[Interview] Beth Ciotta

Beth Ciotta writes romantic comedy with a twist of suspense and has published contemporary, historical, and paranormal romantic fiction.

Her books include Everybody Loves Evie (HQN Books, 2008); All About Evie (HQN Books, 2007) Romancing the West (Medallion Press, 2007); Lasso the Moon (Medallion Press, 2006); Seduced (Medallion Press, 2005) and Charmed (Medallion Press, 2004).

In an email interview which took place on March 5, 2007, Beth Ciotta spoke about her writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved a good story whether in book or movie form. Though I dabbled with writing in my youth, I pursued a career in entertainment and made my living as a performer for most of my adult life. In 1994, I read a book that ignited a new passion -- storytelling. That passion fueled a new career in publishing.

How would you describe your writing?

I write romantic comedy with a twist of suspense in three sub-genres: contemporary, historical, and paranormal. All of my tales have a romantically satisfying ending so they are classified as romantic fiction.

The majority of my readers are women ranging in age from 18-55, but I have heard from younger and older. I have also heard from several men who enjoy my books. I’ve learned not to assume. I write for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced romantic adventure.

What motivated you to start writing in this genre?

One night on a whim I picked up a novel by Johanna Lindsey. I devoured the book in a few hours and when I got to the end I thought, “I want to do this. I want to write stories that will make people feel the way I feel right now. Happy and hopeful.” The next day I started writing my first manuscript and I haven’t looked back.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Tough question. There are a lot of dynamic people in my life who influence me and inspire me. I’ll name those who have been most influential in my writing. Julie Garwood, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Cynthia Valero, and Robert B. Parker.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

My entertainment background plays into most of my stories. In addition to performing on stage, I’ve also performed in several interactive venues, improvisational gigs that exposed me to a lot of one-on-one with the public. Amazing the things people will say to a costumed character.

I’ve lived a rich life and my world is populated with colorful and passionate people. I definitely draw on that.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

I’ve been writing two full-length novels per year for the past three years. Currently I’m writing for two different publishers. This means juggling overlapping deadlines for proposals, completed manuscripts, revisions, line edits, copy edits, and promotion. Meeting all of those deadlines on time, being able to hop from book to another, in one or another phase, sometimes within the same week has proven a huge challenge.

Remembering to relax and refresh is a challenge as well. After all, you have to live life to write about it.

How do you deal with these challenges?

My motto, one of them anyway, is “Just do it.” I know that sounds simple, but sometimes I’m so overwhelmed and crunched for time that’s the only mindset that gets me through. Don’t overanalyze and freeze. Prioritize then attack.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Capturing the reader’s imagination and entertaining them throughout, creating compelling, believable characters, and getting the details right.

Do you write everyday?

I’m not what I would call a fast writer so I need to write everyday, or close to it, in order to make my deadlines. I work part-time at my local library and still occasionally perform, so the hours that I devote to writing vary. On days that I work, I write an average of three hours. On my ‘days off’ I write anywhere from ten to fourteen hours.

How long did it take you to write All About Evie?

All About Evie features a divorced and forcibly retired 41-year-old showbiz veteran who rediscovers passion and purpose when she unwittingly teams up with reformed grifter and a government operative in their mission to expose nefarious scams.

This story, loosely based on some of my own experiences in the entertainment industry, took me about five months to write and hit the shelves in May 2007. It’s the first book in a connected trilogy published by HQN (Harlequin).

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

The revisions. I had a very specific view of the heroine and her journey. My editor’s vision differed slightly. I had heart palpitations when I read the revision letter. She was right though, all across the board. In the end, her suggestions made the story stronger and more suited to the targeted genre.

Which did you enjoy most?

Blending my own entertainment industry experiences with Evie’s and living vicariously through her as she navigated the smoke and mirrors world of con-artists. Researching scams and grifters was fascinating and enlightening. Let’s just say I am no longer as trusting as I used to be.

What sets the book apart from the others you have written?

The majority of this book (and the upcoming connected books) is in first person. That’s new for me and I have to say I enjoyed the process enormously.

In what way is it similar?

Style and voice. The unique blend of angst and humor is consistent with my previous releases.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Getting my work published. Also, acquiring a reputable agent. Believe it or not, the latter proved more difficult. Given the fierce competition and all the amazing writers struggling to find homes for their work, I consider myself very fortunate.

How did you get there?

The short answer: Dedication and perseverance.

The longer response: When I first started writing, I had passion but no real knowledge of the craft. Hungry to learn, I attended writers’ conferences and workshops, joined local and national writers’ organizations, and read several how-to books. I networked -- a balance of give and take -- and benefited from the support and guidance of fellow writers. I read and wrote avidly. I submitted my work again and again and weathered multiple rejections. I honed my craft and never gave up.

Even though I am now published, I’m still hungry to learn. I still practice all of the above in an effort to grow as a writer. Just like stories in first draft, I consider myself a work in progress.

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