Happy August everyone! I hope you have many great books in your to-be-read pile and a nice glass of ice tea to fight off the heat.
First of all, thanks to Sue for letting me stop by to introduce myself. I’m the debut author of the Ballantine summer 2012 urban fantasy/paranormal romance featuring an OCD werewolf with hoarding tendencies. And Natalya Stravinsky doesn’t hoard just anything—she hoards holiday stuff. If you’ve decorated your lawn with it, she’s mostly likely collected it at her house. COVETED comes out early next summer and I can’t wait for you to meet her. In the book, Nat is restless and recovering from her split five years ago with her gorgeous ex-boyfriend, Thorn. But everything changes when complications pile up faster than her ornaments. When Thorn returns home, they discover that old flames still burn.
Before Nat can sort out their relationship, she must face a much hairier problem. Her pack is under attack from the savage Long Island werewolves—and Nat is the first target in the turf war. Toss in a handsome wizard vying for her affection, a therapy group for the anxious and enchanted, and the South Toms River pack leader ready to throw her to the wolves, and it’s enough to give anybody a panic attack. With the stakes as high as the full moon, Nat must summon all her strength to save her pack, and ultimately, herself.
When I tell others about my book, most people ask me where I find such ideas. Do they just pop up while I’m at the grocery store, or maybe while I watch reality television? Well, before Natalya’s character was born, most of my ideas did come from watching television. I’m definitely a reality television junkie and on any particular day you’ll find me watching Hell’s Kitchen or So You Think You Can Dance. Don’t get me started about the goodies on the Bravo network as well as Project Runway. While I watch these shows I have so many what-if questions going through my head. Surprisingly, Nat didn’t come from a television show. The idea for my book actually came from a family medicine medical journal. On the front page, I noticed an article about obsessive compulsive disorders. After reading the article, I ran through several what-if questions and Natalya’s character was born. Once I had my protagonist, her conflict came not long after.
Long before Nat made her appearance, I’d always preferred to write and read sci-fi/fantasy. Back when I was fourteen, I wrote (and never finished) my first book, a science fiction romance. I still love the concept behind the book, even though it was poorly written with maps galore. The notebook with those pages is in poor shape, but great memories are there. Back then, I had no idea all those scenes running through my head was a sign that I should write. That I should give into the urge to put those ideas on paper and learn the craft.
My mother’s an avid reader, and she exposed me early to romance. I loved to read the Zebra Historicals (in particular the western ones and the sci-fi romance ones) as well as books by LaVryle Spencer and Danielle Steel. I have fond memories of sitting with my mom reading books on a designated “book night.” No television. No radio. Just my mother and I falling into a story.
Throughout high school and college I didn’t write fiction much. Most of the time I was writing papers or working on proofs since I was a math major. The closest I got to writing was through English classes. Sadly, I also didn’t read as much as I wanted to either. College was about making academic choices—reading for leisure and writing were definitely on the backburner.
Fast forward eight years. With college behind me, my mind set changed. During school, scenes never came to me. My imagination had been silenced. But now I was home with three small kids and a husband. And that’s when the writing bug hit. The ideas came fast, but I had no idea what to do with them. I’d written academic papers before, but I’d never written a story. The only reference I’d had was writing the story I’d created when I was fourteen. I didn’t know about literary agents or what should be done to get a book published. So I had to start at the very beginning.
Enter my critique partner, Sarah Bromley. I’d written a few pages of a new manuscript by the time we had a fateful conversation about our writing interests. We were at a play group for our kids. While our kids played, Sarah and I discussed our writing. We’d both jumped back into the pool at the same time. Mind you, Sarah had written a lot longer than I had and she had a stronger background with a degree in English, but she was up to challenge of working with me on a critique partner basis. I’m so thankful for Sarah. Now that I look back, I had so much to learn about the craft of writing. And not just how to format a manuscript.
With time and perseverance, I made progress. I started writing in November 2008 and finished my first book in January 2009. By late spring, I queried my first book and joined Romance Writers of America (another HUGE help for me). While I queried my first book, I started another one. I was definitely hungry to write. I went from a third person perspective to a first. A big change. I dug in and let myself speak through the heroine. Everything flowed so much better. Craziness ensued and it was fabulous. I finished my second book about a witch matchmaker a few months later. That book got me my agent, but it unfortunately didn’t sell.
What did I learn from those first few months? Never take the journey into writing alone. Find a writer’s group. Join RWA, or SCBWI (if you write young adult), Romance Divas, or a find a writing buddy. The Internet, as well as the publishing industry, is a big place and it’s way too easy to get lost with all the information out there.
I remember 2009 as a year of writing, learning, and waiting. Writing to learn the craft, learning about rejections, rejections, rejections, and finally learning how to wait while on submission with editors. A big lesson that year definitely was the waiting aspect. As much as writers love to write, we have to learn to accept waiting as well. To keep from going crazy, I jumped back on the crazy train and started something new. While I was on submission for my second book, I started COVETED in February of 2010. (I’ve noticed I seem to start books in the spring. How interesting.) COVETED was the first book to make me cry while writing it. I felt close to Natalya and following her on her journey touched me as a writer. It’s those moments that make writing worthwhile and fulfilling.
I finished COVETED a few months later and my agent sent me out to editors in the fall of 2010. A month later, Betsy Mitchell, the editor-in-chief of Del Rey Books, called my agent with a two book offer. Thus my relationship with my wonderful editor Tricia Pasternak was born and Natalya had a home with Ballantine Books. It’s been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now that I’ve had time to look back, I wouldn’t change much. Writing’s definitely a journey with ups and downs. With my first book, I still believe in the idea, but the execution fell short. I still had a lot to learn about finding my voice. That came with my second book. But I needed to write that first book to progress to where I’m at now. All those mistakes were steps forward. I’d never change a thing!
Thanks for reading about my journey! How about a giveaway? Tell me about your favorite reality show or a favorite book and I’ll pick a winner next week to win a $15 Amazon gift card. If the book’s dark or quirky I’d definitely love to know about it. It just adds more happiness to my TBR pile.
If you’d like to connect with me, you can find me on Twitter as Shawntelle, on Facebook, as well as through my website. I also do blog posts on Wicked Authors (Mondays) and Magic & Mayhem Writers (Wednesdays).