Roxanne Rustand interview

» Posted on Nov 28, 2007 in Blog | 3 comments


Don’t forget to email me (margaretdaley@gmail.com) by Sunday evening if you want to be entered in the drawing for Hard Evidence.

1. What made you start writing?
I read just nonfiction for years….then one day, my friend Judy gave me a
Judith McNaught historical novel, smiled, and dared me to put it down once I
started it. I did–at four o’clock the next morning. It totally swept me
away, with its emotion and characterization. After that, I started reading
everything I could find in the genre–I would bring grocery sacks of books
home from the store. That same friend later invited me to write some human
interest articles for her regional horse magazine and gave me an older
computer to do so. The wonders of writing on a computer swept me away, too!
It was such fun, I just kept going…and eventually started trying to write
a story. Judy had a small critique group, I joined them, and found a whole
new world in writing fiction.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I began writing in late 1993. I puttered around with my first 127 pp for
two whole years, trying to perfect each word, but learned this was the wrong
approach when I took a University of Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival two week
class given by Leigh Michaels. The class members critiqued each other, and
every one of them (AND Leigh) said my first seventy pages had to go! Ouch!
They were right…but was it ever hard to do.

That fall, I entered the Golden Heart. I didn’t tell my critique friends
because I knew they would think I was crazy to enter with so little of the
book done. I wrote night and day, literally, to finish the book in
time…and by some incredible miracle, the entry won the RWA Golden Heart
that year. That book didn’t sell. The next time I entered the Golden
Heart, I finaled (but didn’t win) and a final round judge (Paula Eykelhoff,
a wonderful editor) said she remembered my winning entry from before. She
said this new project showed growth–and she bought the manuscript plus
another project that was just a proposal. So my first sale was a two book,
thanks to the GH! I’ve now sold twenty books since late 1998, and am
working on three more proposals…so hopefully, it will be up to
twenty-three in the near future.

3. How do you handle rejections?
Rejections are disappointing and difficult at any stage of a writing career.
The rejections before you make a first sale make the prospect of becoming
published seem like an impossible mountain peak to cross. That first Golden
Heart entry was requested by four editors, and was promptly rejected by all
four! But in retrospect, that was a huge blessing. I had no other projects
started, I knew nothing about the business, and I didn’t have the skills
then to even revise that manuscript well enough. The Golden Heart is judged
on the first three chapters only, and believe me, writing the rest of the
manuscript so fast, to finish in time to qualify for entry, meant that it
would’ve needed a LOT of work! If I had sold back then, I can only imagine
that I would have quickly floundered.

Rejections now that I am published? I guess I am thankful for them, too.
If there’s something about a project that is flawed or just isn’t salable,
I’d rather find out before I invest any time in it. Rejections can also
lead to new directions, new opportunities. After writing fifteen family
drama type stories with mystery or suspense, plus light humor, for
SuperRomance, I just hit a wall–wrote a proposal for three stories, and
they were rejected. Spent months and months rewriting them. Again,
rejected. I was so discouraged! But it was really a case of God opening a
new door, and I just had to see it. My dear friend Lyn Cote had been
encouraging me to write inspirationals for years, saying that it would be a
really good match for me. I finally listened to her, prayed a lot about it,
and then sold a three book series to Love Inspired Suspense…plus another
to Superromance. I absolutely love writing for Love Inspired!

4. Why do you write?
Because…it’s what I do. It’s a part of me, now. It’s not all joy and
it’s not easy. It’s not about seeing my books on the shelves at the
bookstores. It simply gives me such satisfaction, that I cannot imagine ever
giving it up. With every book I’ve ever written, I prayed that I could
write a book that would be uplifting in some way–a book that would have a
positive impact on its readers. Now, with Love Inspired, I feel as if the
chance to add an arc of inspirational growth for the characters lets me take
that a step farther.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Free time? What is that? (smile) My family has always been my main
focus, but now, our last child has graduated from high school and is leaving
home. I’m now rediscovering my relationship with my husband and we are
doing more things together. I work as a dietitian at a psychiatric
residential facility, and love my job. I love photography, love to read,
cook, and spend time with our horses and dogs.

6. What are you working on right now?
I’ve got to finish writing up proposals on a new three-book series and send
them in, and then get to work on a book that will be part of a six-author
series for Love Inspired Suspense that will be out the first half of 2009.
Margaret, by the way, is the lead author of that series!

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
My husband will see snippets of that, sometimes, but it’s never intentional.
I think writers tend to develop a unique voice based on their lifetime of
experiences, their beliefs, their education, where they live, and their
family background. It’s something that comes through, no matter what they
write, and it reflects who they are as an individual.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.
The Snow Canyon Ranch trilogy for Love Inspired Suspense starts out with
HARD EVIDENCE in early December, followed by VENDETTA in March and WILDFIRE
in March. These books are all part of the Snow Canyon Ranch trilogy. Set
in the Wyoming Rockies, the books follow the three daughters of a tough,
no-nonsense Wyoming ranch widow, who each return to the Rockies to begin a
new life…only each faces unexpected challenges and danger. The back cover
blurb on HARD EVIDENCE is:

Come out, come out–wherever you are….
Someone is lurking in the woods behind the isolated lodge and cabins Janna
McAllister has been fixing up. Who is he? And what could he want with a
single mother who hasn’t set foot in the Wyoming Rockies for years?

