Women in high heels, men in suits, sipping fancy cocktails — that’s the world of the protagonists of Lauren Layne’s “big city” romances. And it is also Lauren Layne’s world, since she’s left Seattle and her former job for pursuing a writing career in New York City. Albeit “real life” experience helps, it takes mostly hard work and perseverance to succeed in her business, as the author explains in our interview.
Please tell us something about you and what you are working on.
I’m a contemporary romance author — I tend to describe myself as writing “romantic comedies,” because my style of writing is more akin to a modern day rom-com you’d see in the theaters than it is an old-school Harlequin novel. Currently I’m working on the next book in my Stiletto & Oxford series, which is a bit like Sex & the City meets FRIENDS. It’s titled I Knew You Were Trouble, and will be available in June 2017.
In your previous life you have been working as a web marketing manager. How did you come up with the idea to become a writer?
Well, let’s just say I was one of those precocious bookworm kids who, whenever asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, proclaimed an author! Eventually, “real life,” or what I thought was real life kicked in, and I took a “real job,” first as a receptionist, then as a web marketing/e-commerce manager in my mid-twenties. I enjoyed it. I daresay I was even good at it. But I had this nagging feeling that there was more to life than dreading Monday mornings. I did a lot of soul-searching, asking myself, “If money were no object, what would you spend every day doing?” Writing was the answer every single time. And since money was a factor, I thought, “Well, I guess I better figure out how to make a living out of this!”
For many people, being a full-time writer is a dream. How difficult was it for you to make this dream come true?
It took a lot of hustle. It still does! Early on, I, like so many people, thought that making it as a writer was as simple as writing a book and getting it published. That’s merely step one. To make it full-time, especially as a romance author, where the competition is vast and the reader-base voracious, it’s not uncommon to release several books per year. I credit my agent with encouraging me early on to always be looking towards the next thing. My first book got multiple offers from New York publishing houses. Rather than accepting one and then getting comfy, we accepted the highest offer, and on the very same day, submitted a proposal for another book series to one of the other publishers who’d offered on the first book. Within one week I went from having no book deals, to two book deals for five books (even though I’d only written one of those books). It was a crazy couple of months as I learned how to write fast and write well, but it really set the tone for my career. I had six releases in 2016, I’ll have seven in 2017. People think my schedule is crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In addition to leaving me very financially secure, I truly love writing more than anything else in the world— why wouldn’t I want to tell as many stories as I’m capable of telling?!
You also left Seattle and pursued your writing career from New York. Is there a connection, i.e. is NYC more appropriate for a writer of romantic comedy?
I don’t know if it’s more appropriate, necessarily — it’s certainly possible to have small town romantic comedies. But I do think that living in Manhattan has had a huge impact on the direction of my writing career. I wrote my first book while still living in Seattle, and while I’m quite proud of it, there’s quite a difference in tone between that book and the ones set in NYC. Much of my brand is based on writing “big city” romances where the women wear high heels, the men wear suits, and the cocktails are fancy. I write about that world because that is my world. I’m quite often the lady in the high heels, sitting next to my husband in the suit, sipping that fancy cocktail. I like to think that sort of “real life” experience comes through in my writing.
Did your background in marketing help you to find a following as a writer?
I’m not as good as I could be about cultivating my following — I’m a longtime proponent of prioritizing writing the actual books over spending time on Twitter. In my experience, every book you get out there will generate so much more income and more new readers than chasing Facebook followers will. However, I suspect that my corporate/marketing experience comes through in other ways — the tone in which I converse with readers. The professionalism of my website. The care I put into the way I position my books within graphics, Amazon, etc.
Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?
I once heard the great Nora Roberts answer this question by saying, “Inspiration is overrated, I just like the process of writing a book,” and it’s stuck with me because it’s precisely how I feel. I’m sure inspiration is always there lurking in the background, seeping into my subconscious, but very rarely do I have a lightning bolt moment for a new novel idea. I’m not sure how to describe it other than I force myself to sit down and write (almost) every single day, and the words/ideas are just there. I suspect it’s more habit and hard work than anything. I suppose that sounds boring, but it’s quite lovely to know that the ideas will always be there — all you have to do is show up and put in the time.
