I met Lee Ann via Facebook. The titles of her romance novels caught my eye, as well as some of the pictures. Wink. Wink.
Lee Ann's been writing for some time, and she's got some pointers to reveal. She'll also be the first person to tell you, it takes time, it takes persistence, and it takes love of craft.
Below are the questions I asked her:
1. How many books have you written and been published?
At the end of 2012, I had twenty-nine. Length ranges from full-length novels of 70-80K to some novellas and shorts. I also have seven contracts (so far) in place for 2013 with my first release coming January 17. I have a release each month January through May at this time.
2. How long did it take you before you got your first book deal?
It took years. I've written most of my life and although I managed to collect a variety of credits, my long term goal was always to write fiction, especially novels. When my twin daughters were toddlers, I decided to get serious about writing novels. I wrote several and then began to submit about six years ago. I've been published as an author for two and my daughters will be seventeen in February 2013.
3. Describe your writing in 5 words:
For me, it's reading intensified.
4. What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
I get up early - somewhere between 4 and 5 am most days. I either eat oatmeal or a toasted bagel with cream cheese. I might occasionally cook some sausage or add an egg.
5. Why romance? Where do you get your ideas?
I've always read a little bit of every genre but when I started writing fiction, I realized I wrote love stories so my focus shifted toward romance.
My ideas come from any and everywhere. In The Shadow of War came from living where Camp Crowder, the real "Camp Swampy" from Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey comic strip is set. Some of my other historical romances have roots in my grandparents' stories. Sometimes I just begin with an image.
6. What is your writing process like? Do you use an outline? Do you write main points down? Or, do you just write?
When I begin, I know where the story begins and how it will end. Sometimes I will outline or jot down key points. Most of what happens between beginning and end just happens - I let the story unfold as it comes.
7. Do you use a writer's program, like Scrivener or Final Draft? If so, which one and why? If no, do you think you will try one in the future?
I never have - probably won't. The reason is so far, the way I write works for me and if it works, why change it?
8. Where do you go for a great cup of Joe/Tea in your town?
Green Forest Family Restaurant.
9. What is your favorite quote?
It's handed down from my grandfather to my father and to me - There is no such thing as can't because you can do anything if you put your mind toward it.
10. What genre (contemporary, historical, paranormal) is the most challenging for you to write, and why?
I love writing historicals because I am an absolute stickler for accuracy. My degree is dual in history and English so I am adamant about making sure everything is correct. And that takes time and effort.
Punctuation - my commas have been so out of control but I'm learning, thanks to some wonderful editors (including Dawn Lyons) to put them where they belong.
12. Are there any teachers in your past that helped you to become the writer you are today?
There are several. The first is my high school English teacher, Gary Sims. He encouraged me to write when I was a somewhat shy, a bit of rebel teenager who identified with the characters from SE Hinton'sThe Outsiders. He praised my writing and encouraged me. I dedicated one of my novels to his memory.
So did Dr. Lanny Ackiss, one of my professors at Missouri Southern State College. He's the first person who told me I had the potential to really become a writer but it was up to me if I did or not.
13. Who is your biggest cheerleader?
I have a whole team - husband and family, a huge cast of cousins, a lot of people from my hometown (St. Joseph, MO). My dad, who died in 2009 before any of my books were out was my biggest cheerleader, always.
14. What time of day do you write? Where/When do you find the time with 3 kids, a husband, and a dog?
I write all around the clock. Sometimes I write late at night when the house is quiet. I was up doing edits at 2:30 am this morning. On an average day, I usually write in the morning after they all head off to work/school...and then sometimes I go back to it later.
15. Have your children read any of your books? If no, why? If yes, what was their reaction?
My teenage daughters have - they like them but I think some of the sex embarrasses them. My son, age 12, read one of my tamer ones.
16. What do you think about the publishing world today? Will eBooks take over real books? Should everyone go out and publish something?
I think the publishing world is in a transition period. I think eBooks are gaining but many people still love print. I read both but I love my e-reader because I can carry around a lot of books in one device.
I don't think everyone should rush out and publish. I love to give new authors a try but some of the self-pubbed stuff I read needs so much editing. Once in awhile, though, to be fair I run across a beautiful work. If you don't have the heart and soul to give writing everything you've got, better stick to the day job.
17. You mention being born in a small town where outlaws lived and died. How does this affect your writing?
I'm from St. Joseph, Missouri. History is so rich in my hometown. St. Joe is best known for the place where the Pony Express began and outlaw Jesse James met his death at the hands of a friend but there's much more.
Local history is full of outlaws, prostitutes, exciting events, and history that was made. And yes, it affects my writing very much.
Guy's Angel is set in St. Joe circa 1925, in the old neighborhood, not of my generation but my parents and grandparents. My 1930's historical, Dust Bowl Dreams includes a sojourn for the hero in St. Joe. My upcoming contemporary novel, Urban Renewal (March 3, Champagne Books) is set in St.Joe.
I listened to the old people tell their stories and absorbed a lot of history. And for my sins, I'm related to some of the most flamboyant local figures including well=known madam and bordello operator, Lizzie King.
18. How do you promote your books? And, which way works the best?
I promote with social networking, on my blogs, by guest blogging. I've done local/regional television and radio. I do Blog Talk radio. If I could know without doubt what works best, I could share it and make a million!
19. Please give 3 points of advice for newbie writers:
1. Write on a regular basis even if it's fifteen minutes a day.
2. Don't give up but don't be afraid to learn and improve.
3. Be prepared to work long and hard to make the dream come true.
20. Do you belong to any writer's associations? If so, which ones and why?
I am a member of Missouri Writers Guild, which is a professional writers' group in my home state. Publication is required to become a member.
I also belong to the regional group Ozark Writers League and also to Romance Writers of America. I belong to them for the valuable networking, the information I can glean from the various publications and conferences, and to stay up with the industry.
21. What one word best describes you?
Take time to read of one my works - and afterward, express their honest opinion. Take a moment to rate the work at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or All Romance Ebooks or Good Read. Reader feedback is one of the most valuable things a writer can gain.
23. Do you belong to a critique group? If so, why? If no, why?
I have - in fact, a girlfriend (she's more of an editor than a writer these days) I went to college with and I started one in the small town where I now live (Neosho, MO) at the local junior college. It eventually fizzled out. Now I have several beta readers I trust and use.
24. What is your blog about?
A Page In The Life is just that - a little slice of everyday life. I write about everything from my writing to holidays to family. Rebel Writer: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a showcase for my Rebel Ink Press titles. And the other blog, Author in The House, is to showcase other authors.
25. Any big news?
Now that we're into 2013 I am proud to announce I am part of something new with Rebel Ink Press - the Rebel Elite 2013 team. There are seventeen - I think - of us and it's an accomplishment to be named as one.