Award-winning novelist Kristin Wallace is a 2010 Golden Heart® finalist. Her contemporary romance, Here Comes the Wedding Planner, finaled in the Inspirational category. However, contest success isn’t new to Kristin. She’s experienced a good deal of it in recent years.
Kristin lives in “sunny, sexy, steamy, hurricane-prone Miami, Florida” where she works as a copywriter in an ad agency. Their accounts include a Major League baseball team and several hospitals. She got into this line of work because she enjoyed writing but wanted to have someone actually pay her to do it.
Although Kristin’s current vocation and avocation is writing, she was a theatre major in college. She was in a community theatre troupe for a few years, her biggest role being that of Belle in Beauty & The Beast. Kristin is active in her church’s music program, singing in the choir and praise team. She plays the flute in her community orchestra as well. And, like many writers, she’s a voracious reader.
Join me as we learn more about Kristin and her journey to publication.
You’re in for a treat today. Kristin loves Godiva dark chocolate candy bars with raspberry filling, so I’ve laid in a nice stash of them—virtual variety, of course, with no calories, so you can eat to your heart’s content. And if raspberry filling or dark chocolate isn’t your thing, I’ve also got Godiva plain milk chocolate bars as well as their milk chocolate with almonds and milk chocolate with smooth caramel varieties. So, grab a bar or two and savor that chocolaty goodness as you spend some time with Kristin.
Kristin’s Journey Begins
•When did your love of writing shift from being something you enjoyed for your own pleasure to being something you do for a living?
I had a dream. Really. It was complete scene, and I remembered it when I woke up. I wrote it down and the scene turned into a chapter and then I just kept going (sort of like Forrest Gump who just kept running.) That was in high school. For years I scribbled stories by hand on notebook paper (no computer then and I didn’t type). It didn’t occur to me that people actually made a living writing until I was about 25. I tried to get published, but got nowhere. I had no idea what I was doing. Unfortunately, as the intro says, I needed to find a real career that did actually pay so I went back to school to study copywriting, which meant the writing had to be put aside.
•What does “a day in the life of a copywriter” look like? How many of the skills you employ on the job serve you in your career as a novelist?
A “day in the life of a copywriter” consists mostly of other people telling me how to write, lol. Usually people who are “not” writers. (I guess it’s good practice for getting critiques and hopefully someday reviews. Teaches you to develop a thick skin.) Ad agencies can be fun – the atmosphere is looser than in a corporate setting – but it can also be completely chaotic. Filled with “we needed this ad yesterday” and “can we get 1,000 brochures written, designed & printed by tomorrow?” kind of deadlines. It is fun to see something you wrote on paper on TV or hear it on the radio though.
As for applying my copywriting skills to writing a book, obviously it’s a different kind of writing. The point of an ad is to boil down a large subject into one succinct block of copy. It’s all “telling” and no “showing”. The exact opposite of a novel. However, that “telling” skill has really taught me how to write a mean query letter and killer blurbs. It’s taught me how to present (pitch to agents/editors), and it’s taught me just about every facet of marketing and branding, which is something more and more authors are having to do on their own these days. Which I’m sure will come in handy when I finally have something to market & brand.
•Writing ad copy has obviously taught you a great deal about making each word count because often you have to convey your idea is as few as possible. When did you decide to embrace your love of fiction writing and let the words flow freely?
Well, like I said, I did try to get published when I was in my 20’s. I just didn’t accomplish anything. All I collected were a few rejection letters from Harlequin. While I was in school there was no time to write, but once I finished I picked it up again and would write on the side just for fun. (I had finally advanced to a computer and learned to type. Much better since my handwriting is terrible.) I did this for a long time until I finally realized that after 10 years the writing bug wasn’t going away and that must mean something. I had to try the publishing route again.
I joined RWA in 2005, as well as the local chapter, Florida Romance Writers. I started learning a whole new vocabulary like “voice” and “POV” and “GMC”. It was overwhelming at first, figuring out all the things I didn’t know about writing. I’d go home after every meeting thinking I’d never get it. But I finally did. I completed my first book, and now I’ve finished four, including the one that finaled in the GH.
