Hello, Leigh! Welcome to the Lady Scribes. We really appreciate your taking time to talk with us today.
Thanks for the warm welcome, Gail – it’s a pleasure to visit the Lady Scribes!
You recently made the leap from contemporary to historical with three single title regencies coming out in 2011. Why did you make the switch, and what else changed in the process?
After writing 80 contemporary books (mostly sweet traditionals published by Harlequin Romance, with a few short contemporaries from Harlequin Presents interspersed) I was getting a bit burned out. So I took some time off from writing fiction, and when I started in again, I found myself interested in an entirely different kind of story – single-title length, Regency period, and sexy! I’ve always enjoyed reading Regency-period books (non-fiction as well as fiction), so I feel as if I’ve been doing research for these books forever. And the added length and the freedom to write sexy stories have made it enormous fun.
With a hundred published books, you are by far the most prolific writer I know. You must have a very efficient writing process. Do you mind sharing your shortcuts and secrets with us?
I find that the more time I have, the more time something takes. So if I have all day to write a scene, it’ll take all day… and more… at least until the point where I’m well into a book and it takes on a momentum of its own, so I have to keep writing to find out what happens.
I think about the story a lot when I’m not actually at the computer – so when I do sit down to write I often have a chunk of story ready to be committed to paper so it can be edited and reshaped later.
You also teach romance writing at Gotham University and run the Chase the Dream contest with Rachelle Chase every year. All of those deadlines must be very stressful. Do you have any tips for relieving stress and balancing the writer’s crazy schedule with real life?
Take one thing at a time – and when the stress builds up, take a walk, then set a timer and do just fifteen minutes on the thing that’s most annoying or most pressing. Odds are that short time will make a significant dent – or even finish the project – and that helps take the pressure off.
On an average day, I start out in the morning with coffee with my husband, then I answer email and check classes. As soon as that’s done, I start writing. I try to fit in a walk every afternoon. After dinner with my husband, it’s back to work for a bit, writing or catching up on loose ends or doing promotion or reading for research. And I try to take weekends off from writing, though I often focus on classwork then.
Some of my favorite books are your non-fiction books for writers, Creating Romantic Characters and On Writing Romance. If you had one piece of advice for newbie writers, what would it be?
I’m glad you find On Writing Romance useful! It’s the culmination of what I’ve learned from close to 20 years of teaching romance writing. My advice to newbies -- Don’t expect that every word you put on the page is going to be golden. Writing is a skill, just like playing tennis or driving a car or knitting a scarf or making the perfect loaf of bread. Yet though we expect that other skills will require practice, we’re surprised when our words don’t fall onto the page in perfect order. We’d never pick up a violin for the first time and expect to play a concerto, so why should we believe that the first draft of a story will be wonderful? I still fight this one myself all the time – the combination of procrastination and perfectionism (“Maybe I’ll just wait till I have that story all figured out in my head, so I only have to write it once!”) is deadly.
Before you go, can you give us a sneak peek at your upcoming projects?
The thing that’s different about my historicals from most others is that each book has multiple main characters and multiple stories. The first book is actually three novellas but they’re woven into one larger, continuing story. In the second book, there are three stories all happening simultaneously. It’s a great challenge to write that way, to juggle multiple characters and stories and not lose track of anyone, or create contradictions -- but I honestly don’t have a favorite character in either book; they’re all my favorites.
Book #1: The Mistress' House
Number Five, Upper Seymour Street seems to be the perfect love nest. Tucked away in a discreet corner of London, it's an ideal site to conduct affairs… except in this elegant townhouse, the residents fall in love instead – especially when they don’t want to!
The three residents of Number Five, Upper Seymour Street: Anne is the perfect mistress for the rakish Earl of Hawthorne; Felicity is the perfect challenge for Richard, Lord Colford, and Georgianna is the perfect nightmare for Major Julian Hampton...
Book #2: Only In London
Meet the Ryecrofts...the family that courts together.
RYE -- Viscount Ryecroft is a young man with a problem. Make that two problems: He has a beautiful sister to marry off but no money to fund a London Season for her. Perhaps he needs to find an heiress for himself first? SOPHIE – Miss Sophie Ryecroft is willing to marry for the good of the family -- but since she can't meet the sort of man her brother has in mind for her except in London, she’s looking for alternatives. MIRANDA -- Rye and Sophie's mother, the dowager (but still young) Lady Ryecroft, will do anything for the sake of her children -- even taking up again with a man she knew long ago, and offering to be his mistress.
Only in London can the Ryecrofts find their destinies.
Thank you, Leigh Michaels, for sharing your wisdom with us today. For more information, see Leigh’s website at http://www.leighmichaels.com/.
Please post your comments and questions for Leigh.