Friday, September 2, 2016

Guest Blogger: M.R. Rutter

Coming Soon





Please tell us about your latest book.

A sinkhole is the perfect place to hide a body. Forever. Or so a killer
thought. Ingrid Olaffsen discovers this in DANGEROUS GROUND, a
contemporary romantic suspense set in southeastern Minnesota, when she
returns home after eight years as a detective with the St. Paul PD.  After
her father’s death she comes back to a simpler life as a Deputy Sheriff in
Fillmore County Minnesota, reconnects with family and rediscovers a love
for law enforcement.  Soon the skeletal remains of young women are found
in the sinkholes dotting the country-side her tranquility is shattered.  
 
Michael Wilson, a handsome and enigmatic man, arrives in Fillmore County
with his own agenda.  Despite his secretive nature, and her fear that
Michael is hiding a dark connection to her case, he begins to break down
her defenses.  
 
While the pressures of the investigation and the needs of her heart begin
to battle within her, Ingrid discovers that home is more than a series of
gilded memories.  As she works to track down a killer, Ingrid must find a
missing girl before it’s too late, learn who to trust and discover the
depths of her own capacity for love and forgiveness.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Expect kissing books, with much weirdness and murder. Lots of murder. 
Maybe even more weirdness. I'm good at that.
I am writing the second book in this series, where Marilyn (Ingrid's
younger sister) and Will have to solve the murder of her friend Faith, an
Amish woman, while falling in love.
I'm also working on a romantic suspense set in the near future. More on
that idea as it forms.

How do we find out about you and your books?

For updates on my books, writing, releases and cats. Lots about cats. 
Please follow me on twitter @MRR_author, on Facebook @MRRutter.author and
Instagram @rutter_megan.
I hope to be launching a website soon. In the meantime please feel free
to check my publisher's website: www.solsticepublishing.com for more
updates.

Why did you decide to write romance novels?

I love romance novels. Really. Love. Them.
They're the stories of people who manage to find each other and meld their
lives despite everything.
I can't create a good romance novel if I don't have strong, interesting
characters. So to write one that makes my readers laugh, cry and truly
believe in love is an enormous challenge. I adore a good challenge.
They're stories that are driven by the characters and their relationships
with each other. They are the characters that grabs a reader by the
throat and yanks them along for the ride. And ones who when the book
reaches the last page, live on.

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

Writers can't avoid putting themselves and their experiences into their
writing. It would be like asking an architect to design a building but to
forget everything they have learned while doing it. To forget the passion
they feel when they see a building that inspires them.
However with writing the link between the writer and the story is
stronger, because you are creating worlds out of nothing. All we have to
rely on is our minds, our memories and experiences.
It doesn't matter if you write YA romance or epic fantasy, every
sensation, smell, taste and memory are the paint that layers your writing
with humanity and believability. It's why you can fall in love with a
Vulcan or feel the power of riding a dragon. Even though those things only
exist on the page, it's the writer's memories and experiences that make
them real.
Trust me, I tell everyone I meet to be careful what they say to me. It'll
probably end up in a book. ;-)

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit
your first ms?

I don't remember thinking about writing. For me writing has always been a
part of my life. It just was who I am.
My mother says that I would hand her pieces of paper with crayon scribbles
when I was 2 years old and tell her my color-coded stories. As I grew, my
stories became more complicated. I discovered that I could deflect the
worst consequences of rule breaking if I entertained the adults around me
with an exciting or funny story. It's really hard to spank a child if
you're laughing. Trust me. I know. ;-)
I wrote all through my school years and on into college, but stopped
dreaming it would be when I grew up. Or at least I stopped talking about
it. Writing was just what I did because if I didn't write I would become
Meg, the Fire-breathing Dragon of Cranky. I wrote picture book
manuscripts, middle grade, a horror novel and even my own
teenage-angst-vampire-love story that was in fact pre-Twilight. While I
wrote, I finished grad school and worked for several years.

I didn't submit my first novel manuscript until 9 years ago. Though I'd
sent in short stories and picture book manuscripts on and off for years.
My husband drove me to Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and handed me an
airplane ticket and a registration confirmation for my first writer's
conference in 2006. He literally shoved me out of the car and drove off. 
I submitted my first manuscript a year later. It was rejected a week later
with a less than polite email.
But that didn't stop me.
I warned him about the can of worms he was opening, but the silly man
didn't listen. I was hooked. I kept submitting and attending conferences
and polishing my writing craft until finally Solstice Publishing accepted
my manuscript in July.

Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?

I can write a first draft in about a month. However, I really don't like
my first drafts. They're not truly books yet; more like the longest, most
detailed notes anyone has ever seen. It takes another month to turn it
into something I'm not ashamed to show a beta reader and a critique group.
From there, depending on the speed of my readers and critique partners, I
can have it done in another month.
From then it's up to my editors to help me with the final polishes.
However I work on more than one manuscript at a time. As one is going
through critique or edits, I work on another. For example, right now I
have my debut novel going through final edits and I'm writing the second
in the series and plotting a third.
The entire process can take anywhere from 3-6 months.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

I only set a schedule when it's necessary. Like when I'm working with an
editor or a critique partner. Or am on a deadline.
I tend to write with the flow as often as I can. If I'm in the middle of
a strong writing urge I just write. I can't stop. Even if I'm not
actively typing, I'm plotting constantly. But there are times I'm also
happy with writing in my head while I do other things. It's amazing to
feel like you don't have to be chained to the computer for 8 hours a day. 
I like to give myself a balance in my life and my writing.

What is your writing routine once you start a book?

I start with an idea and a character. I let the idea percolate in my mind
for a while before I write even one line.
This can take time.
Then I make character cards and a basic plot line. The plot line is
extremely flexible and is rarely the same when I finish writing the book
as it was when I started. I guess I'm a little spastic there.
I write my first draft, also known as The Notes from Hell.
I'll set it aside for a week or two before starting on my second draft. 
This way I come back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are
writing - or are there constant interruptions?

My family KNOWS not to bother me while I write, but that doesn't
necessarily mean they actually leave me alone. I have a husband and a
12-year-old along with 3 dogs, a pride of barn cats, sheep and horses. 
There is always a reason to interrupt me. ;-)
When the interruptions get particularly egregious, I write late at night
in our greenhouse office about 1/4 mile away from the house. Life is
about compromise.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?

Spending time with my family always reenergizes me. My daughter is the
light of my life and I love spending time with her and with my husband,
who is the love of my life. I'll often take a walk around our farm with
my husband or I'll take in the latest DC or Marvel movie with my daughter.
I love to travel. I also love rollercoasters. When I'm feeling really
wiped out a little road trip or an afternoon full of roller coasters will
energize me.
I also love riding my horses, walking in the woods or just reading.

What truly motivates you in general? In your writing?

I don't need much to motivate me to write. It's not a desire that I have
to nurture, its a need I must feed. I have to write. I also think that
most writers are like that. We must write. So my writing motivation is
to feed the need to keep me from becoming the Meg Crankenbeast I warned
about earlier.

Where do your ideas come from?

I can't tell you how hard and long I laughed when I read this question.
I have no idea where they come from. It's something I have no control
over. I can spend hours trying to come up with a new plot idea or a new
character and it's like trying to tunnel through concrete with a spaghetti
noodle. Then I can be driving down the road and my thoughts will race with
new ideas. Or I can see a meme on social media. Or a person who walks
with a certain stride. Or someone can say something as simple as "girls
don't light fires." It's the things that makes me wonder why or what if.
I wish I knew what gives me my ideas, because then I could bottle that
genie and control it. As it is right now it's more like waiting for
lightning to strike.
The best answer I can give to this question is that they come easier and I
see more ideas in the world around me when I'm relaxed and happy. So if
you're trying to open your mind to ideas, just relax and look around the
world with eyes that search for the story in everyone and everything.

Do you feel humour is important in __put your genre here____ and why?

I feel that humor is important in every genre. People need to laugh. 
It's how we bond as a society and comprehend the incomprehensible in our
world. This is a fact I know from my years working in forensics. Humor is
vital to our humanity.
Because romance is the core of our humanity, having humor in the genre is
critical to building the characters within a novel.
I couldn't imagine falling in love with someone who doesn't make me laugh
and I am lucky enough to find the one who does. He even makes me laugh
when I'm furious. I wouldn't give my characters anything less.

What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them
difficult to write?
Ok another question that caused a chuckle...
I have no problem writing love scenes. Physical love and how we approach
our sexuality is how we fully express our individuality in life. It's the
deepest form of trust and respect to make love with your partner.
Physical love is natural, healthy and it makes us happy. I want my
characters to be happy and healthy and to find that happiness and trust
with their partner. To fear writing about that which makes us human is to
fail my characters.
I don't think there's anything hard about being happy and natural people
or writing about them.

