My interview on Nancy Christie's blog!

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by brilliant author Nancy Christie. It was posted as part one and two on her blog, but I will post the full interview here for your reading pleasure.

One on One with romance novelist Marie Lavender—Part One

by Nancy Christie on February 1, 2015
Marie Lavender
Marie Lavender

“Marie Lavender”—now doesn’t that sound like the perfect name for a romance novelist? And that is in fact the name on the spine of novels such as Upon Your Return, Upon Your Honor, Magick & Moonlight and Second Nature—all written by this month’s featured author.

Not that “Mare Lavender” is the only name she uses. She also publishes under the pen names of Erica Sutherhome, Kathryn Layne and Heather Crouse.

As for genres, she covers the gamut with her novels: historical romance, contemporary romance, paranormal romance/fantasy, romantic suspense, romantic mystery, mystery/thriller, literary fiction—plus  writes poetry, as well!

In this two-part interview, Marie discusses her writing process, her experiences with both self-publishing and traditional publishing and dealing with the biz side of writing.

For more about Marie, visit her website and her blogs: I Love Romance, Marie Lavender’s Books! and Marie Lavender’s Writing in the Modern Age. Marie is also active on the following social media sites: Facebook, Facebook: Author Marie Ann Lavender, Twitter (@marielavender1), Google+ and LinkedIn—just to name a few.

And be sure to stop back on February 15th for Part Two of the interview!

What type of writing do you do? If you do more than one kind or prefer one genre over another, what type is your favorite or most satisfying?

I am a romance author of twenty books in various genres and subgenres. I have published historical romance, contemporary romance, paranormal romance/fantasy, romantic suspense, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. My favorite is romance! I love it more than anything, but working within the different subgenres of romance gives me the chance to explore different options.

Do you find it difficult to switch from one writing type to another? What techniques do you use that help you switch “writing gears”?

I think it helps to get some distance between projects. So, I do that sometimes; the rest of the time, my mind just naturally makes that switch and decides which project it will work on that day.

How long have you been writing? When did you start? Why did you start —what triggered your writing?

I have been writing stories since I was a kid, around the age of nine. I can’t think of a specific instance that made me start writing; I just knew I wanted to do that for a career. I had to put those stories in my head somewhere, and it just made sense to write it all down.

What was your “writer dream”—your goal— when you began to write? Has it changed over the years?

When I began to write, I wanted to be an author or novelist very badly. As a kid, I always wanted to end up bookstores as well. Well, I’m an author now, and I think that it’s natural to adjust your goals a bit. With the popularity of e-books, it just makes sense to go with what’s trending these days.

What is your “writer dream” now?

My dream is to reach readers in some way, to make them stop and think with the characters and stories I write. I hope I have achieved that. Additionally, my dream is to publish all of the projects that are currently works in progress. At the same time, it gives me lots of material to work with. LOL.

When did you first know that you were a writer?

I think I just knew I was a writer from the beginning. The moment you put pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, with the intent of writing something of quality for your readers, you’re a writer. When you come of writing a scene that flowed really well, then you sit back and look at it with amazement, that’s when you know you’re a writer. It’s not about editing or publishing or marketing. It’s that beautiful moment when you’re in the zone as a writer.

What does the act of writing bring into your life? Why do you want to write?

I love writing! I’ve never felt so much freedom as I do when I write. I love getting into characters’ heads and telling their stories. I love learning new things when I do my research for a book. All of it is priceless, very rewarding.

Who are three of your favorite authors and why?

Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward and Kris Tualla. They are all from separate subgenres of romance, but they are equally talented and I just love their books.

With a nod to James Lipton, host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio”: what profession other than that of a writer would you like to attempt?

Book collection

Good question. I have two actually. I’ve always felt that I need to be around books in some manner. I just love books! If I couldn’t be a writer, I would launch my own bookstore, possibly even a rare bookstore. The idea of having a full collection of rare, classic books is very appealing, and imparting that to the world is important.

My other option would be to start my own publishing company, to help encourage new, talented authors in their pursuits.

Where do you do most of your writing?

The following are representations, not my actual spaces, but it is a combination of the two.

Bed-1 Desk-1

 Where is the strangest place you’ve written? Where was the most inspirational?

The strangest place I’ve written? LOL. Considering that I carry a journal everywhere, ideas can strike me at any time, but I did have one during a shopping trip once. So, I just popped out the journal while I was in the dressing room.

