Career Focus - The World of Writing

Romance Writer - Virginia Kantra

Virginia Kantra is a hugely successful author of many bestselling romance novels. She is the author of over a dozen books for Silhouette Intimate Moments, including her popular "Trouble in Eden" series. A six-time Romance Writers of America RITA AVirginia Kantraward finalist, Virginia is the winner of numerous writing awards, including the Golden Heart, Holt Medallion, Maggie Award of Excellence and two National Readers' Choice Awards.

The Interview

Name - Virginia Kantra

Location - Raleigh, NC, USA

Family - I'm married to my college sweetheart. We have one daughter, two sons, two cats, and a dog

How did you first get into writing? Did you write as a child?

I've always scribbled: fairytales for my younger cousins, plays to perform with the other neighborhood kids on a friend's porch, poems in high school (very bad poems). But it wasn't until my youngest child started kindergarten that I began to write seriously for a particular market.

Have you had formal training?

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Northwestern University, but I never took any classes in creative writing.

Do you think formal training is essential to be a good writer?

No. Writers need to be readers. If you love books, if you respect the power of words, if you are patient and persistent in pursuing your craft, then you can be a writer.

What inspired you to write romantic books in particular?

Well...I love romance novels. When my three children were very small and my husband traveled a lot on business, it was difficult to get away from the house, even to the library. A neighbor who had shelves and boxes full of romance novels encouraged me to borrow her books. I was surprised to discover how much the genre had grown and changed from the boss-secretary, doctor-nurse romances I remembered...not that I didn't enjoy those as a teen, but they didn't seem to speak to my life now.

When I decided to write for publication, I took a hard look at the fiction market and realized the books I loved comprised over 50% of all popular paperback fiction sold in North America. (To compare, mystery/detective/suspense novels make up less than 30% of popular fiction sales.) Those seemed like better odds for a writer struggling to break into the market!

As the typical Mum's life is not always that romantic, can it be hard switching from 'Mum mode to Romance mode'? Or does writing offer you a chance to escape into another world?

I think it can be hard for all mums to switch from "Mum mode" to "Romance mode", whether they're writers or not! Certainly it's not easy to jump from packing school lunches or helping with homework into the middle of an emotionally intense scene. But I don't think it's harder for a writer to switch gears than for any other working mum.

Romance writing may be unique because I get to spend part of each day thinking and writing about the importance of relationships, the strength of family, and the power of love. There are days in my "real" life when I need that reminder that it's all worthwhile.

When you were starting out, was it difficult striking the balance between sensual writing and overtly erotic writing? Is it hard knowing how to pen a 'love scene'?

The only body parts you need in a love scene are the brain and the heart. Once I learned to focus on who my characters are and how they are feeling, love scenes got a lot easier. That doesn't mean my characters can't have wonderful, hot sex! They are, after all, healthy adults, and I am writing about healthy, adult relationships. But one mistake beginning writers can make is to think of physical intimacy as something separate from the intimacy and conflict developing in the rest of the story.

Do you write at home? If so where?

I'm very lucky now because I have a little office off the family room—close enough to hear the kids if they need me, but not so close I have to hear the television! When I started out, I wrote at the kitchen table.

How many hours do you spend writing a day? Do you have to be quite disciplined?

I've always written during the day while the children were at school. I get up from my computer quite a bit. Not only is moving around better for me physically, but I come up with some of my best dialogue while I'm folding laundry. Of course, like anyone who works at home, I have to fight the distractions of the telephone, the Internet, the breakfast dishes piled in the sink...

What or who has been your biggest inspiration?

I would never have attended my first writers' conference without the encouragement of my husband. He's my hero.

What is your favorite book?

I can't possibly pick just one. But my love for romantic suspense began with Mary Stewart's Nine Coaches Waiting.

How does writing fit round spending time with your family?

Writing is wonderfully flexible. I actually used to write in the car during my sons' soccer practice. (Not during games, though!) And if I need to take time from my writing day for teacher conferences or doctors' appointments or an emergency phone call, I can do that. I have to make it up later, though...usually late at night. I try not to write on the weekends.

Was it hard getting your first book published?

Hard? No. Slow? Absolutely. It took me several years to write and sell my first book.

How did you go about it?

I picked up a copy of the Romance Writers Report from my local library. Shortly after that, I joined Romance Writers of America (which has an international outreach chapter). Check them out at RWA is an amazing organization which offers classes, contests, and contacts for its unpublished members. Attending a conference is like going to writers’ boot camp! Of course, all the conferences in the world won't do you any good unless you actually sit down and write the book.

What is the best bit of business advice you have been given?

Be persistent. Be professional. Don't take rejection personally, and don't give up.

What is the best bit of business advice you have been given?

Do you have any words of wisdom for Mums who would like to become Authors?

Read, read, read. And then write, write, write. I think it's very easy for beginning writers to fall into the trap of believing that there's a magic formula out there, that if they connect the dots or fill in the blanks they'll end up with a published novel. Writing isn't like that. Publishing certainly isn,t like that!

My best advice is that you read what you love. Write what you care about. Tell the truth that you know. And then, whether you sell or not, you'll have accomplished something you can take pride in.

Books by Virginia Kantra


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