Q & A With Mindy

Mindy & HarleyQ: Please tell your readers a little bit about yourself:
A: I live in Southern California, but my roots are in Louisiana and I’m still a country girl at heart. That’s probably why a lot of my books are set in the south, or revolve around small town communities. Up until about 10 years ago, my husband and I lived by the beach where we raised our five kids. Suddenly we found ourselves with an empty nest, and the day I realized that I’d predicted my new neighbor’s pregnancy by the amount of times her toilet flushed, I decided our houses were entirely too close! So we moved to the hills where we have an acre of land and are surrounded by horses, chickens, llamas, goats, braying donkeys and roosters that can’t tell time. (None of them are ours, though.) I absolutely adore my little slice of country right here in Southern California.
When I’m not being distracted by the wildlife, I love to get away to our second home which is on the river in Parker, Arizona. The view from our deck is incredible—and it’s a peaceful, quiet place to write. I am truly blessed, and I count those blessings every day.

Q: How did you get started in the writing business and how long did it take you to sell your first book?
A: First off, I have to say that I was in my early 30’s before it ever occurred to me that I might want to be a writer. I’d sent away for a free gift advertised in a magazine, and received four Harlequin romances in the mail. I’d never read a romance before, so I sat down to see what the books were all about, and I was hooked. I burned dinners and growled at anyone who dared to interrupt me. From that point on, I read constantly, swept away by the fabulous stories written by authors who were absolute goddesses—and some gods, too. Then one day, my husband saw an advertisement in our local newspaper for a Romance Writer’s conference with the heading: “So, you want to be a romance writer?” and he suggested I go. It was at that conference, meeting with other aspiring writers and attending workshops given by the pros in the business, that the writing bug really took hold.

It took me 10 years to get published. In between raising five kids and working in my husband’s construction firm, I wrote six complete novels. It was the fifth one that sold in 1995, A Family Man. I never even tried to revise and sell books #1-4 or #6. I figured those were my practice pieces. Just like playing the piano, you never start out as a great master—you have to practice. And that, I did! Plus, as my second sale, my wonderful editor, Denise Zaza, invited me to write an in-line series book, and I decided that there were many new worlds to discover and fresh stories to tell—so my practice pieces have stayed under the bed. (BTW, that second book I wrote, The Bad Boy Next Door, has a brand new, beautiful cover and was recently released in electronic format)

Q: Many of your books have been multi-book series. You seem to favor trilogies. Were you books planned as series or did it just end up that after you got into writing the first one, the other characters appeared and demanded their own stories?
A: My first editor at Harlequin, Denise Zaza, had a big hand in guiding my career toward special series projects and trilogies. Ten of my books have been written for various Harlequin American series—like: the Daddy Club, or The Ultimate, or Texas Confidential, More Than Men, or Maitland Maternity, etc., where different authors are invited to write books set in a certain place or around a certain theme. My editor is the one who asked me to submit story ideas for these special series promotions as a way of building my career, and I will forever be grateful to her. Once I had a solid reader following, she asked me to come up with my own series of three books. That’s when The Bachelors of Shotgun Ridge was born. The series went over so well, Harlequin asked me to write about three more of the bachelors, and I was thrilled because there were characters who absolutely demanded their own stories. The first three were cowboys; the next three were the sheriff, the doctor, and the preacher, and then finally I wrote a seventh book in the series in a single title format, Shotgun Ridge, which is now available in electronic format.

Q: Another of your series, Courted By A Cowboy, Surprised By A Baby, Rescued By A Rancher, and Tempted By A Texan takes place in Texas. Can you tell us about these books and how the “Texas Sweethearts” idea came to you?
A: I love Texas, and setting the books in the south allows me to write in my natural voice, letting the characters use all those crazy southern sayings that are an ingrained part of my vocabulary. I like to call them “Mindyisms.”

As for how the Texas Sweethearts idea came to me, that’s a bit tricky. I don’t have a ton of ideas in my head like many writers do. I can only think about one book at a time. So I usually turn on some music and start flipping through magazines, looking for pictures of models who could be potential characters, or places that evoke some kind of emotion in me. One of the great things about being a writer is that you can sit on the couch all day, staring into space and daydreaming—and when your husband comes in looking around for dinner that’s not cooked, you can honesty claim that you’re working!

Anyway, I knew that I wanted to do cowboys and Texas. I finally came up with the idea of four girlfriends who’d formed an unbreakable bond when they were girls (dubbing themselves the “Texas Sweethearts”). Since graduation, they’ve been in pursuit of their careers and caught up in the ‘busyness’ of life, and now they’re about to turn thirty and realize that their biological clocks are ticking. When one of the “sweethearts” comes home to Hope Valley, Texas after a ten year absence, it’s a though a love spell has been cast over the small town. Family and friends are drawn together and they are all seeing each other through new, adult eyes. And four women, who were adamantly not looking for love, end up finding the true, other half of their souls right there in their own backyard. Three of the books in this series, Courted By A Cowboy, Surprised By A Baby, and Rescued By A Rancher were released in electronic format in May 2013.

Q: You have won many of the major awards in the romance industry, among them the Career Achievement and Reviewer’s Choice both given by Romantic Times Magazine. After winning such prestigious awards, is it harder or easier on you to write additional stories?
A: Definitely harder! It’s like being in competition with myself, trying to live up to the last book and make the one I’m writing as good, or better. I’m a terrible judge of my own work, and usually walk around wringing my hands, thinking that the words are just sitting on the computer screen like boring blobs. Plus, we all have books that come out with a less than glowing review, (anything below a 4 causes major trauma), and when that happens to me, I tend to wander around like a pitiful donkey (picture Eyore), thinking I don’t know what I’m doing, that I’ve forgotten how to write a decent sentence, and who the heck told me I could be a writer in the first place! Thankfully I have wonderful writer friends who give me validation and excellent advice. And after a small pity-party, I get back to work, giving my very best to the characters of the moment.

Q: Do you ever get writer’s block and if so what is your best remedy for it?
A: I’ve had periods of major stress that have made it difficult to write. Losing my mother was a very difficult time for me. Then my daughter, who owns a large hair salon, had a major stylist walk-out and asked me if I would come help her save her business. A lot of authors can work a full time job and still maintain a thriving writing career. I need more solid blocks of time to write, so for the last few years, I’ve taken some time off to fill my creative well while also helping my daughter at her salon. I’m happy to say that Medusa Full Service Salon in Huntington Beach is now doing fabulously, which gives me more time to create the stories I love.

Q: What is it that you enjoy most about being a writer and what is it you like least about it?
A: I love it when words flow as if by magic and at the end of the day I print off 20 pages and think, “Wow! Where in the world did that come from?” It’s an exhilarating feeling. Those are the days when I truly feel like a writer. The thing I least like about writing are deadlines and promotion.

Q: How can readers get in touch with you?
A: I love to hear from readers! My email is: mindy@mindyneff.com, or you can sign up for my newsletter through my website to get the latest news on what’s happening

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