Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Guest Blogger Heidi Rice

I'm tickled to welcome back fellow Presents/Modern Heat author Heidi Rice!

Thanks so much for inviting me back to play. As I’m currently mired in writing the book from Hell any excuse to kick back and ignore it completely for a few hours is much appreciated. To get myself in the mood and come up with some sort of usable topic to waffle about today, I took a quick look at recent blogs here at the playground.

And what do I find: Kate Hardy Re-Filling the Well, Nat Anderson climbing mountains, Smarty Pants talking about her motivational coconuts, good news stories for the week and Problem Child on the YouTube time-suck phenomenon (and yes, thank you PC, you time-sucked at least 10 minutes of my very valuable time with those Buffy/Spike videos!).

And straight away I’m back at square one. You guys are nothing if not completely eclectic.

So, I was going to do a very informative piece about Research and how it can become a writer’s black hole then decided that would be way too dry (hours spent Googling hot tottie while researching your latest hero not-withstanding, of course). Then I had a brief flirtation with the idea of reporting on my first ever library talk – but decided that scones and tea in Essex and questions like ‘who does your proof-reading’ probably wouldn’t engage you lot either.

All of which left me with only one option.

To shamelessly plug my new book that’s due out this month in the US. (You see, I just want you to know, I didn’t come to this decision lightly, it took a lot of thought and prevarication first).

So, the book’s called Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition and although it’s my fourth book for Harlequin Presents, it represents a number of firsts for me.

At my editor’s insistence, Luke Devereaux was my first British hero. Prior to that I’d done three American heroes and my editor was getting a little concerned about my obsession with Steve McQueen-style Bad Boys. Had I ever thought of doing a sheik or a European billionaire, she asked me ever so casually during my first Richmond lunch (after I’d foolishly told her my sister works for the Aga Khan). Given that I knew I couldn’t do a sheik or a Greek shipping magnate I had to opt for a British lord (although I did cop out a little and do a Vegas childhood for Luke just to keep myself happy).

Luke was also my first full-on alpha hero. He’s cynical, controlled, closed off, arrogant, expects to be obeyed at all times, has a deeply sarcastic sense of humour, is frankly a bit of a sexist and on several occasions is fairly hard to like. Of course he’s also incredibly handsome, fabulous in bed, vulnerable, wounded, nurturing, deeply protective of the heroine and an excellent chef (good cooking skills in a man being one of my hero prerequisites) but believe me only his super-sexiness was coming across loud and clear as a positive at the start of the book.

PPP was also my first linked book, because my heroine Louisa DeMarco had appeared in my second book The Mile High Club (as the heroine’s best mate). As she kept butting into the story all the way through I knew as soon as I’d discovered her I’d have to write her her own story. Reckless, impulsive, drop-dead beautiful (and boy does she know it), and hugely successful in her career as a London magazine journalist, Louisa was also a hard-sell. Although she was open, warm-hearted, smart and funny, she didn’t have any obvious vulnerabilities for the reader to connect with. Not only that but my ed had already told me to steer clear of journalists because readers don’t like them (apparently). Of course, having been a journalist myself for 20 years, as soon as I heard that, making Louisa my next heroine became a no-brainer.

One thing in my favour was that I did have a cracker of an opening chapter. Luke marches into Louisa’s office in Camden North London and then goes all cave man on her and kidnaps her in front of all her workmates. She is furious with him. Three months ago they’d had a one-night stand which had left her hurt and humiliated (and sexually fulfilled for the first time in her life, blast the man). And she never wanted to see him again. So what the hell was he doing there and why? Ha, you’ll have to check out the first chapter on eharlequin to find out.

But even with that great opening hook — surprise, surprise — the book turned out to be a total bugger to write. In fact I made so many wrong turns with this story, I ended up having to re-write two-thirds of the damn thing during a week’s holiday to New York. So while hubby and sprogs were busy eating pizza and checking out the Empire State and being wowed by The Little Mermaid on Broadway, I was holed up in our hotel room hunched over a laptop (thanks a bunch Luke and Louisa, you totally ruined my holiday).

