NN: Welcome Carol/Mia! Please tell us about yourself:
CE/MV: I grew up in California and now live in southern California near the beach. Like most writers, I've always been a voracious reader. I went to UCLA and got my BA and MA in English literature. I really couldn't imagine a more wonderful major - reading the best literature in the world, sitting around a classroom discussing it, and then writing papers about it. I loved almost every minute of it. OK, I could've lived without The Education of Henry Adams and Paradise Lost, but Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Romantic poets, the Renaissance and Restoration dramatists, American literature - Hawthorne, Twain, Crane, Dreiser, Wharton - I was in heaven. I did do some romance fiction writing when I got out of college, but never got serious about it. I taught English part-time at a community college for a number of years, and I worked at a small publishing company as a proofreader, editor, and acquisitions editor. Currently, I'm a techncial writer and have been one for quite a while.
NN: First let me say, I LOVE your covers!! Both have sexy hunks! Please tell us about these upcoming books:
CE/MV: I have two books scheduled for release in December. One is a Harlequin Intrigue, THE STRANGER AND I, about a woman on a marine biology research trip in Mexico who stumbles on a terrorist plot involving the U.S./Mexican border, and the stranger, a covert operative for a secret intelligence agency, she has to rely on for protection.
The other book is a novella, actually, VIRGIN OF THE AMAZON, which will be included in Red Sage Secrets Volume 21: Primal Heat. This story involves a 26-year old virgin who gets separated from her tour group in the Amazon and is captured by a lost tribe whose shaman is looking for...you guessed it...a virgin. The story has a lot of humor, and a lot of sex. LOL
NN: Oooh a lot of sex, that's what we like! ;-) What inspires you? What motivates you?
CE/MV: Music inspires me--all types. I love to sing, so don't even try to call me on my cell phone while I'm in the car. I'll never hear it over the radio or CD and my own singing! There are certain albums, or CDs now, that I just treasure for the way they make me feel--U2's The Joshua Tree, Counting Crows' August and Everything After, the Rolling Stones' Flowers, Van Morrison's Wavelength, The Killers' Sam's Town, and certain songs that blow me away with the poetry of their lyrics. Right now, I love "Can You Read My Mind" by The Killers.
The ocean inspires me as well. I love watching sunsets over the Pacific. There's a hill at the top of my block with an almost unobstructed view of the ocean. Before I drive down my block, I often stop at the top of the hill to watch the sunset. Sometimes the beauty of it brings tears to me eyes. My kids think I'm nuts! I always tell them, "look at the sunset, look at the sunset." LOL
As far as motivation, I'm a very goal-oriented person. The best motivation of all is completing manuscripts and selling them! At the RWA Conference in Reno, Debbie Macomber, the keynote speaker, asked us to pick up an orange index card from our lunch tables and write five goals on the card. I wrote: 1) sell a manuscript to Harlequin Intrigue; 2) write and sell an erotic novella to Red Sage Publishing; 3) write a single title romance; 4) get single title romance published; 5) write as a career. I found that card last summer before the RWA Conference in Dallas, and you know what? I had accomplished the first three goals on my list within two years! I hope to achieve goals 4 and 5 in another two years. THAT keeps me motivated.
NN: That is so inspiring! And I love sunsets too. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
CE/MV: I loved to read as a kid, and I was always running stories through my head. I was always playing make-believe games. I think by the time I was 12 or 13, I was mulling over careers as an author, a teacher, and a politician - LOL.
NN: What is your writing process or method?
CE/MV: I usually start with an idea triggered by something - a news story about tunnels running between the U.S./Mexican border, or a radio talk show host getting hit in the face with a pie, or my friend's 80-year old mother going to an all-male revue in Vegas - and I start thinking about characters to populate the story or a story to build around the characters. I'm not a complete pantser, but once I get an idea for a story I have to start writing it immediately, even if it's just a few pages. Then I step out and do some planning. I love Robin Perini and Laura Baker's Discovering Story Magic method. I use the character grids and story charts. I love the organization of it all. I usually plot out using DSM to get a handle on my characters and the turning points in the story. Once I start writing, I may veer off my plotted course, but that's OK too. I always write from the beginning of the book to the end, and I self-edit as I write. If the story changes course while I'm writing it, I will go back immediately and fix portions of previous chapters to match the new direction. I don't work much with critique partners since I don't have the time. I do have one online critique partner (Hi, Barb), and we exchange chapters back and forth.
