Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lights, Camera...Kiss the Boss ~ Nikki Logan

Please welcome my special guest this week, debut Harlequin Mills and Boon author Nikki Logan! I'm especially excited to interview Nikki since she is a fellow Western Australian and we first met before either of us sold. Go the Sandgropers!! (I'm an honorary one, not having been born here!!!)

Nikki's first novel, Lights, Camera...Kiss the Boss is available now from the M&B Romance line.

Over to you, Nikki...

Nikki Logan lives amongst a string of wetlands in Western Australia with her partner and a menagerie of animals. For many years she worked in advertising and film distribution before finally settling down in the wildlife industry. It wasn't until Nikki had six months off work that she applied herself to writing her first novel. Well and truly bitten by the writing-bug, she wrote two more novels after her return to work. Nikki was contracted to the Harlequin Romance line in December 2008 and her novel, "Lights, Camera...Kiss the Boss", debut in February 2010. She also has a June release called ‘Their Newborn Gift’ as part of the ‘Outback Baby’ continuity with Michelle Douglas and Melissa James.
Visit Nikki at: – A Romance with Nature

Can you tell us a little about your book?

As the name would suggest, Lights, Camera…Kiss the Boss is set in the TV industry. Ava Lange, my heroine, is a landscape designer and loves to turn derelict urban spaces into green spaces. She’s been working as a designer behind-the-scenes for a Sydney lifestyle program, Urban Nature, when the network decides she’d make the perfect on-screen host. Ava is mortified, thinking this will ruin her professional credibility, but nowhere near as mortified as when she finds out that she’ll be working closely with her childhood crush, Daniel Arnot.
Dan’s worked like a dog to make Producer and he’s this close to the biggest promotion of his career. Bending the arm of a childhood friend to help make his latest show a success is minor compared to some of the concessions he’s made in order to get revenge on the father who made his childhood a misery. But when the network starts playing games with Ava’s reputation, Dan finds himself torn between the goal that has driven him his whole life and the gentle woman who just wants to be left alone to design beautiful gardens.
Working so closely together makes it impossible to keep their childhood memories at bay and Ava struggles to keep a lid on her feelings. Despite everything, when it all goes pear-shaped, Dan's the last one she expects to be behind it.

Yum, I love your inspiration for Dan! How did the idea for the plot come about?
I wrote this story from beginning to end as part of 50K-in-30-days, my first ever month-long challenge. Initially I was targeting Modern Heat (Sexy Sensation) so I needed a glitzy, urban setting while still having a nature-based theme. I brainstormed some urban-nature type settings with my crit group, the Bootcamp 101ers, and the idea of an urban designer came up and then the idea of a lifestyle TV program right behind it. I studied film and television and worked in the TV industry for several years so that all came very naturally to me.
I think—deep down—I really wanted to tell the story of a young girl who was badly burned by love with a to-die-for older boy and then went on to win him over later in life when a few years age difference don’t mean so much. How many of us have been in that position when we were teens—a forbidden crush on an older boy.

