Dianne Hartsock is joining us today and telling us about her journey to become a published author and find a home for her sizzling reads. As always, this interview provides amazing insight into the life of an author. Hopefully, it will help readers see things a little through the authors' eyes, as well as put in perspective - in candid terms - the entire process of create > publish > promo that every serious writer goes through.
Today, I'm posting an interview with a giveaway. I'll let Dianne tell you all about herself now :).
DIANNE'S NOTE: "I'd like to give away a copy of 'Shelton's Choice' to a commenter who tells me who they think the most romantic character is in any book they've read."
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always been a story teller, and was very proud when, in first grade, a story of mine was pinned up on the wall for everyone to read, the teacher liked it that much. I didn’t think too much about writing again, though, until seventh grade when my creative writing teacher surprised me by saying I had some talent and should develop it. She thought maybe I could become published one day. She had me hooked! I’ve been writing ever since.
When did you decide that you wanted to write for a living (that "aha" moment)?
Okay, THE BIG PLAN! In high school I decided I was going to be a famous writer just like my favorite authors. I’d get married to a gorgeous guy, have several incredible kids, and publish my first ‘best seller’ by age twenty five. Ha! Okay, I married the gorgeous man and had the incredible children, but the best seller… Still working on it!
What did your family say when you told them you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. I think what caught us all by surprise is the time I have to devote to promoting everything! It’s great fun, but definitely keeps me busy.
What is your preferred genre both for reading and writing?
I love to write paranormal stories. Not so much werewolves, shifters, etc. I like the paranormal phenomenon of psychics and mind-readers, telekinesis, etc. I also write m/m erotic romances, which are super fun, and fantasy adventures.
I love to read a good medical thriller by Robin Cook, Michael Critchon, Patricia Cornwell or Michael Palmer. I enjoy the romance/mystery stories of Elizabeth Peters and the fantasy/sci/fi stories of C.J. Cherryh. I love a good Dean Koontz thriller. Oh, there’s so many others, I can’t name them all!
Did you start by writing full time or did you have a day job?
Still have the day job! I’m a floral designer at a locally owned gift shop, which I really enjoy. It gives me a creative outlet when I can’t be writing.
Did you take any writing courses or did you just sit and write a book?
I learned the most about writing from the fantastic editor I had at Wolf-Pirate Publishing. I was accepted into their Writer’s Workshop program, and let me tell you, it was an amazing process. We spent nearly a year on my manuscript, taking it chapter by chapter, then sentence by sentence, with May Bestall explaining why some sentences worked while others didn’t. She showed me how to dig into a character’s past to find out who they are and why they react to things in the story the way they do. She showed me how to develop plot and to RESEARCH! Basically, she helped me discover my writer’s voice.
Did/do you have a crit group or mentor to guide you?
I belong to the Litopia Writer’s Colony, http://www.litopia.com/, which is the most talented and friendliest group of people you could hope to meet. Their advice and support has made me believe in myself as a writer.
How long did it take you to make your first sale? What was your first thought when you did?
I’ve been writing forever without any luck. It wasn’t until I discovered ePublishers that things changed. I sold my very first story in May, 2011 and now have one novel and half-a-dozen short stories out there. My first thought? Yea!!!! Finally. :)
Did you sell the first story or novel you wrote?
Not even close! I have a drawer full of stories I need to rework one day. It seems like I learn something new every day to make my writing a little better.
How many drafts did you write of your first novel before you felt you got it right? What
about now - do you still write several drafts of a story?
I usually write a story start to finish, then go back over it until I get it as good as I can. I revised my novel at least three times. Most of the short stories only take a few reads to get them right.
Did you get an agent first or did you submit directly to publishers?
I tried for both! But was lucky enough to find a publisher on my own.
Did you ever get rejected? If so, how did you handle it?
You should see the stack of rejection letters I have! Most of the time, I got upset, stomped around the room, felt like I failed. Then I took a deep breath, filed the letter away, and reworked the story until I felt it was ready to be sent out again. Giving up was not an option! There’s a stubborn streak in me that keeps me going.
What, in your opinion, do agents/publishers look for in a new author in the current market? Is it all to do with talent or with trends?
Talent first, in any field you’re interested in. You have to be able to do the job! Trends would come next. The publisher has to be able to market your book. It’s always good to see what’s selling. Write what you love, of course! But do your research to find out who wants what you have to offer.
