Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Author Interview: Romy Sommer

Today I have the privilege of welcoming the talented author Romy Sommer to my blog. Romy has graciously agreed to provide some insight into her writing processes and help aspiring authors any way she can. Romy is the founder of ROSA (Romance Writers Organization of South Africa) and I'm pleased to say, also the organizer of the first ROSA conference in Johannesburg in October 2014.

What genre do you write in? Any specific reason why you chose the genre?
I write contemporary romance. My books started as straightforward romances and gradually have grown a little more humorous and a little more like fairy tales over the years. I love to write light-hearted, modern stories that are upbeat.

Where do you get the ideas for your books? How do you go from idea to outline?
Ideas are everywhere. I’ve had stories spring from a song, a dream, a headline at the side of the road, a blog post that got me thinking about something… and the ideas keep coming as I’m writing and researching. Usually when I get a new idea, I jot it down in a notebook then let it sit for a while so it can grow, rising like yeasty bread. Once the idea has substance I start to add other ideas to it. Again, songs, other books I read, movies I watch all help me to flesh out the characters and the plot, right up until I type The End.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
A bit of both. I love Blake Snyder’s beatsheet, and I tend to plot my story around the turning points at 25, 50% and 75% of the story, but the rest is subject to change without notice as I’m writing.

If you are a plotter, how thoroughly do you outline the plot?
In my earlier days of writing I used to plan meticulously, even down to how many chapters and what would happen in each. These days I let my instincts guide me and I plot a lot less. But I absolutely have to know my characters inside and out before I start the first draft.

Do you use any specific software to outline/plot your novel? If yes, could you give us a couple of advantages and disadvantages of the software or method you use?
Until now I’ve only worked in Word, but I couldn’t do it without the incredibly amazing Document Map feature. I recently viewed a Webinar on Scrivener and I might give that program a shot for my next book.

If you have to choose only one element (setting/ character development/ structure/ conflict/ etc.) that is absolutely essential to every novel you’ve written, what would it be? Why?
Without a doubt, character. These are the people through whom the readers experience the story, and whether they’re likable and relatable is the difference between a reader turning the pages or throwing the book against the wall. Also, the characters’ journeys are what determine the conflicts and the plot, so for me character is always the starting place.

How much time do you spend on getting to know your characters before you start the first draft? Why?
I spend quite a bit of time up front doing biographies of my characters, and finding pictures of celebrities who might match the images in my head. I also research where they live, their jobs, any major experiences they might have had in their lives. Then I decorate the pinboard next to my desk with pictures, maps, inspiration for the characters and their surroundings, any pertinent props etc. (check out my Pinterest boards to see the kind of pictures I assemble). This can take a good few weeks before I start writing their story.

What is the single most important thing a writer must do before he/she starts writing the first draft? Why?
As I’ve said above, I think the writer should know their characters, their world view and their GMC (goals, motivation and conflicts) before starting the first draft.

What is your writing process like? Do you finish the first draft and then start editing or do you edit while you write? Is there any specific reason why you do it like that?
In the past I have written fast, but very, very rough first drafts and gone back to edit them later. These days I follow a very slow, linear process, editing as I write. I start at page 1, chapter 1, and move slowly forward, occasionally going back to add in a line or two that supports what I’m writing now. By the end I tend to have a very clean first draft. I then get one of my CPs or a beta reader to do a quick once over, then I do another complete pass (all in one go if I can so I can view the book as a whole) and then I send it off to my editor.

Do you only self-edit or hire a professional editor? Why?
I am a pretty ruthless self-editor, but there is no way I would publish anything without professional eyes first taking a look. It is way too easy for the writer to miss stuff because they’re too close to the story. Also, professional editors not only see the story objectively, but bring a wealth of knowledge and market understanding to the table.

If you hire a professional editor, can you recommend anyone and state the reason/s why this person is recommendable?
I’ve worked with two freelance editors and loved the experience of working with both of them. Cindy Davis, the Fiction Doctor, is a wonderful editor who has worked with a few of my CPs as well, and Nan Swanson (who was my editor at The Wild Rose Press) has also been tremendously helpful and encouraging.

How many drafts do you write before submitting to publishers?
These days my first draft is pretty close to the final draft, but I try to do at least one or two more passes over it before submitting. For a newbie submitting to the slush pile though, I’d recommend at least 2 rounds of editing, with long breaks in between so you can gain distance and objectivity.

Do you submit to multiple publishers at the same time or stick to one?
When I first started submitting I only submitted to one at a time, since those were the accepted rules. Also, there were fewer romance publishers in the game back then.

These days I think publishers have become less rigid, so uncontracted authors can get away with submitting to a couple of publishers at the same time. I wouldn’t recommend blanket submitting, though. Choose the one or two publishers you really want to work with and target them first.

