Please give us your website addy, a list of your books and a short bio.
You can find my website at www.laylahunter.com. As for a list of my publications, here you go:
Short Stories: Full Exposure, Masquerade, Whisper Sweet Nothings: Something about Sam, Parts 1 and 2, Second Chances, Masquerade: Amidst the Poppies, Part 1 and 2 can be found at http://www.everynighterotica.com/?s=layla+hunter
Dark Desire, an erotic short part of XOXO Publishing Halloween Anthology, Vol. 1, can be found at http://xoxopublishing.com/shop-online/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=89&products_id=81
Winter Rose, a free short story can now be found at Manic Readers, http://www.manicreaders.com/index.cfm?disp=bookDetail&bookid=11312
And Skin Deep, my first novella, can be found at Secret Cravings Publishing, http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com/LaylaHunter.html (and I’m donating 10% of my royalties from the sales of Skin Deep will be donated to The Scleroderma Foundation.
Layla Hunter's love of romance began at age of eleven when her grandmother (referred to lovingly as 'Nanns') slipped her a couple True Romance comic books, along with her first romance, and it was love at first sight. Before long, she was writing her own stories and has been doing so for over three decades. Along with erotic contemporary romance, she enjoys writing erotic fantasy/paranormal romance, and has several works in progress.
A New Jersey native, she currently resides in an 1890 Folk Victorian with her husband and daughter. They share this century-old home with 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.
Although the siren call of writing commands most of her time, she also enjoys reading, photography, ghost hunting, belly dancing, shooting sports, movies, music, and actively supporting several causes near and dear to her heart.
Butterfly-inducing 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 world for a little while where they can be assured of a HEA (or at the very least, a HFN ending).
She is a member of RWA, NJRW, LSFW, Passionate Ink, FF&P RWA, Elements RWA, Erotic Readers & Writers Association, Savvy Authors, Absolute Write, Romance Divas, GoodReads.com, Romantic Ideas Online, WOW, and Truly Madly Deeply Romance Authors.
How do you usually come up with a story idea? Dreams? Writer’s journal? Eavesdropping on conversations? Newpaper?
I’m sure this will sound strange, but I’m blessed to 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.
I also take advantage of one of my writing group’s Flash Fiction prompts to stir up a sleepy Muse (as if that is ever the case … my Muse seems to be on 24/7 … but I’m not complaining!).
What is your process from idea to first draft?
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 would 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.
Who or what inspires you when your creative mojo is lagging?
I start by shutting down Word and just putting the story away for a little while. Instead, I will research something that interests me that has nothing to do with the current WIP. I’ll watch a movie (or three *winks*). I will play the “What If” game or ‘story tag’ with my daughter. Go for a long walk. Read something outside the genre I’m writing in. Google! Amazing what you can conjure up when clicking from one link to another, etc. Usually, any or all of the above work and I’m cooking in no time!
Who is your Yoda—your seasoned mentor?
Granted he doesn’t know it, but Josh Whedon. Brilliant man, brilliant mind! The writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel was remarkable and hooked my from the very first episode. After I would watch an episode, I’d re-watch it and pick it apart to figure out what made it work! *laughs* Oh, the things I do for fun.
The writers for the Vampire Diaries have caught my attention too (Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec) and if you haven’t had a chance to watch the series (especially lovers of all things paranormal), I’d suggest you catch up as quickly as you can!
Personally, we have a remarkably supportive and creative group of authors at Secret Cravings Publishing – everyone seems ready and willing to support their fellow authors in a variety of ways, whether it’s critiquing or offering promo ideas; cross-promotion; help with creating book trailers or banners. Take a peek at mine – fellow author Drea Becraft surprised me with that beautiful banner!
What importance do you place on writing workshops? What workshops would you recommend to us?
