At one of this year’s panels, an unexpected guest, New York Times bestselling author Dianna Love, sat incognito in the audience. Winner of a Daphne du Maurier Award, an RWA Golden Heart, and a Rita Award for Best Romantic Suspense, Love has co-written two of the BADD Agency books—Phantom in the Night and Whispered Lies—with her famous friend, Sherrilyn Kenyon. They’re also hard at work on Beladore, a new urban fantasy series, and Love is collaborating with Wes Sarginson on a mainstream thriller set in Philadelphia. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the Daily Dragon.
Daily Dragon: How did you end up collaborating with Kenyon on the BADD Agency books?
Dianna Love: It’s hard to be out on the road with the kind of fan base that Sherri has, so we started touring together. We were in a hotel room at two o’clock in the morning after some signing in the middle of nowhere, talking about [her] books… We brainstormed this huge thing, and she’s like, “Good grief, let’s do it together.” And I said, “Well, let me think about this. Number one bestselling author in the country on just about everything you touch. Hmm, my momma drowned the dumb kids…so…let’s think about it. I don’t want anything to affect our friendship.
We’re very different. She’s a seat-of-the-pants writer, a pantser, and I’m more of a plotter or a hybrid. I do some seat-of-the-pants, but I like to plot out big, complicated threads and twists. She writes until four in the morning, I get up at four in the morning. She’s a vampire, and I’m the morning kid. She’s always been Goth, and I’ve always been business. But we seem to have a high respect for each other, and we’re very close. We decided we would try one [book], and if we were still speaking at the end of it, we’d write some more. It worked out really well. We’ve been having a great time. The BADD Agency series has taken off. We love it.
DD: According to your website, the BADD Agency series consists or four books so far, three of which you’ve co-written with Kenyon. What’s next for the series?
DL: We’re talking right now about the next ones, because it’s a big turning point in the books. The last book—if I say much, I’ll give away spoilers—but…we have some really interesting things coming up in the next couple of books.
DD: Do you have a certain number of books planned for the series?
DL: Actually, we’ve got several major arcs, but the one thing we will do on that series, is when it seems as if it’s reached its potential, we will close that series out. Things develop as you’re writing…but you can tell when you’re stretching it out just to add another book, and we don’t want to do that. So when the times comes—it’s got like two major turns for sure coming up that are eight or nine books apart at the time—but I don’t want it to go forever, and it be one of those, “when are they going to end it?” I know what the end is, but I can’t tell you. [laugh]
DD: You’re working on the next one now?
DL: Yes. We’re working on that and the next Beladore.
DD: Can you tell us a little about the origin of the Beladore series?
DL: This past year we’d been talking about doing something paranormal that didn’t compete with [her] Dark-Hunters… I’ve got this urban fantasy that I’d worked on about six years ago. Two [publishing] houses looked at it, but they didn’t know what to do with it, how to market it. I sold a novella off it to St. Martin. We had a great response when that came out at the end of 2008, beginning of 2009. The fan response was good, and urban fantasy—I don’t want to say it grew up, but it developed over the last three or four years into something different than it was four or five years ago.
I tell writers all the time, sometimes you just have to wait until something hits a timeframe for your writing. I had put it aside and moved on and kept working on other things, but it was always the baby. I saw urban fantasy growing up in this past year, and I thought maybe it was time for Beladore, since we had such a good response to it. So when this came up, I told Sherri, “Well, you brought me onto BADD Agency—you want to write with me on Belador?” And she said, “Yeah, I love your Beladore.” So we started working on it, developing it into a bigger world than the one I had to begin with. We’re launching it this October.
DD: What do you have planned for Beladore?
DL: It’s an urban fantasy on steroids, an urban thriller…a paranormal thriller. There’s a romantic angle in it, but it’s very much straight urban fantasy. It’s interesting, it’s different. And it’s set in Atlanta.
It’s built around three characters. One of them will start off being the strongest, and the beginning one is Evalle Kincaid. But it’s Evalle, Sader, and Quinn, two guys and a girl. If you remember years back, there was the Mod Squad, and that always stuck in the back of my mind. So when this came up about the urban fantasy, and everybody says, “We have this one character, and it’s always her life and her arc.” I missed that whole thing with the three people.
Now, they’re not romantic interests with each other. They’re good friends…and they’re all working with each other—sometimes a little bit in conflict, but there’s a central connection between the three of them. They were introduced in my first novella, [the] Beladore novella, in Dead After Dark… They’ve got a lot of attitude, and they’ve all got their own story. At the beginning of Blood Trinity, the entire opening shows you why the three come together. It’s a high-action opening. Those three will be all the way through the series. It is their series, but it’s strongest with Evalle right now.
DD: You were a sign painter at one time. How did you get into such an unusual career?
DL: When I hit 17, my mother died…and I ended up living out on my own. I was working three jobs and a full-time job besides those. I started [sign painting] on the side—any time I had an hour or two that I was awake and wasn’t working—I started looking for sign work.
