Blogoversary Day 29: Layla Hunter

Jen: Today we are happy to welcome Layla Hunter to the blog. Layla, will you please share a short bio with us?

Layla: Sure! First, let me say that I am excited to be here too! Thank you for having me today. I’ll put up my biography from my website:

Layla Hunter’s love of romance began at age of eleven when her Nanny (referred to lovingly as ‘Nanns’) slipped her a couple True Romance comic books, along with her first romance, and it was love at first sight. Before long, she was writing her own stories and has been doing so for over two decades. Along with erotic romance, she enjoys writing fantasy/paranormal and contemporary.

A New Jersey native, she currently resides in an 1890 Folk Victorian that she and her husband are slowly returning to its former beauty. They share this century-old home with their daughter and a bevy of delightfully comical cats. Oh, and let’s not forget the ‘ghost mice’ … unseen to the human eye, her cats dutifully chase these invisible intruders throughout the house at three o’clock in the morning.

Layla has published several erotic shorts in an online magazine, Every Night Erotica, as well as had one of her short stories, Dark Desire, included in XOXO Publishing’s Halloween Anthology, Vol. 1, released October, 2010.

She’s most excited about joining the Secret Cravings Publishing family and her first novella, Skin Deep, was released February 9, 2011!

Romance and a deep emotional connection between her characters are integral to her writing, as is giving readers a chance to escape into her character’s world for a little while, where they can be assured of a HEA. She loves hearing from her readers, fellow writers, and is happy to answer all e-mails.

She is a member of RWA, LSFW, Passionate Ink, FF&P RWA, Elements RWA, Erotic Readers & Writers Association, Truly Madly Deeply Romance Authors, Savvy Authors, Romance Divas, GoodReads.com and Romance in the Backseat, where she entered and won the 2010 New Year’s Writer’s Rumble with her entry Karma (of which she is in the process of completing), and has several WIP.

Jen: Tell us about Skin Deep and where is can be purchased.

Layla: My novella, Skin Deep, is an erotic contemporary romance. Let me share the blurb:

“Emily Monroe, a statuesque high school English teacher, is convinced that getting a tattoo to cover the remnants of her brush with Morphea is the only option left to open the door to self-acceptance, allowing her to finally move on with her life after the devastating diagnosis left more than physical scars in its wake.

Rick Sutton, owner of Skin Deep, a successful tattoo shop, has his own cross to bear. Crippling guilt and the specter of unrequited justice overshadows every aspect of his life, trapping him within the haunted corridors of his heart and soul; until the day Emily walks into his shop.

Instantly, he recognizes a kindred spirit in Emily, and a tenuous bond is formed. When the intimidating yet teddy-bear of a man offers her a glimpse into his passionate side, she is moved by what she sees and takes a leap of faith. Together they traverse the physical and emotional journey of freeing themselves of their perceived flaws, an erotic undertaking that proves to them beauty is only Skin Deep.”

Here is the link for the trailer if anyone wants to take a peek … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9Dr9IM1csQ

My own experience with Morphea is what inspired me to write this book. I have wanted to write this story for a long time but finding the courage to face some of my own demons, so to speak, took some time. The process was cathartic to say the least.

Although the theme of the book is beauty is only skin deep, I didn’t want to get on a soap box. What I wanted to accomplish was to share the story of a little known condition with others and perhaps in some way reach out to those who suffer from the same disorder or any other disorder that affects one’s outward appearance. No matter what anyone tries to convince us of otherwise (and the social medias do try the damnedest!) it really is what’s on the inside that matters most, and we truly need to let ourselves believe so!

You can find Skin Deep at Secret Cravings Publishing at http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com/LaylaHunter.html, and it is available at All Romance Ebooks, Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.

Layla: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think about writing. I swear I must have been a writer of some sort in another life! *laughs* Truth is, I really don’t have a choice … I find I HAVE to write or the characters in my head will keep me up at night. They are relentless about wanting their stories told.

About 15 years ago, I was ready to submit my first ms when our daughter came along and … *fast forward 15 years* Amazing how those years fly by! But here I am … better late than never I always say… with another decade of life experiences under my belt to enrich my writing.

