Elisabeth Naughton - Author of sexy romantic adventures and dark hot paranormals


Thursday, June 24th, 2010
Golden Heart Spotlight – Heather Snow!

Heather Snow is a historical romance writer with a degree in Chemistry who found she much preferred creating chemistry on the page, rather than in the lab.  She is forever trying to wrangle her left and right brain to work together (some days with more success than others!), but if her two sides had to duke it out, left would win every time—which can be a creative challenge.  Luckily, she loves challenges…she just goes about solving them analytically.

In addition to finaling in the Golden Heart, Sweet Enemy won the 2010 Chicago North Fire and Ice in the Historical Category, and is a current finalist in the Kiss of Death’s Daphne du Maurier and Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contests.

To learn more about Heather, visit her website and Heather’s Historical Hodgepodge Blog.

Heather’s Golden Heart finaling manuscript in the regency historical category is SWEET ENEMY:

Beakers and ball gowns don’t mix.  So when lady scientist and practically on-the-shelf spinster, Miss Liliana Claremont, receives a coveted invitation to the Earl of Stratford’s house party, no one expects her to accept.  After all, it’s well known the newly belted Earl, a war hero and rising political star, is in need of a bride, and it’s assumed he will choose a wife from the select group of attendees.

Yet Liliana has no desire to lure the rich and powerful earl into marriage.  She’s come to Somerton Park in the guise of husband-hunter for one reason—to uncover what he knows about the murder of her father.  She intends to find justice, even if she has to ruin Stratford to do it.

Liliana believes the best way to get the evidence she needs is to keep her enemy close, though romance is not part of her formula. But every good chemist would do well to remember—if you combine two unknown substances, you just might start a reaction you can’t control. 

And now here’s a little about Heather…

1.  How long have you been writing? 
I’ve made up stories here and there throughout my life, from being a little girl who invented a mermaid kingdom on a rocky beach at the lake during the summers (which, of course, I presided over as princess), to the semi-serious twenty-something who first started a Quantum Leap novel that sadly was finished right after the line closed and then moved to suspenseful serial killer novels that I never finished because they got too dark for me, to the woman who is today actively pursuing a profession as a historical romance novelist.  When I decided upon writing as a career, I realized that I wanted to write what I loved most—romance.  I immediately joined RWA (in 2007) and jumped into learning the craft.  With a detour for a baby (who’d have guessed that creativity required REM sleep?), I have rededicated myself to writing since fall of 2009.

2.  Did you always want to be a writer or is it something that developed later in life? 
Looking back, I can say my right brain always wanted to be a writer, but my left brain steered us towards other things.  But when my mind needed a break, a story always seemed to be lurking.  In my early 30’s, I faced a cross-roads of what to do with my life and I gave in and let the right brain win for a change.

3. What do you do in your “other life”? 
I have a fabulous husband and the most incredible little boy.  He’s two, which should tell you a lot about how I spend my time!  I am fortunate to be able to focus what remains on my writing.  Before our son was born, I spent five years facilitating a Christian-based education program inside the federal prison system.

4. Who are your favorite authors? 
There are so many, I couldn’t possibly name them and so many that I just haven’t had time to discover yet.  However, there are several who write in my genre that I wish I could channel for their sheer brilliance in different aspects of the craft, including Lisa Kleypas, Laura Lee Guhrke, Sabrina Jeffries, Julie Garwood…oh, I could go on forever.

5.  Do you have an agent? 
Not as of yet.  I’ve only just begun submitting, but am ever hopeful.

6.  Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
Hmmm…summer of 2015…I should be Supreme Empress of the mermaid kingdom by then…wait, sorry. J  I hope to have another child and to be eagerly awaiting the release of my seventh book, which I will be signing at the Literary Signing at RWA Nationals in New York.  See you there!

And now,  in Heather’s own words…

Finding the Right Chemistry

“The Chemist who can extract from his heart’s elements compassion, respect, longing, patience, regret, surprise and forgiveness and compound them into one can create that atom which is called Love…” —Kahlil Gibran

Hello.  My name is Heather, and I am a left-brainaholic.  I’m also a plotter, who must be dragged kicking and screaming into the pantsing that comes between plot points.  I have accepted that my process is evolving and I am hoping against hope that one day, I will settle into a comfortable truce between these left and right brains of mine.

