Romance writers do it…well, with computers, just the like the other writers. They just do it with more fun, more pizzazz, and perhaps with a bit more inspiration.
Today’s author, Kate Rothwell, is the author of 25 romance novels, many of them erotic. She writes her hottest books under the name Summer Devon, which IS a very hot name, when you think of it. (Winter Devon wouldn’t have been nearly as steamy.)
Kate is a member of the Connecticut chapter of Romance Writers of America,which is a wonderful organization that helps writers get their start. Trust me: these women know their way around a plot! And they’re very friendly and generous in sharing their information. They are presenting Fiction Fest, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 12, at the Heritage Hotel in Southbury, CT. Go to their site for more information.
Meanwhile, Kate tells us about her process of writing such heat, and how she came to self-publish, and all about her writing partner, a person she’s never even met. Her latest book was just published April 30.
Tell us about your new book.
My book, Serious Play, which came out April 30 is a joint venture, the sixth book I’ve written with Bonnie Dee. This is our first contemporary romance.
I use two names for my books, Kate Rothwell and Summer Devon. This is a Summer Devon title. I used to only write the hottest books as Summer, but lately most of my work gets published with her name, even the less steamy books.
At the moment, I’m writing another book set in Connecticut. (A book that’s already out, Unnatural Calamities, is set in a fictional town called East Farmbrook. That book started out as an experiment. I began by trying to pile in as many romance clichés as I could into a story, and still tried to end up with a reasonable story. I grew too fond of the characters not to give them a real book.)
Where did the germ of the story come from? How did you first know you were going to write this story?
Bonnie had first go at Serious Play, so the basic set-up was her idea. I put in a lot of work and help steer the action, but the seed of this story came from her. The process is pretty simple: she writes a chapter and sends the manuscript to me. I write one, she writes the next and so on. We read and change each other’s pages as we go along. Here’s the funny thing: we’ve worked on eight books together and have never met or even talked on the phone. I haven’t seen a picture of her so I don’t know what she looks like.
Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?
This book, like most of the books I’ve written with Bonnie, came fast and easy. The last one, our seventh, was tough—and I’m the one who started it. Uh oh.
Do you have a writing process you could share with readers, a way you like to proceed when you’re writing a book?
I’ve written over 25 books and the process changes from book to book. The only consistent factor is that I have a set time I sit down and write. The other characteristic my books have in common: they’re all romances.
Twice a week I go to Barnes and Noble in Farmington, and once a week, I head to La Paloma Sabanera in Hartford–because if I stay home, I lollygag and putter. If I’m working at home and a book is really going badly, I’ll even clean the toilets to avoid it. I won’t do that at Barnes and Noble. I write with at least one other person and her presence stops me from getting up and browsing. We both treat our time together like we’re at our job.
Are you a “pantser” (writing by the seat of your pants, discovering the story as you go along), or do you have the entire plot outlined before you begin? Or something in between?
Somewhere in between. One of my critique partners, Toni Andrews, is a plotter and she has great charts. I’ve watched the process of plotting and it’s amazing and fun, though it’s not for me. I have found that if there’s trouble in a book, I mentally plug the plot or character into one of her charts. But I only do that mentally. If I write down too much information before I start a book then I lose interest. I have learned to make a character bible. It only takes one instance of a brown-eyed character suddenly getting green eyes to learn to keep better track.
How do you get yourself to write when you don’t feel inspired? Is there anything that can bring that mood, or voice, back to you?
I just write anyway. I started out as a journalist so I know how to write on deadline even when the muse is off visiting someone else. It’s a job, so I do it at least a few hours a day. That’s why I usually have more than one story going at a time. If one isn’t flowing, maybe another will. And if I can’t write fiction, well…there’s always the blog or an article I could work on.
When did you first know you were a writer?
I wrote a few literary short stories when I was in school. I even got three of them published. Years ago, when we lived in Maryland, I answered an ad in a magazine that was looking for free-lance writers. Within a couple of years, I worked for the magazine full-time. Eventually I started my own publication with two other women—a paper aimed at kids and parents. When we moved to Connecticut, I left behind that town and all the connections and sources I had there. I started writing fiction instead.
If you weren’t a writer, what job would you like to do?
I think about this a lot on bad days. I never come up with good answers. I’ve been a bartender, a garage service manager, a waitress, a sales clerk. I’d probably go back to the same sort of blue-collar work I wouldn’t have to bring home with me. I was a volunteer ESOL teacher for about ten years—maybe I’d go back to that for actual pay.
What’s your favorite, and least favorite, part of the writing process? One writer describes the “sticky phase,” when everything you see and hear seems destined to slip into your novel somehow. Does that happen to you? Do you love the first draft, or prefer the last revision?
It depends on the book. If writing the story was painful, then editing is often better. Some books flow as if they’re writing themselves. I love those stories! I think the fact that every book seems to have its own process is my favorite part of the process. I don’t know what’ll happen when I sit down to work.
What’s your process of revision? Do you have readers who give you advice? At what point do you enlist their aid?
Sometimes I meet with a couple of critique partners. When I’m done, I usually ask a couple of beta readers to take a look at it. I use a fan who wrote me a letter about a book, listing the mistakes I’d made. I knew I had to enlist her help for future books ASAP.
I have a friend who’s a professional editor and I usually beg her to look at my final copy before I send it off to the editor I hope will buy the book.
Readers tend to think that everything authors write is autobiographical. How do you handle those sorts of questions—people assuming that everything in your book really happened to you?
Since I have written a fair number of erotic romances, I’ve had this conversation before, usually with a giggling person. I point out that I don’t have to murder anyone to write a good murder scene.
Have you ever written a character who’s close to someone you know, and have you worried that that person will be furious with you?
No, I don’t write people I know. There are characteristics of some people, obviously, but I never try to replicate someone real. Just to mess around, I did name a villain after a teacher who had given a bad grade to a kid I know (not one of my kids). I also gave that villain the teacher’s physical characteristics but there is no way in the world anyone could mistake the teacher with the psychotic killer.
Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night to write a scene that simply will not let you rest?
All the time. I’ve dropped my laptop a couple of times because I hauled it up in the dark to write. So now I just scribble on a note pad.
Do you procrastinate? What’s your favorite mode of procrastination when you’re supposed to be writing?
The internet! Facebook, twitter, pinterest, blogs, tvtropes.com . . . Every site on the internet is out to get me and sap away my time.
What about being a writer has made you truly happy?
Depends on the day. If I get a letter from a fan, then I am focused on the finished product. Usually, though, I enjoy the process. I get to sit around and think about stories and characters and solve problems. It’s just like being a kid playing Let’s Imagine.
What do you tell people who want to be writers, too?
Remember the phrase: BICHOK, butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Sit down and write. And then sit down again and edit. If you’re in it because you want money, you might want to buy scratch tickets instead. Both writing and the lottery can bring in great results but if you want a sure thing, neither is the answer.