HELLO EVERYONE I am happy to say I have Samantha Hunter with me here today and she graciously has answered some questions for me. I just read her latest book PICK ME UP and it a fun one. I hope you all have a chance to see it in your local store and go pick up PICK ME UP... ok I know a bad play on words *smiles*
Sam: Hi Lainey. Glad you enjoyed the book.
Lainey: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Sam: I've always written, but I never really imagined I would end up being a full-time fiction writer. I loved reading and writing as a kid, and I got an MA in English and taught writing for a living, but writing my first book was sort of a whim – and then it sold, and here I am. I was actually finishing up my graduate work in geography while I wrote my first book, Virtually Perfect, and looking for work in environmental non-profits. When the book sold, it provided me another career choice, and one that allowed me to stay closer to family and friends, so my husband and I decided we'd stay in Syracuse and I'd give full-time writing a shot.
Lainey: What was your first published book and when did it come out?
Sam: My first book was Harlequin Blaze, Virtually Perfect, July 2004. It took me a little less than a year to sell; VP was my first book. However, I had a lot of years of professional writing experience behind me in teaching and other writing, so I think that helps account for why I sold a book so quickly. I wasn't starting from scratch, really.
Lainey: Generally, how long can it take you to write a book? Do you have a routine you follow?
Sam: It generally takes about 3-4 months to write a book, depending. I do try to write everyday, but some days I don't, it depends on life. Part of writing for a living is having flexibility, and I like to enjoy that. As long as the work gets done, it doesn't really matter when it gets done. I do work on more than one project at a time, though they are usually at different stages – so right now, I am finishing up one proposal, one anthology story, and planning a new book with three Blaze authors for a possible multi-author mini-series. It’s a necessity to work on more than one at a time as a commercial writer, unless you are a really big name who can make your living on one book a year.
I generally will write a full synopsis, run it past my agent, Natasha Kern, or my editor for their approval, and at that point I’ll write 3-5 chapters and then send that on, and they’ll either buy it or not. If they buy it, then I finish the book. ;)
Lainey: How do you keep up with the pertinent information on your characters and plot lines, especially in related books?
Sam: I could do a better job of this, but basically I just keep track of character details in my head, and I have a synopsis as a rough guide for plot, and the rest works it way out on the page. I have no patience with anything that takes time away from getting actual writing done, no charts, graphs, cards, logs, or programs – to me, all the time on that stuff could be time spent writing.
Lainey: Where do your ideas come from? How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Sam: Ideas come from everywhere – parts and pieces come from real life, TV, reading, life… everywhere. You just have to be open and let things enter your imagination, and always ask, what if, what if? I use a lot from my own life, especially travel or experiences, things I've done or know, and I may draw some light themes from family or friends, but nothing overt. So I've never created a character who was based on anyone I know for real, no. In fact, I probably try harder than not to do the opposite, and with my own relationship as well – people always joke because I write sexy romance that I must have a wild sex life. Well, I won't say if I do or don't, but I will say that I don't share any personal details that would make my husband feel like I've brought our bedroom into my books.
Lainey: What kind of research do you do?
Sam; Depends on the book. For the current book, Pick Me Up, I had to do quite a lot of research into cowboys and ranches, because I've never met one! So, I based a lot of setting on one trip I made out West, where I did visit a town in CA called Borrego Springs, and that was so amazing, I used the images and setting from Borrego to create the fictional places in my book, along with more online research and much input from my Superromance pal Jeannie Watt who lives on a working Nevada ranch and who shared much information about cowboys and ranch life. So my book, set in AZ, where I've never visited, is really based on research from online, Nevada, and California. But you blend it and make it work. Other books, like my upcoming Christmas Blaze, Talking in Your Sleep… took very little research at all – all imagination.
Lainey; How did you get into writing the genre that inspires you most and would and do you write in any other genres also, if so can you tell us about them?
Sam; I've always read romance, and it’s the only thing I've ever wanted to write, in terms of fiction. However, I love several kinds of romance. Blaze was a natural for me, since I like hot, steamy stories. I think sex is such a critical part of who we are and how we function in relationships, I can’t imagine writing romance without showing how people interact intimately. Sex is a basic drive; love is a higher emotion, so bringing the two together is always interesting. Anyone who knows me knows I am a complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer addict (my cats are even named Buffy and Willow), and I read as much paranormal romance as anything, so that is something I'm trying to break into. I also like the classic, traditional romances I grew up reading, like Superromance, so I'd like to write those, as well.
Lainey: What do you think of pen names and the use of them for yourself and others? Do you have one yourself?
Sam: Sam Hunter is a pen name, and I love it – it has some ties to my real name, and I feel like I have two real names, not one “pretend one” – I answer as easily to Sam as I do my real name. I think a pseudonym is a personal and business choice – names can attract people’s attention the same as titles and covers, and if you have an odd real name (which I do) maybe it doesn't look right on a romance cover. So, you change it. Or, maybe your publisher wants you to change your name for mainstream, so you consider that, because it’s a career choice. Other times, you might want to use your own name to see it on a book cover, but it all comes down to what’s right for the book and the best career move.
