Meet Debut Author Lavinia Kent

Lavinia Kent is a four time Golden Heart® finalist whose debut novel, A Talent for Sin, a Regency from Avon Books, is scheduled for release May 26.

Growing up in New York state and Wisconsin, Lavinia graduated from Wellesley College and, for reasons that are still not quite clear, also holds an MBA from Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University. She has remained in Washington ever since.

She lives under the gracious (and usually benign) rule of Erzsebet, the cat, along with her husband, three children, one cockatiel, two rats, and Erzsebet’s younger, subordinate tomcat, otherwise known as The Golden Snitch.

As the mother of three, Lavinia finds leisure time to be ever-elusive, but when she’s not reading romance novels, she watches far too much HBO and reality television. It must also be noted that she has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Buffy.

Lavinia is active in Romance Writers of America®. She’s currently serving her second term as president of the Washington Romance Writers chapter of RWA®. I got to know her through our 2008 GH loop, the Pixie Chicks as we call ourselves.

Join me as we learn about Lavinia, her writing and her debut novel.

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Lavinia Kent

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The Journey Begins

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•Lavinia, when did you begin writing with a goal of publication? What led you put those first words on the page? Did you have a character who began talking to you, have a scene you couldn’t get out of your head, or read a book and think, “I want to write something like that?”

I’ve always made up stories in my head–when I am walking, falling asleep, waiting for an appointment. One of the most shocking moments of my life was at one of my first Washington Romance Writers meetings when somebody mentioned that not everybody did this. It had truly never occurred to me that this wasn’t a common thing.

I started writing (but did not finish) my first romance novel when I was in college. I had just gotten my first computer and it seemed like a miracle. It was a Harlequin Presents with a secret baby, a millionaire hero, amnesia, a near death experience, and a big case of mistaken identity.

I am not really sure what prompted me to put the first words on paper beyond the new computer and the fact I no longer had to use the typewriter.

It wasn’t until I had my first child that I actually finished a book. During the wonderful age when he took two naps a day, I always saved one nap for writing. That book also was a Harlequin Presents and will stay forever locked out of sight.

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•How long did it take you to write your first story? Was it a fantastic piece of work, or could someone blackmail you if they were to get a copy and threaten to post excerpts on the Internet?

Definite blackmail material. Harlequin actually liked the first chapters, but when I sent the whole book it actually came back with a couple of “Yuck’s” written in the margins.

It took me about four months to write it. That’s about what it still takes me to write a solid first draft. Of course, that only takes into account time spent physically at the computer. I spend months thinking about plots as I chauffer my kids around. I would guess it takes me about 100 hours of actually sitting at the computer to write a book–WHICH DOES NOT MEAN I COULD WRITE ONE IN THREE WEEKS!! My brain definitely needs a lot of down time.

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Peaks

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•You began to experience success as early as 2004 when you finaled in some chapter contests. And then in 2005 you received your first of three “You’re a Golden Heart finalist” calls from RWA. Another came in 2006, this time to say you were a double finalist. And in 2008, you got word you’d earned a fourth final. What was your reaction the first year? Did you experience the same thrill when your phone rang the following years?

The first year was strange. I had actually entered the year before but had made a mistake on figuring page count and was disqualified. I didn’t even know what the day of the calls was in 2005. I didn’t even consider that I could final so I never checked. It’s probably a good thing too, because I never got a call. RWA had my phone number wrong so they couldn’t reach me. I started to get calls from friends congratulating me, but I didn’t believe it until RWA put the list up. The first year is definitely the Cinderella year.

The other years were really great, but never quite the same thrill. The last year I was terrified of not finaling. There is so much luck involved and I was so scared. I was starting to wonder if I was already a “has been.”

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•In May 2008 you received another call. The Call. Your agent called to say you had a two-book deal with Avon Books. I can’t get my fill of call stories, so please share yours with us.

I’d actually had a Call two years before and turned it down. I’d come to really regret it–although, with hindsight it worked out well, but I certainly had points when I was convinced I’d been an arrogant fool. (I am still not sure I wasn’t).

