Monday with Aunt Noony – and a Fireside Chat with Kimberley Troutte!

My friend, Kimberley Troutte, is up for several awards and I wanted to chat with her about the awards process and how it fits in with the rest of her writing. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to chat with me. Grab a cuppa and join me as I get to talk with Kimberley Troutte!

ACN: Kimberley, you said you received word that your manuscript, Epicenter (also called Her Guardian, His Angel), is a finalist in the RWA contests Launch A Star AND the Melody of Love. You also have a second manuscript, God Whisperer, in the finals of the Hot Prospect contest. First, congratulations! That’s awesome news!

Can you tell me a little more about Epicenter?

KT: I would love to. Epicenter, is the dramatic story of an American philanthropist and a Haitian doctor who are fighting to save lives when the greatest earthquake Haiti has ever known rips their world apart.

ACN: How did they get considered for Launch a Star and Melody of Love? Is that something you had to submit, or were you nominated? How does that work?

KT: These are writing contests in two different RWA Chapters (Romance Writers of the World). I entered online, paid my fee and kept my fingers crossed. Preliminary judges read all the entries, score them based on predetermined scoresheets, and determine which entries are good enough to move to the final rounds. I was honored and thrilled to hear that I was moving to the finals where agents and editors determine the final standings of the winners.

And the nail biting begins…

ACN: Is there a contest fee?

KT: Yep. Usually around $15-35 USD.

ACN: How about God Whisperer? What is that about?

KT: It’s the story of a mother and her eight-year-old son who are hiding for their lives in a Danish community in the hills of California when the boy becomes famous due to an ear surgery that allows him to hear God.

God Whisperer is near and dear to my heart. I wrote it because my little boy was born without an ear canal or eardrum in his right ear. The outside of the ear looked normal (albeit a little smaller than the left) but he had no hole! Very rare. The amazing surgeons at UCLA recreated his ear, drilling the hole, making an eardrum from his own tissue, and lifting the bones so that they could pick up sounds. It was a miracle when my boy could hear out of both ears for the first time in his life and I wanted to pour that love and miracle into a book.

ACN: How did it get selected for Hot Prospect? Is that something you did on your own, or were you nominated? How does that work?

KT: I entered it in the online RWA writing contest. I was so pleased that it was a finalist in the single-title category that I cried.

ACN: What made you want to be considered for these?

KT: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope to win :-), but mostly I entered these contests looking for answers. I had made huge revisions to the beginnings of both manuscripts and wanted to know if the changes worked.

First chapters are hard for me. I tend to revise them several times before the book is ready. I always worry that I might be starting in the wrong place, or in the wrong point of view, or including too much backstory, or…

The questions I hoped that the judges would help me answer were:

  • Would readers be hooked enough to want to invest their precious time to read on?
  • Am I clear—not too much backstory but enough information so that the reader is not confused?
  • Are the character likeable?
  • Is the plot interesting?

I was thrilled to pieces to see that the preliminary judges liked my first chapters, OMG they really did.

ACN: How do you find contests fit into your writing process? Is it something you do out of enjoyment, or is it part of your overall marketing strategy?

KT: Contests give me a chance to see where I am succeeding and falling short so that I can improve my story before other readers and publishing professionals see it. I always keep in mind that judging is subjective but if two judges touch on the same weak point, it probably needs to be changed.

ACN: What advice would you give to a writer wanting to start out competing? Where would a person start and what strategies could you recommend?

KT: I would recommend going to the RWA [Romance Writers of America] website. There are all sorts of contests for the unpublished and published alike and you don’t have to be a member of RWA to enter. Make sure you read the rules carefully and email the contest coordinator if you have any questions. I would choose a contest that offers judges feedback so that you can learn and grow from their advice. And remember that it is a subjective process. All judges, just like readers, are not the same. I have had one judge love the chapter while the other disliked it rather intensely. That’s the way it goes sometimes. If you are willing to put yourself out there and enter with an open mind, determined to use the contest as a tool, you should be able to learn something from it.

ACN: I wish you every success and, regardless of whether you win, you should be proud for having entered. That takes guts and I’m sure proud of you.

