by Gina Lee Nelson
As we cruise into summer, let’s turn our spotlight to one of our hottest authors, Roni Loren. Last year she served as our PAN Liaison, but this year she’s writing three books a year. The first book in her eight-part serial will release this month. Roni is also a current RITA finalist.
Congratulations on being a RITA finalist. How do the RITA awards work?
You enter the contest and submit your books. Then the published authors in RWA act as judges, giving the books scores on different things like the romance, the characterization, the writing, etc. The books with the top scores in each category become the finalists. I'm still a little stunned I'm a finalist. An erotic romance has never finaled in this category before.
What is your writing schedule?
My son goes to preschool from noon to four, so typically I do the bulk of my writing in the afternoons. I try to only write on weekdays (unless my deadline is creeping up on me) because I want to keep that for family time. And I set daily word goals through Scrivener based on my deadline date and total word count. Most days, I'm aiming to write 2k words. But my output can vary from 1k-4k depending.
What led to your first sale?
While I was waiting to hear back from Harlequin on a short romance I'd submitted to them, I decided to chase this idea I had for an erotic novel. I was a little nervous writing something so sexy, but I figured no one would ever read it, so why not. LOL. During that time I was also blogging regularly and engaging with other writers on social media. A fellow blogger contacted me after I'd posted a small snippet of my book and told me that her agent was looking to sign more romance writers. She gave me a referral to her agent, Sara Megibow. Sara read the first three chapters in a day, requested the full the next, and within a week offered to represent me. We revised some then went on submission with publishers about two months later. Two weeks after being on submission, Berkley Heat (my top choice) made an offer for a two-book deal. I haven't looked back since.
Critique group or Beta readers? How did you find them and do you still need them?
I was in an online critique group before I had an agent. It was a HUGE help and I recommend critique partners to all writers. I found my original group through blogging (Are you seeing a trend? Blogging has been very good to me.) They were a great bunch of ladies. I believe three have since gotten book deals. The group was very tough and no one held back an opinion. It was great training to get the tough skin necessary in this business. I'm not still in that group. I couldn’t keep up with the commitment because of time constraints. I have to write quickly and don't have the ability to wait for a group to crit a chapter a week. I usually don't have time for much feedback at all because I finish a book and need to turn it in to my editor immediately. When I do have a little time, I do have a few beta readers I can send things to. I also have a good author friend who I met before we were both published, and we've both gone on the journey together. We're each other's sounding boards and talk nearly daily. We'll read each other's stuff and give advice or support. That's been invaluable.
What challenges did you have to overcome to write? What challenges still exist?
Well, I was lucky that I was already staying at home with my son when I decided to go back to writing so I didn't have an official day job to contend with. But writing with a toddler, who happened to have some special needs, was its own challenge. For that first book, I remember writing really hot sex scenes with Barney playing in the background. LOL. Now he's older and going to school part of the time, which has helped a lot. I also had a ticking clock on me. When I decided to go back to writing, my husband and I decided that I could try it until my son went to kindergarten. If I wasn't making a living at it by then, I would need to return to a day job. (We'd never planned for me to be a stay at home mom.) So there was that financial pressure looming. But I'm happy to say that my son starts kindergarten this August, and I've reached my goal of making a living at this crazy career in time. (Fingers crossed I can keep it up.)
Are you enjoying writing a serial?
It was a lot of fun, but also a challenge. It made me really think hard about structure because each part had to have its own opening hook, arc, and closing hook. Plus, it's extra pressure because you have to write fifty pages that are good enough that a reader is compelled to buy the next section. In a normal novel, if a reader hits a slower part, they usually will still read through to the end. But if someone hits Part 5 of a serial and gets a little bored, they may never buy the next. You have to micromanage the novel a lot more. (And I'm a pantser, so micromanaging makes me want to breathe into a paper bag.) Having said all that, I'd totally write another.
You’re originally from New Orleans. Are any of your stories set there?
I have a book on the back burner that is set in New Orleans, so I hope to have a series based there one day. I love writing about home because it's such a unique, weird, culturally rich place. What I miss most besides my family is the food, especially the seafood. I weep a little every crawfish season.
In your bio, you confess to an addiction to rock stars. Any plans to write a rock star hero?
That book that's on the back burner is a rock star book, so yes. There are definitely challenges with rock star heroes because there are so many stereotypes about them. But every time I go to a concert, I can't help but wonder what goes on behind the scenes in that world, so that makes me want to write about it.
How much time do you spend on marketing and social media?
I've considered my social media presence an important part of the job from the beginning, but it is hard to keep all the balls in the air when things get busy. I maintain my own website and try to blog at least once a week. I used to be a 5 day a week blogger but writing 3 books a year has made me scale that back. Twitter is my drug of choice. I have that on all the time in the background so I can easily pop in and out throughout my writing day. I'm not as in love with Facebook BUT that's where my pure readers are (as opposed to writer/readers) so I'm trying to do better with having a presence there too. My goal is to post at least one FB update a day, but I'm definitely not 100 percent on that. I have to watch myself because I can be a social media junkie if allowed. Besides the ones I mentioned, I'm also on Google Plus, Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Goodreads... (Yeah, I have a problem.)
This will be your fourth RWA Nationals. What will be some of the high points and challenges?
I'm kind of a conference junkie because I love the whole atmosphere and being around other writers. Plus, I'm a nerd and love workshops. But Nationals is great because I get to see so many of the people I talk to online regularly but only get to see once a year--other writers, my editor, my agent. It's like an annual reunion. The main challenge for me is doing everything I want to do and seeing everyone I want to see and not collapsing from exhaustion. It's a marathon week, and my introvert self is exhausted from all that socializing. It takes at least a week to recover when I get home. LOL.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Oh, there's too many to name. But I've recently been getting into "old school" romances since I didn't grow up reading romance (I read horror and suspense) and missed a lot of the greats. So my new favorites from that bunch have been Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux.
I’m always looking for new favorite books? What are some of yours?
Gah, that's hard too because there are so many. And I'm not a re-reader so there aren't books that I pick up over and over again. But I can say the romances that have stuck with me even if I've only read them once: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux. Favorite childhood book was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. That's the book that made me want to be a writer.
Who influenced you to become a writer?
I think wanting to be a writer was a natural outgrowth of me loving to read so much. And that love of reading was from my mom. She made books a part of my life from early on and was always an avid reader herself. So when I hit high school (and I didn't even realize the romance genre existed), I decided I wanted to write a romantic story. I wrote a 150-page book that I refused to let anyone else read. LOL. But that gave me the bug and it never really went away (even though it had to lay dormant while I worked on another career.)
Thanks, Roni, for sharing your writing journey with us. Fellow NT members, don’t forget to support Roni by visiting her online and buying her books.
- Links -
- Website: www.roniloren.com
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/roniloren
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/roniloren
NOT UNTIL YOU DARE (Not Until You Part 1)
- releasing June 11, 2013 (This is an 8-part e-serial.)
- CRASH INTO YOU
- MELT INTO YOU
- STILL INTO YOU (novella)
- FALL INTO YOU