I’ve 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:
One of the most incredibly fun and memorable workshops I’ve taken was given by Leanna Renee Hieber entitled “Direct Your Book! Theatrical Techniques to a Blockbuster Novel.” Amazing workshop AND conveniently, she’s offering it again through Elements RWA … here’s the link:
Currently, I’m taking a workshop on Past Life Regression for the Writer's Soul.
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.
What person would you like to thank for inspiring you in your writing aspirations? How did this person help you?
I thank my family and friends foremost because without their unilateral support, and loving but insistent nudging, I may have stayed ‘inside my box’ (as my daughter puts it) until the end of my days.
But it was my Nana, a.k.a. ‘Nanns’ who slipped me a few True Romance comic books and a romance novel when I was about eleven, and it may sound corny, but it was love at first sight. I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on AND after a couple of years, I wanted to write stories that would make others feel the way the books I read made me feel.
Sadly, she isn’t with us anymore but if she were, she’d be my biggest fan. I wish she had the chance to see me published! And yes, she would have loved the genre I’m writing in … she was a spitfire of a woman!
Have you ever used songs for inspiration?
I’m actually in the process of writing a short story for Truly, Madly, Deeply Romance Authors Free Read Blog using “Dante’s Prayer” by Loreena McKennitt for inspiration. And you guessed it; the first theme for our free short story reads was Song Titles. If you love free reads, be sure to check us out! http://trulymadlydeeplyromanceauthors.blogspot.com/
Do you play music when you write? If so, what kind? Or, do you have to have silence or background noise to set your writing muse free?
Normally, I prefer it to be quiet. This way I can hear the characters ‘talking’ in my head and it’s easier for me to visualize the scene. After the first draft, though, I’ll listen to music that will set the tone as I go back and add depth to the characters and/or scenes.
For general scenes, music by Nina Gordon, Annie Lenox, Pink, Jewel, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt, Evanescence, Willy DeVille, One Republic, Train, etc., can set a different mood and provides great background noise.
When I’m working on more intense scenes, I love listening to music by Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian soundtrack is one of my favorites!); Bear McCreary; Vanessa Mae; TransSiberian Orchestra, etc. Anything with an ‘epic’ feel will set just the right mood!
Do you read in a different genre than you write? If yes, why? If you read in the same genre that you write, do you feel that it influences your writing in any way?
Actually, I do! I love everything from thrillers to biographies; history to how-to’s; self-improvement to, of course, romance! I’ve always loved to read and I’ll read just about anything I can get my hands on when I have the privilege of having time.
When I’m writing, though, I tend not to read in the same genre. For me, it’s simply a matter of focusing and immersing myself in the world and lives of my characters and I’d prefer no ‘intrusions’ even if subconscious. Truth is, I hardly read at all when I’m in the thick of a WIP.
Afterwards, though, when I’ve written ‘The End’ so to speak, I sit back and decide on which of the many books I have lying about waiting to be read to indulge in and treat myself!
Have you ever given assistance to a struggling new writer? Has another writer ever come to your aide? How?
Since I’m a new writer myself, I can’t say that I haven’t had the chance to ‘earn my stripes’ to the point I’d want to give professional assistance to another writer, but I’ve certainly done my best to support new writers with advice on covers, let’s say … or agreeing the read and critique their writing … or even just helping them cross-promote. By far, sometimes the most important assistance is to just ‘be there’ for one another, offer encouragement and support during the rough times (there are plenty) and celebrate during the good times! I love the practice of ‘paying it forward.’
I’ve had several wonderful writers help me with critiques, encouragement, advice and that ever important drop kick from the safety of the ‘nest’ … especially those in my Let Me Get You Hot and Bothered Yahoo loop … and I thank ALL of them sincerely for everything (ad nauseam).
Sandy Sullivan, in particular, encouraged me to submit my writing to XOXO Publishing, who, much to my amazement, published Dark Desire!
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Getting over the fear of having someone else read what I had written. The mere thought was terrifying to say the least and I was a prisoner of my own fear. Joining a couple of online groups was the best decision I ever made, and one in particular is wholly responsible for kicking me out of the nest (see above *winks*)!
