So far the road to publication has been a long one, but Theresa Ragan can honestly say she wouldn’t have it any other way. She believes in fate and destiny, and she knows the day will come when she’ll make a sale. Until then, she’s determined to enjoy the journey.
Theresa loves to read everything from Stephen King to Susan E. Philips. Just as her reading tastes span many genres, so does her writing. She’s written medieval time travels, long and short contemporaries, and romantic suspense.
She lives in Northern California with her husband of twenty-two years, their youngest daughter, one Chihuahua and one stray cat. Her two sons live in New York City, and her oldest daughter recently moved to San Diego.
I invite you to enjoy Theresa’s interview. Afterward, if you leave her a comment, you’ll be entered in a drawing for some nice prizes. At the end is a photo of the items I’m giving away.
When did you begin writing, and why did you choose romance?
When I was pregnant with my fourth child I read my first romance novel, A Knight in Shining Armor. The moment I read the last page I had an epiphany in that I knew immediately I wanted to write a novel of my own. Although I didn’t start writing the book until years later, I did begin researching the medieval time period that same week!
I love hearing that you read a romance, decided to write one and did just that. I’m also intrigued by the diversity of your stories. Of the different sub-genres you’ve written, which is your favorite? Do you plan to pursue one in particular from here on, or do you prefer the variety?
I would love to write in all three genres, but in all honesty, romantic comedies are my favorite to read and write since the words tend to flow from my fingers like water from a faucet. Romantic suspense flows more like syrup from a bottle. And it has been a while since I worked on a medieval time travel, but I love writing the fish-out-of-water books (i.e. placing a modern day character in another time period or vice versa.)
You worked as a waitress and legal secretary. You’re a mother of four. Any of those roles could generate story ideas. Where do you get your inspiration?
Ideas are everywhere! I have a passion for brainstorming stories because the ideas are never ending. I took a creative writing class a few years back, and we had ten minutes to write a story about a stick. A lot of moaning and groaning ensued from the other students while I typed a quick three pages . . . all about a stick. Ideas are everywhere (ooops, I said that already). Clear your mind and let the imagination take over.
What would you do if you were a secretary who finds a dead body in the copy room and everyone else has left for the day and there is a killer in the building? Or you’re a kid wandering around New York City for the first time looking for the mother who gave you up fifteen years ago? Or maybe you’re a housewife who just found a dead body in the neighbor’s basement freezer. If ideas don’t pop into your head, read the newspaper or go to the mall and watch the people around you.
Inspiration, IMO, comes from within. I truly believe love conquers all. Through my husband I have been given the gift to see that there are good, strong, sensitive, kind men out there who would give their lives for their children/family. My husbands unconditional love inspires me to write romance novels and to believe in the happily-ever-after.
For years you’ve balanced parenting and writing. Stay-at-home moms are some of the busiest women I know. How did you carve out time for yourself and your writing in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a large family? What does a typical writing day look like now that most of your children are out of the nest?
Now that three of the four have flown the coop, I am ready to conquer the world! LOL. We’ve all heard of authors like Brenda Novak and Allison Brennan who have five kids at home and still manage to be prolific writers. That’s not me. I’m not that great at multi-tasking, but I can say that I am determined and disciplined.
I treat my writing as any professional would. I sit down and write every single day. I write between 3 and 12 pages daily (usually from 9 am to 3 pm). If I have fallen behind on my self-appointed deadlines, I write at night or on the weekends.
You hold an honor few unpublished romance writers achieve: you’re a member of The Golden Network Hall of Gold, an elite group of those who have finaled in the Golden Heart® at least three times. Of the sixty-three who have, you’re one of four to final six or more times. What an accomplishment. What’s it like to wear that prized lavender ribbon at RWA® Nationals so many times? How has being a multiple GH finalist changed your life?