I started building a company, and by the end of that year, I’d replaced a couple of those jobs with the sign business. Within another year, I had a full time sign business. I developed it in Florida and then moved up here and expanded. I was doing the master artist work for outdoor companies—3M National, Foster and Kleiser—big companies like that. I used to climb up 100 feet up on all the signs around town.
DD: When did you decide to start writing?
DL: Actually, I’ve been doing it for over 25 years…I used to sit up on a billboard all day…from five o’clock in the morning till eight o’clock at night, by myself. That was before iPods…so I did a lot of thinking. I’m a big reader, a voracious reader. I started coming up with ideas to keep myself amused, and I’d think, “Well, that’s kind of an interesting idea. I’ll write it down and give to an author.” I thought surely they run out of ideas…and I’d give it to them, being a generous person. [laugh].
So I’d be sitting there writing it…and the more I got into it, I thought, “Oh…well, that needs to be fleshed out. It should have more information.” And the next thing I was trying to figure out how to write a book…and I got hooked on it. I want to do something I’m passionate about. If I hadn’t been really passionate about it, I wouldn’t have stuck with it for more than three months because my attention span is…I want to try this, I want to try that. It just took over my life, every minute.
In fact, I was doing a big project for the Red Sox up in Fenway. They wanted [a sign] for John Hancock…that’s why, over the scoreboard, there’s a huge John Hancock [signature] in 25-foot tall by 75-foot letters. I wrote my first book in that stadium while we built those projects. That’s when I started writing.
The year I finaled for the [RWA] Golden Heart and the Daphne du Maurier, I was in downtown Woodruff…where the big Coke sign is. If you go to the link with my art productions website, you’ll see the signs. So we’re on top of the building, I’ve got three crews running, and I stop everybody because I get the call from the Daphnes. “Hold everything! Oh my gosh, I won a Daphne!” And they’re cheering, even though they don’t know what it is.
Last year I came home…in between being on the road and going back out, and I had a week. I went to Alabama and painted a brick wall for Coke. My husband’s like, “You have to stop!” That was a big thing. It’s kind of like, “I’ve worked all my life to build this!” So I got all my 3-D’s set up with everybody, I got a great master artist who does a lot of the painting now…and the only thing we’ve really kept are two big Coke projects that we do the maintenance on here… So now I’m full-time writing.
DD: You’ve also co-written Break into Fiction, with Mary Buckham. What inspired the joint effort?
DL: When I first started writing…people would say, “You should write articles,” and I’m, “Who am I to write an article?” And then…I got a burr up my butt about the fact that people would ask someone to critique but say, “Oh, but be nice.” Yeah, somebody should be professional and positive…but they didn’t want to even hear anything negative.
So I wrote this article that said: don’t be nice to me. Be fair, be honest, but those of you who say be nice, think about the fact that this person just spent the time to read your book to give you something to make it better. If you’re going to get your feelings hurt or insulted, then let you mother read it.
I wrote that article, and it got picked up by every chapter in the country for the newsletter. After that, I went to some small chapters where they couldn’t afford to bring in a lot of people, and I thought, “You know, I can at least share what a year of writing is.” So I started developing programs. I’m very analytical.
So you fast forward a couple of years… I got this call from Murder in the Grove, from Boise Idaho. They wanted me to be on a panel. I went there, and Mary was on the panel. We hit it off—one of those rare clicks, we’re both very analytical—and we started working on the Break into Fiction program.
We were working on this plotting program…building something for us. We wanted to know the power points of building a stronger novel. If you want to be productive in this business, you need to have your seed idea and premise, and then you need to know how to move from A to B to C and get to the end and have power all the way through your story. We were really doing that for us. We eventually wrote the program and book that we wish we’d had in the beginning… We’ve got enough [material] for another book, and no time to do it.
DD: Are you doing any workshops in the near future?
DL: I’m only doing two more major workshops. Mary’s doing some over the next few years, but I’m doing the Dallas Area Romance authors, and then next September, I’m doing a full day program, which is something we just developed this year as a power writing day that we did in Georgia that was just awesome—we had a ball with it. We’re doing that in Portland, Oregon. Other than that, I’m not really doing the writing workshops because I don’t have the time… That’s why we wrote the book.
DD: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
DL: Figure out what your process is. Don’t worry if your best friend is a plotter, and the best writer in the writing group is a pantser, or somebody hangs up tip sheets on the wall and the other person writes them on the floor. Figure out your process, and believe in your story…and be open to good suggestions to make it better. Always listen with an open mind, but once you have your process, don’t worry so much about it.
I see too many people worry about their process… Sherri and I have two entirely different processes, and it works for both of us. And it even works when we put it together, amazingly.
DD: Thank you. We hope you’ve had a great time here at Dragon*Con.
|Debbie Yutko lives near Atlanta with her husband, two children, and two cats. When she isn’t gardening, rescuing homeless kittens, or cramming never-to-be-used-again math formulas into teenagers’ brains, she can be found stringing words together at her computer and dreaming of adventures in far-off lands. She is a lifelong reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy and a veteran attendee of Dragon*Con, where she enjoys attending panels and working with the talented staff of the Daily Dragon.|