A Chat with Romance Author Heather McGovern

We’ve got Heather McGovern on the blog today, chatting about her newest novel, her path to publication, and the power of perseverance.

Before we dive into the interview, here’s a bit of background on Heather:

image1Mild mannered corporate employee by day, glitter-throwing author by night, Heather McGovern grew up thinking she’d either be a herpetologist – frog scientist to be exact – or Wonder Woman. Born in the Upstate of South Carolina, she moved to Charleston to attend the College of Charleston and graduated with a BS in Biology. After realizing she didn’t want to work in a lab or go to college for 8 more years, she moved back to the Upstate. She still lives there, in the Magical McGovy Forest, with her husband, son, and plenty of pond frogs. If she’s not working on a computer somewhere, she’s playing superheroes with her son, and he always lets her be Wonder Woman.

Cara: Welcome to the blog, Heather! Let’s start with the basics. What genre do you currently write, and have you considered other genres?

Heather: Contemporary Romance. I started off as a Paranormal Romance hopeful and a few PNR ideas still simmer in the back of my mind. I’d also love to write YA at some point – when there are 28 hours in a day.

Cara: What made you want to write romance?

Heather: Without question: the HEA and the sex. Real life, and all of its adulting, is hard work. There’s nothing like settling down with a story that gives you hope and warm fuzzy feelings at the resolution. Tack on the love and sultry sex scenes, and how is that not a win/win? I started reading romance novels to help cope with or escape the every day. Then I realized I wanted to write these stories; give back to others and maybe make their lives a little more enjoyable.

Cara: I agree with you completely about the HEA…and the sex too, of course! Do you belong to a critique group?

Heather: I do. I have 3 amazing Critique Partners who I can call on, depending on schedules and levels of desperation. I strongly recommend every writer find the right CP. CPs don’t have to come in groups. None of my CPs critique for each other, but I read for them and they do for me, and we’re all friends. The right match is vital. CPs are the life partners of the authoring world. Mine are stuck with me forever, because there’s no way I’m letting go.

Cara: The right CPs make this crazy business bearable, don’t they? Tell us about your path to publication.  What have you published to date?

Heather: A long and winding path to be sure. I began writing back in 2009, but then I was pregnant and all writing and plans for publication went on pause. I started back up in 2011, working on a Paranormal series. While chipping away at that, a friend and I co-wrote a m/m contemporary (just for fun) and submitted it to several digital houses. Turned out, they all wanted to publish it. We went with Loose Id and it was a wonderful decision. We now have 2 books out with LI, under the penname Sam Morgan, and another coming out sometime later this year. As for my solo-career, I stopped pursuing Paranormal and began writing Contemporary Romance. I queried and found my agent, Nicole Resciniti, and in 2015 she sold my Honeywilde Romance series in a 3-book deal to Kensington Publishing.

Cara: Congratulations, Heather! Tell us about your latest book.

image1-1Heather: A MOMENT OF BLISS comes out August 16, 2016. It’s Book 1 in my Honeywilde series, about the three Bradley brothers and their adopted sister, who inherit the family’s mountain resort on the brink of failure. The Bradleys grew up in the shadow of their parents’ tumultuous relationship, so as they work to save Honeywilde, they’re also working to save each other. A MOMENT OF BLISS is the story of Roark, the steadfast and responsible, if cynical, oldest brother who was forced into being the family leader at too early an age, and Madison, a no-nonsense event planner who has to pull off the perfect celebrity wedding if she’s going to survive on her own. The two are strong willed, lightning-in-a-bottle personalities, but they must lean on each other in order to have the wedding of the year and any hope at happiness.

Cara: Sounds like a fun series! Before I let you get back to writing it, can you share some advice for aspiring writers?

Heather: Never ever give up. Ever. The craft of writing is a joy. It’s a journey that will introduce you to amazing people and experiences. You’ll discover things about yourself and learn more about your inner workings than you probably wanted to know. The job of being an author is tough. Gird your loins, and then go ahead and gird them even more. Publishing, marketing, sales, and the whole business end of writing is a wild ride that can whittle away at your confidence. Don’t let it. Find a way to persevere and find people who will take the wild ride with you. Together, you can remind each other to never give up. EVER.

