Day’s interest in writing started at an early age. "There were four kids in our family, the three girls all close together in age. We were home from school one winter day because we’d had a blizzard and Mom.… Well, she was practically pulling her hair out in an attempt to keep us entertained.
"We’d fought our way through any number of board games, had read all the books in the house and were basically making a total nuisance of ourselves. Out of sheer desperation, Mom told me that if I didn’t have any books to read, I should go write one.
"So, I did. It was a historical. A Cinderella story set in the Wild West with a wicked stepmother and two wicked stepsisters. As I recall, those two stepsisters bore an uncanny resemblance to my own two sisters. I guess I was out of charity with them at the time!"
Those initial attempts, rooted in elementary school, continued all the way through college. "Although I’d thought about being a writer in high school, I majored in Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley. I was going to be another Jane Goodall…right up until I went camping for the first time. It forced me to reconsider a lifetime spent without the basic necessities of life — like running water and flush toilets."
So she dropped out to reconsider her career choices. That’s when she met her future husband, Frank. "It was a whirlwind courtship. We married five months after meeting."
The two went into business together, first running a film library in Berkeley, then remodeling houses in Seattle, Washington, before opening up a produce market. "Frank is great at retail. He’s a natural salesman. But I’m not.
"With a retail operation," Day says with a laugh, "you have to be nice to the customers. That’s tough since I’m an introvert who’d rather hide in the employee lounge with my nose in a book. When I became pregnant with our son, Matt, I told Frank that I’d like to find another line of work. He was incredibly supportive. He asked me what I wanted to do and without even thinking I said, ‘Write. I want to write Harlequin Romances.’
The next day we drove into Seattle and bought our first computer." And the rest is history!
Well, not quite. "Harlequin returned my first attempt — three mercifully short chapters. They said that although my writing was competent, the plot of my story was melodramatic and my characters stereotypical.
"But I took competent to mean good. That one word gave me all the encouragement I needed. The next book received an even more positive response — and a request for a revision. Although they ultimately turned that second story down, I never grew discouraged. It certainly never occurred to me to give up."
Then tragedy struck. Day’s younger sister, Nancy, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died the following year. "It was a very dark time," Day confesses.
"We’d recently moved into this tiny condominium outside of San Diego, California, and I didn’t know a lot of people. My son, Matt, had just turned three and I spent the summer hiding in our home with the drapes drawn, playing with him. Finally my husband — out of sheer desperation — told me to start writing again or go get a job at McDonald’s flipping burgers.
"It worked! I sat down and wrote a slapstick romance called Jinxed. After three months of depression, I needed some comedic relief and that book provided it. It was my first Harlequin Romance and I dedicated it to Nancy."
As for the future? "I have a ton of ideas. Last time I checked my schedule I was booked several years ahead. And considering I come up with book ideas all the time…well, let’s just say that I have a lot of writing ahead of me!"
Described by Harlequin as "one of our most popular writers ever!" Day's tremendous worldwide popularity has made her a member of Harlequin's prestigious "Five Star Club," with sales totaling well over five million books. She is a three-time winner of both The Colorado Award of Excellence and The Golden Quill Award. She's won Romantic Times Magazine's Career Achievement, and Love and Laughter's awards, the Holt Medallion, the Bestseller's Best Award, and has received an impressive ten nominations for the prestigious Romance Writers of America RITA© Award.
This information is shared from here. Day Leclaire loves hearing from readers so please do email her.
There are three main areas where a manuscript may lack strength. Without reading it, I can only guess.
Conflict: This would be my number one guess. In my Dante series, the heroes all have the ability to identify their soul mates when they first touch. They all (for the most part) resist it. They're not ready for anything that permanent. That creates conflict since, hey, you're stuck with her.
But it's not enough conflict. It's neither deep enough, nor serious enough. Conflict must be strong (meaning serious enough so it isn't resolved with a simple conversation) and it must be layered, meaning that when the initial conflict is resolved, it creates a new and more serious conflict as a result. OR it's layered because there are multiple (different) issues that all must be resolved before you reach a happily-ever-after.
In Claimed: The Pregnant Heiress, the heroine has a one-night stand with the hero. Their birth control experiences a glitch and in the opening chapters after she and the hero are reunited, she discovers she's pregnant with his child. That's not enough conflict to sustain an entire book since all they'd be going on about is how to handle the baby. Marry or don't marry. Whatever. Boring for nearly 200 pages.
In this case, the heroine is attempting to protect her hometown against the machinations of the hero's brother. More, deeper conflict. Certainly adds to the whole marriage issue since the heroine isn't real eager to hook up with the hero's family. Still not enough to sustain the book.