When I decided to pursue writing as a career, I tackled it much as I would any other challenge—analytically.  I went to the library and checked out one of those “Idiot Guides to Writing Romance”.  Oh yes.  I did.  The biggest take-away from that book was an introduction to Romance Writers of America.  Before that, I had no idea such an organization existed.  I immediately joined and sought out a local chapter…bar none, the best thing I could have done as a new writer.

Then, I picked my six favorite historical romance novels and read them with analysis in mind.  First, I read them straight through, and then wrote out the stories as I saw them in four parts so I could understand how they were constructed.  Then I went chapter by chapter to see how pivotal plot and character elements built upon each other.  Then I did a character study for each character, including secondary and ancillary ones to analyze why they made it into the book and what purpose they served.

Sound crazy?  It does to me a little now, too, but I still refer back to those notes when I’m struggling to keep my stories tight. 

However, then I had to learn how to let my right brain have reign.  Imagine my surprise and dismay when I realized that emotion and creativity couldn’t be synthesized at my command, and that in order to create a story that grabs the reader, I would have to let the emotional side of myself out into the world…at least on the page.  Arrrgh.  I still struggle with that.

But then, one day it hit me.  My background in chemistry had prepared me for writing romance better than I had thought.  There are rules to follow, and some you can break when you want to experiment.  Historical romance, like science, requires careful research.  Most chemical reactions require a catalyst to drive them, just like our characters and each thing that happens between them require motivation to drive the story forward.  Both chemistry and writing, if done well, require a precise mixture of elements and careful manipulation.  Many things can go wrong and most times you won’t know what it was until you back track through each step of the process to see where your reaction/story went awry.  And just like when you write that scene that just makes you want to sigh, there is poetry in the laboratory when something you’re working on goes just right—a sense of profound satisfaction.

And I think Carl Jung said it best when he said “

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

 

So even though I didn’t intend for my chemistry background to prepare me to write romance, I am certain that it did.  What experiences in your “other” life prepared you for writing?  Or if you’re not a writer, have you been able to use past experiences in a way that surprised you?

29 comments to “Golden Heart Spotlight – Heather Snow!”

  1. Cat Schield
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 6:14 am · Link

    Great post, Heather. I love how you took apart your favorite 6 historical novels and figured out how they worked. I wish I had started by analyzing instead of just wading in.

    Great quote by Jung. Personalities coming together in a combustion that changes them both.

    In my “other” life I work in an office. Nothing like being trapped with people 8 hours a day to learn about characterization and conflict.

    So glad we met in Chicago! Can’t wait to hang with you again in Orlando!

    Cat



  2. Heather Snow
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 7:46 am · Link

    Cat,

    So glad to have met you, too! I loved your thought that office dynamics teaches you about character and conflict. So true.

    See you in Orlando. 🙂



  3. Elisa Beatty
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 8:39 am · Link

    Very fun interview and post, Heather! I, too, am impressed by how you went through those six favorite books. I’ve ATTEMPTED to do that several times with various books, and always got bogged down after a chapter or two (can you tell I’m a pantser?? A pantser desperately trying to get a little plotter discipline into my approach.)

    Your book sounds fun, too (is it more on the humorous or the dramatic side in tone?)

    Can’t wait to meet you in Orlando!!



  4. Elizabeth Stock
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 10:17 am · Link

    Hi Heather,

    Great post, enjoyed reading it. I especially can relate about the REM sleep and creativity too. I took long breaks from writing for my babies, waiting for my brain to return. When I realized it might not be until they’re 18, I started writing again anyway. 🙂 Love your synopsis of Sweet Enemy, it sounds fantastic!

    Best,

    Elizabeth



  5. Angi Morgan
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 10:29 am · Link

    Love the synopsis of SWEET ENEMY ! 😀
    I love smart Regency heroines with determination. And I completely admire you for tackling writing while you have small children. It was something I could never accomplish…of course, back then for me, there was no computer at home. (I’m not that old, personal computers are just THAT young.)

    ~~Angi



  6. Jane Sevier
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 11:42 am · Link

    Fantastic, beautifully crafted synopsis for SWEET ENEMY, Heather! You’ve certainly got both sides of your brain working there. Sounds like my kind of book.

