Catching up with author Candace Havens is like chasing a windstorm around vanishing corners. She never seems to stop moving. From a full-time job as an entertainment writer, broadcasting radio film reviews, running online writing classes, writing and promoting her books, and speaking at writer’s conferences, she’s everywhere at once.
And somehow she makes it all work—even if she did just learn to cook two years ago after being married for 25 years. A mother of a 21-year-old son and an opera-singing 17-year-old son, Candace has become skilled over the years at juggling deadlines. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Texas and currently resides in Ft. Worth.
Candace, aka Candy, slowed down long enough to answer a few questions for WOW.
1.Your next fiction book is scheduled to come out in July 2009—after having one (The Demon King and I, Berkley Trade) just launch in November 2008. What do you attribute your productivity level to?
My sixth novel, Dragons Prefer Blondes (Berkley Trade) does come out in July. I'm also in the anthologies Dreams & Desires I, II and III (Freya’s Bower, February 2009), as well as several Benbella Books anthologies. I don't think of it as productivity so much as doing what I love most—writing. I love spending time in these worlds I've created. I'm also very deadline oriented. I'm sure that comes from being a journalist for 20 years. I'm used to having a finished product by a certain time.
2.You frequently offer free writing workshops via a Yahoo Group listserv. This question has two parts: a. How do you find the time? b. Why do you do it?
Finding the time is difficult when I have constant deadlines, but this is something that is also fun for me. I'm not the only one teaching on the Write_Workshop loop. I bring in other authors, editors, and agents to help throughout the year. I had so many people asking for help, which I understood—because we all have to start somewhere. This was a way for me to reach out to masses of people and help their writing careers. It's been very rewarding.
3.I heard you speak at the Dallas Fort-Worth Writer’s Conference last year, and you told us that you had quite a long career in entertainment writing. Can you talk about that?
I still have the “day” job as a columnist and radio personality. I've always loved television and film and I'm not willing to give all that up quite yet. It's fun. I started out writing for a small cable magazine and that blossomed into columns that now go to more than 600 newspapers.
4.If one of the readers wanted to see your column, where might she find it? And do you use the same name?
I write three to four columns a week about television for TV books that go in newspapers across the country. For those, I interview actors, producers, and writers. I do use the same name. I also do film reviews on air in Dallas on the Big 96.3 (KSCS). So I keep my hand in the entertainment world at all times.
“I tend to have kick-butt women trying to save the world, and romance is a part of their lives.”
5.What made you decide to get into romance writing?
I'd written a biography on "Buffy the Vampire" producer Joss Whedon (Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy, Benbella Books). A friend told me that if I could do that then I could write a novel. She thought I'd be good at it for some reason. I came home from one of my trips covering television out in L.A. and just wrote a book. It wasn't very good, but I did it. I'd always leaned toward romance and I honestly have no idea why. My reading list is pretty eclectic. I see my stuff as more mainstream with romantic elements. Not that I mind it being called a romance, I just don't want people going in thinking the romance is the main gist of the story. I tend to have kick-butt women trying to save the world, and romance is a part of their lives. (smiles)
6.You say you're not really a romance writer—what category would you put yourself in?
I do consider myself a romance writer. I just want people to know that romance isn't always the main focus of my books. I always have some kind of romantic element because I love exploring those kinds of relationships. I'm doing more paranormal stories now with romantic elements. But I'm also working on a new project that is more a straight-on romance.
7.What made you start out in the paranormal genre?
I love magic. The idea of having some kind of magical powers is very intriguing to me.
8.Did you sell the first book you wrote?
Eventually I did sell that first book. But the first book that I sold was Charmed & Dangerous (Bronwyn the Witch, Book 1) (Berkley), which was actually the second book I wrote. That first book I wrote was revised 99 percent last year and ended up being my fifth book, The Demon King and I.
9.How did you go about making your first sale?