The most inspirational places for me tend to be somewhere in nature, in a park or outside my house on a pretty day. I find that incredibly inspiring. I also find people watching to be inspirational; no, I don’t purposely eavesdrop, but I do pay attention to how people act.

When do you usually write: are you a morning writer, late night writer, any-time-you-can-grab-a-minute writer?

I would answer that with any time I have a minute. I write any time I can, but my strong ideas do tend to come late at night before I go to sleep. You know it’s a good one when you wake up and your journal is at the end of the bed or on the floor. LOL. I tend to write out a scene until I’m too tired to finish, but I can always pick it up again later.

How do you write: longhand, on a computer, dictate and then transcribe?

Longhand and on a computer. Half of the time, I write it down in a journal or notebook and the rest of the time, I can compose on the fly while I’m on the computer.

Is writing your full-time career? Part-time career?

Writing is definitely a career, but for now it’s just part-time for me. I would love to write full-time though.

I tend to write for around thirty minutes or longer every day (I’m not exactly timing it), except for when I’m heavily focused on a project. When that happens, then I spend several hours a day working on the manuscript.

What stimulates your creativity or serves as a writing inspiration? Conversely, what creates a major writer’s block for you?

Open notebook with a ballpoint pen in the center

Anything can inspire me to write whether it’s something I read or saw. And sometimes, just seeing a blank notebook can make me want to write. I also try to keep notes handy which are related to my work in progress so that I have a reference point to start from.

What creates writer’s block? Stress can really be detrimental to writing, but I find that if I don’t think about the issue for awhile, the writing bug comes back. I don’t have to wait very long usually.

Do you have any writing totems? Superstitions? Strange routines? Things you do or have to have around you when you begin your writing process?

Sometimes I like to see what I have written before in a scene to keep me on track so yeah, I either have to look at that journal entry, look at a note or the manuscript on the computer to get the juices flowing. At other times, something will finally fall into place while I’m cooking or doing a mundane task and I have to look for a piece of paper to write it down on.

I am good if I just have a pen or pencil and a paper handy at all times. I’m a bit freaky about it because I have this crazy fear that I’ll forget it.

Do you keep a journal? If so, how often do you write in it? Is it for personal reflection, for tracking writing ideas or both? How do you use it?

I do keep journals. If you saw the number of journals I’ve accumulated over the years, you’d be amazed. I mainly keep a writing journal. Most of the time, I write scenes or poems in my journals, but sometimes I will also do writing exercises to jumpstart creativity.

I try to write in the journal whenever I have an idea. If I haven’t written in a while, I will free write to try to break through the jumble of thoughts in my head.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love when an idea is flowing really well and the writing just happens without a hitch. The least enjoyable part is probably the editing, but it is a necessary evil.

Regarding your fiction, what triggers the story idea: a character, a setting, plot or dialogue?

My ideas come in any form. Sometimes it’s the character I think of first, sometimes the plot or dialogue. Occasionally, I am inspired by setting, but usually that comes last. It just depends on the project, I guess. Most of the time, the scene comes first, and the overall plot comes later.

Where do you come up with your titles—what is the story behind one of your book titles?

I struggle with titles sometimes. Unless I am already sure about a title, I will keep it untitled or at least give the story a temporary title until I have the right one.


With the Heiresses in Love Series, everything really fell into place. The title for the first book, Upon Your Return, was inspired by a piece of the dialogue. And it really worked with the story.

From then on, with the sequels, I tried to keep it related to the first book while honoring the themes in each one. Upon Your Return, Upon Your Honor, and Upon Your Love, which I am writing now.

Stop back on the 15th (the day after Valentine’s Day—appropriately enough!) for more with Marie on the subject of romance—literary-style!
And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the what Marie has shared!

One on One with romance novelist Marie Lavender—Part Two

by Nancy Christie on February 15, 2015
Marie Lavender
Marie Lavender

We’re back with romance novelist Marie Lavender, author of Upon Your Return, Upon Your Honor, Magick & Moonlight and Second Nature. (Click here for Part One!)

In this two-part interview, Marie discusses her writing process, her experiences with both self-publishing and traditional publishing and dealing with the biz side of writing.