NN: Please describe your journey to publication.
CE/MV: Oh wow! What a long, strange trip...I started writing a gothic romance many years ago. I wrote 100 pages of a skeletal story from beginning to end, and then put it aside. About five years ago after endless complaining about my job as a technical writer, my husband suggested I get that book out and finish it. I took his advice (for once - LOL) and finished the book, which came to about 125,000 words. My husband bought me a guide to literary agents and I started querying agents. At this point, I hadn't even heard of RWA, and I also hadn't read a romance in years. Surprisingly enough, I got a request for a partial and two requests for the full. I think the premise of the book was good. It had that high concept when I wasn't even aware of what a high concept was! I got rejections on all three of those requests, and one of the agents was kind enough to tell me the book was hopelessly old-fashioned and gothic romances were no longer popular. My husband suggested I stop reading Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer and read a romance published in, oh, the past year or so. I joined RWA, and started paying attention to the different genres. I wanted to give category romantic suspense a try, so I wrote one and started entering contests. I got a lot of great feedback and tweaked those first three chapters endlessly. I finaled in a contest and the final judge placed me first and requested the manuscript. That manuscript was rejected just a few weeks before the RWA Conference in Reno. I went to the Conference totally bummed out, but got inspired when I was there. I also picked up my first Red Sage Secrets volume there. I had been writing short erotic stories for a couple of websites for free and had a lot of fun with the genre. So when I came home from Reno, I launched into another category romantic suspense, and started toying with different ideas for erotic romance. I began entering the category romance in contests, specifically targeting an editor from HQ Intrigue. It finaled in two out of the four contests I entered, and that editor was the final judge for one of the contests. She placed my entry first and requested the full manuscript. Before I heard back from her on that manuscript, I completed an erotic romance novella and submitted it to Red Sage. About a month later, I made my first sale to Secrets. Shortly after that, the HQ editor sent my MS back wtih a four-page revision letter. I made the revisions and re-submitted. I sold the book almost one year after the request for the full manuscript. So it took me just over four years, lots of writing, lots of contests, lots of frustrations, and lots of learning to get published.
NN: Wow! How exciting!! What was the most important thing you learned (the thing that made all the difference) just before you made your first sale?
CE/MV: Going with my natural voice. I've always been a "good" writer. By that I mean, I'm a good speller, I know my grammar, I know all about topic sentences, and thesis statements, and word choice - all the formal elements of writing. But I was writing romance like that too! The pace of my stories was slow, the language too formal, and it all added up to....boring! I began writing like the words and phrases populating my head - with starts and stops and slang and gasp....sentence fragments. I found my voice as a result, and you really need that unique voice to sell.
NN: Great point! What do you wish you’d known before becoming published?
CE/MV: Nothing! The journey to publication continues in a different way after getting published - there's still so much to learn and each experience along the way is exciting. If I'd known how much promotion is involved in getting your name and titles out there, it wouldn't have changed anything. If I'd known that it's almost as difficult to find an agent once you're published as it is when you're not published, it wouldn't have changed anything. If I'd known there's as much if not more pressure to sell that second book, it wouldn't have changed anything.
NN: Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
CE/MV: Keep writing. Don't get invested in one book and keep revising that book over and over. Write the book, submit it, and move onto the next book. It's so much harder to try to fix something than to start fresh. Be prolific. You're probably not going to sell that first book or even that third book. With every book, you're practicing your craft. None of it is wasted time.
NN: What’s next for you?
CE/MV: I just sold another Harlequin Intrigue with a tentative release date of Aug. '08, so I'm thrilled to get that second sale with HQ. I also have another erotic novella coming from Red Sage in Secrets Volume 24 in July '08. I have a few other erotic romances floating around out there looking for homes, and I'm working on my next Intrigue. I've written a kick-ass, very funny single title romantic comedy, Kick It Up, and I'm searching for an agent. Other than that? I just keep writing and writing and writing.
NN: Congratulations on your 2nd two sales!!!! And good luck with your agent search. Again we're so glad you've joined us here! Please visit Carol's website at: http://www.carolericson.com/ And Mia's site at: http://www.miavarano.com/