SARA Cafe Welcomes L.M. Nelson

l.m. NelsonHow did you learn about SARA and what made you want to join?

I learned about SARA from a fellow Texas Authors member, Marjorie Brody, who told me about SARA during a marketing event I attended in Austin back in May. She boasted about the workshops and how the meetings emphasized the craft of writing.  Being new to the publishing industry, I was looking for any opportunity to improve my craft and socialize/ network with fellow authors. So I decided to give it a shot. SARA not only focuses the craft of writing, romance in particular, but even from my first meeting I felt very welcomed into this community of writers.

What sub-genre(s) of romance stories do you write?

Currently I write New Adult contemporary. Although a romantic relationship is prevalent to some degree in each book of my series, each also has its own subplot (medical school/residency for the first two, medicine/college sports for the third, and medical school/performing arts for the last). The series follows a set of characters, and each book builds off the previous one and tells a bit more of the story.

What made you decide to write romance?

I didn’t initially plan to write romance, it just kind of turned out that way. I’m the kind of writer who starts with a character and builds the story around them. As my Scrubs series progressed, the relationships between my characters grew and the story came together. It all led to a series of romance books.

What do you think is the most misconceived idea readers have about romance writers?

Most people I know don’t read romance novels. Based on what these non-romance readers have told me, there are several reasons for this. First, romance novels are considered boring. There isn’t a plotline, no bang bang shoot ‘em up explosive action. Two, romance novels are comparable to mushy, sappy chick flicks, and not everyone is into those. The third misconception is that all romance novels are pages upon pages of nothing but sex, even though that isn’t necessarily the case. Lastly, several people have equated romance with “trashy novels”, giving the entire genre a bad reputation.

All of these can be potential deterrents for some readers. Even though the romance genre is versatile and growing strong, many do not consider romance novelist to be “real writers.” I’ve heard people go so far as to say, “Anyone can write a romance.” Oh yeah? Let me see you do it. Many in the industry don’t take us seriously as writers.

 What’s the best advice you’ve been given or read about writing?

The best advice I’ve been given: write for myself. I read a quote once that said, “It’s better to write for yourself and have no audience than write for an audience and have no self.” I firmly believe this. Trends fade and audiences change. I will never please every reader out there, so I’m not going to waste my time trying. I write for myself, I write what interests me, whatever pops into my head. At some point, someone out there will make a personal connection with something I’ve written.

What writer(s) inspired you to try your hand at writing as well?

I honestly don’t have an answer for this. I don’t try to style myself after other writers. I write with my own style and my own voice. But if I had to choose, I’d pick books that inspired me rather than a specific writer. Several of Robert Frost’s poems, and a few books I’ve read over the years, have inspired creativity. I loved Dean Koontz’s, Fear Nothing and Seize the Night, mainly because I love the characters and the relationships they have with one another. The Outsiders by E.B. White and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks are among my favorite books. They each told a story using unique writing style and character development. These books have stuck with me over the years.

 What is the best book you’ve ever read about the craft of writing?

Stephen King’s, On Writing is one of the best writing resource books I’ve ever read. He offers a plethora of information on the craft and gives encouraging words that keep me motivated. I refer back to it periodically. It’s a great book!

Are you a pantser or are you an outliner? Why?

Never been an outliner. I prefer to fly by the seat of my pants. The reason for this? Everything changes. I have a general idea of where I’m going when I write, but my characters drive the story. They tell it, they act it out, they speak to one another. I simply hold the pen.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog? Tension, etc?

Writing tension is hard. I want to create enough conflict to motivate my characters, but not throw so much at them that it becomes unrealistic. After I write a scene with tension, I usually end up making a lot of revisions.

Also, descriptors sometimes frustrate me. How many different ways can you describe a kiss or a laugh or a smile? I don’t want to give the reader too much information, but they need enough details to paint the picture in their head. Finding just the right combination of words can be challenging sometimes. Does anyone else have this problem, or is it just me?

We all have problems finding the right combination of words. So you are not alone.What is the biggest surprise and/or frustration you’ve learned in the writing/publishing process?

Marketing is frustrating on many levels, not only because I’m an introvert and don’t like being the center of attention, but also because I know NOTHING about it. Making myself stand out in an ocean of billions of authors has been and will continue to be a learning experience. I’ve gained insights from several authors and have taken marketing classes to help with this, but unless you have a personal promoter who does this for you full time, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. I have no desire to be the next J.K Rowling, and don’t want to be a household name, but I would like to sell a few books and gain some loyal readers.

Is there a genre you wish you could write in, but never will? Which one?

I watch Sci-Fi movies, and my husband is an avid Sci-Fi reader. Although he challenged to me to take on this genre, I don’t think I could ever write a Sci-Fi book and do it justice. The world building and character creation would aggravate me because the image in my head would never come out on paper the way I envisioned it. Think I’ll stay away from that one.

What would happen if you didn’t write?

I’d go crazy if I didn’t write. Writing is my stress relief, it relaxes me and keeps me sane. After a long day at work, I look forward to coming home and escaping into my writing world for a while.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.

Rejection is part of being a writer. We all face rejection at some point. When we do, we take the criticism with a grain of salt, adjust accordingly, and move on. After several e-mails and much begging, I made the mistake of letting someone close to me read a draft of my writing. Mind you, she is not a romance reader and mocks the industry every chance she gets, but you would think she’d offer a little encouragement or at least have one positive thing to say. Nope. Nothing. She criticized every word and had absolutely nothing good to say. That hurt. At that point, I convinced myself I was a horrible writer and wasting my time even trying. I went months without writing a word, and I almost burned the book I was working on. It took encouragement from my husband and support from my friends and children to persuade me to stick with it. I’m glad I did.

What do you see as your writing goals 5 years from now?

Five years from now, my entire four book series will be out. Once that is done, I will finish the two WIPs I have. One is a YA fantasy, the other is an adult crime novel. I have an adventure story brewing in my head, and I recently developed an idea for a romantic crime novel. I plan to write in many genres, and I’d like to try my hand at writing children’s books. I want to work on developing my platform and networking with other writers and authors, not only from Texas, but from other areas of the country as well.

Any other tips or words you’d like to share about writing?

Stick with it.  Don’t get discouraged. And most importantly, write your own story. Don’t let anyone else hold the pen.