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Dear Author Intro Interview & Giveaway: The RITA Best First Book...

Yesterday the authors nominated in RWA's Best First Book category discussed their debut books; today the interviews conclude with a look into their lives as writers.   For example, a lot of "first" books – aren't, exactly. Read on, and leave a comment for a chance to win.

How you reacted to or celebrated your Rita nomination:

Viola Estrella (nominated for Angel Vindicated):   I'm still in shock. aeriously, it's such a huge honor.

Kelly Gay (The Better Part of Darkness):   The first call had me teary-eyed and laughing, but when the second call came in hours later, I sat there in shock. I thought there was some kind of a mistake, and ended up hitting redial to make sure. It was at this point I realized I needed a beer. And then I ordered a pizza. :)

Carla Capshaw (The Gladiator):   I went to dinner with my family.

Kate Brady (One Scream Away):   Dinner out.   (I'll take any opportunity I can find to do that!)

Elisabeth Naughton (Stolen Fury):   The day the RITA nominations were announced, my editor actually flew in to Portland for the Public Librarians Association Conference where I was speaking on a romance panel, so we got to celebrate the news together. That romance panel consisted of Christina Dodd, Nicole Burnham and Elizabeth Boyle – all NY Times Bestsellers and previous RITA winners/finalists. I felt like quite a nobody surrounded by such big name authors, so it was really cool to have John Charles-‘from Booklist and the Chicago Tribune, who organized the panel-‘introduce me to the room of 500 librarians and announce my double RITA nomination. It's a moment I'll never forget.

Lauren Strasnick (Nothing Like You):   Massive shock and delight!   Celebrated with good friend, Milly.   We made school-cafeteria-inspired hard shell tacos with ground turkey and shredded lettuce.

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):   My hands shook and I started to tear up; it had been such a long journey. A friend of mine-‘Nat'l Pro Liaison, Cynthia D'Alba-‘made the call too, which made it even more special.

Mary Brady (He Calls Her Doc):   I started by contacting everyone I knew, then I bought champagne and drank it with my husband. When I got it, I wore my RITA pin everywhere. Now I just smile a lot.

Your oddest or most reliable writing ritual/habit:

Kelly Gay: Coffee and recliner are my most reliable rituals.

Carla Capshaw :   I need lots of Coca-cola.   It never fails me.

Kate Brady :   I sit in a recliner with my laptop and furry friends, watching fictitious people run around in my mind and writing down whatever they say and do.   If they stop, I take a hot shower to get them moving again.   What's odd about that?

Elisabeth Naughton : Some days it's really not productive at all, but when I'm procrastinating, I have to win two games of spider solitaire in a row before I can start writing.

Therese Walsh : Lucky pencils.

Mary Brady : I use the stopwatch on my cell phone to keep me honest. The .01 sec moves so frantically it gives me the feeling of momentum.

Viola Estrella:   I keep a notebook by my bed in case a scene comes to me before I fall asleep. It's incredibly annoying when brilliance strikes me in the dark of night and I can't remember a single thing about it the next day. I wrote the bones of a few scenes from Angel Vindicated by the light of the moon.

Writing advice you're glad you followed or ignored:

Carla Capshaw : I'm glad I listened to advice and learned the rules of writing before trying to break them.   Of course, now I break them all the time. :)

Kate Brady :   "Send it in!"   I ignored that for a really long time before biting the bullet.

Elisabeth Naughton : The best piece of advice actually came from my husband, a non writer, and it wasn't really advice, more like an attitude adjustment. Every time I talked about writing and the long publishing process, he would always correct me. It was never "IF" I sold and was published, it was always "WHEN".

Lauren Strasnick :   Be fearless.

Therese Walsh :   I'm glad I ignored the advice about trends and didn't stress too much about where the novel would sit at the bookstore. I wrote the story I wanted to write, with parts family saga, romance, mystery, suspense and magical realism.