She’s suddenly thankful for her unexpected lodgers, deputy sheriff
Michael Robertson and his troubled young son. The strong, silent type,
Michael makes her feel safe–especially when human remains are found on her
property. But it’s a cold case, until she discovers evidence that brings
the killer out of hiding–a killer who now wants to see her dead.

And suddenly, it’s no longer safe to trust anyone she knows.

There’s actually a free, online serialized story running right now at
http://www.eharlequin.com/articlelist.html
There are twenty very short chapters that introduce this mountain town and
some of the residents, including a sheriff long-past the need for
retirement. The sheriff will soon leave town, making way for the hero of
HARD EVIDENCE.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Critiques are fine. But don’t endlessly re-write everything before moving
on! Save the comments and get to The End before doing any polishing.
Getting to the end of the story will help you see much bigger problems that
might need fixing. Doing what I first did–endlessly tweaking and
dithering over making every page perfect–is a waste of time until you get
the book done.

Read, read, read—read endlessly in the genre that you love most. If that’s
where your heart is, that’s what you should be writing.

Read aloud! For sure, every piece of dialogue. Wordy, awkward phrasing will
be obvious. Actually, reading every bit of your book aloud would be the
best time you ever spent for making your prose shine. Reading silently lets
you skip over things and go to fast. Aloud–then awkward, stilted, or
confusing prose really stands out!

10. How important is faith in your books?
I love being able to add an arc of faith in the books I am writing for Love
Inspired Suspense. I think it strengthens the entire character arc, and
makes the characters delve deeper into their internal conflicts.

11. What themes do you like to write about?
Family. Love. Trust. Faith. Courage.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
I wrote a Superromance called Rodeo! in 2001. It was my worst seller (many
readers later said they thought it was just about rodeos, and they didn’t
like the subject) but it was so much more than that. I have always wished
that it would be re-released with a different and better title. I had a
subplot with an older couple in that one–a man who had betrayed his wife,
and had always thought he’d gotten away with it. But now, with both of them
elderly and with her slipping into dementia, he learns that she always
knew…and learns the depth of the pain he caused. Is it ever too late for
forgiveness? I really loved exploring that theme, along with the main plots
of mystery and romance.

13. How are you Supers for Harlequin different from your books for Love Inspired? Similar?
I have never written explicit, sexy books. It just isn’t me. Romance,
definitely–the emotions, the struggles–but I mostly “closed the door” on
any intimacy. So Love Inspired was not a big change at all in that regard,
and I really enjoy being able to write books that explore the deepening
relationship and conflicts, yet can end with a kiss. I’ve always loved
having a strong spine of mystery or suspense in my books, and with Love
Inspired Suspense I can heighten that element. Family relationships have
been a common theme in my books, too, and I can still explore those as well.
So writing inspirational novels is the best of all worlds! I would still
like to write a Super now and then, too. I feel so very blessed to have had
opportunities to write for both!

14. What is your writing schedule like?
Depends on deadlines. Until this year, I usually camped out at a hotel for
a couple weekends during each deadline crunch, so I could wall myself away
from all distractions and really, really concentrate. With the last four
books, I made myself just work at home. Mornings are the most productive
time for me, so I try to wake up by five or so and get to work.

15. You have a Masters in nutrition. Do you ever find that influencing
your stories?
I had a subplot with a young girl learning she has diabetes (A Montana
Family, 2001) and have done a few stories with health issues in them–for
the secondary, older characters. Otherwise, the biggest impact of my degree
was probably the years doing research, needing to be organized, and needing
to develop good work habits. But these are skills that all of us can
develop, no matter what our educational background. There are many
extremely successful writers who have no college degree at all, or who have
degrees in totally unrelated spheres.

Becoming a writer is actually like putting one’s self through a self-guided
college degree. It’s a big learning process. That’s the approach I took,
and I did it through conferences, workshops, critique groups, writing books,
writing magazines, listening to workshop tapes, getting feedback from
contest judges, being open to criticism and being driven to learn and
improve. It’s an ongoing process, too. Believe me!

12/07 Hard Evidence LI Suspense trilogy #1
2/08 Vendetta LI Suspense trilogy #2
3/08 Wildfire LI Suspense trilogy #3
www.shoutlife.com/RoxanneRustand
Ladies of Suspense blog
www.roxannerustand.com

3 Comments

  1. Wow! I enjoyed this interview especially because I aspire to what Ms. Rustand is doing, writing for LI and Super. I’ve been trying to discover whether there were any writers doing that. I definitely have to look up her books (and put my name in the hat for the drawing)!

  2. I always enjoy your interviews, Margaret. And by the way, congrats on When Dreams Come True winning the Joey Award (Brandy Hill Award). I just saw that in the new issue of Harlequin Worldbeat News!

  3. Patricia and Deborah, thanks for stopping by.

    Margaret

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