For more about Marie, visit her website and her blogs: I Love Romance, Marie Lavender’s Books! and Marie Lavender’s Writing in the Modern Age. Marie is also active on the following social media sites: Facebook, Facebook: Author Marie Ann Lavender, Twitter (@marielavender1), Google+ and LinkedIn—just to name a few.

SecondNature-final cover-web 
What is your most recent book or published piece? What inspired this?

My most recent book, Second Nature, recently came out on December 9th. It is a paranormal romance/urban fantasy. I guess I always wanted to write a story about vampires, and the story naturally came from that. I didn’t intend for it to turn into a series; that just happened. The idea started from the point of Desiree’s kidnapping and it kind of ballooned from there.

You both self-published and used a traditional publisher. What were your experiences with both?

I have self-published 16 books. I would say that the main challenges were editing and marketing. Four of my books were traditionally published. Finding a good agent or publisher is always challenging. It took about a year of agent rejections to find the right publisher for me.

I also learned a few things during this publishing process. One, be prepared to have your book edited to death. I didn’t expect that with Upon Your Return, but I know the book came out better for it. Two, have a general idea of the timeline of your series books. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. Three, launch your blogs and website well in advance of being published, and know how to market them. I learned that the hard way.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

Upon Your Return
took me about nine years to write, but only because I was writing it off and on, and it was also my first historical romance. That made me a bit tentative about everything. It was a lot harder in some ways than I expected. For example, I really struggled with pinning down the story to a specific year. Once I did though, it started to really become a piece I was proud of.

You have 20 novels under your belt—has your writing process changed from when you wrote your first book? Have you developed ways to streamline the process?

Definitely. I am a lot more organized about my projects now. When I am focused on a writing project, I tend to get stubborn and work at it until it’s done. Then I go back in and put the finer details into the manuscript. When I am finally satisfied with it, I take a small break, then go back and do three rounds of editing before a proofreader, beta reader or critique partner ever look at it.

Upon Your Honor-web 

Among your many books, was there one that was the most challenging to write either from a technical/research perspective or from an emotional/psychological aspect?

As I mentioned before, Upon Your Return was challenging because of the research. There was one aspect of the research in Upon Your Honor which was challenging as well, and that was trying to figure out how long a clipper ship journey would take from one location to another. Once I found out the answer, everything else fell into place.

Another book, A Touch of Dawn, self-published under the pen name Erica Sutherhome, was challenging from a purely emotional or psychological standpoint. I really connected with the characters, but there was one sensitive issue (rape) in the story. It is told after it happens, but I still had to balance on that delicate line between fact and fiction in order to honor the characters and the storyline.

What is the next project you have in the works?

I just finished up writing a children’s fantasy story called A Little Magick, the sequel to Magick & Moonlight (the Magick Series). The story is with beta readers now, but it should be published soon. I am also working on the final book of the Heiresses in Love Series; it is titled Upon Your Love. I am very excited about the conclusion to the series. There will be lots of twists and even some new characters!

I also hope to start working heavily on the second book in the Blood at First Sight Series at some point. That is titled Blood Instincts.

What marketing strategies have you used to promote your book?

I keep a web presence on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I also maintain my blogs and update my website periodically. I do book cover ads and I do a lot of guest blog posts or author interviews.

Have you engaged in any virtual events, such as blog tours or Skype interviews? If so, how did it work? What advice do you have for authors who are planning to engage in either or both?

I haven’t done official blog tours, but I have set up my own with different bloggers. With regards to Skype interviews, I haven’t done those, but I have done several radio interviews. Blog tours seem to be an excellent way to reach new readers. I would suggest both because the more exposure you have, the greater chance you have of reaching a wider audience.

Are there aspects of the writing or publishing business that you have found particularly challenging or difficult? What do you find the hardest part about the “writing business”?

Keeping up with the business side of things is definitely a challenge, especially if you have a side job or a family life. But, it is part of the job just like any other career. If you can better manage your time, you can stay sane, which your family and friends will thank you for in the long run. LOL.

Conversely, have there been aspects or experiences that surprised or touched you or that you thoroughly enjoyed?

Running a guest blog, and meeting lots of other writers has been very rewarding for me. I also love hearing from a reader who really enjoyed one of my books. Nothing makes me happier than knowing they “got” the character as intended.

Based on your own experience, what tips do you have for authors who are preparing for their “maiden voyage” on the sea of publication?