Wow, I feel as if I’m reading about someone else. Thanks! I was not aware of the stats. It took me four or five attempts to final in the Golden Heart the first time. It’s always exciting to wear the lavender ribbon at Nationals, especially the first time. I love my Golden Heart pins and, although I wouldn’t change a thing, I am looking forward to the day when I am no longer eligible to enter the Golden Heart. Only recently have I learned to enjoy the ride and take the time to savor my accomplishments along the way instead of always looking ahead.
Nationals has come and gone. You were one of seven sporting two of those pretty light purple ribbons this year. But this isn’t the first time you’ve been a double finalist in a contest. You were three times before, first in the Golden Pen in 2004. Then in 2007 you took second and third in the Four Seasons along with first and third in FF&P’s On the Far Side. And that’s not all your wins. How does it feel to have such outstanding credits? What role have your contest wins played in moving you closer to your goal of publication?
Finaling in contests can give a writer (that would be me) a much-needed boost! Finaling in chapter contests used to go a long way to keep me motivated. I don’t enter contests very often anymore unless I have a new story I want to try out on readers. It’s a great way to get brutally honest feedback from three anonymous readers/writers.
Six years into your journey, you landed an agent. Then you parted ways amicably after four. You recently signed with a new agent. How did you go about getting each of those agents? Do you plan to do anything differently this time around?
The first time I found an agent was after I decided to stop spending so much time entering contests and use that time to write more books and polish my query letter instead. Right away I began to receive favorable responses and requests from agents. Medieval time travels were a tough sale at the time (at least mine were!)
After parting ways with my first agent, I finished my first romantic suspense and began to write single-title contemporaries. Then I began to query again, double finaled in the 2008 Golden Heart, and sent out query letters to two agents. I received requests for fulls from both and ultimately signed with Kevan Lyon of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. The only thing I plan to do differently is communicate on a regular basis. Other than that I need to write, write, write so my agent has something to sell!
Yours is a story of perseverance if ever I’ve heard one. To be so close for so long can’t be easy. How have you dealt with the disappointments you’ve encountered on the road to publication? Who or what do you turn to for encouragement?
I used to cringe when people would tell me I was close. I’ve had amazing critique partners over the years who are mostly all published now. I have gone through a number of stages, including a bitter, frustrated stage.
In 2007 I took a four-month break and put my energy into exercising instead, figuring I could control my weight but I couldn’t control my writing destiny. I was biking twenty miles a day, and I lost a few pounds. It was fun, but the writing called to me, and I realized I would never be able to stop the stories from popping into my head. That’s when I decided to just go with it . . . enjoy the ride and yet at the same time do everything in my power to make my dream come true (write and submit!)
I’ve taken the pressure off myself, and I’ve been having a great time ever since. If I write every day and continue to persevere, I know I will be published sooner rather than later. I refuse to give up, and I no longer cringe when friends tell me I’m close because I know they’re right!
What encouragement would you offer other romance writers on the journey?
Enjoy the journey. Love your children even when they suck up precious writing time. Hug your family members often. Give yourself a pat on the back when you final in a contest or finish a book. Celebrate your accomplishments and your writer friends’ accomplishments too. Write the stories that are calling to you. Write every day even if it’s one paragraph! Know the rules but break them whenever you feel the need. Always follow your instincts! Send your work to agents and editors. Never give up. Above all else, believe in yourself!!!! And use all the exclamations you need to get your point across! LOL.
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Keli. I love reading about other writers, and I feel honored to be here.
It was great to have you here, Theresa. Leaving Nationals was hard, knowing I won’t see most of the women for a long time. But I look forward to seeing you at our Sacramento Valley Rose meetings where we get to hang out with some wonderful romance authors and writers.
Below: Theresa and me at the 2008 RWA awards ceremony. She’s the beautiful blonde. 🙂
Leave a Comment for Theresa
Theresa will drop by throughout the day to chat, so take advantage of the opportunity to leave a question or comment for her.
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Everyone leaving a comment for Theresa will be entered in a drawing. Each of the two winners will receive a set of note cards and a magnet that focus on making the most of every opportunity.
If you don’t wish to participate, say so in your comment, and your request will be honored.
Congrats to Anne Barton, winner of the first drawing and Caroline, winner of the second.