Jennifer Probst on her latest book Writing Naked

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I am so happy to have New York Times Best Selling Author Jennifer Probst as our guest this week. Jennifer was nominated for not one, but two RITA awards this year. Good luck!!

Her latest book titled Writing Naked is an intimate look at a bestseller’s secrets to writing romance and navigating the path to success coming March 31, 2017.

Let’s meet this amazing author:

Name/Pen name: Jennifer Probst

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Visit her website

General location: New York

Thank you so much for having me here today!

  1. When did you first know you wanted to writer?

I was very lucky and knew I wanted to be an author when I was seven years

old, and at twelve, I knew I was going to be a romance writers. I was lucky – writing was always my True North!

  1. What inspired you to write?

I was driven to write by an early age to make sense out of everything. Words on the page helped focus my thoughts, explore life, and figure out who I was. It was my safe place since I was very shy and liked to live in my own safe bubble. Writing made me feel powerful and not so alone.

  1. Are you a planner or pantster?

I’m a pantser. Little colored notecards and sticky notes make me break out in hives. I like to see where the story takes me within the guidelines of a very loose outline.

  1. Which of your works is your favorite? Why?

The Marriage Bargain. It was a book that got rejected everywhere for a number of years, and when it was finally published, readers embraced it. That book taught me to never give up on your dreams because anything can happen as long as you never quit, and are always prepared for success.

  1. Would you say your stories are plot or character driven?

Always character driven. This is the heart and soul of my novels.

  1. What do you take with you on vacation?

My family, my sunblock, and my Ipad.

  1. What’s your motto as a writer?

I treat writing like a job, because it is. I respect writing, work hard every day, and am always grateful I get to do this full-time. I also consistently mystified by the magic and beauty in writing.

  1. What’s your next project or what is in your future?

So many projects! My final two books will be released this year in the Billionaire Builders – an HGTV inspired series that readers have really embraced. Then I have two brand new series launching in 2018 I’m excited to share with readers – details for both are coming soon!

Is there any information you would like to share about yourself

I love talking to my readers! Please check out my website, connect on Facebook, join my street team The Probst Posse, reach out on Goodreads or Instagram or Twitter – I’m everywhere LOL!

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer Probst www.jenniferprobst.com Sign up for my newsletter for monthly prizes! www.jenniferprobst.com/newsletter

Now and excerpt from Writing Naked:

 

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Grab your copy March 31, 2017

Writing naked is the necessary state of mind for translating the mess of raw material in your brain into words on a page. Most people think you need to be able to make sense of the junk first. You don’t. Instead you need to feel it, connect with it, and then write it. The mess is the structure and meat of the story. Even if you are composing a love letter, the best way to connect is to spill your deepest, darkest, embarrassing secrets. Reveal the stuff that terrifies you and keeps you awake at night. Talk about the monsters in the closet, and the ones hiding under the bed. Get in touch with the kind of emotions that drive the fear of abandonment, failure, and pain. This is the good stuff .

A reader wants to feel something. A reader doesn’t want to be intellectually stimulated or to be able to skillfully talk about your work in a book club. She doesn’t want to check off your book on her list of smart reads, feeling nothing but mild admiration for your writing expertise. Failure to connect on an emotional level with a reader is the kiss of death for a writer. I want a reader to pick up my stuff and get dirty. I want her turned on during the sex scenes, choked up during the black moment, and blinking tears at the ending. (The black moment is what happens when the hero or heroine needs to change, or risk losing the other forever.) I want her yelling at the page because of the asshole hero and laughing out loud at the characters’ banter. Hell, I’d rather have a reader say she hated my book (many have on Goodreads-and, yes, it still hurts), than be apathetic toward it. I’d rather her say she loathed it, wanted to rip it up, and tell every one of her friends to never ever read me again. At least that’s passion. I may have missed the mark, but I got the emotion right. Lukewarm comments are the worst insult to the success-driven writer. Okay. Fine. An average read. Kill me now. Trust me, you don’t want to pat yourself on the back for sounding smart, cool, or savvy in your writing. The best way to connect with your real self is to get naked. Strip your soul bare and throw it out there. Don’t try to make sense of it until the ink dries, because you can always go back and tweak, tidy things up, or edit later.

Many experts in the writing field advise us to write what we know. When you write naked, you’re doing this each time, allowing the reader a glimpse of yourself. Not everyone is going to like who you are. That’s one of the hardest parts of the business. But not everyone is supposed to like you all the time. By practicing the act of writing naked, you will begin to connect with your true voice and touch readers on an emotional level. Great books have great emotion. Strip to your bare skin and write your book in the glorious, raw mess just as nature intended. You can sort out the good stuff from the junk later. But when you’re writing that first draft , you need to go for it. I always remember that scene from Romancing the Stone where the heroine, Joan, is shown as a successful romance writer. She was finishing her book, writing the final scene, and weeping uncontrollably over her desk.