Cara: That’s good advice, Heather. Thanks for sharing it and for stopping by the blog. Good luck with your new series!

Keep up with Heather on social media:

Website: heathermcgovernnovels.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/Heather.McGovern.Novels

Twitter: @HeatherMcGovern

As a regular blogger: badgirlzwrite.com

A Chat with Elia Winters, Author of Geeky, Kinky Romance

Cara: Our guest on the blog today is erotic romance author Elia Winters, who presented our chapter’s April workshop on Romance Tropes and Feminism. Before we get down to chatting, here’s a bit of background on Elia.

Elia Winters has always been a New England girl. Although she spent much of her childhood in Florida, she returned to her home state of Massachusetts as a teenager and has remained in New England ever since. She was blessed with an artsy, creative, somewhat quirky family that nurtured her eccentricities and helped shape her into the sassy woman she is today.

Elia holds a degree in English Literature and teaches at a small rural high school where she runs too many extracurricular activities. She balances her love of the outdoors with a bottomless well of geekiness; in her spare time, she is equally likely to be found skiing, camping, playing tabletop games, or watching Doctor Who.

A writer all her life, Elia likes to dabble in many genres, but erotic romance has been one of her favorites since she first began sneaking her mother’s romance novels. In high school, she kept her friends entertained with a steady stream of naughty stories and somehow never got caught passing them around. Her erotic fiction and poetry have been published online at Clean Sheets and Scarlet Letters under a different name. She loves BDSM erotica and men who can use semicolons.

Elia currently lives in New England with her loving husband and their odd assortment of pets.

Cara: Thanks for joining me today, Elia! With your eclectic—and geeky!—background, what made you want to write romance?

Elia: I didn’t set out to be an erotic romance author. I have been writing novels since high school, writing across multiple genres, with multiple failed attempts at publication (which I’ll get to in the next question). At the same time, though, I’ve held a great fascination with romance. I used to sneak my mother’s romance novels and became adept at skimming through them for the sex scenes and then replacing them exactly as she’d left them. I started writing my own steamy scenes at about the same time. These became very popular with my friends: we’d pass them around at school – Catholic school, of course – and somehow never got caught. Even so, I didn’t think about writing a full-length romance novel until my tenth year participating in National Novel Writing Month. I decided that year, I’d write a book just for me, something that catered to all my kinks. Ironically, once I finished that book, I realized it was my best book so far, and I set about publishing it.

Cara: Another NaNoWriMo success story—I love it! Tell us about your path to publication. What have you published to date?

Elia: If you only look at my first published book, my road to publication seems very straightforward, even enviably so, but there were many failed publication attempts beforehand. I started trying to become a published novelist in high school, back in the days of paper submissions and SASEs, a lot of money in postage, and endless rejection letters. I wasn’t querying agents, back then, but only publishing houses that took unagented submissions. When that didn’t work, I queried agents, to again receive many polite replies of “no.” I stopped trying to publish for a while, then, and began writing for me, only for fun. I participated in National Novel Writing Month year after year, wrote a novel for my undergraduate capstone project, and finally managed to draft a novel that I’d been trying to write for years, a high fantasy called Finding Frost. Over the next few years, I revised that novel in my spare time while continuing to draft new novels. I gave it to beta readers, revised endlessly, and finally polished it as much as I could. Then I began querying it to agents. In the meantime, I wrote Purely Professional, my “just for fun” BDSM erotic romance. I kept getting rejections for Finding Frost, and the more I worked on Purely Professional, the more I realized that my other novels just weren’t very good. It was a difficult realization. My high fantasy couldn’t hold the attention of beta readers, it was fairly derivative, and it didn’t have any kind of spark. I set it aside, and mostly for curiosity’s sake, started looking for agents who represent erotic romance.

