Saturday, March 13, 2010

Victoria Bylin Interview & Book Giveaway

Hey Honorary Chick Vicki, welcome back to Prairie Chicks.
You are the perfect example of someone  ‘discovered’  through the slush pile and with 10 books now published since 2003, you are a worthy role model for the rest of us struggling writers. So I made a list of questions so we can find out how you did it...

Hello everyone! Thanks for having me today!

Have you always wanted to write historical romance?     
Oddly enough, historical romance isn’t my first love. The first book I tried to write was a contemporary romance set in California. It was a complex story with several characters and storylines. I realized early on that I didn’t have the skill to successfully tell this story, so I decided to practice on a western. Little did I know I’d eventually sell that manuscript, while the contemporary is now that proverbial book under the bed, never to see the light of day.

The last time you were here you mentioned your first manuscript, The Safest Place. Your website states you received ‘good rejections’ for that first ms and it encouraged you to keep writing. If that ms was good, why did you set it aside and start something new?
I define a “good rejection” as one that isn’t just a form letter. With The Safest Place I received personal notes from editors saying my writing had potential, but they also mentioned specific problems, i.e., “lacks romantic tension.” By the time I started receiving those rejections, I was well into my second book, which turned into my first sale. I knew that manuscript was much better, so I kept going on it. The Safest Place eventually turned into my second published book (West of Heaven), but that was after a monster revision. I kept the characters and the set-up but trashed everything else.

Are you happy writing category books or do you see yourself expanding into full length novels in the future? I’m very happy writing for LIH.
Having to meet the 75,000 word count has been great discipline. It forces a writer to be concise. To use one of Simon Cowell’s expressions, there’s no room to be indulgent. With 75,000 words, I need to find the exact right phrasing. A longer story would basically mean adding a POV and another subplot. Maybe someday! I’m open to anything.

Your website describes your earlier Harlequin Historicals as being about ‘saints who’ve stumbled and sinners who’ve made terrible choices.’ Isn’t that true of your Love Inspired Historicals as well?
Fascinating question! What a difference a verb tense can make. I should change the website info on the HHs to say they’re about “saints who are stumbling and sinners who are making terrible choices.” The LIHs address hard issues, but the mistakes are in the past. The HHs show those mistakes in process.

Your characters are real-life people struggling in a harsh world. Do you find it easy to create characters with such depth?
I’ve had a few characters ride into my mind fully formed, but most of the time I do a lot of tweaking and thinking. There’s no telling what’s going to happen, but I work to give my characters honest and believable emotion.

Does the Hero/heroine (H/h) at the end of your book resemble the H/h you started out with?
I’m going to answer this question by referring everyone to Michael Hauge’s website ( Check out his stuff on character arcs. I was fortunate to attend one of his workshops a few years ago. His description of a character’s progression from identity to essence was riveting. My characters always change. They’re transformed, healed and redeemed by the last chapter.

If you’re asking if my initial conceptions of them change as I write the book, the answer is . . . yes and no. I’ve learned to hold off on the writing until the characters are set. If I start too soon, it’s just a mess. I’m better off getting them firmly in mind before I start. That’s not true of plot. I can’t plot in advance for the life of me. In that area, I’m a total pantser.

Are you still walking 2 miles a day? If you are, do you plot during your walk, listen to music or audiobooks, etc, or listen to the birds sing?
I walk when the weather allows. If it’s icy outside, forget it! I plot by talking to the dog. He’s a good listener and I don’t look too crazy. No music or audiobooks. This is time to think and pray and muddle.

How long does it take you to write a book and has it always taken that long?
It generally takes me six months to do 75,000 words. When I first started, it took a lot longer. I’ve gotten faster because I’ve learned my writing quirks, things like not starting too soon and not pushing when I hit a wall.

Are you easily distracted from your writing?
Only by the internet. I have a love / hate relationship with it.

Due to personal crises and situations, you’ve just survived 9 extremely challenging months. How did you manage to keep to your writing schedule intact? Did you make your deadlines or request an extension?
As the saying goes, you do what you’ve got to do. Between Lyme Disease (I’m fully recovered), my mom’s passing (wow, I miss her) and moving (from Virginia to Kentucky), I made some deadlines and asked for extensions on others. This was the first time in ten manuscripts I needed more time, so it wasn’t a problem. The trick is to always keep your editor informed of what’s going on so she can schedule accordingly.