Do you think writers should consider self-publishing?
Why not? My only problem with self-publishing is that you have to do all the promotional work yourself. There’s no publisher behind you for support! But if you’re willing to work hard, I don’t see the problem. Also, with self-publishing, you have an initial monetary investment, which you don’t have going with a publisher.
Are your books available in print or in digital format?
All of my books are offered in digital format, and my novel ALEX is also available in print.
What advice do you think aspiring authors should heed today?
Come ready to work! Start building that platform and reader base today. Promoting NEVER ends. And grow a thick hide. Not all reviews will be pretty! But also, there’s nothing more satisfying to me as an author than seeing my books for sale.
What are you working on now?
Loaded question! At this time I’m in the middle of writing my fourth m/m erotic book in my Shelton series. I’m also doing edits on two other erotic stories. Nathaniel will come out March 2nd and I have another due out this spring. Also, I’m working on a fantasy adventure novel and taking notes for a sequel to my paranormal suspense novel ALEX. Oh, and I’m plotting another erotic for later this spring.
Do you read when you are plotting or writing a story?
I read constantly! Lately, I haven’t had the time to read like I want, but I have several books around the house I pick up whenever I have a spare minute. I also like to read a short story right before bedtime. It calms my mind and usually gives me good dreams.
What book inspired you to write romance (or whatever genre you write in)?
It was the novel Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite that opened my eyes to the sensual side of male romance. Lost Souls was the first book I’d read where two men’s love was handled delicately and sweetly. I was moved by their friendship and the care they took of each other. I decided then that I wanted to write my own love story, using this same feeling of compassion and fondness.
What hero/heroine/character was the most fun or challenging to write for you?
I have so much fun writing about Shelton. He’s such a sweet, shy, sexy man. I love teasing him and putting him into uncomfortable situations, just to watch him squirm. His boyfriend is the opposite, a definitely flirt. He keeps Shelton on his toes.
The most challenging hero is ALEX. That whole novel was a challenge to write. Alex is shy and insecure and definitely flawed, but I can’t help loving him.
How do you juggle work, writing, chores and family/personal life? Do you have a secret to time management that you want to share with readers?
My greatest challenge is always finding the time to write! I currently work full time as a floral designer. Balancing that with family and friends doesn’t leave me as much time to write as I’d like. I get up an hour earlier than necessary each morning for promos, then spend three hours in the evening for my blogs, and if I’m very lucky, some creative writing. Once in a while I’m even blessed with a full day off in which to write! Do I have a secret to making it easier? No, just hard work.
Do you have a ritual that you follow when it comes to writing?
A pot of coffee and my lap top!
Where do you see yourself, careerwise, in 5 years time?
I have a fantasy/adventure novel being considered by a publisher. In five years I hope to see it published, either with them or somewhere else, along with the sequel I have written and the next one I’m plotting out. Then maybe I can quit work and write full time! Yea!
Dianne lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play.
She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write her tales. There’s something about being cooped up in the house while it pours rain outside and a fire crackles on the hearth inside that kindles her imagination.
Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which she says is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.
Shelton’s Choice (Breathless Press, Amazon)
After a year of bliss with Nevil, Shelton is offered the promotion he's been working toward at the bank. Unfortunately the new position is in another state, and Nevil doesn't want to move. As tension mounts between them, Shelton is given another challenge in the form of a besotted coworker. Torn between the pressures at work and at home, Shelton has to choose his future. That is, until Nevil takes the decision out of his hands.
"Have you told him yet?"
"Hmm?" Shelton murmured, reluctant to put down the book he was reading. Only a few pages remained to the thriller, and he still hadn't a clue as to who the killer would turn out to be.
"Have you told your tall, dark, and wickedly handsome boyfriend that you're leaving?"
Shelton shot the man at his elbow an irritated glance. "What do you want, Ted?" He noticed the coffee shop was filling up and hoped his coworker wouldn't take the vacant chair at his table. Ted Pringle was personable enough, even attractive in a light blond, pansy, blue-eyed way. He was also a gossip, though, and lived to stir up trouble in and out of the office.
Ted threw his hands up. "Hey, I was only asking! We go in a few months, and—"
"Leave me alone." Shelton turned back to the book and skimmed the page to find his place. Ted touched his arm, and Shelton spun on him but swallowed his angry words. Ted's attention wasn't on him. The man looked across the room, a smile of triumph on his lips.