•You began placing in Romance Writers of America® chapter level contests five years ago and have several placements and wins to your credit. Which of these successes have meant the most to you, and why?
Honestly, one of the contests that meant a lot was one where I didn’t final. What I got was a real, in-depth critique from one the judges. She even included her e-mail so I could contact her. You don’t often get that from contests.
But I was very proud of the finaling in the Maggie Contest as it’s one of those chapter contests that seems to carry a lot of weight. The Chick Lit contest is special because it’s specifically for books like mine, (funny, sassy heroines with attitude). Plus, I’m a member of the chapter as well as the Past President.
•Many writers sat by their phones this past March 25th longing for a call from RWA®. You didn’t answer a call and hear the news, and yet you’re a 2010 Golden Heart finalist. What’s the story? I’d love to hear it, ’cause it must be a good one.
I know writers aren’t supposed to include a lot of backstory, but this is something good to know. This is the third time I’ve entered Here Come The Wedding Planner in the GH. Yep…third time. I always scored in the top 25%, but had one lower score that knocked me out. I made a major revision after the first year, changing it from 1st person to 3rd. But this year I didn’t change one word. I debated about entering again, but really felt it was good enough to final so I sent it in again.
The thing about the GH is that I always forget the date the calls are supposed to be made. The last 2 years I was at least reminded about it on one of the yahoo loops. This year I saw the reminders and STILL forgot. Then around noon I got an email that said only “RWA” in the subject line. My first thought was, why is RWA sending me an e-mail? I know I renewed. What do they want? I opened it and all it said was “This is so-and-so from RWA. Could you send me an e-mail or call me ASAP?
I still didn’t connect the dots. Why did this lady I don’t know want me to contact her? I replied to the e-mail with something like “you asked me to contact you, so I am. What do you need?” Then I finally…FINALLY looked at the calendar. Wait a second…could it be about the Golden Heart Contest? My heart started racing. I picked up the phone to call her back ASAP. Even then I didn’t want to hope too much. It could’ve been something stupid after all (this is how my mind works).
But it was the GH call. I’d actually entered two manuscripts so she had to tell me which one had finaled. I was hoping it was BOTH, but I was okay with one.
•So, you actually made the call? Wow! That’s different. However, I doubt the different way of getting notified lessened your excitement. How did you celebrate the BIG news? Did you treat yourself to dinner out, buy a new pair of shoes, or indulge in one of those Godiva chocolate bars you love?
Actually I did get a call. She called my home number, which I guess is what they have on file at RWA…but I’d already left for work. The message was on my machine when I got home that night. I missed her call by literally 10 minutes. Thank goodness she did send me the e-mail though. I’m sure I would have heard about calls going out at some point that day, and that would not have been a fun wait. It’s what happened the last two years.
As for celebrating…I was at work…so…I had to keep working. Although I’m not sure I got anything accomplished. I did treat myself to lunch. I posted the news on all my chapter loops (Chick Lit Writers, FH&L, Florida Romance Writers). Sent e-mails to my writing buddies. Texted my parents and my best friend. And dashed off an e-mail to my agent. I guess it was a cyber party more than an actual party.
•You received The Call from a top-notch agent who offered you representation, and you didn’t have to wait months for it. What happened?
This is a good story, and one so completely about timing. My agent is Holly Root of The Waxman Agency (LOVE HER!!). I was on the planning committee for my local chapter’s conference. At our first meeting we were discussing editors and agents to invite and Holly’s name came. We looked her up and saw that she acquired inspirationals along with general market romance. Since I write inspirational I wrote her name down…and then promptly forgot it until about a year later. The inspirational market is a tough nut to crack. Other than Steeple Hill you can’t even query most of the publishers without an agent. And my books didn’t fit the their model at all.
So that year my goal was to find an agent. It was late November-December and I was making a list of agents to query. That’s when I remembered Holly. I looked her up again and saw that she accepted e-mail queries. I sent one off and she replied THE NEXT DAY saying she’d been looking for an inspirational project with some “real personality” and to please send the first 3 chapters. I did and again the next day she replied. This time she said she was “smitten” (direct quote and the reason I love her) and wanted to see the full. By the end of the week she’d offered to represent me. It was right before Christmas, so I made my goal of getting an agent.