And of course, getting published was and is a dream come true, to say the very least! I never take for granted how fortunate I am in that regard.
If you won the big lottery, what would you do with the money? Would give any of it to charity? If so, which one?
This is a great question! I’ve actually read that dreaming about what you’d do IF you won the lottery is ‘good medicine for the mind and soul’ so I’ve thought about this before. Let’s assume for the sake of this question (and my lofty aspirations) that the lottery win in question was the Mega-Millions!
First, I’d pay off our mortgage and finish updating our home! Then, I’d be sure that my daughter, nieces and nephews, as well as the two students I sponsor through Futures for Children, would have access to the education of their dreams.
I would most certainly give a good deal of the money to charity! As for which ones, I have a few favorites that I already support … S.A.R.A., Inc. (Summit Animal Rescue) would be given enough to buy/run a shelter here in NJ; HomefrontHugsUSA, Futures for Children, St. Jude’s Research Hospital, Freedom Writer’s Foundation and One Simple Wish (here in NJ too)!
Something I LOVE to do around the holidays is to play “Secret Santa!” As a winner of the lottery, I could indulge in the practice a bit more and reach more people! How amazing would it be to leave a $100 tip to an unsuspecting waiter/waitress; to slip $100 to the person who pumps gas for you each week; to anonymously pay for someone else’s dinner or fund an entire meal for a shelter? The possibilities are endless and I would have a blast!
What is the best advice you want to give to a new writer?
“Finish the damned book!” *laughs* I’m sure we’ve all heard or read that infamous advice somewhere before but it’s the truth. Write, write and write a little more. I’m a new author myself so short of telling others never to give up, ever, I’d have to saw write the book 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!
If you could choose an animal for a mascot, what animal would it be? What do you admire about this animal? Do you feel you have qualities similar to this animal? If so, what are they?
I’ve always loved wolves, but if I had to choose one animal for a mascot, it would be the cat! Cats are elegant, agile, fastidious and independent. There’s no pretense to a cat; they are what they are and if you don’t like it, too bad. Although we’ve attempted to ‘domesticate’ them through the ages, there will always be a part of them that is wild at heart. If they choose to stay with us, they do so because they want to.
I read somewhere that cats rarely fall in love and when they do, they fall hard and forever. Although I loved the notion, I wasn’t sure I believed it could happen. Then Jewel came into my life and let me tell you … it IS possible and in our case, it’s quite true!
As for me having similar qualities, I’m fairly certain that I fall short in the categories of elegance, agility and fastidiousness (looks around my office). I’d love to aspire to not being afraid to be who I am without question or uncertainty, and have the confidence to tell those who don’t like it where to go. *winks* I’m working on that …
As for the wild at heart part, if I’m honest with myself, that quality is truer to my nature than I’d readily admit, as is my passion for wanderlust, but I stay put because I love where I am and who I am with. I’ve fallen hard and forever.
If money, education and fear factors were set aside, what three careers would you like to attempt other than writing?
I’ve always loved music and had this aching desire to sing! Granted I can’t carry a note to save my life and my fear of being in front of large crowds would drop me to my knees, but for the sake of this question, I will indulge my fantasy and imagine myself a singer! While I was at it, I’d learn to play the piano and violin.
Second on my list would be a linguist. I’ve always loved different languages and although I am not fluent in any (yet) I’d love to learn Navajo (which I’m working on!), Italian, Gaelic and Latin to start. I’d need this career to enjoy my ‘super power’ below! *winks*
Third on my list is a belly dancer! I’d love to be part of a troupe or professional company and travel the world.
If money, talent and fear were no object, what big adventure would you like to have?
I’ve always had this dream to be a wildlife photographer, so I’d jump at the chance to join a team like National Geographic (or the like) and travel the world to capture images of all the creatures on planet Earth - even the spookier ones … well, maybe I’d say no to spiders – and especially wolves!