When I found Saritza Hernandez, I knew I wanted her to be my agent. She was every bit as geeky as I was. As “the epub agent,” she was focusing on digital publishing, the preferred format for many readers of erotic romance. She had a small client base that she clearly cared about, and she wasn’t afraid to take chances on non-mainstream titles. I started following her on Twitter to get a sense of what kind of a person she was, and everything I saw made me want to work with her. I polished Purely Professional for a year. After I had edited it, I sent it to my beta reader, Wren, who wrote back right away. She said, “I’ve been binge-reading this since you sent it. They’d be crazy not to take it.” With that vote of confidence, I polished my first five pages, my synopsis and query letter, and sent them to Saritza. She emailed me back two weeks later and requested a full manuscript. I got the email while checking my phone in bed at midnight and couldn’t stop screeching and flailing. I sent her the full manuscript, and six weeks later, she called and offered representation. A few months later, once I’d completed more edits, she began shopping it around, and it was picked up right away by Harlequin’s Carina Press line.

Since then, I’ve published Playing Knotty with Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Star line, Combustion with Samhain, and I have a trilogy releasing this summer from Pocket Star again.

Cara: WOW! Congratulations on your perseverance, and on all your success. Your writing schedule must keep you chained to your keyboard. Do you have a favorite place to work? Any writing rituals?

Elia: I sit on the couch with my laptop to work. I don’t have a desk anymore, so the couch is my desk. Since my husband likes to keep the television on in the background for noise, and I can’t write with TV noise, I put on my headphones and listen to classical music. I have an instrumental playlist on Youtube that I listen to on loop. Other than that, I don’t have any specific writing rituals. I just sit down, plug in, and type.

Cara: Tell us about your latest book.

Elia: I’m really excited about the trilogy I have coming out this summer from Pocket Star, the “Slices of Pi” series. The books follow the adventures of employees at PI Games, Players Incorporated, a game design company out of Tampa, Florida. The trilogy epitomizes my brand of “geeky, kinky romance” better than any of my books so far. In the first book, Even Odds, Isabel Suarez decides to forego her straight-laced professional persona and let loose at a gaming convention, participating in a risque scavenger hunt and having a weekend fling. What she doesn’t realize is that the man with whom she has her fling, Caleb Portland, has just been hired as creative designer at her company, and he can’t bear to tell her. When they end up coworkers, they have to find a way to work together professionally, but their chemistry will not be denied. Even Odds will come out July 4th, Tied Score on August 15, and Single Player on September 26. All books are available for preorder now.


Cara: You’ve had an interesting path to publication, and now you’re on a roll. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Elia: Write what you enjoy reading. Don’t write for the market, or for what you think will sell. If you write what you love, your passion will come through in the book, and your audience will come. Plus, you’re going to spend so much time reading your book over and over that if you don’t enjoy it, that’s a lot of time to be miserable.

Cara: That’s great advice, Elia. Good luck with your upcoming series, and thanks for stopping by the blog!

Frankie Bailey on Writing and a “Day Job”

FBailey-1CRRWA is thrilled to welcome our own Frankie Bailey to the blog! We’re so glad she could take a few minutes out of her busy schedule (check out her many accomplishments in her bio below and you’ll know what I mean by busy!) to stop by and chat about making the writing life work when you also have a “day job” that you love. Take it away, Frankie!

One of the facts of a writer’s life is that it takes time. It takes time to come up with an idea, time to do research, time to do the first draft and all of the revisions that follow. Time to design a marketing plan for each book and implement it with website building and updates, book launches and talks, Skype chats with book clubs and newsletters to readers. Time to become a better writer by reading books about writing, attending workshops, and joining a critique group. Time to network and build friendships with other writers. Time to blog and tweet and keep up with Facebook. Time to find and maintain a relationship with an agent and/or editor. Time to do all the other things that have to be done if books are to be written and sold and readers are to discover what you’ve written and come back for more. Time that you don’t have that much of if you have a life and people in it.

If you’re a writer who also has a “day job” – as most of us are – you get occasional panic attacks thinking about all of the things you need to get done. Especially if that day job is more than just a job, but also happens to be a career that you enjoy and are trying to build and maintain. One of my favorite fantasies is about having a housekeeper, a no-nonsense woman who would come in a couple of times a week and keep my domestic ship in order. She would cook my meals and pop them into the freezer to heat and eat. She would whisk away the dust and scrub the floors. She would make sure the pet cover on the armchair Harry, my Maine Coon/mix cat, likes to sleep on is laundered and that the fur he sheds doesn’t find its way into corners and under furniture. She might even play with Harry when I’m around and he wants to nap – all 16 or 17 pounds of him – on my lap while I’m at the computer.

