So excited to have with us today fantastic romance author Roni Loren. She wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen, has a masters degree in social work from LSU and lives in Dallas with her husband and son. Her debut novel, CRASH INTO YOU, will be published by Berkley Heat January 3, 2012!
What is your writing schedule like?
My son goes to preschool four hours in the morning now, so I try to get most of my writing (and blogging) done during that time. This is a relatively new development. My first book was written whenever I could snatch a bit of time, which often meant I was writing steamy love scenes with Barney on TV in the background. Very sexy. :)
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always had an elaborate imagination. When I was eight, I spent like six months sleeping on the couch instead of my room because I was convinced my room was haunted and my stuffed animals were possessed. But I really took a true interest in writing when I hit high school. I was super shy and my dating life left a lot to be desired, so I started channeling that angst into stories. At fifteen I wrote a full length novel. It was horrible. All the male characters were named after members of New Kids on the Block and the heroine was named Love—because subtlety was my strong suit. But it was fun and kept my brain occupied when I was bored in class. I even remember buying a copy of Writer’s Market to find out how to query it, lol. I never did, but it was a good learning experience nonetheless.
How do you typically come up with ideas and develop them into a story?
This is always a tough question to answer. I’m not sure where the ideas come from. The littlest thing can spark that muse. I know for the book I wrote before CRASH INTO YOU I got my inspiration after going to a Buckcherry concert and deciding I needed to have a (fictional) affair with a rockstar, lol. (That book, for the record, is still under consideration with a publisher so not out anywhere yet.) For CRASH, I think I pulled a lot of my inspiration from my social work background and experience working with a few clients who’d suffered traumatic experiences. (My heroine in CRASH is both a social worker and a rape victim.)
What is the story behind getting Crash Into You accepted for publication?
While I was waiting for a publisher to get back to me on the rockstar story, I decided to try my hand at an erotic romance idea that had been nagging my brain. I really was doing it on a let’s-see-if-I-can-pull-this-off whim. I didn’t really think it would be THE book. So I wrote it with less restriction than I had given myself for previous books. I mean, what did it matter? No one would probably ever see this. I broke all kinds of rules. For instance, every other chapter in my book happens ten years earlier. It’s literally two stories being told—one about these this couple’s past and the other about their present. So *gasp* half the book is (shh..don’t tell) backstory. But anyway, I had fun, I finished the book in about six months and then I started thinking I could actually query this baby. I was proud of it. The story was good. I loved my characters. So I decided to go for it. Now I had to decide who to query.
A few months before I had finished it, I had been contacted by a friend (Natalie Bahm) who I’d met through blogging. She had sent me an email letting me know that her agent was looking to take on more romance authors and Natalie had seen some of my excerpts on my blog so she “knew I could write” and had thought of me. She told me that she’d be happy to give me a direct referral to her agent, Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. Another of Sara’s clients, Miranda Kenneally, who I’d met through Twitter also offered to refer me. Well, at the time, my book wasn’t ready and though I could’ve rushed it, I didn’t want to blow my chance sending something that wasn’t there yet. So I told her that I didn’t have anything ready right now, but would in a month or two. Natalie said she’d give me the referral whenever. So when the time came, she did. I sent Sara my query and first 3 chapters and less than a week later, she asked for the full. A few days after that, she emailed me with all her notes she had for what she’d want changed and then asked how I felt about those. I loved her notes and we set up a phone call to discuss representation. I immediately could tell that we had a shared vision for the book, so I accepted her offer. Two major revisions later, we went out on submission to ten editors. Two weeks after that, Kate Seaver at Berkley Heat/Penguin made us an offer! They were my top choice and I was over the moon. Negotiating happened (and I learned why it is VITAL to have an agent) and the rest is book deal history. J
Who are the authors that inspire you, and what have they taught you about writing?
Oh, too many to list. But I can say that my 5th grade teacher read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time to us and that was the book that made me want to be a writer. I loved the idea that you could be swept into a whole new world.
What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
So many things. Besides the obvious things like working from home in my pajamas, I love being my own boss and setting my own schedule. Most of all though, I feel blessed that I’m actually getting paid to do something I adore. I get to follow my dream every day and that is the most amazing thing I can think of.
What do you consider the hardest thing about being a writer, and how do you deal with
The hardest thing is that it’s a solitary venture much of the time. Blogging and tweeting and going to writers’ meetings help with that, but being a writer can give you cabin fever sometimes. I also think it’s a job where you have to know how to manage your money. It takes a while to build up a career that fully supports you. The process is slow, the money is slow, so you have to be in it for the long haul and accept that (except in rare circumstances) it’s not an overnight or even over months/years kind of thing.
What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
I don’t know who said it to me first, but I think the best advice I’ve gotten is to be fearless and to trust my instincts. I tend to lean on the nitpicky, obsessive side (we’ll call it conscientious), so I can overanalyze things to death. And when I do that, I risk pulling back in my story, trying to play it safe. But every time I’ve done that, the feedback I get is “why didn’t you do this here” or “you need to amp this up here” and it’s always what my first instinct was—the choice I talked myself out of. In fact, I almost didn’t write CRASH INTO YOU because I had never written something erotic and I was like—ooh, I don’t know, what will people think and can I pull this off and yadda yadda yadda. Well, I went with my gut and that ended up being the story that landed me the agent and the book deal. So be fearless. Follow the muse and your gut.
Why do you blog? What advice would you give to other author bloggers?
I started blogging because I’d heard that’s what you were “supposed’ to do. I honestly never thought I’d stick with it. I’m the girl with stacks of journals with two entries in them. I had never really committed to something the required such a regular writing schedule. But then I started blogging and, miraculously, people started reading and I met these amazing writers who were going through the same things I was going through. Meeting other writers was like finding natives from my home planet. So I think those connections are what excited me to continue doing it. Now I’ve blogged for two years. I blog five days a week: three at Fiction Groupie where I focus on writing topics and two days on my website (www.roniloren.com) where I have a little fun posting pictures of hot men (i.e. character inspiration) and talking about things more related to romance. I’ve gained a nice following and have gotten a lot of exposure and as you saw in the earlier question—blogging helped land me my agent, so I’m a big fan of blogging, lol.
What are the themes you tend to write about, or genres you tend to write in?
I’ve written YA, contemporary romance, and now erotic romance (with suspense elements), so I’ve been a bit all over the place. But every story I’ve written has been a romance. I really don’t think I’ll stray from that. It’s the heart of what I want to write and what I like to read. I also tend to deal with themes of forgiveness, redemption, and finding one’s true self. My background and degree are in psychology/social work so I can’t seem to resist writing emotionally complicated characters with psychologically difficult backgrounds. I like to explore the darkest corners of people.
What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
Wow, that’s a loaded one. I want my readers to feel like they’ve been on a satisfying emotional journey—one that tugged at their hearts, made them laugh a little, and got them to go hunt down their significant other and say “How you doin’?” I want them to walk away from my books and have my characters stay with them because that’s what my favorite books do for me. I rarely remember specific plots, but when I can remember a great character (Jamie in Outlander, Eric in the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood books, Rose and Dmitri in The Vampire Academy series) then I know that book is a winner.
Thanks to Roni for a fantastic interview, she's given us some great ideas and advice. Make sure to check out her blog and we wish her the best with the upcoming book!
p.s. I'm guest blogging today at Pimp My Novel, in case you wanted to check it out. It's an article I posted here a couple months ago called '5 Tools to Carry in a Conspiring Universe.