You have published more than 20 novels in just a couple of years. What is the secret of your productivity?
I credit most of it to early mornings and lack of television. I regularly wake up by five, and try to write 3,000-5,000 words before 9am when emails start coming in. I also don’t watch much TV. Every now and then, my husband and I will binge-watch something on Netflix, but we keep our TV in our coat closet, and pull it out only when we really want to watch something. I’d estimate my average time spent in front of a television is somewhere around 2 hours per week, compared to the American average of 25+ hours per week. That’s 23 more hours a week I can put towards writing books!
Would you give us some insight into what a typical day in Lauren Layne’s life is like?
As mentioned above, I’m an early bird! Alarm goes off at 5am, and I head immediately for the kettle to heat water for a pot of French Press coffee. While I’m sipping that first cup, I write in my daily planner, prioritizing my tasks for the day (scenes I need to write, etc), planning which hours are dedicated to writing, which hours will be spent doing “other stuff.” I tend to dive into my manuscript by about 5:30-6am, and I write either until I hit my word count goal or until the dog demands to go outside. Gym/breakfast usually happens somewhere in the late morning hours, then it’s back to writing until 2 or 3pm. If I’m on a roll or deadline, I’ll keep going, but mostly my creative juices are used up by this point, and I switch over to the “business stuff.” Website updates, blog posts, email, etc. Some evenings I’ll go back for a late writing session, other times I have a drink with my husband and just enjoy life. I credit a lot of my productivity with a good night’s sleep, so I’m usually in bed by 10pm.
Could you please describe your process from inspiration to finished book in a few sentences?
I have to write 1-2 paragraph description of each upcoming book for my publisher, which is the first step in my “outlining” process where I work out key plot points and character arcs. From there, I always create a “beat sheet” for each story, which helps me plan out the key scenes. What happens after that varies by book. Some books I’m itching to get writing, and I’ll dive right in. More often, I’ll do a bit more outlining, writing scenes on notecards until I at least 20 or so and know I have enough “story” to sustain an entire book.
How did you find out about Ulysses, and why did you choose it as a writing tool?
I discovered it in the Mac App Store when searching for an alternative to Scrivener. In the drafting stage, I think of all my books as a series of individual scenes to be rearranged and played with, rather than “one big document,” so I’d always preferred Scrivener’s organizational capabilities to a traditional word processor which can be cumbersome to rearrange once you get back 15k words or so. However, Scrivener was feeling increasingly cluttered with features I never used, and the lack of iCloud/mobile support was very concerning to me. I knew from the very second I saw the screenshots of Ulysses within the Mac App Store that it was exactly what I was looking for: a way to write my books scene-by-scene, but in an uncluttered environment. With Scrivener, I’d waste hours tweaking the format of the program itself. With Ulysses I can set up a new book in under a minute and get right to work.
What do you like best about Ulysses? Do you have a favorite feature?
Well, I’m partial to the iCloud support, because it’s surprisingly difficult to find a writing app that allows you to easily access the latest version of your manuscript “on the go.” I love that I never have to think/plan about how I’ll write while on the road. My work-in-progress appears on my iPad exactly as I left it on my laptop. Similarly, if I’m in the grocery store and get inspired on the perfect ending line for that chapter I was working earlier that morning, I can pull out my iPhone and add it to the manuscript then and there. I’ve also been impressed with the export option — it takes 20 seconds to move my manuscript from Ulysses to Microsoft Word, and it’s ready to go, no funky-formatting. Lastly, I love how easy it is to rearrange scenes (sheets), with a quick drag and drop. A huge improvement from the days trying to cut and paste huge chunks of text in Word, or figure out which binder/sub-folder I stashed something in Scrivener!
Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen romantic comedies. A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career. She lives with her husband in midtown Manhattan.