Mary Brady : First I followed it all and then I ignored it all and then when I mixed it up and added a little of my own, the combination clicked.

Viola Estrella:   Detach your ego. The story isn't about me; it's about my characters and their journey.

Kelly Gay: To paraphrase Nora Roberts: You can fix a bad page; you can't fix a blank one. Great advice! I've learned to write through tough spots, and not get distracted by research and revising. Once I have my rough draft, that's when I slow down and start crafting and shaping…

Number of books you wrote before selling:

Elisabeth Naughton : Four.

Lauren Strasnick : Two (the 2nd sold).

Therese Walsh :   I wrote Last Will once before, in a completely different form-‘as a romance. I also wrote several picture book manuscripts.

Mary Brady : Oh, why don't you just ask me how old I am??

Viola Estrella: Five.

Kelly Gay: Six.

Kate Brady :   Five.   But almost no one knew.   It was my secret hobby.

From your decision to write for publication to the sale call-‘how long:

Therese Walsh :   I started Last Will in 2002. One year to write it, another for editing, another still for agent hunting. Then I decided to throw it all away and start over, after several months of pouting. Same story, different genre. Another year+ to write, another to edit. It sold in 2008.

Mary Brady :   See above.

Viola Estrella:   About five years, I think.

Kelly Gay: About fifteen years if you count the moment I started writing with career intentions (first with plays and then screenplays). Five years from the time I decided to switch gears and aim for publishing a novel.

Elisabeth Naughton : Four years. It was five years from the time I started that first manuscript, but I consider that first book practice. I never tried to sell that one.

The moment you felt like a "real author":

Mary Brady : When I got my first diary and started writing.

Viola Estrella:   From the first time I wrote "The End.

Kelly Gay:   It was after my release. I'd seen my book on the shelf, had my first book signing, but it wasn’t until the 4th or 5th trip into the bookstore, that it hit me in a very quiet, accepting, emotional sort of way.

Carla Capshaw : The first time I saw The Gladiator on the shelf at the bookstore.

Kate Brady :   When I got that first box of "real" books in the mail from my publisher.   Ahhh!

Elisabeth Naughton : When I saw my book on the shelf in an airport. My husband sent me a photo from the San Francisco airport when he was traveling. Above the shelf it said "Famous Authors" and my book, Stolen Fury, was right there with all the big names.

Lauren Strasnick :   Still waiting to feel fully legit. :)

Therese Walsh :   Gosh, sometimes I still don't feel like a real author! But I'd say one cementing moment for me was the first time I saw the PDF of the cover.

Your favorite book when you were 10 years old:

Lauren Strasnick : Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Therese Walsh :   Pippi Longstocking.

Viola Estrella:   I was obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books.

Kelly Gay: The Black Stallion.

Carla Capshaw :   Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Elisabeth Naughton : Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. That girl got in so much trouble. I just loved her.

A book or author you recommend again and again:

Viola Estrella:   Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I also love reading contemporary romance from a wide variety of authors.

Kelly Gay: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley or Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

Carla Capshaw : The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

Elisabeth Naughton : Perfect by Judith McNaught. My all-time favorite romance.

Lauren Strasnick :   The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Therese Walsh : The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. In terms of romance, definitely Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale and Bliss by Judy Cuevas (Judith Ivory).

Mary Brady : Carrie Bebris, Pamela Ford Lori Handeland, Ann Voss Peterson, Laura Scott, Isabel Sharpe, to begin with. There are so many.

The RITAs will be awarded July 31st.   Many thanks to all the authors for their time, and if you'd like a chance to win a book, leave a comment and mention which one you'd like the most.   Not sure?   Excerpts or blurbs are linked below.

