It's Fangirl Friday here on the blog and today I'm delighted to welcome fellow PitchWars mentor Shelley Watters whose latest novel BURN ME was released this week. Here's a little bit about Shelley and her new book baby! And stay tuned for the e-Book GIVEAWAY at the bottom of the post!
Title: Burn Me
Genre: Adult Romance
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Publication Date: April 29th 2014
When Katrina Hale's brother dies in a house fire, she's determined to prove she's stronger than everyone thinks she is. But grief can do strange things to a person and Katrina knows all too well how the death of a loved one can change a person. As the romance in her current relationship fizzles, she focuses on her work and fights the undeniable attraction she has for Greyson Neal.
Firefighter Greyson Neal is the type of guy girls dream about. But Greyson isn't interested in other girls. He wants the one woman he can never have: Katrina. As the two struggle with their feelings, Kat must choose between her career and her heart, and fight to keep them both when an arsonist threatens to take it all away.
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Tell us a little about your writer's journey so far:
I’ve had a love of creative writing all my life. As a child, I wrote my first horror novel titled “Child Fear”. The rest is history!
My real path to publication started when I quit my job as an epidemiologist to be a stay at home mom. I realized that I had time to spare and could finally pick up the pen again and write. I never, ever, considered the possibility of being published at that time. But, a few months later I had a full-length YA novel completed, and found myself signed up for Nanowrimo. The resulting novel from that Nano was an early rendition of BURN ME, which comes out next Tuesday from Swoon Romance! At the time, it was filled with sex scenes and no plot. My critique partners insisted that I was truly an erotica writer, not a romance writer. I think I proved them wrong.
I signed with a top agent for that first YA novel that I finished (my followers would recognize this book titled first as BLUE LOTUS, then re-titled as WAIT FOR ME). The agent had great ideas for submission, but ultimately had personal problems get in the way of their professional life and we parted ways.
Fast forward about six months, after licking my wounds and reassuring myself that I did not, in fact, suck, I queried and found a new agent. That agent followed through and got a few of my novels in the hands of editors, but no sales. Eventually we parted ways as well.
After a pretty rocky start to my publishing career, I decided to take a huge step back. I stopped writing all together for quite a while. I co-hosted writing contests like Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness with Brenda Drake, helping others get agents all the while sitting on my manuscripts. I did NOT want to query anymore. Strike three and you’re out was my theory, and I didn’t want to be out. Out of the blue, I came across Tamara Mataya’s #PitchMas contest on Twitter. I pitched BURN ME there and got an instant request from the wonderful Georgia McBride at Swoon Romance. A week later I had an offer of publication.
Since I was familiar enough with the publishing community and the publishing process (and had lots of friends in the know who could help me identify any red flags in the contract) I had no problems negotiating the contract without an agent.
So I guess I would say I’m one of those “un-agented” success stories!
Okay, let's hear your Twitter Pitch!
Here’s the pitch that got me the request that got me the book deal for BURN ME:
An affair w/ fellow firefighter forces Kat to choose her job or her heart, & fight for both when an arsonist threatens it all. ACR #PitchMas
(ACR=Adult Contemporary Romance)
What inspired you to write this book? How is it a book only you could write?
I’ve always been fascinated with firefighters. Honestly, when I chose a topic to write for 50k in a month, firefighters were the first thing that came to mind.
I think BURN ME was a book only *I* could write because I wanted to write a romance novel that not only enticed the senses, but also stayed accurate in the firefighting scenes. I made so many firefighter friends along the path to writing BURN ME and really wanted to portray firefighters in an accurate sense, not just how TV and movies portray the “romanticized” side of firefighting. I wanted to show that these are real people who have lives, feelings, make mistakes, fall in love, just like everyone else, but that they are more than that – they are heroes because they chose to put their lives on the line for strangers, people who they’ve never met and will probably never meet again. They don’t do the job for a “Thank you”, they do the job because they love it.
What's your favorite thing about writing?
Getting to play God. I am in control of my character’s destiny (or so they let me think). I get to control everything about a scene and it’s so liberating having that much power.
Also, the research. I get to ogle lots of hot firefighters and call it “research”. haha
What's your least favorite thing?
I have a hard time putting my editor brain away when I write. I’m a perfectionist, so sometimes it’s hard to set that brain aside and let my creative brain take over. First drafts are generally extremely painful.
Now it's time to brag a little--What do you love most about your book?
This is a tough question. I love how much this book has changed over the course of writing and revising it. Like I said in the first question, it started out mostly sex scenes with no plot. So for me, it’s surprising and exhilarating how it’s turned into this rich, sexy, dark, romantic book that hopefully will keep you turning pages until the end.
I’m going to cheat, but the hot firefighters throughout the book are also what I love most. Imagining those scenes was lots of fun. ;)
Who was your favorite character to write? Why?
Greyson Neal. For some reason all of my firefighter books seem to come easier in the male POV than the female, and Greyson was such a strong, alpha hero that he took over almost every scene when I was first writing BURN ME. He was such a fun character to write and I loved how while yes, he was strong, he was also sensitive.
What has surprised you most about publishing post-agent (in other words, something unpublished writers may not know about how the process goes after you get an agent)?
Hmm. Considering I got a book deal without an agent, even though I had two over the course of my publishing career, I’m not sure how to answer this. I think the most important thing is to write a spectacular book. Don’t worry about rushing to query the first thing you write. Work on your craft, work on telling the absolute best novel you can. Because in the end, just because you find an agent who loves your work as much as you do, you might discover that they aren’t able to sell it, or just not the right fit for you and your work. Then you could be back in the query pools again.
Another thing that was surprising is the hurry-up-and-wait that is trademark in the publishing industry. You have to be patient, REALLY patient. Which is again why I say work on your craft, work on writing the best books you possibly can. Because in the end that’s where it’s all going to come down to – the agent gets the novel into the editor’s hands, but then it’s up to YOUR writing, YOUR storytelling, to sell it.
Okay, now a little about you. (And yes, I stole these questions from In the Actor's Studio with James Lipton.)
What is your favorite word?
Awesome (Wait, did you mean favorite, or the word that you over-use the most?)
What is your least favorite word?
Sighed (My characters tend to sigh a LOT in early drafts)
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
My kid’s laughter
What sound or noise do you hate?
My kids fighting
What profession, other than your own, would you most like to attempt?
I did it for over five years before quitting to do this - epidemiology
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear G-d say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“Great job living life to the fullest. You can come in anyway.”
Finally, what's the one question you've always wanted to answer in an interview? (And of course, you have to answer it!)
Haha I don’t have a witty answer to this one! So I’ll just go with “What’s your favorite movie and why?”
Another hard one to answer (which is obviously why I’m not good at this! ;) ) I’m going to cheat and say the Lord of the Rings movie(s). They’re so epic, so beautifully done, so well acted and written that I’m sucked into their world. Peter Jackson is a genius and I’d love to meet him one day (or better yet, have him direct one of my novels-into-movies!). Dream big or go home, right? ;)
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog, Shelley! I wish you all the book sales!
Thank you so much for having me! I had a blast!
Shelley Watters grew up in Tucson, Arizona and currently resides Chandler, Arizona. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Sociology with a focus on Women’s Health Issues and continued on to get a Master’s certificate in Public Health Epidemiology. After serving many wonderful years in the public health sector as an Epidemiologist, she left the field to raise her family and re-discovered a long-lost passion: writing. While her days are filled with extra-curricular activities, her nights are devoted to slinging words across the page. Her novels sizzle with the heat and passion that only growing up in the southwest can bring.