Wednesday, September 12, 2007

BookEnds Talks to Maya Reynolds

Maya Reynolds
Bad Girl
Publisher: NAL Heat
Pub Date: September 2007
Agent: Jacky Sach

(Click to Buy)

Maya Reynolds has had a varied career path on her way to becoming an author. She trained to be a teacher and later became a stockbroker, but quit after ten years to return to graduate school. She became a psychiatric social worker and eventually took charge of operations for the public mental health system of Dallas.

Maya called upon her experiences to write her first novel—a contemporary erotic thriller titled Bad Girl.

Author blog:

Bad Girl: Sandy Davis told herself that her hobby of spying on neighbors in the high-rise across the street was just a game; it didn’t hurt anyone. No one knew. Until the night the phone call came . . .

“You’ve been a bad girl.”

He calls himself Justice. He has a pastime, too. Watching Sandy watch others. He has the photos to prove it. Now it’s his turn to play—by making Sandy pay the price in exchange for holding on to her naughty little secret.

As the sensual dance between two strangers begins, so does Sandy’s fear that she’s moving closer to the edge of extreme desire—and inescapable danger.

BookEnds: Where did the idea for this story come from?
Maya: I’ve always loved edgy thrillers, and I was looking for a storyline that would combine a hot romance and a suspenseful plot. Sandy’s peeping begins after her boyfriend dumps her, leaving her feeling vulnerable. Now she’s caught up in a situation spiraling out of her control.

Writing the novel offered me the opportunity to explore the boundaries of passion and intimacy with a likeable heroine and the man who both excites and terrifies her.

BookEnds: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Maya: Begin early to think of yourself as a professional. When you do that, you make different decisions than you do when you think of writing as your hobby. You begin to set regular times aside to write, and you don’t allow yourself to be distracted by friends, email, and phone calls. During my writing time, I don’t answer the phone or read emails. I’m on the job, and I respect that time.

BookEnds: What else did you do right on your way to being published?
Maya: I started my list of possible agents very early—while I was still writing my first manuscript. By the time I was ready to query, I had a list of agents I’d researched and whom I knew could do a great job of representing me.

Another thing I did right was to research the publishing industry. I learned who the publishers were, how to avoid getting scammed, and the terms that the professionals used to describe the business.

BookEnds: Did you make any mistakes?
Maya: I can think of a couple: First, I waited too long to join professional organizations like RWA and Sisters-in-Crime. The workshops and networking opportunities are invaluable. And, second, I waited until I finished my first manuscript to look for critique partners. The time to find critique partners is while you’re writing your manuscript, not after you’ve finished it.

Feel free to ask Maya questions in the comments section. She’ll pop in during the day to answer them.


Marie Tuhart said...

Hi Maya,

Loved Bad Girl. Is your next book planned yet? And if so can you tell us a bit about it?

How much time per week do you spend writing?

Sloane Taylor said...

Hi Maya!

My copy of Bad Girl is on its way from Amazon and I can't wait to read it.

How do you maintain the discipline to stick with your self imposed schedule to write?

What about those days you'd rather stick your head in the oven then type out one more word?

Anonymous said...

Hi Maya. Thanks for letting us ask you questions.

1) How long does it take you, from start to finish to be "done" enough with a book before sending it to your agent?

2) Do you outline and how much of the text, character arcs, etc, get changed from the outline to the finished version of the book?

3) How long do you let an idea percolate before actually creating a new file and typing "Chapter One."

Thanks and I wish you many sales.

Maya Reynolds said...

Hi, Marie: Thanks for stopping by.

I've actually got two books in process right now. The one that I'm focussing on finishing is another contemporary erotic thriller. This time I'm exploring the older woman/younger man theme.

When I was writing full time, I averaged 10K words a week. These days, I have a lot more pressures on my time, and I shoot for 6,250. That's five pages a day Monday through Friday.