When I finish a book, I always cry. It’s my own sign of realizing it’s good, that I’ve given it everything I had, and the foundation is firm enough not to crumble under any edits.  Right or wrong, that’s how I know I’m writing naked. It may get a bit chilly, and a whole lot vulnerable, but the result will be worth it. The at result is the best book you can possibly deliver, and that is what every reader should expect from you. You are naked when you share your work-make no doubt about it. The good news is you will become more and more comfortable without your clothes the longer you write. There’s something freeing and wild about telling the world the way you see things. When you sit down to create, you must be brave enough to rid yourself of societal expectations and the crushing cliques civilization force on us. You may hurt and embarrass your family. You may need to hide your books from your children. You may find people from your past rise up to confront, judge, or mock you. You may face harsh reviews from a world that wags its finger and admonishes you to get dressed and write nicely. Fully clothed. But great risks mean great rewards. When people are asked about their regrets in life, they often list the things they didn’t do. The book they were afraid to write because it wouldn’t sell, or because the writing was too difficult, or because they were too busy doing things that were safe or marketable. Writing naked is the only way to write. And as a writer, your only regret will be looking back and realizing you wrote with a giant fur coat, boots, and-horror of horrors-too tight underwear. Burn the bra. Burn the boxers. Burn the regrets. Write naked.

 

The Marriage Bargain – #1 Bestseller!9781501104039-183x300

9781501124273-193x300Anytime, Any Place – Available Now!

 

 

 

 

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Elf Ahearn writes about Conflict

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Elf Ahearn is part of an anthology released on Valentine’s day 2017 titled Her Perfect Gentleman.  Today she offers  valuable insight and advice on using conflict to develop unforgettable stories. But first, let’s meet is amazing, creative and talented author…

dscn0573Name/Pen name: Elf Ahearn

General location: New York 

  1. When did you first know you wanted to writer?

When I saw Francis the Talking Mule movies as a kid, my best friend Georgette and I wrote a sequel. She illustrated it—she was inspired with a pencil.

  1. What inspired you to write?

Francis. Who can resist a talking mule?

  1. Are you a planner or pantster?

Kinda both. I write out a loose outline, and then I ignore it.

  1. Which of your works is your favorite? Why?

The book I’m working on now is really fun because the heroine is resisting growing up. She’s constantly getting into trouble because she can’t drag herself away from potential adventure.

  1. Would you say your stories are plot or character driven?

I always start with a plot that intrigues me and then struggle to create interesting characters, so I’m gonna say plot.

  1. What do you take with you on vacation?

Absolutely nothing of interest, but I do have a friend who would always pack a ball gown just in case.

  1. What’s your motto as a writer?

“Regency romance with a Gothic twist.” Is that a motto?

  1. What’s your next project or what is in your future?

The second book in the Albright Sisters series was released yesterday in Her Perfect Gentleman an anthology with seven top writers. The title is His Lordship’s Darkest Secret.

This year, it’s my ambition to rewrite the third novel, A Duke in the Rough, then get it published. And finally, I’d like to finish the rough draft of the forth novel, which I’m about half way through. Wish me luck!

Any information you would like to share about yourself?

Elf is my real name—my parents thought it up without any assistance from me. I was a horse when I was a kid—I galloped on my hands and knees, grazed on lemon grass and violets when they were in season, and carried my sister on my back. Ah, those were the days!

Connect with Elf

Website: www.elfahearn.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elf.ahearn?fref=ts

Newsletter: email elfahearn@hotmail.com to subscribe

And now for her blog…

“Conflict,” Debra Dixon, author of Goal, Motivation & Conflict, says, “is the obstacle or impediment your character must face in obtaining or achieving his goal. Conflict is not an optional element. Conflict is required…”

In other words, smooth sailing in fiction is the fastest way to lose readers. Conflict doesn’t have to be big and violent, in fact it can be so quiet and internal the protagonist is scarcely aware of its existence, but it must be there.

EXTERNAL CONFLICT

When George and Lennie, the heroes of John Steinbeck’s seminal novel Of Mice and Men enter a beautiful riverside landscape in the opening pages, George does not say, “Oh, this is lovely. We’ll lay down our bindles and spend the night because I know you’ll be safe here, Lennie.” No, the character steps nervously to his goliath pal’s side and barks, “Lennie, for God’ sakes don’t drink so much.” Lennie continued to snort into the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. “Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night.” Blammo, conflict.

Here’s another example using Of Mice and Men:

“The boss said suddenly, “Listen, Small!” Lennie raised his head. “What can you do?”

In a panic, Lennie looked at George for help. “He can do anything you tell him,” said George. “He’s a good skinner. He can rassle gain bags, drive a cultivator. He can do anything. Just give him a try.”

The boss turned on George. “Then why don’t you let him answer? What you trying to put over?”

George broke in loudly, “Oh! I ain’t saying he’s bright. He ain’t. But I say he’s a God damn good worker. He can put up a four hundred pound bale.”

The boss deliberately put the little book in his pocket. He hooked his thumbs in his belt and squinted one eye nearly closed. “Say—what you sellin’?”

These two men need a job. They have no money and can’t afford to move on, so this conflict, though minor, sets an urgent tone. That George has to struggle to get the ranch job, makes the scene more interesting—it adds suspense.

