Q&A With Kristi Avalon

  • Why did you decide to self-publish?

    I decided to self-publish because New York publishers told me again and again that I had a great voice and writing style...but my work didn't fit their niches. Despite having a fabulous NY agent, who gave me great advice, I never penetrated the perfect vision NY publishers endorsed. I didn't ever quite seem to fit their criteria.

    After my agent sent my manuscript around to NY publishers and several digital publishers, receiving round rejection, I chose to self-publish Billionaire Bodyguard.

    My jaw dropped (and the shock never quite worn off) when Billionaire Bodyguard hit the Barnes & Noble bestseller's list December 2012. Seriously? My book was ranked above J.K. Rowling? The story that couldn't find a home reached its peak at #10 in All Books on the B&N Nook bestseller's list. That's when I knew the self-publishing business was to be taken seriously, and I thank all those who've gone before for helping me continue to navigate these dynamic and ever changing waters.

  • Where do you find your inspiration?

    Nature. Because honestly, I'm not a very grounded person. I live so much in my head, in my thoughts, in conversations I have with people, that taking time to walk in the woods among ancient trees brings me down to earth. Nature makes me feel blessed, alive, whole-hearted, so I can go back home and immerse myself in my imagination. I find my writing to be much more descriptive and inspired after going for a hike. It restocks my well, as Julia Cameron would say. (The Artist's Way is a must read for anyone in the creative arts.)

  • What type of relationship is your favorite to explore?

    When I read romances, I enjoy stories where the rake or hardened hero is completely irredeemable, the "man's story" if you will, whether in historical or contemporary fiction. But that's not exactly the type of story I write. I write romance where the hero is already half in love with the heroine almost from the start. He falls first, and falls hard, even if he denies it. From there readers discover how the hero wins her over - it's all about the emotional journey, along with steamy romance and suspense.

    Each of my books may technically be the "heroine's story," but she never would've found her inner strength or personal perseverance without the hero. They save each other. Essentially, the man will always need to win over the woman. That's the type of romances I write.

  • What is your writing routine?

    Routine? How boring! In all seriousness, writing regularly is essential, although I don't believe in a Muse. I write however, wherever, whenever I can. The few times I've come across the infamous "writer's block," it's nothing that a walk in the woods or a nap can't solve. Plus I have the best group of writing and brainstorming friends a girl could ask for.

  • How involved are you in terms of writing/editing/cover design?

    When it comes to editing...well, I'm a writer, first and foremost. I'm in the business of telling stories, not editing them for missed words or grammatical mistakes. I may have a master's degree in English, but that means nothing when I'm in author mode. I often can't see the forest for the trees in my own writing. There's a reason editors are paid well to do a good job. Because we need them. I certainly do, and I'm ever grateful to my proofreader Mary Ann Chulick for making sure my commas and modifiers all go in the right places. Author Kristine Mason is a phenomenal brainstorming partner to help me when I write myself into a corner. And Kim Van Meter is my talented cover artist who's been a great partner since the beginning.

  • How do you decide where to set your stories (such as Russia for example)?

    Russia was a natural setting for my characters Mindy and Isaac, in Bedded by Her Bodyguard, to explore their passion for each other and to have to them learn some great lessons they both needed to discover about themselves in order to grow as people. Isaac is originally from Russia, and when he moved to the States he inherited his family's hard-working dedication to achieve the American Dream.

    The mountains of Colorado are a special place for me. I went backpacking in the Rocky Mountains for a week with a great group of a people, the summer before my freshman year. We hiked up steep ridges, ate all our meals out of one cup we cleaned with pine needles, purified mountain spring water with iodine, slept out under the stars, managed to steer clear of dangerous wildlife, bathed in crystalline lakes...stunning, challenging, and unforgettable. During the experience I found an inner strength and fortitude I never knew I had.

    I'll always do my best to give readers beautiful scenery as a backdrop to my love stories.

  • First and foremost tell us a little bit about yourself.

    Recently I've been absorbed in new shows on the Investigative Discovery channel-I love watching crimes get solved and real life villains get their due. Aside from that, I adore history and art from any and every era. I originally aspired to be an artist like my father, and went to college for art therapy, until I realized something was wrong when I kept returning to my dorm room to read and write romance novels when I should've been painting. I dropped out of college after that year, since I knew my parents couldn't afford it and neither could I to pursue a major I didn't feel passionate about.

    My passion for writing, however, continued and never stopped. Once I decided which direction to pursue in college, I put myself through school by working in the restaurant/bar industry-which can be a fascinating place to learn about different personalities and the human drama. After eight years of undergrad and grad school, I finally graduated with my master's degree in English. I'm happy to say I'm fortunate enough to apply my writing and analytical skills as a communications coordinator at my day job.

  • Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

    If I have any advice for others who desire to get published-whether through NY or self-publishing-I'd say have a solid writing plan, and then have a backup plan for your original plan. Have a list of all the stories you're dying to tell, or better yet that you've already written, in a similar subgenre or in the same series, even if you never expect they'll sell like hotcakes. Because they just might!

    I wish I'd had a close follow-up novel in the Billionaire Bodyguard series. When that story hit the bestseller's list I didn't even know it was going to be part of a series. Fortunately I had great characters plus an extensive imagination to work with - one of the perks of being an only child.

  • Are you a plotter or panster?

    Plotter for sure. I like puzzles. I love figuring out complex scenarios, like how to get from the first sentence to The End. I'm abysmal at directions and reading maps (North is up, right?), and "winging it" is like telling me to drive to Tallahassee based solely on intuition, gut instinct, and luck. Needless to say, I'd never get there. (Although I would enjoy the adventure!)