps me mine it. I like the “team” feel to revisions. They’re hard, but you’re not alone.
My least favorite part is the second to last chapter. Always. In my books, it’s usually a chapter where lots of stuff is happening, plots are at their climax, characters are having their moments of clarity, loose ends are tying themselves up into (I hope) neat little bows. And I’m SO CLOSE to the end. But not there yet. I HATE not being there yet.
Q. I have a great idea for a book. How do I get started?
Q. I did it! I wrote a book! Now what?
A. First of all, AMAZING! Open a bottle of wine and get soused! This is huge! This is the biggest thing that will happen to you in your career! Nothing, not getting an agent, not getting published, not holding your first book in your hands, will feel as good as knowing that you have FINISHED A BOOK. Yay!
Now comes the hard part. Get yourself a thick skin. Because you have to put your baby out in the world, and people are going to judge it. These people, in order, are:
Agents: You’ll need one. And, while I can pretend all I like that I’m an expert in this field, I will never ever be as articulate about this process as some of the agents who are out there and blog about this very thing. Check out this awesome (and incredibly comprehensive) post from Nathan Bransford. Start there.
An important note: you should never, ever pay an agent upfront to do work for you. If someone offers to a) read your manuscript for a fee or b) send your book out on submission for a fee, they are trying to take you for a ride. Sever all ties with them.
Also…do yourself a favor and don’t query one agent at a time. It will take forever. Query multiple agents at once, but make sure you a) personalize your queries and b) follow the rules for querying that each agent has set out (usually on their website).
Editors: Once you find a literary agent and the two of you agree that your book is THE GREATEST BOOK EVER (TGBE), he/she will submit it to editors at publishing houses, who will decide a) whether or not they want to even read TGBE and, b) if they want to take a chance on publishing TGBE. It is highly probable that some of them will choose not to. Don’t worry. This is part of the process, and you will probably be grateful for their rejection when the world at large gets hold of your masterpiece.
Q. Who are the writers who inspire you?
There are way way way too many of these to name. But my love affair with romance all began with four women: Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood and Johanna Lindsey.
After that came Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn. And now I’m inspired by so many friends, critique partners, and others, including the fabulous Carrie Ryan, Sophie Jordan and Sabrina Darby. For books I love, check out Read More Romance and posts tagged Bookshelf.
Q. What music inspires you when you write?
A. I listen almost exclusively to classical music (on my Pandora station) when I write. Boccherini, Strauss, Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, and dozens of others. But almost all of my books have a pop song that serves as their modern inspiration. My current Work in Progress’s theme song is Regina Spektor’s Patron Saint.
Q. What’s the one piece of advice that you would give any aspiring writer?
A. Get a critique partner. Or two. Or twelve.
Learn to share your work and learn to receive and synthesize feedback. Learn to listen to them when they sense something is wrong with your story. Learn to hear criticism. Understand that they’re usually right about what’s wrong…but often wrong about how to fix it.
But ultimately, they’ll be your support group for when it all goes south and, as my friend Cate says, “You just want to print out your book and pee on it” (a startlingly accurate way of describing the feeling).
Q. How do you balance writing and real life?
A. I don’t. I’m terrible at it. It’s amazing that I have people who allow me to call them my friends…and that my husband hasn’t filed for a restraining order to get away from my crazy.
I’m always working, even when I’m not.
I leave post it notes in the bathroom in case I have an idea. I leave live theater performances to write things down. I cry and panic and freak out when it’s not going well.
But I always buy them lovely gifts when I finish a book. So far, that seems to work.
On Books & Characters
Q. Is there a list of all your books in the order I should read them?
A. There is! Check it out, here.
Q. Will you ever write a sequel to The Season?
A. This is probably the question I get asked the most…online and in the real world…and I’m afraid I don’t have a great answer, except to say that, as of now, there are no plans for sequels to The Season.
Q. When will Benedick/Georgiana/Freddie/etc. get his/her book?
A. When I start a book, I have no idea which secondary characters will appear, or how important they will become. And in the case of people like Callie’s brother Benedick, or Simon’s sister Georgiana, or Freddie, Lord Stanhope, I really have no idea of who readers will love.
But what I can tell you is that it’s not as easy as sitting down and saying, “Today, I’m going to write Benedick’s story.” Sometimes, Benedick’s heroine doesn’t show up, or Georgiana’s story feels complete for now, or Freddie needs time to sow some oats before he gets his story. What I can tell you is that these characters are just as real to me as they are to you, and I’d like to see them all have their happily-ever-after.
On The Rest
Q. Who would win in a fight, a mole or a koala?
A. This is no easy question. But I went to the experts for the answer.
Ask them in comments, and watch this space for answers!