Today I have a special guest on my blog. Samantha Hunter is not only celebrating her 11th and 12th releases with Harlequin Blaze this year, but she's also winding up the fabulous blog tour she started in May on Love Is An Exploding Cigar. If you've been following her around the web, this is the last stop before her drawing for some great prizes! Best of all, Samantha's latest release, Hard To Resist, is available now!
I'm very excited she's generously agreed to answer a few questions on reading, writing and other vitally important topics. Okay, so mostly just about books...because we love books! ;)
1) Rumor has it that your debut Blaze novel, Virtually Perfect, was the first story you ever wrote. True? And how did you pull off such a feat to sell your first book? Inquiring minds *need* to know. ;)
Okay, technically it wasn't my first book. When I was 23 or 24 (which was over 20 years ago, so it was a while back) I did try writing a Desire. This was before internet, or eHarlequin, etc... and I sent half of it in, and they asked for the rest, then I received a rejection letter that I really wish I had kept -- because the main reason for rejection was that the book had too much sex in it. LOL
But, other than that, no, I never wrote any more fiction, and Virtually Perfect was my very first Blaze. Having the help of a good, smart friend, Cara Summers, whom I taught with at the time at a local university, was a huge benefit. She read through every chapter of that book, and helped me make changes, think through the story. My husband brainstormed with me. The premise, at the time, was unique -- Birgit Davis-Todd was the SE then, and she called me because she was so intrigued with a romance where the h/H don't meet in person for several chapters, but only know each other online. She wanted to know how I pulled it off and asked me to send her the full. We had a great conversation, and seven months later, she bought it with minimal revisions -- so few, in fact, that the book was actually on the shelf in July after it sold in January. So the answer to how I pulled off such a feat is: not alone. :) I had great support, and I was very fortunate. And don't fool yourselves either -- regardless of selling that first book, I have had more than enough experience with rejection after the fact!! LOL
2) Tell us a little about Jarod and Lacey in Hard to Resist, your delicious July Blaze.
Oh, you've done it now... I have been crushing on Jarod since I started writing him. Some heroes just hit you that way, you know?
Jarod is a Lieutenant with the Texas Rangers, and in the book he has been nominated by his department to be the PR slut and go to NYC for a Sexiest American Heroes calendar shoot. As you can imagine, this is not something he's crazy about doing -- Jarod is all about the job. He's a Ranger no matter where he is, including in NYC. When he meets the photographer, Lacey, he's immediately attracted, but he's also curious, and a bit concerned -- he can tell there's something odd in her behavior, and his intuition says she's hiding something.
Lacey in fact, is hiding something from everyone she knows, and has been for a while. She had the unfortunate experience of being physically and emotionally abused by her former lover, and while the guy is in jail now, Lacey has never really dealt with the emotional fallout. She doesn't want to see herself -- or to have anyone else see her -- as a victim. She thinks this was a "one time thing" and she can get over it herself. Maybe, maybe not, but her ex is released from jail, and she's being harassed by someone. It's all too much for her to handle on top of her attraction to Jarod. She wants to be able to break free of her fears because she's very attracted to Jarod, and he tempts her to take a chance.
I loved these two characters, because they just worked together so well as people, from my perspective as a writer. Jarod was fascinating to me, because while he is definitely an "alpha" kind of guy -- he has to be -- he's sensitive, and he has real emotional depth. He's a cowboy at home in the city, and he's a fun, light-hearted guy in many ways, as well as doing the "serious alpha" thing. In many ways, since Lacey is so strong-minded, a man like Jarod is the only one who could help her find the strength to deal with her problems, and boy, does she. ;)
3) You're a multi-published Blaze author with several releases this year alone, but you also write in other genres. Do you find it difficult switching gears or does one complement the other?
I do like working on mutiple projects and generally find it stimulating to have different things going on at once, though you also have to be careful of burnout. That's always a danger. I spent a year or so trying to write straight mystery -- I did three of them for my agent, one that made rounds with pub houses, and two that she wasn't crazy about. However, what I realized in writing them -- and this is something I learned in Hard to Resist, actually, which is very much a romantic suspense -- is that separating out the genres for me is not a good way to go.
I don't ever write "only romance" -- my romances are all combined with paranormal or suspense or mystery, or at the very least play multiple stories off of each other in some way. So writing "straight mystery" was also a mistake -- though it did teach me elements of the craft of mystery writing, which is very difficult. I was quite pleased by the reviews of Hard to Resist that said the mystery was strong, or people found the ending was a "surprise." Surprising readers is no easy task. This was also proof to me that in my books, the mystery/suspense draw power from the romance, and visa-versa. Separating them was educational, but counter-productive. Now that I know I do my best work writing these combined storylines -- and sexy, emotional romance is always going to be part of what I do -- then it becomes much easier to "float" between different projects, because I am working from a core of things that I do well. So they tell me, anyway. ;) I hope this makes sense!
