Monday, April 4, 2011

Interview with Harlequin Superromance Author Amy Knupp

Harlequin Superromance author Amy Knupp is here to kick off April with book 4 in her Texas Firefighters series!!! The triple exclamation marks say it all. Burning Ambition hits shelves everywhere tomorrow (April 5th). Each book in the series stands alone, but trust me, you'll want to get your hands on all of them. Um...the books...not the firefighter heroes. Okay, them too ;). Seriously, Amy does an unbelievable job with characterization and conflict. She really digs deep into the hearts of her heroes and heroines. If you haven't read her first three Texas Firefighter books yet, just leave a comment or question below. Amy is giving away a copy of one of the first three books in the series to one lucky winner!

Oh, and I've included the covers of those first three books for your viewing pleasure ;). On to the interview!

1. I know many writers who have taken tortuous paths to reach their romance writing careers. You have experience in journalism, advertising, french and, of course, motherhood (hence child development, psychology, teaching etc...;)). Was there always a romance writer lurking in you, and was it difficult to embrace your new identity? What reactions did you encounter when you first revealed your writing plans to family and friends?

I did always hope to write romance "someday." It wasn't until I had babies and became a stay-at-home mother of 2 under 2 that I actually started toward that goal though. It took me close to a year to "come out of the closet" to non-writing friends, but when I did, I didn't receive any negative reactions. Some people were excited by the prospect, and others just kind of nodded and made a noncommittal comment (while I silently dared them to make a derogatory comment. LOL!) I've been lucky to have very supportive friends and family.

2. Call stories are inspiring and never grow old. With Burning Ambition, the fourth book in your Texas Firefighter series, hitting the shelves tomorrow, let's think back to when you had a 'burning ambition' to get published. We'd love to hear about your first Call!

Book 1: Texas Firefighters
I'll try to make a long story short. Or shorter, anyway. I'd sent in my second manuscript to Superromance and gotten a request for a full. Soon after, I received a personalized rejection that mentioned the biggest problem was my lack of a sustainable romantic conflict. Something the editor said in that letter resonated with me and I instantly saw a way to fix the conflict problem. I rewrote the story, sent it in and soon received...another rejection letter! This one was from a different editor, and it, too, was very encouraging. The editor told me the story still wasn't quite right but if I wanted to revise it again, they would reconsider it. (She was careful to say they could make no promises.) The letter was four pages long with very specific feedback and I jumped on the opportunity.

A couple of months after sending it in, I had just gotten back from my boys' tennis lessons. It was July in Kansas and I was sweating up a storm. I checked messages on our home phone and found one from Victoria Curran, editor of Superromance. All she said was to call her back.

Instead of calling her back right away (because calling an editor is SCARY) I called my critique partner. She told me to get off the phone and call Victoria. I agreed, hung up, and...called my husband. I refused to let him celebrate because I knew it could be just a phone call to discuss more changes or why it wasn't quite right. (I'd heard of someone else getting a call like that.) He told me to hang up and find out.

I called Victoria back...and she was at lunch. (Imagine!) I literally paced around my house, cordless phone in my hand, for the next forty-five minutes, waiting for Victoria to return my call. She did, and offered me a contract for the book...with the understanding that more revisions would be necessary. Trust me, that didn't faze me one bit at that point. Unexpected Complication was released the following April, in 2006. :)

3. You do such a fantastic job with digging deep into your characters. Do you have a 'secret' technique? Are you a character spreadsheet babe, or more of a picnic interview with Post-its kind of gal?

Ummm, yes! All of the above. I start by figuring out a character's GMC. Eventually I do a character chart. Usually when I'm stuck I end up doing a mock "interview" with the character. I have Post-its with thoughts and notes jotted everywhere. I wish there was a tried and true secret but I just have to get to the point where I inherently know how a character would react to a situation. There's just no shortcut, unfortunately.

4. Burning Ambition stars a female firefighter. I love seeing heroines succeed in male dominated fields. It takes a lot of confidence and drive to do so. Your firefighter series also does a phenomenal job of depicting the daily life of firefighters, drills, emergencies and all. How do you approach the research for these books (online, interviews...)?

Research to the kind of extent necessary to do these stories justice scared the ___ out of me, honestly. But I went ahead and proposed the books anyway, promising myself I'd figure out the details I needed lately. The first three books sold. A couple weeks later, I was at my kickboxing class and one of the men in it was wearing a fire department T-shirt. I nervously asked him if he was a firefighter. He's a retired firefighter who has answered endless questions from me and really helped make it possible for me to get details right. In addition, I've read a handful of non-fiction books about and by firefighters. These fascinate me so it's not been a hardship at all. Some of the situations in my stories have come loosely from real scenarios I've read about. Others, my awesome retired firefighter has helped me develop. I was so lucky to have such a willing, knowledgeable expert appear just when I needed him. :)

Book 2: Texas Firefighters
5. Congratulations on  your recent 4 book deal with Harlequin! Any hints? Are we in for more of your hot, Texas firemen, or do you have something else in store for your readers?

