What are you working on now?

Plot sketches for several new book ideas and full-on plotting for my next work-in-progress (WIP). The planning never really ends. In fact, I have a running Word document where I keep a list of all new ideas I’d like to pursue.

What's your writing process?

I wish I could tell you it was all a neat, pretty and tidy regimen of research and writing, but…it’s not. Not even close. I think of myself as half-pantster/half-plotter. Before I start on the plot, I work on developing well-rounded characters. There are some terrific resources online to help with this process. When that’s done, I generally browse some Google image searches looking for faces that fit the image in my mind of each of my characters, and then I save these to a file I use throughout the writing process. After I develop my major plot points, I go back and fill in the spaces between with scenes that either promote character development or further the plot. After this, I generally create a Spotify playlist to accompany my scenes. Looking at the images and listening to the music before I write a scene really helps me get “in touch” with the world I’m building.

After writing comes the editing phase. I love this part of ruthlessly gutting it all and reconstructing sentences or sometimes entire scenes, really spit-shining it. After that initial round is over, I send my work out to my trusted circle of critique partners (CPs) and wait for their feedback. Once their notes are in, I evaluate each comment or question, compare to the others, conduct a gut check and change what needs to be changed. When it’s all polished up, I read everything aloud to catch any “trippy tongue” areas that need to be smoothed or lingering plot holes. After that, I send out the manuscript to a group of Beta readers for feedback. When their notes/concerns have been addressed, I’m then ready to query!

There’s a ton more to it than that, but it’s too much to catalog here. I’ll be doing a series of blog posts about my creative process and the journey to publication so please feel free to check that out as they become available!

Who are your favorite authors?

Morgan Matson, Stephanie Perkins, Jenn Bennett, Kasie West and Estelle Maskame are my go-to favorites, but I’m open to giving all authors a try. You know, variety being the spice of life and all…

What genre do you read? Are there any you won't read?

The genre I read most often is always going to be contemporary romance and usually of the YA variety, though I don’t mind a good adult romance as well. I’m more into the slow-burn, sweetness-meets-angst of first love. There’s just something about the emotions that feel so raw and real and vulnerable.

That being said, I’m not opposed to other genres as well. Most of my CPs are not in the romance sector, so I’ve critiqued fantasy, sci-fi, urban contemporary and suspense, and it’s not unheard of for me to pick one of these up at the local library either.

What's the worst part of the road to publication?

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

No, really. That’s the answer. You’re always waiting. Waiting on an idea. Waiting on the time to write. Waiting on critiques. Waiting on edits to be done so you can query. Waiting on replies from query submissions. Waiting on partial and full requests. Waiting to hear back from publishers. It’s a waiting game. It’s just the way it is, so trust me—learn now that patience is indeed a virtue. And I think there’s another one about good things coming to those who wait, too…

Any advice to writers in the query trenches?

I have two pieces of advice: listen to your gut and have patience.

Both of these are a must if you’re going to survive the process. Maybe you’ve heard a story that someone out there queried their first draft to one agent who immediately responded with a full request and a yes the next day. The agent subbed to a publisher and the next day after that came a six-figure book deal. This my friends is a unicorn. A Sasquatch. Do not believe this story. Ever. It does not happen this way. Ever. Even the biggest, most well-known, highest-paid authors laid in the query trenches and were rejected time and again. It’s going to happen, so this is where the advice kicks in.

Learn to wait gracefully. The best way is by working on new projects to distract you from the crickets chirping in the background day after day. If you think about it, do you really want the process to go at light speed or would you rather the agents and publishers take their sweet time delving into your book baby, assessing it, considering it?

Also, if and when you get rejected, take the time to consider any feedback offered. Even the slightest nugget is like striking gold. Read it, chew on it and see what your gut has to say. Is there something people are pointing out that you’ve also been wavering on? If so, your gut is probably telling you to take a minute and re-evaluate. Consider the advice and how it can be applied. Does it help the story line or strengthen the plot? If your gut reaction is yes, I say go for it.

When did you start writing? Has it always been a part of your life?

I’ve been writing the majority of my life. I remember being six years old, sitting at our kitchen table in front of an electronic typewriter, tapping out The Perils of Princess Brandy. Yes, I was the main character. Yes, I was a princess. I was six. Sue me.

Those early illustrated tales grew into substantial undertakings such as a plot line of friends who volunteered at a local hospital children’s ward. (Rip off of Babysitter’s Club just a bit, you think?) High school English class is where I really began to spread my wings and discovered my love of the craft. At Clemson, I majored in English and Writing (Journalism) and have since worked 16 years in a variety of positions that required my writing skills: marketing communications, PR, business development, and freelance magazine writing and editing. While journalism and business writing has paid the bills thus far, my heart has always yearned to wander down the creative side of writing, and when I began writing my debut novel in the summer of 2015, I knew without hesitation that this is my true calling.

How long have you wanted to be an author?

I’ve been in love with books since my mama taught me how to read at age four. I was six when I wrote my first story, and since then, the goal was pretty clear.

What advice do you have for those considering writing a book?

Read, read, read in your genre. Now go read some more. What are you seeing in the books being published? How do they develop voice? How do they manipulate dialogue? Scrutinize their plot points and how the action rises and falls. Take copious notes if you have to. Visit goodreads.com and read reviews on the books. What do readers like? What do they hate? I can’t tell you how helpful this practice is!

Also on a side note, while you’re out there on goodreads.com, give the book a review as well. Authors love feedback and reviews are the best way to spread the word to other readers.

What kind of education do you need to be a writer?

I believe in the message delivered by Ratatouille. Not everyone can be a great writer, but a great writer can come from anywhere. Do you have to have an English degree or an MFA to be a writer? Absolutely not! Does it help? Absolutely! And if you don’t have the college credentials, don’t fret. Get out there and do your homework. It’s amazing how many writing groups and internet sites are available. Do a writing bootcamp. Go to your local library and ask about joining a group in your area. Read online tutorials. Brush up on your grammar. If you have the desire, go for it, but don’t do it haphazardly. I truly believe you never get a second opportunity to make a first impression. No author (even the bestsellers) are putting their first drafts on display, and everyone starts somewhere. Put in the work, and you’ll reap the rewards!

Here's a controversial one! There's been a lot of "babble" out there about the uselessness of an English degree. What are your thoughts?

I think anyone who says that needs to educate themselves before speaking. An English degree is supremely versatile, positioning graduates for a broad range of careers or higher education. Do your research. A degree is only useless if you make it that way.