4) One of the things I love best about your Blazes are your suspense themes. Your Rita nominated Blaze, Untouched - which I adored, by the way - features a suspense plot and a heroine with some unusual gifts. ;) Are you one of those authors who prefers writing stories other than straight contemporaries? And do you think the contemporary genre is dying, as some have lamented?
I think I already answered the first in #3, I don't think I could write a straight contemporary -- maybe I should try, LOL. But I need a lot of story in books I write and read, so yeah, I like winding genres together. I write that way because it's what comes naturally to me, and it's what I liked to read. I think too many people listen to too much garbage in the industry. Just go write, for heaven's sakes! ;)
There's always a reader for everything -- I don't think any genre is dead, ever. And new combinations are always arising, it's fun. Things may lull, go through cycles, so it could be a matter of timing, but I don't think readers for any particular genre ever go away. It's corny, but I think it's like Field of Dreams, you know -- if you write it, they'll come. Maybe not exactly when you want them to, but sooner or later. *G*
5) What else can we expect from you this year?
Lots! LOL After a relatively slow spell, I have five books and an Online Read out between July '09 and Dec '10. The online read, CAUGHT BY SURPRISE, starts on eHarlequin on Aug 17 and runs through Sept 20, a daily. I'm very excited about it -- not only was it just complete fun, but it's a book that tells the story of a spinoff character from my Oct '09 book, CAUGHT IN THE ACT, which is the second book in the "Dressed to Thrill" miniseries with Tawny Weber, Karen Foley, and Lisa Renee Jones. "Dressed to Thrill" is all about "wrong costume" stories -- the heroines all receive the wrong costume for various events from an online ordering service, and that mistake changes their lives.
Mason Scott is the hero of CAUGHT IN THE ACT, and the online read, CAUGHT BY SURPRISE tells the story of his younger brother, Ryan, who shows up at Mason's Halloween party wearing only a Speedo and body paint, and takes off with a sexy Little Miss Muffet.
After that, I have a two-fer Blaze Bedtime Stories out with Kim Raye in March '10, another Blaze, the wip I am working on now, ANY MAN SHE WANTS, in May '10. Then, a Christmas Blaze, yet untitled, in Dec '10. I also have a ST proposal into my agent, so who knows what might happen there, and have received approval on a new three-book miniseries for Blaze, probably released in 2011, though I can't really share details on that now. I will be a busy gal for a while -- just how I like it. :)
6) Last but not least...what's your biggest piece of advice for an unpublished author looking to sell that first book? Do you advocate writing to the market or writing first and finding the market later?
Oh, I think ignoring the market is best. All of that business crap will drive you crazy -- get an agent who loves it and knows it and can do it for you. And ignore most of the writing advice you hear, too. LOL There's so much of it, it's annoying. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to write well, but it means sometimes your instincts about your story are way better than any hacknied advice. Too many aspiring writers are worrying about the details and not worrying about telling a good story first. And editors want a good story -- if they have that, they can help you with the rest.
However, I guess there is one thing you should do, market wise: You should be going to the bookstores and seeing what's on the shelves, and reading around the area you want to write in -- that's completely necessary. And if you want to, say, write a vampire book, then you'd better know what most of the other vampire books do, so you can find a new way of approaching the topic. Same with any premise. See what's out there, and see how other writers are dealing with it. So, you should definitely know the market from that perspective.
My take is write what you love, and do the very best job of it that you can. One reason for this is that if you sell, you'll be asked to write more of that same thing, and if you don't really love it, you either may not sell any more of it, or your life will be hell. Writing is hard enough as it is. If you can't sit down and write something that you enjoy and something you would read, something that you think about while you are brushing your teeth or taking a shower, or just feel good about, then don't bother, in my opinion. I know, that's kind of strong, but in my view, you can make more money, and get benefits and 401Ks doing other work that will make you miserable, so if you're going to write, write what you love because it gives you joy. That way your time and effort are never wasted.
Thanks again for stopping by, Sam! Want to know more about the woman behind the books? Check out Samantha's website or her group blog, Love Is An Exploding Cigar, where she blogs with some wonderful authors. And don't forget to leave a comment or a question for Sam if you're participating in her blog tour or just because. ;) Winners will be announced at the end of the day here and on Love Is An Exploding Cigar, so please check back!