KT: Thank you so much. I am in a place of happy shock. I’m so grateful that judges gave up their time to help me become a better writer. It’s such a gift.

Write on!

Kimberley Troutte

Friday Fiction: Please Welcome Special Guest, David Bridger!

I am excited to share a guest blog post from first-time published author, but long-time writer, David Bridger.  I met David on the Romance Divas Forum and was impressed by his sense of humor, ease of writing style, and his friendliness.  When his first book got published and he asked for publicity from other Divas, I jumped at the chance.

Here, then, is author, David Bridger, talking about his experiences writing Beauty and the Bastard.  Enjoy!

From Soup to Nuts

Beauty and the Bastard is my first published work of long fiction, but it’s far from being the first thing I’ve written.

I was thirteen years old when I decided I would be a writer. In fact, an inspiring English teacher called Mr. Watson told me I already was one, and urged me to work hard in order to turn potential into reality. Three years later I tried to write my first novel. But within a few hundred words I realised my self-conscious style would be no substitute for a lack of substance, so I went away to live a bit of life before trying again.

I went away to sea, actually, and those years of sailing the world proved fertile for my imagination. My second bash at writing a novel came ten years after the first, and that time I finished a Chapter One while sliding up and down mountainous seas in the Arctic Ocean.

It was embarrassingly autobiographical and horribly self-indulgent. I’d lived a bit of life, but my writing skills were no more developed than they had been when I was thirteen, so I filed that chapter under B for Bin and vowed to learn how to write novels when I retired from sea.

Ten years later, I was ready to start. I’d come home injured and was destined to spend several years regaining mobility. Life went from “crazy busy” through “traumatic” to “scarily quiet” very quickly, and alongside my program of physical recovery I dedicated most of my mental energy to learning how to write fiction.

My first completed novel was a paranormal family saga. It was a big story with a big wordcount. I know now that it was another self-indulgent one, and it’s unlikely to ever see the light of day, but it was my apprenticeship and it served me well. It was the platform upon which I checked out various online writing communities.

I joined Forward Motion and Litopia, and also discovered an informal community of writers and readers on LiveJournal. I learned from sharing crits with my pre-published peers, from reading the blogs of multi-published authors, and from taking workshops.

That network of support and encouragement helped me write my second novel, an urban fantasy which I think is good enough to be published. It’s out there on submission now. If it’s picked up, it might become the first book in a series.

As I neared the end of that one, it occurred to me that both my completed novels contained romantic elements. Strong romantic elements. I sat back and took a good look at this aspect of my writing.

I’ve always been a romantic. Many sailors are. Until that moment I’d never thought of myself as a romance writer, though. Maybe that’s what I was. I didn’t know, but it was worth checking out, so last summer I joined Romance Divas.

It was a defining moment in my career. Within a few weeks, I knew I’d not only found a new and wonderful writing home to add to my existing ones, but that I’d also discovered my writing identity. And the workshops there! Wow! They’re pure gold dust!

I found Romance Divas at exactly the right time for me. Things fell into place naturally, and I found focus at the same time as I discovered my most natural voice.

One direct result of all this was Beauty and the Bastard. It was like riding a storm. I fell in love with the two main characters and lived their adventure with them. After years of experimentation with rapid drafting and suchlike, I’d already learned that my best method is to outline lightly then write my best quality draft straight off. When I added to that my newly-discovered voice, I found myself writing with strength and confidence I’d never known before. I immersed myself in it and loved every moment.

I hope my readers will love it too.

PS. I can’t help smiling when I say “my readers”. I don’t believe that will ever get old.

And here’s a little teaser for the novel:

Saul the Bastard is a fallen angel who works as a bounty hunter for powerful urban demon families. Rebecca Drake, a modern day demon princess, is being hunted by dangerous desert demons. When Rebecca’s family hires Saul to protect her, they are both unhappy with the arrangement, but before long sparks fly as they try to resist their strong mutual attraction. For the first time in living memory, Saul has someone to love; someone he is scared of losing; someone the desert demons have marked to be their next sacrifice.

Now available from Liquid Silver Books:  Beauty and the Bastard.