    How fabulous to be so analytical. I admire that. Writing guides sometimes suggest taking apart favorite books to see what makes them work and makes me love them. It seems such a daunting task to approach a book that way. I usually have a setting, character, or situation in mind and just go from there. The plot figures itself out along the way, or I have to figure it out when the first draft is done.

    My whole career, I’ve been a working writer. I was one of those weird kids who LOVED diagramming sentences, so the choice of career seemed natural. But family heritage and life experiences certainly inform my fiction and scripts. My protagonists so far have been Southern, like me, and I’m glad to have that rich background to draw on.

    See you soon in Orlando!



  7. jennygirl
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 12:06 pm · Link

    Just like a scientist, studying something, taking it apart to see how it works. Great inforamtive interview.



  8. Heather Snow
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 1:55 pm · Link

    Hi Elisa! Nice to see a fellow Regency GH sister 🙂 Cravats rule!

    As for humorous or dramatic, while not fluffy, SWEET ENEMY is lighter more than it is dark. There are serious issues and heartbreak, but there is cleverness and triumph as well. I bet I didn’t answer your question at all… 😉



  9. Heather Snow
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 1:57 pm · Link

    Elizabeth ~

    Thanks or stopping by! I hear you about writing with children. It’s definitely different than writing before he was born, in many ways, but it’s all good. 🙂 I’m just trying to train my brain to be creative in spurts.

    I’ll let you know how that works out for me 😉



  10. Heather Snow
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 1:57 pm · Link

    Angi ~

    I couldn’t imagine writing without the computer! And historical research sans internet??? (((shudder))) 😉



  11. Heather Snow
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 1:58 pm · Link

    Jane ~

    Oooh…I LOVED diagramming sentences. How very analytical of you 😉



  12. Heather Snow
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 1:58 pm · Link

    JennyGirl~

    Wow! I got to see you twice in one day! Awesome

    Thanks for stopping by.



  13. sandy
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 3:21 pm · Link

    Hi Heather,

    What a comparison between a chemist and writing, left and right brain. I loved it. Your excerpt for Sweet Enemy sounds wonderful.

    I’m a cross between a panster and a plotter. I do both when it calls for it. lol



  14. Lizbeth Selvig
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 3:40 pm · Link

    Hi Heather,
    Wonderful post! I love the whole ‘two substances together’ concept, but I must admit, I am so far from being a chemist or even really understanding it, which is too bad, because my father was a chemist and I really could use a few more of those left-brained genes in my life. The chemistry between my characters either morphs or blows up all on its own–there should be a little controlled experimentation I suspect!

    I can’t say any of the random jobs throughout my life have been sparks for stories — but the traveling I’ve been blessed to be able to do and the amazing people I’ve met are my biggest sources of fodder for the imagination. I’m good at characters and situations–but would a little left-brained-ness help with my plotting?? Just asking.

    Your story sounds wonderful! Can’t WAIT to meet you in Orlando.



  15. Keli Gwyn
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 4:46 pm · Link

    I loved your bio, book blurb, and article. How fun! I’m married to a chemistry teacher, so this interview made me smile. I love to tease Gwynly about our chemistry.

    How neat that you analyzed those romance novels. I took different colored highlighters to one when I first started, marking the various aspects of a story. The exercise was quite helpful.



  16. Leigh Stites w/a Elisabeth Burke
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 6:11 pm · Link

    Haven’t you heard yet? According to Daniel Pink, right-brainers are going to rule the world! Only, we threw away the instructions and decided to start from scratch so it may take a little longer.



  17. Marianne Stephens
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 9:21 pm · Link

    Whether using the right or left side of your brain, you’re an incredibly creative person! I’m waiting for your first book signing!
    Good Luck!



  18. Gillian Layne
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 9:31 pm · Link

    I love your hook! Sweet Enemy sounds like such fun. I love “who-dun-its” in a book. I’m not very good at figuring out villains, so I enjoy my reading right up to the end. 🙂

    I’m a speech-language pathologist. I supposed that’s helped with my writing, simply because I’m pretty good at handling several irons in the fire at once. I have three girls at home, too. Enjoy your little boy, they grow up so quickly!



  19. Jacqui Nelson
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    · June 24th, 2010 at 10:45 pm · Link

    Hi Heather,
    Great post! It’s interesting how our experiences and jobs shape us. I used to be a computer animator and I like to think that many of those skills are transferable to writing.

