Question and Answer with Nicole Leiren
1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
This is the second novel I’ve written for the Danger Cove Cocktail series so I wanted to delve a little more into Lilly (the protagonist) and her relationship with her parents. With the novel coming out in November, a Thanksgiving theme seemed very appropriate and a way to work in the idea that family is not always people who are related to us. Lilly had found a new sense of home with her friends and co-workers at Smugglers’ Tavern, but things got a little crazy when her parents show up—and then, of course, someone was murdered on Tavern property.
2. When did you take up writing?
I did the customary poetry in high school to help express all the crazy emotions that are part of every day life during that phase of life but didn’t start writing stories until I discovered fanfiction over ten years ago. I had so much fun exploring and honing my craft in the fanfic world that I decided to try my hand at an original story. That first story has been re-titled and re-written countless times, but is still waiting for its moment to shine. My next novel, my first story in the Heroes of the Night series, came about after meeting a retired soldier on a plane. His story and views on life inspired me to create a character from what I learned (with his permission of course!) and brought about my first publishing contract.
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
I’m going to be honest as I like to keep it real with everyone – to me, the story itself is the most important part of my writing. I love fast paced dialogue that moves a story along and immerses the reader into the mind of the characters so they feel everything as intensely as those in the story. As a result, setting plays a role, but not as active in my stories as perhaps in other author’s stories. Because Danger Cove is a unique place, with many great characters (written by many different authors), it does, however, play an important role in the story. It’s almost as though Danger Cove itself is one of the characters.
I may have contradicted myself with that answer – LOL but I think it depends on what story I’m writing as to how important the setting will be. Hope that makes sense!
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
Of course I love my main character, Lilly, but if I had to pick a favourite outside of her, it would have to be Abe, the gardener. I love the relationship he and Lilly have as he’s like the grandfather she never knew (you can learn why that is in the first novel, Heroes and Hurricanes). Their interactions can be tense at times, but they always come to an understanding and their friendship is strengthened.
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
Susan Elizabeth Phillips once shared this valuable piece of advice (at least it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.) She said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “If you aren’t writing because life has gotten in the way, that’s okay. You can give yourself a break. But, if you aren’t writing because you don’t know where your story is going next, that is NOT an excuse!” I always remember that when I’m hesitant to put my butt in the chair and fingers to the keyboard.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
When I’m under contract and have a deadline, absolutely I do! I use WriteTrack to set up my project and help me track my progress. I’m a very visual person so if I see I’m falling behind, I dedicate more time to get caught up. My schedule is to minimally keep even with where WriteTrack says I should be each day to finish my story on time. If that means 20 minutes, then I’ll write for at least 20 minutes. If it means two hours…then two hours it is.
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I started out being more of a pantser (the wing it by the seat of my pants kinda gal lol) but when I switched from contemporary sweet romance to cozy mystery, I found plotting was essential. Now, I’m a decent mixture of both. I do the plotting as I need to know where I’m heading in the story and get to the “whodunit” in a logical manner, but I also allow the characters the freedom to take me down a different path if they so choose. For example, I was over half-way through writing Deadly Dirty Martinis when I knew something wasn’t write. I let the characters take the lead for a little (yeah, us authors are a little crazy like that) and discovered who the REAL killer was – and it wasn’t who I’d plotted! Thankfully, it only took a little tweaking to make it all work. So I think it’s important to be open to something outside the outline.
8. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books?
Sadly, reading is a luxury I don’t get to do very often (I know, I know!!) but when I do, I love to reach for a Lee Child (Jack Reacher) novel or one I recently read which I enjoyed very much was Jim Cangany’s “Start Your Engines” – a fantastic story about a second chance at love set in the racing industry. I’m also a huge fan of Sara Parestky and love reading her stories as well.
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
I’m working on edits for the next installment of the Danger Cove Cocktail, Tequila Trouble, which is due out this summer. I also have a new series, entitled “Delivering Applewood” out for consideration with some publishers. It’s set in the fictional town of Applewood in Door County, Wisconsin. If you’ve never had a chance to visit Door County, I highly recommend it!
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
First, never give up. This business is full of rejection and disappointment, but there’s also the immense joy you receive in completing a project, having someone read it and telling you how much it affected them. Authors are an amazing and supportive group, be sure to connect with them – in person and online – you won’t regret it.
Next, understand that – at the end of the day – this IS a business. Once you have published your first novel, you have to balance the business side and the creative side. This is essential for continued success.
And finally, never give up. Being able to immerse someone else in your story is the greatest gift. Keep writing, learning, and telling your stories!
Thank you, Monique, for the opportunity to be a part of your blog and your day.