This week on Author on the Couch,
I conduct a session with
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Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Hanna: My junior year of college I got the opportunity to study abroad, and I deliberately chose the most remote location I could: Perth, Western Australia. I’d never been anywhere alone. Hell, at that age I got sweaty and anxious making a restaurant reservation. I remember the thrilling feeling of getting on that plane, followed by having to navigate my way through foreign countries with no assistance whatsoever. I learned so much about myself those five months, and came back a changed, more confident person. Returning to the U.S. finally knowing that I could do things on my own was the sharpest turning point in my life.
Me: Western Australia! Wow! That sounds so brave and exciting–especially being so young!
What’s a story your family always tells about you?
Hanna: My parents picked me up at the airline gate (this was back in 1995, when you were allowed to do that) when I came back from Australia, and they always liked to tell the story about how they didn’t recognize me until I was right in front of them saying, “It’s me!” My dark brown hair had been bleached from the sun, my bangs had grown out, I was tan (when I’m usually ghostly white), and I had gained 25 pounds. Ha! Aside from looks, and the fact that I said certain words with an Australian accent, they could tell how much I’d changed inside and it made them happy.
Me: What’s your life motto? Why does that motto speak to you?
Hanna: “Live life so you have no regrets.” It encompasses every aspect of life—treat people so you don’t feel terrible about it later on, act in a way that fulfills you, go after things you want because you may not get a second chance, love and dream whole-heartedly.
Me: LOVE your motto! So good!
What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Hanna: I’m very, very good at creating scenarios in my head. This doesn’t serve me well in my real life, but my overactive imagination and the constant spinning of my brain has assisted me greatly in both plotting and organic writing.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Hanna: Despite what I said above, I still need reassurance, validation, feedback. I need to be told I’m headed in the right direction, that someone else believes in me. This is why self-publishing was so awful for me. It was just me out there flailing. Alone. While I’ve come far from being that girl who got on the plane to Australia, I still would rather be part of a team. With other people at my back, I have confidence to give it all I’ve got, knowing that someone else besides me thinks what I’m doing is worthwhile. If I don’t have that, I feel pointless, like I’m running in place.
Me: You bring up something a lot of writers struggle with. I wish I had some simple, wonderful advice that would make that need for external validation obsolete, but I just don’t have it. The need for that validation is a part of why writers publish. If they didn’t want to please other people with their novels–they’d never seek to PUBLISH them!
What was your high point as a writer?
Hanna: Oh man. The week Liquid Lies, my debut novel, came out in July 2012 was just awesome. I mean, it was bursting with anxiety too…but! I’d received so much amazing advance praise; I went to a Barnes & Noble and saw my paperback on the “New Fiction!” kiosk right by the door; and I held a killer release party with all my closest friends and family, who were so very proud of me and eager to celebrate my accomplishment. That week was the culmination of everything I’d wanted since I was nine years old.
Me: What was your low point as a writer?
Hanna: *Takes a deep breath.*
Ok, here I go.
Time for some honesty.
My low point as a writer is…right now.
Right this very moment.
And I’ve been operating at this low point for almost two years, ever since I was told that I had not sold well enough for Berkley Sensation to continue publishing my Elementals paranormal romance series. That even more of my Highland Games contemporary romances with them were “iffy.”
My mental state now is worse than before I was published, because back then I had so much hope, so much joy for this dream that has defined me since grade school. My rejections prior to 2011 were signs that I was moving forward, progressing, getting closer. Now my rejections feel like signs confirming that perhaps I am meant for something else. And no, I’m not rolling over easily. I’ve done nearly everything I can think of—and that of which I am capable—to reenergize my career and my love for the written word. Nothing is working.
There is a chance that I will step away from writing for publication. This decision fills me with no angst, no regret, no shame, and no fear. Walking away may not be forever, and if or when I do come back I may not write romance (or be Hanna Martine). The acceptance of this has given me the greatest peace I’ve felt in, well, two years. We shall see. Everything is up in the air. I should know more soon.