Finally, I just decided to take the plunge. Well, actually, I only stuck a few toes in. I submitted a few short stories to an online magazine, Every Night Erotica. To my surprise, they sold. Now waist deep, I submitted a short story to XOXO Publishing for their Halloween Anthology and again, much to my surprise, they accepted Dark Desire! Next step was to take the plunge, so I submitted my novella, Skin Deep, to Secret Cravings Publishing. I was beyond thrilled when they accepted my manuscript and I became part of the SCP family!

I don’t have a ‘call’ story but an ‘e-mail’ story! When I received the e-mail from the publisher at Secret Cravings Publishing, I had to read it a few times to be sure I wasn’t imagining things! *laughs* When the news finally sank in, I literally tripped ‘up’ the stairs while running to tell my husband.

Jen: How does your family feel about your career?

Layla: I’m very lucky as I have the full support of my family and never take it for granted. Truth is they have to support me or run the risk of ending up in one of my books! *winks*

All kidding aside, I truly appreciate them because without their unilateral support, and loving but insistent nudging, I may have stayed ‘inside my box’ (as my daughter puts it) until the end of my days.

I lead a bit of a double life, though. Given my full time job, being an erotic romance writer might not be ‘appreciated’ so I keep both endeavors separate.

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?

Layla: Ah, let’s see … first, my Muse! I’m blessed to have a very generous and creative Muse who keeps my head filled with wonderful characters clamoring to have their stories told.

Second, would be my cat Chance, otherwise known as the “Guardian of the Lair” … the ‘lair’ being my office where I retreat to write! He takes his position quite seriously and keeps unwanted interruptions to a minimum by showing ‘visitors’ the door and meowing until they leave. Once all is quiet in the ‘lair’ he resumes his post and I go back to writing (usually after a well-earned snuggle *winks*). Writing can be a lonely pursuit and it’s wonderful to have a little company.

Of course, a nice glass of wine is a plus. And I like to have pen and paper around too. Something about simply ‘writing’ thoughts and ideas down, even sketches can help me work through a tricky scene.

Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?

Layla: Let’s just say I should buy stock in 3M! I LOVE sticky notes and I have them everywhere just in case an idea pops into my head, a line of dialogue, or even a title, or character name. Sometimes something I see on television or while looking through a magazine can spark an idea, so I have them everywhere.

I’ve used napkins, little slips of paper, the back of a menu and envelope. Nothing is safe when my Muse strikes! *laughs* I have some of my best ideas after I wake up from a dream or first thing in the morning, so there is a book light, pad and pen on my nightstand.

Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from? Why?

Layla: Maybe because I’m a Scorpio, I find myself blessed with a particularly passionate ‘alter ego’ so inevitably, I’ve been strongly drawn to erotic romance. I tried my hand at erotica, but I found that I need a romance to be central to my story, and have the ‘intimacy’ between my characters a sensual enhancement to their relationship. And the hopeless romantic in me needs a HEA, or at the very least, a HFN ending.

I’ve always loved the paranormal/fantasy genre as well, and I’m drawn as powerfully to this genre as I am to erotic contemporary. In fact, I have an ongoing weekly free read – My Soul to Keep – at Secret Cravings Publishing which happens to be an erotic paranormal! If readers want to take a peek, the link is http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com/FreeReads.html, and I am four stories down.

I’m currently trying my hand with an Urban Fantasy which I’m having fun with. I love the freedom the ‘fantasy’ element adds. I can’t say there is a genre I wouldn’t at least give a try, though.

Jen: How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories? Have you ever written yourself into a story?

Layla: I believe that we all put a bit of ourselves in our writing even if we try not to; I know that I certainly do. In my opinion, the unique voice of an author comes from a part of her/himself.

Skin Deep is quite personal to me as I was diagnosed with Morphea about a decade ago, so I understand what Emily is going through. In this case, I probably placed a bit more of myself in this book than I care to admit, but it was a journey worth taking. Not many people know what Morphea is, no less heard of the condition, so it was important for me to write about it. I’m also donating 10% of my royalties from the sales of Skin Deep to The Scleroderma Foundation.

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?

Layla: My Nanns slipped me a few True Romance comic books and a romance novel when I was about eleven, and it may sound corny, but it was love at first sight. I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on AND after a couple of years, I wanted to write stories that would make others feel the way the books I read made me feel.

