I first met Theresa Rizzo on the phone. She called me to tell me I had won the Sandy Writing Contest for the mystery category for my novel, Blessed are the Dead.
She was encouraging and sweet and terrific and I had hoped to go to the Sandy Writing Conference in person to receive my award and be on a panel and meet Theresa.
Unfortunately, my finances didn’t allow me to do that, but I never forgot Theresa and was thrilled to see she had a new book out. Here she talks all kinds of good and helpful writerly stuff. Enjoy!
1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?
I should write every day—wince—I don’t. My books require a LOT of research and I’m a binge writer. I’m one of those who gets an idea, does just enough research to plot it out, writes the REALLY (obscenely) rough draft in 4-6mos, then spend 6mos researching and rewriting and reworking the story dozens of times.
2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?
I’ve never gotten writers block. I have a structured process of writing. I outline everything, but allow for flashes of brilliance that sometimes come with the research. I have struggled to think of a next book. I’m not one of those authors who has dozens of story ideas floating around in her head—I’m actually jealous of those writers—and a little frightened of them, I think. Their heads must be a scary place to be.
Anyhow, I have to be fascinated with my story to stick with it for as long as it takes me to write it, so sometimes it’s tough to find something to inspire me, but most of my stories come from the news and current events.
3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?
James Scott Bell and Donald Maass are two of the very best teachers of craft that always come to mind—though there are plenty of wonderful teachers to be found at writers conferences. But they top my list.
4. Who do you read for fun?
I read outside my genre for fun mostly. I love regencies, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, historical romance . . . ahh . . . suspense like Harlan Coben . . . The Hunger Game and Harry Potter series’ were brilliant, of course . . . To be honest, I read current authors—regardless of genre—whose writing skill I admire in hopes of learning from them and improving in my craft while I’m being entertained.
5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.
I had no career ambitions. I always wanted to be the perfect stay-at-home mother and wife—at least that’s what I thought I wanted. Unfortunately, midway through raising my four kids, I was shocked and disheartened to find I wanted more from life. And let’s face it . . . parenting is HARD –often thankless—work. I got burned out.
Friends and family really enjoyed my annual Christmas letter where I recounted our family exploits, so I thought maybe I would try writing a book. It was something fun I could do around the children’s schedules.
Learning to write was doing something intellectual and creative, and it allowed me to breathe again and find me. Writing fed my soul and allowed me to be a happier person, hence a better mom and wife. It was a win-win.
6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Be patient, realistic and put in your time. Learning the craft and business of writing isn’t easy, but it should be fun. If it’s not fun—don’t do it. There are over 200,000 fiction books world-wide published each year (the real estimate may be closer to 400,000). Less than 600 fiction writers can make a living at writing. You can’t be in it for the money—because for most of us . . . there won’t be any appreciable money. So you’ve got to do it ‘cause you love to write.
Go to writers conferences and learn through the workshops. Join writers groups and get support and feedback. Critique groups work great for most writers. Test your work in writing contests. Pay your dues. Educate yourself. But mostly, have FUN.
Before I published, I made a video the celebrate the real blessing in my writing journey—for me . . . it’s all about the wonderful writers I’ve met and friends I’ve made. Even if I never make the bestseller list or recoup the hefty financial investment I’ve made in my writing career over the past 18years . . . I’ll never regret becoming a writer because of the awesome times spent at writers conferences and the amazing people I’ve met on this journey.
7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?
Wow, that’s a great question. I don’t believe there’s a single magic skill to guarantee success. I think you have to resilient, humble, and giving—and it doesn’t hurt to have some innate talent.
If you want to become a commercial success, you’re plunging into the uber competitive entertainment industry. And subjectivity RULES. Every successful author has weathered plenty of rejections, set-backs, and disappointments. You have to be resilient.
You have to be humble. You have to be willing and able to put your ego aside and be able to take criticism. It’s not easy, but my mantra is try to be open to everything that strengthens the story. If it makes my story (or my writing) better, I’m probably going to give it a try.
And be generous. Volunteer. Mentor other writers. Help other people. What goes around comes around. Karma can be a beautiful thing.
8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?
I love cheese . . and chicken—oh and BACON. Not all together—though that could be good too. I don’t really have a favorite drink.
9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?
One of my favorite movies is The Guardian with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. I like a lot of romantic comedies. No single favorite book—too many great books to have a favorite.
10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?
Yup, my second women’s fiction book, Just Destiny, is released March 31st. Just Destiny is a love story wrapped in a courtroom drama. People who enjoy Jodi Picoult’s issues and Nicholas Sparks love stories, will probably enjoy Just Destiny.
What would you do if your whole world fell apart?
Jenny Harrison made some poor choices in the past, but marrying Gabe was the best thing she’d ever done. They had the perfect marriage, until a tragic accident leaves Gabe brain dead and her world in ruins.
Devastated by grief, she decides to preserve the best of their love by conceiving his child, but Gabe’s family is adamantly opposed, even willing to chance exposing long-held family secrets to stop her. Caught in a web of twisted motives and contentious legal issues, Jenny turns to best friend and attorney, Steve Grant. Steve wants to help Jenny, but he has reservations and secrets of his own.
When something so private and simple turns public and complicated, will Jenny relent? What is Steve willing to sacrifice to help Jenny?
I like my romances, with a little something extra, what about you? What’s your favorite genre-mixing combo, or are you a purest?
You can find Theresa on the web at www.theresarizzo.com, or connect with her on Facebook, twitter or Goodreads. You can pre-order Just Destiny at. Amazon Barnes & Noble, iBookstore & Smashwords