Interview with Heidi Cullinan

Jen: This week we are happy to welcome Heidi Cullinan to Romancing the Book. Heidi, will you please share a short bio with us?
Heidi: Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her family. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state’s LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Jen: Tell us about Nowhere Ranch and where it’s available.
Heidi: My upcoming release is Nowhere Ranch, a male/male erotic romance which will be published by Loose Id. Right now we’re looking at a late fall or early winter release date. Right now my advice to people who want to know about the release date is to sign up for my newsletters, because I’ll make sure I let people know about it as soon as I have a firm date.

Nowhere Ranch is the story of Roe Davis, a man who works hard, keeps to himself, and never, absolutely never mixes business with pleasure—until he takes a discreet weekend away from his new job at Nowhere Ranch. There he runs into the owner, Travis Loving, at the only gay bar for two hundred miles. Getting involved with the boss is a bad, bad idea, but Loving is a hard man to say no to, especially when it turns out their kinks line up against one another like a pair of custom-cut rails. And as Loving points out, so long as they’re both clear that this is just sex on the side, no relationship, no interfering with the job, they could make it work.

The truth is, there’s good reason Roe never settles down and always spends his birthdays and holidays celebrating alone. Shut out in the cold by his family years ago, Roe survived by declaring he didn’t need a home. As his affair with Loving grows into more than just sex, Roe finds out what happens when he stays put a little bit too long: He learns that the past always catches up with you, that even a loner gets lonely, and that home will grow up through whatever cracks you leave open for it— even in a place called Nowhere.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Heidi: Well, my first publication was in the Andrew Community School Anthology. It was a compilation of K-12 fiction, and true to form, I submitted a novel. It was at least a third of the anthology. And keeping with my theme, it was a romance: The Life and Times of Michele Matthews. Traditional teenage saga, complete with epilogue where we learn what the grandkids did.

After that story, though, I started to write fantasy. I loved the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, but I hated what they did to Raistlin. So not even knowing that was fanfic (and with no Internet to post it to) I rewrote the story and “fixed” it. Then rewrote it, and rewrote it, and then wrote a different story, and then it just kept on going and going. I really never stopped writing.

Jen: How does your family feel about your career?
Heidi: Very supportive. My siblings and my mother-in-law love to give my books as gifts, which given what I write sometimes gets interesting. I write under my own name, so everyone knows what I do. Pretty much it’s universally positive. Lately too a lot of former students (I used to be a teacher) have found me and are thrilled to see that I’m “one of them” or that I write books “for them.” I have to say, those are my favorites, kids I used to teach finding me as adults and saying I make them feel heard.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Heidi: I write mostly during the day while my daughter is at school, but usually I write whenever I can. I have a chronic health issue, so sometimes pain days or appointments make things interesting. Before I was published I’d try to focus on one thing at a time, but now I have to juggle between copy edits and revision letters and doing promotions. In addition to laundry, grocery shopping, and scooping cat litter.

Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Heidi: I’ve always loved romance. It’s a dual attraction of an uplifting ending and seeing people come together. It’s less about romantic love and more about a deep connection. I’ve also always loved how romance novels don’t shy away from sex. In my experience, sex is a big deal, and it changes everything. I like that romances don’t usually keep the bedroom door shut and show the relationship dymanics in bed as well as out.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Heidi: This book actually happened very quickly, so there wasn’t as much research as usual. I had to give myself a crash-course in sheep ranching, which was definitely an education. I also needed to learn a bit about northwestern Nebraska. Beyond that I pulled from my own farming experience. And Iowa is in my blood, so that part was easy.

Jen: Do you become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting them go, or are you happy that their story is told and you can move on?
Heidi: Well, there are characters who are content to go and characters who like to linger. I have a few series in process, one sold, one not; one was deliberately a series, and one happened by accident. Just like readers, certain characters really grab me and make me want to keep poking. And then some are just plain done. So I guess it depends.

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Heidi: Well, I do love them all. Two of my favorites are in unfinished are unsold manuscripts, so when I say “Will and Charles” you won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. Of my known work, my favorites are Randy and Sam from the Special Delivery series. I really like the dynamic characters that take over and I just watch. Their stories are usually the best rides.

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?
Heidi: Henry Fielding tops the list, because Tom Jones is the most perfect novel ever to me. Funny, exciting, touching, silly, serious—yeah. Terry Pratchett too for all the same reasons. Neil Gaiman I love for his imagination and his openness to his readers. I cite these three because by reading them they helped me solidify what I wanted to be as an author. They set the bar. I don’t know that I can reach the level I have them at in my mind, but that’s almost better. Keeps me reaching.

As a writer, my greatest influences are Dr. Greg Scholtz, my undergraduate instructor and advisor, and Jennifer Crusie, mentor and friend. I guess what I’d say to all five of them is simply, “Thanks.”

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
Heidi: Well, I was a little blown away, honestly. At first I thought Hero would be a novella, so it took me awhile to realize I’d just sold my first novel. I guess I celebrated with my local writing group, because they got more excited than I did at first. Though the best story about that book is how my author copies got lost because of an epic blizzard we had. I ended up driving out to the UPS store late at night, my daughter in her pajamas, unable to wait any longer for them to arrive.

Jen: What has been your highlight of your career to this point?
Heidi: The unexpected success of Special Delivery. I tried to promo it when it first came out, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere, and I’d resigned myself to it being just a minor sale. The next thing I knew everyone was emailing me, telling me how much they loved it, and then that kept coming and coming, and then the bigger reviewers started to pick it up. It was really fun to see a story I wrote strike such a cord with people. It was nice to be told I’d written well, but what I really loved (and still do) was when people wrote and told me how much it moved them when they hadn’t expected it to. That was the whole reason I’d written, and there I went and met my goal in book two. It was great.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Heidi: Free time! Gosh. That’s be something.

Well, I knit a bit, watch some shows with my family, and do some reading. Otherwise honestly it’s writing, the daily grind, and appointments. But it’s a good life, so I’m good with it.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Heidi: I’m wrapping up a novel I’ve been working on all year and trying to decide where I should try to sell it. Trying to sell a fantasy series (well, my agent is, anyway), and thinking of what I should write for NaNoWriMo. I’m hoping to write something in September-October, but a lot of that will depend on how life goes. I’d really, really like to write a Sam and Mitch story, but that will depend on the muses.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Heidi: www.heidicullinan.com is my central website, and heidi.cullinan@mac.com is my email. I’m also on twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Livejournal. Links to all the social networks are at my website.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Heidi: Favorite novel! I’m always looking for something new to read.

Jen: Readers, Heidi is giving away an advance contest for Nowhere Ranch or a copy Special Delivery (both are ebook) to one lucky commenter. Due to the content of Heidi’s books, the winner of the contest must be over the age of 18. To enter, you first need to leave a question or comment for Heidi. Then to finish your entry, you must leave your email address in your comment. We’ll pick the winner around Sunday, October 31.