Sadly, she isn’t with us anymore but if she were, she’d be my biggest fan. I wish she had the chance to see me published! And yes, she would have loved the genre I’m writing in … she was a sassy spitfire of a woman!

Granted he doesn’t know it, but Josh Whedon inspires me too. Brilliant man, brilliant mind! The writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel was remarkable and hooked my from the very first episode. After I would watch an episode, I’d re-watch it and pick it apart to figure out what made it work! *laughs* Oh, the things I do for fun.

The writers for the Vampire Diaries have caught my attention too (Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec) and if you haven’t had a chance to watch the series (especially lovers of all things paranormal), I’d suggest you catch up as quickly as you can!

Personally, I have a remarkably supportive and creative group of authors at Secret Cravings Publishing – everyone seems ready and willing to support their fellow authors in a variety of ways, whether it’s critiquing or offering promo ideas; cross-promotion; help with creating book trailers or banners. You name it, someone is willing to jump in and help.

I’ve also had several wonderful writers help me with critiques, encouragement, advice and that ever important drop kick from the safety of the ‘nest’ … especially those in my Let Me Get You Hot and Bothered Yahoo loop … and I thank ALL of them sincerely for everything (ad nauseam).

Sandy Sullivan, in particular, encouraged me to submit to XOXO Publishing, who, much to my amazement, published Dark Desire!

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?

Layla: After tripping up the stairs to tell my husband? *laughs* The celebration was simple. Sushi with my husband and daughter, then back to work, to be honest!

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Layla: Write! *laughs* Seriously. Writing IS my favorite way to escape and recharge especially after a long day, but I love to read, too. After sitting at the computer for so long (both at work and at home), I’m more likely to want to get up and move, but reading (and research) happen to be on the top of my list (I LOVE Google!). I love walking and hiking (great for plotting!). Photography is a long-time passion of mine and I’m considering picking up the camera a little more often so I can use some of my own photos for upcoming book trailers.

Bellydancing! Amazing exercise and so much fun! I love movies, and my guilty pleasure is Survivor and Vampire Diaries! I’m also addicted to CSI (the original), The Mentalist, Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State and … Ice Loves Coco – there is something about their relationship that I find endearing.

Shooting sports … my husband loves to shoot and owns several handguns so we’ll go to the range together and I can blow off some steam!

Jen: What’s next for you?

Layla: Currently, I’m working on several projects. Sounds crazy, I know, but I love to write! I would do it all day, every day, if I could!

I’m in the process of completing Karma (working title), the short story I began for (and won!) Romance in the Backseat’s New Years Writer’s Rumble in 2010. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska so researching the locale was so much fun. Oh, and ‘learning’ to fly a Piper Cub, Selene’s plane … there are actually YouTube videos on how to do so! If I weren’t afraid of heights, I might want to actually learn to fly!

With my weekly free read at Secret Cravings Publishing, I’ll be working on My Soul to Keep every week as well. Rounding the list out would be finishing up Dante’s Prayer, an erotic fantasy set in a parallel world similar to our own.

All of the above, along with a few short stories, will be submitted to SCP first to see if they will have me and my stories again! I have a list (literally) of stories I want to write so the plan is to write until my butt goes numb!

I’m also a member of Truly, Madly, Deeply Romance Authors … a group of 26 authors each dedicated to putting out FREE reads twice a year! I’m very excited about this project and honored to be among the talented authors that have been gathered. My story, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, is up now and you can find it at http://trulymadlydeeplyromanceauthors.blogspot.com/, then scroll down and find the blog for June 18th!

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Layla: You can visit my website, www.laylahunter.com. I absolutely love meeting other writers and readers of romance, so feel free to contact me. I’ve found priceless support and encouragement in many of my Yahoo groups and RWA Chapters, so I’m always eager to ‘pay it forward’ to other writers, especially newly published ones such as myself.

You can find me here as well …

laylahunter@gmail.com
http://www.facebook.com/people/Layla-Hunter/1173090819
www.twitter.com/Layla_Hunter
http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4371251

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Layla: Oh, I’d love to make this fun! All work and no play, you know …

During my research for another interview, I discovered that teleportation is a viable super power! *laughs* So my question to readers would be if you had this ability for 24 hours, where would you go and why?

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