How did you decide to be an author?
I applied to be a pirate, but they said I’d be better suited for this.

C’mon, really. How’d you become an author?
I’ve always written for my supper in one form or another, either as a journalist, a tech writer, or a marketing geek crafting newsletters, brochures, and web copy. But it wasn’t until 2002 that it dawned on me to try my hand at fiction. My book club read an abysmally bad romance novel by a famous author, and I remember smacking it on the table and declaring that if that crap could get published, so could I.

Cue the maniacal laughter, followed by a patronizing sigh of, “oh, honey—easier said than done.”

Really? Can you describe your path to publication?
I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. Rather than kill you, I should probably point you to this blog post, where I wrote about the whole saga shortly after signing my three-book romantic comedy deal with Sourcebooks. It’s long. You might want to grab a snack.

Can I tell you my story idea and you write it and we’ll split the money?
If there’s one thing authors have in spades, it’s poor hygiene. Wait, that wasn’t the answer to this question.

If there’s one thing authors have in spades, it’s ideas. Those are a dime a dozen. Finding the time, patience, and skill to put your butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and words on the page is the real challenge.

So was that a yes?
Here, have a glass of wine.

Can you give me some writing advice?
You’ll find tons of it on my blog, but here are links to some of my more popular posts:

Will you read my query, manuscript, or palm?
I’m one of many volunteer judges each year in the Golden Rose Contest, and an enthusiastic reader for my critique partners. Sadly, I don’t have the time or bandwidth to tackle more than that. I also don’t have the talent to read your palm, though I can read your mind and know you’re kind of a pervert. Can we be friends?

You mentioned critique partners—how did you find yours?
I blog frequently about my critique partners and beta readers, and you’ll find a collection of those posts here. All three of my beta readers are longtime friends and former co-workers with eagle eyes and a love of reading.

My three critique partners are fellow writers (two published, one not) who can not only pick out problems with my manuscripts, but offer suggestions for fixing them. I met one critique partner in an online writers’ forum, one through my agent, and one at a former job when we both decided to try our hand at writing novels. In general, writers’ groups and online forums dedicated to your genre of choice make great spots to find critique partners and beta readers. This post will give you more info about how to find critique partners of your own.

Where do you get your inspiration as a writer?
A few years ago, I attended a professional luncheon. When I discovered a piece of gristle in a bite of chicken, I politely spit it in my napkin and forgot about it. When I opened my napkin, I watched in horror as the gristle tumbled into the trendy designer handbag of the woman next to me. I made several covert attempts to fish the gristle out of her purse, but had to abandon my effort when she grew suspicious I was trying to rob her.

That sort of thing happens to me on a daily basis, and it’s the best explanation I can give you for why I’m inspired to write comedy.

As for the romance part of the romantic comedy, that’s pretty much my favorite thing in the whole wide world. Besides, I feel it’s my moral obligation to thoroughly research and test any sex scene I write. I owe it to you as a reader. You’re welcome.

I want to be an author. How do I start?
Step 1: Read. Read everything you can get your hands on, from fiction to non-fiction, true crime to literary fiction to the back of your cereal box. Never, ever stop.

Step 2: Write. Revise. Write some more. Throw it away and start over. Keep writing. Show it to some friends. Rewrite. Join a local writing group and find some critique partners. Revise again, and know there’s no shame in chucking everything and starting again (statistically speaking, it takes seven tries to write a publishable book. You’ll find my thoughts on that statistic here). Whatever you do, keep writing.

Step 3: Begin crafting your query letter. To learn how to do this, visit Query Shark and read every post, start to finish. Learning how to succinctly describe your book and entice someone to read more will be useful whether you’re querying agents, editors, or simply writing promotional copy for self-published work.

Step 4: Compile a list of potential agents and begin querying. You’ll find plenty of options at AgentQuery.com. Can you become an author without an agent? Absolutely. Plenty of authors do it. Would I recommend it? I’d sooner cut off my nipples with a rusty fork and soak my chest in grapefruit juice.

Step 5: Steel yourself for a roller coaster ride of rejections and requests, rewrites and giddy hope, gushing feedback and unanswered emails. You’ll learn the patience of Job and earn the hide of a rhino. Wine helps.

Step 6: Celebrate, cry, fume, shriek, pout, wallow, dance, or do whatever you need to do to handle whatever the final response may be. Then put your clothes back on, park your butt in your chair, and do it all over again.