Welcome, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tina St. John for taking the time to answer
these questions for Coffee Time Romance. Today we are asking Tina about her story, Heart of the
Flame, the Science Fiction Romance.
When you start a new book, which comes first, the characters or the plot?
It really depends. Some of my books have been character-first, as in LADY OF VALOR and WHITE
LION'S LADY, two of my past titles. The genesis for both of those books were characters that strode
into my imagination and compelled me to build a plot around them. Others, such as my current 4-book
medieval paranormal series, originated plot-first and then had to be peopled with suitable characters
that would best fit the stories I wanted to tell.
How long did it take you to write this wonderful story, Heart of the Flame?
I'm glad you liked it! HEART OF THE FLAME took about 6 months to write, but another 3 or so to
research, plot, and flesh out.
How long have you been writing?
I began my first manuscript, LORD OF VENGEANCE, in 1995. It took me about two years to finish it
(lots of distractions, lots of self-doubt). I've since written six more books, and I'm about to begin my
What kind of schedule do you follow when you’re writing if any?
I'm a full-time writer, working from home. Once a book is plotted and ready to be written, I try to write
something every day, often with weekends included. During the week while my husband is at work, I
write about 10-12 hours per day--more when deadlines are approaching. I find that if I take time away
from the book, it makes it that much harder to pick up where I left off.
What is the best advice you ever received? What is the worst?
The best writing advice I ever received was from romance author Shelly Thacker, who spoke at one of
the first RWA chapter meetings I attended in my old home chapter in Michigan (hello, GDRWA!). She
cautioned unpublished writers to have patience, and to not submit their work until it was 100% ready.
It's easy to let eagerness get the best of you--at so many stages of your career. Publishing is a strange
business. Being patient, but working steady and as best you can, will eliminate a lot of undue stress.
The worst advice? I suppose I tend to discard bad advice when I hear it, because I can't think of an
instance where I received any!
Do you work with an outline for your books? Or do you just write?
I am a detailed outliner. I used to plot my books using index cards, sticky notes, charts, etc., but a few
years ago my brilliant husband wrote a software product for me that handles all of my pre-planning
notes, research, character profiles, word/page count tracking, *and* is a word processor as well. It's
called WriteWay, and at the risk of sounding like a commercial, I don't know how I managed to write
Is there a ritual you follow when writing?
No candles, chants, or special music for me. My only ritual is that I work every day, and when I'm writing
my first draft I do not go back and edit. I write it straight through without looking back (occasionally I'll
skip around the outline and write the easy scenes first). Once I'm done with the draft, I take a few days
off, then come back and read the entire manuscript from beginning to end in order to get a feel for the
pacing, the progress of the romance and the conflict(s), etc. From there, I begin planning any needed
Do you ever suffer from Writers block? How do you deal with it when it happens?
I do have periods of block. When I was first learning my craft, I used to panic when I'd hit those creative
brick walls. Now, with several years' experience behind me, I know that when I stall, it just means that
something is missing from either the characters or the conflict. Usually, if I revisit my character profiles
or add a new twist to the escalating conflict, the words come back to me.
Do you have critique groups? How does this influence your writing?
I no longer have formal critique partners, but I do have friends who will read for me if I feel I need a
fresh set of eyes, or who will act as sounding boards when I feel like something is not clicking with a
manuscript. In my early years of writing, I had a circle of critique partners who really helped keep me
motivated, and helped me with hands-on commentary of my work--as I hope I was able to do for them.
FWIW, I do recommend critique groups, particularly for beginning writers, however the key there is to
find writers who will offer thoughtful, constructive criticism, and whose level of experience is consistent
with your own or better.
What was the title of your first book and when was it published?
My first book was LORD OF VENGEANCE, which was published by Ballantine in 1999.
Is there a downside to your success?
Are you kidding?! I'm living a lifelong dream! I couldn't be more excited about my career and where it
might take me. So long as I continue to be able to write books and see them published, there are no
How can your readers contact you? Do you have a website?
I love to hear from readers, either by email or at my website message board. Come on over and say hi!
My website URL is: http://www.TinaStJohn.com
Do you currently have anything coming out soon? Anything in the planning stages?
My most recent novel is HEART OF THE FLAME, which just came out March 1, 2005. Next up is HEART
OF THE DOVE, the third book in my Dragon Chalice medieval paranormal series from Ballantine. DOVE
will hit stores November 29, 2005. I'm currently working on the fourth and final book in the series,
HEART OF THE DRAGON. It hasn't been scheduled yet, but I expect it will be out in the early to mid part
What encouraging words would you give to aspiring authors, if you could?
If you really want to be a published author, keep honing your craft and surround yourself with
supportive people who believe in your dream. Eliminate negative influences, and never stop improving
I would like to thank Tina St. John on behalf of Coffee Time Romance for chatting with us and we wish
you good luck on all your upcoming projects.
Thank you, Laura!