Thank you! I'm really excited to write more books for Superromance! The first of the four is NOT a Texas Firefighters book. It's a stand-alone book, not related to others I've written, featuring an Army helicopter pilot and a super-genius, somewhat geeky female computer programmer. It'll be released this December.

The other three...I'm happy to say are more of the men from the San Amaro Island Fire Department. (One is an EMT.) So there will be more in the series...unfortunately they probably won't be out until 2013 sometime. (There's a pesky little detail of me needing to write the books!) :)

6. How do you work the demands of 4 book deadlines into your already busy routine? Are you sacrificing social networking, sleep...sanity, LOL? Seriously though, any advice on time management?

Me? Advice on time management? (That's my husband laughing hysterically in the background.) I'm always working on this challenge. My main time commitment is to my older son, who I homeschool. I spend from 8:30am-3pm by his side every day, so I really have to schedule in writing time. Though I've always been vehemently anti-mornings, I've found that getting up and working at 5am is the only way I have any creativity to write. I'm sluggish at that hour, but lots more productive than I am after a day of working with my son (though don't get me wrong...I love my "teaching" gig!) My advice to writers with crazy schedules (seriously, who of us doesn't have way too much on our plates?) is to schedule a regular time every day to write. EVERY DAY. It's hard. There are days when the last thing you want to do is open a file and be creative. But if this job was easy, everyone would be doing it. It doesn't matter if you have a half hour to devote to writing each day or a six-hour block...just commit to it and treat it like a job, whether you're getting a paycheck yet or not.

I don't do a huge amount of social networking, but I make an appearance on FaceBook daily. It's not a chore to me, though, because I enjoy it. I do sometimes sacrifice sleep, and the sanity, well...that's been gone for years!

7. With so many proposals and books under your belt, can you share your approach to synopsis writing? Was there a resource or method you encountered in the past that made synopsis writing 'click' for you?

This time the hysterical laughing is me. ;) I detest synopsis writing and I've never found any kind of secret to doing it successfully. My editor, bless her, has told me in the past, "we're buying this book on the strength of the chapters," or conversely, they bought it in spite of the less-than-stellar synopsis. So really, I would say do the best you can with it but editors know synopsis writing goes against everything we do to write a novel. I know I've gotten better over the years, but I don't know if I'll ever be good at crafting a catchy synopsis!

8. Apart from not quitting, what's the one thing you did as a writer that you feel played a critical role in helping you achieve your goal of publication?

Learning to strip down a story, tear out the heart of it, and rewrite it differently. Being able to do deep revisions is almost a necessity with Harlequin. Band-aiding a story isn't enough. As was proven by my many rounds of revisions just to make the first sale, flexibility is key. How did I learn to revise? I guess by doing it. Even before I sold, I rewrote plenty. So I'd say once you finish a book, set it aside for a while if you need to, start something new, but go back to it with the attitude you're going to hack it up and make it even better. It paid off for me.

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

Quirkiest? Hmmmm. My entire writing process is quirky! :) I do light a candle every time I sit down to write. It's my way of telling myself it's writing time. As for favorite snack...I don't let myself snack very much, deadline or not. If I did, though, and didn't obsess about calories or food sensitivities (of which I have many), I'd say Dairy Queen Blizzards would rule my world.

10. You're a very funny person (I dare say hilarious, as evidenced by your blog posts), amazing mom, and wonderful writer. Sorry, no denying it! If you had to do ONE of the following what would it be? Stand-up comedy, karaoke, kidlit story-time at the library, or a day-trip on a Harley with a six-pack of Mountain Dew on board?

Aw, thank you! I appreciate the big compliment. Most days I worry I come across as half-insane! ;)

My choice of those options would be, hands-down, the Harley and the Mt. Dew (as long as it could be diet!) I don't like being in the spotlight so stand-up and karaoke are out for sure. I adore my own children but would be climbing the walls within thirty seconds of being in charge of a herd of other people's children. While I'm not a big fan of motorcycles, I'm willing to try it just to get the Mt. Dew! ;)

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Rula. Your questions were fun and original!

Thanks for being here, Amy! You've given us great advice and great reads :)

Book 3: Texas Firefighters
GIVEAWAY: Amy is giving away one of the first three Texas Firefighters books to one lucky winner! Winner's choice...and you can't go wrong! Just leave a comment to enter. The winner will be announced this Thursday, April 7th.

BLURB: Burning Ambition

Captain Joe Mendoza has wanted to be fire chief since he was four years old. And now he's one step away from making assistant chief. But that's proving to be some big step now that the chief's daughter has joined his crew. He's promised he'll keepher safe—and promised himself to keep things strictly business.

