WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
LM: Thanks for inviting me, Winnie. First thing you should know is I hate talking about myself. I'd rather talk story. But to give you some background, I am married to a wonderful man and we've raised 4 children. I used to manage a Boston rock band years ago and have done an assortment of jobs along the way to becoming a published author including selling kitchen tools and working as a special education aid. Although I've been writing for over 20 years, I have been writing full time for seven years.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
LM: Well, I must thank the RWA and its members since the support and education a new writer receives is amazing. But in truth I'd written and revised my first book before even knowing that RWA existed. There are a ton of authors and writers along the way who have been my support system though. And my biggest champion is my husband who has always supported me.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
LM: I recall camping in the White Mountains of NH with my husband right before we got married. He'd gone off early that morning to fish and I stayed back in the tent to finish the last 10 pages of a Harlequin Romance novel by Jessica Steele because the batteries in the flashlight died at the absolute wrong time at 4AM. Just as I finished the book I said out loud, "I want to write one of these." Then I heard, "Then you should do it." I paused for a second, wondered if it was the voice of God and then realized it was my husband who'd forgotten something and come back to camp.
It took me a year to write that first novel, which was awful. Then I put it away when my first daughter was born. When my youngest was about a year old I dusted off that manuscript and gave it another try. I haven't stopped since then. It took me about 2 years to publish my first book with a small press. Then I did a 4 book series with Avalon called TEXAS HEARTS. The cool thing is that I got my offer for my first Avalon contract during a face to face editor appointment at my local conference. I don't remember much except being really happy that conference! I've since published the series as ebooks on my own and they've been very well received by readers. I went on to do 5 books for Love Inspired before going Indie and publishing books on my own.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
LM: I sold my 3rd finished novel, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU. All but those first two books have been published.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
LM: As I said earlier, I received "the call" during an editor appointment. When I wrote HER HEART FOR THE ASKING, book 1 of Texas Hearts, I'd only sent the full manuscript to the editor at Avalon 2 months before the conference. Still, I knew I'd be meeting with her so I wanted to reach out and tell her I'd be seeing her there. When I sat down for the appointment the editor told me that they never get to see the expression on the faces of their authors when they offer a contract so even though she was going to call me the week before to offer the contract, she'd waited so she could see my expression. It was pretty amazing.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
LM: My family takes my profession in stride. It's no big deal to them. It's only when one of my kids has a friend who makes a big deal about it that they realize not every mom publishes romance novels. But writing and publishing has allowed me to be more flexible with my life and be more present in our busy lifestyle.
WG: What aspect of life as a published author surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
LM: I don't know that I was ever surprised by anything other than the idea that people actually read my books. I still get really amazed when I stop and think about it. Logically I know people read and review my books, but it feels like they just go out there and that's it. That's why I love getting reader mail. I get to hear firsthand how a reader feels about my book.
WG: What about your writing process. Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
LM: I'm a puzzle writer, meaning I write completely out of order. I have scenes to stories playing in my head all the time. So I work a lot of things out and then sit down to write. I write something every day, although it's not always a lot.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
LM: Always. I don't always achieve them. But I try.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
LM: I can write anywhere, even the Laundromat. And I HAVE written at the Laundromat on occasion. Music helps me get into a story. Without realizing it I usually pick up on a song or two that helps drive the story for me. Even years after a book is published, if I hear that song on the radio, I'm brought back to the story.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
LM: Scenes come to me in pieces. It really is like a puzzle. It drives me crazy sometimes. I'm always convinced I'll never get the puzzle put together. But I do. Usually once I have a certain number of scenes written, I start putting information into a 3 ACT structure chart so I can visually see what I'm missing. I still don't plot, but at least then I know what's missing and what I have to fill in.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
LM: I usually start with a situation. Something is happening to one of the characters. From that seed, something else happens and then the story builds around that.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
LM: I do. And when that happens I try to change things a bit. No one wants to read the same story over and over again.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
LM: Hard to say. My readers say they love the emotion in my story and that my characters seem real.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
LM: Life. But I don't see that as an obstacle.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
LM: It works for me. I wish I were a linear writer, someone who could start on page 1 and keep going and have a book that is near perfect at the end. My drafts are a mess and full of holes. But it works for me.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
LM: I love romantic suspense. I love edge of your seat stuff. And I have always been a huge fan of traditional contemporary romance.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
LM: Fantasy. I have one started. But it's one of those things that always takes a back seat to the bread and butter stories.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
LM: Keep writing, learn your craft, and then send your work out. You can't get published if you don't finish a manuscript and then send it out to someone.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
LM: Because I'm a puzzle writer, it's always been hard for me to get over the fear that this storytelling I do will continue to come to me. After writing about five manuscripts, I took a workshop with Pat Grasso on Syd Field's Screenwriter's Workshop. That's where I first saw the 3 Act Structure for storytelling. It made so much sense to me and it's been my roadmap ever since.
