Monday, February 25, 2008

SURVIVOR—Who’s left on the American Title island?

by KJ Howe

Reality television has infiltrated the literary world with the American Title competition—talented writers vie with each other to impress fans with excerpts from their novels and the author with the most votes conquers the literary island! Our very own Bandita, Trish Milburn, has made the top two with her paranormal romance, Out of Sight. Please visit to vote or click on the American Title on the sidebar. Trish has had an unbelievable year, selling a traditional romance to Harlequin American and a Young Adult novel to Razorbill (Penguin). You may ask, “Who is this masked Bandita and how is she swashbuckling through the romance industry?” Let’s get Trish to answer a few of your questions!

KJ: First of all, congrats on making the top two of American Title. Your writing has obviously stood out as judges and voters alike are raving about your work. What do you like best about your hero and heroine in Out of Sight? And—give us the low-down on their faults. After all, the more interesting the faults, the more tantalizing the characters!

TM: Jenna, my heroine, has a special place in my heart because she’s tough and insists on being herself even when it might be easier to not be. Because of her special ability – she can make herself invisible – she’s recruited to work for a secret government agency. The catch? She doesn’t have a choice. If she doesn’t comply, her worst fears of becoming a government lab rat might come true. But she’s not going to just play Miss Meek Mouse. She balks on occasion, dictating her own terms even when the hero, Daniel, who is an agent for the secret agency, thinks she’s lost it and pushed his superiors too far. And even when she’s quaking inside despite her outward appearance. I guess this reason I admire her might also be seen as a fault because she finds it near impossible to trust anyone who works for the federal government, even when that person (like Daniel) might be on her side. Her distrust stems from the fact that her father once worked for the government in covert ops, but after he went missing the government refused to admit he’d ever worked for them.

As for Daniel, he’s sexy, is a fun mixture of serious about his job and a teasing smart aleck. He’s the perfect match for Jenna, even though she’d rather eat live worms than admit it. Perhaps his biggest fault is not questioning the why behind his own ability and the agency’s mission more.

KJ: You wrote 17 manuscripts and finaled 8 times in the Golden Heart (winning twice!) before selling. During that time, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned about the publishing industry?

TM: That you just have to keep at it. Perseverance is key to achieving that dream of publishing. After so many years of going to workshops, reading craft books, learning about the industry, and trying to improve my work with each new manuscript and each set of revisions, it was hard to keep going after so many “no, thank you” rejections. But we’ve probably all thought about quitting at some point. The thing is to not allow yourself to act on that thought if you really, really want to see your books on store shelves. It’s like athletes who fight through pain and injury for their one chance at the Olympics. Eventually, you will find the right editor at the right time with the right project.

KJ: Given that you write Young Adult, Traditional Romance, Paranormal Romance, and Romantic Suspense, what rituals do you have before sitting down to write to get those different voices down? Do you listen to different music, dress in unique clothes? Please give us the scoop.

TM: Honestly, I tend to watch TV shows or movies in the same genre to get the mood and feel. I have always loved TV and movies; I connect with them and the stories they present. They seep into my subconscious and put me in the right mood. For instance, if I’m getting ready to write YA, I’ll watch shows like Gossip Girl or Smallville or movies like 10 Things I Hate About You or The Prince and Me. That gets me to thinking “teen.” Same thing for the other sub-genres.

KJ: A Firefighter in the Family will be coming out September 2008. Your first Harlequin American. What is it about this line that appeals to you?

TM: I enjoy so many different sub-genres of romance that mix in other elements with the romance, but it’s nice to have a place to present stories that are just pure romance. A Firefighter in the Family has a bit of a mystery going on, but it’s dialed way back from some of my grittier romantic suspense manuscripts. Nobody is finding dead bodies in the woods. :-)

KJ: Adventure is as passion of mine as is nature—and you have combined those two in your YA novel Heartbreak River that comes out in Spring 2009. Can you tell us a little about your rafting experiences? I had the opportunity to raft in Pennsylvania and can’t wait to tackle it again!

TM: LOL! This is where my ability to research comes in rather than real-world experience. In reality, I’d be scared to death of getting in a raft and getting anywhere near whitewater. That’s actually good because I tapped into that fear for part of the story. Part of my fear comes from the fact that I can’t swim (Trish’s embarrassing admission of the day); part comes from the fact that I’m just a wienie. That’s why I like to write about tough gals who can take on anything physically. They can do things that I doubt I ever will. But while my idea of adventure is driving cross-country by myself (I have no problem doing that), I do love nature and being outdoors. Actually, I have this dream of through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, but that is not my dear hubby’s idea of a good time. :-) Heartbreak River is set in Colorado, and I drew inspiration during the writing of the book by simply looking out the window of the Amtrak train I was taking from my home in Tennessee to California. It was so cool to write about the river and rafting as the train meandered along the Colorado River.

