Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jennifer Probst & Lauren Layne on the Writing Life and the Dreaded Deadline



Romance authors Lauren Layne and Jennifer Probst recently got together to chat about the writing life, the pressure of the looming deadline, the Property Brothers, Sex and the City, and much more.

Layne and ProbstThese are two top-notch writers—and funny to boot. Lauren Layne has two titles on our list of Best Romances of the Year So Far (Cuff Me and I Wish You Were Mine), and Jennifer Probst's Everywhere and Every Way was one of our top romance picks for June.

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Lauren Layne: Well, well, well. If it isn't the Jennifer Probst. Lauren Layne here! I'm a huge fan, and you should know…I just stalked you thoroughly and see that we both live in New York. Do you think that automatically qualifies us for BFF status?

Jennifer Probst: Lauren Layne! Hi, babe! And umm, yes, don't you know the code about New Yorkers? This city is grit and sass and we stick together, so I guess that does make us BFFs! Let's get real. I see you have a new series coming up called the Wedding Belles, which looks amazing. Tell me some behind-the-scenes mechanics of what inspired you to write this series or some other juicy secrets that readers are dying to know.

Lauren: You're so right on about New York. I love how the quickest of walks can take you from the over-the-top glitz of Fifth Ave to the sexy grit of Lower East Side! Which leads me right into your question about my upcoming series ...

On the scale of glam to grit, the Wedding Belles is definitely on the dazzling Sex and the City end of things. In fact, I've been describing it as Sex and the City meets The Wedding Planner. As far as my inspiration, I'm a little surprised I haven't written about wedding planners before, because although I've pretty much always known I wanted to be a full-time writer, my other dream job was wedding planner.

I always envisioned myself power-strolling around Manhattan in designer heels, a sexy pencil skirt, and a turquoise planner in hand, and I poured every bit of the glamour of those daydreams into the heroines of this new series.

Speaking of new series, you just kicked off a brand-new one about contractor siblings, right? How wonderfully fresh and sexy. How'd that come about? Any fun stories on the research that must have required?

Jennifer: Sigh. There's just something about weddings that get me every time. For the record, I'm a huge fan of both Sex and the City and the movie The Wedding Planner, so I know your book From This Day Forward is my next read!

As for me, I'm an HGTV addict and am kind of obsessed with the Property Brothers. I finally realized that to get enough of them, I'd have to write my own brothers in a new series, and I cannot tell you how excited I am about the release of Everywhere and Every Way. I love the idea of feuding brothers who are forced to work together in the family construction business. Of course, each brother brings something unique. Cal builds the houses, Dalton is the woodworker, and Tristan does the real estate and house flipping. Mix in a stubborn, sassy, southern heroine, a huge dark secret, and an array of sexy power tools, and I'm thrilled to introduce to readers this new series that I term my HGTV-inspired romance.

As for research, I included many of my own personal stories from when my husband and I built our house. I learned a lot—from how to pick out thirty light fixtures, what a flood can do to a timeline, what happens when the wrong supplies get delivered, and the consequences of your construction team catching food poisoning! In fact, it was so stressful, my husband and I promised we wouldn't get a divorce until after we had moved in and could tell if we still liked each other. Needless to say, we're very happy and it was all well worth it.

How about you, Lauren? Any wedding disasters or personal stories you used for this series?

Lauren: Oh, man! Now I remember why my husband and I rent. We're so not handy!

As for my own behind-the-scenes inspiration for the Wedding Belles series, I actually ended up relying solely on my imagination for this one. I married my high school sweetheart fairly young. I didn't really realize until after the fact that weddings were supposed to be stressful.

That said, while I wouldn't change the groom for anything, I do sometimes fantasize about what my wedding would be like if I could do it all over again. Writing the Wedding Belles series was a chance to plan out a bunch of different dream wedding scenarios. For example, my own wedding took place in December and had a very holiday-esque feel with over 200 people. I loved it, but it was so fun to reimagine my wedding day with a smaller, fancy summer wedding, with pale pinks and Tiffany blue color schemes. I hope my husband isn't reading this. He'd probably have a heart attack.

