The World of Vikings, Outlaws, and MMA Fighters: An Interview with Harper St. George
Today I am thrilled to introduce you to historical and contemporary romance author, Harper St. George. Harper’s short story, “The Fallout” appeared in Premiere: A Romance Writers of America® Collection. I contacted Harper about what it was like being published in RWA’s first anthology, and this began a long-distance writer friendship that I value very, very much. If you needed one more reason why the romance writing community is one of the most inviting and supportive, here you go.
If you love historical fiction and the worlds of Vikings, outlaws, and MMA fighters, read on! And scroll to the bottom to check out how you can stay up to date with her releases!
Harper, I am excited to share a little bit about you and your writing on my website! For folks who may be unfamiliar with your work, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you write.
Hi Brandi! Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I write historical romance, Vikings and westerns so far, and I’m starting to branch out into contemporary romance.
You grew up in Alabama and Florida. How did your youth in these places lead you to being a writer and influence what you write today?
I grew up in rural areas, and I feel that definitely influenced my writing. My grandparents were full of stories, things that happened in their lives and the lives of people around them. When they were growing up, usually without electricity or easy access to books, people sat around and talked to each other more and shared life experiences. I definitely feel that aspect of our society has changed with our access to media and various mediums. The idea of storytelling hasn’t changed, but the way we experience it does. I feel so lucky to have experienced a little bit of the oral storytelling tradition through them.
Harper, you currently write Western and Viking historical romances for Harlequin. Talk about two completely different settings! Was it challenging as a writer to set your books in such different places? And what is it about these particular settings that excited you and made you want to create stories in these places and times?
I know! People are usually surprised when I tell them the settings for my romances. You know what? Vikings and Westerns really aren’t that different. Both settings pit men and women against the elements of nature and baser human instincts. I love to write stories that are heavy on character development, and these settings provide a plethora of external conflict that put my heroes and heroines through the ringer.
Speaking of Harlequin: Many amazing authors write for Harlequin, and I know many aspiring authors dream of landing a contract with them. Tell me about your path to publishing with Harlequin. What’s your advice for writers who are considering pitching or proposing to Harlequin?
Harlequin has a great reputation for helping to develop new voices. I love my editor and how much time she’s taken to help me become a better writer. I’d wanted to write romance ever since I was a teenager, and Harlequin was the first publisher that came to mind when I decided I was finally serious about making my dream a reality.
Harlequin.com has a section for aspiring writers that lists out the requirements for each of their series. I knew that I wanted to start with historical romance, so I found requirements for their Undone line, which featured historical novellas. With two small kids at home, I knew I wasn’t able to focus on a complete book, so I took a chance and wrote a 15,000 word novella. It took me four months to write that and get it polished enough to send it in. Luckily, my current editor pulled it out of the slush pile and liked it enough to ask me for some revisions—I’d written only the heroine’s POV, so she asked if I could add in some scenes from his perspective. I sent it in, and pretty soon they offered me a contract for HIS ABDUCTOR’S DESIRE. After that, I wrote one more novella for them and decided I was ready for a full-length. It took me almost a year, but I wrote ENSLAVED BY THE VIKING.
I know it sounds cliché, but my advice to aspiring writers is to not give up. If you love writing, keep doing it. Keep cranking out stories and trying to find a home for them. Whether you are published right away or not, no story is wasted. You are learning valuable information about yourself and the stories you want to write. It’s hard to see it while you’re in the trenches of the story, but you really do grow with each one.
One of the things that the romance industry does really well is support other romance authors. In fact, you were kind enough to meet me in person after I contacted you about your short story in the first RWA anthology. In the course of your career, have you received help and support from other authors? If so, who were they (if you’d like to share), and what did that help and support look like? What do you think about this “pay it forward” attitude that seems to be prevalent in the romance industry?
I totally agree. The romance industry is one of the most supportive groups of people I’ve ever encountered. Whether it’s a little tidbit of information gleaned from a presentation at nationals, helpful feedback on a contest entry, or a word of encouragement on Twitter, romance authors help each other. I think it’s because we all know how it feels to be outsiders and underappreciated. After all, we have to battle stereotypes and, often, misogyny on a daily basis.
I am always curious about writer’s processes. It seems that no matter whom I talk to, every author writes a book differently! Do you mind sharing a little bit about your writing process? How long does it take you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you set daily word goals, etc.? In particular, do you have any rituals you follow when you sit down to write or edit?
I think my writing process changes with every book. That’s another way of saying I’m still figuring it out … Unless I’m writing something I’ve sold on proposal, which includes a detailed synopsis, I try to write a very sparse outline so I know where I’m starting, and a little of what happens in the middle, and the end. By the time I start writing, I have a very clear idea of the first few chapters.
