New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary romance, Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan's Return in November 2011. Although she waited until she was in her 40s to publish for the first time, writing has been a lifelong passion. Her motivation to take that step was her students: teaching creative writing to elementary age students all the way up through high school and encouraging those students to follow their writing dreams. With almost fifty titles currently to her name, she has no plans to slow down. You won't find her books with the erotica or paranormal titles, all of her works are pure contemporary romances. When she’s not working on a new story, she spends her time reading romances, playing way too many games of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook, wearing a tiara while playing with her sassy pug Maylene, and spending time with her husband of 25 years and their two sons in North Carolina.
ALC: Tell us about your writing process, how you set goals, and the amount of time you spend writing vs reading each week.
SC: My writing process is pretty hard to pin down. I am not someone who purposely sets time aside or gives myself a daily word count to follow – unless I’ve procrastinated WAY too long. And that happens more than I’m comfortable admitting. I’m a multi-tasker who seems to thrive on approaching deadlines. I tend to be more ‘I write when the characters speak to me’. Sometimes they really cooperate and I can bang out 10K in a day! Other times, they’re not and I’ll be lucky to get 2K written. I know with each book the approximate total word count and I have been known to break it down by how many days it will take me to reach that goal and then how many words I need to write per day. When I’m in that zone, having a sprinting partner is a huge help. On average, I spend way more time writing than reading. When I’m writing, I tend to keep moving forward without looking back or doing edits until the book is done. I’ve been known to spend easily eight hours at my desk writing. Now if we’re talking reading for pleasure? I don’t do that nearly as much as I’d like to. If I finally let myself do it, I’ll binge read and end up reading about four to six books in a week and then not pick up anything again for a month.
ALC: What is your editing and revision process, and how do you stay motivated to get through to the final draft?
SC: I hate every second of the editing and revision process! It gives me serious anxiety and always has. However, because I’m a hybrid author, I have two very different ways of doing things depending on which kind of book it is. For example, my traditionally published books have a very lengthy editing/revision process. When I hand in my MS, I will have done one basic round of edits on it. Then it goes through a first-read edit and I get it back and make the revisions. I send it back and it goes to my editor who does her round of edits. Then I get it back and make those revisions. I’ll then get the book back another three or four times before it is considered the final draft. Some edits are fairly light and it’s more like tweaking. Other edits are hard critiques and have been known to cripple me for extended periods of time. Whenever my publisher sends me that first round of edits, I get such anxiety that I usually don’t open the file for about a week.With my indie books, my edits are a lot lighter and more like line edits rather than heavy content edits. My reasoning with that is that I want to keep my voice as much as possible. My editor will tell me if something isn’t right or if she thinks it needs to be changed, but it’s not even remotely as intensive as the traditional process. Once I do the revisions, I’m good to go.
"When someone reaches out and tells me how a story helped them through a difficult time...that's incredibly gratifying."
ALC: Looking back at your less-experienced writer self, what do you know now about being a writer that you wish you knew then?
SC: INVEST IN A GREAT EDITOR! Oh, my goodness, looking back on my earliest books, I almost cringe. Back then, I thought my own editing skills would be enough, but boy was I wrong. This is the one area all new authors need to pay strict attention to.
ALC: What have you found to be the most effective ways to connect with your readers?
SC: For me, it’s social media. I always have Facebook open and I spend a lot of time posting on my author/fan page and I also have a review team page and a reader group page. I love chatting with the readers there and it’s great because it doesn’t matter where anyone lives, we can all comment and post and just chat that way.
ALC: What is the most rewarding part of being a published author? The most challenging?
SC: Honestly, the most rewarding part is knowing that readers love and enjoy my books. When someone reaches out to me and tells me how a story helped them through a difficult time or how it was the perfect escape for them at the end of the day, that is incredibly gratifying. You know, it’s one thing for you – as the writer – to enjoy the story and the characters you create, but it’s something truly spectacular when others see it and love them too. The only way to describe it is that it makes my heart happy.
The most challenging? Dealing with my own insecurities. You have to have thick skin to be an author because reviews can be brutal. It’s very hard after reading a scathing review to just bounce back and believe in your work. It becomes a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
"Inspiration is really all around and it doesn’t seem to take much for me to let an idea take hold."
ALC: You recently posted your upcoming book release schedule for the next 18 months and there are 12 books listed! How do you keep the creativity flowing and move so quickly from one book project to the next?