Your current release is the 3rd book in Love Inspired Historical's “After the Storm: The Founding Years.” How did you like being part of a continuity? Did you have to change your writing style or habits to accommodate the other writers?
I loved working with fellow authors Valerie Hansen and Renee Ryan. They did Books #1 and #2 in the series. My book, Kansas Courtship, was the third. We communicated almost daily by email. I didn’t change my style at all. The three of us worked really well together. It was a blast! I’d love to do another continuity, but it’s hard to fit them in with other writing commitments.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t covered?
Many thanks for having me today! It’s always a pleasure to visit the Prairie Chicks. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of Kansas Courtship. Anyone who leaves a comment today will be eligible for the drawing.

Here’s the back cover blurb . . .

Rising Storm . . .
Town founder Zeb Garrison is finally getting his wish--a qualified physician is coming to High Plains. Yet when Dr. N. Mitchell turns out to be the very pretty Nora Mitchell, Zeb is furious. The storm-torn town needs a doctor, but Zeb needs someone he can trust--not another woman who's deceived him. If Nora's going to change his mind, she'll have to work fast. All she has is a one-month trial to prove her worth . . . to High Plains and to Zeb.

If you want to know what I think about Kansas Courtship and the rest of the After the Storm: The Founding Years series, head over to my blog.
Thanks for visiting us again, Vicki.
Anita Mae.
Victoria Bylin writes for Love Inspired Historicals. Her first LIH, The Bounty Hunter’s Bride, was released in May 2008. Prior to joining LIH, Victoria wrote five westerns for Harlequin Historicals. Abbie’s Outlaw was a 2006 Rita Finalist in the Best Short Historical category. Her western romances have also finaled in the Holt Medallion, the National Readers Choice Awards and the Booksellers’ Best Awards.
You can find Victoria online at:


Anita Mae Draper said...

Good morning everyone. It's a bright sunny day with the temp a degree or two above freezing so looks like the meltdown will continue.

Vicki, welcome back. I enjoyed reading Kansas Courtship and although I found it a lighter read than your usual fare, your characters still went through the deep emotional wringers you're known for.

I have to take my youngest into the city today so I'll be out of contact but will check in when I can. Catch ya later,

Anita Mae.

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Anita Mae, Have a great day in the city! I'm glad you enjoyed the LIH "After the Storm" series. KC definitely has a light feel to it. My favorite scenes are the early ones with Zeb and Nora sparring :) Take care!

Helena said...

I would love to read your book, Vicki. (So I hope I win the draw!)

I'm always interested in hearing from the writers who are versatile enough to switch from one genre to another. I am wondering what is the most difficult part of doing this.

Glad you could come back to the Prairie today.

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Victoria. It's great to have you back her on The Prairies. I enjoyed the interview format. Thanks for sharing so much information with us. I enjoyed hearing you mention 'good rejections' and how you started writing historicals.

If I was going to ask a question of my own it would be about your daily writing schedule, or if you have one?

BTW, I was the lucky winner of the last giveaway you offered here on The Prairies. It was your story Home Again from your anthology with Jillian Hart called In a Mother's Arms. I truly enjoyed your story and my first foray into reading from a Love Inspired line.

Vince said...

Hi Victoria:

What did you do to research frontier medicine? Is there much medicine or medical treatments in the story? And what year does the story take place? I’m guessing 1878. I am always interested in medical treatments in a historical novel.


Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Helena, Genre-switching interests me, too. Sometimes the writer has two distinct voices; other times you can hear similarities. One of these days, I'd really like to do a contemporary. We'll see!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Karyn! In a perfect world, I'd get up every day at 6 am, pour coffee (already brewed w/ a timer setting) and go sttraight to work. I'd write until 1 or 2 o'clock with no interruptions. I wouldn't look at email or websites, and I'd be done with a book in 10 weeks.