Of course, I would also have a part-time personal assistant who would take my books back to the library before they’re overdue, buy the printer cartridge I’ve been trying to find the time to pick up, make sure I can find one ink pen in a house full of pens that seem never to be there when I need one. She would keep my calendar and prepare my schedule. She would send me an email at the beginning of each week reminding me what I need to get done at work and at home – the deadlines coming due, the commitments I’ve made. She would have me so organized that I would have nothing to do but get my work done. I would have time to relax and do things like read the Thursday and Sunday newspapers that I subscribe to and often end up scanning before tossing them into the recycling bin on garbage pick-up night.

If I had these two capable, efficient women in my life – being sexist here and specifying women because I occasionally tumble out of bed and stagger to the computer and end up writing much of the morning clad in my bathrobe – I would be much more productive. I suspect I would also be more successful because I would have time to write more blogs and develop more ideas and actually send out that newsletter I’ve been trying to get around to since last year. But the best part would be that I would be able to curl up on my sofa and read and think without feeling guilty about not doing the laundry.

Fortunately for my sanity, my two careers – academic and mystery writer – overlap. The first book I wrote after graduate school was a nonfiction book about mystery/detective fiction. That brought me back to my roots (a double major in Psychology and English at Virginia Tech). After writing that nonfiction book, I tried again to write a novel. But my earliest effort at writing fiction had been as a teenager. Like most writers, I grew up reading. One of the books I plucked from a library shelf was by a mystery writer named Richard Martin Stern. I was delighted to discover that he had a mystery series with a racially/ethnically diverse cast of characters in a terrific New Mexico setting. I wrote to say how much I loved his books. He wrote back to thank me for writing (I still have his letter), and that was probably when I began to think about being a writer. I sent in an application to the Famous Writers School (unknown to my parents, who actually allowed me to enroll in the correspondence course). And then I went off to college and after that three years as an Army food inspector. I was stationed in Seattle, and in the evenings, I would come home to my apartment, pop a frozen dinner into the oven, and sit down to write. I wrote two novels, both romance suspense. I finished both, did first revisions, and then I got out of the Army and came immediately to Albany to grad school. It wasn’t until years later, back in Albany as an assistant professor, that I turned again to writing fiction. When I was doing research for my nonfiction book about black characters in crime fiction, I joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and began to meet other writers. I joined a local writing group. I began to think about what I would write if I tried my hand at a series. That was when I realized I had loads of material. I study crime. I wanted to write mysteries. My first book and the series that followed featured a crime historian, and the plots were often inspired by real-life crimes.

Since that first book came out fifteen years ago, I’ve written four more in that series and two short stories. I have two books featuring a female police detective. I’m working on an idea for another series and on a historical mystery/thriller. I’m also busy with academic research and writing.

And I keep hoping that one day soon I’ll be able to afford a housekeeper who will come in and cook and tidy, and a part-time assistant who will keep me organized.

But, on the other hand, I sometimes get my best ideas while washing dishes or wandering the aisles of the supermarket. I could get organized and use modern technology to keep up with what I need to get done.

If only I had the time to get organized . . . that’s a writer’s life. We all know it well.

what the fly saw(1)Frankie Y. Bailey is a criminal justice professor at UAlbany (SUNY), as well as the author, co-author, or co-editor of a number of non-fiction books. She’s also the 2010 recipient of the George N. Dove Award for her research on mystery and crime fiction, and she’s been nominated for several other awards, including the Edgar, Agatha, and Anthony, and is the winner of a Macavity Award for African American Mystery Writers (2008).

Frankie has five books and two published short stories in a mystery series featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart. One of the short stories (“In Her Fashion”) was published in the July 2014 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. The Red Queen Dies (Minotaur Books, September 2013) was her first book featuring Detective Hannah McCabe in a near-future police procedural set in Albany, New York. A second McCabe book, What the Fly Saw, was published in March 2015. Frankie is a former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America and a past national president of Sisters in Crime. She is currently at work on a nonfiction book about dress, appearance, and American criminal justice, as well as her next mystery novel.



