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Interview with Talia Quinn Daniels, Two-Time Golden Heart Finalist!

Posted by on May 31 2013, 12:30 am

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Today, I’m thrilled and honored to be interviewing two-time Golden Heart Finalist Talia Quinn Daniels. Talia’s first manuscript, No Peeking, won the Contemporary Single Title category in 2012, and this year she finaled in the same category with a second manuscript, What’s Yours is Mine. Here’s the blurb:

 

 

Darcy Jennings just bought a one bedroom condo, a gorgeous cliffside property in a coastal community north of Santa Barbara. It’s the first time in her life she’s ever had a permanent home, and it means everything to her. It’s especially sweet after what happened four years ago. That’s behind her now, and the rat who nearly ruined her career, one Will Dougherty, is history.

Will Dougherty just bought a one bedroom condo. He helped build the property with his green, clean designs, and he earmarked this unit to make his own. It’s up the road from his newly divorced sister, and it means everything to him. He’s come a long way since the day four years ago when his underhanded coworker, one Darcy Jennings, got him fired.  Thankfully, he’ll never have to see her again.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Darcy finds this out the hard way when she stumbles into her condo after a long business trip, crawls into bed, and discovers a man there. Will Dougherty. And he says it’s not her bed, it’s his.

It seems they bought the same condo.

Now Will and Darcy have to live together twenty four hours a day until one of them admits defeat. When these two strong willed people are stuck together, sparks fly, in more ways than one. They get under each other’s skin and then some.

Doesn’t it sound great? I had the great privilege of reading What’s Yours is Mine, and you should all be wild with jealousy, because this book is amazing. Sexy, smart and fun, with a little bit of mystery and characters that are just a little bit outside of the box. And did I mention sexy? Today I’m talking to Talia about her writing process and what’s next for her in this journey.

 

Talia, one thing I loved about What’s Yours is Mine is the fact that your characters are so believable. Even your side characters have depth and heart. What can you share with us about your character development process?

Aww, thanks! *blushing now*

It all happens fairly organically, I think. I bounce between plot and character, and each informs the other until the whole thing hangs together. The best analogy for character development may be oil painting. You block out the major shapes in swaths of color, and then each time you go back over the area, you refine and add detail until it feels three dimensional and complete. Some of it happens in the brainstorming process, some of it on the page as they start to talk and breathe and act like real people.

Secondary characters are fun. I live in NYC, which is amazing for people watching. I often make up little stories in my head about people on the subway. Everyone is the hero of his or her own story, after all. I like to give a taste of that in my novels. I hate when a best friend is just a quippy sounding board. When she leaves frame, I want to get the sense that she goes off to have her own adventures.

 

That’s a great way to think about characters—like they have whole lives we don’t know about just off the page. Another great thing about your writing is the richness of the setting. What’s Yours is Mine takes place in a condo complex in Southern California, and your writing made me feel like I could smell the sea. How did you decide on the setting for the book? Is it based on a real place?

 

Entirely fictional, sadly. I lived in SoCal for a number of years, though, so I know the landscape pretty well. It was fun to go back there in my imagination.

Since the story takes place mostly in and around a single condo, I was concerned it might feel claustrophobic, so I wanted to set it somewhere beautiful: an environmentally green, lovely complex with gorgeous, lush plantings, set on a cliff edge with a path leading down to a private cove.

Also, it had to truly feel magical so they’d both be desperate to stay. This is the most perfect spot on earth, why would anyone willingly give up a home here?

 

I would buy a condo there in a heartbeat.

You write in both contemporary romance and young adult. How do you think your voice differs in each genre?

 

I’d say my romance voice has a lighter tone. I love the snap of romantic comedy, so that flavor sneaks in. Add a big dollop of sexual tension and the fact that the main story goal is so firmly imbedded in the HEA, and you’ve got a very specific voice, one that’s a ton of fun to write.

My YA has darker subject matter, which changes the tone, though some playfulness inevitably creeps in. There’s also something about writing first person and present tense. Deep POV dives even deeper. Because of that, I can get away with more of an edge to my main character, because we identify with her more completely. Plus, she’s a teenager. Teenagers have a lot of spiky edges. I know; I live with one.