Make sure you have edited your manuscript like crazy. And yes, that includes having critique partners and beta readers look over it with their feedback. If you can afford a professional editor, consider going that route as well. An almost flawless book will look a lot more appealing to a publisher or agent than something they have to strain to read.

Don’t be afraid to try new things, like guest blogging. When I first began this journey, the idea of writing articles was quite foreign to me. But, I did it and now it’s not even painful. It’s natural to think you have nothing to offer, but everyone does. Everyone has a tidbit of wisdom to give to other writers or readers.

Don’t give up! The publishing journey is a battle, and you have to face it like a warrior.
Don’t forget why you started on this writing endeavor. You love to write, right? No matter what you have to do on the business side of things, never forget the reason you began writing. Always come back to that, and it will keep you sane. It’s really not about sales; it’s about doing what you love, and people will see that in your writing.

What was your favorite childhood book? Is there one that, now as an adult, you read again?

My favorite series when I was younger was The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin. I couldn’t get enough of it. I can’t say I read it now at all, but it did spark my love of series books.

What type of books do you prefer to read: non-fiction, fiction, essays, poetry?

Fiction, of course. I do spend time reading poetry in poetry discussion groups because I find it fascinating.

What book are you reading now?

Lover Unbound
by J.R. Ward.

What book—or author—do you find yourself reading again?

J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. I also go back to Kris Tualla’s Discreet Gentleman Series now and then.

Who has inspired you — either at a personal level or as a writer?

My fiancĂ© has been a great inspiration to me on a personal level and as a writer. He isn’t a writer, but he is ambitious and hard-working, and his brilliant mind inspires me every day.

Which three authors would you love to have a “One on One” with?

Linda Lee Williams, Chloe Neill and Nora Roberts.

How do you blend your writing life with your “real life”—do you find it challenging to make time for both sides? If so, what are some of the difficulties and how do you resolve them?

Yeah, it is hard. I have learned how to be stubborn both ways. If I have a deadline, my family knows I have to finish that first. On the other hand, I have to tell myself “no” sometimes too. It is easy to be a workaholic, and I am constantly striving for that balance between making time for writing and my other life.

What’s the worst advice anyone gave you about being a writer? What’s the best?

I will answer the same to both. I had a professor in college who, after my telling her how much I love romance, told me not to limit myself to romance writing. The thing is that I haven’t limited myself at all. If someone told me in college that I would be pursuing ideas in fantasy or suspense, I probably would have laughed or thought they were crazy. It just happened that way, and I have learned to open myself up to other types of writing, including literary fiction, poetry and mystery/thriller.

Who knows? Maybe one day, I will be comfortable enough to tackle a genre I don’t usually read. Sci-fi? It’s a possibility. My point is that those words were the best and worst thing to say because although my internal response was to rail against it at the time, I have been living with those words for years and they have changed me for the better, I think.

How do you define success as a writer? What makes you feel successful as a writer?

I think it depends on the individual writer. I am happy having been published, and looking at my bookshelf of published books. To me, that means I succeeded.

Conversely, what makes you feel like a failure, and how do you combat that?

As humans, we always have these high expectations for ourselves. But, I also think that it’s okay to reorganize our expectations. I don’t think you should give up on your dreams, but realizing it’s not going to be an easy journey is a good thing as well. Be perseverant, and know that though it will be hard, it will still be rewarding.

As a writer, I set small, manageable goals for myself every day. Get this task or that task done. I used to be incredibly disappointed if I didn’t meet the goal and even though it wasn’t a huge deal, I would feel like a failure. Now, I try not to take myself so seriously. I am only human, not superhuman. There are only so many things I can do in one day, and it’s not the end of the world if I do it tomorrow or the next day instead. Life is too short to do otherwise.

What is your idea of a perfect writing day?

A perfect writing day would be a day on the beach. I might go swimming, then lie on a towel and read for a while under an umbrella. A little after that, I would use the white noise of the beautiful surf to get some major writing done. Ah…perfect.

What advice do you have for other writers who are contemplating pursuing a writing career?

Do what you love first, and worry about the business side of things when you think you’re ready to start looking for a publisher. I would reiterate that editing is a big deal, and definitely get your website going early. You have to start building a fan base before you get published.

What do you want your writer’s epitaph to be?

That’s far too arrogant for me to construct, but I do hope to touch people through my writing at least.

My thanks to Marie for being part of One on One: Insights Into the Writer’s Life. Please check out her Books page and share your comments on her interview here!