This time I received an offer from a different publisher and, after my agent negotiated with them for about a week, was ready to take it. While I was waiting to hear back from my agent about accepting the offer, she called to tell me that Avon had also made an offer. I was absolutely floored. I had dreamed of being an “Avon Lady” for years and to have it actually happen really was a dream come true.

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Valleys

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•You put years of preparation into your writing before you landed your first contract. What were some of the biggest pothole and pitfalls you encountered? How did you deal with them? What encouragement would you offer writers who have yet to sign their first contract?

I think the biggest pitfall is giving up. I was really lucky to have great friends and a fabulous critique group and knew that persistence was the key. I had seen friends struggle for years and then make it just when they needed it the most. I think the biggest lesson I learned was to just keep going and to keep doing new things.

My first historical book (my first GH finalist) was very well received but then never went anywhere. My second book (my personal favorite) just didn’t hit the right note with editors. I got a lot of “she’s got a great voice, but I just didn’t love it” rejections. I think my hardest hit was that my agent didn’t want to send my third historical out. The heroine was too naïve (she probably is). I debated whether to try and fix it or to just keep writing fresh. I decided to write fresh and my fourth book is the one that sold.

So, just keep at it. You can’t succeed if you don’t keep working.

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The Journey Continues

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•Your first book will be on the shelves in just a few days, and you have a contract for a second. Once your work on Bound by Temptation is finished, what project will you work on next? Another Regency? Or do you have plans to write in other sub-genres?

I am in the middle of writing a couple of proposals for my editor. I plan to write more Regencies. I do have ideas for a few other things, but I really want to build up a reputation for the Regencies before I branch out. I definitely believe that you need to give readers what they expect before you start throwing curve balls. Plus, I love Regencies and have about six of them wandering around my brain.

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Your “Firstborn”

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•Please tell us a little about your debut novel.

A Talent for SinOne of my greatest problems as a writer is that I hate answering this question. I have many friends who are great at talking about their books. It always makes me feel strange.

A Talent for Sin is the story of Violet, Lady Carrington, a widow in her early 30’s who has become involved with the younger, dashing Lord Peter St. Johns. Lord Peter wants marriage and Violet is not convinced that she wants to give up her independent status. The book is fundamentally a relationship story–the story of how a couple can grow to trust and respect each other.

I was inspired to write this book by two basic thoughts. The first was that I wanted to write about an older experienced heroine–something a little different than the more naïve heroines I’d written in earlier books.

My second was a debate on whether it was possible to start a book with a love scene and have it be relevant and not just titillating. In A Talent for Sin the first scene is about showing how Lord Peter’s one concern is Violet. It is designed to show the dynamics of how their relationship works.

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Just for Fun

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•Since you’re a fan of reality TV, I have two questions for you.

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1) Which are your favorite shows?

I love the cooking and fashion ones–Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef, Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model, Make Me a Super Model (yes, I love the modeling ones for the clothes and photos).

I also still watch the Survivor–my husband is convinced I am the only person in the world who does. I like how the show has changed as all the players have watched the past seasons and learned from them. It’s like watching evolution.

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2) If a studio offered you funding, a staff and a studio to produce your own reality show, what would it be about?

I think I’d like one about Art. I was a painter in college and love the whole creative process and seeing how different people take the same input and come up with something completely different.

I’d love one about writing, but can’t think of a way to make it fun to watch.

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Conclusion

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I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Lavinia. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?

I want to know if people see book-buying tendencies changing. We certainly read that romance is doing well, but are readers being more careful? I’ve heard of some readers who have recently set budgets for books. They may not actually buy less but they definitely think more about each purchase. I’ve also heard of one person who now buys books instead of going to movies because the pleasure per dollars last longer. What does everybody think?

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Learn More About Lavinia

Visit her Web site: http://www.laviniakent.com

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Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win

My next drawing will take place May 20th. The winner will have a choice of a $15 gift card to Starbucks, Sees Candy or Barnes and Noble. Coffee, chocolate or books? Tough choice, isn’t it?

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by May 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On May 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and May 31. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On June 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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19 Responses to Meet Debut Author Lavinia Kent

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Lavinia. It’s great to have you here. I’ve looked forward to interviewing you ever since you announced your sale on our Pixie loop. I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your writing.

