According to Colleen Hoover‘s official bio, she “is the author of New York Times bestsellers, SLAMMED, POINT OF RETREAT, THIS GIRL, HOPELESS and LOSING HOPE. Her next standalone, MAYBE SOMEDAY, will be released in March, 2014. ” While all that is true, it really doesn’t do her justice. Colleen is a NY Times bestselling author, but she’s also one of the most humble, sweet women around. And she has released a lot of books, but nowhere in the bio does it say they’re fantastic, fast-paced and captivating reads. And nowhere in that bio does it say how devoted her fans are to her and her writing. Because they are. Trust me….they are. (I speak from experience.)
I was so excited when Colleen agreed to do an interview with me. Enjoy!
So let’s get this out of the way first: I am a huge fan of yours! Okay there, now we can converse like normal adults. 🙂 So my first question is, all of your books are amazing. They’re so character-driven and heartfelt and atmospheric. And you’ve released quite a number of them. How are you personally able to balance your time, your family life, your deadlines and everything else to produce such stellar quality in such a short time period? I read that you sometimes work 16 hour days!
The truth is I really don’t balance my time. I’m completely disorganized! Fortunately, writing is my full time job now, so I’m able to give writing my full focus and still have time for my personal life. I do sometimes work 16 hour days, but I make up for it by sacrificing sleep hours so that I can still spend time with friends and family. Basically, I sleep 4-6 hours most nights and survive with the help of my good friend, Diet Pepsi. Lots and lots and lots of Diet Pepsi.
I read online that the most successful self-published authors release a book about every four months! That is some fast turnaround! What’s your best advice to writers to stay focused?
It’s hard to answer that question because every author is different. For me, I guess it just comes naturally. When I start a story, I have to get it out because it feels like my characters are trapped in my head and their stories just need to be told. My best advice would be not to rush through a story just to meet a quota or deadline. Put the story out when you feel like you’ve done it justice.
You write full time. Congratulations! But it’s a huge step to go from full time worker to full time writer. Can you tell us a bit about that transition? How was it when you told your boss! And how was that first day when no alarm clock woke you up?
My boss was incredibly supportive. In fact, when I first started writing Slammed, some days she would lock me in her office and see my clients for me because she wanted to read what I would write next. She was so happy for me when I put in my notice her. And it wasn’t much longer before she put in her notice and became my boss again! I’m so disorganized and she’s so organized, so she basically helps me keep my crap together! As far as the alarm thing goes… I sleep less now than I did then, but I wouldn’t change a thing!
You were amazing on CBS!!!!! Tell us all about it!
Thanks! I was really nervous about being on TV, but Gayle King and everyone else there were so nice that it made it a little easier. It was awesome getting to meet them and it was a very cool experience, but being on TV isn’t really my thing. That’s why I’m an author and not an actress, I guess!
Well, your nerves definitely didn’t come through. You were great! But yeah, I read that you are terrified of publicity! I bet that CBS interview was hard!
I’m just really nervous when doing camera interviews. I’m an author, so my job is to think up what I want to say, write it down, edit it, rewrite, etc. until it’s exactly how I want it. There’s not as much pressure when I can think up what I want to say or write ahead of time. It’s the same when I do interviews like this one. I can take my time to give you the best answer I can. But when it’s on camera, I only get one chance to say the right thing and I guess that just freaks me out!
So cool. Okay, now I’ve got to ask…tell me about the moment you learned you had become a NY Times bestseller!
I was in complete shock. It was literally a dream come true for me. I never expected that. It’s still so surreal for me and I don’t think I’ll ever get totally used to it.
You began writing your breakout novel back in 2012. You had no real hopes for it, other than you just wanted to share it with friends and family. But it catapulted you onto television shows and bestseller lists and into the hearts of millions. So obviously, this ride isn’t what you expected! What have you learned about yourself that has really been examined during this journey so far?
As they say on the very best show ever made in the history of time (Big Brother), “expect the unexpected”. It really has been a crazy ride. I’ve learned that the only thing stopping me, you, or anyone else from attaining our dreams is ourselves. I wanted to be a writer my whole life but always told myself there was no point because nothing would ever come of it. But hey, I was wrong! The best thing you can do for yourself is stay positive (although a realist like me would like to remind you to maintain realistic expectations, lol!)
Alright, to switch gears, for the writers out there, can you talk a bit about your editing process? The first draft is done, you’re ready to take the proverbial (or maybe literal) red pen to it. What are some tips and tricks of the trade you’ve learned so far?
Beta readers, beta readers, beta readers. They’re so helpful and it’s really nice to get multiple perspectives on your story because everyone catches different things.
When you begin a book, does it end up the way you imagine it’ll be? Or do you find yourself scrapping/adding a lot during the revision process?
I always try to make an outline for my books, but I rarely follow it. When I’m writing, I’m not in control; my characters are. I know that sounds weird, but sometimes my characters say and do things that just make me so mad, and it’s completely out of my control! So even if I have a certain vision for my book at the beginning, my characters end up taking me by surprise and changing the story up.
You have been quoted as saying you love dialogue! What do you do to ensure that your books are filled with it? (They are!)
I love seeing how my characters interact with each other. Also, all of my books are written in the first person, so dialogue is the only way to get the points of view of the other characters. Also, romance novels are all about developing relationships, and you can’t do that without dialogue!
Finally, Colleen, since every interview ends with advice, please give advice to the writers out there who are contemplating self-publishing a novel but just aren’t sure if they’ll do it.. What’s the best, smartest thing they can do?
Do it. I exhaust this quote, but as the Avett Brothers lyrics say, “Decide what to be, and go be it.” If you want to write a book, please do! The worst case scenario is… you wrote a book! Congratulations! Trust me, writing the words “The End” for the first time is the best feeling in the world (you know, other than unconditional love for your children and stuff like that) and if nobody ever reads your book, you will still be happy that you did it. And as far as self-publishing goes, it’s a good way to start, even if you eventually hope to have a publisher.