Jen: This weekend, we are pleased to welcome HelenKay Dimon to the blog. HelenKay, will you please share a short bio with us?
HelenKay: I’m a recovering lawyer turned full-time author. After working in the least romantic career ever – divorce lawyer – I sold my first romance in 2005 to Kensington Brava. Since then I’ve sold eight single titles, ten novellas, one short story and six category romances. Two of those books were named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmo magazine and several have won or been finalists in published author contests. But, really, the best part of this job is not wearing pantyhose.
Jen: Tell us about Leave Me Breathless and where it’s available.
HelenKay: Superstar judge Ben Walker could be in danger. He’s ex-military and a former prosecutor, so he doesn’t scare easy. Doesn’t accept that he could be a target either. Ben’s brother insists on protection and hires a bodyguard for Ben. Not the burly type. She’s the sexy, can-shoot-a-man-and-not-think-twice type. Callie Robbins. Ben thinks Callie is smoking hot. Callie thinks Ben is an idiot. Once they’re thrown together, they can’t think about anything but each other.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
HelenKay: Authors talk about writing their first book at age seven. That’s not me. I’m not one of those authors who burst out of the womb with a pen in one hand and a pad of paper in the other. I’ve always loved to read but I didn’t get the writing bug until I was about thirty. In fact, [unflattering admission ahead…] I didn’t even read romance until then. One day a fellow attorney in my office told me I needed a happy ending and handed me three romances – The Bride by Julie Garwood, Daniel’s Bride by Linda Lael Miller and Perfect Partners by Jayne Ann Krentz. I was hooked.
Reading the books lead me to try and write one. While playing on the internet one day, I found Lori Foster’s website. I really enjoyed her books and saw she was running a writing contest. You sent in the first three pages of your book and Lori picked her twenty favorites and sent them to her then-editor at Kensington, Kate Duffy. Lori picked my entry. Kate didn’t buy that book, but she told me she’d be my editor one day. That bit of encouragement from Lori and Kate, along with my husband asking if I was going to write as a hobby or as a potential future career, spurred me on. I started writing seriously and in May of 2005 Kate called and offered me a contract. I still have no idea what she said after, “This is THE CALL” or what I babbled on about, but I sold.
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
HelenKay: It’s just me.
Jen: How does your family feel about your career?
HelenKay: My family is incredibly supportive and I am so thankful. My husband brags about my books. When he saw a woman browsing through the book racks at Wal-Mart the other day, he picked up my book and pitched it to her. Something worked – probably my husband’s charm – because the woman bought it. Needless to say, I adore him.
My mom reads my books and talks with me about them. My dad, well, he’s not really ready to read sex scenes written by his baby girl, so he refrains from reading the books. He does check the bookstores to make sure my covers have good placement and he did get a subscription to Romantic Times so he could track my reviews. I think that’s the coolest thing ever.
Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
HelenKay: My laptop and a comfortable chair. We have a notebook and a desktop computer, but I can only write on my laptop. Without it, I’d be lost.
Jen: Have you noticed your writer’s voice has changed over the years due to your experience? If so, how?
HelenKay: Writing for five years, I hope that every book gets better. People tend to comment on my dialog and about how they connect with the humor and sarcasm. Over time, I’ve really worked on my dialog, trying to trim out unnecessary stuff. I’ve also worked on my plotting. Writing for Harlequin Intrigue has helped with that. In Intrigue you have very little space and time to deliver a full romance and a full suspense. Writing those books has taught me to get to the action faster.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
HelenKay: The most challenging: sitting down every day to do it. I can procrastinate for hours. Turning off the internet and opening the word document is the hardest part for me.
The easiest: Coming up with story ideas. I get them all the time. Since I have lousy short-term memory and don’t want to forget them, I write the ideas down in these small notebooks and save them for later.
Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
HelenKay: I am just so grateful. I love writing and seeing my books in bookstores, but the absolute best part is hearing from readers. I don’t think there are smarter, more giving or more loyal readers in any genre. When a reader emails about dealing with a sick loved one and being able to get lost for a few hours in one of my books, I get weepy. Getting those reader emails make all the less fun parts of this work (rejections, etc) worth it.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
HelenKay: My favorite character changes with each new book I write. Right now, my favorite heroine is Callie Robbins from Leave Me Breathless. She’s imperfect and doesn’t always follow the rules, but she’s sharp and tough. The way she goes after Ben just makes me smile.
My favorite hero is from a book I just finished, Impulsive (Brava, November ’10). It’s a single title that will be out in November. The hero, Eric, is this by-the-book attorney in Hawaii. He does the right thing…and then he meets a woman who is pure wild child and he’s a goner.
Jen: What five authors or people, from the past or present, have been important to you as an author? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?
HelenKay: I’ve had the great fortune to met people who have been supportive and kind. There are so many more than five. I would say a huge thank you to Lori Foster, Kate Duffy, Ethan Ellenberg (my agent) and Denise Zaza (my Harlequin editor). They gave me something priceless when they believed in me and my books. A simple “thank you” really isn’t sufficient. The same goes for Julie Garwood, Linda Lael Miller and Jayne Ann Krentz. They wrote the books that changed the course of my life. How do you thank someone for that? There really isn’t a strong enough word to show my appreciation. And every day I chat online with a group of supportive friends – Mica, Stef, Wendy, Jill and Kassia. They keep me sane and focused. I couldn’t make it through a week without them.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
HelenKay: I got The Call at work, so I sat at my desk and squealed internally for about twenty minutes. Jumped up and down in my chair and everything. Only one person in the office even knew I was writing a book, so I ran and told her. After a series of calls to my husband, parents and friends, I went home positively floating. I can’t remember exactly what we did, but I’m betting we got take-out Chinese food. I have simple tastes and not doing the dishes was a big part was enough of a celebration for me.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
HelenKay: In addition to reading and gardening, I love to be outside. Living in Southern California makes that easier. My husband is a long-distance runner. We’ll go to places and he’ll run something obscene like twelve miles and I’ll walk half of that. He exercises. I listen to my iPod and look at the pretty scenery. Any exercise I get is purely accidental.
Jen: What’s next for you?
HelenKay: All of my 2010 releases are turned in. In addition to the two releases this month – Leave Me Breathless (Brava, March) and Under the Gun (Intrigue, March) – I have several other releases this year:
-my first ebook short story called A PROPER SEDUCTION (Samhain, May)
-my second Intrigue, Night Moves (Intrigue, June)
-a novella in a charity anthology put together by Lori Foster called The Gift of Love (Berkley, June)
-a reissue of the holiday anthology Kissing Santa Claus (Brava, October)
-the single title Impulsive (Brava, November)
It’s a full year.
Right now I’m writing a mini-series for Intrigue, four related suspense stories that will come out back-to-back in early 2011.
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
HelenKay: I have a website, www.helenkaydimon.com which is the best place to track me down. You can follow my blog or follow me on twitter.
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
HelenKay: First, thank you so much for inviting me as a guest on your blog. The interview was great fun.
I write suspense for Harlequin and sexy contemporaries for Kensington. My novella for the charity anthology is more of a “sweet” romance. I’m not alone in switching between romance subgenres. I’m wondering how your readers feel about following authors around as they write different things. Do they like an author and follow them anywhere or is it a matter of liking a specific subgenre – paranormal, historical, etc. – and sticking there.
Jen: HelenKay is giving away a book – winner’s choice – to two people. There are no restrictions other than being somewhere Amazon delivers. To enter the contest, you first need to leave a comment or question for HelenKay. Then to finish your entry, you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will be chosen on Thursday, March 25.