Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with Harlequin Superromance and Romantic Suspense author Kimberly Van Meter

Please help me give a warm welcome to award winning Harlequin Superromance and Harlequin Romantic Suspense author Kimberly Van Meter. Kimberly published her first novel with Harlequin in 2006 and has been raking in the accolades ever since, including her recent 2010 Cataromance Reviewers Choice Award for Trusting The Body Guard. She's also springing into March with an RT Book Reviews Top Pick for the first of her new Mama Jo's Boys Superromance series, The Past Between Us. Pick up any of her books and I promise you'll be hooked.

Kimberly is giving away a book from her backlist and mouth-watering chocolate to one lucky winner! All you have to do is leave a comment. She has super insight and advice on writing, so read on. I won't hold you in suspense any longer ;).

1. As a journalist, you've covered everything from education and health to crime. What real-life story have you encountered during your journalism career that is too unbelievable to make it as a Superromance?

Well, I'm not sure if they're unbelievable in so much as they are simply inappropriate for the Superomance line. I work the crime and fire beat now and there's nothing heroic about the men and women who beat their children, wives, husbands, do drugs and thump on the grandmothers who are supporting them. I see the seedier side of the community and sometimes the stories are horrific, particularly when they involve children. It's truly sad. That's why I enjoy writing fiction, too. I get to make sure that the bad men and women get their due, because in real life as we all know, sometimes they get away with their criminal behavior.

2. I think different writing fields (technical, research, journalism, fiction etc...) are kind of like different languages. They're all language, but just because you speak/write one doesn't mean you've mastered them all. You're exceptionally talented at both journalism and romantic fiction. Was there a writing style or habit you formed as a journalist that you had to break in order to 'break' into fiction? What journalism experience helped?

Actually, yes. In journalism, unless you're using a narrative style (which is only appropriate for certain stories and sparingly) you're "telling" readers the information but as it's been told before, in good fiction, you're "showing" more than you're "telling." My journalism background comes in most handy for deadlines. I've worked in news for the past 14 years, for a daily as well as a weekly, and deadlines are just part of the job. So when I get back-to-back deadlines on my books, I don't blink an eye. I also don't sweat revisions because I've had someone looking over, critiquing and even changing my work for a long time. I think without this training ground, I might've balked at the idea of someone monkeying around with my work.

3. You wrote your first book at age 16! Definitely a turning point in your writing career. I'd love know if it was a teen romance :). I'd also love to hear about your 'Call' story.

Ah yes. My first book. I was so certain it was a masterpiece. I knew I was in trouble when my dad nearly laughed himself into a cardiac event as he started to read because, you see, it wasn't a comedy — it was a thriller! It went into the trash as soon as I could wrench it from my dad's hands. (Unbeknownst to me, he rescued it from the garbage and has since assured me that it is in his safe keeping. I asked for it back but he said he's waiting for the right moment to put it on ebay.) My call story is rather lengthy but here goes.

It was early in the morning in March 2006 and I was just heading to a staff meeting. I was holding my 6-month-old daughter (my office is pretty kid-friendly on certain days) when my cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number so I was about to let it go to voice mail but at the last minute decided to answer. It was Johanna Raisanen from Harlequin Superromance and she wanted to buy my book! I screamed, almost dropped my daughter (thank goodness, a coworker swooped in to save the day) and started crying. It was the most amazing moment. The rest is a bit of a blur as I was too dazed to actually remember what words were being said. Thankfully, Johanna agreed to call back later in the day when my feet were back on the ground. It was really surreal, actually. I couldn't believe that I had sold my book. It was such an unreal feeling, one I’d dreamt about forever but I’d gotten to the point where I wasn't sure I was ever going to sell. In fact, two nights before I got the call, I had written in my journal that I was absolutely positive that another rejection was coming my way. Thankfully, I was wrong. My first book, The Truth About Family, was published in December 2006 and it changed my life. Now, I’m writing for both Superromance and Silhouette Romantic Suspense. To date, I've written 15 books, with my 11th book hitting the shelves this month (March).

4. The first of your Mama Jo's Boys series, The Past Between Us, hit the shelves this month. Can you tell us a bit about Mama Jo and what sparked the series?

I envisioned three foster brothers, broken by childhood tragedies yet loved by one woman who heals their hearts so they can be become these awesome men. Mama Jo materialized and I never once questioned her. It just felt right. And honestly, she's been the most engaging secondary character I've written, aside from Mary Halvorsen from my Emmett's Mill series. I'm going to miss writing her!

5. You're a magnet for outstanding Romantic Times and Cataromance reviews (amongst others). I've read both your Harlequins as well as some of your newspaper articles, and I must say that they're always emotionally gripping. As a pantser, how do you approach digging deep into the heart of the character? Is it fleshed out in your first draft or do you go back and layer it in?