Kristin Changes Direction
•When I asked what genre you write, you said “Contemporary Inspirationals with plenty of humor and sass.” That’s an interesting description. Please tell us more.
I don’t think I write typical inspirational stories. There are definitely strong faith elements in them, but they have a much lighter, humorous tone. One difference is that my heroines always turn out to be the cynical, non-believers. It’s the heroes who have the strong faith. I think in many ways my heroines represent a majority of people these days who would say they believe in God or that they’re “spiritual”, but don’t really think He has any real influence on their lives. I enjoy taking these women not only a romantic journey, but a faith one. I think this makes my books unique in the inspirational market.
•You mentioned that you “sort of fell into the inspirational market,” and were “brought kicking and screaming into the Young Adult universe.” How did these changes come about?
Inspirational U-turn …
I never really thought about writing an inspirational romance. I think I had a (probably not accurate) view that they were sappy or preachy or overly angst-ridden. Think prairie historicals or Amish-inspired with a heroine staring vaguely off into the distance on the cover. That’s not the kind of book I write.
But I had this idea about a cynical single woman who hates weddings and never wants to get married who somehow winds up having to take over a wedding planning business. That’s all I knew. So I was trying to figure out who the romantic interest could be. Someone she’d run into all the time as she planned these weddings. And then I landed on…a minister. Ding, ding, ding! Instantly, the book came together. I created a fictional Southern town, an amazingly wonderful and funny heroine and a totally hot minister. (the book became Here Comes The Wedding Planner) Having the hero be a minister spun the story in a completely different direction, because along with the romantic journey I included a faith journey for my cynical, I’m-fine-without-God, non-believing heroine. That book led to a second one set in the same fictional town and suddenly I had a series.
I will not go quietly into YA the market …
Next twist. My venture into the great Young Adult Unknown. I know the young adult market has exploded with the popularity of Harry Potter and the Twilight books. But I’ve never had a desire to write one. Then an interesting thing happened. In my third inspirational story my heroine was a bestselling children’s book author. Throughout the book I would sprinkle in bits and pieces of the book she “wrote” about a warrior fairy princess. Somewhere along the line I started to think that it might actually make a good book. The idea sort of stuck in my head for about a year. It eventually morphed into a YA/fantasy/romance. The fairy part disappeared, but the warrior princess stayed.
My only problem…I’ve never written YA and haven’t read them since I was a YA. (I’ve never even read the Twilight books.) I’ve never written fantasy either, and other than the Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe I’ve never read them. But the idea wouldn’t go away so I decided I had to try or it would drive me crazy. The funny thing is…my heroine has turned out to be a younger version of my funny, sassy, big attitude adult heroines. She’s been a lot of fun.
Kristin’s Journey Continues
What are you working on now?
The YA/fantasy/romance of course. I’d describe it as Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets The Princess Diaries, with a splash of Chronicles of Narnia. My heroine is a Princess from another realm…only she doesn’t know it. As a child her kingdom was overthrown by her uncle. For her own safety, she was sent to live in the Earthly Realm where she grew up like any normal teenager. She has no memories of her former life. When her enemies finally locate her she’s whisked back home and has to transform herself into a warrior so she can help liberate her kingdom. She’s helped by several allies including her former childhood playmate, now grown into a fierce – and gorgeous – Captain of the Guard whose sworn duty is to protect her. I simply loved the idea of a heroine who takes charge and is really the “heroine”. A Harry Potter for girls, with elements of Twilight romance. Only NO vampires!
Five Items Kristin Has at Her Fingertips When She’s Writing
~ My ipod (have to have music in my ear to help me concentrate)
~ My story outline
~ A list of editing tips, including words “not” to use
~ Something to drink & something chocolate
~ A dictionary
Kristin’s Question for You
If could be known as “The next fill in the blank with author,” who would it be?
“I want to be the next Stephanie Meyer.”
“I want to be the next Nora Roberts.”
“I want to be …”
Learn More About Kristin
Visit her personal blog ~ Laughter for the Soul
Visit her group blog ~ FRW Blog
Friend Her on Facebook ~ Kristin Wallace