But in the end, I believe all the angst was worth it (although I’m still pretty pissed off about missing The Little Mermaid). I was incredibly proud of the book that finally emerged. And PPP topped the Waldenbooks Series Romance Best Seller list last week so I’m not the only one that thinks so (which is always good to know).

The moral of this story?

Do not under any circumstances plan a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to New York when you’re in the middle of writing a complete bugger of a book!

Thanks for reading the whole of my waffle.

So now it’s your turn to tell me about the hardest story you’ve ever had to write. Why was it so tough? Did it turn out well? Or did you have to abandon it in a drawer?Enquiring minds (and nosey parkers like moi) want to know. And as an incentive to share your pain, I’m giving away a copy of PPP to one lucky commentator.

Heidi's Website: www.heidi-rice.com

PS: Angel's winners from yesterday are kh and crystalgb. Send your snail-mail addy to angel@writingplayground.com to claim your prize!


Avi J said...

Hi Heidi, you always make the hero and heroin so adorable in every story. I am looking forward to You hot tycoon book.

Heidi said...

Cheers Avi, I wish my current movie star hero would be a bit more adorable... At the moment he's being a complete pain in the bum.... Which I'm taking as a good sign... Sort of.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Heidi! So far, I've not abandoned any books (and that goes for the ones I wrote before I sold too). But the temptation is always there, LOL!

I was beginning to think the one I just had accepted was going to make my editor call me up and politely tell me I needed remedial writer training. But, no, somehow she liked it.

Grr, I hate those wrong turns and rewriting. This last book didn't have a lot of that, remarkably, which I guess is why I thought it must be flawed. But the first -- two total rewrites. And I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get it right, especially since my trials were so public over at IHP.

Major congrats on the Waldies list, and on a yummy alpha hero! It should come as no surprise that I adore alphas. ;)

Problem Child said...

Hi Heidi!

We are rather eclectic, aren't we? :-)

I think I'd be pretty PO'd too if I missed The Little Mermaid.

I'm struggling a bit with the new WIP -- I'm not at the cursing and crying and throwing it against the wall point yet, but I can see my breaking point looming on the horizon. Hmm, maybe if I plan a trip to NY, this book will end up a bestseller as well...

housemouse88 said...

Hi Heidi, I'm not a writer but an avid reader. Your book sounds right up my alley. Sorry it was a bugger to write. It's funny your heroine's name, Louisa, is the name of the town I live in. LOL. Have a great day.

Playground Monitor said...

I had a book I started about 5 years ago and I stopped writing after chapter 1. The other Playfriends heard about this book forever. They never nagged, only encouraged. And finally I made up my mind to finish it. I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote 50,000 words on it but it was still 2 chapters shy of being complete. Last month I dug in again and wrote those last two chapters because I had to have a completed manuscript to enter a pitch contest on eHarlequin this week. I sent in my synopsis last Friday and yesterday I mailed off the paperwork to apply for PRO status.

The book kicked my butt. And now I'll get another kick because I need to take a red pen and do some serious editing and revising, but I have #2 son home for spring break and I want to visit with him first.

Thanks for joining our eclectic little bunch.

Smarty Pants said...

You mean other blogs don't post about motivational coconuts? Hmm...

None of my books have been terribly painful because I haven't had enough editor input to know they're all wrong. :) I'm hoping that shortly it will change and I will probably hate Ethan and Isabelle until the end of time.

I don't know if I should be comforted or depressed that well-established authors have just as many rough revisions as newbies. Could someone just lie and tell me it gets easier, please?

Heidi said...

Hey Lynn,

Well done you for finishing every ms, I'm impressed, have to admit I had several unfinished ones before I ever got to the end of my first. And that first finished one will languish in a drawer forever now.

I did try to resurrect it for Modern Heat (being a bit of a lazy cow and thinking I could chalk up a book in two months that way instead of six). My ed took one look and said. Fabulous Heidi, a romance set in a broken-down summer camp for delinquent boys, I can see how that's going to go down really well with our target readership.... Needless to say it got slapped straight back in that drawer.

