Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Mary DeMuth is Jeane T! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (amy@litfusegroup.com)

This week Laura Hilton is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Laura’s latest book, Patchwork Dreams, leave a comment on this post! And if you missed last week’s Amish Wisdom interview with Laura, you can listen here or on iTunes as a free download, here.

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I’m married for almost twenty-five years to Steve. We have five kids, ranging in age from 20 down to 5. I homeschool, and I write in the living room with my family around me. I had to learn to focus!

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

I write contemporary romance and contemporary Amish romance.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author? 

Oh, I always wrote. I think I was born knowing how to read and write and lived in anxious anticipation in kindergarten of moving past the baby books and being allowed to read the big kid books in the school library. My teachers were big on insisting on reading on your grade level (sigh) so I suffered through the Jane and Dick and Spot books until I was finally allowed to move on. I dreamed of being published forever. But didn’t know how to go about it back then.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?

Oh, forever. I started getting notice from publishers for my contemporary romances about the time contemporary went out and historical became hot. I wasn’t sure I had what it took to write historical, so I learned how to edit my own work and took suggestions from editors at publishing houses to heart. If they take the time to write a five page letter about what is wrong with the book that means you are doing something right! So, I studied and learned. And then my agent suggested I try Amish fiction. I thought about that for a long while. I like to read Amish fiction. My maternal grandparents had left the Amish way back before my parents were born – but write it? And then I discovered that an Amish community was less than two hours away. So, I researched, and tried it, and my agent was right. I could write it. It sold right away, based on a simple proposal, a synopsis and three chapters.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing? 

 I don’t spend enough time writing. Like I said, I write with the family surrounding me, interrupting constantly for help with algebraic equations, reading a college research paper, teaching the multiplication table…one never knows! Some days I go without writing at all. When I do write, I want to get at least 1,000 words or I’m not happy. It helps me to use the bribery method – like that chocolate bar that I really want…I can’t have it unless I reach my word count for the day.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader? 

 Well, I joined ACFW back in the beginning, and when they started critique groups I was one of the first to sign up. That group has long since disintegrated, but everyone who was in that first group is now published. I stayed in critique groups and took the writing courses on ACFW when they started offering them, and then I think those years when I worked on editing my own stuff really taught me a lot. Especially when chick lit became popular and I learned how to write deep point of view. Oh, and I should say being a book reviewer helped. Because I don’t understand a lot of the writer jargon and watching movies bore me, and a lot of writing instructors use movies to illustrate! Doesn’t help when you didn’t watch the movie. But I can study a really good book and discover what the author did to get it that way. I learned a lot from that. I’m still learning from that.

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? 

Being published is busier than I thought. I didn’t know about pod casts or radio interviews. Or speaking engagements or interviews… I did know about book signings, but I figured that was just an occasional thing. Wow. There is a lot to marketing.

What are your biggest distractions?

Seriously? The kids. And housework. Other books. And IM with real adults on the other end…

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

Oh, the worst was the day that my agent forwarded me the five page rejection letter outlining what was wrong with one of my books. I cried. I deep cleaned the pantry and the cupboards (my coping with rejection method). Then I sat down and studied it… And my best? Oh, the day the phone rang when I was half asleep…with my agent on the other end and told me that two houses were definitely interested but one offered a contract on the spot and the other asked for the whole…

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like? 

I love being about to let the characters inside my head live. I like the thrill of discovery as the story progresses. And when it all comes together. Least liked? Rejection… I know, it’s not personal, it’s business.

What is the role and importance of an agent?

Oh, everything! My agent is my biggest cheerleader, she encouraged me not to give up and to keep learning, she marketed my books, getting them into houses that I couldn’t – especially since I can’t go to conferences with small children (not to mention it isn’t in my budget) and well, once that contract came, she went over it piece by piece with me and negotiated with the publisher.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Join a critique group. Or two. Develop a thick skin. Find an agent. Read other books, especially those in the genre you most are interested in. And write your passion.

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book. 

Becky Troyer has committed the ultimate sin, and finds herself on the edge of her Amish community. Jacob Miller believes he was sent to the Old Order Community in Missouri to help out a distant cousin. Instead, he discovers he was part of an arranged swap–sending men from his Pennsylvania district to the Missouri district to bring new blood into the Amish community. Becky dreams of marriage, but doesn’t dare hope that anyone would choose her–not with her history. Can God use the lies that have affected Becky and Jacob to bring them together? Or will Jacob rebel and head home to his first love?

What’s on the book horizon for you? 

 The second book in the series, A Harvest of Hearts, is scheduled for release in September of this year, and I’m currently writing the third book in the series (yet untitled) which will release in April of 2012. I also have ideas for another three books simmering in the background.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books? 

Patchwork Dreams is available at CBD.com, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and other online booksellers and it should be available in your favorite bookstore. You can find me online at http://lauravhilton.blogspot.com and I’m also on facebook.

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

Thank you for having me!

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