I’m so pleased to host Marilyn Baxter today. Marilyn has so many helpful insights to share, from where to get inspiration to balancing everything, to fine-tuning the writing process. After hearing her thoughts on the writing life, especially the need to forget about the rules, I feel motivated to work on my draft…I hope you do too!
And it gets even better! Marilyn is giving away TWO digital copies of her newest release, PICTURE THIS!!! For a chance to win, leave a comment here; like or comment on the Facebook page, Romance Debuts; or tweet @romancedebs. The winners will be announced Sunday.
How long have you wanted to be a romance writer?
After discovering romance novels in 2001 and reading at least 4-5 a week, I decided to try my hand at writing one in 2004. I’d been published in non-fiction in a professional journal back in the 70’s, but I wanted to try my hand at this happily-ever-after stuff. I got the first three chapters written and dithered around with them until NaNoWriMo of 2008 when I declared in front of my RWA chapter that I was going to participate and finish the book. I got my 50,000 words done but the book wasn’t quite finished. I got it completed a few months later just in time to submit it to an online pitch contest where I was a finalist, got a request for the full manuscript and was rejected. I sold that book, DIRECT DEPOSIT, to Boroughs Publishing Group in 2013, and it was released earlier this year.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Everywhere! DIRECT DEPOSIT came about when I saw a news article about online sperm banks. PICTURE THIS features a secondary character from DIRECT DEPOSIT. She’s a family law attorney, and I work for a family law firm. Rest assured, I never EVER breach client confidentiality, but some situations I run across in old case files spark ideas. Usually I’ll have a character in mind and then decide what is the worst situation I can put them in and who is the worst love interest for them. And I go from there.
Describe your writing process.
S-L-O-W. I get an idea and I mull it over. I figure out who the characters are, what their backgrounds are, what their parents named them, where they live and what they do for a living. Many times it’s their profession that sparks the whole idea. For example a future project will feature a massage therapist who is also a Reiki practitioner because (1) I love to get massages and (2) I’m a second degree Reiki practitioner myself. Then I work out each character’s goal, motivation and conflict, and I come up with the Black Moment that drives them apart. From there I work back to the start and on to the resolution. Yeah, weird. I’m somewhat of a plotter. I use a Word table and create a section for each chapter and briefly describe what happens in each chapter. Then I pants my way from there. Once I get to The End, I go back to the beginning and revise until it’s where I think it should be, and I send it to my editor. Because I have a part-time day job, I usually write at night. My mornings are spent with housework, bill-paying, doctor’s appointments, obligations to other things. After work I come home, get into my writer’s uniform (AKA pajamas) and either write at my desk on the desktop PC or in my recliner on my laptop.
How do you fit your writing into the rest of your life?
I have to make an effort not to let the rest of my life overrun the writing part. I’m involved in my church, a Red Hat group and I have both writing friends I get together with as well as non-writing friends. And there’s the day job. I’ve learned to recognize just how much my plate will hold and say no to things that won’t fit.
How has your life changed as you have published more books?
I’m not rich or famous (yet <wink>), but I do feel a sense of accomplishment because not everyone has written a book, much less had one published. The changes are not so much external as internal. I’m proud of myself, and I have more self-confidence. And I’ve gained a whole new set of friends through my publisher, Boroughs Publishing Group. At the RWA conference in New York City this past summer, I got to know a lot of the other writers and had fun sightseeing and going out to eat with them.
What is the single most important thing an unpublished writer should do to get published?
Simple as it might sound, write. You cannot get published unless there is something to publish.
Where is the best place to go for writing advice?
I have found Romance Writers of America to be an invaluable source of solid writing advice. The annual conference, the online workshops, my local chapter and the members who were already published before I was have all contributed bits of advice here and there. And all that advice has added up to where I am now. I highly recommend joining RWA and also a local chapter if you have one. The local chapter gets you with other writers on a regular basis, and these are the people who “get” you and understand the voices in your head.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Finish the book!” As I said before, without a book, there’s nothing to publish. Another sage piece of advice was “Forget the rules.” I’d heard so many rules about what you should or shouldn’t do that I became almost paralyzed. A good writing friend who was already multi-published told me to just write my story and then let whoever bought it tell me if it needed to be changed. That piece of advice was freeing. The words began to flow again. And the piece of advice I’d like to offer anyone who reads this is, “Don’t try to compare yourself to anyone else.” Every writer has his/her own process, voice and ultimate path to publication. Comparison is only a road to disappointment.
Who’s your favorite debut author?
I’m currently reading a NA romantic suspense called HOT SHADE by Tamara Lush. It’s set in Florida and is about a young, eager newspaper reporter and a hot, sexy Italian guy with secrets. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and only wish I had time to just read to the end. But there’s MY work in progress and the day job and the… well, you get the idea.
Can you imagine having a different career? What would it be?
I would love to be a tour guide and take other folks who like to travel all around the US and the world and show them all the magnificent sights there are out there.
When it comes to relationships, Tess Callahan is gun-shy. An ambitious Atlanta divorce attorney, she’s seen the aftermath of relationships gone bad, which is why she has no time in her life for any man except for Nick Russo. Handsome and exciting, he’s the perfect choice to give her all she desires—including the fact he’s never around long enough for things to get complicated. Until suddenly they do.
Nick Russo has the world. His job as a photographer takes him everywhere, and he wouldn’t give that life up for anyone, not even the beautiful and brilliant Tess Callahan. Or so he thinks. An unexpected pregnancy is about to bring everything into focus, a brighter and more colorful world than he ever thought to imagine. The possibilities are endless, and they’re something he can capture not just on film but in reality.
In 2001, Marilyn discovered romance novels quite by accident, which led to a renewed interest in writing. Before having a novella and two full-length novels released, she sold over forty stories published in the confessions and romance magazines.
In addition to reading and writing, Marilyn loves to knit and crochet simple things, cook for one in the crockpot and garden in a few pots on her patio. Her motto is “Have passport, will travel,” and in 2013 added Ireland and Wales to the list of 32 states and 21 foreign countries she has visited.
A native of North Carolina, she came to Huntsville, Alabama by way of Frankfurt, Germany. She has lived there longer than anywhere else and calls it home. After raising two great sons, she loves to dote on her two granddaughters. And somewhere amidst all the above, she fits in a day job as an administrative assistant for a boutique law firm.
My website is www.marilynbaxter.com. From there you can sign up for my newsletter. You can also friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.baxter.372 and join my street team, Baxter’s Belles, at https://www.facebook.com/groups/992618844102430.
Find me on Twitter @marilyn_baxter.