PC, in my experience the harder they are to write the better they turn out, but that may just be me and my masochistic tendencies (and a luxury trip to NYC can never hurt, right???). Worst bit about the Little Mermaid thing was that I'd bought three tickets, explaining very thoughtfully to my hubby that we couldn't afford four so he'd just have to miss it. And then look what happened. My petard was totally hoisted so to speak.

Housemate88, Great to hear from a reader. Don't worry, I'm not sorry PPP was a bugger to write, as you can probably tell I love to get mileage out of stories about my desperately tough life as a writer!

Hello Playground Monitor, go for it with the old red pen, that's my favourite bit. At least once you've got the rough draft you know you'll have a finished book eventually. Hope you have a good visit with your son though. My two boys are currently off on school trips at the same time. Couldn't wait for them to go, but now the house is like a tomb!! Who knew I'd actually miss all the bickering and mess.

And thanks for inviting me to join your eclectic bunch.

Heidi said...

Of course it gets easier Smarty Pants, my current book is flowing from my fingers in fragrant sentences of impossibly wonderful prose.

There, how convincing was that?

Smarty Pants said...

Oh, that sounds lovely! :)

Kathy said...

Hi Heidi! Thanks for coming to play... again. ;)

My first book was very hard to abandon. I rewrote the darn thing 5 different times, adding different elements every single time and cutting it back. I'm happy with how it turned out but still need to work on it a bit. Thankfully, the playfriends' advice to set it aside for now has paid off. Since I've known them, I'm 3 chapters away from finishing another book and have 2 more started. Plus, they've helped me get past some of the submission angst I've developed. (Thanks guys!)

So Heidi, I love Alpha heroes!!! I can't wait to read your book. I write historical and love to fill my books with Alpha males. What is your favorite type of Alpha male?

Do you have to do a lot of research? And, what inspires you, where do you get your plot ideas?

word verif: proshero
(In honor of you, PM!)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer (yet), but i've always thought writing would be easier for established authors. i appreciate the peek into the world of what REALLY happens. i will keep in mind that the more difficult the process, the better the end result. i think that will help.
i am looking forward to checking out your bugger of a book to write. *grin*


Angel said...

Heidi, the book sounds like it turned out really well. I'm interested to check it out. Like SP, I wish it got easier once you got published, but I can see that's not going to happen.

I can't really point out a particular book that gave me fits, as each one has had its moments. But I can think of a particular time. When I was pregnant with my son. Seems all that testosterone sucked my creativity from me and I tinkered, but was unable to write anything for a year. No characters talking, no plotting, nothing. Silence. Talk about devastating. At least I had Instigator to go through it with me (we were pregnant at the same time) or else I would really have given up.

Thanks for sharing the ups and downs with us today! And congrats on that Waldens placement.

One question: I find that if I'm struggling with a book, I have a tendency to avoid it. Do you have this problem? How do you force yourself to focus and work through the issues?


Heidi said...

Hey Kathy,

Oh, I'm very impressed that you've started two more books while finishing another. I have a real problem starting new ones. Always go into a bit of a panic that I'm never going to have another idea.

Yes, I love alpha heroes, especially historical ones. Recently got introduced to Anna Campbell and she's fabulous, her alphas are to die for... But in a good way.

Ideas? I have no idea where they come from, all sorts of daft places. But I almost always start off with an opening scene.

For example, my second book I had this vision of my heroine hiding out in the plush hotel bathtub of my hero. She'd been stuck there for four hours, starving hungry, exhausted, scared she's going to be carted off to jail for trespassing and then she hears him whistling as he walks into the bathroom. She hears a thud, realises he's getting undressed. Nearly has a heart attack when he switches on the showerhead and the cold water hits her full in the face. He whips back the shower curtain when he hears her squeal and is standing there stark naked and furious.

Why was she there? Why was he there? I had no idea. That I had to figure out later - which probably explains why I get myself into all sorts of pickles writing these books.

DebH, lots of luck if you do decide to take the plunge. One thing to remember, the more you write, the better able you are to recognise the crap - which is actually a very important part of the process (or at least it is for me)

Heidi said...

Hi Angel

I take my hat off to you even considering writing while you are pregnant or have young children.My creative juices didn't even start flowing until my youngest was about eight (and had got to the stage where I could slam the door on him when I had to). Having kids was too much like hard work all by itself. which would explain why I'm one of the more geriatric writers working for MH!