I write very organically. I plow through the story, immersing myself in the skin of my characters until the voices in my head are distinctly their own and not mine. I let the characters drive the story and I go to a place in my mind that's almost scary because I lose my surroundings and let the words flow through my fingertips. A confession? I don't rewrite until revisions. What I put on the page and subsequently, goes to my editor, is my first draft. I clean up as I go but I don't rewrite because I feel the characters put those words there, not me. I hesitate to admit that because I'm the first to tell people not to worry about their first draft because invariably, they will refine as they rewrite but honestly, that doesn't seem to be my process. Maybe that's the journalism training kicking in. Most times, I don't have time for rewrites, so it has to be spot-on with the first draft. I's just how I roll. ;-)

6. In writing for two different lines, how do you ensure that contract deadlines don't overlap? Does that job fall to the writer, publisher, or agent (if there is one)?

Oh, make no mistake: deadlines do overlap and sometimes collide. I try my best to keep some semblance of order but you can't help bumping into the deadlines when you write as much as I do. My agent cringes when she sees my deadlines but she's learned to trust me. I won't lie, sometimes, the stress is, well, stressful, (LOL!) but I'm not complaining. I love my work.

7. Apart from not quitting, what's the one piece of advice you'd give aspiring writers striving toward publication?

Don't take shortcuts. The road is hard and long for a reason. Pressure — whether internal or external — creates magic. If you're ready to give up, push forward. It's the same concept for athletes as it is for aspiring writers. Pushing yourself creates a better YOU.

8. And now for some fun...what's your quirkiest writing habit and favorite deadline crunch-time snack?

Hmmm...well, I crunch pencils. I like the sound they make when my teeth sink into the wood (which is why no one lets me borrow their pencils!). But I don't really have any quirky habits (that I know of!) except extreme procrastination. I tend to push myself in ways that are probably unhealthy. LOL! As far as snacks? I don't snack when I'm writing. I'm too busy typing to eat. Although I do keep an iced tea by my side for the caffeine.

9. You're given the chance to write your future. Would it include leather or denim? Minivan or Harley? A single title romantic suspense on the NY times bestseller list (written by you of course ;)) or a screenplay (by you) that hits broadway...and you get to be the lead actress?

If I were to write my future, it would include simple things such as happiness and health. Everything else is a bonus. However, to truly answer your question, I see myself as winning a RITA (or two), landing on the NY Times best seller list, quitting my day job to write full time, and writing a screenplay my husband could direct.

Sounds wonderful :) Thanks so much for being here today, Kim! I loved interviewing you!

GIVEAWAY: Kimberly is giving away chocolate and a book from her backlist! A perfect, curl-up-on-the-sofa combo. Just leave a comment or question and you'll be included in the drawing. The winner will be announced this Thursday, which happens to be St. Patrick's Day :). May the luck be with you!

Blurb: The Past Between Us

FBI Agent Thomas Bristol has wanted Cassi Nolan since he was a kid. Now Cassi is wanted by the law and he's tracking the little thief down. The former prom queen was always wild, even when she was befriending poor foster child Tommy. But he never thought she could turn this bad: swindling destitute old ladies out of thousands, jilting men after stealing their cash.

Cassi has changed—no doubt about it. So he can't let those guileless blue eyes trick him into letting her go. Even if she does profess her innocence...and her story is starting to make sense. He made vows to follow the law to the letter. And he won't let a word like love get in the way.

Click here to read an excerpt and find out more about the next two books in the Mama Jo's Boys series, A Chance In The Night (April) and Secrets In A Small Town (May).

Click on the following links to buy The Past Between Us:
Barnes & Noble

Find Kimberly Van Meter at:


  1. Hi Kimberly,

    Welcome to Rula's place on the web! Thanks for the awesome advice to aspiring writers.

    Mama Jo's Boys sound like a wonderful series.

  2. Wow, writing for two lines and a full-time job! Where do you find the time?

    Thanks Rula for such a great interview. Not the usual questions. And certainly not the usual answers.

    Kimberly, thanks for sharing your thoughts today. It's always nice when a published author comes around.

    Mama Jo's Boys, does indeed, sound like a wonderful series. All the best to you.

  3. I am impressed with your output. Two fiction lines plus your non-fiction gig--WOW! I love your call story, thank goodness your co-worker has quick reflexes.

    Every time I here about your Mama Jo's Boy series it is like Jo March (Little Women, Little Men and Jo's Boys) comes to mind. Are you channeling her? ;-) I sure look forward to reading about this new set of Jo's boys.

