Nancy, welcome to A Romance Review. I am so glad you could take a few minutes to stop by and chat with us.
Hi Barb. Thanks for having me.
First off could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I've always loved reading - of course. In my case, that led to a degree in English literature (specializing in Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets wouldn't you know). Then I went to work for a newspaper, moved into corporate communications and PR and then finally decided to try writing romance. Along the way I married a man I met in Quebec while we were both struggling to learn French. We eventually married and had two wonderful children. My French is sadly rusty.
The story of how you were "discovered" is an interesting one. Would you mind sharing it with us?
Of course. I had been writing and submitting to Harlequin for a while, focusing on the Temptation and Duets lines. I had an editor there who was being very encouraging and had in fact submitted a Temptation and a Duets to the senior editor. But, as anyone who's been submitting for a while knows, this is a very slow process. In the meantime, I kept writing. And one day I read in the RWR that Harlequin was starting a new line to be called Blaze. As part of the launch they were running a contest. You had to write a ten page love scene and a synopsis of the book. I thought this line sounded like a lot of fun, and I already had an idea for a longer book, so I put a submission together and ended up winning the contest. That was the beginning of my career.
Your submission for the contest, did it eventually become a published book?
Well, the really fun thing was that not only did Harlequin buy the contest entry, which was indeed published -- it's called Live a Little! and was my first Blaze -- but they also bought the Temptation and the Duets that were under consideration. A friend of mine called it a literary hat trick. I love that term.
Can you share with us your feelings upon seeing your first book on the store shelves? How have those first feelings changed from the first time compared to now when you see your finished product in the store?
Oh, I'll never forget it. The first book to come out was the Temptation. It's called Flashback and was published in July, 2001. I didn't know at the time that books sometimes get shelved before the first of the month, so late in June I happened to be shopping in Safeway and of course scanned the romance rack and nearly had a heart attack. There it was. My book! In Safeway!! I just stood there staring at it for ages and then it sank in. I was now a published author. That moment is right up there with gazing at the face of my newborn babies for the first time. I still get a thrill when I first hold a new book in my hands.
What is a typical day like for you when working on a book?
Ha Ha, Ha!! Schedule is one of those words like enema that I tend to avoid. I am horribly bad at self-discipline, can never follow routines and tend to write in insane binges followed by periods of catatonia. Needless to say, this does not make my life easy. I try to write according to a page per day goal. Of course, I don't really follow it, but if I write thirty pages one day and no pages for a few days, it still works out. I feel very strongly about honoring my deadlines, so I just have to make sure that the pages are getting written even if there's not much rhyme or reason to my schedule. My philosophy is that we all create in our own unique fashion and whatever works for a writer is the right way.
Nancy, you are from Canada yet your books are set in the USA. Does this require a lot of research in order to get the settings accurate? Have you traveled much in the US?
Well, I've set several of my books in Canada, but the majority, as you say, are set in the States. Frankly, I think any time you set a book outside your own city or town you need to do research. I rarely write about a place I haven't visited, but I usually need more than my own notes. I'll ask other authors who live in an area for help, I use the Internet of course quite a bit and often call on that time-honored authorial trick of making up a city. Right now I'm working on a book set in a fictional town in Idaho. It's wonderful because I can put things wherever I like. It's my town. The trickiest thing I've tackled so far has been Bad Boys Down Under, a novella collection for Kensington which is set mostly in Australia. I've traveled to Australia and have family there, but I still worked very hard to get the details right. And the language. Right mate?
Nancy you have been nominated for not one but two RITA awards this year. Both Fringe Benefits, a Harlequin Temptation and A Candle For Caroline, a Harlequin Duets have been nominated for this prestigious award. Can you tell us where you were when you heard the news and how you reacted to it?
I live on the west coast, so when I wake up and turn on my computer, the day's half over on the east coast. The day of the Rita calls, I turned on my computer and logged on to hear the good news from a lot of my friends who'd already been called. Oh, well, I thought. I guess it wasn't my year. And then around nine or nine-thirty my time, I got a call from Carol Ferguson who also lives on the west coast. She'd been designated to call all the double finalists. I had met Carol only a month earlier at a conference and we spent some time together so it was fantastic to get the call from a new friend. I suspect everyone who makes the GH and Rita calls wears ear plugs. You just have to scream when you hear that news.
You have written for several of the Harlequin lines. You seem to be concentrating on Harlequin Blaze and Temptations. Why did you choose to focus on these lines? What do you think are the key ingredients to make a best selling book in these lines? What ways if any do you feel the two lines differ?
I think you naturally are drawn to write for the lines you love to read. I'd always loved Temptations. I love the contemporary tone, the sexy feel and a lot of Temptations are very funny which I adore. So I started there. Blaze is longer and steamier, but a lot of fun to write. The difference between a Temptation and a Blaze is partly length. Temptation is 60,000 words and Blaze 75,000. Obviously in a Blaze you've got room for a more intricate plot or even a sub-plot and the sexuality is more intense. I think the same ingredients are key to making any book a best seller. You need a great story, compelling characters and you have to engage the reader's attention and not let go. When I get a letter from a reader that says I kept her up way past her bed time because she couldn't put the book down then I know I've done my job. When I think of the books I've read that I've really, really loved, there's also been something more. I'll be thinking about that book and characters long after I've put the book down. That's magic.