KJ: I heard y’all from Nashville, the site for RWA’s National conference for 2010. Planning ahead is always fun. Can you give us a list of must-see sights when we venture into the land of country music?

TM: Of course, if you like country music, the Grand Ole Opry is a must-attend show, and it’s conveniently located next door to the Opryland Hotel where the conference is being held. You can also do one of those bus tours where they take you around to see the country music stars’ homes. A few years ago, they opened up the brand new Country Music Hall of Fame downtown, which replaced an older museum that was on Music Row, which is where a lot of the country music-related businesses are based.

For me, however, I love the historic homes and buildings in Nashville. Belle Meade is a plantation which has a thoroughbred horse raising history. Kentucky Derby winners such as Secretariat and Barbarro have bloodlines stretching back to when Belle Meade was active in the horse business. Historic Carnton Plantation was used as a field hospital during the bloody Battle of Franklin during the Civil War. One of my favorite places here is The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson. A truly unique place to visit in Nashville is The Parthenon, the centerpiece of our Centennial Park. It is the only reproduction of Greece’s Parthenon in the world. Built in 1897 for the state’s Centennial Exposition, The Parthenon also houses a 42-foot statue of Athena and a city art museum. There’s a lot more to see, so you might want to take time to visit the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau site before arriving in Music City USA.

KJ: Thanks for joining us today, Trish, and best of luck in the finals of American Title. If you would like to learn more about our intrepid finalist, visit where you will have a chance to win free books!

TM: Thanks, KJ! It was a fun interview. And thanks for all the support given to me by my fellow Banditas and all of you fabulous people out there in Banditaland. :-)


hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Trish, when are we going to know when you win? Notice I said when not if.

Joan said...


You're a shoe in (quick, bar the doors! Tawny and Anna S. might have heard the word "shoes")
for a big win in the American Title!

I'll soon be able to say "I knew her when" LOL

Hey, being only a couple hundred miles up the road in Louisville I can't WAIT for RWA in Nashville. If you're still on the Board could you PLEASE get them to get Keith Urban to perform? At a lunch? At the award? In my room?

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Whoa!!!!!! Do I get the GR?? At night????? How cool is this?

flchen1 said...

Can't wait to hear the news, Trish! In the meantime, I'm crossing things (after having voted, of course ;))!

Gillian Layne said...

Kim, great interview! Trish, this must be your year. What a remarkable story of persistence, and obviously talent.

I'll hyperventilate just reading your YA; I'm not a in-the-water gal! But it sounds amazing, as does the H. American--I love those stories!

And Nashville??? (happy dance) As a Midwest gal, I can say I'll be there, early even, with bells on! :)

jo robertson said...

Go, Trish!

Great interview, KJ! Trish, thanks for giving us a run-down on the sights in Nashville. I've only been once and was only able to take in the Grand Ole Opry, so I'm looking forward to that.

Yay, Dianna, you DID win!

doglady said...

Congrats on nabbing the GR from the Aussies, Dianna!!

Great interview, Trish! Like Fichen I cannot wait to hear that you won. And you are going to win!!

I am definitely planning on hitting RWA in Nashville and I am making plans to see you in May Trish in Huntsville! Wonder if we'll have chicken at the luncheon? Don't tell the GR!!!

I just love reading about your persistence and never say die attitude about your writing. Gives me hope and tells me I need to step it up and keep at it!

Joan said...

Oh, wanted to second Trish's recommendation on The Hermitage. Beautiful, beautiful spot.

Trish Milburn said...

Dianna, they will announce the winner at the Romantic Times conference in mid-April. And congrats on snagging the GR!

Thanks for the support, Joan. And LOL on Keith Urban performing. That'd certainly be cool.

flchen1, thanks for the vote!

Gillian, I understand the hyperventilating in water thing. I've tried to learn to swim a few times, and I tend to freak when my head goes below water. I think lots of people will be able to get to Nashville for the conference. It's a good location for so many members.

Jo, would you believe I've lived here since 1995 and not been to the Opry? I know, heresy!

Trish Milburn said...

doglady, that's awesome that you're coming to the reader event in Huntsville. Definitely look me up. And LOL on having chicken at the luncheon. :) Thanks for your belief that I'll win the AT. We'll see, but it'd definitely be great, especially after making it this far.

And definitely keep at the writing. I'm going to be the queen of preaching persistence.

Trish Milburn said...