Lainey; Do you have anything else you want to tell our readers, for upcoming books, chats, signings or any other appearances?
Sam: I am somewhat of a homebody, and I haven't done signings, appearances or any of that, but one of these days. Until then, there are plenty of places to find me online. I have another book coming up in December, a Christmas Blaze titled Talking in Your Sleep… and a summer Blaze anthology in 2008. Several other books in the works, but no details I can share just yet – stay tuned.
I’m always around at our blog, Love is an Exploding Cigar, and I am now a regular monthly columnist on The Pink Heart Society website. I hang around Writeminded Blog a lot and will do a guest blog there in August, as well as at Naughty and Spice. I like to blog, as you can see. I’m also around eHarlequin on the Blaze boards a lot.
Lainey: Can you share with us what you do for fun and relaxation? Do you have any hobbies or things you enjoy doing to just get away from your writing and just be yourself at times?
Sam: I think getting away from writing is necessary and healthy. I quilt and I love that, in fact, I’m working on a quilt now that I auctioned off in Brenda Novak’s Juvenile Diabetes auction, and that’s fun. I make them for my house, for family and friends, and it gives me a whole different way of being creative. I also love working on my old house, we’re redoing our kitchen now; my husband and I are big DIYers. I like to read, work in my yard, play with my pets… I try not to use food for comfort, though we all do, and my big comfort foods are red meat (nothing like a cheeseburger on a bad day) and just about any kind of cake. I am a total cake addict.
Lainey: What comprises a normal working day for you, are you at home or an office?
Sam: Technically I have a home office, though I don't spend too much time in it – I like to write sitting in a comfy chair by the window, watching my bird feeder. I don't like too much distraction while I’m writing; things more or less have to be quiet. I always write during the day, sometimes in early evening if I’m really trying to get something done or feel inspired. I rarely or never write late at night or early morning, like many people do. I’m a solid middle of the day person. *smiles* A normal working day will be back and forth between lots of things – I might write for an hour or so, and then go do other things, then come back and write a little more, then get up and go out, you get the idea. I did stick to a schedule for my first two years writing, and then I wondered, why? LOL I have the freedom to structure my days how I want to, so I do.
Lainey: Who are some of your favorite authors and has anyone influenced your writing?
Sam: Oh boy – huge question. In romance, I have to say Nora Roberts is the absolute biggest influence. I've read all of her books. I don’t love every single one, don't think she expects that, but her style and character development has been the biggest influence on my writing, bar none. Lori Foster and Lori Wilde are also big influences and were also nice enough to chat a lot with me and answer a lot of questions when I was starting out.
Past that, Joss Whedon, Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Sherrilyn Kenyon have been huge paranormal influences.
I have too many category favorites to name, and I read across lines, so I hate to state a list, because I will always end up leaving someone out. Right now I am reading Crystal Green’s The Ultimate Bite, a Blaze Extreme and I love it. I have Cynthia Reese’s The Baby Wait, up next on the TBR. Also never miss books by my blog mates at Cigars, they’re all wonderful.
Lainey: Do you have a favorite book, hero or heroine from your own stories? Are you in control of your characters or do they control you? Meaning do they talk to you and take over until you write their story the way they want?
Sam: I am in control of my writing, and my editor and agent are in control of me, LOL – well, mostly. ;) No seriously, I think a writer always has to be open to muse and imagination, but ultimately we wield the pen (or keyboard) and that makes us the boss. My characters and my stories are my creations, they wouldn’t hit the page without me, so no, they don’t tell me what to do, though sometimes they are more difficult than others. ;) I think all in all they have to trust me that I know what’s best for them, and that I’ll come through.
My favorite book among my own? Tough one. I usually am in love with the one I’m working on, or the one that’s on the shelf, though I will say the two now, Pick Me Up and Talking in Your Sleep are both books I felt showed new aspects of me as a writer, and also I relate to the heroines much more than I did in previous books.
Lainey: What question would you love to answer that I didn't ask?
Sam:What can readers do to help their favorite authors stay on the shelf?
Selling a book is hard, but making a living off of writing is harder. Readers are the key, and one thing that always surprises me is how many emails I get on books (which is lovely, I appreciate it) but how few people will post public reviews on sites like Amazon or B&N for our book. As a reader, I go by those reviews a lot, and for some reason, there are sometimes great category books that I know people love, but they have zero reviews. I always think those comments are a reader's way of sharing their positive experience, and can be very convincing to someone else who's trying to decide what to buy, so I think if knew readers how much things like leaving a review at Amazon or B&N can mean to authors, they might do it more often. It takes a few minutes, but it helps boost our sales, and it means a lot to us personally if you can drop in and let everyone know you enjoyed a book. Of course, there are negative reviews as well, but we won't talk about those. I tend to think if you can't say anything nice, well. . .you know. *smiles*
Lainey: ok readers you heard it from Sam herself. Please get out there and interact with your favorite authors and the reviews you can put online as a reader. Do your part, please...
Sam: Thanks so much.
Lainey: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day Sam for talking with us and me in particular. I loved PICK ME UP and I hope all your readers and ours now go check it out. Congrats on the release of it and I wish you only the best Sam.
Sam: Thanks again, bye Lainey.