What characteristics do you like to instill in your heroes? What characteristics do you feel are necessary for a good heroine?
The characteristics I like to instill in my heroes start with a good-hearted (even if it’s at the core in the beginning) and loyal man. One who is able to love the heroine for the person she is and not try to change her. A little arrogance is in order but not so much that he’s unlikable. Passionate and sexy are a must, and he HAS want her to be just as satisfied as he is when it comes to lovemaking! I like my heroes strong but capable of being gentle; and he needs to have flaws, just like everyone else.
As for the characteristics I feel are necessary for a good heroine, first and foremost she should definitely have a mind of her own; should be passionate about something; be capable of learning from experience and growing; she needs to be kind; and as with a good hero, she needs to have flaws, just like everyone else.
If you had the power to change two things in the world, what would those two things be?
Only two things? To be honest, given all that is currently wrong in the world, choosing only two is difficult but I’ll give it a go.
First, I’d have to say finding an end to hunger. There is no reason any man, woman or child should go to bed hungry! There just has to be a better way and we need to find a solution!
Second, I’d change the way we treat (or don’t, to tell you the truth) our veterans! So much more needs to be done to revamp a system that seems to make fighting for their benefits and services almost more difficult than the tour(s) of duty they endured to begin with.
If could have a super power for a day, what would it be? Why?
*laughs* I’ll confess this is one of my favorite questions and I could hardly wait to answer! I had to Google it just to be certain but Teleportation is indeed a super power!
How cool would it be, even if only for a day, to teleport yourself anywhere in the world? You could visit the Seven Wonders of the World; go from NYC to Paris; from the Great Wall in China to the Galapagos Islands; from the markets of Istanbul to the nomadic lands of Tibet; from Italy to Spain; from the streets of New Orleans to the wilds of Alaska to watch the Northern Lights. And let’s not forgot popping in on our loved ones around the world for a hello and a hug! Oh what an amazing twenty-four hours it would be!
Emily Monroe, a statuesque high school English teacher, is convinced that getting a tattoo to cover the remnants of her brush with Morphea is the only option left to open the door to self-acceptance, allowing her to finally move on with her life after the devastating diagnosis left more than physical scars in its wake.
Rick Sutton, owner of Skin Deep, a successful tattoo shop, has his own cross to bear. Crippling guilt and the specter of unrequited justice overshadow every aspect of his life, trapping him within the haunted corridors of his heart and soul; until the day Emily walks into his shop.
Instantly, he recognizes a kindred spirit in Emily, and a tenuous bond is formed. When the intimidating yet teddy-bear of a man offers her a glimpse into his passionate side, she is moved by what she sees and takes a leap of faith. Together they traverse the physical and emotional journey of freeing themselves of their perceived flaws, an erotic undertaking that proves to them beauty is only Skin Deep.
If you have a moment to watch the trailer for Skin Deep …
"Don't…don't kiss me because you feel sorry for me," she said, her voice barely a ragged whisper.
"I'm not about to kiss you because I feel sorry for you." His warm breath danced across her lips.
This is what it should feel like…the earth shifting under your feet… butterflies in your stomach…heartbeat quickening…that shiver in your spine…a stirring deep within your very core?
When Rick slipped his arms around her waist, a shiver coursed through her as their bodies touched, now face to face, chest to chest, thigh to thigh. A slow heat simmered just under the surface and she wanted to feel more. Reaching up, she moved her hands through his hair before wrapping her arms around his neck, urging him closer, melting into him.
Letting loose a small sigh, she pressed herself against him, lips parting in invitation, one he eagerly accepted by delivering a tender yet hungry kiss that promised of something more, something richer and deeper than she’d ever felt before.
Nothing else existed but this moment, this stolen moment in a wind-blown parking lot with a remarkable teddy-bear of a man who made her feel more like a woman than she had in a decade. The effects of his lips traversed her entire body, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes and she was lost, in no hurry to be found.
