Kristan Higgins will present her workshop Layering Your Plot and Characters at CR-RWA’s April chapter meeting. She graciously agreed to be interviewed by CR-RWA’s Cara Connelly.
Cara: Welcome, Kristan! CR-RWA is thrilled to have you here, and we’d love to get to know you better.
Here’s what we already know: You’ve published more than a dozen novels, hit the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, and won the Romance Writers of America RITA Award twice.
That’s the kind of resume all romance authors aspire to. Can you tell us some of the milestones along the way?
Kristan: Getting the Call(s): first, the request from an agent (who happened to be the agent I signed with); the call that she wanted me on her list; the call that she’d sold my book.
My first fan letter (from Andrea in Montana), since it drove home the fact that my book was out in the world, and people were reading it…and liking it.
Giving the keynote at the 2013 RWA National conference. That was the biggest honor of my career, to be sure. The chance to talk to my peers and bare my soul and make them laugh…well, that was just incredibly uplifting and humbling at the same time, and a memory that still gives me thrills.
My European book tour, since I’ve never been to Europe, and the very idea that the powers that be thought I was worthy of such a trip…me! The middle child!…was staggering.
Cara: I just want to say that I was in the audience when you gave your keynote, and you moved me and the other 2000 people in the room to laughter and to tears. Just like your books do!
You’ve obviously had many successes in your career. But no author gets through this business unscathed. How do you deal with rejection?
Kristan: Well, I actually love rejection, in a way, because it informs me of my writing skills. My first query letter got me 100% rejections (except for the two agents who still haven’t gotten back to me). I would’ve rejected me based on that letter, too. The rejection from the occasional reader, who feels the need to tell me she doesn’t like my book for one reason or another lets me realize how some people interpret some things. (In most cases, it’s my rather liberal views on things like gay marriage. Once it was because my heroine drove a Prius.) I don’t necessarily change anything, but it’s good to hear from my readers just the same.
Cara: What’s your favorite aspect of your writing life? What’s your least favorite?
Kristan: Working alone, and working alone. When things are going well, I consider leaving McIrish and putting the kids in a temporary orphanage, because I don’t want to be interrupted, I love my book, the pages are flying out… and then there’s the other 90% of the time, when it’s hard, and I don’t know what to do, and everything seems trite or shallow, and I’m the only one who can fix it.
Cara: What do you do while you work? Do you watch TV or listen to music?
Kristan: I have a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder (my closets are works of art, seriously…), so I listen to one song that to me captures the mood of the book. Just that one song, on repeat, at a very low volume. My record is 1378 plays. J
Cara: These days writing is only part of the business of being an author. How much promotion do you do?
Kristan: Quite a bit. In a perfect world, the only “promotion” I’d do would be interact with readers. But in the real world, I spend about an hour a day on average, and more during a release month.
Cara: Between writing, promoting, taking boxing lessons, and keeping McIrish and the rest of the family—including your Mom (love her!)—out of trouble, you live a very busy life. When you find the spare time, what do you like to read?
Kristan: Everything except nonfiction. Mostly romance and women’s fiction, with the occasional thriller or horror novel thrown in.
Cara: Now that you’ve been in this business for a while, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Kristan: Don’t rush. Don’t listen to the authors who spit out a book in 3 weeks. You’re not there yet, and chances are, you may never be there. I personally would never want to be there, because writing a book with depth and richness and a sense of completeness takes time. Don’t rush to submit, don’t rush to self-publish, don’t rush your work. Make every sentence count. Ponder every single aspect of your book. Be hard on your work, and reward yourself for your milestones. This is a tough way to make a living. You have no coworkers. Take care of yourself.
Cara: That’s great advice, Kristan. Thank you so much for giving us your insight and letting us get to know you better. Our whole chapter is looking forward to April 11th!