As for avoiding difficult stories, oh yes, indeedy. I am a master at avoidance. Commenting on blogs being a popular one right at the moment. I get a real buzz when I've had a good day and I do force myself to write every day, but I find that it doesn't necessarily make the flow any quicker or more predictable. Although I do live in hope that I'll be able to plan it better one day.... Please...

Kathy said...

Oh, Heidi! I love the shower scene. That's really how books start for me too. I see an image of something happening and then go from there. It's fun scoping out the historical period, getting introduced to the characters, etc... Beginnings are fast for me. It's the middles that drag me into the abyss.

Any tips?

Playground Monitor said...

OHMYGOSH yes! I loved that shower scene. I have one of those -- not a shower scene but an opening and I have no earthly idea where it goes from there. ::sigh:: That's the sad story of my writing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heidi - thanks for the insight into you latest book! It looks fab! It seems that all of us - published writers and would be (that's me!) all struggle with the BFH (Book from Hell)!

I had one that I raced through until Chapter 10 - then blah! Nothing - blank - zilch - it was as if it was sucked down the plughole. Nothing flowed. Nothing came. Blank screen syndrome as I call it! So I put it away (for 2 months I recall) and then one day I was watching an old B&W film and ureka! Something from the film fitted into my book (with a bit of rejigging) and hey presto I finished it!

Sometimes it is a case of "wait and see" what flows (from the well as Kate Hardy said in her recent blog!) Regards Caroline

Anonymous said...

Welcome Back Heidi,
Glad to see you have a new publication - I will definitely check it out. I'm not a writer either but an avid reader. My biggest pain right now is selling my home, I have a contract but it's giving me a big headache right now, so here's hoping I get through this and not have a nervous breakdown, because believe you me, I came really close to it this weekend. Anywho, congratulations on the new book and good luck with your wip.

Lynn Raye Harris said...


The ONE thing I would say that's easier when you are published: you have to let the book go at some point. You can't sit on it, tinkering and tinkering. No matter how you feel about the revisions, etc, someone is waiting and you must send it.

The reason I finished all the books I started was because no one was waiting and I tinkered and tinkered -- sometimes for a couple of years. Very bad.

Sherry Werth said...

Hello Heidi and welcome back! PPP sounds great and congratulations on the Walden list.

I'm late checking in...the paying job came first today. :)

I haven't abandoned my first WIP yet..but if I drag out working on it any longer my characters will probably pack up their things and move on!

Verification word: hotty (Blogger must have heard about Luke!)

Heidi said...

Kathy, absolutely with you on the abyss. I'm standing at the bottom of the abyss with my latest book - and haven't found the way back out yet... But I'm hopeful...

And Playground Monitor, write your shower scene and (here comes my big Field of Dreams moment) the rest will come (eventually!)

And Caroline, yes. I've had a few of those Chapter 10 wobblies myself. With my fifth book (which is out in Sept, hint, hint) I'd written the whole thing and thought, wait a sec, the whole second half totally sucks... Turned out I'd taken a wrong turn at Chapter 10, so I had to go back and rewrite the sucker from there. Lovely. Come to think of it, I had that stella moment of enlightenment while I was on holiday in France.... I'm beginning to see a disturbing pattern here.

Robertsonreads, best of luck with selling your house, not easy at the present time that's for sure.

And Lynn, thank god I've never been a tinkerer. In fact I could probably do with more tinkering occasionally, sometimes I'm too eager to let them go (or rather, kick them out the door). But that's the great thing about editors, they will always let you know when you've done enough and when you haven't (God bless them!!!).

Sherry, I have to admit I spent about four years doing my first full ms. Just popping in and piddling about with it every couple of months when I had a good scene in my head. How I ever got that one finished I'll never know. But once I'd started the second (which actually got published) I felt I'd learned a lot and it only took me two years. It is a bit different when you have to produce to a deadline (scary in a whole different way basically) I never forget when I sold my first and then my ed said, we like about three books a year. I nearly fell off my chair. Haven't quite managed that yet, but I'm still hoping.