I’m quite excited to have Heather Huffman visiting Jay’s Insight today as part of her blog tour to promote her latest novel Roses in Ecuador (sponsored link) from which I posted a teaser excerpt and reviewed.
What was the inspiration for Roses in Ecuador?
Most of my books start with a dream. Usually it’s like watching a scene from a movie, but I wake up knowing more than I should about the characters for having just watched one scene. I’ll be obsessed with the characters for days, and I know it’s a new book. I jot the scene down along with anything else I can remember about my gut impressions. Then the book sits on my hard drive, waiting its turn to be written.
Sometimes, like Devon McAlister’s first appearance in Suddenly a Spy, I intentionally work a character into an earlier novel to introduce them. Sometimes a character surprises me by showing up in another book. Either way, by the time I’m ready to write that book, I feel like I know the characters and their world.
For Roses in Ecuador, it was a combination of Devon popping up in other novels and a lot of research that breathed life into the story for me.
You haven’t always been an author – what gave you the impetus to make writing your career?
I’ve always loved being a writer, but it never occurred to me to make it a career. Even once I decided to get serious about looking for a publisher, I didn’t dare dream I’d be able to do it for a living.
It was actually a life tragedy that forced me out of the nest. When my middle son was injured in an accident, I left my corporate job to care for him. I ran out of FMLA before his rehabilitation was over, but for my family, there was never a question I had to stay with him, no matter what the cost.
It was when writing was the furthest from my mind that I found my publisher. My son is now healed and my days in the corporate world are behind me. The way it all came together, I can’t help but believe this current path was meant to be.
Are you a planner (plan your story and stick to the plan) or a pantser (sit and write and see where the story takes you)? Do your characters ever do anything that surprises you?
Pantser, all the way! I usually have an idea where I want the story to go, but no matter how much I think I know it never fails to surprise me. It’s actually kind of funny; I’m currently working on a project with another author who’s a planner. Watching us try to accommodate both styles in the same book has got to be interesting!
How do you bring your characters to life and keep them relatable?
From a writing process perspective, my characters are part someone I know (or an actor) and part imagination. I also spend a lot of time thinking about why they’re doing what they’re doing and behaving the way they are.
But when it comes to keeping them relatable, I think the trick for me is a willingness to lay myself bare. When I put my own fears, failures and frailties on the page, it creates a character who’s much more human.
What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
It’s never too late to make a change in your life, and we all have the ability to make a difference in this world.
For those now hooked on your books (like me!), do you recommend we read them in a particular order?
Thank you for saying that! That question has come up several times. The short answer is not really. The longer answer is there are several books that tend to go together more closely and some that mean more if you’ve read another beforehand, so here’s my personal recommendation: Throwaway, Tumbleweed, Suddenly a Spy, Jailbird, Ties That Bind, Ring of Fire, Devil in Disguise, Roses in Ecuador
Yes, Tumbleweed comes chronologically before Throwaway, but for some reason, I always send people to Throwaway First.
The point of the books was to have them intertwine but in a way that any reader could pick up any book and it stand alone. (So if Roses in Ecuador is the first book of mine you’ve ever read, that’s okay!) Still, I like revisiting characters from previous novels. It’s like reminiscing with old friends.
Which one of your books is closest to your heart (or is that like asking a mother to choose between her children)?
It is kind of like asking a mother to pick a favorite child, and the analogy is true because, like my children, they’re each my favorite in their own way. Usually if I have to pick one, I say Jailbird because that’s the book that put me on the path I’m on – it’s the book that I loved too much to walk away from, even though I’d been urged to by people respected in the business.
Right now, I’m working with my editor on Fool’s Game, a book I first wrote when I was in my late teens. Editing it now, at thirty-five, is a definite walk down memory lane. I think that’s the book that’ll take over the spot of near and dear to my heart because it represents the girl I was and the woman I’ve become.
What makes you fall in love with a book?
Beauty, truth, an enchanting love story, and characters I care about.
Name a book that has inspired you.
I first read the Scarlet Letter when I was twelve, and it left an indelible mark on me. It’s theme of being true and the danger of secret sin is one that guides the way I live even to this day. Sometimes I think I make people a little uncomfortable with my transparency, but I don’t know how to live any other way!
What advice would you give to budding authors?
Write, whether you have time or not, whether you feel like it or not. Nobody else will take your writing seriously if you don’t. And don’t forget to enjoy it. Whether you find a publisher or write for nobody but you to read, there’s joy to be found in the act of writing itself. Don’t lose sight of that.
Finally, to give us something to look forward to once we’ve finished Roses in Ecuador, do you have any ideas in the pipeline for your next novel?
I have so many plans for the next several books. I only wish I could write faster! Look for Fool’s Game to be released this spring – that’s the book I mentioned earlier. Cody Kingsley is the main character, and we’ll also see some of the unanswered questions from Roses in Ecuador play out in this novel. I’m also working on Karise McAlister’s as yet unnamed story, which I hope to squeeze in by the end of 2013.
In addition to the next two novels from my regular line, I’m hoping to start work on a YA line of books featuring some of the young adults from my current novels.
The final project I’m hoping to see progress on in 2013 is the novella I’m co-authoring with Sylvain Reynard, Twitter War. While that project is a lot of fun, it’s also at the mercy of two hectic schedules, so I have no idea when it will be completed!