I had a great agent who believed in me. She sent it to several publishers and we went to auction the day before Thanksgiving. I tell you that because everyone always says nothing happens in publishing before the holidays. The woman who was my editor was also about to leave on maternity leave. She loved the book, and Berkley ended up having the best offer during the auction so that's where we ended up. They've been really great to me.
10.You say that you had an agent that believed in you and that's how you sold your book, but how did you get the agent?
I queried agents, but I ended up meeting both of my agents through conferences. My first one I met at a conference in Texas. And my agent I have now I met at a small writer's retreat in Tennessee. In both instances, we discussed what I wanted as far as a career, and the direction I wanted to go with my writing. They helped me find editors who fit that vision.
11.Did you ever try to sell without an agent?
I've sold nonfiction without an agent, but not fiction.
12.With your “day” job, your fiction writing, and publicity schedule, what's a typical day like for Candace Havens?
It really depends on the day. I hit the ground running about 6:30 in the morning. I'm lucky in that I can do all my writing, columns, and books, from home. I even do radio from home. If I don't have a film screening, meeting, interview (most of which I do by phone), or something with my kids, I spend about 12 hours a day at the computer writing.
13.What's the best part of being a published author?
Honestly, there are a few things. One is spending time in these worlds I create and never knowing what is coming next. Another is when someone writes to me and tells me how much they enjoyed those worlds I created. Or at a book signing when someone asks about when my next book is coming out. They have shared that journey with me and it means so much.
Copyedits. (smiles) I'm appreciative of the copy editor because they catch those little mistakes we all make, but it's such a pain.
15.What's the best advice you can give to an aspiring writer?
Sit down and write. Don't talk about how much time you don't have to write. And learn your craft. Submerse yourself in classes and conferences and learn from everyone.
16.What would you advise someone who has just sold their first book to do?
Take a deep breath and know that it's a crazy ride. And start working on the next book.
“Even if it's a fake deadline, I work better if I set one for myself.”
17.What's a mistake you made that you wish you hadn't, but are glad you were able to learn from?
I can't believe I'm sharing this... There's a new show coming up called Castle on ABC. Nathan Fillion plays a famous author who lives this incredibly glamorous life, and solves cases on the side. Before I knew better, I thought I would live that life, too. Oprah would call and ask me to be on her show and I'd eat bonbons and drink champagne. The truth is, as a writer you have to keep writing. That means the very unglamorous job of sitting in front of your computer and making it happen. I don't indulge in the champagne because I need a clear head, but I have eaten a few too many of the bonbons!
18.Where do your ideas come from?
This is always a tough one for me to define because I find inspiration everywhere. Music, films, things that just pop in my head. I'm one who doesn't really question the creative process. I'm just grateful crazy ideas show up, or characters start talking and I have to write their story.
19.Have you ever had an idea that you thought was great, but discovered it wasn't, or you weren't ready to write it?
I do have an idea that I came up with about two years ago. It's an awesome concept but I tell my friends I have to live a little more before I can make that story work.
20.How do you keep disciplined in your writing?
Wow. You know, 20 years as a journalist with daily and weekly deadlines sort of gets you into that mode of knowing when you have to have things done. My life is kind of crazy with kids and the day job, so I have to make the time to write. Even if it's a fake deadline, I work better if I set one for myself.
Despite Candy’s writing success, she feels her greatest achievement is the model she’s given her sons. Her youngest recently wrote, “My mom is the single biggest influence in my life. She taught me that dreams do come true, but it takes hard work and dedication. When she wants something she never lets fear get in her way, and she's done all this and made me and my brother feel like we can do anything.”
You can catch Candace at her website, www.candacehavens.com, where you’ll find information about her, all her books, her writing workshops, and her calendar.
Thanks, Candy, for taking time to share with us!
Christie Smith is a freelance writer and designer living just outside of Austin, Texas. To see more of her work visit www.quotablequill.com.