Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Theresa Stillwagon Shares her Journey to Publication

Today Theresa shares her journey to publication and why she writes contemporary romances. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win one of her ebooks. Take it away, Theresa!

I don't remember a time when I wasn't writing.

My first attempt at writing a book was a historical, and I wrote it long-hand. I was in my mid-teens. I don't think I wrote more than the first chapter.

My second attempt was in the mid 1980s. That one was a romantic suspense I planned on sending to Harlequin. The best thing I could say about that one is I finished it. Every mistake a new author could do, I did.

The next few years were a learning experience for me. One thing I learned was that if I did a plot outline for a book, I would be too bored with it to actually write it. I also learned to show, not tell, to write believable dialogue, to start the book in an interesting place, to know the characters inside and out, but one thing I wished I knew then that I know now is -- not to be afraid to show your work to someone else.

For years I wrote alone, no one even knew I was a writer. It was as if I was ashamed of it. I wrote for ten or so years, finishing three or four books and starting twice as many without 'the end', before I finally trusted my writing enough to let others read it. I was nervous, yes, but I didn't need to be. I still call those first critique partners my on-line friends. Almost every one of them is now a published writer, and I'm proud of that.

A second thing I wish I knew then was to ignore the bad comments of others. People have been telling me my whole life I'll never amount to anything. It wasn't until I decided to stop listening to those negative people that I found out I could.

What would be my advice to a new writer?

Don't be afraid to put your work out there. I started writing almost thirty years ago, and I've only been published since 2008. If I'd listened to my own heart, my own mind, I might have been published years earlier.

You have to believe in your dreams.

Tell us more about your work and your favorite genre.

I love history, yet I could never write an historical.

I love romantic suspense, but I have a hard time keeping track of the suspense part of the story.

And, as for paranormal, fantasy, or steampunk genres, I'm way too lazy to build a proper set of rules and customs to make the story believable.

So why do I write contemporary romance?

I think writing in the same period as you live frees you to add a bit of suspense, or a ghost, or a mystery, without having to worry too much about research.

Basically I write contemporary romance because I'm a lazy researcher. As I'm writing and I come to a spot where I need to research something, I stop what I'm doing and Google the problem. When I have the facts straight on the subject, I go back to writing. In the book I'm writing now, I needed to know the process on how a woman became a Catholic sister. I stopped writing and Googled the town she lived in and found the Sisters of St. Joseph, and I found all the answers I needed. I needed to be sure she could walk away from it. (And, yes, she can.)

For an older book, A Betrayal of Friendship, I stopped writing and researched the state of Alaska and flying. I found out more than I needed to know about the state, but I also found out something interesting about me. I really would like to learn how to fly. (Maybe someday, I'll do just that.)

One bad thing about writing this way is I'm easily distracted. I really need to force myself to write. In those times, I disconnect from the internet and just write.