Lauren Layne on New Adult Romance And Creating Original Protagonists

lauren layneName: Lauren Layne
Author’s Website
Hometown: I always say Seattle, but technically it’s Federal Way which is just south of Seattle.
Current Residence: Tacoma, WA, which is just a bit south of Federal Way. In between my stints in the Seattle area, I’ve lived in the Bay Area, Orange County and Manhattan. I have a strange hankering to try Texas on for size next, but we’ll see!
Education: Bachelors Degree from Santa Clara University
Briefly: In the writing world, I’m delighted to say that I write for two publishers. I write contemporary romance and new adult for Random House, and contemporary romance for Grand Central Publishing. Getting published felt like the biggest accomplishment, but then going on to write for two houses sort of launched me into this surreal world of, “Holy crap, this is actually happening!”
Favorite Read: I’m all over the place. Some favorites off the top of my head…Practice Makes Perfect (Julie James), Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand), Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens), Perfect (Judith McNaught), Einstein: His Life & Universe (Walter Isaacson), It Happened One Autumn (Lisa Kleypas)…told you I was all over the place! I love romance, but I’m also a sucker for biographies, classics and political theory!
Pet Peeves: Whining. I’m one of those obnoxious, optimistic people that think happiness is a choice. No matter how “stuck” you feel in a current situation, 99% of the time you do have an alternative, it may just not be an easy one. And the rest of the time when you can’t change your situation, you can change your attitude! And along those lines same lines, people that always talk about how busy they are drive me crazy I’m not talking about the people that occasionally say, “Eesh, crazy day/week/month!” I’m talking about those people who frequently “vent” about how much they have going on, and outline their entire “busy day” on Facebook. Maybe your day would be a little less busy if you weren’t talking about how busy it was!
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…An entrepreneur, or any career where I can be my own boss. When you work for someone else, it’s too easy to let him/her, or “the man” determine your happiness level. But when you control your own schedule, your own income? It’s incredibly motivating. Also, anything where I can make my own hours is a definite, definite plus! I am all for working long and hard when necessary, but the concept that “quality-work” is supposed to happen between 9-5 feels antiquated to me. Or, to contradict what I just said…a lawyer. Or a politician, minus the talking-in-front-of-people aspect!

As a kid, what book would you say introduced you to the world of romance novels?

As a kid kid? It was definitely Elizabeth’s First Kiss from the Sweet Valley Twin series. And I was definitely that girl that read Nancy Drew for the Ned Nickerson factor. As for what turned me onto “real” romance…it was either Nora Roberts’ The Reef —which I sort of picked up on a whim from my mom’s Costco haul and never put down—or Perfect by Judith McNaught, also which I picked up on a whim from a bookshelf at a vacation rental—someone had left it behind). I’m always hazy on which of those came first, but together they sealed-the-deal on my being a romance reader.
lauren layne
New Adult is what your books are categorized in. Do you think that “New Adult” is pretty much here to stay?

I actually write two genres. After the Kiss and the rest of my Stiletto series are in the contemporary romance genre. Isn’t She Lovely? is my only New Adult book, although I hope to have more to follow! As for whether or not New Adult is here to stay…I think it’ll be really interesting to see. I’d like to say yes, because it has so much going for it, but then I also would have thought the same thing about chick lit back in the day—which interestingly enough is similar to New Adult in a lot of ways—but that fizzled out an abrupt and startling—to me—death. But I’ll say this much…I’ll do my part as a reader and writer to keep New Adult around for the long haul!

You have a BS in Political Science. Initially, you wanted a career in law?

Haha, what a GREAT question. Yes! Like so many of my fellow poli sci majors, I always imagined that law school would be next. Although in hindsight, I don’t know if that was because I was actually planning on going to law school, or because it was a really easy answer when someone asked, “Why poli-sci?” or “what’s the plan after college.” You could say “law school,” and everyone would nod and look impressed.

In reality, I never set out to be a poli-sci major. I entered Santa Clara University undeclared, but I took Introduction to US Politics winter quarter of my Freshman year and fell in love with political science, and never really fell out of love with it.

But no, I never did make it to law school. It didn’t feel “right” when I was in my early twenties, so I never even applied. I do sometimes regret this, because I’d love to have an extra layer of “learning” under my belt, but I’m also not big on lamenting the path not taken, so instead I’ll just say “maybe some day!”

What’s the question you get asked the most about the Stiletto series?
Well it’s not so much about the series as it is the first book, After the Kiss. Everyone wants to know if it’s a retelling/based on the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and while I see the similarities, that movie was never on my radar as I wrote it!

Julie Greene is adventurous and daring. Did you have any qualms about how she would be received as a character? She’s pretty much out of the usual mold.