I love sale stories (ok I am just nosy!!) so can you tell us about your road to publication - and your call story?
Most of my professional history revolves around writing in some capacity—advertising, film promotion, PR/publications, but it wasn’t until 2007 when I had six months paid long service leave that I sat down to have a crack at writing a book. I knew I’d go spare without a project. That was a fantastic six months and I wrote a single title set in Zambia in the first four. It wasn’t until after I’d typed ‘the end’ that I lifted my head and wondered what support or networks might be out there. It took me about 20 seconds to find Romance Writers of Australia. The education, camaraderie and support I’ve found there has been amazing. It enabled me to hone my writing into a structured, targeted tool.
It was not my intention to write category—although I was a lover of category romance as a reader—but I see myself writing both category and single title into the future. Senior Editor of Harlequin Mills & Boon, Kimberley Young, requested a full of my first category effort out of a RWNZ competition and the rest is history!
Kim Young emailed me after reading my full to discuss some revision suggestions on the comp story. Eeek…revisions! Eeek…a phone-call! Maddeningly, our schedules weren’t compatible and in the days it took to get our planetary diaries aligned (and while I suffered death by a thousand impatient cuts) Kim also requested anything else I had. I didn’t have much else to suit category but I’d written something for 50K-in-30-days so I pulled that out to send.
(Cue mad polishing act over long weekend!)
When the revisions came, my comp-win manuscript was out and my newer story was resoundingly in. Kim had asked me how soon I could get them to her and I panicked. Four weeks might be too long and two weeks might have her chuckling to herself and thinking ‘how sweet, she thinks she can do it in two’. I suggested three.
(Cue three weeks of desperate revising)
A few days after submitting the revisions, Kim emailed to ask if she could call with some follow-up questions. I interpreted that as editor-speak for ‘Gosh, I’ve made a terrible mistake and need to let you down gently.’ All day went by with me angsting over how embarrassing to be gently let down and how many people I’d have to un-tell my exciting news to until the phone finally rang early in the evening.
Kim must have heard the high-pitched whine from my finely tuned nerves because she got straight down to business and said she was delighted with the revisions and wanted to offer me a two-book deal. Then there was the oddest squealing noise on the line (oh, how embarrassing, it was me!) and we talked about things that I have very little recollection of and I tried desperately to sound intelligent whilst my brain collapsed in on itself.
That was such a nail-biting time! But very exciting!! So do you write every day? Do you give yourself daily/weekly goals?

I work full time and so my writing-time is majority on the weekend, but I do try and write on any available evening I have. I haven’t watched more than two hours television a week in two years now. I have a couple of weekly evening obligations but around that I try to sit at my computer any other free moment.
Sometimes I’ll do a week-long or month-long sprint with my crit group and work to a goal but, on the whole, I’m pretty disciplined. I find that writing stimulates the same part of my brain as watching a movie or reading a book, so I actually feel quite relaxed and refreshed when doing it even if it’s on the back of a full working day.
Editing on the other hand….*shudder* That I have to plan time for and make myself do. So the faster I write, the more time I’ll have for editing.
I consider that I write for free, but I’m paid for the editing ;)
Panster or plotter?
Hybrid. I like to have a loose structure to keep me roughly going in the right direction, but I’m happiest in the mist, letting the words just come. This means my submitted stories often vary from my proposals but London keep me on track if I wander too far from the essential plot and purpose of a romance!
What keeps you motivated when the writing gets tough?
Contracts keep me motivated. LOL. There’s nothing like knowing the legal department of one of the biggest publishers in the world is watching your progress to keep you moving forward.
I did a really tough couple of months on a novella back in October that had two false starts after the ideas didn’t gel with London. This was for a ‘showcase’ of new authors and so they wanted something really standout. I had to force myself into the seat to write and edit that one which felt very odd to the woman who just sits and lets it fly. You know you’re in trouble when you catch yourself cleaning out your wardrobe rather than writing.
But generally the story keeps me motivated. I’m as eager to find out what happens at the end when I’m writing a book as when I’m reading it.

Is there any advice or light bulb moment you'd like to share about getting/being published?
Not about getting published, no. As far as I’m concerned I just jagged the right editor and the right time. Kimberley liked my voice and my nature-based theme. Umpteen other editors probably wouldn’t have. The light bulb is to understand and accept that being selected for publication is about a dozen factors outside of your control.
Is the market saturated with your type of voice? Do you have a marketable ‘brand’? Are people interested in the stories you have to tell? What does the editor like?
The only thing you can control is the quality and tone of your writing and there’s a heck of a lot of very good writers out there not getting published. Chances are it’s one of the elements totally outside of their control holding up their success.

