1) When did you start writing? Or if you've been writing all your life, then when and how did you decide to pursue publication?
I believe I've always wanted to be a writer. I was the child who wrote long thank you notes without prompting :) I started college with the intent to major in journalism, but my scholarship died two years into the program and my academic endeavors came to an end - or took a hiatus. I married, moved, and discovered my new employer would pay my tuition if I majored in business - which is why I graduated with an accounting degree. Life, work, kids...yada, yada, yada - suddenly I'm in my mid-40s. Can't say I ever really read romance, or at least I didn't know I was reading romance. Business executives don't do that - you know :) Then I picked up Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and loved it. When I saw all the romance awards it had won, I figured I had been a real fool for not reading this stuff earlier. The next book I read, another romance, was very disappointing - especially as it was from a NYT Bestselling author. I decided to try my hand at this writing stuff and worked on my first manuscript while waiting for the kids to finish their karate, art, thespian, soccer, football lessons. One of my clients saw an article in the local paper about a writing group. That's how I discovered my local chapter of RWA and my writing aspirations truly took off.
2) What books/authors have influenced you?
I did say I was an accountant - right? That means very left-brained to the point of being rather anal about research. Once I decided I wanted to write romance, I bought Katherine Falk's How-to book and worked my way through 90% of the suggested list of romance titles in the back. Each left an impression on my writing consciousness. There were far too many authors to mention, but God Bless them all :)
3) Describe your writing process.
I think Stephen King said that stories are all around us and our job is simply to unearth them. That's what happens to me. I'm walking around, a normal person during a normal day, then out-of-nowhere I'm hit with an idea. Crazy, huh? I start visualizing the concept like a movie trailer and work out the basic conflict. Then I create characters that will add to the conflict by virtue of their natures. From there I keep a mental image of the W plot and write scenes based on my progress along the W. My first draft is mostly dialogue and action, then I go back and add settings, stage directions, and smooth out the rough spots.
4) Tell us about your current Work In Progress and what is next for you?
My first book which comes out in November is a witty historical about a Victorian innocent learning and teaching bedroom etiquette. I had thought I could develop a series of books following the students of her unique curriculum, when I got hit with a fabulous idea for a paranormal. That's what I'm writing now - a witty historical with paranormal elements :) It has opportunities for sequels as well. I'm thinking my third book will be a sequel to one of these earlier books - but who knows - when the idea strikes, I'm off and running.
5) Any advice for others or personal observations? I have two words of advice. First is perseverence. This is a tough business. In my case, I had been writing for ten years before receiving the call. Although I don't think I would have actually quit, there were times during those ten years that I came very close. Second piece of advice - experiment, change genres, mix it up. I started off writing romantic suspense. I have two complete suspense novels under the bed. I thought I was a suspense writer albeit a humorous one, but that's what I knew. I had an opportunity to write a paranormal short story for publication and gave it a whirl. That turned out all right and suggested I didn't have to limit myself to suspense. I was in the midst of writing a time travel when I was struck with the idea for Mrs. Brimley. In order to tell the story properly, it had to be a historical. The prospect of research had me shaking and quivering --but it had to be done. Lo and behold - I discovered I have a bit of a historical voice -- probably because I'm old :) Now I love to write historicals, but may have never discovered that if I hadn't been willing to experiment.