You know, I never really thought of Julie as being out of the usual mold until the reviews started coming in. A lot of readers were unsure of Julie to start out with, although thankfully she seemed to grow on most of them! So, no, I can’t say I really had an qualms while writing her, because to me, Julie just felt very “real.” She’s got a great career, wonderful friends, an active dating life, lives in a city that she adores . . . I think maybe where she catches readers off guard is that at the beginning of the book she’s decidedly unromantic, which is different than anti-romantic—and which I think is more common in romance. Most romance heroines are either romantically-inclined or cynical on the outside, but a romantic way deep down, but Julie’s neither. When she starts having these feelings for Mitchell, she’s truly all “what the heck?” because it’s just never been on her priority list before.

Do you think that a book’s description can help sell it?
For sure. Especially in the world of e-books where I think the covers have less of an impact than in the physical book world. Not that covers aren’t still extremely important, but in the old days of browsing the book shelves, covers were crucial for intriguing a reader. In the world of e-books, a cover’s just a pretty two-dimensional picture, and so it’s really that “blurb”—as we call it in writer-land—that seals the deal.

What aspect of book marketing and publicity do you think is essential for new authors to know?

Oh, man, I wish I knew! It’s not my strong suit. I’m sort of a social media dunce, and have to set up calendar reminders to get my butt onto Twitter and Facebook. I think the key is figuring out which medium of author/reader communication works for you. For example, author Jessica Lemmon is a Twitter dynamo. She’s got it down. Victoria Dahl is great on Tumblr, Kristan Higgins has nailed Facebook…

What inspired the storyline of Only With You?

Unoriginal answer alert: Pride and Prejudice. It’s not a true re-imagining in the way say, Bridget Jones Diary was, but I very much wanted to write a story about two people get off on the entirely wrong foot and spend the rest of the book learning just how wrong they were about the other person. And Grayson Wyatt is definitely in the Darcy-esque category of heroes. He’s taciturn, a little shy, a bit awkward…and I love him. I hope readers will too.

Ruthie Knox gave After the Kiss, a raving blurb. What advice would you like to give to authors about getting one?
I hate it when authors answer questions like this, I’m going to do it anyway: to get an awesome blurb, write an awesome book. [Smiles]

But logistics for getting a quote? I’ll have to plead the fifth, because my amazing editor at Random House—Sue Grimshaw—took point on that, and has gotten me amazing quotes for both After the Kiss and Isn’t She Lovely? from Mira Lyn Kelly, Ruthie Knox, Cora Carmack, Jen McLaughlin and Monica Murphy. So I’m majorly indebted to Sue!

One bit of advice though: it can’t hurt to ask. I was terrified to mention Cora Carmack’s name to Sue because I adore Cora’s work and thought she was so, so far out of my league. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I took the plunge and mentioned it to Sue, who hunted down Cora, who in turn read Isn’t She Lovely, and had this to say about it:

“Fresh and Authentic, Layne packs intelligence, wit, and an addictive romance into one fantastic read! I loved the bold characters, the slow-building yet steamy romance, and the raw and painful edge of self-discovery. I couldn’t put it down!” —New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Cora Carmack

So, I’m so glad I asked! And there’s an added bonus in that I’m now email buddies with Cora and Monica Murphy, although I try not to bug them. Much.

Reading your history as an author, one sees that you’re this really perseverance-minded person. What helped you go through the rough times…like when the words wouldn’t come…when you had your moments of extreme self-doubt?
Um, wine? I’m only half joking on that. When the rejections came in as I was querying Only With You—then named Accidentally in Love—there were plenty of evenings—and okay, afternoons—where I turned to my husband with a lump in my throat and would say “happy hour?” So there you have it…I guess I was one of those lushes that drank away some of the despair. [Smiles]

But seriously, thank you for the compliment on perseverance, because that’s really what it came down to. I just felt in my gut that I was a good writer, and that this getting-published business would happen. I mean sure, on the surface I’d have some bad days where I’d be all, “Should I just get fail tattooed on my forehead?” but for the most part, I clung to a healthy bit of self-confidence.

I tried my best to take accountability for the outcome as well. Sure, a lot of getting an agent/getting published is about luck and timing, but I did my best to not just sit around waiting for all the stars to align. When my first romance manuscript didn’t get me representation, I wrote another one. Then another. When I started to think that Only with You might not sell either—it did, eventually. said “Fine then, I’ll write YA, because that’s selling.” So then, I wrote a YA manuscript.

In other words, my advice is to treat getting published as something that will happen, and that you’re committed to making it happen. I recently attended the RWA conference in Atlanta, and while I was waiting for a meeting, I overheard a conversation between two writers aspiring to get published who sat for a good 15 minutes—before I got up and left—moaning about all of the things that weren’t fair about the business, or complaining about how agents didn’t “get it,” and accusing editors of being narrow-minded. Even if those things were true (I don’t often find them to be—taking that approach isn’t going to get you published any faster. Focus on what YOU can do to get yourself published, not what others can do for you. And I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again: most of all, you have to write. Write a lot, and write often. Oh, and don’t forget the wine.

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