Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. After earning a master’s degree in social work from LSU, she worked in a mental hospital, counseled birthmothers as an adoption coordinator, and did management recruiting in her PJs. But she always returned to writing.
Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars concerts.
1. I would usually begin writing interview questions by looking at everything the author has online, but for you, that’s huge! How did your internet presence begin, and how did it grow so large?
I started like anyone else. I’d written a book and started reading writing blogs. I realized that I was supposed to have one too. So I started Fiction Groupie with the intention of it being a book review blog. That lasted for like half a second before I started blabbing about writing. And shockingly, people started responding and following. I remember being over the moon when I hit 50 followers. Two years later I have 1500 and about 10k hits a month. A lot of people ask me why mine grew so quickly (even before I had the agent and book deal to “legitimize” giving writing advice) when there are so many people blogging about writing. I’m honestly not sure. All I can say is I tried to approach every post as—this is what I’m learning, maybe it will help you too. And I always tried to make sure there was some takeaway, some nugget that a reader could use.
2. How structured and planned are the subjects of your blog posts?
Ha! Planning—what’s that? I’m a pantser for blogging as much as I’m a pantser for writing. Whatever is on my mind that particular day is what I blog about. Sometimes I’ll get an idea and jot it down for a future post, but I rarely get a post written before the morning of. Now having said that, I have moved to doing a few “theme” days which is a type of loose planning I guess.
3. You have offered a veritable smorgasbord of advice to other writers in the blogosphere. What are some of your favorite hints?
Wow, there is so much good advice I’ve found along the way. I guess my biggest one would be to learn all the rules and then don’t freak yourself out over them. Some are meant to be followed, some can be broken. Once you’ve educated yourself reading craft books, going to workshops and learning as much as you can from other writers, then you need to have the confidence to trust your gut on when to follow the rules and when not to.
4. Besides the blog, what social media sites do you use? Do you have multiple accounts on any?
I’m a social media whore, so I’m on lots of things, lol. Twitter (love), Facebook (kinda hate), Tumblr (adore), Goodreads (fun), and Google + (jury is still out.)
5. How much writing did you do before being published?
CRASH INTO YOU was my third completed novel (not counting the one I wrote in high school.) So I wrote and queried two other novels before that one (a YA and a contemporary romance.)
6. What authors did you love when you were growing up? What authors do you love now?
I loved Judy Blume and Madeleine L’Engle. I knew I wanted to be a writer after reading A Wrinkle in Time. Now there are SO many, so I’ll just tell you my favorite in my genre of erotic romance: Maya Banks, Shayla Black, Joey W. Hill, Lorelei James—the list could go on for a while.
7. How many “first” stories will you leave buried in the back of the proverbial drawer?
Definitely my first novel, the YA. Looking back, it was definitely a practice novel.
8. What is your critique group like?
I don’t have one anymore. The process of exchanging chapter by chapter was too slow once I was working on a deadline. So my beta reader just gives me overall feedback once I’m done with the book. Then I send it to agent Sara and do a round of edits with her before submitting to my editor.
9. You’ve had a couple of different jobs, not to mention life experience before writing Crash Into You. Did this experience influence your writing in any way?
Absolutely. In fact, my main character in CRASH INTO YOU is a social worker (which is my former career.) And I think having a background in psychology and social work deeply influences my writing because I’m always looking for the “why”—why is this character this way, why do they do what they do, why do they react certain ways. Though, this also means I tend to write really damaged characters, lol. Luckily, they always find their happy in the end.
10. Many authors go through a stage where they hate what they’re writing. Have you ever experienced this? If so, how did you get through it?
I think if you don’t go through this on a regular basis, you probably suck as a writer. Insecurity and feeling like a hack are part of the job description. Those who don’t go through this are like those people on American Idol who sing horrible but can’t understand why others don’t understand their brilliance.
11. How did you get your agent?
A fellow writer, Natalie Bahm, who I met through blogging saw an excerpt on my blog and that I had won some contests. She offered to give me a referral to Sara Megibow (her agent). I queried and sent my first three chapters and two weeks later, I was agented.
12. What happened in the time between signing with your agent and getting a publishing deal?
I did two major revisions with Sara, like cutting and replacing about 30k words *eek* in about a month period. Then we went on submission. Sara told me to settle in for a wait and to expect the rejections to come in first, but Berkley called two weeks after being on submission with an offer. They were my top choice so I was beyond thrilled.
13. To publicize your novel, what does the publisher do? What does your agent do? What do you do?
My publisher does the more broad scale stuff—getting me into the right stores, giving me a great cover, shopping the book, getting ARCs in the hands of some of the bigger reviewers/publications. My agent helps me edit, gives me moral support, negotiates contracts (a biggie!), pimps me out, helps spread buzz, and looks for promotional opportunities I may have missed. Nelson Literary also has a marketing person so I work with her to come up with a promotion plan leading up to my book’s release. I will eventually have a publicist assigned to me for Berkley as well. I do everything else—social networking, blogging, presenting at workshops, building connections with the local writing community, etc.
14. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
I don’t use anything fancy—though I have Apple envy so hope to have a Macbook one day. But right now me and my little Netbook are BFFs.
15. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
My husband, who doesn’t blink an eye when I ask things like, “If you had me up against a wall and my hands were here, would you be able to…” His answer is always—well, let’s try that out to see if it works. *rolls eyes* Such a self-sacrificing man, donating himself for research so willingly.
16. What is your most persistent distraction from writing?
Blogging and tweeting. Then there’s that whole being a mom and wife thing—can you believe my husband and son expect me to feed them and stuff? ; )
17. Do you have rules for how steamy you write your sex scenes?
That’s why I ended up in erotic romance. I felt restricted by the rules—how far can I go? Is this too much? Blah Blah Blah. Now I can write whatever the scene calls for. Sometimes that may be a sweet, romantic love scene. Other times that may mean floggers and candlewax and all the four letter words. : )
18. How did your parents and in-laws handle the news of your writing success?
My family has been enormously supportive. My parents cried (in a good way) when they saw my cover—yes, that sexy, wet cover, lol. They would literally champion me in whichever career path I chose. My in-laws are a little more wary, but supportive nonetheless. I just need to make sure none of them actually read the book, lol.
19. What’s the most interesting thing someone might find if they google you?
Uh, that I went to a nice, conservative Catholic school? I dunno.
20. When the day comes that you are up on stage accepting some prestigious award, who are you most likely to forget to thank?
My first critique group for whipping my butt into shape.