Do you have any specific writing habits, like a particular location or time of day that you prefer to write in? Do you write every day?
Yasmine: I write almost every day. I hardly ever have a full day off–this is my career and since I went indie, there’s even more to do. I’m writing 5-6 books this year. That’s a lot of words and I’m lucky that I’m prolific.
I pretty much get up, turn on my computer, grab a shower, go make my latte, eat breakfast at my computer, and eat lunch at my computer. I work all day. Sometimes I work off and on in the evening. I work at least half a day on the weekends, if not more. I usually take off Saturdays to do errands and, once in awhile, I take a break. I probably work 50-70 hours a week because, besides the actual writing, there’s administrative work and promotion and marketing, which eats up time like crazy.
There 101 things you never think about, when you aren’t dealing with the professional side of things. Even though I have two part-time assistants, a lot of the administrative work falls on my shoulders. I’ll be writing the first draft of one book, I’ll have copy edits come in on another book, and I will be releasing a third. I’ve got to be able to drop what I’m doing and jump into something else immediately, then go back to the book I was working on, then stop that and go to a different book. It’s a constant juggling act.
People who write one book a year may not have that happen. As I said, I’m prolific. It’s just personal pacing. Some writers write slow, and some writers write fast. You just have a natural pace. I tend to write fast, and that means that I’ve usually got a lot more projects that I’m working on, so I have to learn to juggle. But, I like being busy. I’ve finally accepted the fact that I am a workaholic, and I’m happy with that. For a long time, I tried to balance my life out and have more play time, and I realized that I’m happy when I’m working. Sometimes, I do need a day off, so I take a day off when I really need one, but I’m happy when I’m working.
Are you the kind of writer that likes to plot and outline, or do you prefer to see where the story and the characters take you?
Yasmine: I work off a page long synopsis. I don’t outline well, although I have what I call my ‘reverse outline’ which is a bullet list of highlights that happened in the chapter I just finished. I write with just the basic landmarks in mind. If you were looking at a map, instead of having all the routes marked out, I have the landmarks noted, and I have to figure out how to get from one landmark to the other, as I go.
Do you enjoy getting feedback from your fans? Have they ever written to you about a character that they either really loved or really didn’t like that surprised you?
Yasmine: I love hearing from my fans. I like it when they tell me why they loved a book. I don’t mind it if someone says, “I wish this would have happened,” or “I would like to see this happen,” as long as they realize that will have NO affect on what I’m writing.
We don’t answer the hate letters or the creepy letters or the ones begging me for help. A) There are some freaky people out there and I’ve been stalked. B) I’ve found that trying to reason with angry people usually doesn’t work. C) I don’t have the time or energy to waste on someone who just wants to scream at me. D) I am not a loan company, nor am I qualified mental health therapist to help people who really do need professional counseling.
Sometimes, I get surprised by what buttons my characters push. Characteristics that I really like in a character, some readers have absolutely hated, hence people calling my character Camille a slut and calling me the same. No writer can please everybody.
One of the letters that I’ve received that meant the absolute most to me was from a woman who lived in New Orleans. When Katrina hit, she had to evacuate her house, and she wrote to me while she was away. She said, “I took three of your Chintz ‘n China books with me when we had to evacuate, and they were the only thing that kept me from thinking about what was going on back home. They helped keep me distracted and helped me escape, thinking about what I couldn’t control.” The fact that what I had written had actually helped her get away from the reality of such a horrendous tragedy that was going on, meant the world to me. That meant I’d done my job. That letter probably stands out the most in my mind because it was the fact that what I actually wrote could help someone who was dealing with this major, traumatic incident in their life, escape it for awhile. That’s what entertainment is all about. I’ve gotten letters from cancer survivors thanking me for giving them an escape during treatment, and so forth. I’m immensely grateful my work can mean so much to others.
People will ask, “How do you feel about writing what’s considered entertainment, rather than something literary?” Well, when 9/11 happened, I was very traumatized. I had been reading one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. On the day that I saw the towers crash, I had put it down, half-read. And, for six weeks, I did not smile. I was majorly depressed, like the rest of the nation. And then, one day, I was just at my wit’s end because I couldn’t deal with the gloom anymore. Then, I saw that book and decided to read it. I thought, “Okay, maybe I can just get myself out of it by reading.” And, by the end of the book, I was laughing. A couple hours later, I finished it and, all of a sudden, I realized that I felt so much better. It hit me, how vital entertainment is to our sanity. I’m proud to be writing books that entertain people, make people laugh, catch people up and take them away, and give them an escape. To me, that is a vital function of society. Quite frankly, if we don’t keep our sanity and give ourselves a break, we’re not going to be of any use to anyone else, including ourselves.