Okay, so I'm going to shift gears here a little bit, because it's not often I have the ear of the Jennifer Probst, and I'm dying to know…what does a typical day look like for you? Do you have one? Do you write every day, or do you tend to binge before deadline? What's a typical dinner? Tell me everything! :) 

Jennifer: I do write every day, and try to keep my weekends more flexible to hang out with my family. I have two amazing boys who are nine and eleven, and they are so much fun to be with, I don't want to miss a moment because they are growing up way too much. **insert mommy sniffle** I never complain about getting to finally reach my dream of writing full-time, so I put my boys on the bus, get my coffee ready, do email, and check in with social media first.

Then I get to work on my manuscript. Of course, I'm consistently juggling projects, so I'll have promotion to do for one project, edits on another, and be writing the new book. There's never enough time in the day to do everything. Sometimes, when my husband gets home from work, I'll say, "Ask me how many new words I wrote? Ask me!" Then, with fear in his eyes, he asks me. And I'll say, "Zero! Nada! NONE! I worked all day and got no new words written!" And then he proceeds to nod and ask what's for dinner. And my response is pretty much the same. "I don't know. What are you cooking?!"

So, then my husband will deal with dinner and we all eat together, then do homework, and then I'll try to squeeze in another two hours of work before collapsing.

Of course, this schedule is quite different around DEADLINE. That is when I realize I have to write most of the book in record time, because I got caught up watching too many Real Housewives or Property Brothers shows during my "lunch break" and I didn't write enough. I also call it survival mode in my house. My boys know the word deadline, and it's pretty much when I lock myself up, get real ugly, and write around the clock. It's a scary time in our household. Nothing gets done, and my husband has to make me shower and eat real food other than Funions and Dairy Queen Blizzards. Maybe I work better under pressure, because every time I swear I won't do that again, I'm staring at another deadline I'm behind on.

Okay, gorgeous. Your turn. Did you always want to write? What made you sit down and write your first book? How long was it before you got published? Tell me your writing journey.

Lauren: So glad to hear I'm not the only one that treats showers as "strictly optional" while on deadline. There's something so stressful and yet so invigorating about those last couple days before you have to hit "send" on your manuscript, right?

And yes, I absolutely always wanted to be a writer. I was a total bookworm as a kid, so whenever my parents' friends asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always "An author!" That said, I'm also a pragmatic soul, and I had it in my head that in real life, writing wouldn't pay the bills. Most of my early to mid-twenties was spent in the corporate world, strutting around in high heels doing the nine-to-five thing.

Then at twenty-seven I hit the breaking point. I realized I was miserable, doing that thing where I spent all week awaiting Friday afternoon, and then all weekend dreading Monday morning. I started writing a book, this time with the intention to get it published.

Just as I was finishing the book, my husband got an unexpected job offer in NYC (we were living in our hometown of Seattle at the time). I said I'd be all for it, only if I could have three months of trying to turn my writing dream into a full-time gig. It ended up taking six months instead of the targeted three, but I did it! It's been an absolute roller-coaster ever since, and I've never been happier. If I'm going to be a total sap about this, my only regret is not trusting my gut and following my dreams sooner.

Okay, last question and then I'll let you get back to writing, and let all these lovely readers get back to buying Everywhere and Every Way and From This Day Forward. ;-) What's one thing you're most looking forward to this summer? Any glorious vacation plans? A book you're scheduled to write? Just enjoying sunshine?

Jennifer: Ah, summer. My absolutely favorite time of year. I still feel like my kids in summer—I adore sleeping late and not rushing to make lunches and race to the bus. I love the longer days that stretch into evenings by the pool or the fire pit, making s'mores. Most of all, I love vacations. My family and I always rent a house in Cape May, New Jersey, and it's just a laid back time where we go to the beach every day and truly relax. Then we do a trip to Sesame Place, Hershey Park, and Lancaster County in Pennsylvania for a week. I always give myself a bit of breathing room from deadlines so I can enjoy the kids too and not stress out about delivering a book. I also get to read. Is there anything better than lying in the sun with a cocktail and a book in hand?

Lauren: No, no, there is not. In fact, I think I know exactly what I'll be doing with the rest of my day.… *pours cocktail, grabs newest Jennifer Probst book.*  Cheers!

Jennifer: Cheers! I'm off to finish writing this new book, and I know my perfect reward: *From This Day Forward and a Sweet Hot Chris cocktail!*

 


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