What kind of research do you do?

The research I do depends on the book I'm writing. Some books are much
easier to research than others.
With Dangerous Ground I didn't have to do much research with the forensics
as that used to be my professional field. I did, however, have to
interview deputies and our local sheriff. I also toured local caves and
sinkholes.
With the book I'm writing now, I've spent a lot of time researching
different cultures that live in southeastern Minnesota, arson and methods
of farming. I had to learn about cheese making. Now I know a lot about
making cheese, though I doubt I will ever make a single round. ;-)
I expect the next book I write to have different research needs. It's how
I keep my writing fresh.

Would you like to write a different genre than you do now, or sub-genre?

I would love to explore urban fantasy. It would be so cool to write about
fantastical creatures living among us. However, knowing me and how much I
adore romance, if I ever do so it would have a romantic sub-plot.

What does your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend think of your writing?

My husband is one of the most supportive partners I could have ever
dreamed of. Remember he's the one who pushed my hesitant bum out of the
car. He thinks it's cool that I still play with my imaginary friends and
live life with my head in the clouds. He loves me and supports my dreams.

Do you ever ask him/her for advice?

All the time. He always has something to say about my writing, and is
often critical in helping me develop characters and plot points. He is
one of my beta readers and critique partners. While his critique can be
biting, it's because he knows what I'm capable of and knows I want to be
exceptional. I married my best friend. I'm lucky enough to be in love
with my best friend and soul mate.

Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)

I'm the youngest child of a Marine and a hippy. I'm the youngest of 3 and
now have 5 nieces and a nephew.
I have degrees in ancient history, comparative religion and forensic
anthropology. I worked as a research assistant and forensic anthropologist
while I was finishing grad school.
I have severe ADD, which makes writing interesting somedays.
I'm married, and have been for 14 years, to a evolutionary ecologist who
researches sustainable agriculture. I live on a research farm with my
husband, daughter and a menagerie of animals.
I work on our farm as a greenhouse manager as well as a livestock manager.
I'm also a full time mother who finds time to volunteer in the school, as
a girl scout leader and local library. I sew, ride horses, love to
roller-skate and ride roller coasters. I'm a crossword wizard, because
yes I'm a word nerd.

Fill in the blank favorites - Dessert. City. Season. Type of hero. Type of
heroine.

Dessert... Thanks for making me choose one. Salted caramel cheesecake.
City... Seriously? I still have to pick just one? Istanbul
Season... Fall
Type of hero... the unexpected hero.
Type of heroine... strong and self sufficient.

What are some of your favorite things to do?

I love doing so many different things. I'm a firm believer in keeping an
open mind and trying something new.
I listen to all types of music. I'm not saying I like everything, but I
have found music of almost every type that I can enjoy. I love classic
rock and oldies the most.
I enjoy traveling and seeing new places. Meeting new people. Road trips
are the best way to see and experience new things.
I'm a huge camping fanatic. And I'm talking the backpack on your back and
pitching a tent or sleeping in a hammock camping, not camper camping. Yes
I'm way old school here.
I love exploring cemataries and catacombs. I guess it's the forensic
anthropologist in me.
On that note. I'm passionate about science. Everyone should learn how
much fun science can be. Seriously, how else can you make big messes for
a living.
I love designing and sewing costumes for my daughter. I will hate the day
she doesn't want them anymore. I hope it's not soon.

Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?

Asking a writer for a favorite author is almost like asking us for a
favorite star in the sky. Writers love to read. I can't pick a favorite,
but I can tell you the author who made me fall in love with reading was
David Eddings. And the author who gave me my passion for romance is Nora
Roberts.

I don't have a favorite book. I love too many of them. However I do have
books that I will reread if not every year, then it's every couple of
years. The Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Roberta Gellis' Dazzling
Brightness.

Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?

Tolkien, Ursula K. LeGuin, Roberta Gellis, Anne McCaffery, Wendy Corsi
Staub, Eileen Dreyer

What do you think of critique groups in general?

Critique groups are like psychiatrists. The wrong ones won't help you at
all and may even drive you crazy, but when you find the right one it's
like coming home.
The right critique group will make you a better writer. They see things
in your writing that a writer can't see. The wrong one will break a
writer.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I see myself as a bestselling author who can spend at least
half of my working time writing. I would prefer to be able to afford to
ask for full-time, as it's my dream, but asking for it seems like asking
for too much. So this is my version of whistling in a graveyard.
I hope to be able to see my daughter go off to college and help my husband
expand our farm because of my success as an author.

