Friday, April 29, 2011
FEATURED AUTHOR: L.S. Childers
L.S. Childers is a native of the Washington, D.C. area, and since early childhood she knew she wanted to be a writer. She attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied journalism, starting out as a crime reporter for a small local newspaper. She is currently an editor at a trade journal in Virginia.
She enjoys painting, watching comedies, and will read virtually anything written by Stephen King or Dean Koontz.
She currently resides in Maryland with her husband and her cat, Barty.
Her debut novel, The Right Maneuver, was released in April. Her work also has appeared in two short-story collections, All That and Then Some and Trippin’ Over Love.
How did you start out your writing career?
I’ve been writing stories in notebooks since I was 10 years old, but my writing career officially began when I was 19-years-old. I was one of four finalists for BET Books First-Time Writers contest. I entered the contest under my mom’s urgings. She had read my work for years and told me it was good enough to get published. I didn’t think I had a slim chance of winning, but I figured it was worth a try. I didn’t win the grand prize, but the short story I submitted was published in the book, All That and Then Some!, as a runner-up prize.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned more about campaigning. When I was a beat reporter, I did stories on a few election campaigns, going to polls to talk to voters and following congressmen, mayors and councilmen around. But to write this story, I knew I had to do more research to make it even vaguely believable. I read books on campaigning and how to start a campaign, and who’s responsible for what. The Right Maneuver isn’t meant to be a true reflection of an election, but I felt comfortable that it came reasonably close enough so the readers wouldn’t feel the book was insulting their intelligence.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
I wanted to do a sexy political drama and I feel I achieved that. I think politics is inherently filled with drama and intrigue. So if you throw in two attractive people from opposing sides during a campaign and make them attracted to one another, you just watch the sparks fly.
Which character did you have the most fun writing about?
All the characters were fun, but I enjoyed writing from the perspective of the male lead, Will Blake, the most. It’s always interesting to get into a guy’s head. I kept asking my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time that I wrote the novel), “What do you think a guy would say in this instance? Do you think this response is realistic?” I have to force myself to take off my “woman hat” and try to think like them.
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
I was surprised that the saga continues even after your book is finally published. You struggle for years, getting rejections from publishers and agents and you finally get a yes and here comes the really hard part. You go through edits, which can be useful but challenging. You start wondering about sales, whether readers and reviewers will like it. You have self-promotion to consider. In the midst of that, you’re engaged in your day-to-day life and trying to write more books. It can be complicated but…it’s still a blessing.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I love coming up with an idea and just feeling it flow out of me as I sit at the computer. When I write, I feel like I’m watching a movie in my head. I’m just typing what I see.
The hardest part is all the drama that comes after you write the book — all the little things it takes to get it on a store shelf: pitching the novel, waiting for responses, getting rejection letters, etc. It can really take its toll on you, but you have to persevere and believe in your work and yourself.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
1) Take advantage of opportunities. They may not come around again. When I had my first romance short-story published by the now defunct BET Books, I was young and kind of immature about the business and took it for granted that I would be able to keep publishing work. I took a break from writing for a few years to finish college and start my first journalism job out of school, but when I came back to novel writing, I found it incredibly hard to get my work published again. It was like the previous anthologies never happened. I had to start from the beginning. I’ve resolved not to make that same mistake twice.
2) Get an advocate. You don’t have to have an agent, but I think it’s better if you have someone who can take on the brunt of the business and promotional side of writing for you and make sure they have your back. Some writers are good business people and self-promoters. I’m not one of them. It gives me a headache! I’m currently looking for an agent for those reasons.
3) There are going to be highs and lows, no matter what. You just have to take it all in stride and remember what you’re doing it for.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
I think the one do for a writer is always have multiple arrows in your quiver, or in other words, always have multiple novels written and ready to go. I know some writers who work on the same novel forever, trying to perfect it, and pitch the same novel over and over again. Even if an agent or publisher rejects one of your novels, it doesn’t mean they will reject another. I usually pitch multiple stories. Also, a lot of publishers like you to release one to two stories a year. I hate writing fiction under intense deadline. I like to be able to deliver stories I know I worked on as long as I wanted. I want it to be in the strongest state it could be when I send it to them. Having another book waiting in the wings helps me to do that.
One big don’t for writers would be don’t be unwilling to adapt. If you feel strongly about your story or what type of writer you envision yourself to be, that’s good, but you still have to remember that it’s a business and publishers, editors, and agents are looking for stories that will sell. Don’t make endless compromises that could make you hate your work, but be willing to take some feedback. After all, the point is not only to write a book, but to get on a shelf and have readers buy it.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
When I told friends and family that I was finally getting a book published, many assumed I was making lots of money from the sale of the manuscript. After I stopped laughing, I explained to them that lots of writers still have full-time jobs. Advances are a lot smaller than they were 20 years ago. Many writers do it for the love of the craft — not for money. If you’re going to become a writer, don’t do it with a big paycheck in mind.
