I am thrilled to introduce all of you to Minerva Spencer! She writes historical romances, and will be making her debut with Kensington in 2018. I absolutely fell in love with her stories the moment I opened them. She puts her tortured heroes through the wringer, and I love that! Definitely look for her books next year, but in the meantime, I’ll let Minerva tell you a bit about herself…
Tell us about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I write 7 days a week. I usually write two or three books at the same time so if I get stuck on one I’ll shift to another. If things still aren’t “happening” after a couple hours I’ll catch up on other writing-related matters like editing or the dreaded drafting of synopses.
I write in bed, which people seem to think is weird.
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.)
Hmmm. The closest thing I have to a writing-related ritual is drinking my daily coffee from my “lucky” cup.
When I can’t write I get up and walk around for 5 minutes or do some housework. That often stimulates some new thoughts and sends me back to my laptop. Sometimes I only end up with clean dishes…
What do you love about writing historical romance?
I taught history on the college level for 5 years and writing historicals allows me the chance to experience history in a less rigid and exacting setting. I like being able to explore history without having to use footnotes.
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
In 2013 I closed my B&B and had a LOT of time to read all of a sudden. I needed some “comfort books” so I re-read Heyer, Holt, Seton, and some of the classics that I used to read back in high school. It wasn’t long before I had exhausted my favorites and was looking for somebody new to read. Because I read a lot of books from my library, Overdrive recommended a book based on my reading habits, a novel by Tessa Dare. This was the first modern historical (meaning written in the last 20 years) I had read and I was blown away by how wonderful, intelligent, and humorous it was. The book was One Week to be Wicked, by the way.
Anyhow, I read another and another and pretty soon I was consuming HRs like oxygen. A few months after that first book I was on a long, solitary driving trip when a story set in the Regency Era began to come together in my mind.
Once I got home I started writing and a month and a half later I had a draft of my first book in The Outcasts series, Barbarous.
What is the hardest part about writing historical romance?
Not getting carried away by the research. With my background in history it’s easy to focus on minutia. Some days I will realize hours and hours have passed while I research what kind of shrub would grow on the north side of a building in Cornwall.
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
In HR, it would have to be Heyer’s These Old Shades. This book, in my opinion, represents the best of the genre. The book has it all, romance, adventure, revenge, and on and on. The Duke of Avon is my ultimate hero. He is broody, self-assured, and difficult to know. I doubt you could get away with writing a leading man like Avon nowadays because the modern reader wouldn’t put up with his high-handed ways.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
Working on my house and playing with my birds. I’m also a mad crafter and enjoy sewing, weaving, knitting, crocheting, throwing pots, stained glass, and on and on. I haven’t met a craft I didn’t want to try.
Do you belong to any writing organizations?
RWA. I’ve recently joined two online chapters of the RWA: the Beau Monde, a chapter for Regency writers, and Hearts Through History and also the ONLY RWA chapter in New Mexico, which is LERA, in Albuquerque, many hours away.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
I’m mostly on Twitter and try to blog regularly, although not just about writing. I am new to Facebook and really enjoy all the reader and writer groups FB offers.
What’s the last book you read?
Theresa Romain’s Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
I hate to be boring, but I’m pretty much in that location right now. My views are either the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north and east and the mesas to the south and west. It’s beautiful and there are chickens and turkeys and ducks and geese wherever you look!
What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?
Kurt Vonnegut once said that some days an author named Philboyd Studge took control of his writing. I always think of that on days when everything I write disappoints me. It makes me feel better to realize even great writers like Vonnegut had bad days.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Just write, no matter what.
Plotter or pantster?
An inveterate pantster. I have tried and tried and tried to outline and it never works.
For my recent series I wrote up detailed synopses in advance and felt very virtuous and ahead of the game. As soon as I began writing—the first page—I diverged from the synopsis. I was very disappointed in my inability to stick to my story after all that work!
Synopses, love them or hate ‘em?
Seriously? Is there somebody out there who loves to write synopses? I’ll give them whatever they want to write mine. Anything.
Do you get inspiration from any TV shows or movies? If so, which ones?
I know this will sound weird, but I cancelled my cable subscription in 1993 and haven’t had a TV since. I think I might be the only person in the US never to have seen a reality TV program.
Anyhow, I have a large collection of DVDs and VHS (yes! I refuse to throw them away) and I occasionally watch costume dramas to get “in the mood” while I’m writing. Some of my favorites are the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (seriously, why would anybody ever think there could be a better Mr. Darcy than Colin Firth?) and Persuasion, which has amazing costumes and sets.
Drink of choice when writing? When not writing?
What excites you most about joining the BookEnds family?
Working with Jessica Alvarez. Our first conversation was awesome and I was blown away by her enthusiasm for my work and her experience in the industry.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
I firmly believe there is no one right way to get your book out there.
People kept telling me I had to develop an elevator pitch and a 10-second pitch and a “this pitch” or a “that pitch.” I am horrible at pitching and never had a good pitch session. The reason for pitching (or so I was told) was so agents or editors would recognize my name and read my query when it ended up on their desk.
Well, I ended up getting my contract from somebody I’d never pitched or met at a conference. So, it IS possible to send query letters out into the void and meet with success.
My advice: Don’t hang all your hopes and dreams on those pitch appointments. For me, the better method was to do thorough research on the people I queried and pick only the individuals who truly wanted books in my subgenre.