I love going back and forth between the two genres. It keeps me fresh.

 

Speaking of genre-hopping, your contemporary romance ranges from hot to almost erotic. Do you consider yourself an erotic romance author?

 

This is a tricky question, because you’re not the first person who has complimented my sex scenes, and I do like writing that mix of emotional tension and sensory detail. And with some stories, the sex is such an integral part of the journey of these two characters toward each other, it would be wrong to leave out all those beats, because they’re relationship beats too. So that all fits, right? But other times, it feels like I’d be ordering my characters to have sex RIGHT NOW, NO, I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE MOOD, DO IT BECAUSE MY CONTRACT SAYS SO, and, y’know, that would feel weird.

Since even at my hottest, I walk the line between spicy contemporary and erotic romance, I might as well self-identify as being on the side of that line that allows me the flexibility to tell all the stories I want to tell, not just some of them.

 

I have to say, every sex scene in What’s Yours is Mine feels totally natural.

You’ve also had a career in television editing. How has that influenced your writing?

 

The great thing about working in editing for a dramatic television series is that you see the script, then you see the raw footage shot from that script, then you put it together and see what the show actually feels like to watch. The process becomes transparent. In the cutting room, you spend a lot of time analyzing what does and doesn’t work. I learned to pay close attention to the emotional throughline. That’s what keeps the viewer (reader) hooked.

 

Fascinating! It must be interesting to watch that transition from the writers’ vision to the finished story.

I think we all remember your beautiful acceptance speech at last year’s ceremony, when you spoke about your son, who was seriously ill, but has since recovered. Do you find it hard to keep writing through difficult times like that?

 

I’d like to say, “Oh, no, I kept writing through the whole ordeal,” but that would be a sad lie.

When I flew to Anaheim, we thought he’d come down with some kind of persnickity, hard to pin down infectious disease. The truth unfolded while I was at the conference. The day after I got home, I checked into the hospital with him for a lymph node biopsy, which confirmed that he had Hodgkin lymphoma.

I’ve written through tough times in the past, but this was different. My baby was sick. His health crisis took over my brain completely. When he was undergoing chemo, I couldn’t even read fiction, let alone write it. I had this huge pile of books from RWA, but when I tried reading them, my brain was just white noise. Ironically, I could read dense, dry medical journal articles with no problem.

Once he was past the worst phase of treatment and was clearly responding brilliantly, my head cleared. Even though he still had a month of radiation to undergo, I started to write again. It was like a spigot turned on and creativity poured out of me. All that emotion needed somewhere to go, I guess. I wrote most of my new YA during NaNoWriMo last November. I’ve been on a creative roll ever since.

 

I know we’re all glad he made such a great recovery—and that you did, too. What’s next for you? Are you going to pursue traditional publication or self-publication for either of your Golden Heart books?

 

I love how the world has opened up for writers that we can now ask these questions and think in these terms. Truth is, I’d ideally like to do both. I love the idea of being a hybrid author.

I’m planning to self publish No Peeking as the third book in a series about a group of women artists sharing a studio space in Brooklyn, since it’s a setting that doesn’t fit the current contemporary market. Plus, I think I might have an entrepreneur’s soul, and that level of control over the process appeals to me immensely.

On the other hand, What’s Yours is Mine feels more suited to traditional publishing. I’d like to explore that route for it, as well as for the YA, for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that I’d simply like to have that experience.

But really, who knows? I’ve learned not to count on anything, because life will always surprise you.

 

So true. Thanks for sharing your creative process today. I know I’m going to be first in line to pick up your first book!

If you want to find out more about Talia’s books, or just be in-the-loop when she has her first release party, stop by her website, or follow her on twitter.

 

 

60 responses to “Interview with Talia Quinn Daniels, Two-Time Golden Heart Finalist!”

  1. Kay Hudson says:

    What’s Yours Is Mine sounds like such a fun story, Talia–congrats again on the final. It’s so good to hear about Damien’s recovery. This year you can really enjoy the conference. See you there!