His hands moved up and down her back, slow, unassuming. In response, she opened for him further, Rick tasting dark and dangerous, the feel of his tongue sliding against hers more sensual than she could have imagined. Drawing in a quick breath, she slipped deeper into his embrace, raising her arms up and over his back, her fingers drifting through his thick hair.
The soft strains of music and laughter drifted towards them on the wind and she knew this moment was just that, a moment. But one not likely to be forgotten.
When his lips left hers, they took with him welcome warmth, leaving behind an all-too familiar chill.
"Kiss me again?" she whispered and stretched towards him, tentatively brushing her mouth against his lower lip. Laughing out loud, he pulled her close as his mouth covered hers in a searching kiss, waking her body as if from a deep sleep.
She brushed the tip of her tongue across his bottom lip, eliciting a soft moan from him, and he mimicked her, engaging her in a sensual dance as she lost herself in his arms once again.
The blaring of a horn shattered the moment and startled her back to reality. Breathless, she pulled back first, wanting to say something, but words failed her.
A knowing smile lit his face and eased the tension between them. Reluctantly, he let her go. Opening the car door, he waited like a sentinel until she sat safely inside.
"Goodnight, Emily. I will see you on Monday."
With that, he closed the door, retrieved his cane and walked off into the night.
Still shaken from the overt sexual reaction to his touch as well as the sight of the breathtaking canvas of her back, she let him guide her back to the table and help her up. With legs swinging nervously over the edge, she watched anxiously as he dipped the brush into the powder, tapping it against the side of the jar before returning to stand before her.
Her feet stilled as the brush swept over her breasts again and again until she lost herself in the resultant rush of heat, responding with a soft cry before stopping herself.
"God, Em…you're driving me crazy."
"I…I could say the same." Her voice caught and made a small noise that sounded almost like a purr.
"Do you trust me, Em?"
He rid himself of the jar and brush. Then, placing the pillow behind her, gently urged her back against the table until she was lying down, all the while searching her gaze for any sign of dissent. Apparently confident she wanted him to proceed he sat on the stool and rolled himself into position in front of her.
Those large hands hid the gentler truth of a tender touch as he eased her legs open, sliding his palms underneath her backside and raising her towards him.
As his tongue grazed the sensitive flesh of her inner thighs, she drew in a sharp breath before releasing a deep sigh, followed by a deeper moan.
"It's been a long time Rick." You just might want to let me dust the cobwebs off first, she was tempted to suggest but remained quiet, curious.
"That's a real shame. You don't mind if I remedy that unfortunate situation," he replied playfully, lowering his head between her thighs.
About to protest, the first rush of warm breath against the silky fabric of her panties quieted any objections. Moving his mouth along the outline of her mons, he seemed in no rush, intent on exploring her fully. Following the contours of her outer lips, he gently nipped and pulled against the fabric, rousing a scintillating need within.
A soft cry escaped her lips when he nuzzled her, his nose brushing against the swollen pearl nestled in damp folds. Undulating waves of warmth and wanting rippled over her from head to toe and her hips arched instinctively as the ache for something more began to grow.
Damn, it had been so long, too long. The intimate feel of his mouth refreshed her memory, reminding her first and foremost of the passionate woman within, before revealing with stunning clarity that she was still sexy and desirable, despite her perceived flaws.
Reaching down, her fingers moved through his hair, his locks slipping over her skin, tickling as if she’d just passed them through a spider's web. When she urged him against her, he stilled, lifting his head.
"Rick…" Her voice filled with an almost desperate pleading and when he didn't respond immediately, she panicked, the old fears creeping back in to steal this moment from her.
Lifting herself on her elbows, she looked into his eyes, her gaze searching his.
"You want more, Em?" He grinned at her mischievously.
She smiled despite herself. "Yes! Tease.”