RWA 2014 impressions by Jeanette Grey

RWA 2014 Conference Report by Jeanette Grey


Before I tell you too much about my experience at RWA’s National Conference in San Antonio this year, let me tell you a little bit about what writer life is like for me in general.

I stay at home. I hunch in front of my laptop, or curl up with my Kindle, or tear my hair out over a giant stack of notes written on random pieces of paper (or the backs of receipts, or occasionally on napkins). I do all of it alone. I love it. And occasionally, it drives me Completely. Totally. Insane.

So when I say that attending a national convention of romance writers is amazing and incredible and overwhelming? I mean it.

It’s a chance to learn. A chance to get out of the box of isolation that is my office, and the cavern of isolation that is my poor little writer brain. A chance to remind myself that there are thousands of other people all going through the same struggles, triumphs, joys and heartbreaks that I am.

It’s also a chance to have a hell of a lot of fun.

Professional Opportunities

One of the big perks of attending a conference like RWA is that you get to put yourself out there. There are book signings.

CR-RWA author Jeanette Grey at the Samhain Publishing signing.


CR-RWA author Cara Connelly at the “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing.

CR-RWA author Tracey Sorel at the “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing.


Book advertisements placed on elevator wrappers and conference programs.

Pitch appointments. Opportunities to exchange business cards with other writers and industry professionals. An entire room devoted to giving away postcards and bookmarks and swag.

They say a person has to see your name about seven times before they recognize it. A conference like the sure gives you a chance to get a head start on making all of those impressions.


I went to fewer workshops this year than I usually do at conferences, but I still managed to pick up some good information.

Both Laura Kaye and Cindy Ratzlaff had great tips for marketing yourself on social media. Both stressed the importance of using Facebook pages—not profiles—to reach readers, and using them regularly to ensure the maximum number of people see your posts. Laura specified that while Facebook is the best place to interact with large numbers of readers, Twitter is your best bet for meeting superfans who will really spread the word about your book, and you should tailor your message on each platform for the kind of reader you will be reaching.

A panel I went to on indie publishing emphasized the value of writing in series. Multiple speakers testified that they really started to take off once they had at least three related books out, and that a lot of their discoverability came from deeply discounting and advertising the first book in the series.

Finally, I went to a great workshop by Sarah McLean on sewing conflict into your stories. My favorite comment involved how she always gets herself into binds, throwing her characters into difficult situations that will keep them apart until the end of the book. But that’s a problem for “future Sarah”. And future Sarah will figure it out. For now, she just has to keep writing and keep giving her characters things to struggle against.


The internet and social media are great, but there’s something special to meeting people face to face for once.

This year, I got to meet my Samhain editor for the first time, in spite of the fact that we’ve been working together since 2011. I also got to meet a bunch of the team at Forever, which I’ve recently signed with.

There are Twitter friends you finally get to connect with in real life. Authors whose words you’ve been hanging on for years who end up being just as lovely in person as you’d always hoped they’d be.

And then there are the people waiting in line behind you for coffee that you get talking with. The random lady you borrow a piece of paper from in a workshop. The writer you share an elevator with who happens to have amazing shoes.

You never know who you’re going to meet that will end up becoming an important connection in the future. Or just as importantly – someone who just might go on to become a friend.

Letting Your Hair Down

Let’s not beat around the bush. One of the big draws of a major conference like RWA is the nightlife. Publishers throw parties. Distributors throw parties. The RITA and Golden Heart Awards ceremony is an amazing opportunity to celebrate the best of the best in our genre—but it’s also one big excuse to dress up pretty before heading out for a night on the town.

The hotel bar is always hopping at RWA, with people seeing and being seen, catching up with friends and looking to interact with other conference-goers.

Socializing is just one aspect of conference-going, but for me and a lot of other writers, I think it’s one of the most important.

Because again, so much of what we do is solitary.

And we need community. We need other writers to talk to and bounce ideas off of. We need to remember that we’re not walking this crazy path of writing and revising and querying and publishing and promoting alone.

There are so many others out there, just like us.

And going to a big conference is one of the very best ways to get out there and find them.

To learn more about Jeanette Grey, visit her website at http://www.jeanettegrey.com/, or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.