Alas! This isn't a perfect world. I *do* work in the morning, but some days things just go nuts. Right now, I'm dealing with elderly parent issues, which means I have to be flexible. Family first! Lately I've been writing in the afternoon and a bit in the evening.

If your schedule is crazy, hang in there! Even a few paragraphs a day is better than nothing.

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Vince,
The story is set in 1860. I've got to say, I winced when I saw the date. (Since this is a continuity, I received the characters and setting from a Steeple Hill editor.) My first thought was, "Oh no! Is that too soon for a lady doctor?" Fortunately, no. The first female doctor was Elizabeth Blackwell, who graduated from Geneva Medical College in ... the year escapes me, but it was before 1860.

As I'm sure you know, medicine changed tremendous with the Civil War. Setting the book before that time forced me to do a lot of reading, mostly online through Google books. I also consulted with a modern day lady doctor, a dermatologist who helped me understand infection.

No spoilers so I can't describe the medical scenes, but there are 3or 4 medical situations depending on whether I count the girl with hysterical mutism. They vary in length from a single scene to several scenes.

I hope that answers your questions. This book made me appreciate our modern medical care. We take antibiotics for granted these days.

Vince said...

Hi Victoria:

Thanks for your answers to my questions.

I read the long excerpt on the Steeple Hill website for Kansas Courtship and I was so impressed that I went right to Sony and downloaded the book. (Something happened and I cannot load eHarlequin eBooks on my Sony Reader or on any of my PC’s. But Sony works on Sony.)

You created so many threads of tension so quickly and weaved the back story so transparently into the unfolding story, that I am going to have to study your writing or I’d be negligent as a aspiring fiction author.

For a beginning writer, that excerpt alone is worth the price of the book. I suggest writers check it out and see what I mean.

Do you know how many books are planned for the continuity series or is it open-ended?

I’m glad you came by today. Thanks.


Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Vince, What a wonderful compliment! Thank you. If it's any help, I live by these sayings:

Show, don't tell.
Make it worse.
Write BIG
RUE (Resist the Urge to Explain)

That last one is huge. Readers are smart. They'll get the idea if we show them what's happening and what our characters are feeling.

About the series... there are only the three books. The next LIH continuity will be out in 2011 and it's set in Alaska.

Janet said...

Hey, Vicki - great to have you back on the The Prairies. And a wonderful interview - thanks for sharing some of your writing processes with us.

A big thank you for that last comment with regards to your 'sayings'. The last one stood out like a sore thumb for me - an area I always hesitate in when writing. I want to explain and I know I shouldn't - so your reiterating that was huge. Thanks.

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Janet, Here's what I do to avoid RUE. In the early draft, I let it go. I explain a lot, but the person I'm really esplaining things to is . . . me. Later, in the rewrite stage, I see those sentences and I think, "Oh! I don't need that. That's repetitive." or "That's telling." That's when I kill the RUE's so to speak.

RUE isn't original. I first saw it on Robin Lee Hatcher's site. I latched right on to it.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I'm back from the city and on my way to see some singing cowboys in action. :)

One thing about the After the Storm series is that I thought it involved 5 or 6 books and was very disappointed for it to be over.

But then I remembered that Love Inspired released a contemporary After the Storm series starting monthly in Jul and ending in Dec 09 and I've got all of those books in my TBR pile. Now that I'm familiar with how the town of High Plains, Kansas was started, I'm very excited to be reading the 21st century continuation of those founding families.

Anita Mae.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Vicki,
Welcome back to the Prairies. We're happy to have you with us again.

I love your sayings too, especially RUE. Words to live by.

After reading Vince's remark about your seamless weaving of backstory and the threads of conflict, I'm off to read that excerpt as well. It sounds wonderful!


Victoria Bylin said...

Thank you all for the comments and questions. I enjoyed being here.

As promised, I drew a name out of my cowgirl hat. The winner of the autographed copy of Kansas Courtship is . . .


Helena, My email is:

If you'll send me your address, I'll get the book in the mail pronto!

Best wishes,

Anita Mae Draper said...

Vicki, thanks for giving away a book on our blog, picking a name and joining us this weekend. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your writing.

Eagerly awaiting your next release. :)

Anita Mae.