Faith Peligni has battled her way back from an on-the-job injury in San Antonio, and she's stronger than ever. Even if as the first female firefighter on the San Amaro Island crew—and the chief's daughter—she's expecting some heat. But with the impossibly distracting Joe Mendoza as her captain, who knew it could get this hot?


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  1. Hi Amy,

    Welcome! Thanks for sharing about your writing journey! And a female fire fighter? Wow! Definitely a book to be read.

    All the best with your upcoming release!

  2. Fantastic interview, both questions and answers. Texas firefighters ... hot. Yummy :)

  3. Nice to meet you. Your book sounds great. When I get stuck I hold a pow wow with my critique partners.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  4. Nas, thank you! The female firefighter was a challenge to write but I had fun with it.

    Carol, I do have a soft spot for firefighters. :)

    Nancy, I do the same with my CPs. They're a GODSEND. Sounds like yours are too!

  5. Hi Amy,

    Well. its very nice to see what you have accomplished since our high school journalism classes together. Im sure all of our class is very proud of you. Im gonna have to pick up the series and read it.

    Congrats!!! Well deserved.

    Keith Onley

  6. I enjoy books about firefighters and I can't wait to read about your female firefighter. I like the fact that you have her in a male oriented field.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  7. Hi Amy,

    Loved reading about your writing journey, and love reading your books about firefighters. My husband/hero Steve is Asst. Chief and a 37-year veteran of our township's fire department. I know what it's like, living with that scanner going 24/7, never knowing when you're going to hear them toned out on a call. Your research has really paid off; your fire scenes blaze with intensity (is that a pun?) and the romance sizzles (okay, that's REALLY a pun). And I love the idea of a female firefighter - one just joined Steve's department a few months ago; she's still going through certification training, so it should prove interesting to see how things work out. Looking forward to reading your newest and seeing you in New York at RWA.


  8. Very interesting interview. Still don't understand how you find time to write when you teach all day! Goes to show how focused and determined women can be. Haven't ever come across a female firefighter before as a MC. Original.

  9. Great interview! I love reading more about cool people. ;-)

    In all seriousness, I really liked what you said about writing synopses. It does feel like going against the grain and I hadn't thought of it that way but it's so true. However, since we all know synopses are one of those pesky requirements, we all keep trying to improve. *sigh*

    Great questions, Rula (as ever!)

  10. Keith, thanks for the kind words and for stopping by! Linda, I hope you enjoy Faith's story. Kathleen, huge thanks for reassuring me about my fire scenes. I would never be able to write those without help. I look forward to seeing you in NYC too! :) JL, you're right, women are determined! Some days I do better than others at balancing, believe me. Kim, thanks for reading the interview. I'd like to meet someone who writes synopses AND novels well someday. ;)

  11. Hi Amy! Thanks so much for being here today!

    Thanks to all for stopping in! I'm really enjoying the comments :). I'll be back to read more soon.

  12. Rula, you have THE best interviews!! I really enjoyed it. :-)

    Amy, congrats on your 4 book contract and loved your First Call story!

  13. Aw shucks, Jennifer. Thanks :). The real credit goes to all the amazing, visiting authors and their thorough, informative answers.

  14. What a great interview! I've read Playing with Fire and it was terrific. If I won I choose book #2 A Little Consequence. Congrats on your 4th book contract and heres to many more to come!

  15. Rula, thanks again for having me to your "place." :) Jennifer and Jess, thanks for the congrats! Jess, I'm so glad you enjoyed Playing With Fire!

  16. Rula - Great interview!

    Amy - Thanks for sharing your journey - it was inspiring. I'm looking forward to "Burning Ambition" and the new book in December. :)

  17. Even without the mouth-watering blurb, who could resist a hunky firefighter cradling kittens on the cover? :-) A fun, informative post, Rula and Amy! Amy, I admire your dedication to your writing career. And I have to wonder--do you often recruit your resources by threatening them with kickboxing moves? :-)

  18. Kate, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Kathy, ha! It's an effective method, huh? :)

  19. That was a terrific interview, Rula and Amy! Thanks for sharing a bit of Amy and her firefighters! I'm looking forward to that geeky computer gal though ;)

  20. Wow I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks Amy and Rula. I came here via Amy's blog but i'm bookmarking this site.

  21. I'm so glad everyone is enjoying the interview. Thanks for all your kind words and for stopping in!

  22. Hi, Amy nice to meet you and learn about your work! It's always so fascinating to hear authors talk about how they sold. Rula, congratulations on another wonderful and insightful interview.

  23. Hi Kaily, nice to meet you as well. :)

  24. Great interview. I couldn't imagine homeschooling my kids while writing. Okay, I couldn't imagine homeschooling them, period. You are definitely multitalented.

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