  2. Jean Willett says:

    What great stories, Talia. I can’t wait to read them. Congratulations! A second Golden Heart nod is such an achievement that will motivate you even more. This year your conference experience will be so sweet! Damien’s recovery, a finalist and a finished book. You’re a Firebird and a Lucky13. Enjoy yourself. See you soon.

    • Thanks, Jean! And yes, it’s going to be a much, much better conference experience for me this year, I suspect. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do have a lot of good memories from Anaheim. But this time will feel less conflicted, for sure! See you in six weeks!

  3. oberonwonch says:

    Hi, Talia! Congrats on your second GH final. I’ve read the opening chapters of What’s Yours Is Mine, and I can vouch for its utter fantastic-ness! See you in Atlanta!

  4. Aww, thanks, Oberon. You’re making me blush! See you there!! (And congrats back atcha, woman.)

  5. Elisa Beatty says:

    Such a fabulous, smart interview, AJ and Talia!!

    I didn’t know you’d worked in TV editing, Talia…sounds like amazing experience for understanding how plot really works.

    Congrats on the shiny new Golden Heart final! I soooo wish I were going to Atlanta to cheer you on again.

    • Elisa, I wish you were coming too! I hope you get tons of writing done this summer, a better-than-consolation prize.

      Yes, working in editing taught me a ton. In some unexpected ways, too. You know how everyone complains about writing synopses? I’ve never found them that tough, and I realized recently why that is. As an assistant editor, one of my jobs was to write a scene continuity for every episode, breaking the script down, scene by scene, and writing one-liners about the salient points. Not exactly a synopsis, but certainly using the same analytical chops.

    • Thanks, Elisa! I wish you were coming, too. 🙁

  6. LorendaC says:

    I’ll admit to feeling a bit jealous that some of my other Firebird sisters have read your work already. Ever since I read the blurb for No Peeking, I’ve been itching to get my hands on it.

    And What’s Yours is Mine sounds just as good, if not better. Congratulations on your final, and I hope you’ll finally get to enjoy RWA Nationals without shadows. See you there!

  7. India Powers says:

    Talia,

    Thanks for sharing your creative process with us. I especially loved your tips on writing believable characters. And the idea of using a gorgeous setting to counter the small condo environment is simply brilliant! Your books sound great and I can’t wait to read them! 🙂

    I am so glad that your son recovered and is doing well.

    Congrats again on the final! See you in Atlanta!

    • Thanks, India. I’m glad if you found something of use in what I said about developing characters. I always find other writers’ process fascinating.

      I found as many reasons to have them go outside while still staying in the confines of the complex as I could. (They even go down to the water, because man. I wanted to.)

      Congrats on your final! See you soon!

  8. Gail Hart says:

    Talia – Congrats on your son’s recovery, your second GH final, and your plans to self-publish No Peeking. Also good luck with finding What’s Yours is Mine a traditionally published home. This truly is a great time to be a writer!

    The lawyer in me is wondering how you’re going to make the basic premise of What’s Yours is Mine believable, so you have a built in sale. 😉

    • Hi Gail! Isn’t it awesome that we have so many choices? For the first time ever. So exciting; I just have to try out the self publishing thing at least once.

      And re. the lawyer in you, heh, and I totally get that. When I read gross inaccuracies relating to my own knowledge base, it makes me nuts. And this is a central enough conceit so I can’t just handwave it away (well, not entirely). Actually, fellow Firebird and lawyer Magdalen Braden read the manuscript and gave me brilliant notes. So I think I’m good. Well, assuming I listened.

    • I can vouch for the condo buying working–it’s such a fun book. 😉 Thanks for stopping by, Gail, and congrats on your GH final! See you in Atlanta!

  9. Hi Talia,

    I love the painting analogy–I think about that all the time. Keep going back, adding more, touching up, etc. For me, that’s the fun part!

    Sign me up for a condo in Southern Cal!! Your story sounds adorable–can’t wait to read it.

    So glad your son is doing well. Congrats on all your success and wishing you much more! Very much looking forward to meeting you at Nationals.