Do you have critique partners (CPs)? If so can you tell us how you met up and your process?
Since becoming published, and given the volume I now need to produce in a very short time (because I also work full time) it means my critting needs have changed from a chapter-by-chapter method to full-first-draft ‘cold read’ type process. It also means I have almost no time left over to give back to a chapter-by-chapter process, which makes me a poor crit reciprocator.
My official crit partner was assigned via RWAus ‘Crit Partner Register’ I also rely on my writers group, the Bootcamp 101 girls, for those broader, cold read type crits and one in particular is gifted in spotting POV and structural flaws so she gets particularly hammered ;)


Kaye Manro said...

Congrats Nikki! What an interesting call story! I love how you got through those hard to crack doors!

Good luck with Lights, and all your future books!

Shelley Munro said...

Great call story, Nikki, and I love the sound of your book. You do sound highly organized. I don't think I could get by with so little TV :)

Helen Hardt said...

Great to meet you, Nikki, and best of luck with your book! Like the other ladies, I really enjoyed the call story ;).

Cathryn Hein said...

Great interview, Nikki and Christina. Loved the call story.

And Lights, Camera...Kiss the Boss sounds wonderful!

Cari Quinn said...

Congratulations Nikki! As someone trying to break into Harlequin myself, I can only imagine your elation. Best of luck! :)

Eleni Konstantine said...

Hey Nikki, great to see you here. Great interview ladies. Nikki loved LCKTB as you know (yes, I am following you around singing your praises - and not just because you're a fellow Bootcamper). :)

Can't wait to see your book on the shelves!

Anna Campbell said...

Hello, Christina! Hello, Nikki! Nikki, congratulations on your first book and the ones to come. I remember how incredibly excited I was for you when I saw Lights, Camera, etc., got a Top Pick from Romantic Times! Yay, you!

Rachael Johns said...

Christina you ALWAYS seem to ask the best questions - a thoroughly enjoyable interview. Liked reading more Behind the Scenes stuff about Nikki's journey to publication!


Mel Teshco said...

fantastic interview ladies!! Nikki, you are so very disciplined and deserve every bit of your success! =)

Robyn Grady said...

Hey Nikki, Congrats on the release of your first M&B Romance! I loved your call story, you talented thing, you. May this be the first of many, many more!

Robbie x

Jenn J McLeod - Australia's small town storyteller said...

Hey Christina, thx for having Nik on you blog. I am such a fan. I love her story as a writer and I love her writing of stories. I had the pleasure of winning a pre-release copy o LCKTB. I loved it soooo much )I did a review on the bootcamp 109 blog if anyones interested. )

Nikki Logan said...

Kaye, Helen and Cari, thank you. Persistence certainly did pay off in my case. It's a real role-model for 'never give up'.

Shelley, the funny thing about TV is that once you break the habit you don't miss it. I couldn't believe how many hours I was losing staring at that square screen. Now I stare at a different square screen but at least I walk away with a book out of it. LOL.

Cathryn, hi! Only a fortnight until it hits shelves (squeee!)

Nikki Logan said...

Eleni - lovely to see you here. You can follow me any time :) It's nice to have the company.

Anna - Oh I shared your excitement, let me tell you! Waking up to an email from Anna Campbell, I knew it had to be something big! LOL.

Rachel, Mel - Thanks ladies! It's work but it's worth it.

Robbie - so good to see you here, thanks for commenting. And yes, when the rush of selling one passes then all you can think about is the next one and the next one and the...

Jenn - Hey! My first ever competition winner. You hold a special place in my memory, lucky you loved it!! Ha.

Sharon Archer said...

Thanks for a great interview, Christina and Nikki!

I love the sound of your debut, Nikki, and it won't be long before it's on the shelf here so I can snaffle my own copy! And gorgeous though the o/s cover is, I adore the new-look Aus/NZ covers.

Fantastic call story! Thank goodness they follow those phone calls up with everything in black and white in an email!


Sandii Manning said...

Huge congrats Nikki and brilliant questions Christina. What a great story. I'm reading your book now and it's fabulous!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Nikki. LCKTB is a brilliant debut. Can't wait to read Their Newborn Gift in June.