I now write under contract for my publisher, Harper Impulse, so at least I’m saved the worry of wondering where to submit and whether they’ll want me. The wait times are still a killer, though!

What is your greatest consideration when selecting a publisher? 
Writers are spoilt for choice these days, but I’d say the most important thing any writer should look for is a good reputation. Check out the Absolute Write website, contact authors already published by that publisher – are they legit, do they treat their authors with respect, do they pay on time?

After that, the next most important thing is the relationship between you and your editor. If the editor understands you and your books, and believes in you, that’ already half the battle won right there.

Lastly, what can the publisher do for you that you can’t do for yourself? If it’s editorial support, or marketing, or getting your name into a new market, then pick a publisher that is strong in that area and will offer you what you need.

These days you don’t need to be locked into one publisher for life, so it is also important to re-look your relationship with your publisher every few years. Is it time to move on to a new publisher with a different skill set, are you ready now to venture into self publishing, or are you still happy with your current publisher?

If you have to give one sentence advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Don’t give up.

Could you please give us a list of your published books and a short blurb about each one? Please state the publisher and year published as well.

I have two contemporary romances published by Harper Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins, with a third out soon.

Waking up in Vegas was published in May 2013The Trouble with Mojitos in October 2013To Catch a Star releases on 25 September 2014.

What happens in Vegas…

Waking up to the bright lights of Vegas in an unfamiliar penthouse suite, cocktail waitress Phoenix Montgomery finds she’s covered from head to foot in gold glitter and not alone – aside from the empty bottle of champagne, there’s a mystery man in the shower and a huge sparkly ring on her finger!

Stays in Vegas?

There’s no denying Max Waldburg’s demi-god sex appeal but commitment-phobic Phoenix doesn’t do relationships. Only it seems her new husband (agh!) has other ideas…he’s trying to keep that ring on her finger and his wife firmly back in his bed. The only question on her lips is – why? Or maybe, why not?

Waking up in Vegas is published by Harper Impulse, a division of Harper Collins, and is available from the following online retailers:

Turquoise blue waters. Sandy white beaches. Mojitos... Film location scout Kenzie Cole has found herself in paradise. Working in the Caribbean for a week is just what she needs to escape the long line of exes in her closet. Though the last thing she expects is to be picked up at the resort bar by a disgraced former Prince!

Luckily for Kenzie, exile is suiting the man formerly known as Prince Fredrik very well. And it’s not long before his rugged, pirate charm is proving hard to resist.

But Rik’s been spending his time in paradise exorcising demons of his own and he has danger written all over him. If Kenzie was sensible she’d run a mile instead of lose herself to lust - although, they do say sometimes you have to get lost before you can be found....

The Trouble with Mojitos is published by Harper Impulse, a division of Harper Collins, and is available from the following online retailers:

‘A fairy-tale romance to warm even the coldest of hearts.’ Chloe’s Chick Lit Reviews

Teresa Adler is the ultimate Ice Princess, with a heart as frozen as the winter landscape of her beloved home, Westerwald. All her life, she’s belonged to the ‘inner circle’ of wealth, privilege and position.

Christian Taylor: Heartthrob. Movie Star. Bad boy. The mischievous actor sets temperatures soaring in the picturesque baroque principality – and with a wicked glint in his eye and a chip on his shoulder he sets his sights on the one thing he’s told he can’t have. Teresa.

While Tessa holds the ultimate clue to the secret of Christian’s parentage, it is the heat of his touch that will make this Ice Princess feel more alive than she ever has before…

To Catch a Star is published by Harper Impulse, a division of Harper Collins, and is available from the following online retailers:

About Romy Sommer
I’ve always written stories for myself, but didn’t even think of being an author until I realised that being over thirty and living in a fantasy world was a little odd. Writing those same stories for other people makes it a lot more acceptable!
By day I dress in cargo pants and boots for my not-so-glamorous job of making movies but at night I come home to my two little Princesses, in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I live, and I get to write Happy Ever Afters. Since I believe every girl is a princess, and every princess deserves a happy ending, what could be more perfect?
You can follow Romy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads or on her website/blog.


  1. Some great tips, Romy! Love this post, Yolande :)

  2. Great post! It's always interesting to see how other authors do things. Thanks Yolande, and Romy.

  3. Sound advice and encouragement. Thank you, Romy! And great interview, Yolande.

  4. Thanks for the comments, ladies, and thanks so much for hosting me here today, Yolande. Hope you all had a great Heritage Day!

  5. Wonderful interview, Romy and Yolande. Thanks for sharing. Romy, congratulations on your new release!

  6. Inspiring to see how many ways the writing process can be managed. Thanks Yolande and Romy :)

  7. Great interview and really good advice Romy. Congratulation on the new book as well.