Every other Wednesday, I’ll be showcasing authors who got an agent in the last couple of years. If you’d like to be a part of this, let me know in the comments or contact me via Twitter @judi__Lauren
I’m so excited to be interviewing Layla today. We met through Nightmare on Query Street, when I worked with her on her query and first 250 for the contest. I later on got to read her entire manuscript for Four Tragedies and it was so amazing! I fell in love with her characters and writing style and can’t wait to have a physical copy of her book. She signed with Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary in December and I couldn’t have been happier for her! Welcome, Layla!
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Initially, finding time to write, but then a job change freed up writing hours. Once I completed a draft of Four Tragedies, the hardest part was having enough patience to get the query draft right. It was very tempting to save time and do a combined developmental/copy edit. Instead, I followed the advice of my crazy-good freelance editor, Kristi (@PickyEditor), who recommended separating the two edits and taking Angela James’s Before You Hit Send editing workshop. With developmental and class edit notes in hand, I killed more than a few darlings (bye-bye beloved prologue), whipped my MCs into shape, reined in the wandering body parts, and cleaned up my dialogue and action tags. In doing so, I trimmed my word count by 12,000 words and reduced the cost/time for the subsequent copy edit. In the end, I was confident with my query draft, and I was able to quickly turn around my agent’s relatively few revisions.
How did you meet your agent?
The usual cold query/slush pile process. I’d done my research, and I knew from Laura’s author list, sales, and tweets, that she’d be a great fit for Four Tragedies and me. A mutual love of food and being in the same time zone were bonuses! Our intro call went well, we were on the same page about where Four Tragedies and my writing could go, and I was thrilled to accept her offer of representation.
I’m so happy for you! Do you have a rough number of how many queries you sent out before being offered representation?
25 cold queries and 5 contest requests.
What inspires you to write?
Everything around me. My one grandmother was an English professor. My other grandmother was from a Southern farming family, all born storytellers. She also religiously watched her soap operas (my grandfather too), so I was spinning romances in my head from an early age, usually of the fanfiction variety. Now, it’s places, people, and experiences that inspire me to write, and an overwhelming need to read and write something other than legal documents all day long.
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? Where do you get your ideas and characters?
I typically get the story hook first, either from a place, person, experience, or song. Then my MC’s voice and some dialogue start rumbling around in my head. I’ll write down bits and pieces until I get the title, at which point I’m committed. I’m a planner, so I’ll next do detailed character sketches and an outline. When I’m ready to write, I start with the emotional beats (opening scene, last scene, love scenes, dark night, climax), then I go back and fill in the rest (usually dialogue first and then action).
Ohhh a planner. You guys amaze me. Many people have jobs along with writing. How do you balance that schedule?
Like many writers, I’m also an attorney. After years in the big firm rat race, I recently hung out my own shingle. It’s made all the difference in the world. I cut my billable hour goal by 600 hours (without taking an income hit). That’s 25 more days worth of writing right there! I’m still subject to client demands, but I can control the legal workflow and timing much better. I keep my early mornings, evenings, and weekends free for writing, and NaNoWriMo events are great for getting big chunks of words on the page.
Is there a fictional character or book you wish you had created? Why?
Sansa Stark, from Game of Thrones, so I could rest assured she gets her happily ever after.
Kristen Ashley’s Luke Stark, so I could put him in ALL THE BOOKS.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy crafting stories that are set in places I love and filled with characters inspired by people I know. Every place you see in one of my stories is based on someplace real. The fictional town of Hanover in Four Tragedies is inspired by Southport/Oak Island, North Carolina. I spent a lot of my childhood summers with family and friends on the NC coast. Charlie’s house is based on my aunt and uncle’s beach house, Annie’s my grandmother’s, and anyone who knew my grandfather will recognize a lot of him in Abel.
Can you describe your MC(s) in three words each?
Charlie Reddmann – Strong, Protective, Loyal
Hayes Keller – Cunning, Protective, Dedicated
Before you leave, would you share the first sentence of your query that got you an agent?
University professors are dying in Hanover, North Carolina, and their murders bear a striking resemblance to the deaths of Shakespeare’s wronged heroines.
Thanks for joining us, Layla!
Attorney by day, writer by night, Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three smushed-faced dogs. Writing romantic suspense and contemporary romance, Layla is inspired by her coast-to-coast experiences and delights in weaving the people she’s met and places she’s been into her stories for readers everywhere to enjoy. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Silicon Valley chapters. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.