December 1, 2020
Note From Rochelle
Well, Thanksgiving didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped. I got food poisoning and spent a lot of time on the couch reading. Unfortunately, I kept falling asleep—so I didn’t finish any of my books!
But I still need more books. (When do I NOT need more books?) And so do my readers. If you or a friend is a published author and have a book you’d like to share on the Write Now! Coach blog, check out my call for writers: https://writenowcoach.com/writersread-call-for-guest-posts/
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Denise Williams—who I met through the romance community on Twitter. She’s delightful—and so is her brand new book, How to Fail at Flirting. Read on to hear how she got her agent, makes time to write with a busy schedule, and found a writing community.
On Writing Romance Novels,
Building a Writing Community,
and Writing while Parenting
An Interview with Denise Williams
by Rochelle Melander
Congratulations on your new book, How to Fail at Flirting. I really love books set in and around universities—and I hear that the protagonist is a professor. Yay! Can you tell us a bit about the book?
Certainly, and thanks for having me! How to Fail at Flirting is about Dr. Naya Turner, a professor whose whole life is work. Following an abusive relationship, she decided to keep her focus somewhere safe, and her job provided that. Three years later, the same job is in trouble and Type-A Naya, with the help of friends, makes a to-do list to “get a life.” After she fails at flirting with a bartender, she meets a great guy, and even though she brings up hemorrhoids during their meet cute (re: failing at flirting), they hit it off. Between that moment and happily ever after, Naya overcomes fear and uncertainty, tackles her own healing, and fights for her career. It’s a story about flirting with a stranger, flirting with risk, and ultimately flirting with love.
I read in your blog that you had quite a good response from agents to your book—congratulations! For the writers out there wondering, “How did she do it?” — do you have any tips?
I was fortunate to be able to connect with multiple agents who had interest in my book. After spending months querying and navigating inevitable rejection, I remember it feeling surreal. I participated in DVPit, a Twitter pitch event for authors from marginalized identities. For applicable authors, I highly recommend participating—it’s ultimately how I connected with my agent, but it was also where I met a library’s worth of fellow authors. In terms of tips, have as many people as you can read your query, polish and make shine the first pages of your novel, and find a project to work on while you’re waiting for responses. My second book, out next year, was my querying project! Good luck out there!
You are the epitome of busy! You work at a university, parent a wee one, and write! What are your secrets to getting writing done—especially when life is extra distracting (as it has been this year).
I do stay busy! I actually started writing How to Fail at Flirting shortly after my son was born when I realized I needed a creative outlet and started writing while he slept. Even four years later, he loves his sleep so I can usually write after seven or eight at night. Every Sunday, I meet with a group of fellow authors to write (or talk and pretend we’re writing) and having that community and outlet has become a lifesaver for me. I work well under pressure and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November is invigorating to me. The community all pushing to get words on paper and opportunity to win speaks to my competitive side.
What advice would you give to other first-time authors?
If I could give three pieces of advice to first-time authors, it would be:
- Find a community. I joined the 2020 debut group and within that, we also created a group of 2020 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color authors. In addition to my wonderful CPs and writer friends, these communities have been such great places to learn, connect with other authors, commiserate, and celebrate.
- Be patient. If you don’t know yet, you’ll quickly learn that publishing involves a good amount of waiting for your turn. Comparison is the thief of joy; trust your book will get the chance to shine and touch your readers.
- Don’t read your reviews. Okay, I’ll admit, I’ve totally read them, knowing I shouldn’t. It’s natural to be curious what people think about your book baby, but reviews are for readers and if a negative one will send you spinning or you’re the type of person who doesn’t like not having control, just stay away.
- I said I would give three pieces of advice, but consider this a bonus one: Enjoy it! You’ll debut only once and it may be smooth or it may be a bumpy ride, but take time to enjoy the wins big and small.
What are you reading now?
Some books I’m loving right now are Here To Stay by Adriana Herrera and Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, both of which came out earlier this fall. How to Catch A Queen by Alyssa Cole releases the same day as How to Fail at Flirting, and Alyssa Cole’s work is always brilliant. 2020 has been a rough year, but the romance novels releasing this year have been top notch and I am excited for what’s coming in 2021.
Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education, going on to work in higher education. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.