Monday, November 18, 2013

Getting to know author Layla Hunter

Please give a warm welcome to author Layla Hunter who sat down to talk with me about her new book, Whisper Sweet Nothings and some other fun stuff. 

To get us started can you tell us a little about what you are working on or have coming out?

In addition to the release of Whisper Sweet Nothings, each week I write a new installment of 'My Soul to Keep' – a contemporary paranormal (ghost) free read from SCP. Here's the link if any of your readers are interested:

I'm in the process of finishing (what I believe will be) two more Weekend Getaways for submission to SCP and I've started doing some in-depth research for my novel by 'volunteering' at a local tattoo shop! They've agreed to let me hang out and absorb as much as I need to for my research.

How would you describe yourself using only five words?


Where do you find the inspirations for your stories?

I’m sure this will sound strange, but I have amazingly vivid and emotional dreams (likely tied to my very overactive imagination), so many of the seeds for my stories have come from there. I love playing the “What if …” game when I see a striking picture or drive past an unusual building. Television (especially the History Channel, Discovery channel or documentaries) can be a wonderful source to spark an idea.

Music! Whether it’s the title or lyrics to a song or even the ‘mood’ of a song, an idea for a story can spring from there.  

Let's just say I should buy stock in 3M! I LOVE sticky notes and I keep them with me at all times in case an idea pops into my head, a line of dialogue, 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.

Do you have a book that was easiest to write or one that was the hardest?

If I had to pick one, I'd say it's Skin Deep. 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!

Here is the link for the trailer if anyone wants to take a peek …

When you begin your stories, do you go with the flow, or go with an outline?

I let the story grow in my mind for a while before I begin to write it, although I do jot down tons of notes as they come to me so I don’t forget all the little details I’ll eventually weave together. I have dozens of those composition notebooks! *laughs* You'd never be able to make head or tails of what’s in there but that’s part of my process. I jot down dialogue; sketch a scene out, whether it’s the layout of a town or simply a room; I play with names and their meanings. I love the feel of a pencil against paper and in some ways, that itself is inspiring and a lot less intimidating than a blank screen and a blinking cursor.

Before I type the first word, I have a general idea of how the story (now a mini-movie in my head) will play out. Part of the fun for me is to let the story and the characters take me to unexpected places. Granted, it’s a bit more work that way as I have to go back and fill in details and modify back story, but the journey is much too fun to do it any other way.

What do you feel is the most important thing that a first-time author should know? 

Write, write and write some more and finish the book! I’m a new author myself so short of telling others not to give up, ever, I’d have to say write what you know and write the book(s) you love!

In the same regard, writing is sometimes a lonely endeavor, so join a Yahoo group with like-minded writers, or writers/readers in similar genres and connect!

I would love to share some of my favorite sites with other writers! The Bookshelf Muse is one of my favorite sites. This site contains some of the most unusual and creative 'thesauruses' a writer could want. Want an Emotion Thesaurus? A Weather Thesaurus? A Character Thesaurus? Check this blog out and follow!

Another amazing Yahoo Group we can all use … published or not. Invaluable resources and amazing members!

If you write Erotic romance, visit these sites:

I’ve also found workshops to be extremely helpful! Working full-time and having a family to take care of, my time is at a premium. Luckily for me, there are many online workshops available that make taking one (or more) quite convenient! Most are very affordable and there are quite a few free ones as well.

Here are some of my favorite websites:

I will extend one word of caution - you have to be careful when it comes to becoming the perpetual student and putting what you’ve learned to use and actually writing a story you plan to and follow through on submitting. For me, it was quite easy to become ‘addicted’ to the workshops and stay safe from putting myself out there.

How do you like to relax after a day writing?

Let’s see … I love to read, but after sitting at the computer for so long, I’m more likely to want to get up and move, but reading (and research) are 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. Belly dancing! Amazing exercise and so much fun! Shooting sports … my husband loves to shoot and owns several handguns so we’ll go to the range together and blow off some steam! Spending time with my family, watching movies or playing the Wii together is something we love to do too!

Snuggling and playing with our cats is one of my absolute favorite ways to relax, just as relaxing in front of a nice fire, a glass of Merlot, a movie and … just breathing. Oh, I KNOW what you were thinking! *waggles wickedly* Me too …

How much of your own personality bleeds into your characters?

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, real life or imagined.

As for real life experiences, Skin Deep was quite personal to me as I was diagnosed with Morphea 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 so it was important for me to write about it.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

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 actually 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, and with another decade of life experiences under my belt to enrich my writing.

What is one fun fact about you that readers don't know?

*laughs* Hmm…I'll confess I can only watch scary movies when I'm home alone! I know that sounds weird, but it's true. For some reason, if my husband and/or daughter are here, I can't watch one, nor can I go to a theater. But when I'm alone, it's game on. Granted I usually end up scared out of my mind but that's part of the fun. Oh, and I love Miracle Whip.

What is the last song you've had on repeat?

Florence and the Machine – Shake It Out!