Me: My personal philosophy… When you’re on the right road life is easy. All the roadblocks magically disappear. But when you’re on the wrong road there’s roadblock after roadblock and it’s all one big difficult fight after another. So while I’m sorry to hear you are stepping away from writing, any decision that gives you peace is the right one for you for right now.
What book do you wish you’d written? Why?
Hanna: I’m going to cheat and say the whole Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I think the writing and pacing are spot on. The world-building, originality, and no-holds-barred characterization hit all my pleasure buttons both from a reader and writer’s perspective. The craft involved is enviable. I love, love, love to write speculative fiction, and I would kill to be able to dwell in Andrews’s world and get paid for it.
Me: Tell me about your novel GODDESS MARKED.
William Everard was once a man of the sea. Then a terrifying incident in Egypt at the turn of the nineteenth century cast him out of the English Royal Navy and made him question his sanity. After stumbling into a hidden cave in the Nile valley, visions consumed his mind and directed his every action. When they compel him to commit theft in 1819 London, he is sentenced to the New South Wales prison colony, half a world away.
During a hellish five-month sea voyage, William is haunted by the face of a beautiful, troubled woman. He knows what he must do when he reaches Australia: Find the woman. End the visions. Regain control over his mind. But who is she?
When Sera Oliver awakes in a desolate, sun-baked land, she has no memory but her name. No possessions except the gold band with curious Egyptian symbols clamped around her arm.
She is reluctant to trust William—or anyone in this cruel, unfamiliar time and place—until an ancient enemy crosses continents and centuries to hunt her, and she must turn to William for answers, for life, and for love.
Two lives crossed, their souls knotted together…But will their connection bind the fraying strands of time or unravel the world?
Me: Uhm… Wow! This sounds amazing!
Share with us a favorite paragraph from GODDESS MARKED.
Hanna: I’ve always loved the moment when William and Sera finally come face to face…
Water dripped heavily from his chin-length hair and ran down his tightly bunched forearms and scarred knuckles. Deep lines carved their way around his eyes, suggesting a hard life or an age older than hers. Or both. She couldn’t look away from him, not even if one of those bolts of lightning struck two feet away.
“Who are you?” He leaned a little closer, searching her face. “What’s your name?”
All the lessons her mother had given—about not showing your hand, and concealing your true identity, and not trusting anyone but yourself—washed away in the driving rain. Something deep, deep inside her was telling her to listen to this man.
“Sera,” she said.
“William.” The letters she’d scratched into the dirt back at Viv’s floated across her vision.
His lips parted as he stared. “Yes.”
Why didn’t he look more shocked? She sure as hell was. “What are you doing here?”
“Your accent…I can’t place it—” His eyes narrowed, assessing. He cocked his head. “What are you doing here, hiding?”
Suddenly her throat was awfully dry. “I was asked to come to town. I didn’t want to walk back in the storm.”
“Hmm.” He drew a long, slow breath through his nose. “Or maybe you were looking for me.”
She gasped, air freezing in her chest. That was when she knew there was something else inside her. A presence. Something otherworldly and completely feminine. Because at William’s words, it purred with joy. With desire.
“But I wasn’t,” she lied. “I don’t know you.”
Amusement ticked up one corner of his mouth. “You knew my name. I think you know me, too.”
His feathery voice draped over her, heightened by the deep of the shadows. He seemed to be everywhere. Around her. Inside her.
A frightening longing took to root in her heart. In the warm place between her legs.
She closed her eyes and tried to gather herself. Tried to parse out what she knew to be absolutely true from the mysterious things that couldn’t possibly be fact.
“You know me,” he rumbled, “because I know you. Sera, with the black hair and deep brown eyes.”
“You can’t see my eyes.”
“Yes, I can. They’re still in my mind.”
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Have you had a low point as a writer? Have you struggled with whether to continue or step back? Share your story with us.
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Don’t forget to stop by this week’s Manic Monday Post: The Coloring Book Craze.