In the spotlight this month... Harlequin Intrigue author Julie Miller.
Julie Miller is an award-winning, nationally bestselling author of breathtaking romantic suspense--with a National Readers Choice Award and a Daphne du Maurier among other prizes. In 2009 she earned a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Suspense. Many of her nearly 50 books have appeared on the USA Today, Borders and BookScan Top 100 Romances bestseller lists.
Julie thank you so much for joining us today! Can you tell us a little about your latest release?
My current Harlequin Intrigue release, PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS, wraps up my Precinct: SWAT trilogy. And rest assured, for all you readers who’ve been speculating on the identity of the Rich Girl serial Killer with me on www.eharlequin.com and Facebook, all will be revealed. And, as an added bonus, my editor enjoyed my SWAT Team 1 characters so much that she asked me to write a fourth, stand-alone Precinct: SWAT book. Look for NANNY 911 in December of this year. It will feature the team’s lady SWAT cop, Miranda Murdock, and elusive security company billionaire Quinn Gallagher. Plus, for all those readers asking when Holden Kincaid will come back from paternity leave to rejoin the team, here’s your chance. Holden is a hero once again as he plays a key role in Quinn and Miranda’s story.
PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS sounds great- how about a blurb?
A ruthless killer…an expectant mother…one determined cop.
Rafe Delgado had been there for Josie Nichols her entire life. So when he turned to her one night, emotionally drained thanks to a heartbreaking case, her longtime crush on the brooding cop reached a whole new level. But afterward, Rafe went back to being untouchable and Josie didn't know how to break through his shell…even to tell him she was pregnant.
Everything Rafe did was by the book and so his moment of weakness could never be repeated. He didn't deserve someone like Josie…even if it was a daily struggle to keep his hands off her. But learning she could ID a cold-blooded killer changed everything. Now she was in his protective custody and caring about her only made his job harder. And learning about his unborn child made it nearly impossible.
What are your favorite genres? Least favorites?
I’m a true romantic suspense fan. It’s my go-to when I want to read, and it’s what I love to write. It appeals to so many aspects of my personality. The intellectual in me loves a good mystery. The adventurer in me loves the action and suspense. And the romantic in me loves a good love story. I started reading Harlequin Intrigues back in college when the very first one (THE KEY by Rebecca Flanders) came out. I’ve been a fan of Intrigues ever since—they’re quick enough reads that I don’t get frustrated when my busy schedule limits my reading time, yet they’re denser, complete, mainstreamy stories that give me everything I want—thrills, chills, romance, heroes to fall in love with and heroines who I’m either cheering for or I’m imagining in their place. I also love series stories that create a community of characters—ones who might play a supporting role in one story and shine as the hero or heroine in another, characters who I get to know more in-depth over the course of several books. I read a lot of Series Romance—Intrigues, Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Blaze are my favorites. I also do a lot of YA reading, to keep current on my teaching, and because there are just some awesome YA books out there.
My least favorites are probably inspirational romance (I tend to like a more sensual, sexual romance story, though not erotic) and historical. I’ve read some historicals that are on my keeper shelf (Cheryl St. John is a fave), but I usually like a contemporary setting, and characters with more modern sensibilities. The historicals I’ve loved usually have a heroine who’s ahead of her time.
What’s in your TBR pile and why?
Right now I’m on a new author (or new-to-me author) kick. I just finished Jana DeLeon’s SECRET OF CYPRIERE BAYOU from Intrigue—loved the spooky atmosphere that lurked in the background or took center stage in every scene. And I’ve got several favorite authors waiting for my next reading binge (that’s how I celebrate completing a deadline): Rachel Lee, Jessica Andersen, Delores Fossen, Elle James, Jo Leigh, Sherry James, J.K. Rowling (I’ve got a hankering to read THE DEATHLY HALLOWS again).
What are your thoughts on social networking? Do you get your chatty on…or are you more about necessary updates?
Depends on where I am on my deadlines. Being a shy person by nature, communicating online has been a boon for me when it comes to interacting with readers and networking with other publishing professionals. I love that I can do it any time of day or night, I can think through what I want to say before I type it in, and so on. I can fritter away entire mornings catching up on emails or updating Facebook and Tweeting, checking favorite blogs (Pink Heart Society, Intrigue Authors and The Writing Playground are some of my faves) or adding to my favorite discussions on eHarlequin. It’s fun to rediscover friends from high-school and college that I’ve lost track of while we’ve been busy raising families and establishing careers, or to communicate more often than a Christmas card once a year. And it’s fun, interesting, and rewarding to get almost instant feedback from readers who have questions or who want to see something different in my books or hope to see a supporting character they love get a story of his/her own. But, when I’m feeling deadline pressure, then networking can become a chore—people seem to worry when I drop off the grid to focus on my book or family business. I know I need to stay out there, to keep my name in front of readers and friends, but sometimes I do need to prioritize, and the social networking goes way down the list. And there are deadlines for the Intrigue newsletter, blog posts, website updates, etc., that can make social networking as stressful as completing a book. Readers can find me on my Facebook Fan page, on the www.eharlequin.com boards, on GoodReads, Kindle Boards, Shelfari, and on Twitter at @JulieMillerAuth.