Okay, everyone, I'll respond to the rest of the comments tomorrow evening. I'll be on the road Monday and will check in from my hotel when I stop for the day.

Donna MacMeans said...

Well, I, for one, will be in the audience ready to cheer loudly for Trish when the winner of the contest in annouced at RT. Don't they also do a poster of the cover of the book for the winner? I'm curious how Dorchester will handle an invisible heroine. As you know, Berkley said my heroine had to be 100% visible on the cover - moon or no moon. *g* I trust their judgement, though. Heaven knows they've been in this business longer than me.

Nashville is a cool place. I first met Trish there about eight years ago. Kismet that we ended up banditas together. Who knew?

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey Dianna - Congrats on the GR. Best keep the dalmation away. Our GR is a feisty bird.

Helen said...

Congrats on the GR Dianna

Trish I have voted already way to go you work so hard and your writing is fantastic you really deserve to win.

Graet post Ladies.
Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

KJ and Trish, fantastic interview. KJ, you ask the BEST questions! Trish, I've said it before, but a huge congratulations on being one of the last two standing in ATIV!!! I'm not surprised, I thought your entry stood out as exceptional right from the start. And I still feel that way. Good luck!

Vote for Trish, everyone! You just need to click on the button in the Banditas Wanted column. How easy is that?

Trish, I'd be interested to know what you've learnt from the competition.

Dianna, congrats on the bird. He's got quite a tan after his stay in lovely warm subtropical Queensland, hasn't he?

Christine Wells said...


Trish, I'm so excited you're in the final two. It's so satisfying to see the best entry rising to the top.

KJ, Anna's right--you do the best interviews! Thanks to you both and best of luck to Trish.

Dianna, I really thought I'd be three times lucky, but the GR must have seen the rain coming and skedaddled. Love your avatar, btw!

MaryF said...

You are SO not a wienie!!! Good luck!!!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

We have to wait until April for you to win?? Okay, fine, I can wait that long, I am a patient person.
Donna, I think the Dalmation can hold his own it is my two cats that go into hiding when the GR hits the door. He gives them the looks and they disappear.
Anna, I think the GR is a little mad at me, there is NO sunshine in WV at the moment and I didn't lay in a very large supply of Vodka. I did find some champagne and wine though. He may forgive me.
Christine after talking with the GR you are not going to believe why he decided to move on for a while. He says he was putting on a little weight at your house. He said he really hated to go but you take such good care of him he was getting just a little lazy and thought he should come here for some more training. Problem is I don't know exactly what P226 did for his training, he is here in WV but I am not sure where those mines are. He will just have to go to the office again today. That should train him for something.

Deb Marlowe said...

Many, many congratulations on all of your success, Trish! We can't wait to hear about your win--but mostly we can't wait to read your books!

Kim Howe said...

Thanks for stopping by to encourage Trish today. We really appreciate your support! If you can encourage your buddies to vote, I know it will mean a lot to Trish.

Donna, to answer your question, there is a ceremony at RT where the winnner receives roses and a tiara while her cover is revealed. It's darn exciting and I can't wait to see Trish win! I'll be there cheering beside you.

Anna and Christine, thanks for the kudos on the questions...maybe I missed my calling as a journalist. LOL

Dianna, congrats on the GR!!!

Christie Kelley said...

Great interview, KJ.

Trish, I'll be there at RT cheering you on!

jo robertson said...

Oh, Trish, surely not! But I guess you have to like country music (which I don't really, but the whole cultural icon thing was something I couldn't miss).

BTW, I too want to remark on how your persistence in your writing career is an inspiration to unpubs who might be tempted to give up after a few bumps on the writing road.

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

Everyone in MCRW is so proud of Trish and we're confident she'll win the American Title.

Yay, Trish!

terrio said...

Gosh, April seems awful far off but now that I look at the calendar, it's not far at all. Wow.

Great interview. I voted sometime last week. Can't wait to see the pics of you in your tiara. LOL!

And thanks for the "stick with it" words. When I think about it in terms of really just getting started, it doesn't seem so bad. Ha, I've got years to go...

terrio said...

I forgot to mention I used to live in Nashville. In fact, I worked at the Opryland Hotel but more at the amusement park that used to be there. I loved that place and I CANNOT WAIT for the conference to be there. If you haven't seen that hotel, you will never believe your eyes. I can't even describe it.

Cassondra said...

Trish, it's truly gratifying to see someone stick with this game for a long time, and then explode into the industry in this way. I always said, "Trish will be a huge star" when you sold because you've got a lot of manuscripts to offer. There's no "oh-oh, now what do I do" when they buy your only one....You've never stopped working and building that catalog of stories and you deserve every bit of this amazing past year, and the year to come, if we have any say!