SC: There are a lot of voices in my head demanding that I tell their story! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true! I have a book that has a list of potential plots that I’ve been building for years that I refer back to from time to time. Other times I’ll get inspiration from something I saw on the news or on TV, a song, or even in another book. Inspiration is really all around and it doesn’t seem to take much for me to let an idea take hold. As I said before, I’m great at multitasking and sometimes I prefer working on more than one book at a time because when one set of characters isn’t talking to me, the others will! The key is to always be looking – never think that you’re done or that you have enough ideas. Most of the time, an idea for a new story hits me when I’m just about to fall asleep. I hate when that happens because I rarely remember it the next day and I never get up to write it down!
ALC: You were in your 40's when your debut novel Jordan’s Return was published – what kept you from pursuing your goal of becoming a published author sooner, and what finally pushed you to focus on writing?
SC: When I was younger, I didn’t have the faith in myself to even try to get a book published. I had ideas for stories, but it was a just dream and in my head where I could be successful and a bestseller without actually trying. Then I got married and had kids and there wasn’t time to sit down and try. But when my older son was ten, I started homeschooling him. As part of our co-op, I taught creative writing since that was something I was passionate about. As he grew up, I kept teaching with his age and after he graduated, I was still doing it. I had even started writing again – something I hadn’t done since high school – but it was more for my own creative release than anything else. I had one completed book that was sitting in a drawer for the longest time. After about a year, I finally started submitting it. I got 19 rejections when I stopped counting and realized I don’t handle rejection well. Anyway, I had a group of high school students who told me about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I had never heard of it before. Then they shared with me about self-publishing. Something else I had never heard of before. Yes, I was sheltered and not really looking into what was happening in the publishing world. Once I started looking into it, I was inspired. Then I really started looking into self-publishing. My students were really my inspiration because some of them had already self-published books and I thought “If they can do it, so can I!” and I’m so glad I did!
"I really enjoy reading stories about people who I can relate to in some way, shape, or form."
ALC: Tell us about the experience and process of having your book, The Christmas Cottage, made into a Hallmark movie. What advice do you have for authors who aspire to have their work adapted to film or television?
SC: I really don’t have a lot to share on this one. I was THRILLED when I was contacted about having the book made into a movie. The process was very long. The option phase went on for a year and one week! Then once we had a contract, I was not included in any aspect of making the movie. I was devastated. I didn’t get to go to the set, I didn’t get to see an advanced screening of the movie…I was heart-broken. I think the movie was wonderful and they did a great job, but they did change a lot. I don’t think I was particularly prepared for that aspect of it. I mean, I knew they’d change some things, but I didn’t think they’d change quite so much.
My advice to authors would be to fight a little more to be involved in the process. I know so many authors who were allowed to go to the set of their movies and I wish we had pushed more for that. And I think the most important thing to remember is that no movie is ever going to be like your book and you have to make your peace with that.
ALC: What are your favorite events for speaking about and/or promoting your work, and why?
SC: I love going to book clubs! There’s one in Virginia that I get invited to every year that I simply adore and it’s so eye opening! To be able to sit with a group of readers and have them talk to you and critique your book is a wild experience and is helpful when thinking about future books.
I used to enjoy going to RT (Romantic Times) and doing the reader events there for the same reason. I love the interaction with the readers – their honesty and getting to see their reactions when you’re talking with them is just an amazing experience.
ALC: What is it about the contemporary romance genre that inspires you? What are the key elements of a compelling romance novel?
SC: Oh my goodness, where do I even begin? I think I’m most drawn to the contemporary romance genre because it is the most relatable. I’m a real-world kind of girl and I really enjoy reading stories about people who I can relate to in some way, shape, or form. And to create stories in a world that I’m most familiar with makes the process flow even more. Years ago I read a lot of historical romances and I don’t know why I stopped, but I couldn’t tell you when the last time was that I read one. I know if I tried to write one, the research would kill me.
Key elements of a compelling romance novel should be characters who your readers care about. There is a fine line between an alpha-male and a guy that is just a complete jerk. I have read some books where everyone praised the alpha hero but to me he wasn’t likable or redeemable because he was just such a jerk! Maybe that’s petty, but I have very strong feelings on that. I don’t always succeed in making my heroes soft enough, but to me, if you have likable characters that your readers care about, everything else can fall into place. Another key element for me is to not frustrate the reader. That one is a little harder to work with because everyone has different frustration levels, right? But if you keep creating the same scenario over and over in the same book, it gets annoying. It gets redundant. No couple should break-up and make-up multiple times within the same story. The couple also should not get interrupted every time they’re heading to the bedroom. You want the characters to work a little for their happily ever after, but you don’t want your readers to stop caring about them because of situations you keep putting them in. Basically, you do them justice by making them people you want to know and making them put the effort into the relationship and the story.
For more on author Samantha Chase and her work visit www.chasing-romance.com
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