How do you pick your story settings?
Generally I write what I know and love. If I’m going to spend several weeks (or years!) there with my characters, I want to be in a place that I connect with. Kansas City, obviously, for my Precinct stories. KC is my old stomping grounds, and I still have a lot of family there, so I visit the area often. I love showcasing my favorite city with all its laid-back charm, cultural offerings, beautiful scenery and big-city diversity. The mountains are another favorite setting of mine. I love the majesty and splendor of God’s work there. I feel humble and peaceful there, yet inspired and invigorated at the same time. I’ve set books in the Tetons of Wyoming, in the Rockies of Montana, and in my own Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas, as well.
How long have you been writing and what prompted you to begin?
My first novel was published in 1997; my first Harlequin Intrigue in 2000. But I’ve been a writer all my life. I was a shy child, but I was never bored. As far back as I can remember, I created stories in my head to entertain myself. Barbie and G.I. Joe had some awesome Indiana Jones-type adventures, and I solved mysteries right along with Miss Marple and Encyclopedia Brown. Shyness made adolescence particularly difficult, but I was encouraged to do lots of journaling, and to communicate via notes when I couldn’t get the words and emotions out of my mouth. That truly gave me an understanding of how to get emotions down on the page, a must for any romance writer.
I wrote my first complete romance novel back in college, a definite learning experience, but not a manuscript that will ever see the light of day. Then I got busy with my teaching career. When we moved to Nebraska, and my son was still a toddler, I had the opportunity to stay at home with him for a year. While I was blessed to have that opportunity, I discovered I still needed a creative outlet. So, while he napped, I began writing down some of those stories inside my head, just to see if I could do it. Then, a friend introduced me to RWA and suggested we and a couple of other friends start our own chapter (Prairieland Romance Writers). That’s how I learned the business. I had to go back to teaching full-time when my husband got laid off, but I continued to write and learn and submit. I was in the middle of corralling/teaching the class from h*ll when I got the phone call that my first book had sold! I used to be a full-time teacher who wrote part-time. Then it became two full-time jobs with little sleep and lots of stress. Not fun. My health (and a request for more books a year from my editor) forced me to choose careers. Now, I’m a full-time writer who teaches part-time. And I’m currently writing my 45th book!
Wow! 45--that's incredible!! Was there a defining moment when you decided to pursue writing as a career?
Yes. When my health gave out after 2-3 years of trying to teach and write full-time, as well as raise my family. I ended up getting very sick. When my editor said they’d like to have more books a year from me, my hubby and I discussed it, and I took the plunge into writing full-time. It was a scary transition at first. He was newly out of grad school and starting his second career as a teacher. I was giving up my insurance and benefits. But we managed. I am blessed to have a family who encouraged me to follow my heart—if this is what I wanted to do, then go for it. Work hard. I loved teaching (working with the students at any rate—that’s one reason I still sub and tutor), but writing is the dream career for me. It’s requires a lot of hard work and self-discipline, and the adjustments haven’t always been easy. But I love it!
When you write, how many projects do you generally have going at once?
One. I’m a very linear writer. I’ve tried writing several projects at once, but I found it screwed with my sense of continuity and character development. It was a challenge to keep each story focused in my head and to get them written. But, that just means I can’t WRITE more than one story at a time. If I get an idea for a future story, or something else I have under contract, I jot down the note or the dialogue or whatever the brainstorm is that comes to me. I will also do research on other stories. But then I have to file that info away so the new idea doesn’t block the words I need to be writing. I’m also what my friend Delores Fossen calls a “cooker”, meaning I think a lot about my characters and story before I write it. So it’s actually helpful to me to let characters and story ideas and plot twists percolate for a while before I start writing.
How do you manage your ideas for new stories before you’re able to really sit down and work on them?
I’m the queen of sticky notes! Jot it down fast and file it away.
Plot or Pants?
Cooker. (see above) I can’t outline a story from beginning to end because then my brain feels like I’ve written the story already, and I’m not excited to tell it anymore. But I do think a lot about my characters before I ever start a manuscript. And, I envision 2 or 3 key scenes that will happen in the book—usually the climactic confrontation and a tense romantic moment. But how I get to those scenes? What happens in between? I trust my gut—and my characters—to take the story where it needs to go.
Julie, thank you so much for stopping by today, it's been great getting to know you better. Anything else you'd like to share with us?
On a personal note, PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS is the first story I wrote after losing my dad last year, and the book is dedicated to him. It was a particularly tough story to write at the time because my emotions weren’t always in a good place. But now I see the book as a celebration—an homage to my dad, if you will. Whether he was serving in the Marine Corps, teaching, coaching, working in the business world, doing his beloved carpentry work or just being my dad, he was a man who always got the job done. And he expected us to meet our responsibilities, too. Keeping that lesson in mind, I found the determination to complete the book and go on with my writing. I hope you’ll enjoy PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS, and any of my books you might read…and keep a good thought in mind for the man who was my first hero, the man who inspired me to achieve.
I’ll give away a copy of PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS or an early-bird copy of NANNY 911 (when my author copies arrive in the fall) to one lucky poster who leaves a question or comment here on the Pink Heart blog today.