Today is an important day for my guest, Reagan Phillips. Her steamy new romantic suspense novel, Confess, debuts today. Reagan is sharing some of her views on romance and writing in her interview here. I am particularly taken with her answer to the last question, on the misconceptions held today about romance novels. I very much enjoyed her answer, even if the first part of it made steam come out of my ears.
To celebrate her new release, Reagan has generously offered to give a free copy of Confess to one commenter to today’s post. So please leave your comment, with your name, and contact information, if you would like to be entered in the drawing.
Please welcome Reagan Phillips, author of Confess . . .
Q: Do you remember the first romance novel you ever read? What did you like best about it?
A: I’m dating myself with my answer here, but my first romance was The Perilous Guard, a YA about a lady in waiting who didn’t follow protocol and was sent to a guardhouse on the outskirts of the realm. There she meets the brother of her intended, a gamekeeper by trade, and while fighting off a fairy curse on the house, falls in love. I’m pretty sure the author didn’t intend for it to be a romance, but it was to me. My very weathered copy sits in a prime spot on my bookshelf and gets reread often.
Q: How do you begin thinking about a new story, with the characters or the plot?
A: For me, new stories come mostly in clips and mostly when I’m not thinking about writing. I hear a new character’s voice in my head, have a vision of a scene, or hear or read something interesting and think "what if this happened instead?" Some of the thoughts get meshed together with other ideas and become part of a story. Some never even make it on to paper.
Just today I was driving to meet my critique partner, Jeni Burns, for coffee and saw an adorable family walking alongside the road. The old saying "everyone has a mother and a father even if they’ve never met them" came to mind. But what if that wasn’t true? What if a synthetic sperm became a viable way to reproduce? Everyone wouldn’t have a father. Would there also be a way to reproduce without a mother? What if natural birth became too dangerous? What if natural birth was outlawed? What would be the hook in the story? What would save humanity from becoming drones of synthetic reproduction? Something has to save us, right? The answer hit me at a stoplight. A mother’s love. It’s scientifically proven that babies bond with their mother before birth so the hook of the story would be the embryo wouldn’t survive to birth without that love. Love can’t be synthesized so…boom. Humanity saved. Story finished. All in a five minute drive for coffee.
That’s just a sample of the thoughts that run through a writer’s head. Bits and pieces of stories that at some point come together to make a cohesive story. I truly think we all have these thoughts running thought our minds daily, but writers make them into stories.
Q: When you craft a hero, are you incorporating traits from men you know, or are you writing about a man you have never met, but would like to?
A: I do a little of both. I think it is impossible not to write traits from people you know into your characters. We do it instinctually. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by the men and women I write about on a daily basis. I asked questions like "What would a cop think about this?" or "How would you react if this happened?" to get the most accurate and varied responses possible.
Of course my husband thinks every hero is modeled after him. Shh! Don’t tell him.
Q: When you craft a heroine, is she mostly the real you, the you you wish you were, or is she someone totally different?
A: I didn’t write my first heroine, Shannon Paige from Salvation—a book I am rereleasing this summer—to be anything like me, but as my family and friends beta read the story they pointed out my traits in Shannon. It was unintentional, but Shannon carried some of my insecurities and conflicts because those are the things I knew best.
Over the years I have learned to study people and build a much larger base of characters to pull from. I usually create a hero first and create the heroine based on what would clash most with his personality and his goals. That said, I think all authors put a little bit of themselves into every character they write. It’s almost impossible not to.
Q: Do you always have control of your characters when you are writing, or do they sometimes get away from you? If so, can you share some examples of how you got them back in line, or did you just go with the flow?
A: Ha! I just laughed out loud in the coffee shop at this question and now everyone is now staring at me.
I’d like to think I have control over my character because, after all I did dream them up, but I don’t. I’m a hybrid plotter-pantster. I create an outline of the story including where in the relationship the H/H need to be at each stage, but they often advance at their own pace.
For example, the H/H in Uphold, the second Blue Line Series book, Scarlett Rose and Charlie Deluna just wouldn’t get in bed together no matter how hard I tried to entice them. Halfway through the draft I finally had to stop writing and ask them why they weren’t ready to commit. Yes, I stopped and asked them. Writers do that.
As it turned out, I had set the stakes too high too early on in the story and both Charlie and Scarlett had too much to lose to consent to a one-night stand with each other. Charlie was the one who spoke up the loudest, as Scarlett was too shy to say anything. I rewrote the first several scenes of the book to lower the stakes for both characters and the rest of the book practically wrote itself.
Characters are figments of our imagination, but yes, they do take on personalities of their own as we write. When they start making their own demands I know they are ready to be written into a book.
Q: Many authors have said that writing the first pages of a new story are the hardest to write. Do you find that to be the case?