Since I start my writing week on Monday, if I don't reach my goal by Friday, I have to forego play time (hanging out with friends or going to the movies or just reading for fun) on the weekend to focus on finishing my alloted words.

Maya Reynolds said...

Hi, Sloane: Thanks for your question. And double thanks for ordering BAD GIRL.

It's hard. I'm working full-time now, trying to promote the book that's out and maintain a blog in addition to living a life.

One of the things that helps is that I write in the same place all the time. That way, when I sit down, I get right to business.

Since I get up at 5:00 AM, I can work from then to 6:45 when I need to get ready for work. I don't push myself to write in the evenings UNLESS I'm really anxious to do so. Then the words flow. I usually write a couple of nights a week and at least a few hours on the weekend.

I try not to force myself to write. That's one of the reasons I give myself a goal in words instead of hours. If I can't bear to write, I research, blog or do something else related to my writing career.

Critique partners are another key component for me. I'm enormously lucky to have a group of great CPs. They act as cheerleaders, and they also kick me in the rear when I'm shirking. That outside motivation helps.

Maya Reynolds said...

Hi, Anonymous: Thanks for the good wishes.

BAD GIRL started out as a 45K word novella back in 2005. I began it in an online class I was taking. Since I was working on another novel at the time, I went back to the story whenever I was looking for a break. I think it took about four months to finish.

When NAL (a division of Penguin) offered a contract, they wanted a minimum of another 20K words. It was harder to weave the new words in than it would have been to write from scratch. That took another four months.

I'm a confirmed pantser (writing by the seat of my pants). I get an idea and usually sit right down to write the first few pages. Since I don't have anything worked out, I include a HUGE amount of backstory in the first three chapters. I've learned to let myself do it because that's my equivalent of warming up to the story.

Then I find the place where the action starts, lop off the backstory, put it in a folder for reference and get on with the story.

I'm not recommending this process. However, it works for me :)

Anonymous said...

As a fellow SinC/Guppy member, I've looked forward to the release of your novel. I'm going to buy it right now!

I appreciate hearing how you balance a full-time job with the writing. I struggle with that too. And as a writer who's unpublished/agented, I tend to take a "hobby atittude" sometimes. And that's when my productivity falls.

Sherrill Quinn said...

I'm so thrilled your first book is out--it's a great read! I've been impressed with your professional attitude and no-nonsense approach to this business from the start. I know how hard it is to work full-time and try to write--you're an inspiration. :) Unlike you, though, I find I do most of my writing on the weekend, when I have more energy, than trying to do it after work.

Maya Reynolds said...

Anonymous: It's good to see a Sisters-in-Crime member and a Guppy at that. For those of you who are not familiar with the Guppies, they are the "Great Unpublished" of the Sisters-in-Crime organization.

It is tough to hold down a full-time job and write, too. If you are serious about your writing, it is exactly like a second full-time job. You have to be ruthless about guarding your time. I used to put together critique groups for the Guppies, I used to sit on the board of my local writers' group, I was a founder and membership chair of the RWA Passionate Ink chapter. No more. Once I went back to work (I needed the medical insurance), I became utterly immune to outside pleas for my time.

Like everything else in life, it's about choices. We make time for what's important to us.

Maya Reynolds said...

Sherrill: It's good to see you.

There's no right way. We each have to find what works for us. You do more on a weekend than most people do in a week.

Maria Zannini said...

Loved BAD GIRL! Just loved it. You have a real talent for page turners.

Combining erotica with suspense was a true brainchild too.

You had me glued to the last page.

Well done, Maya!

Kate Douglas said...

Maya, your book sounds like something I definitely need to find--congrats on your success and I hope the day will come soon where you can ditch the day job and write full time. It makes life a lot less complicated! Best of luck to you.

Maya Reynolds said...

Wow, thanks, Maria!!!

Do me a favor and go over to Amazon and say that [grin].

Maya Reynolds said...

