Sam, TALKING IN YOUR SLEEP is your 9th book for Harlequin Blaze, with 3 more coming soon and more in the works. How to you keep them fresh?
I think it comes down to the characters, especially in category. All books within a line have to have certain elements, certain commonalities, and so the way you keep things new is with characters who are unique to you and among the books on the shelf at the time. Then, it's writing a book to fit the characters -- so, for instance, you don't just write a love scene, you write the love scene as it makes sense for these two characters -- what's unique about them, their personalities and styles? They won't think about love, sex, or each other like anyone else you've written. They are their own people. So, that's the newness. Also, new writing challenges keep it interesting and fresh -- each book I've done has some new challenge (a larger subplot, a continuity, an anthology book, a miniseries book, a Forbidden Fantasy, an Extreme, etc ) so that keeps it fresh.
You've done everything from teaching to editing to working at a radio station. Do you find yourself bringing bits and pieces of each of those jobs into your stories?
Some of my teaching experience has shown up in a few books, but travel and personal hobbies/interests show up more. I actually use more of others' professional experience. My first book, Virtually Perfect, was inspired by the fact that I met my husband online 14 years ago, but also his work as an internet security specialist was a huge part of my interest in writing my HotWires series about the members of a computer crime team. My family teases me that I'm working through all of their professions in my books. ;)
How does all that compare to being a writer? Have you always wanted to write romance, or did this career choice come about in a different way?
I tried writing a romance back in my twenties. Silhouette asked for the full, and then rejected it for having too much sex *G*. I chucked it, went back to school and really never thought about writing fiction again until fifteen years later when I met Cara Summers who was teaching in the same department I was, and she wrote romance for Blaze. She encouraged me to give it a try, and I ended up with Virtually Perfect. :) I was looking for work in the environmental job market at the time, based in my geography work, but it was a tough employment landscape and when my book sold it seemed to make sense to try to stay here instead of moving, and follow up on the writing career. So, no, I can't honestly say I had lifelong ambitions to write romance, but I've always been a romance reader, and writing has always been a part of my life. I guess it kind of makes sense that I would end up here. :) As you know, writing is a lot of work, long hours, serious highs and lows. In terms of comparison, I had some of that in teaching, too, but I was earning more and had benefits. ;) I was a good teacher, and I liked it -- but I never really felt I'd accomplished anything of my own at the end of the day. All my energy went outward, to help others accomplish something, and after 12 weeks they were gone and I never really got to know how what I taught them took root or not. Some people who see teaching as a vocation are good with that, but I wasn't. I felt there was something missing, something that *I* had to show for what I did all day. Now I have books on the shelf, and it's pretty amazing to have that to show for my work. It may be tough work, but every time I clear a hurdle, take on something new, make a new sale, try something new, I get that rush of having done something really cool. It's what keeps me going even when it's rough. I do still keep my hand in freelance work, however. Never hurts, and it breaks up the day, gives my brain other things to do.
I tend to put a little bit of myself into each of my heroines, it could be a habit, a neurosis, a specific belief system – something. How about you? Do you personalize your heroines that way?
Hmmm. A percentage of mine are redheads or variations thereof. Some have freckles. ;) Some do things I've done, go places I've gone, drive cars that I've owned... That kind of thing. In About Last Night and Friction (HotWires, Bk 2), I did share some of my beliefs or personal feelings in the books. In About Last Night... my heroine is a dog trainer, and she does use dog training techniques and philosophies we use with our own dogs, but I also used that book to put in a good word for Pit Bulls (this is not the breed's name, but how most people recognize the dog I mean). I'm very interested in animal rights, and advocate for education in this area -- too many people have mistaken ideas because of the media. There's no such thing as a mean puppy, and while some dogs have aggressive/protective traits, it's about people who own them, not the breed. If you want to learn more, check out http://www.pbrc.net/breedinfo.html. Sorry, had to get that in -- I feel strongly about this.I own a pit mix, and she's lovely. The best dog I've ever had, and I don't think I'll ever be without one. So a lot of that comes through in About Last Night.... :) In Friction, there's some focus on the environment of the lower Chesapeake Bay, something I know very well and care about as I did a lot of my master's research there for Geography. Every book in the HotWires series is reflective of time I spent in and studying that location. You'll see several books in New England and Cape Cod, my favorite places.
Which character that you've written is the most like you – and which is the least?
Sarah Jessup in Friction is probably least like me -- she's the wounded, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners, heroine and she's very tough. Very. Readers and reviewers LOVED her, which was funny to me, because she wouldn't be a gal I'd probably hang out with. She probably wouldn't be too crazy about me, either. The one I am most like? That's harder... Probably Lauren in Pick Me Up. She had a lot of phobias, including heights and horses, which I do as well, but I think her personality was the most similar to how I see my own, with a little bit of Joy from Talking in Your Sleep thrown in, because I'm probably a little more uptight than Lauren, but not as tightly wound as Joy. Then there is Miranda in About Last Night... she's maybe more daring than I am, but her dog relationships are definitely me. ;)
Do you focus more on character, or on plot?
I tend to start with plot, which is good, because you know, we have to have a story. ;) But plot will only take you so far, you have to have both plot and character, so I work on them concurrently, like most writers do. I think you need a good balance of both, but I'd say character is definitely more work for me, comes harder. Maybe because people are complex, and building good ones is tough. ;) Most of my revising is about characters -- I am always deepening or changing them altogether, where my plots stay relatively the same from the beginning.
Care to share any juicy little secrets about TALKING IN YOUR SLEEP, your December Blaze release?
Four words: Naked Christmas Tree Decorating. :) I'll leave it at that.
In keeping with the Bandita’s holiday recipe fun, Sam shared one of her favorite family recipes:
Corn Stuff (as we affectionately call it)
1 can creamed corn1 can whole kernel corn
1 Pack Jiffy Cornbread mix (small blue and white box)
1 stick of butter, melted
1/3 cup sour cream
Drain the kernel corn, and spray a 8 -10 in round casserole dish with nonstick spray. Mix all of the ingredients right in the dish, bake at 350 for about an hour until golden and make sure the center is cooked. Easy and yum. :) Make double, because it will go fast!
Oh yeah... I can so see making this for those holiday brunches!!!
And mine – a super simple, incredibly delicious fudge recipe:
2 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 snickers candy bars, chopped up
1 can chocolate frosting
Line a square pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Melt the chocolate chips in a pan over medium heat, stirring so they dont' burn
When melted, stir in the frosting and all but a couple tablespoons of the chopped candy bars, blend well.
Spread in foil-lined pan, then sprinkle with remaining candy.
Refrigerate for at least an hour, cut into squares, eat up.
I can't wait for a quite couple hours to curl up and read Sam's latest book, myself. Of course, given the craziness of the season, thats not looking like it'll happen. Maybe if I ask Santa? How about you... if you could ask Santa for any one thing this year -- what do you want?
Share your holiday wish, or any questions or comments for Sam in the comments section and she'll pick one lucky winner to receive a copy of her book, UNTOUCHED!
Happy Holidays ;-)