    • I want to live there too! Maybe we can get adjoining condos. 🙂

      Do you have an art background too? It’s a natural analogy if you’ve got experience with painting, I think… I’m not sure which part of the process I prefer, honestly. Sometimes I love the first draft so much, getting to see the story unfold on the page, all fresh and new. Sometimes I prefer the layering that you get to do in rewrites. Sometimes I love the thrill of developing a story from a kernel into a full outline, ready to be written. Maybe I prefer whichever one I haven’t done most recently? Heh.

      I look forward to meeting you too!! I can’t believe it’s coming so soon!

  10. Terri Osburn says:

    Congrats on another GH final, Talia. I remember the moment your name was called last year. My first thought was “Thank God I don’t have to go up there” followed closely by “The right person won!”

    Now I get to cheer you on again! I’ve been fortunate to read a bit of What’s Yours Is Mine and already love your voice. It won’t be long now before the rest of the gets to fall in love with it too.

    PS: SOOOOOOO happy to hear Damien is doing so well. Score one for modern medicine and an incredible kid.

    • Ha, Terri! I think my first thought when my name was called was “….” and then, “You mean I have to go read this speech now????” So yeah. (And thank you for the compliment, it means a lot.)

      You guys in STC were all so warm and gracious after the ceremony. I was both touched and impressed by that.

      Damian’s truly a modern medical miracle. Hodgkin’s is so responsive to treatment, it’s incredible. And I saw strengths I never knew he had. (The sense of humor, that part I knew.)

      BTW, I’m midway through Meant to Be and thoroughly enjoying it. Talk about wanting to move to a book’s setting! Man.

  11. Sandra Owens says:

    Talia,

    Love the story idea for WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE. It makes me smile just imagining all the sparks flying between these two.

    So glad your son recovered and you have another opportunity to experience being a GH finalist at RWA under better circumstances.

    • Thanks, Sandra! I think I smiled most of the way through writing the manuscript. Sometimes I even giggled. 🙂 Not that it’s laugh out loud, really, but I was having so much fun with the conflict.

      See you in Atlanta!

  12. Talia,

    So sweet to final again. Congratulations!

    WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE sounds like a very fun read. How did you set up the basic premise, of them being sold the same condo? Was the builder scamming people? Just wondered how you got around the legal aspects of buying a home, so that they could both buy the same one. You can probably tell, I’m a research maniac. I love inventive, original story lines, and this story has one. The condo complex you created sounds amazing! I hope I’ll be reading WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE in the not too distant future.

    • Oh, she totally makes the condo-buying thing work. 😉 And the setting is gorgeous (and gorgeously written).

    • Sheri, I’m starting to really appreciate this about you. I want to borrow your research brain and keep it on my desk.

      As to how, well, let’s just say they both bought the condo under slightly unconventional but entirely legal (and also situationally appropriate) circumstances. So the system didn’t flag the double purchase. Also, the realtor, while a lovely person and passionate about her work, is a bit ADHD.

      (I can’t take full credit; Magdalen helped me figure it out.)

  13. I love the analogy of character development being like an oil painting. Never thought of that before but now that you’ve said it, the description is very true! So glad your son is better and that you are back on your “creative roll.” If you nailed NaNoWriMo, then you are definitely back in the swing of things. Can’t wait to read your Golden Heart stories and all the rest to come!

    • Jacqui, I actually come from a visual arts background: my mother is a professional artist and I majored in art at a magnet high school. Lots of painting, and I always loved oil best (though not the cleanup). So it’s an analogy that comes naturally.

      The YA I dug into during NaNo is finally almost done (this next week, for sure), and looks to be nearly 100K, which has me gasping for air. I’ll have to cut that sucker down in rewrites!

      Thanks for stopping by, and I really look forward to meeting you in person!

  14. Great interview, Talia!

    Thanks for sharing more about your GH-finaling manuscript, which sounds awesome. And I’m glad your son is doing better. Now you can celebrate both of those things in Atlanta with the rest of the Lucky 13s (and the Firebirds too, of course)!

  15. Talia, every bit of good luck to you in the upcoming golden heart contest and with getting this book traditionally published. Jean, fabulous interview, as usual. I really enjoyed it so much!