Example #2 Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees:

Naturally the third man felt obliged to say something, so he looked at Rosaleen sashaying along unperturbed, holding her white-lady fan, and he said, “Where’d you get that fan, nigger?”

“Stole it from a church,” she said. Just like that.

I had gone once in a raft down the Chattooga River with my church group, and the same feeling came to me now—of being lifted by currents, by a swirl of events I couldn’t reverse.

Coming alongside the men, Rosaleen lifted her snuff jug, which was filled with black spit, and calmly poured it across the tops of the men’s shoes, moving her hand in little loops like she was writing her name—Rosaleen Daise—just the way she’d practiced.

This conflict hasn’t come to blows, yet, but we know it’s going to do something really damaging to Rosaleen’s goal of registering to vote. In fact, this bit of conflict is the inciting incident in the novel. According to the blog, Scribe Meets World, “Inciting comes from the Latin word incitare which means ‘to put into rapid motion, urge, encourage, and stimulate.’ And that’s exactly what your inciting incident is: it’s an event that catalyzes your hero to ‘go into motion’ and take action.” External conflict is usually the catalyst for the inciting incident.

INTERNAL CONFLICT

According to the late, great film and stage director Mike Nichols, “There are only three kinds of scenes: a fight, a seduction or a negotiation.” I’m not sure if his philosophy is 100 percent correct, but it’s something to keep in mind because conflict is implicit in each scenario—something is always chaffing the skin of the characters, forcing them to work harder to achieve their goal.

The examples above illustrate exterior conflicts. Now we’re going to address internal conflicts.

The characters in Of Mice and Men are often credited with the success of the novel, but that’s not because Steinbeck paired a smart guy and a super strong dumb guy, it’s because of the internal conflict George grapples with: Lennie drives him crazy, yet the big galoot fulfills his essence as a caregiver. If the protagonist of this novel were a mellow guy who took Lennie and everyone else’s behavior in stride, you’d read the first three pages and close the cover. For good.

“You keep me in hot water all the time.” [George] took on the elaborate manner of little girls when they are mimicking one another. “Jus’ wanted to feel that girl’s dress—jus’ wanted to pet it like it was a mouse— Well, how the hell did she know you jus’ wanted to feel her dress? She jerks back and you hold on like it was a mouse. She yells and we got to hide in a irrigation ditch all day with guys lookin’ for us, and we got to sneak out in the dark and get outta the country. All the time somethin’ like that—all the time. I wisht I could put you in a cage with about a million mice an’ let you have fun.” His anger left him suddenly. He looked across the fire at Lennie’s anguished face, and then he looked ashamedly at the flames.

Protagonists need to itch. They need to be in conflict with themselves (identity vs. essence), with the people around them and, at times, with the environment. However, this does not mean they have to argue constantly. George does, but, for example, Lily in The Secret Life of Bees, does not vocalize her internal agony to other characters, only to readers.

  1. Ray, her father, tells Lily, “Your sorry mother ran off and left you. The day she died, she’d come back to get her things, that’s all.”

…I looked down at the bee jar still clutched in my hand and saw a teaspoon of teardrops floating in the bottom. I unfastened the window screen and poured it out. The wind lifted it on her skirt tails and shook it over the blistered grass. How could she have left me? I stood there several minutes looking out on the world, trying to understand.

And here’s the opening paragraph of a brilliant short story by Lesley Nneka Arimah, titled “Who Will Greet You at Home,” which was printed Oct. 26, 2015 in The New Yorker.

“The yarn baby lasted a good month, emitting dry, cotton-soft gurgles and pooping little balls of lint, before Ogechi snagged its thigh on a nail and it unraveled as she continued walking, mistaking its little huffs for the beginnings of hunger, not the cries of an infant being undone. By the time she noticed, it was too late, the leg a tangle of fibre, and she pulled the string the rest of the way to end it, rather than have the infant grow up maimed. If she was to mother a child, to mute and subdue and fold away parts of herself, the child had to be perfect.”

In each of these examples you can feel the itch of longing, of unhappiness, of wanting to be or do something different. These stories are rife with conflict: small internal ones, little tiffs with other characters, big arguments, physical obstructions, and larger more devastating conflicts until the climax explodes.

John Barth, the bestselling author of Giles Goat-Boy, calls this “incremental perturbation.” “So how many perturbatory increments does a story need?” he wrote, “Just enough: Too few leads to unconvincing climax, faked orgasm; too many is beating a dead horse, or broken camel. And how many are just enough?” He suggests the larger bumps in the road on the protagonist’s journey toward their goal should come in uneven numbers, 3, 5 ,7, etc. I went through Of Mice and Men, and honestly, the number of conflicts varied per chapter. The key, though, is that, except for brief scenes of peace following a major dust up, conflict was always there.

Her Perfect Gentleman 

her-perfect-gentlemanElf Ahearn, author of His Lordship’s Darkest Secret, part of an eight-person anthology titled Her Perfect Gentleman by a pack of awesome writers. Only 99 cents!

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See who the other authors are: Gina DannaElla QuinnJenna Jaxon, Collette Cameron, Marie Higgins, Lousia Cornell, and Lauren Smith