    Animators are constantly acting out what their characters are doing. If you character gets knocked down and has to get up — you get up from your desk, lie down on the floor and get up.

    But you imagine getting up as if you were that character. Is the character old? Maybe they’d climb to their feet slowly. Is the character hurt? Maybe they’d favor one leg as they got up. Is the character afraid? Maybe they’d scramble to their feet in a hurry and trip over their feet in the process.

    Plus we’d always have a mirror sitting next to our computers so we could analyze our facial expressions.

    The tiniest detail could make the difference between a co-worker taking a look at your work and saying, “Hey, that’s pretty good” and “OMG, that is so amazing! Show me how you did that.”

    God is in the details 🙂
    Jacqui



  20. Heather Snow
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    · June 25th, 2010 at 4:34 pm · Link

    Hi Sandy!

    Great to see you. It’s nice that you feel comfortable with both plotting and pantsing. I aspire to be able to do both seamlessly.



  21. Heather Snow
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    · June 25th, 2010 at 4:35 pm · Link

    Hi Liz!

    How cool that your dad was a chemist. I have no idea where the analytical gene come from in my family 🙂

    And yes, your left brain would scream at you to plot, plot, plot!



  22. Heather Snow
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    · June 25th, 2010 at 4:36 pm · Link

    Keli ~ Married to a chemistry teacher, huh? I think that’s pretty awesome…



  23. Heather Snow
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    · June 25th, 2010 at 4:37 pm · Link

    Leigh,

    Mwa-ha-ha-ha… I can only hope you right-brainers will let me be part of your evil society. Left-brainer that I am, I AM still a writer. That should count for something…



  24. Heather Snow
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    · June 25th, 2010 at 4:37 pm · Link

    Marianne,

    Me too! Thanks for stopping by. When is your next book coming out?



  25. Heather Snow
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    · June 25th, 2010 at 4:38 pm · Link

    Gillian,

    It’s been a very thin line, trying to give enough clues without totally giving it away. Only time (and beta readers) will tell whether or not I’ve succeeded…

    Thanks for coming by.



  26. Heather Snow
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    · June 25th, 2010 at 4:40 pm · Link

    Jacqui~

    A computer animator! I bet you’re awesome at the non POV character body language!

    I read on another loop that you worked on a couple of the Harry Potter games. I LOVE them, especially Chamber of Secrets. I used to play a lot, pre-writing days.

    Maybe I’ll get them out for some in-between-book wizardry!

    Appreciate you stopping by.



  27. Abigail Sharpe
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    · June 26th, 2010 at 6:17 am · Link

    Wow, Heather, if I did what you did to start I’d be too intimidated to continue! Isn’t it funny how differernt things work for different people?

    For me, I had to get over speaking in a more formal language. I write contemporary and work as a technical writer. My tech manuals do not use contractions and have absolutely no descriptions of anything not pivotal to the function I am describing. It was a huge challenge to figure out how to describe a room or a sunset.



  28. Sharon Lynn Fisher
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    · June 27th, 2010 at 10:36 am · Link

    Sorry to chime in so late, Heather! I just love your blurb — am a complete sucker for blending scientific minds and love. And that Gibran quote is awesome.

    I have that dueling brain problem as well. I’ve worked many years as an editor, often in technical fields. I too am intimidated by that mysterious process that births whole characters and translates them onto the page. The fact that I can’t understand WHY or HOW it happens — and especially that there are no steps to follow that guarantee it will happen exactly when I need it to — is scary! But my favorite time is when right and left are harmonizing — layering in depth and detail to a rough story framework I’m really pleased with.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post, and congrats on the contest success!



  29. Erica O'Rourke
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    · June 30th, 2010 at 11:06 pm · Link

    I love hearing about people’s writing process, and yours is amazing. It really seems like the perfect combination of left and right brain, and you’ve obviously done really, really well with it.

    My “other” life experiences — I taught junior high and high school, which let me see teenagers in all their wonderful variety. I’ve also held a lot of insanely meticulous jobs, so I don’t blanch at the thought of painstaking editing passes on a manuscript. Dull, but useful.

    Fabulous post, my friend! Can’t wait to see you in Orlando!