    To answer your question about buying books. I buy more now than ever. Since I began frequenting author blogs and loops last year, I hear of so many wonderful stories I want to read. My TBR shelves are groaning these days. 🙂

  2. Sherrinda says:

    Hi Lavinia and congratulations on your debut novel! I absolutely love Regencies and yours definitely sounds like it has a new and interesting plot.

    I haven’t been able to buy as many books as I would like these days, but they are definitley less expensive than movies, for sure! Books last longer and I get to make a movie in my head!

    Great interview, Keli! You’re the best!

  3. Quilt Lady says:

    Hi Lavinia, nice to have your here! I am a big fan of historicals and your books look great. I have never read any or yours but I will be watching for them! I haven’t been able to buy as many books like I used to but I still buy some. I lost my job a few years back so money is tighter now. We don’t go to the movies. We try to get by on watching whats on TV and we use to rent movies but we don’t do that anymore. So if I want a book sometimes it just fall into my grocery cart. You have to have some intertainment. I would reather read then watch a movie anyways. I guess I am a little more picky with which books I buy now!

  4. Lavinia says:

    Thank you so much for having me, Keli. And thank you for your patience as I’ve tried to figure this whole thing out.

    Making decisions about buying books is such a tough thing. I’ve always regarded them like groceries — one of the true necessities in life.

    I’m working to teach my daughter (12 years old) the joy of rereading books. She thinks she always needs new and doesn’t even reread when a new book in a series comes out. She must have a fantastic memory. I’ve been trying to explain to her that books really do cost money even if I’ve never made her pay for them. That may have to change.

  5. Sarah Tormey says:

    Welcome Lavinia and congrats on your first sale! I LOVE the cover and have added it to my pre-order list. I was thrilled to hear about your friend who gave up movies for books. Personally, I would give up a great deal before I would stop buying books.

    Having worked in the sales side of the industry up until last summer, I know sales are down in some areas, but I think the romance market place is doing fairly well during these hard times. I’ve read that Harlequin is operating at a profit, which to my mind, is a good sign that consumers are investing in the lower prices mass market romance novels instead of the HCs, but they’re still buying!

  6. Sarah Tormey says:

    One more thing! I think you did an excellent job of “talking” about your book.

  7. Joe Buff says:

    Lavinia I just came over to this page from Facebook where I saw you on my News Feed. I was first published in 2000 and reading your great interview helped me also remember the thrill from back then which I had somewhat forgotten since due to the press of day to day living etc. I do think one change in reading habits of avid readers (which of course includes us writers) is being able to “congregate” on a social networking site and compare notes and news and views and make genuine friends from all over Creation!

    Best & God bless, …Joe.

  8. Anne Barton says:

    Hi, Lavinia! I loved hearing about your road to getting published. I had no idea you’d been a GH finalist 4 times–WOW! What an accomplishment.

    It’s great that you ended up with your dream publisher. I think I buy just about every Avon historical romance as it comes out (even if it’s by a new author) and I’m never disappointed. I can’t wait to read yours!

    To answer your question, books are my splurge. I don’t spend a lot on clothes or shoes or handbags, but I can’t resist books. I’m glad I can buy romances at the grocery store because that expense gets rolled into the food budget. 🙂

    BTW, I’m a big fan of Survivor too. I was excited about last night’s finale. Don’t you think J.T. would be great inspiration for a hero?

  9. Hi Lavinia~
    Nice getting to know you. You have a wonderful writing story. Congratulations on your book coming out!! You must be so excited.

    BTW: Beautiful cover!
    ~Caroline
    Where in Wisconsin? I have a couple of friends up there.
    Hi Keli !! (waving madly)

  10. C.J. Redwine says:

    Loved the interview, Lavinia! Congrats on the upcoming release.

    I don’t think I can accurately answer your question. I’m the kind of person who wanders into a bookstore and wanders out later, dazed, with six books in my bag. The concept of budgeting for books (unless it’s to budget MORE for books) is foreign to me. 🙂

  11. Two things I love about your interview. First, that your cat is named The Golden Snitch. Love it! Second, when you discovered that not everyone (not even every writer) walks around making up stories all the time. I remember when I made that discovery, too. I didn’t know whether to feel special or strange.