Shelton followed his gaze, and his heart jumped then settled into a delighted patter. Nevil stood in the doorway of the coffee shop, scanning the tables with his beautiful turquoise eyes. Wickedly handsome? Damn right he was. Even after a year together, Nevil's smile still had the power to melt his bones and leave him weak with want.
He waved the book when Nevil spotted him. A curious look passed over Nevil's face as he approached the table, and Shelton remembered Ted's hand on his arm. He pulled free, and Ted chuckled, his breath warm in Shelton's ear when he bent down and whispered, "Don't forget to tell him."
Shelton growled, then forgot all about Ted as Nevil, his eyes dancing with mischief, stopped at the table.
"What are you doing here? Sit down," Shelton babbled, feeling the warmth of a blush on his cheeks as Nevil glanced at Ted's retreating back.
"Okay, but only for a minute. I have a surprise for you, and I've already wasted enough time finding you. Off work early?" Nevil took the empty chair at Shelton's nod and leaned across the table. A teasing smile covered his face. "I may have to blindfold you."
Heat swept through Shelton at the ardent look in Nevil's eyes. God, he wanted Nevil to take him right there at the table. He agonized under the constraint of public opinion that kept him from kissing Nevil's smiling lips.
Nevil settled back into his chair. "Who was that?" he asked, nodding toward the crowd at the coffee bar.
"Just that annoying prick from Accounts I told you about."
"Gossiping Ted? What did he say? I wanted to smack his pretty face for standing so close to you."
"I'm sure he wanted to make you jealous, as if he ever could. So, about this blindfold..."
Nevil smiled and licked his lips, his look provocative. "You'll see," he teased and rose to his feet. "Come on, love, before I change my mind."
Shelton hurried after him as Nevil wove his way through the boisterous lunch crowd to the front entrance. His heart fluttered when Nevil opened the door of the car for him and kissed his cheek as he climbed into the Prius at the curb. Nevil rarely displayed his affection in public, a sure sign he felt as aroused as Shelton did. He remained silent as Nevil drove through the afternoon traffic, his body tingling in anticipation of their lovemaking.
"What about this blindfold?" he asked, becoming slightly breathless at the thought. Nevil could be so creative.
"That's for later, my dear, when I have you alone and enthralled."
Shelton snorted and enjoyed Nevil's easy laughter. Grateful to be Nevil's friend as well as his lover, Shelton's spirits soared. His days were filled with laughter and comradeship. He thrust Ted's stinging reminder from his mind. He'd keep that discussion for another day and take this precious time with Nevil.
Shelton in Love (Breathless Press, Amazon)
Shelton is falling hard for his best friend and roommate, finding Nevil’s dark good looks and moments of gentleness almost impossible to resist. But Nevil is more interested in affairs of the body than the heart. As Shelton’s desire for the man grows, he wonders if he can change Nevil’s mind. But does he even want to? Nevil might not stay, once he learns Shelton’s secret, and then his loneliness would be complete.
Shelton’s Promise (Breathless Press, Amazon)
Shelton has a gift he’s eager to give to Nevil. At a party, Nevil flirts with one man after another, keeping Shelton on his toes. Then Percy, an ex, shows up to complicate things. Despite his best efforts, Shelton can’t find the right moment to give Nevil his gift. Will Nevil ever let Shelton get close to him, or will Shelton have to keep the gift in his pocket all evening?
The prisoner lifts his head and Taden is caught in the gaze of the most beautiful eyes he’s ever seen; amazing eyes that hold him confused and thrilling. From the moment Taden rescues Nathaniel from the Sutherlin soldiers’ torture, he feels responsible for the youth. The Sutherlins have invaded the beautiful Tahon Valley, and as Taden secrets Nathaniel from their reach, he finds himself drawn inexplicably to the young man. He protects Nathaniel not only from the Sutherlins but from his own mistrustful people, who don’t understand Nathaniel’s powers and believe him to be a witch. Will Taden convince Nathaniel to stay with him and live under his protection, or will the youth sail home and leave Taden in loneliness?
Raised by an abusive father, Eran shies away from intimacy until a lovely stranger walks into his life. Paul, intensely attracted to the shy, sensual young man, wonders if he can risk his heart one more time to be the friend and lover Eran obviously needs.
~ Natalie ~
No Rules. No Formulas. Just Love, Mystery... and a world of surprises in between!