This is a very belated introduction to Tara Leigh, who has been a client of mine for over a year now, and who had her debut book release yesterday. PENTHOUSE PLAYER is the first in her Billionaire Bosses series, and is a must-read for anyone who loves Billions or The Wolf of Wall Street! Check it out! And now, without further ado, I’ll let Tara tell you a bit about herself in her own words.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I try to write every day, mostly while the kids are in school. I have an office, but I hate writing at a desk. I used to just hop right back in bed with my laptop after getting the kids on the bus, but we got a puppy last year, and now I usually hang out on the couch with her most of the day.
Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. burning a candle if you’re having trouble getting started at the computer or writing longhand first if you’re feeling uninspired.)
Not really, unless you count checking email, surfing on social media, and poking around on Amazon for a while before my characters start talking too loudly to ignore.
What do you love about writing Contemporary Romance?
I enjoy writing strong female characters and the alpha males who are completely thrown off their game because of them. Romance resonates so deeply with readers, I love the idea of a story I’ve poured into my laptop becoming “real” to someone.
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
Writing love stories… What could be better?
What is the hardest part about writing Contemporary Romance?
Romance readers are a voracious lot, but most successful romance authors are incredibly prolific, putting out multiple books per year. It’s a crowded space and hard to stand out.
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
Not a romance, but my favorite book in the world is FIREFLY LANE, by Kristin Hannah. Kate and Tully (if you’ve read the book, TullyandKate) were each so finely drawn, they came alive to me in a way hasn’t happened before or since. I cannot say enough about this book. If you’ve ever had a best friend you loved like a sister—and fought with like a sister, too—you MUST read this book. In Romance, IT ENDS WITH US, by Colleen Hoover. Be warned- this book will break you. Painfully. Beautifully. But ultimately leave you wanting more. And in my other favorite genre, psychological suspense, ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN, by Wendy Walker. This book sucked me in from the first page, and surprised me on the last. Fabulous.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
Chauffeuring my kids all over town, cuddling with Pixie, cocktailing (yes, it should be a verb) with girlfriends, date night with hubs, or trying to catch up with my DVR.
Do you belong to any writing organizations?
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
What’s the last book you read?
LAST FIRST KISS, by Sidney Halston. Annie is a bodyguard, assigned to protect movie star Rocco. Together they are delicious.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
I absolutely love my town, but I wish it were on the water. So, probably a beach house within driving distance. I’d love to spend my days in a rocking chair, laptop on my knees, listening to the crash of the waves as I write.
What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?
From Jessica Alvarez, of course. After sending what would become PENTHOUSE PLAYER on submission, she told me to write anything I wanted… as long as it wasn’t part of the series we were proposing. It turns out, editors like to have input in the direction of the series they acquire. Stepping away from the billionaire genre, I decided to write an angsty rock star romance—which was picked up (as a 3 book series) by Forever Yours/Grand Central. ROCK KING will release in 2018, after RISK TAKER, the last BILLIONAIRE BOSSES book.
Plotter or pantster?
I started out as a pantser but I am working hard to become a plotter. I used the “snowflake” method with DEAL BREAKER, (BILLIONAIRE BOSSES, Book 2), and index cards on a bulleting board for RISK TAKER, (BILLIONAIRE BOSSES, Book 3). I’ve recently discovered STORY GENIUS, by Lisa Cron and am working my way through her process. Scarlett Cole (whose advice is always invaluable) suggested I read STORY ENGINEERING, by Larry Brooks. Hopefully something will stick and I can find a way to write more quickly, with fewer dead ends!
Synopses, love them or hate ‘em?
Is that a rhetorical question? HATE.
Do you have a writing playlist or a vision board? If so, what’s on them?
I just use Pandora. Sometimes I can listen to songs with words, sometimes it has to be an instrumental station. I don’t have use a vision board, but I’d like to start putting together a Pinterest board for each book. It’s on the To Do list.
Do you get inspiration from any TV shows or movies? If so, which ones?
I love smart, edgy dramas like Billions, Homeland, and my absolute favorite—Power (on Starz). Courtney Kemp, the show runner, is absolutely brilliant. If you watch online or On Demand, she takes you into the writer’s room at the end of every episode. I’m fascinated by the way they play with the theme of power. Who has it, who wants it, and how far they’re willing to go to keep/buy/take/steal it.
Drink of choice when writing? When not writing?
If my tea or coffee isn’t burning my throat on the way down, it’s not hot enough. So making a cup just to get cold while I’m typing seems like a waste. I like my wine red, my cocktails strong, and my water flat. (Unless I’m pretending it’s a cocktail. Then it’s bubbly, over ice, with a lime… and I stare at it remorsefully until I give up and pour vodka in the glass.
What excites you most about joining the BookEnds family?
Jessica Alvarez is the greatest agent ever. She is a phenomenal beta reader, and her feedback allows me to present a much more polished manuscript to my editors than I would otherwise. And so far, the best part about BookEnds as a whole has been meeting other authors. Shelly Bell, Melissa Cutler, Rochelle Weinstein, Christie Craig, and Robin Lovett are just a few of the incredibly talented women I had the pleasure of hanging out with at RWA this past July, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
Do your homework. I queried several times, on several different projects… beginning in 2006!!! 1. Make sure you have a solid, marketable product to offer. 2. Slave over your query. Find a writing organization or class that can review it before you send it out to a single agent. 3. Get to know each agent. Do a search for their #MSWL, read their agent interviews, study their bio, list of clients, and what their online profile says they are looking for. 4. If all this information proves your book is a good fit, then give them exactly what they want. Just the query. Query plus synopsis. Query plus first chapter. Or three chapters. Or first fifty pages. And don’t forget to personalize your query for each agent. Are you submitting because they represent an author you feel is similar to you, or because their #MSWL basically encapsulated your manuscript in 140 characters? In the first paragraph, explain why you chose them.
It took me 10 years to get all of that right. But when I did, about half the agents I submitted to requested my full manuscript. I accepted Jessica’s offer of representation knowing she was the best agent for me and my work, and she’s proved me right every day since.
If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would you want to meet and why?
Sidney Sheldon. He was the first author to keep me up at night. (with a flashlight, under the covers, in middle school) The man is a genius. Full. Stop.