How long have you been writing - have you always wanted to be a writer?

I have been writing my entire life. I have wanted to be a writer for
longer than I can remember. For longer than I had the words to express the
desire in me. For a while I was able to shove it aside, but that never
lasts forever. My husband pushed me out of the car ten years ago and
there was no shoving the dream back into the darkest corner of my mind
ever again.

How many books have you written, how many have been published?

If you include the Teenage-Angst-Vampire-Romance, my poetry collections
and the picture and middle grade books I have written, then I have written
over 20 books.
If you just count novels, then I have written four.
I usually only count the novels as the other ones scare me.
I will have my first novel published this year.

After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it
and/or read it?

I will buy my book, but not to read. Or at least not at first. I'll buy
it to give as gifts to all the people who supported me on this journey. 
I'll also buy it as a marketing tool for future books.
I may read it in a few years when I have enough distance. However, I find
it very difficult to read my now work. I'm my own worst critic.

Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?

I don't have a favorite book right now, though I do think that Dangerous
Ground will always be one of my favorites. It's the book that finally
opened the door for me.

What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?

The easiest book I have written was a middle grade story about talking
voles. I had that bad boy written in a week. Though I know it will
probably never be published.
The hardest I have written, so far of course, is the one I'm working on
now. I'm digging deeply into a culture that keeps itself hidden from our
everyday lives and trying to do so with both respect and humanity. It's
extremely hard to do justice to this story, but I plan to give it my best.

Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?

For me it's an idea. A what if moment. What if a serial killer was
hiding bodies in the sinkholes?
From that moment I come to know my female protagonist first, and why this
"what if" is so important to her. Why she must solve the mystery. Then I
figure out the man who will help her to find her center. The one she will
help to complete himself.
Everything builds around why these people are so driven to fight their way
though their situation and find love in the end.
What if?

What are the elements of a great romance for you?

For me romance is equal parts love, humor, passion, respect, admiration
and friendship. You can never love someone truly until you can feel all
those things for them.
However the final element is the feeling that wraps itself through your
very being that without this one person in your life you would be less
than you were before. This is the soul who is the match for yours. The
perfect other half of you that was split by the gods when we dared to
scale Olympus.
Great romance is more than love or passion. It's the connection of two
souls.

What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?

For me the hardest part of writing is controlling my ADD brain. I write
late into the night and can't take my medication when I write late, so I
have to cope in other ways. That involves balancing the right amount of
background noise with silence. I have to have something, but never
someone, making noise in the background to write. I find old episodes of
cop or CSI type shows are the best.
I know it will sound trite, but the easiest part of writing for me is in
fact writing. Writing comes naturally for me. I write all the time and
it's basically muscle memory at this point.
Once the ideas flow my fingers dance on the keyboard and I enter a place
where I'm not really there. All that's there is the story and my need to
get it out of my mind through my fingertips. It's an almost zen-like
state.

Have you experienced writer's block---> If so, how did you work through it?

Nope. I'm lucky or cursed that way. I'm not sure which one. I'm always
writing. If I'm not ready to type, I'm talking to my characters in my
head or plotting a murder. Maybe even planning a great love scene.
I have friends and colleagues who have suffered from it, and I hope that
the specter of writer's block always stays far away from me.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

I don't know, because I haven't experienced everything a writer
experiences yet. I'll let you know when I figure it out.
So far the best moment is when one of my beta readers tell me they can't
put my book down.

If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?

I'd be a forensic anthropologist. It's a wonderful and fascinating field.
It just wasn't where my passion lived. Some days I wish it were.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?

Don't give up. I repeat. Don't. Give. Up.
I know how much those rejection letters hurt. Trust me. I know.
673 rejections here before I got my yes. 673 times I wanted to cry. To
delete my manuscript and just curl into my blanket fort with my footie
p.j.s and teddy. 673 times my husband had to pick my hopes back up, kiss
me and tell me that I'll find the right person soon.
Those rejections are badges of honor, because they didn't defeat you.
Writing is equal parts talent and luck. Keep sending out those queries,
attending conferences and polishing your craft. Keep hoping. Enough
talent, time and hope and someone will say yes.
Don't. Give. Up!

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