Of your Harlequin work, do you have a favorite book and if so why?
Harlequin has been really good to me. I've had the opportunity to try a variety of lines and I've been invited to do a couple of special projects. Every book has been special in some way, but if I had to pick one book that stands out as a favorite I'd have to pick Whisper, a Blaze from July 02. It's my favorite simply because it was the easiest book I've ever written. I sat down and it just poured out of me. I've never had that experience before or since, but I keep hoping…
You have also started writing for the Kensington Brava imprint. Your first single title from them, Drive Me Crazy was released in February of this year. Although I haven't gotten the chance to read this one yet, I understand that readers and reviewers both loved it. Can you tell our readers a little about this book?
Drive me Crazy is a story of three intertwining relationships. There's the clash of two strong willed characters who drive each other nuts but are wildly attracted to each other, the love-hate relationship of women who are cousins but are as close as sisters, and a second love story about how you sometimes have to go back before you can move forward. Alex, the heroine, is a very sexy librarian who stumbles over a dead body in her library the day after an extremely annoying but undeniably attractive stranger comes to town. Duncan Forbes is the Indiana Jones of the art world and he's on the track of a Van Gogh - missing since World War II -- which he has reason to believe may be in Swiftcurrent, Oregon.
In what ways did the writing of Drive Me Crazy differ from your previous writing? How much time did it take to write this book compared to a Blaze or Temptation?
Drive Me Crazy is the longest book I've ever tackled and the most complex. It took around six months to write, I guess, though with all my books I have to let them percolate for a while before I ever start writing. Whenever I'm working on one book, I'm already mentally stewing over the next one. It's part of my process. A Temptation or a Blaze takes about three months on average. Sometimes less, sometimes more. Books are funny and unpredictable creatures. My favorite answer to the question of how long it takes to write a book is from Nora Roberts who says, "Until it's done."
Your new release for Kensington Brava out this month is called Bad Boys Down Under. Your very own Bad Boy book…WOW. I did get a chance to read this one and really loved it. Can you tell us what gave you the idea to write a book featuring the boys down under? How did you go about researching this book?
Oh, thanks. The idea for the Bad Boys franchise is Kate Duffy's. Kate is my editor at Kensington and one of the smartest and brilliant women (and editors) I know. She came up with the idea of Bad Boys Down Under and I loved the concept. How did I research Bad Boys Down Under? Well, how would you research a book like this? You'd go to Australia, of course. And then you'd watch every movie Hugh Jackman ever made seven or eight times…. Oh, yes. My job is tough! : I'm also very lucky that I have family and friends in Australia. Three wonderful Aussie women read the manuscript and saved my butt a ton of times.
All three stories in Bad Boys Down Under are connected by cross over characters. Did you plan this from the start?
Yes. With one author writing three novellas it only made sense to me that the stories would connect in some way. I dreamed up a super successful Australian company trying to enter the competitive California market. So in every story there's a relationship between an Australian and an American. It made for a lot of fun. There was always one fish out of water, and always some clash of cultures and attitudes. And I have to confess that I am crazy about Australian men, so it was no hardship to write about them ;-)
How has your family reacted to you writing career? Who is the most encouraging?
You can't succeed in this crazy business without the support of those you love. My family is terrific. My husband is my greatest fan and supporter and he reads all my books, which is sweet. My children have learned to adjust to the fact that I am not quite myself when deadline closes in. I have on occasion called a child by a character's name. This is when I know I'm working too hard.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Do you have any hobbies you like to indulge in?
When I have free time, I catch up on my reading. The irony of writing is that it cuts down on the time you have for reading - when it's the love of reading that draws you into writing in the first place. I love to cook, travel, ski in the winter and I adore antique auctions. Not the eBay kind. I like the ones where you walk amongst the goodies and raise a paddle to buy stuff.
What is the best way for your readers to get in touch with you?
http://www.nancywarrwen.net You can email me through the site, sign up for my contest, newsletter, and hang out. I also have a virtual book signing, which means I will send you a personalized book plate that you can stick in any one of my books to make it an autographed copy.
Finally can you share with us the books you have lined up for the rest of 2004? Do you have anything already in the works for 2005?
Let's see. Bad Boys Down Under comes out in July 04, then Underneath it All, a Temptation will be out in August, then in October I've got a story in a Christmas anthology called Merry Christmas, Baby and in November I'm in Bad Boys with Expensive Toys (my story's about a big brawny tough guy who gets landed with a finicky toy poodle with $14 million in the bank). In 2005 Drive Me Crazy comes out in mass market paperback in January, then in February my next Brava single title is out called Turn Left at Sanity. In March 05 I've got a book called Aftershocks that's part of a continuity series for Harlequin called Code Red. Phew, I'm exhausting myself here! I'll have a couple more things out in 05, but nothing too firmly scheduled yet.
Nancy this has been a very busy year for you. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me about your books and writing. I look forward to your upcoming releases and wish you much success in the future.
Thanks, Barb. It's always fun to chat about writing and books.