  16. Thank you, Diana! Much appreciated. I’m fine with whatever happens in the contest; I have my necklace and my two shiny pins. It’s all good, right? 🙂 (Still, I guess I’d better write that speech just in case.)

    Truth is, I’m fine with whatever happens with the book too. I’d truly love it if a good publisher picks it up, but I’m also okay with self publishing it. As long as readers can find it, you know?

    Hugs to you, sweetie. Will you be in Atlanta this year?

  17. Amy DeLuca says:

    Hi Talia,
    I really enjoyed your interview, and your book sounds like something I’d buy right this minute if it were available! I edited news video for years, so I can relate to what you’re saying on a smaller scale. It was helpful to see how you relate that to writing. Congratulations again on your GH final- can’t wait to meet you!

    • I’ll hold you to that sale, Amy! (Okay, not really, but it’s great to hear that.)

      I imagine your experience has been likewise beneficial to you. Storytelling is storytelling, right? And I don’t know specifically about news video, but I know that with documentaries, the cutting room is where story crafting really begins.

      Looking forward to meeting you too!

  18. Wow! What a great interview! And my deepest and heartfelt congratulations on finagling in the Golden Heart once again. I’ll be there rooting for you! I sure do want to read What’s Yours Is Mine! What a premise. I can tell by this interview that you are an awesome writer and know your craft. Way to go!

  19. I meant finaling, not finagling! My eyes are still adjusting.

  20. Robena Grant says:

    Congratulations again, Talia. So happy for you with your GH final for 2013! You went through a nightmare year and yet bounced back. That says a lot about tenacity and perseverance…and love for what you do.

    Excellent interview and look into your process. If you ever do a workshop at RWA National I’ll be in the front row.

    Your book sounds awesome, and even without reading anything but the blurb above, I have a distinct picture of the setting. But then I’m Californian. ; )Can’t wait to read it!

    • Thanks, Roben! I’m a writing addict, so I have to write. Once the clouds clear, that is.

      When you do read the book, you’ll have to tell me if I got the setting right. It’s been a while since i lived there, and I never lived outside LA proper. But I love the coastline between LA and SF. (It was soooo hard not to refer to Route 1 as PCH in the book, because you just know that’s how they’d be referring to it in real life.)

      I’d love to do a workshop at National sometime! That would be such a kick. Maybe “Story structure: a view from the cutting room”… hmm…

    • I’m a Californian, too, and I thought the setting was spot-on.

      Talia, I’d be there for that workshop!

  21. TamraBaumann says:

    Great interview ladies!

    And congrats on another GH final Talia! (How’s this year’s acceptance speech coming along?) Being a real estate appraiser, I’m wondering how two people ended up owning that same condo. I suspect some very foul play is in the works and will make for some compelling external conflict! Can’t wait to read this one!!

    Looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

    • Acceptance speech? What acceptance speech? You mean I gotta write one again? Can I borrow yours? It’s been test driven and everything.

      (eep)

      No foul play, just massive BUT REALISTIC (cough) snafus. See my response to Sheri for vague, nonspecific details. The foul play comes in elsewhere….

      Looking forward to seeing you too!!

  22. Sharon Wray says:

    Congratulations on your second GH final, Talia! I adore the premise of this book and can’t wait to read it. But more importantly, I’m glad your son is doing well. I’ve kept him in my prayers since we heard about his diagnosis last year. I just hope you’ll get to enjoy this year’s GH ceremony without his illness weighing on your heart.

    Looking forward to seeing you again!

    • Thank you, Sharon! I’m glad to report that Damian is extremely healthy now. As I write this, he is sitting across the table from me, devouring his third turkey rollup, so yeah. (Thank you for your prayers. I believe in them, and am deeply touched, too.)

      I confess, I’ve had a wee writer’s crush on you since your post about your kids, and the best being saved for last. Not just right on, but so beautifully written.

      I look forward to seeing you soon, and congrats on your third and fourth finals!!!

  23. Love the blurb Talia .. sounds like a great story. And to final the 2nd time must be great .. at least you know what to expect now!

    Have fun at this year’s conference … it will definitely be different for you this time around.

    • Yeah, it’s old hat by now. *yawn*

      (JUST KIDDING!!!)