  4. Good Interview. As and Indie, my deadlines are self imposed, but necessary or nothing would get done. I often tell my blogger friends who call me on it if I don't give an regular update.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium, Special .99 through April 30

  5. Thank you for the warm welcome, it's so wonderful to be here!

    Nas: Always nice to see you! And you're welcome. Advice and laughter are always free!

    Anne G: Finding time is sometimes a challenge but it comes down to time management, which I confess, I'm not always proficient with, however, we're all given the same 24 hours; it's what we do with those hours that sets people apart. Thanks for stopping by!

    Sheandeen: Thank you! Yes, my coworkers are wonderful. They have been my own personal cheering section within my fiction journey. When I get my author copies, I always give one to each of my office mates as a thank you for being such a great support system. As to channeling Jo March...hmm...that's a good question! LOL...

    Nancy: I admire anyone who has the discipline to police themselves. You'd be surprised how many people struggle with this one concept.

    I look forward to popping in throughout the day. Ask any question you like. I'm an open book!

  6. Very interesting interview. Ms. Van Meter is the kind of writer I'd like to be in terms of discipline and dedication. No wonder she gets great reviews. Keep up the good work.

  7. Thank you J.L. That's a very nice thing to say. Discipline is something that is fostered. It takes practice but eventually, it becomes habit. Keep working at it, and you'll get it. :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hi Kim! Thanks for being here today. You give sage advice and your drive is inspiring. I need to keep reminding myself that pressure makes magic :).

    Thanks for stopping in everyone!

  9. I have read all of Kim's books up to and including A Chance in the Night her second of Mama Jo's boys and have loved every one of them. I am anxiously awaiting Secrets in a Small Town and Sworn to Protect.

    I love chocolate but since I have all her books please don't enter me in the drawing.

  10. You got it, EllenToo. And thank you for being such a loyal reader!

  11. I really enjoyed this interview, and I'm totally inspired and in awe of how you get so much accomplished. Kudos.

  12. Hi Kim and Rula,

    Kim, what is the difference in the level of suspense if you have any in your SuperRomances and your Romantic Suspense books?

    I enjoyed To Catch a Killer and Guarding the Socialite. I also enjoyed Father Material when it was a free eBook on everyonesreading.

    Amanda Gardner

  13. Rula, your interviews are THE best!

    I love Kim's call story too. So interesting that she hands her first draft to her editor too. I'm in awe!

  14. Amanda, that's a good question. Here's how I explain it: Supers can have suspense (as evidenced by TRUSTING THE BODYGUARD) but the suspense can't override the romance. Also since Supers are a Home and Hearth line, the suspense can't be the overriding issue facing the characters. With Rom Susp, the best way to explain it is: passion sparked with danger (which is the line's tagline). The stakes must be high and the story must move quickly.

    Does that help?

  15. Kim
    Yes, that does help explain the difference between the two lines and the suspense level that they have.

  16. Hey Kim! I loved reading your interview. Your work schedule awes me and I must confess, I am amazed that you turn in a first draft. My first drafts as such pieces of you know what. Congratulations on your many successes. You are soaring.

  17. Jeannie: I guess I let the cat out of the bag, huh? Yes, it's true. I'm a first draft kinda gal. Although, I didn't start out that way. Before I was pubbed and discovered my process, I used to scribble and chip away at everything because I was trying to make every sentence perfect. As you can imagine, that's a special kind of crazy. Perfection is an illusion. So, once I discovered my process and "owned" it, my writing automatically improved. Now, my process is so organic, I just let the words flow and watch to see where they take me. Sometimes, it's beautiful; other times, it's not. But it's my process. :-)

    Now, of course, before I send out the wrong impression: I do have revisions. My editor is amazing at finding ways to refine the story further and I trust her suggestions. Together, we've made a great team.

  18. What a great interview, and the book looks awesome! Doralynn

  19. Great inteview Rula :) I'm going to Walmart in teh next few days to look for Kim's book :) I get paid tomorrow so can spend my book budget. Kim is an autobuy author for me!

  20. Oh Kim forgot to wish you luck in becoming a NY Times bestselling author. I'll buy your books :)

  21. Snookie: Oh, that warms my heart! Thank you so much. I'm always honored when my readers spend their hard-earned cash on my books. In these trying economic times, it's a double compliment!

  22. You're dad sounds adorable--and wily.

    Let me know when he puts your draft on eBay. LOL.

  23. I agree with Maria. I'm dying to read this comedy thriller of yours, Kim :). Your dad sounds very sweet and very proud.

    Thanks to everyone who has stopped by...and for all the wonderful comments!

  24. Wondeful interview! It's always fascinating to get inside the head of another writer! Great call story! Good luck with your new series!