"Forget Second-Guessing" - How Author Kerri Carpenter Balances Writing and Work
In case you’ve missed all the excitement, Romance Writers of America is publishing their second short-story anthology on September 12, and my story, “The Family Tree,” made the cut.
Trust me, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out. But more about that later.
Being a part of this anthology has allowed me to connect with some amazing writers who are successful, smart, savvy, and talented: individuals from whom I am learning a lot.
Kerri Carpenter is one such author.
Kerri and I met for the first time at the RWA 2017 national conference during a Facebook Live interview in which contributors got together and talked about their stories. And in typical Romancelandia fashion, Kerri was unbelievably sweet and generous. I got to visit with her several times during the conference, where I picked up her book, FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER on a swag table (and which I devoured in less than a week, I might add). I quickly discovered that in addition to her personality, her writing is also full of sparkle.
Kerri also works a full-time day job in the D.C. area. I'm always curious about how writers do this work (the writing bits) in addition to the day job (the work bits that tend to pay the bills), so I picked Kerri’s brain on how she balances working full-time with book contracts, and she graciously shared her insight with me. If you work full time and write in-between, I hope her advice will help you.
I am so honored to share pages with Kerri, so to celebrate her upcoming releases and our shared SECOND CHANCES: A ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA COLLECTION, I’m giving away a copy of FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER to one of my newsletter subscribers on Monday, September 18! Go to http://www.brandiwillisschreiber.com/contact/ to sign up!
AND Kerri is graciously giving away a Kindle copy of FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER to someone who comments on this blog post! (Comment below!)
Kerri, 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! Thanks for having me on your blog today! My name is Kerri Carpenter and I live in Northern Virginia with my super-adorable dog, Harry. Besides being one of Brandi’s co-anthology-authors in SECOND CHANCES: A ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA COLLECTION, I write contemporary romances that are sweet, sexy, and sparkly. Currently, I am right in the middle of a three-book series with Harlequin Special Edition. The series is called Saved by the Blog and the second book, BIDDING ON THE BACHELOR, is out in paperback on September 19 and e-book on October 1!
You've written for several houses and lines: Harlequin Special Edition; Entangled Publishing, Lovestruck; and Soul Mate Publishing. Tell us about your writing path to these opportunities! Have you always written books, or did you start writing something else? How long did it take you to finish your first book and get a contract? What has your writing journey been like?
Whoa! This is a big question. Ha-ha! I’ve wanted to be a writer from a very early age, but it took quite some time to find my niche. I used to write a lot of plays and angsty teenage girl poetry. In college, my mom handed me my first romance novel (it was a Nora Roberts book) and that was that. I knew I would write romance novels.
However, the journey to get published took about 13 years from that point. I can’t even remember how many manuscripts I attempted leading up to selling my first book. I did everything I could to educate myself about the industry and romance writing.
At the end of 2013, everything seemed to come together. I had been submitting a couple different manuscripts to publishers, as well as looking for an agent. I signed with my agent (the lovely and amazing Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency who I signed with due to winning a contest) the same month I was offered a contract from Soul Mate Publishing. The month after that, my agent got me another contract with Entangled Publishing. My first book, FLIRTING WITH THE COMPETITION, came out in October 2014.
I was beyond thrilled to sign with Harlequin Special Edition in early 2016. My first book, FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER, was one of the June 2017 releases.
FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER is a "combination of Gossip Girl and Sabrina." What is it about Gossip Girl and Sabrina that created the perfect inspiration for this series? How does another old favorite, Saved by the Bell, factor into this series, as well?
It’s funny actually. I hadn’t seen Sabrina or Gossip Girl in years! Then, one day I was walking my dog, Harry, and all of a sudden, this idea popped into my head: Sabrina meets Gossip Girl. I can tell you exactly where I was standing. And then I could see the two main characters and the entire town of Bayside as if I’d actually been there. (Yes, Bayside is an homage to my favorite TV show of all time, Saved by the Bell.)
But honestly, I have no idea where these ideas came from. Although, my theory is that I am the most at peace when I’m walking my dog. I think being calm and happy opens up the creativity passages. That still doesn’t explain why Sabrina and Gossip Girl entered my mind. But that may be a mystery for a whole different blog!
I have to mention that Sabrina (1995) is one of my favorite movies of all time. The setting is beautiful, the music is moving, and its theme about finding beauty and seeing people for who they really are (if one only looks close enough) is classic. Plus, it's got a humor that never gets old! When I need a reminder in my writing that it's the way that people change that creates stories, I watch Sabrina. I'm curious: where do you find your writing inspiration? What do you do to help connect you to your characters? Anything special that you do to "refill the well"?