      In truth, I get to have the excitement without the fear. I now know not everything depends on this moment, these decisions. I can just enjoy the ride. I hope you get to experience it again too — or that you’re ineligible by next year!

      I’ll probably come for a visit up your way next summer, and we can say hi then if you’re not coming to RWA (sounds like you’re not?).

  24. Darcy Woods says:

    Hi Talia! What a fantastic interview! Your book sounds like a total delight, and I just loved hearing about your creative journey!!! Oil painting–genius. You know what else I love? Your heroine’s name 😉

    Congrats again, and I’m ecstatic your GH experience will be infinitely lighter this year!

    Looky, it’s almost June! *claps and jumps around* See you in a few short weeks!

    • It’s almost June???? What the what? How did that happen? Didn’t we just get the call last week? Sheesh. Now how am I going to have time to lose that weight? (I forgot to go on a diet. Oops.)

      Darcy is a great name, I agree. 🙂 Looking forward to your interview on Monday!

      See you in Atlanta!

  25. Talia,
    Your book sounds great. I love the whole fighting over whose condo it will be…My money’s on the sharing forever thing. 🙂
    I’m so sorry to hear about how sick your son was at the last conference. I knew there was something wrong–obviously–from your acceptance speech, but I didn’t know the particulars. Your family seems very supportive!
    That’s so funny about the spiky edges of teens. I hear you! I write YA, so I’m very familiar with that. And that’s one of the reasons I love writing it. I can let out that sarcastic, angsty young adult in me. Forget the child business. Love the Inner Teen instead.
    It’s interesting that you feel comfortable writing sex scenes and you also write YA. Just out of curiosity…do the teens in your books have sex? If so, do you the scenes behind closed doors or wide open?

    • Thanks, Kim. Yes, my husband was amazing through all of it. He wanted me to be able to enjoy the Golden Heart experience as much as possible under the circumstances, and my kid was stable, so it was an okay thing to do.

      I’ve only written the one YA so far, but nope, the sole sex scene (which I might take out) is very much behind closed doors, and even the kissing doesn’t have tons of fireworks (some, though). I’m deliberately not writing with lots of oh-he’s-so-hot-I’m-melllltttttiiiinnnggg descriptives. It’s a romantic story, but not in the same way. I’m loving the contrast between the two styles. I suspect my next YA will be similar.

      I’m contemplating a New Adult story, and if I write it, it’ll land somewhere in between the YA and the romances. Which seems appropriate too.

      What can I say? I like variety!

  26. Congratulations on your second Golden Heart Nomination, Talia! This book sounds awesome! I love the idea of the two of them both “owning” the condo and being too bull-headed to back down. I can just imagine the sparks that fly! As an artist I really liked your analogy of the oil painting and character development. That is EXACTLY how I work too – both on the canvas and in the manuscript. Of course we are all glad to hear of your son’s recovery and so glad that you will be able to enjoy this year’s Golden Heart ride. You deserve it!

    • Thanks, Heather! I had so much fun with those sparks. Turns out it’s really true, if you find the right conflict, it makes writing so much easier! (Though the mystery aspect of the plot gave me a lot of trouble. Gah.)

      I didn’t know you were an artist too. I grew up around it, which is why the series that includes No Peeking involves artists.

      See you soon!

  27. Before we wrap this up, I wanted to thank AJ, who came up with such intriguing, specific-to-me questions. I had a great time answering.

    Good night all! (I’ll check back in later, though, so if you’re late to the party, never fear.)

  28. Thanks everyone for coming out to celebrate! (And thanks, Talia, for giving such thoughtful answers!)

  29. Nan Dixon says:

    Okay – I had tried to post on Friday — from a new phone!
    Apparently it didn’t work. (Probably user error — sigh … and I’m usually pretty good with technology!)
    Love learning more and more about you, Talia. So glad your son is in remission (I’m hoping that’s where he is)
    Can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta!

    • Sorry for your technology woes, Nan. Tricksy things sometimes, aren’t they?

      Yes, my son is happily in remission. With an excellent prognosis, to boot. That phase of our lives is solidly behind us.

      Looking forward to hanging out by the bar with you!

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