Whisper Sweet Nothings by Layla Hunter
A Weekend Getaway Story
Secret Cravings Publishing
Contemporary Erotic Romance
Available at Publisher

Sarah Cole never expected to find herself divorced and nearly broke at the age of thirty-four, no less working part-time as a phone sex operator for Whisper Sweet Nothings.  

Solely responsible for the care of her grandmother, she's willing to do whatever she needs to care for the woman who raised her, even if it means foregoing her dream to sing.

News of his impending deployment turns Lt. Samuel Meade's world upside down, and he finds himself alone to face the unknown when unexpectedly abandoned by his girlfriend.  

Eager to help him shake the blues, friends set him up with Whisper Sweet Nothings for a little fun before deployment. Not wanting to seem ungrateful or endure the merciless ribbing of his buddies, he goes ahead with the call, expecting the worst.

Instead, he finds Sherry (aka Sarah Cole), a kindred soul as seemingly lost as he is.

Neither could have imagined the instant bond forged that night, the foundation for a friendship that would span nearly a year. Sharing heartfelt letters with a woman he's never met, Sam finds himself falling for her.

Scarred in more ways than one during his deployment, Sam returns stateside suffering from PTSD and a painful leg injury. Convincing himself that he is as broken as his dream of pursuing her, he gives himself over to despair. 

Unbeknownst to them, with the help of a friend, they find themselves face to face, embarking on a journey of self-discovery, acceptance and a once in a lifetime love.

 Teaser Excerpt:

Sarah jumped when the phone finally rang, staring at the console like a deer caught in headlights, unable to move. What the hell was she doing?  This was insane, an introverted, thirty-something, afraid-of-her-own-shadow architect-wannabe trying to pass herself off as a phone sex operator? She'd lost her mind.
"Are you going to get that or what?" Rachel chided. Sarah looked helplessly to her designated trainer.
 "You can do this. Remember why you are doing this, sweetie. It makes it easier. I'll be nearby," the woman reassured her.
Sarah nodded, adjusting her headset and reaching over to press the flashing button—the button that would lead her down a path she'd never pictured herself traversing, especially not at this point in her life.
When she began training, she'd been asked to pick a name for herself and had chosen Sherry. It had a sweet, girl-next-door quality to it unlike her actual name. Her eccentric, literary-minded mother had thought it a wonderful idea to name her only daughter Scheherazade, although most of her friends called her Sarah. Tonight, though, she was Sherry, a sexy voiced seductress on the other end of a telephone entertaining horny men and perverts and…
Stop! You can do this Sarah. If you could live through one of the most brutal divorces in recorded history, you can do this.
"Hello, this is Sherry. Welcome to Whisper Sweet Nothings…have you called us before?" she asked sweetly even though her hands shook and her heart pounded painfully within her chest. Quickly, she glanced at the computer screen to scan a few details about her caller.
 "Uh, no…this is…well, this is my first time calling."
Given she was new she'd been told she would get the undecided first-timers or the clients who wanted a more vanilla experience. Most of the women here had a specialty…BDSM, fetish, gay/lesbian, etc. As she trained, she could add to her repertoire if she chose which would increase her moneymaking potential.
"Not to worry. That's why they put you in my very capable hands. I will take care of you. What's your name?" she asked, pulling out the scripts she had studied ad nauseum.
"Sam. My name is Sam. Know what…this was a mistake. I…I should go. I'm sorry, ma'am…I didn't mean to waste your time and…"
 She could hear his voice trembling and her heart went out to him. He was as nervous as she was. "Sam…listen to me. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but would it make you feel better to know that this is my first time too?"
 She caught the look of disdain from Rachel who shook her head from side to side, obviously a mistake and likely not to be her first. Sorry, she mouthed, turning her attention back to Sam.
 "I think you are just saying that to keep me on the line."
 She smiled. "No, this really is my first time. I'll make you a deal. We take this one-step at a time…together. How does that sound?"
There was a moment of silence and she thought she'd lost him. Her heart sank.
 "That sounds fine."
 "So tell me…what is it you were looking for when you called me tonight?"

About the Author

 Layla Hunter's love of the romance genre began at age of eleven when her 'Nanns' slipped her a few True Romance comic books and a Harlequin; needless to say, it was love at first sight. Before long, she was writing her own tales of romance and has been doing so for over three decades. In addition to erotic contemporary, she writes paranormal and fantasy as well.
A New Jersey native, she resides in an 1890 Folk Victorian she and her husband are slowly (very slowly) returning to its former beauty. They share this century-old home with their daughter, likely a few ghosts, a goofy dog the size of a small pony, 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.

She's published several erotic shorts in an online magazine, Every Night Erotica, as well as a short story, Dark Desire, which was included in XOXO Publishing’s Halloween Anthology, Vol. 1, released October, 2010. She joined the Secret Cravings Publishing family with her first novella, Skin Deep, on February 9, 2011.

Passionate 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 worlds for a while, where they can be assured of a HEA. She loves hearing from readers and fellow writers alike!

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