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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Writing for the Romance Market with Style and Enthusiasm: An Interview with Bobby Hutchinson

I am in awe at the number of books you have written and how you can easily move from one book to the next. How do you do that?
I’m smiling at that “easily.” Contrary to what anyone will tell you, writing books on different subjects, albeit they’re all romance, is challenging. Finishing a book is always difficult for me, because half way through I know the story I’m working on is crap and my new idea is so much more fun and exciting. What’s the line about glue your ass to the chair and make blood come out your fingers?

When did you publish your first book? At that time did you think you could make a career at it?
My first romance, Sheltering Bridges, was published in June, 1985. Before I started it, I had to teach myself to type, and writing that first story was the hardest thing I’d ever done—and I’d given birth to three ten pound boys. Far from thinking of a career, I was more in the miracle mode, amazed that I got it finished, it got accepted and published.

Many of your books seem to revolve around the medical field. Do you have a background in medicine? Or does the romantic ideal of marrying a doctor play more into that writing?
There’s a romantic mystique around medicine. I have no medical background, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have generous friends, doctors and nurses, willing to answer questions. (One, in the midst of delivering a baby, put me on speaker phone and explained in detail what a prolapsed uterus meant, and how to treat it.) I’ve often wondered how his poor laboring patient felt about that call.

You've also dabbled in writing about the old west. Do you do your own research for your books or do you have an assistant.
The old west wasn’t that old when my mother was young. She was a storyteller who grew up on the Canadian prairies. Born in 1912, the “old west” was a happening place to her. Lantern In The Window is based on tales she told me about mail order brides. My time travel novels, like Now And Then, which is about the Riel Rebellion, involved lots of research. I do it all myself.

Have you ever gone somewhere and thought this would be a great location to use as a backdrop to a story?
All the time. I’ve used Hawaii, Montana, Alaska, and many small towns and cities in the US and Canada as settings for a story. The setting can play a significant part in writing, but basically, the characters are the most important, in my opinion.

Are there any other genres that you've considered writing?
I’m going to take a shot at erotica. Good fun at this stage of my life and career.

How do you keep the writing fresh and contemporary after so many books?
By reading non-stop, across all genres, learning as I go. Reading is like air and water to a writer. Even if the book isn’t great, there’s something there for me to learn—like how not to write.

I'm also intrigued by the fact that you now have the rights to your backlist of books. How did that occur? How have you refreshed those books to make them new?
I was blessed in having amazing editors at Harlequin and at my other publishers. I wrote to them, asking for the rights, and they somehow managed it. I do a certain amount of editing on the books before publishing on the various platforms, updating things like cell phones and other dated references. I’ve also changed the titles on many, because older versions are available second hand on line, which is confusing to buyers and not so good for my royalties. And of course I have new covers made. Publishing now is so much fun. I’ve heard it compared to the Wild West—wide open, challenging, sometimes dangerous, but most of all, a huge adventure.

How do you write?
I’m not particularly fast at writing. I like to have an outline, and I do detailed character development using the persons DOB and a book on horoscopes. (Great for figuring out character flaws and strengths.) Writing is always unpredictable—one day it flows and the next—bam! Road block.

Are you afraid of duplicating stories after so many books?
As for duplicating, life is so various, people so fascinating, their stories so unpredictable. Endless possibility, this writing game. If I ever do start duplicating, I’ll stop writing. Hopefully readers would let me know? Please!

How much does social media play in your promotion of your books? What suggestions do you have for enhancing a writer’s social media platform?
I was afraid you’d ask. I am so bad at the entire social media thing. I’m in awe of those (multitalented) writers who manage to create and also do Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m taking a course on navigating Goodreads, I feel that if you’re only going to concentrate on one, Goodreads is the place to go. And I’m also blogging more regularly.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
I have this written on my desk in black ink so I see it every day: Okay, Universe—You do quality, I’ll do quantity.” Writers write. If it’s crap, you can always revise. And revise. And revise. Writing is revision.

Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
Only that I feel endlessly blessed to be able to make my living spinning words into gold. I am grateful, so very humbly grateful to have been given this gift.

Thanks so much, Chris. May all your books be bestsellers.


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