January 9, 2013

Spotlight On... Willa Blair

Welcome, Willa, can you tell us a little about yourself? 

Hi, Sarah. Thanks for having me here today! I’m a best-selling and award-winning author of Scottish historical and contemporary paranormal romance. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? I’m also a recent transplant from the mid-Atlantic to Texas, where I live most of the year in shorts and sandals. I don’t miss the snow at all!

Tell us about HIGHLAND HEALER and where we can find it. 

Highland Healer, my best-selling debut book, takes place in the highlands of Scotland in 1516, three years after King James IV perished along with most of his nobles and clan chiefs, fighting the English just over the border at Flodden Fields.

In the aftermath, James V was a toddler, the Queen Mother was Henry VIII’s sister, and the Regent preferred to spend time in France rather than govern Scotland. Most clans were led by younger siblings who never expected to become laird. And many clans near the border were so decimated that they broke up.

In Highland Healer, when a lowlander army determined to take over the highlands attacks the clan he's negotiating with, Toran Lathan is wounded and taken prisoner, mistaken for the laird of the clan he’s visiting. He escapes and takes the lowlanders' captive Healer, Aileana Shaw, with him.

Highland Healer is available from in print and ebook formats from Amazon: http://ning.it/PbhhUB, at www.thewildrosepress.com and other retailers. Check with your favorite bookseller.

Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify most with?

Aileana has special abilities that she uses to survive once she’s ripped away from her home and family. She has the strength to find her way in a hostile world, make a place for herself and keep herself safe. All of us do that to a greater or lesser extent at some point in our lives. When she meets Toran Lathan, she allows herself to trust him and eventually falls in love. She’s very brave, though she doesn’t know it.

Describe your writing in three words.

Action-packed. Atmospheric. Spicy.

Why did you choose your genre?

When I decided to tackle a historical romance, the fact that I enjoyed the stories set in Scotland that I read over the years, and that I’m part Scottish, made writing a Scottish historical darn near inevitable. All the scifi/fantasy I read while growing up added the paranormal element.

Where do you get your ideas? 

Mostly from flashes of a scene - usually not much more than a picture of a setting, or a really short clip that conveys a place and a mood. I go from there.

How do you do your research?

I read - a lot, and in a lot of genres. I also have reference books on castles and Scottish history, along with that entire library of science fiction and fantasy that I’ve collected since childhood. And thank goodness for the internet. I can spend hours following one link after another, sometimes going down rabbit-holes, but often finding those interesting bits of trivia that add depth and texture to a story, or help to drive the plot.

What advice would you give to the new/unpublished author? 

Finish the damn book. Like many authors, I spent years polishing the first few chapters of several works-in-progress. It wasn’t until I buckled down and finished the entire first draft of one of them that I had the epiphany. I could do this. I could write books. I had the talent, the ability, and the discipline to finish a major project.

Until you get to “The End”, you may be spending a lot of time writing and editing, but you’re not any closer to realizing your dreams. And once you do finish it, that first draft you are (rightfully) so proud of will need editing and revision, maybe minor, maybe major, but you will have accomplished what ninety percent of writers never do. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can’t get much better than that.

What’s next for you? 

I’ve been swamped with promotion since my publisher early-released Highland Healer into the Amazon Kindle KDP Select program in October. But I was thrilled that my debut book quickly showed up - and stayed - on the Kindle bestseller lists. Now that the excitement of Highland Healer’s official release day on 4 January has passed, I can better balance book promotion with actual book writing. The second book, which I’m calling Highland Seer, is with my editor and I’m hoping for a late 2013 release date for it. In the meantime, I’m writing the third book, which I’m calling Highland Troth. Then I plan to get going on a romantic suspense novel that I began during a retreat my publisher held back in October.

Where can we find you on the web?


Is there anything you would like to ask our readers? 

I’d love to know what makes a book memorable to your readers. What elements of a romance really draw them in and stick with them?


Unknown said...

Yeah, right. Finish the book. There's no other way.

pearl said...

I like unusual heroines. Since I was a kid, romances started shifting from take charge bulldozer guys and faint-away dumb as rocks women which I couldn't stand and which I believe is partially responsible for romances bad rep. Heroines today are smarter and more in charge of their own destinies, as yours is, Ms. Blair. I enjoy when the dynamics are such that the hero and heroine are equals. If I see that the heroine is dumb or will take crap from the hero without an underlying believable reason, I put it down.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

I love that moment in a romance when the author rips the rug out from under the heroine just as she's begun to believe. Deliver that clench of empathy in my gut for the heroine's aching heart and you have me for a fan.

I'm happy to say, Highland Healer caught me up and delivered the clench. Thanks for the entertaining ride, Willa.

Chassie said...

Great advice for writers, Willa. And congratulations for the response to Highland Healer. It's well deserved.

nancy baggett said...

Love the "finish the book" advice. Oh, I see somebody else commented on that, too. But having been inclined to keep polishing and polishing (stalling?) instead of moving forward on the writing project, I think this is a big key to getting published. (Not that polishing isn't necessary, of course.)

Elizabeth Ashtree said...

Excellent advice. A mantra in my house. Finish the manuscript. Especially if one can write a book as lovely as yours, Willa.

Unknown said...

I loved Highland Healer--which was my first venture into reading Scottish historical romance. The book has so many intriguing elements and the characters are vividly developed. Plus the love scenes sizzle.

Someone once told me that, when writing, "done is better than perfect." She explained that if you spend too much time working toward perfection, you never get that first draft done and what you do get down is overwrought. These days, I write from the heart and the gut, then edit from the brain. "Finish it" might just be the first and foremost rule of writing.

Willa Blair said...

Great comments, everyone.
And thanks for the kudos!

I'm with pearl - I can't stand a helpless heroine. So glad Romance has grown beyond that trope.

Unknown said...

The emotions the couple have for each other. the give and take. Always wondering if the author will let them be Happily Ever After. If the author leaves you hanging on the last page you hope there is a sequel. You want to know what happens next in their lives. You as the reader get involved in their life that you want to find out what happens next. I find myself reading book series b/c i get really involved with the charcters.

Jennifer Page(JC) said...

Love the advice and thank-you!!
Could use it right about now :)

All the best...

Liz Flaherty said...

I write character-driven, so the people are what I always remember best. Even in my favorite re-reads, the plot will grow dim in my mind, the the H/H never do.

Congratulations on your success!

Debra St. John said...

Hi Willa,

Congrats on your release! I downloaded "Highland Healer" on my Kindle and it's slowly inching its way up to the front of the TBR pile. (Do we still call it a pile in eform?!)

What makes a romance memorable for me are the characters. If I'm still thinking about them long after the last page is read, to me that's a great book.


Willa Blair said...

Great points, Laura, Liz and Debra. We connect with the characters and how they react to the events around them. If we didn't, we wouldn't laugh and cry with them.

Thanks everyone for the congratulations. I hope you enjoy Highland Healer, whether you've already read it or it's still working its way to the top of your TBR pile (yes, I still call it a pile, too)!