Kate: Coming from you, that's a real compliment. I love your Wolf Tales!!! Thanks.

Kate Douglas said...

Thanks, Maya! Trust me, there is no better life than that of a writer... once you can accept the totally neurotic aspects of the writer personality! Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Maya, I love hearing about a writer's journey to publication. I appreciate so much that you shared this with the rest of us. I also work full time (and often overtime) and am just as ruthless about my writing time shutting off phones to prevent distractions; hence I'm not blogging too often either, but I try to catch some of this activity when a free moment avails itself. Congratulations on your success Maya! May the day come soon where you can leave your job and concentrate on your career. And Kate - I'm so jealous! :-). I so look forward to the day when I can write full time. That day will arrive! I'm keeping focused!


Anonymous said...

The book sounds great! I've put it on order.

The time to find critique partners is while you’re writing your manuscript, not after you’ve finished it.

Now this, to me, is a very interesting statement, because my experience is the opposite. I've seen a lot of writers who have lost their "vision" because of critiques from workshoppers, creative writing teachers or what not. I think there's a big risk of these new, insecure writers losing the Voice and vision of their MSs if they share them so soon, and I tend to try an caution them to listen to their own voices first. Have I been wrong all this time? :-) What is your opinion on the issue?


The Belle in Blue said...

I'm loving BAD GIRL, Maya. Your blog also never fails to entertain and inform. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Hi Maya,
I'm in the process of researching Literary Agents after completing my first manuscript. I have two other books that I'm working on.

Do you have any pointers to help in my researching Agents and is it a must to join RWA and other writer's associations?

I also write by the seat of my pants and rarely have an outline. Have you ever felt you needed to outline your plots before starting your writing process.


Maya Reynolds said...

Zee: Thank you for your kind words. I wish you the best on your writers' journey.

Maya Reynolds said...

Selene: That's an excellent point, and I'm glad you made it because it is VERY important that every writer find the right critique partners.

You must have confidence in your CPs and know that they have your best interests in mind.

I was very flattered some years ago to be invited to join a closed critique group that was known for being extremely professional. When they had an opening, writers competed to join by submitting copies of their work, which the group then voted upon.

Within a couple of months of joining, I realized I'd made a dreadful mistake. The power struggles within the group had a couple of writers competing to each be the most clever (and the most cutting) in their evaluations of work. In other words, they weren't thinking about what was best for the writer. It was not a safe place.

The group was shocked when I resigned, but another writer resigned within weeks of my leaving.

Select your CPs carefully and then nurture the relationships. I've only met two of my five CPs. We live all over the country and do our critiques online. However, I am confident they have my best interests at heart, and I trust their judgment. I also know their prejudices and strength and take those into account when I read their critiques.

Hope this helps.

Maya Reynolds said...

Belle: Thank you so much. That's very kind.

Maya Reynolds said...

Jackie: If you are ready to seek agent representation, you might consider joining Publishers Marketplace. They have one of the most comprehensive databases of agents around. It's not cheap: $20 a month. I joined three years ago, intending to cancel my subscription after a couple of months. That was three years ago, and I still subscribe because I'm addicted to their daily newsletter. You can research agents by whom they represent, by the genre, or by the sales they've recently made.

My personal opinion is that every writer needs to belong to at least one professional organization. The networking opportunities are extremely helpful for newbie writers. I learned so much from my local RWA chapter. The writers there were extremely generous. Three of the published writers gave me critiques. It was ugly :) but extraordinarily helpful.

I did an outline when I had to expand BAD GIRL, but I'm not an outline type person. I have used storyboarding to help me. If you're interested, check out my blog for August 20, 2006 where I talked about storyboarding. Here's the link which you'll need to cut and paste:

Good luck in your endeavors.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your response! Some crit groups can certainly be destructive. Unfortunately, on the path to finding the right crit partners, one generally has to go through a lot that don't fit first.