Angel Vindicated

The Better Part of Darkness

The Gladiator

He Calls Her Doc

The Last Will of Moira Leahy

Nothing Like You

One Scream Away

Stolen Fury

Alison Atlee (also known as "Alyson" here at Dear Author) is fascinated by creative people and how they work, which is why she enjoys contributing author interviews to Dear Author. She likes her romance novels light on the internal monologues, twisty with the conventions, and brimming with voice. Her favorite book at age ten? "An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott.


  1. Mary G
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 06:12:28

    I love the behind the scenes stuff. Makes me appreciate writers all the more. I’m in a rom susp mood so I guess I should try to win One Scream Away.

  2. Susan Laura
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 06:21:49

    Congratulations to everyone!
    So hard to choose! But at the top of my list would be One Scream Away or Angel Vindicated. Thanks –

  3. DianeN
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 07:23:38

    I’ve always loved stories about ancient Rome/gladiators/early Christianity, so picking The Centurion was a no-brainer for me!

  4. evie byrne
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 07:38:38

    Congratulations and best of luck to all the authors!

    I really identified with Therese’s struggle with genre and am inspired by her success. (I even went to her website and read the letter from Deirde Knight and everything, just like a total stalker.) Makes me want to drag a certain genre-challenged book of mine out from under the bed.

    And I’d also second her rec for The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime. What a fantastic book that is. So yeah, if I win, I’d love to read The Last Will.

  5. ritu
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 07:57:44

    Congrats to everyone! And good luck!

    All the books have gone to my TBB. Top two interest atm would be The Better Part of Darkness and Nothing Like you.


  6. Theresa Romain
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 08:34:33

    Thanks for this great 2-part interview. It’s inspiring to read these tales of success!

    I actually KNOW someone named Moira Leahy. !! So I’d be most interested to read the Walsh book. It sounds like a beautiful story.

  7. Samantha
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 09:34:47

    The Gladiator would be my choice. I’m a fan of historicals that take place anywhere but England.

  8. evilwylie
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 09:42:45

    Congrats to all the nominees! Evil Wylie is rooting for Nora Roberts to win the best first book award. Fingers crossed!

  9. Stacy S
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 10:34:55

    Congrats to all the nominees. One Scream Away would be my pick.

  10. cyclops8
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 10:40:37

    Congrats to the nominees. “Stolen Fury” is my pick.

  11. Sotheara
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 10:54:22

    Congratulations to all the nominees. I’m always excited to discover new authors. I’m looking forward to reading Angel Vindicated.

  12. TaraR
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 11:28:32

    Congrats to the nominees! I really like the sound of The Better Part of Darkness. Going through an urban fantasy phase right now.

  13. Louise D
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 11:41:19

    I’ll put my name in the hat for The Last Will of Moira Leahy, the multi POV sounded interesting,

  14. Ivy
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 12:05:40

    Congrats to all the authors…
    Great interview, I enjoyed both parts.
    All the books sound really great. However, the one that’s appealing to me the most is, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY” so that would be my choice. Thanks for the chance to win.

  15. Donna S
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 12:07:30

    I would love a copy of Stolen Fury.

  16. GSM
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 12:25:00

    Thanks so much for this two-part series. I really enjoyed it. “The Better Part of Darkness” would be my choice, though you know it’s so difficult to choose one!

  17. Cathy M
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 13:59:14

    Would love to read The Better Part of Darkness.

  18. CrystalGB
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 14:01:12

    I would choose Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton.

  19. Janine
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 15:25:06

    Great interview, Alyson. Congratulations to all the authors, too.

    There are some great book recommendations listed in this interview. I loved The Secret History, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Flowers from the Storm and Bliss.

    I’ve already read the Therese Walsh book (reviewed here) but I’m really curious to read Lauren Strasnick now that I know The Secret History is one of her favorite books (I have a first edition of it sitting on my shelf).

  20. Marie
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 15:34:59

    I would love to read either Better part of Darkness or Angel Vindicated.

  21. Deb Kinnard
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 16:03:43

    I loved reading all these. But…in what way were some of these “not first books”?