The final piece of conflict goes directly to character. The WHY she won't marry him and WHY he is insistant that they marry is the core nugget of what's holding these two people apart. The three in combination is what gives the overall conflict its strength and depth.
You can also have weak characters, who aren't consistent in their actions, who aren't well motivated in their wants/needs/goals throughout the story, or who haven't been fully developed or are sterotypes versus archetypes.
For instance, I might have a warrior hero archetype. So what? There are lots of heroes and lots of warriors. What makes my warrior stand out from the others? What makes the reader care about him? Okay, maybe it's because he fights for the underdog. Great, much better. But...why? You can't just say that without giving him something from his past that drives his determination to protect those weaker than himself. Maybe he had a mother or sister who was victimized at a time he was too weak or young to protect her. Better. Maybe someone died as a result of his inaction or inability to defend them. Ouch. Deep, emotional, haunting.
Now what if he's thrust into a situation where he must--not protect the underdog heroine--but destroy her for some reason? That's a strong character. That's a conflicted character.
Look at your characters and keep asking WHY. Why do they do X? What motivates them? Just as your conflict needs layers, so do your characters. And the conflict must be connected to the character and his goals, motivations, and/or beliefs in some powerful way.
It's also possible that a judge or editor may reject your story based on the strength (or lack thereof) of your plot. Your plot must be believable (within the romance fantasy world, lol, where we give a LOT of latitude to the word "believable"). I mean, I'm laughing as I write this because, well, come on! I'm the Queen of UNbelievable plots. Can anyone say Dante's Inferno??
Anyway, within the world you create you must sustain believeablity and your plot must make emotional and logical sense, with your characters acting consistently and believably in response to the conflict (or problems) you set up. You can't just have them fight because you know they need a reason to keep them apart. You can't just have them stuck together for convenience. They must have problems with each other and be either apart or together for reasons the reader is willing to accept.
Your plot must move along and not get bogged down or become boring. Readers want to be entertained, not put to sleep. Events must happen at a pace that keeps readers turning the pages. The story should be gripping. Have a surprise or two. Take unexpected turns. Not be one you've heard a thousand times before. Dont' be trite; be original.
And here's one that is a tough fact to swallow. You have to be able to write well, have a solid working knowledge of grammar and the fundamentals of writing. These can be learned. But if you can't write well, your story will also be weak--weakly written.
I watch American Idol. Love it. I can even carry a tune and have a decent ear. In fact, I have enough of an ear to know just how bad a singer I am in comparison to professional artists. I sing for my own pleasure, but I will never, ever, not in a trillion years be paid to sing. It reminds me of a line from Working Girl. Joan Cusack says to
Melanie Griffith: "Sometimes I like to dance around in my underwear.
Doesn't make me Madonna. Never will." The tough, tough fact is, some people who love to write simply aren't very good at it. That said...? It's one of the few professions where you can actually learn how to write and write well. But it takes practice and dedication and you must be a natural storyteller.
On being asked about adding layers :
That's fairly easy for me. If it bores me, it's going to bore the reader. It's basically part of pacing. I try not to get bogged down in long, descriptive passages and instead get the setting or clothing or everyday stuff across in broad, concise descriptions. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it really isn't. I want to paint as vivid a scene as I can in as few words as possible.
That said, if there's a lot of narrative, it better have a lot of action to keep us both interested. I also don't do a lot of straight dialogue without tags. I want you in the character's head when she's interacting with the hero. I'll have a run of dialogue for a short span, but only if works for the story and serves a purpose, such as adding humor. But I try and allow you, the reader, to feel the emotions as much as possible since that's (for the most part) why you read romances.
And then I asked her if she uses critique groups and critique partners:
Hey, Nas Dean!
When I was first starting out I had a critique group. It was pretty much a disaster. Then I hooked up with a couple fellow romance authors and we formed a brainstorming group. That's where I need the most help--plotting and digging down deep to get to the core of the story so it's as emotional as I can make it. Humor comes easily, but it takes work to mine those deeper, longer lasting emotions. Since then, I've lost one member of the group and picked up another. We're a tight bunch. Really lovely to have.
Delighted to hear you enjoyed Claimed: The Pregnant Heiress. And I'm glad my mini-lessons helped. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm pretty passionate about what I do.
Sometimes I consider offering a class and having us rip apart one of my books and reconstruct it as a how-to lesson. And I'd choose my own just because I know how I went about plotting and writing it. But it would take a lot of time and I'm not sure I want to spend that much of my time not writing, if you know what I mean.
This mini lesson is shared from here.