Pages

6/30/2009

Please welcome Rita-nominated Harlequin Blaze author, Samantha Hunter!


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!

24 comments:

Christina Phillips said...

Congratulations on all your success, Samantha! I second your advice about writing what you love. Definitely!

Hard to Resist sounds fabulous!

Samantha Hunter said...

Morning folks! Hi Christina! :)

Cari, thanks for having me by, and for asking such good questions. You really made me think. :)

I'll be around all day, but out for a little bit this afternoon, so I will be in and out and will answer all comments/questions as I go.

I'm looking forward to it and very happy to be here. :) Isn't Cari great?

Sam

Betty said...

Excellent way to end your blog tour! Congratulations on how well your writing career has bloomed and best of luck with all of your future projects. I do like your advice about doing something you love. It's what I ultimately told my daughter when she was choosing her college and field of study. I look forward many years of reading your books and implementing Operation Sam at my favorite bookstores. Thank you for being so assessable to your readers!
~Betty S.

Samantha Hunter said...

Hey Betty - I think it's me who has to thank readers, especially loyal ones like you. :) The Operation Sam thing still tickles me -- so funny... You guys are a riot.

I hope for many more books, too. I also have a question for everyone -- I mentioned the mystery that didn't sell. My agent and I still think it's a good book, and I am doing a few revisions on it that I wanted to make, incorporating more romance, basically, but I am going to put it up on Kindle and on my website for paid download -- do most of you think you would buy a book like that, offered directly from an author, and not through a pub?

Sam

Petrolee said...

Hi Sam !

Reading your answers, I can only say WOW ..!! I love your books, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the year ! If I may I would like to ask you 2 questions. One; If you could go on holiday, right now, anywhere in the world, where would it be ? Two; I know you like to write *G* but what about the times you really don't feel like it .. do you force yourself ? (like when your cranky ;) LOL )

EllenToo said...

As you know I'm not a writer but you give some good advice that applies in a lot of other areas. You should do what you enjoy because it will make life (writing) easier. Have you ever thought about taking the Desire you wrote and trying to sell it now since the sex level in them has risen? I am looking forward to reading "Hard to Resist" because I really like stories about Texas Rangers no matter where in the world you set them down.

Samantha Hunter said...

Petro, morning! (or, evening??). LOL

Vacation right now? A nice warm beach just about anywhere would do. Sometimes I like active, lots to do vacations, but at the moment, I'm feeling like relaxing, so sitting on the beach with a drink and a book (and dh!) sounds just about right!

As for forcing myself to write... sorta. I've been lucky to be in a good work groove lately, but there are days when that's not the case.

You have to go on instinct again, I guess. There are times when forcing yourself to get writing is the right thing to do -- it gets you into a schedule and gets the mind working. I said to a friend yesterday that I think motivation/work is organic -- the more I do, the more energy I have to do more.

Other times, you truly need to step away and just go do something else. Forcing it will only lead to more frustration. I have had plenty of days like that, and sometimes giving yourself permission to walk away is exactly what you need to find your way back into the work.

I think you learn the difference between these two situations over time, and as you get to know yourself as a writer.

Thanks for the great questions :)

Sam

Samantha Hunter said...

Morning Ellen!

I don't have that Desire anymore. I had kept it in the closet for a few years after I wrote it, and then chucked it, LOL. I do remember the title (McIntyre's Dream) and the rough plot, but have no impulse to revisit it. It was just kind of a funny story...

I do wonder what would have happened sometimes, how my life might have been different, if it sold, but as it is I am quite happy with how things are now. I do think things happen when they are supposed to, and when we're ready for them. I was apparently waiting for Blaze. ;)

Sam

EllenToo said...

Sam -- as long as you are happy where you are and with what you are writing that's the most important thing.

Samantha Hunter said...

Ellen, yes, very happy. And also, all off those years in between, spent in school, either as a student or a teacher, and living life, really prepared me to do what I'm doing now. So no regrets, that's for sure. :)

Sam

Helen Hardt said...

Wow, Samantha, what amazing success you've had -- congratulations! I'm looking forward to exploring your work.

Helen

TaraLeigh said...

WOW---lots of great information in there Samantha! Great news about the Rita Nom...that's amazing!

I absolutely loved your last answer. Write for you. Damn right, baby! Forcing yourself to write what doesn't fit your personality to follow trends will almost always backfire on you.

Good luck with all those releases Sam. I just got your Blaze in the mail yesterday. ;)

Samantha Hunter said...

Helen, thank you -- over the five years I have been writing it's been a lot of ups and downs, and I think that's probably just the nature of the business (of life? LOL).

Tara, thanks! The Rita nom was last year, but the smileys from it never go away. :) And thank you for picking up my book! I hope you enjoy it!

Sam

Betty said...

I'm still a dark ages sort and haven't downloaded a book to read on my computer, except for short stories or excerpts, so I'm not sure if I would make that type of purchase or not. I would only consider doing so from an author I was already familiar with. However, with paper costs continuing to go up I'm sure that at some point I'll have to make that leap to an e-book. Sorry, that probably doesn't really answer your question.

Marcie said...

Hi Sam! Late to the party. I really liked comment #6. Sometimes I'll read and the author tackled a difficult subject and I think - wow I wish I could write like that. But thanks to your comment and what I keep telling myself - maybe I'm not meant to wrote those brands of stories.
Thanks!

Samantha Hunter said...

Betty, thanks for answering -- and it was a fine answer. ;)

Marcie, yes -- one of the worst things you can do is try to "write like someone else." Certainly we all have our influences and so forth, but I think we have to just find our place and sometimes it takes some time to figure out what that is... :) And often we love to read things we'll never try to write. I think that's normal, and good. If we only read the kinds of books we write, our reading would be very narrow, indeed!

Sam

CrystalGB said...

Great interview. Congratulations on all your success. Hard to Resist sounds wonderful. Love the cover.

Cari Quinn said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sam! I have a feeling I'll refer to your answers in the future. And I happen to think you're pretty great, too. :)

As for buying a book direct from an author...if it's an author whose work I enjoy, I'd definitely buy one that way. It's a great idea, actually. Word of mouth and reputation bring you sales, anyway, and this would just capitalize on that. So where do I sign up for my copy? *g*

Marcie said...

Sam - Narrow indeed! So true. I can read those I wish I could be like - get over that I never will be - but still learn from them.
thanks - great insight into the mind of the writer!

Samantha Hunter said...

Hey Cari, thanks for having me -- it was a fun interview. :) And you'll be one of the first to know if I have a POD book out there. ;)

I think it's getting late, and I should probably draw winners... I have kept a list of everyone who followed me through my blog tour, and picked from a hat (only 6 people managed to stick with me through the whole thing, and I thank you all, though I also met a lot of new and wonderful people along the way -- it's been a lot of fun!)

So... the big winner of my bag, with some goodies inside, including a copy of Hard to Resist is.........

ELLEN TOO!

WOOT!


The three other winners of a signed copy of my book are:

Betty S
Crystal
Marcie

Congrats gals! And thank you to everyone else who came and visit with me -- I deeply appreciate each and every one of you. :)

Sam

Samantha Hunter said...

I should have added, please email me at samhunter@samanthahunter.com with your mailing addy, and I'll get them out asap. :)

Thanks again,

Sam

EllenToo said...

Congratulations Beth, Crystal and Marcie.
Sam email sent. You made my day better.

Shelley Munro said...

I've been reading quite a few Blaze recently. I'm sure I have one of yours on my pile :)

I definitely think it's good advice to write what you enjoy.

Marcie said...

Thanks Sam!!
Hey Ellen - I felt I was following you around on the tour too!