    As far as book-buying, my tendencies have completely changed over the past few years. I listen to more audiobooks, and I’m a member of a download club. For print books, I try to get them from the library or buy used. Occasionally this makes me feel guilty, since I’m not buying as many new books and supporting the authors. But maybe my audiobook purchases help.

  12. Hi Lavinia!

    I can’t wait to pick up a copy of your book. It sounds wonderful, and being a fellow long historical finalist in 2005, I’m thrilled to see you in print.

    My book buying has actually increased in recent months. So has my movie attendance. Tough economic times and lots of bad news = needs a break and a HEA!

  13. Emily says:

    Lavinia ~
    For my part, I haven’t altered my book buying ways at all. Books are my one vice and I have to have a new one each week. So that means I have cut back on other things like snacks and cokes from McDonalds. Sure, I shouldn’t really buy a new one every week when I have the library but libraries aren’t especially kind to romance readers and I love having my own personal one.
    Can’t wait to pick up your book!

  14. Debut with Avon!!! My Holy Grail. I’m so jealous, and so thrilled for youat the same time. It can be done. You’re proof. Thanks.

  15. Congrats on your first sale, Lavinia, and with your dream house no less! (Not to be confused with a Barbie Dream House, of course… which I never had, despite it being on my wish list EVERY year for Christmas. But I digress…)

    Unfortunately, with so many research books taking precedence, my “fun” reading has had to take a back seat. But once I’m through with the homework, I’m going on a shopping spree at B&N. What can I say? It’s my carrot. Can’t wait!

    Btw, Hell’s Kitchen is a favorite of mine too. Such a guilty pleasure. 🙂

    Congrats again! And I agree, your cover is gorgeous.

  16. Laura says:

    Congratulations, Lavinia! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of A Talent for Sin. I love, love, love that cover!!

    I don’t know if my book buying habits have changed, but I think my book shopping habits are a little different… I don’t think I’m spending as much time browsing in bookstores now (too much temptation perhaps?!). I’m more likely to order online instead.

  17. Lavinia says:

    Thank you all for the wonderful comments. I am glad to see that everything I’ve heard about book buying seems to be true. I just browsed by Amazon and did a ton of damage buying books for my kids. I got a Kindle for my birthday/holidays last year and I have to confess that has changed my own habits some. I try to only buy books when I am actually ready to read them. It’s wonderful to be able to get books anytime, anywhere.

    Anne — Yes, JT would be a wonderful hero. I love sweet guys that have hidden smarts. I haven’t been so happy with a winner since Ethan back in Africa. Do you think the fact they’re both cute enters in?

    I am in a little depression as all my favorite reality shows draw to the end of the season.

    Caroline — I am from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. It’s between Madison and Milwaukee — quite southern. I hated it in high school and now I love it when I get to go back. It’s such a different speed of life — although, I am always on vacation when I am there and it might be different if I actually lived there.

    Jeff — good to see a brave man here. It is amazing how quickly everyday life can swallow up almost anything.

    Christine — I had that Barbie Dream House on my list forever. I had to be content playing with my best friends.

    Annette — good to see you here. I owe my GH classmates so much — such an amazing group of woman (and the guys, too)

  18. B.G. Sanford says:

    Hello Lavinia, Congratulations on your debut work. Good article/interview. I just happened upon this site Keli, while blogging this morning promoting my new book,”Beth:Love Along The Way…by B.G.Sanford,” and just released by Eloquent Books. It’s the amazing story of one woman who overcomes all odds and obstacles that life has thrown at her, along with a bitter divorce, to find real Love……Along the Way. It’s romance, it’s relationships, it’s entertaining! For those so inclined, my book can be purchased on line or have your favorite bookstore order it for you. Either way, the reader is in for a real treat! By the way Lavinia, this is my debut novel also……..
    Good reading my friends,
    B.G. Sanford
    http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BethLoveAlongThwWay.html

  19. I left you an award on my blog. Check it out.

    I saw your scrapbook pages. Very nice. What a fantastic idea!

    Lynnette Labelle
    “Lynnette Labelle’s Blog”

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