Because I’m learning the characters as I write, I’ll have to pause after the first few chapters and plan out the next three scenes—which means I’ll write a short paragraph of what happens in each scene. That paragraph will include the POV I’ll use and the goal of each scene. Once I write those, I’ll plan out the next three scenes. I need to have the three scenes so I can feel secure in where I’m going with the story, but not so constrained that I can’t allow for spontaneity.
The only time I set daily word count goals is when I’m getting close to a deadline. I should probably get better about doing that all along, but I can never make myself take them seriously until that deadline is staring at me. With two kids, my only ritual is to sit down the second I have a minute to spare. In fact, having kids probably keeps me disciplined because I don’t have time to spare. I do have set times during the week that I write, no matter what, and I find that helps my brain to know that it’s time to get some words down.
Tell us about your newest book releases. What are they - and the series - about?
IN BED WITH THE VIKING WARRIOR is my latest release. The heroine is a Saxon woman who comes across a mystery man wounded in battle. He saves her life, so she takes him home to care for him. The only problem is he doesn’t remember who he is. By the time his memory returns and they realize he’s an enemy…it’s too late for their hearts.
It’s the third book in my Viking Warriors series. The series is set in the late 9th century when the Danes began to settle in England. It follows a band of Viking warriors who fight together and find the loves of their lives along the way.
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2d3KDmO
THE INNOCENT AND THE OUTLAW is about a band of three outlaw “brothers” (only two are related by blood.) They roam the west looking for a murderer. Along the way they’ve made a lot of enemies. That’s where the heroine gets pulled into the mix. Her stepfather is also an outlaw, so she’s been kidnapped in retaliation for something he did. It was a fun book to write, and I hope readers are enjoying it as much as I loved writing it. It is book one in my new Outlaws of the Wild West series.
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/29khdCB
You also had some exciting news you recently announced about a new book series! Tell us about that and when readers can expect it!
I’m so happy to announce that I’m making the move to contemporary romance. I’ve been working with my writing partner, Tara Wyatt, to develop a series set in the world of mixed martial arts. The series name is Blood and Glory, and it’ll follow the loves and careers of three MMA fighters. The first book in the series, DIRTY BOXING, is coming September 18, 2017 from PocketStar! Here’s the blurb:
"Perfect for fans of emotionally charged, sexy reads, Dirty Boxing, the first installment in the Blood and Glory series, reveals that the mixed martial arts battles waged inside the octagon are second only to the battles fought in the name of love.
After an unstable childhood, Jules Darcy is very familiar with the risks of falling in love. And as an adult, she’s never let herself forget just how high those stakes can be. That’s why she ran away a year ago after her fling with MMA fighter Nick Giannakis quickly got serious. But when she jumps at the opportunity to reconnect with her dad by accepting a job with his growing fight league, she’s stunned to learn the abs, the chiseled arms, and the rock-solid punches she has to market belong to none other than her former fling. Unable to run away from the sexy middleweight this time, Jules vows to keep things strictly professional. But one look at Nick, and her resolve starts to crumble….
The last thing Nick expects when he signs with the prestigious World Fighting Championship is that he’ll have to work with the only woman who ever broke his heart. Desperate to hide the pain she caused him, Nick vows to keep his distance from his gorgeous ex. But when he realizes their intense chemistry hasn’t faded after a year apart, he wonders if they could have a future together, even if dating the boss’s daughter could complicate his bid for the championship belt.
Under the bright lights of Las Vegas, in the world of high-stakes prize fighting, they’ll have to take a risk and decide if their love is worth fighting for."
What are some of your favorite books and authors? What do you like about these works and writers?
I tend to find authors I like and devour all of their books. I love the connection you can have with an author whose voice you love and how you can read anything they write and love it.
Some of my favorites when I first started reading romance were Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, and LaVyrle Spencer. MORNING GLORY will probably always be my all-time favorite romance. I love how she creates amazing, flawed, every day characters and shows their growth through both subtle and unimaginable conflict. Some newer favorites are Molly O’Keefe (M. O’Keefe) and Charlotte Stein.
Lastly, Harper, what advice would you share with aspiring authors?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, and don’t give up. Listen to advice about improving your craft, but don’t let the fact that there’s no market for your work stop you. Keep writing and good things can happen. You only fail when you stop.
For more great information about Harper, visit her website www.harperstgeorge.com to stay up to date on her books. You can also join her newsletter for announcements, exclusives, and first looks: http://eepurl.com/bo04hL