AJ: What did you do or think when the RWA office called you?
RH: I thought, I did it. I really did it! I sat there and grinned for a very long time. This was the first time I'd entered and it was my first romance manuscript.
AJ: How was your Golden Heart experience?
RH: I'd say it's like having a first class ticket on the space shuttle. One heck of a ride! Overwhelming, exciting, fun, an experience of a lifetime. Most of all I have the privilege of being in the company of a group of ladies who challenge and inspire me every day: the other finalists, my Golden Heart sisters. Thank you all, ladies.
AJ: Do you have any advice for someone thinking of entering the Golden Heart?
RH: Do it! Absolutely. Have a rockin' first line. Write a good story. Show the reader on the first page why your book is different. Write a good story. End the first page on a hook. Oh! Did I say write a good story? Make that story unique and compelling. Go for it and keep going like the Energizer Bunny. Never give up.
Here's where I get to tell my little story. In November and December last year I didn't write a thing. I almost gave up. I had promised myself I would enter the Golden Heart no matter what and reluctantly did. A group of writer friends encouraged me to get started again and to them I am forever thankful. Since the beginning of the year I queried forty-three agents. I received a bunch of rejections and was offered representation by four brilliant agents. Perseverance is everything. Do not give up. Never stop learning your craft.
AJ: How long have you been writing?
RH: Writing as in for publication? Almost three years. In a way, I've always been writing. As a child I told stories and put on plays for my extended family. My cousins never let me forget how they were forced to participate. I wrote stories for myself. I shared them with a friend's mother who seemed to love them. I just remembered that. Gosh, I would love to have those now. In high school I wrote a play for the history class to produce. I quit putting words on paper for a very long time. Told stories to my children. And of course there were/are the stories rumbling in my head waiting their turn to escape and be immortalized on paper.
AJ: Do you write every day?
RH: Almost. When I'm not writing, I think about it. I make notes, do research. There are scraps of paper all over the house. With my current story, I started with a synopsis, back cover blurb and a log line. It has really helped my writing process. I don't really consider it writing unless I'm working on a manuscript.
AJ: Why write Romantic Suspense? What do you love about the genre?
RH: Suspense and thrillers are what I like to read. Writing them is natural.
What's not to love? I like the action. I like a story you have to stop reading to catch your breath; A story you don't want to read alone, late at night. I like a story with hero's that are bigger than life and heroines we all want to be.
AJ: How do you research for a suspense novel, before you start the book or while writing the first draft?
With my current story I wrote a synopsis/plot first. For anything that will require details, I researched before starting the actual draft. I'm not in to giving a lot of details. The goal is to layer in just enough to make a scene believable, to put the reader comfortably in that scene. For my first story I have pages and pages of research on the helicopter she flies. I can quote you manufacture, height, weight, number of engines, propulsion type, sit speed. Yawn. Would the reader care? Nope, but it helps me understand my scenes. And should the occasion arise, I can slip in a line or two of that info.
Writing contemporary suspense and thriller I'm always on the lookout for some snippet I can add to a story to amp it up. I get the Washington Post and LA Times online and cruise the headlines for interesting tidbits. Sometimes I check with the BBC and the London Times online. They have a different perspective on world events then we do here. Makes you think. I also check out the US government and military web pages.
In Guardian Angel I needed a cover story for the heroine. Couldn't come up with one. A headline in the LA Times gave it to me. In my WIP the hero needed a job that was out of the ordinary, the Washington Post story came to the rescue.
AJ: What makes your book different than other romantic suspense novels?
RH: My heroines can more than take care of themselves. They don't need to be rescued by the hero. They have unique jobs. The heroine in my first book is a Coast Guard helicopter pilot. She rescues the hero. (By the way the hero does save her once.)
In my current manuscript the heroine, a Marine Corps Intelligence Officer, is a hostage negotiator and interrogator. She's smart, wealthy, beautiful and loves her job. And don't worry, she does have a lot of inner conflict.
AJ: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other writers? Ie: World building, characters.
RH: Write what you love. Be true to yourself. Write characters readers want to be. I do not think writing to a trend is a good thing.
If you are writing about the FBI and CIA get it right, call and ask if you have a question. If you write about a person knitting learn how to knit. Read everything you can in the genre you write. Emulate what's good. Use the bad as a shining example of what not to do. It's difficult to read a book any more without taking notes.
AJ:Is there a craft book that resonated with you and you’d suggest to others?
RH: Heavy sigh. There are so many good books. I suggest you talk to someone who writes your genre and has a style you like. Ask them what they would suggest. We all learn in a different ways. What resonated with me, you may hate. I also suggest if you are having a problem in a particular area (say opening hooks or creating character conflict) ask other writers what they recommend and why. I learn more by example, so I gravitate to classes with a lot of teacher feedback. There is no one way to learn this. The important thing is to challenge yourself to move forward constantly Make an effort to learn more about your craft. There are always improvements to be made. In writing no one is at the top of their game because the bar is always being raised.
Okay I have to say these are excellent. The Art of Dramatic Writing Lajos Egri. The Fire In Fiction Donald Maass and Stephen King's On Writing
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
AJ: Did you want to tell us a little about your book?
RH: GUARDIAN ANGEL follows my heroine and hero from a torrid one night stand to a fierce gun battle at sea.
Olivia has a brilliant career in the Coast Guard flying helicopters searching for terrorists and drug smugglers along the coast of Florida. She’s confident, in control and at the top of her game in a man’s world. Her twin brother, a Miami undercover detective, is executed by the drug cartel he was investigating. Justice moves too slow for Olivia and she seeks her own revenge. With the help of a hot DEA agent she penetrates the drug underworld.
AJ: Is there a next book planned?
RH: As I said, I'm currently working on one and have another plotted. I also have the first draft of a Women's Fiction that follows the same theme of extraordinary women.
AJ: What is your website url, so others can check on news from you?
This I am working on.
I am pleased to tell you the 2009 Golden Heart finalists blog will go live September 21st. During the first week, the ladies will offer their thoughts on how to final in the Golden Heart. Check back for the blog address.
Autumn, as soon as I know my website url, I'll let you know so you can pass it along to your readeers.
Thank you, Rita