I LOVE Sabrina as well! Both versions. I used to watch the 90s version with Harrison Ford all the time in high school. I loved the part when she went to Paris and found herself. In fact, that’s why I chose to study abroad in Florence. (If you’ve read my first book, you know that Elle studies abroad in Florence as well.)
In terms of connecting with my characters, I don’t write any that I haven’t connected with from the start. I find it too difficult to write them otherwise. And I refill the well (as well as find my inspiration) by spending time with my dog and some of my non-writer friends. Occasionally, I turn to coloring to clear my mind. Also, I find that bubble baths help. And manicures and pedicures. And shopping. And long walks. And pie. Lots of peach pie!
Tell me a little bit about your writing process, Kerri. What does a typical writing day (or hour) look like for you? How do you get started, and when do you know to put down the pen or turn off the computer? Any tips, tricks, or rituals that keep you writing?
Since I have a day job and a fairly active life, it’s really, really difficult to find time for writing. I try to utilize whatever time I can eke out: lunch breaks, nighttime, and definitely my weekends. The Crock-Pot is my friend!
A trick that I’ve learned is to challenge myself to small sprints. On the weekend, I’ll give myself 20 minutes and see how many words I can get out. Then I’ll do a load of laundry or clean something. Then I’ll challenge myself to write more. Once I start daydreaming and/or getting on social media, I know I’m tapped out.
Speaking about a "typical day," you have a full time job in addition to your writing career. So many authors work full time jobs while writing, and so many aspiring authors struggle with this! How do you balance working full time with your writing time and still manage to produce books? What advice would you offer to other writers who also have to balance the stories in their head with full time jobs?
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s tough!!!!!! But I have a couple tips and tricks to offer.
Set your priorities – Day job comes first because it pays the bills. Creating amazing stories is more important than participating in every Facebook party; therefore, writing comes before marketing.
Invest in a Crock-Pot. Seriously. I already stated this once and I can’t relay how much time this can save you.
Ask for help. This is really hard for me. If you have the extra money laying around, get a cleaning person, have your groceries delivered, etc. If not, ask your friends and family to lend a hand. You might be surprised how many people will step forward to assist.
On the flipside, the good part about not having an ample amount of time to write is that I never second guess myself. I don’t agonize over every word and phrase. I just sit down and get it done. Because there’s no extra time for more than that.
Tell us about your latest releases and what readers have to look forward to over the next year, including your story in SECOND CHANCES!
My latest release is BIDDING ON THE BACHELOR, book 2 in the Saved by the Blog series. The gossipy and all-knowing Bayside Blogger is back and this time she’s hounding Jasper Dumont, who readers will remember from book 1. Book 3, BAYSIDE’S MOST UNEXPECTED BRIDE, will come out in December. After that, I will have a whole new series for Harlequin about modern weddings and six friends who are dealing with them.
Not to mention, that both of us were featured in the Romance Writers of America’s second anthology, SECOND CHANCES, which releases September 12! My story is a sweet new adult story about two lifelong best friends who have just graduated from college and return to their hometown for one last party before they depart for their lives as adults. The heroine thinks she’s going to get a second chance with her high school crush. But the hero might just have someone else in mind for her…him!
Lastly, a fun question: Sabrina said, "Paris is always a good idea." What one place in the world would you like to visit, live in, write in if time, money, and transportation were no object? Why?
My family has been going to the same beach in North Carolina since before I was born. My dream is to someday live at that beach, take long walks with Harry, and write write write!
Kerri, it’s been so much fun picking your brain and learning about what – and how – you write! Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions and sharing with readers!
Thank you so much for having me today, Brandi! I’m so glad we got to meet each other at RWA’s annual conference in Orlando. For all the readers out there, I hope you enjoy my stories. Please connect with me on social media. I love hearing from you. For all the writers, don’t ever, ever, ever give up. You CAN do it!
WANT TO WIN A KINDLE COPY OF FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER FROM KERRI HERSELF? LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW BY SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 BY MIDNIGHT to be entered in the drawing!
Connect with Kerri!
Click HERE to sign up for Kerri’s Newsletter!
About Kerri’s next release: BIDDING ON THE BACHELOR
Another roll of the dice
Big news, fair readers! Bayside High's favorite It Girl is back. Would you have bet Carissa Blackwell would ever return? Ten years ago, she crushed Jasper Dumont’s heart under her Jimmy Choos and left town for a bigger, better life. Her return raises one question: What is she running from (or is it to) now?
Perhaps Jasper knows? One look at Carissa and he fell in the bay! (Rich, single and devastatingly handsome, Jasper’s our catch of the day.) That icy plunge should have brought him to his senses, yet “Casper” has been spotted together all over town. Does this mean Bayside’s legendary couple may reunite? The stakes are high, but the Bayside Blogger’s money is riding on love!
Harlequin Page: http://bit.ly/2o8fdUM