SARA Cafe Welcomes Frances Kiani

How did you learn about SARA and what made you want to join?

I found SARA on meetup.com and attended my first meeting in January 2014. At the time, I wanted to join a writing group and SARA was a perfect fit.

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

I write young adult.

What made you decide to write romance?

That’s a tough question. I didn’t set out writing romance. I wanted to write mysteries and true crime novels. But every single story I wrote turned into a romance.

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

Listen to critique but go with your gut. Know your characters. Believe in yourself. Don’t give up. Write every day. Read a lot (I’m always surprised when I meet aspiring authors who don’t read).

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

I’ve read a lot of craft books but my favorite is On Writing by Stephen King. I’ve read it three times and every single time, I learn something new. It’s now my “go to” book when I get lost or discouraged.

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

I started as a pantser which turned my first YA novel into a mess. Now I start with a few scenes and write. Most of the other scenes come to me as I write so technically, I’m still pantsing. And when I get stuck (because it does happen around the 30K mark), I take my scenes and plot them on a board. This way I can see what’s missing.

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

Deleting scenes I love. It’s why I try not to pants as much as I used to. Because trying to keep scenes you love can mess with the flow of your story.

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

Probably horror. I love horror books but I can’t imagine writing one.

What would happen if you didn’t write?

I can’t imagine not writing but if I couldn’t write, I’d definitely volunteer more. Maybe even go back to work for Corporate America either in disaster recovery or something IT related. I used to be a computer nerd where I’d wake up thinking about SQL statements and Visual Basic. I guess in many ways, I still am because I get excited about Amazon’s algorithms. I can’t wait to publish several books so I can analyze the data and write code to automate weekly reports.

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

Five years from now, I’d love to work with an illustrator in creating a manga series. I think it’d be cool to sell those books at anime conventions and see fans dressed in cosplay costumes. No matter where I am in my writing career, I know I’ll still be writing and having fun!

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

Write and read every day – no excuses. And remember to take care of yourself by getting out of the writing chair. Go for a walk, visit a state park, or take a yoga class.

SARA Cafe Welcomes Carol Kilgore

How did you learn about SARA and what made you want to join?

I knew there was an RWA chapter in San Antonio, and I joined a few months after we moved here several years ago. It’s a great chapter filled with fantastic writers.

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

Romantic Suspense for the most part; however, to be honest, mostly my stories are mystery and/or suspense with romantic elements. My storylines are usually heavier on the mystery and suspense side but there’s always a love story to go along with it. My tag line is Crime Fiction with a Kiss. I recently completed a trilogy that also dips into the paranormal in a few different ways. Those books were really fun to write!

What made you decide to write romance?

The HEA and the strong connections between characters. The funny thing is that I didn’t intend to write romance. When I started writing fiction, I wrote mystery short stories. Very dark noir-ish stories. Novels were different. Not only could I not maintain that level and type of tension for the length of a novel, I didn’t want to be at that place in my head for months. Besides, I kept finding places that needed a little humor.

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

Probably that we live the exciting lives we write about.

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

Along the way, a lot of quotes have provided inspiration I don’t remember who said it originally, but someone said something like don’t be a writer if you don’t have to be. Writing chose me, I think. I get really cranky and short-tempered if I don’t write for a while. Meaning a few days or so. Stories and characters have always been in my head. I thought they were a by-product of being a rabid reader, so I didn’t realize I was supposed to write them down for a while.

To be a writer you have to actually write. Talking, studying, and reading all play a part, but many of us learn the most by writing, critiquing, and making a lot of mistakes along the way. None of us ever knows all there is to know.

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

For me, it wasn’t just one or two but probably every author I’d ever read. Starting with Dr. Seuss. I started reading early and moved to reading adult books by my early teen years.

I write short chapters, and I’m sure the reason is directly related to James Patterson.

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

On Writing by Stephen King.

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

I’m a time-liner. I very loosely plot a story with only a vague idea of what will tie those points together. The loose plot then acts as the framework. I figure out the order of the high points. I usually know the ending first, then the beginning. Before I start writing, I know the beginning, important points in the middle, the ending. I also try to know the pinch points. I nearly always know the first, but often I don’t know the second until I’m there and have to figure it out.

The story develops organically once the characters get together. Sometimes they follow my plan as if they were reading a script and life is rainbows. Most of the time, they have their own way with my plans and surprise me at every turn. Even so, most books turn out pretty close to how I envisioned them going in.

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

Two things are equally hard for me. The beginning. I probably rewrite this more than anything else. The second is getting deep enough into the heads of the viewpoint characters. Thankfully, my editor finds every place I failed to do this and makes sure I get it done.

What is the biggest surprise and/or frustration you’ve learned in the writing/publishing process?

How supportive most writers are to each other. It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey. This support is wonderful!

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

I stick pretty much with a broad definition of romantic suspense. That’s where my interest lies. I love reading time travel, but I don’t think I’ll ever write that. If I could ever figure out a unique angle, though… maybe.

What would happen if you didn’t write?

I’d probably need to drink more wine.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of how you have worked past it.

Someone told me early on that I’d get a lot of rejections and to find a way to deal with them. She suggested letting all that sorrow and agony roll on over me for five minutes. Then go for a walk or watch something that would make me laugh and then get back to work. I followed her advice and it’s served me well.

I’m generally a positive and optimistic person. Plus I’m persistent and stubborn. This advice has worked well for me even on the rejections that really stung.

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

Write better every day. Keep smiling. I’d love to be able to fully support myself from my writing, but all I have control over is the quality of the books I produce.

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

Write for yourself. Edit for your readers, so they can see what you see in your head.

March: Joe McKinney – Unlocking Narrative Structure

Unlocking Narrative Structure

Presented by Joe McKinney

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Unlocking Narrative Structure: author Joe McKinney will focus on the shared narrative structures of the romance, detective, and horror genres. The presentation will include a free-range discussion that covers hot button issues from all of these genres, but in tying it all together, we will see how romance/relationships is the key to any story.

About Joe McKinney

joemckinneyJoe McKinney is the San Antonio-based author of several horror, crime and science fiction novels. His longer works include the four part Dead World series, made up of Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead, Flesh Eaters and The Zombie King; the science fiction disaster tale, Quarantined, which was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel, 2009; and the crime novel, Dodging Bullets. His upcoming releases include the horror novels Lost Girl of the Lake, The Red Empire, The Charge and St. Rage. Joe has also worked as an editor, along with Michelle McCrary, on the zombie-themed anthology Dead Set, and with Mark Onspaugh on the abandoned building-themed anthology The Forsaken. His short stories and novellas have been published in more than thirty publications and anthologies.

In his day job, Joe McKinney is a sergeant with the San Antonio Police Department, where he helps to run the city’s 911 Dispatch Center. Before promoting to sergeant, Joe worked as a homicide detective and as a disaster mitigation specialist. Many of his stories, regardless of genre, feature a strong police procedural element based on his fifteen years of law enforcement experience.

A regular guest at regional writing conventions, Joe currently lives and works in a small town north of San Antonio with his wife and children.