A: For me, beginnings are fun and endings are a release. The middles are the hardest part. I write stories in four parts; beginning, climbing middle, falling middle, and end. The beginnings are building the characters and I find that to be easy because a character usually floats around in my head for months if not years before I write them. Getting just what the reader needs to know down on paper first is fun for me, like building a puzzle with the pieces all turned upside down. It’s the climbing middle, the building of the conflict that I have the hardest time with. If I’ve done my job well, I’m in love with both characters by the middle and I don’t want anything bad to happen to them.
Q: Did your latest romance just flow as you wrote, was it a battle to capture in words, or something in between?
A: Confess was drafted over a month during the summer of 2013. Once I had the characters and the conflict in place, the story wrote itself. Some stories are like that for me, and others feel more like a long, labor-some birth. I’ve found the ones that literally fall on the page are the stories of our hearts; the ones we were meant to write, while the harder stories are the ones we need to tell but hit a bit to close to home to be easy.
Q: If one of your novels could be made into a movie, which one would you pick and who would play the leads?
A: That’s an easy question. While I love all my heroes and heroines, I actually wrote Salvation thinking of it as scenes from a movie. Shannon and Jon are both damaged yet strong characters and they overcome both the physical and the philosophical to be together. The setting is the small island of Edisto, off the coast of South Carolina and the characters are true old-school southerners. I see it as a Hallmark movie of the week…well…maybe with the heat toned down a bit. : Shannon would be played by Jane Levy, Suburbia star and Jon Sutton would be Ian Somerhalder because…well…he’s Ian Somerhalder.
Q: Do you have scheduled times to write, or just when you are inspired?
A: Unfortunately, I have to schedule time to write. I am ADHD and can’t write with lots of distractions. I do my marketing, planning, social media, networking, ect in coffee shops, baseball fields, doctors appointments, wherever I can pull out my laptop, planner, or phone. My actual writing happens between 4am — 7am and 9pm — 11pm while the house is asleep and I can think clearly. I’ve been known to hide out in my car in the driveway to finish a scene in peace.
Q: Are your friends and family supportive of your craft?
A: I have a funny story about my husband, The Officer. When I first started writing in 2006, I didn’t tell anyone. Who was I to think I could write a book, right? So, in the late night hours of having a new baby in the house I spent my time at a desktop in the corner of the playroom. It took about a month for the Officer to finally speak up and ask if I was cheating on him with someone on the Internet.
Family support has been an up and down ride for me. In the beginning, writing was just a hobby and should only be done on my "off hours." We all know "off hours" don’t exist. After the publication of my first book, writing time was a little more accepted. Now that I write mostly about cops and have income from my books both The Officer and my extended family respect my writing as a craft and not a hobby and I have protected writing time. In fact, my sister and father have both written books since I "came out" to the family.
To anyone who is struggling with acceptance from their family I say give them time. Their reluctance is more out of worry for you than a dislike or disinterest in what you do. They will come around, eventually. Wait them out and stay positive. You’ve got this.
Q: What do you think is the most common misperception today about romance novels held by those who have never read one?
A: Oh. This is my hot button. Thanks for asking.
To the non-reader, romance novels are little more than brainless reads written by smut-loving women who spend their days in nighties and could never hold down a serious job. Yes, these exact words have been spoken to me.
First, romance novels have more to do with overcoming obstacles to become the best person you can be than two people hooking up to shake the sheets. Romance novels are people making connections, overcoming the odds, fighting for what they believe in. Love! Yes, there is sex too.
As for the women…and men…who write romance, we are as varied as our books. Most romance authors are college graduates, if not grad school graduates, who hold steady jobs, run households, and have created self-employed businesses from the ground up to support our writing dreams. We are business savvy and perceptive enough to create characters from a wide spectrum of traits, internal issues, backgrounds, and beliefs.
When Nashville homicide detective Mitch Kilpatrick defies department orders to investigate a string of small town murders his singular goal is to catch a serial killer. That is until his investigation leads to Lacy Andrews, an uninhibited and sexy-as-sin bartender who happens to be the police chief’s only daughter.
Confident and alluring, Lacy is everything Mitch’s pride rejects, but that won’t stop him from getting her in his bed, especially when he learns she’s sworn off cops for good. Winning her over proves the perfect challenge until her secretive past connects with his current case and she becomes an unwilling pawn.
Confronted with repeating past mistakes, will Mitch push Lacy away to keep her secret hidden, or expose her to solve the most important case of his career?
Confess Buy Link:
About the Author
Steamy romance writer, Reagan Phillips lives in the Southern United States with her college sweetheart husband, The Officer, their son, an overactive beagle, and an adored fish. She is a member of both RWA and the Carolina Romance Writers. Confess, her debut romantic suspense novel, releases today with Amazon Direct.