  22. MaryK
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 16:05:37

    I’m definitely going to have to get The Gladiator. It was the tiger that pushed me over. Seriously.

    I’ll probably give One Scream Away a try too, though I might have to read it with one hand over my eyes. Turns out I already have Stolen Fury. Stupid TBR pile.

  23. Kelly C.
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 19:21:37

    I’d have to go with HE CALLS HER DOC.

  24. Sabrina
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 19:30:55

    Congrats to all the authors! Very hard to pick but I’ll have to go with “One Scream Away”. I have not read the book but the excerpt totally caught my attention! Love it when I can read a book and it plays like a movie in my mind:)

  25. SaraC
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 19:32:36

    Would love The Better Part of Darkness or Angel Vindicated!

  26. Alyson H.
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 20:19:48

    @Deb: Just in the sense that many of the authors wrote several manuscripts before they sold the first time. Thanks for the chance to make that clarification.

  27. Maya M.
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 21:32:23

    Loved ‘Moira Leahy’ (not least becasue of the cover) and ‘Better Part of Darkness’. Haven’t had a chance to read the others yet….
    I’d be most interested to read ‘Stolen Fury’ next

  28. Lorraine from CA
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 22:11:49

    Congratulations to all the authors.
    I’d love to win One Scream Away. I love
    romantic suspanse novels.

  29. jcp
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 22:41:16

    One Scream Away

  30. Nadia Lee
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 22:48:19

    ONE SCREAM AWAY was very very good (I already read it). I ordered the next book.

    As for the book I’m interested in: The Last Will of Moira Leahy is the one I’d like to try.

  31. Kaetrin
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 00:07:28

    Fascinating interviews – thx Jane!

    I have Stolen Fury in my TBR. I’ve refreshed my memory on the review of One Scream Away and it looks great.

    Please put me down for One Scream Away if I’m lucky enough to be selected for the giveaway!

  32. Terri
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 00:22:19

    Congrats to all the authors on their nominations!

    Great interview and thanks for sharing Jane!

    I would love to read “Stolen Fury”!

    I really enjoyed “One Scream Away”!

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  33. Jane
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 04:19:30

    @Kaetrin and @Terri: The interviews are actually from Alyson H.

  34. MaureenCE
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 05:18:59

    I would pick Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton.

  35. Kim
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 10:14:38

    Congratulations to the nominees. I’ll pick Stolen Fury by Elizabeth Naughton.

  36. Cherie J
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 10:26:19

    Congrats to the nominees! Tough choosing between these great books. I guess I would go with Angel Vindicated. I was having trouble deciding between that one and The Gladiator. They both sound so great!

  37. Bella F.
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 12:00:37

    LOL! Mary’s answer to Number of books you wrote before selling made me laugh hard. Congratz to all the authors!! If I had to choose just one I’d love to read, Angel Vindicated. Though Last Will of Moira Leahy captures my attention just as much!

  38. cories
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 13:10:47

    Great interview! Congrats to all the authors!

    “Angel Vindicated”, “The Better Part of Darkness” and “Nothing Like You” all sound so enticing… I think I’d go with “Angel Vindicated” if I had to chose.

  39. Nicole
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 13:28:11

    That does sound like a pretty exciting phone call to receive, but I think that I’d also hit redial afterward, just to make sure that I wasn’t being punked!

  40. Stephanie
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 16:19:19

    Congrats to all the nominees! My pick would be The Better Part of Darkness.

  41. Chelsea B.
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 18:34:18

    Congrats, everyone! :-)
    I would love to win Stolen Fury.

  42. Victoria Zumbrum
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 20:56:26

  43. Pam S
    Jul 31, 2010 @ 12:52:47

    Ohhh this is a hard one. I have to say I read One Scream Away and Angel Vindicated – abosulutely loved AV and so looking forward to another part :)!

    I guess I’ll pick Stolen Fury :)!

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