Nashville is a really cool town. If y'all get a night free, and you want to experience the inside of the music industry, you should hit one of the songwriter clubs where the writers play their newest songs (and some mega-hits that you'll already know too). It's the coolest thing about Nashville to me--there's a creative vibe that hangs around the music industry that I haven't felt anywhere else--and the place to feel that energy is the songwriter clubs where you're surrounded by amazing levels of creativity. I can't wait for everybody to come to Nashville. WHAT a rush. (I'm only 40 minutes from downtown).

KJ, great interview!
Oh, and Joanie, I'm thinkin' Keith has a thing for redheads, ya know? But do you know he's short? Shorter than me! That's short! He's a cutie though.

Beth said...

Trish, congrats on your success - I just know you're going to be the next AT winner!

Great interview, KJ. I love hearing about Trish's upcoming books! Can't wait to read them all :-)

Aunty Cindy said...

Altogether now: VOTE FOR TRISH!!!

Yes, I already did, because as someone else mentioned, it was obvious from the start that her story was OUTSTANDING! I've rounded up at least a dozen other votes for you too, Trish! Wish I could be there to see you take the big prize, but somebody has to stay here and guard the Lair.;-)

Thanx for the great interview, KJ! And CONGRATS to Dianna on enticing the GR back to WV. Send him out with the Dalmation to run a few laps. That should get him back on the fitness track.

who wants to be nowhere near any fitness track

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Trish! Great interview! Can't wait to see you sweep off with the american title win! And I can't wait to see your books on the shelves! Go Bandita!

Joan said...


Shorter than 5'2"????

I'm friends with the first winner of the Dorchester/RT contest...not sure they called it AI back then. Renee Halverson won for a western historical. It was at the Orlando RT and she told me they announced the winner by unveiling the mock up of the book cover. She said she went into shock and her friends had to help her to the stage.

My one CP is going to RT..I'm gonna ask her to take pics of your moment.

Keira Soleore said...

Trish, you're the epitome of perseverance. If ever there's a role model for AYU writers, you're it. Amazing run up to the finals. And I'm so-so-so rooting for ya to win it.

Sounds like there's a Bandita outing in the planning stages for National 2010. Whoopee! Nashville is one city I'm dying to visit, and I know it won't happen without this incentive of the conference to visit.

Congratulations, Dianna, you got the rooster. Crawk! :)

catslady said...

I tried to vote but got an error? Maybe if I try later. Great interview.

Trish Milburn said...

Donna, they do show a cover for the winning book. That would be so cool!

Thanks for the vote, Helen.

Thanks, Anna. What have I learned? It's a good introduction to reviews and handling stress. :)

Thanks, Christine.

Mary, I am too a wienie. :)

Dianna, LOL on the GR's weight gain.

Thanks, Deb.

Kim, are you serious about the roses and tiara or are you pulling my leg?

Trish Milburn said...

Christie, thanks. It's going to be such fun to see so many Banditas at RT.

Hey, Marie-Nicole, a chaptermate, is stopping by. Wasn't the retreat fun this weekend?

terrio, thanks. This tiara thing is kind of funny. Cool that you used to live in Nashville. I loved Opryland Themepark and miss it. There's a giant mall there now -- nice mall, but I still miss the park.

Trish Milburn said...

Cassondra, I don't know about being a huge star. I'll be satisfied with gainfully employed. :)

Beth, Aunty Cindy and Susan, thanks so much for all the support.

Aw, Keira, what a nice thing to say. Thanks.

catslady, weird on the error. Maybe the Banditas broke the system. :)

Kim Howe said...


I'm really not kidding about the tiara and roses. I was there last year when Jenny Gardiner made her speech and was presented roses and a tiara by the Dorchester editors. They were a class act all the way. They have a huge poster-sized version of the book cover that they unveil in front of everyone at the RT awards luncheon. It's a VERY big deal. So...let's get out there everyone and keep those votes coming in for Trish. We want our Bandita to be crowned!!!

Anonymous said...

And then there were TWO.

Good luck Trish.

Nancy said...

Dianna, congratulations on grabbing the GR!

This was a great interview, y'all. Trish, you're a poster child for persistence. Out of Sight looks wonderful, and I can't wait to read it. I share Anna Campbell's curiosity about what you learned during the competition.

Fingers crossed!

Caren Crane said...

Congrats, Dianna! Trish and KJ, sorry to be so tardy. I have voted in American Title and can't wait until the conference is in Nashville. I went on many a field trip to Fort Nashboro, the Hermitage and Cheekwood!

Congrats on being left on the island, Trish. Can't wait for the final announcement!!