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
LM: Everyone is entitled to their opinion, good and bad. I don't like mean reviews, but if a book doesn't connect with a reader I have no problem with them giving an honest review about why. I learn from them, too. No two readers are alike just like no two stories are alike.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
LM: Keep writing. It's that simple. If getting bad feedback is enough to make you crawl into a hole and quit, you're not cut out for this business. Just keep writing.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
LM: I don't dwell on what I struggle with. I just work through it. I have to fall in love with my characters. If I don't like them, if I'm not laughing and crying with them, the reader won't. So I have to care. And when I've touched a reader enough for them to email me, that makes me happy. Writing is so solitary that it's hard not to think of the books just going out into the great abyss. But readers read them and I love it when they share their experience with me or tell me they've passed the book to a friend or family member.
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
LM: Listen to music. Watch movies. Be with the family. That keeps me busy. I used to have a few hobbies, sewing and cooking. But these days I'm happy just to relax and sleep.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
LM: I don't know. I went to college for engineering and then changed to sound recording technology because I loved music and wanted to be in the music field. I managed a rock band for about 4 years and when I stopped doing that I began writing. I guess I just followed my passions.
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
LM: I'm afraid of this question. LOL Shocked? Hmm, I don't know. Depends on what their threshold for surprise is.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
LM: I don't watch a lot of TV other than Project Runway. But I LOVE movies and there are way too many for me to list. But one I rewatched just last night with my husband was MEDICINE MAN with Sean Connery and Lorraine Bracco. Great movie if you haven't seen it. There are so many wonderful things about that movie. SHINING THROUGH is one of my favorite WWII movies. That one features Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith. Love THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Probably one of my all-time favs. I'm a huge sap, too. I love sappy family and Hallmark movies. But I also like edge of your seat stuff and psychological thrillers. Gee, what did I miss? It's probably easier to tell you what I don't love! (Horror!)
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
LM: On my website I have "There is more than one way to get where you're going. Turn off the GPS and pick a road." This is basically what I've done most of my life. You have to adapt. You have to be able to get off a road that is leading nowhere, even when you know where you're going. Sometimes the best discoveries in life are found when you don't know where you're going. That leap of faith is hard for some people.
LM: For the past few months I've been releasing my DAKOTA HEARTS novella series. These are longer novellas of between 28,000 words and 40,000 words. HER DAKOTA MAN is the first book in the series and is the story of Logan McKinnon, a widower struggling with past decisions and harsh Dakota weather that has caused lots of problems to his hometown. When the love of his life, Poppy Ericksen comes back home after being away for 10 years, it's almost more than he can take. She's come back to town to keep a promise she made to her dying friend, who just happens to be Logan's late wife. They struggle with their feelings as the secrets of the past are revealed.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
LM: What inspired me to write the series as a whole was the tornado that my own Massachusetts town experienced 2 years ago. Massachusetts isn't known for tornadoes, yet we had an F3 rip through town and leave a lot of destruction. The humanity of the community coming together and the help from so many people around the country was amazing and I wanted to capture that same thing in this series when the fictitious town of Rudolph South Dakota has devastating floods and ice storms that leaves the town a mess.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
LM: Unfortunately, I didn't have to look far. South Dakota has really harsh weather and it's been in the news frequently. So I would read as many stories as I found.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
LM: Right now I'm Indie publishing my work. But I'd like to work with a publisher again. I'm open to it for the right project. (Maybe my fantasy project?)
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
LM: Readers can visit me at www.lisamondello.blogspot.com or email me at LisaMondello@aol.com.
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!