If you could be a character from any book you’ve read, who would you be?
I haven’t wanted to be a character in a book in a long time, but I can say that the character that made me fall in love with romance novels and who I daydreamed about was the character Zoya from the Danielle Steele novel by the same name. She starts out in the book as a teenage aristocrat in Russia, loses everything including her family during the revolution, becomes a ballet dancer, falls in love and loses love but always perseveres. I thought it was a beautiful story. I remember reading that novel with I was 14 and wanting that to be my life.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to paint. It’s my other creative outlet. I prefer to work with oil-based paints, rather than watercolor or acrylic. My house is filled with my work and I’ve done paintings for relatives and friends, at their request. I’m no Van Gogh, but they don’t look too bad.
Also, to lose weight and get healthier, I took up running a few years ago. As a writer and editor, you do a lot of sitting in front of the computer. It’s good to be active sometimes. I’ve started signing up for 5-K races and 5-milers, running a few times a week to train. It’s fun.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
Right now, I’m doing very little to interact with my readers, unfortunately. I set up a blog and posted my email address to hear from them, but so far I haven’t scheduled any readings or signings. I feel like it’s a little early for something like that. I don’t have an established audience. Maybe I’ll do a few readings and signings after my second book.
Our theme for this month is Ebooks. Do you own an ereader and if so, what the last book you downloaded? If you don’t own an ereader, do you see yourself purchasing one in the future?
I don’t have an ereader but I might buy one in the future. I’m on the fence about the e-format. I really love to read paperbacks and hardbacks. I love how the pages are formatted and the glossy covers. It feels more substantial, more tangible. Also, as a fiction writer and magazine editor I spend a tremendous amount of time sitting in front of a computer all day. It’s nice to take a break from the computer screen. But I also think it’s great that people have the option to download books right away. I know Genesis Press just started offering books in ebook format. The Right Maneuver is one that debuted as an ebook before it was released in paperback.
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
I know for sure that even if I never sold another book, I’d still keep writing. This has been a compulsion of mine since I was a kid. I’ve got plots and characters in my head that I just have to get out, no matter whether the stories make it to bookshelves. It’s just a bonus to have other people read these stories.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
My next novel, A Love Built to Last, had a fun inspiration. I’m a big fan of style television. I thought, “What would it be like if spliced Kimora Lee Simmons from Life in the Fab Lane (from the Style Network) with Rachel Zoe from The Rachel Zoe Project (from the Bravo Network) and then turned up the attitude several notches?” That’s how you get the feisty heroine, Melody Cannon, a successful fashion stylist.
Here’s the pitch I gave to Genesis Press:
Whatever Melody Cannon wants, Melody Cannon gets — or least that has been the case for the past decade. The famous Hollywood stylist is used to giving orders, but when Melody takes an early retirement from Tinseltown and returns home to the Washington, D.C., area to start a new life, she encounters the irresistible force known as Clayton Reed, a local architect whom she hires to design her new abode. Clayton can think of many words to describe Melody, his childhood nemesis who is now his client. Unfortunately, none of those words are good. He’s a patient man but even he can’t control his temper around her. Despite his dislike for the bossy, hot-tempered vixen, Clayton still feels drawn under her spell. As he designs her new home, he gradually breaks down the defensive walls she has built around her. He does it with a passion and love she has never known.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
Readers can contact me by email at email@example.com. Or they can go to my blog, http://lschildersromance.blogspot.com/.
Keisha Reynolds is a smart, spunky, sexy campaign manager who is not easily intimidated by a challenge. But even Keisha knows when she's in over head after she agrees to help head the campaign of her old college professor Dr. Sydney Parker — a man whom she deeply respects but who is a long-shot win for the congressional seat. The intense campaign takes its toll on the inexperienced campaign manager and Keisha hopes just to make it to Election Day with her sanity and confidence intact.
Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse when she crosses paths with the competition, William Blake, the deputy campaign manager of the seemingly invincible incumbent, Congressman Vincent Dupré. She despises Will but she can’t deny that she feels an overwhelming attraction toward the man, who is as good-looking as he is egotistical and seemingly devious. She tries to deny the magnetism she feels toward him, but knows she is losing the battle. It could lead her to make a big mistake that will cost Parker the election. But Keisha soon discovers that it isn't only lust she has to worry about. Politics can be an ugly game and during the election, an earth-shattering secret is revealed that will shake her to her very core.
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