Interview with Paranormal Romance Novelist Molly Harper
It worked—she’s turned her quirky sense of humor and magical characters into one successful book series after another. After working as a reporter and church secretary in her native state of Kentucky, she decided to try her hand at paranormal romance, landed an agent and has been writing prolifically ever since.
Molly is the author of How To Run With a Naked Werewolf, A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses, and The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires as well as many other paranormal romances. She also writes the Bluegrass series of contemporary ebook romances, most recently, Rhythm and Bluegrass. A former humor columnist and newspaper reporter, she lives in Kentucky with her husband and children. Visit her on the web at MollyHarper.com or at SingleUndeadFemale.blogspot.com.
We were thrilled when Molly agreed to chat with us about her work, where she gets the ideas for her stories, and the television show cancellation that she is still mourning to this day.
Interview by Renee Roberson-----
WOW: Molly, welcome! First of all, I want to point out how much fun I had browsing through your website, and I love that you include different music playlists inspired by your different books. I like to do that too when I’m writing fiction. And the Half-Moon Vampire Name Generator was a blast—I have now been christened Morgana, Princess of Darkness. We’d love to hear about what you were doing when you first found out an agent wanted to represent you. And did you pitch that first book as a stand-alone or as a series?
Molly: I was working as a secretary for a Baptist church at the time and when my agent, Stephany, called I ran out to the church parking lot. I didn’t think the pastor would want to overhear me discussing my vampire romance novels outside of his office. I pitched Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs as the first in a three-book series. I knew when I wrote the first title that I had much more to say about Jane. I just didn’t know it would go on for four books and even more spinoffs.
WOW: I love it. One of the things that first struck me was your impressive catalogue of books. Wow! Can you give us an idea of what your writing schedule is like? Do you have any fun "working from home" stories you can share with us?
Molly: I just started working from home in February 2012. I wake up around six, check my reader emails and try to take care of my social networking stuff. I get my kids up and ready for school, then run to the gym or jiu jitsu lessons. Then I write from 10 to noon, have lunch, and then back to writing until my kids get home around 4. If I have a deadline, I usually write during the evenings after dinner. I set a writing minimum of 2,000 words each day. I am just now getting my own office. I have written all of my books from a couch. I am really looking forward to having a desk!
I guess my one funny “writing from home” story involves my hair. I hit my rebellious phase late in life and have dyed the “underside” of my hair bright purple. I went to volunteer at my kids’ elementary school about a week after I dyed it and one of the little girls from my library group gave me the “deer in headlights” eyes.
“Miss Molly,” she gasped. “Did you know the back of your hair is purple?”
“Yes, sweetie,” I told her. “I dyed it last week.”
“Who told you that you could do that?” she asked.
“Well, I’m 35 and can pay for the hairdresser to dye it, so…”
“But won’t you get in trouble with your mom or your boss or somebody?” she asked.
“I work from home, so I don’t have a boss. And my mom isn’t really surprised by anything I do anymore.”
“Oh.” She nodded. “OK, then.”
And off she toddled, assured that my hair wouldn’t get me fired.
WOW: You eventually transitioned from vampires to werewolves. Can you tell us a little about how you got the idea for your popular Naked Werewolf series?
Molly: There was a huge ice storm in January 2009 that knocked out power to thousands of homes, including my own. I packed up food, essentials, my infant and my preschooler and moved over to my in-laws’ house, where they had a gas fireplace. We slept on a mattress in front of the fireplace for two weeks while my husband worked twelve-hour emergency shifts at the police department. I was cold, exhausted and I could feel the walls closing in on me. After the kids went to sleep, I would sit down and write about my weird, claustrophobic feelings. I knew I wanted to write a book about werewolves and I thought, why couldn’t the werewolves be from a cold environment like Alaska? And why couldn’t the main character be a Southern girl who wasn’t used to living in those conditions? By the time the lights came back on, I had more than twenty pages of notes that became How To Flirt With a Naked Werewolf.
WOW: I love it when writers can turn even the most difficult of circumstances into works of fiction. I know I was stuck in an ice storm about ten years ago and did nothing but wallow in my misery! You started out your career working for a newspaper in Kentucky. Did any of the stories you covered there ever find their way into any of your books?
Molly: Not so much specific stories, but the overall weirdness of the stories I covered. I covered school bus crash derbies. I covered the escape of a fully-grown brown bear that a man kept as a pet in his basement and was on “Bear Watch” for almost two weeks. I covered the arrest of a Florida man who faked his death by shark attack, hit the road and ended up working for a pizzeria right down the street from my office. That quirky charm oozed its way into my story-telling and heavily influenced the way I write about Half-Moon Hollow, the setting of my vampire stories. I often say that Half-Moon Hollow is my hometown with all of the normal people removed.
WOW: I love the story on your bio about the first book you ever wrote at age eight. Could you please share it with our readers?
Molly: I was always fascinated with my mom’s manual typewriter from college. When I was eight, I set up a little writer’s office on my parents’ couch (foreshadowing) and pecked out a short story about my class taking a trip around the world and losing a kid in each city. One boy fell off the top of the Eiffel Tower. Another girl fell into the canals in Venice. Mom was concerned, but entertained.
WOW: I read on your website that you are a big fan of vampire movies and TV shows. What are some of your favorites?
Molly: I wrote Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs because I was in mourning for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I also love “Angel,” “Lost Boys,” “Moonlight,” the original “Fright Night,” “From Dusk 'Til Dawn,” and the Keanu Reeves version of “Dracula.”
Don’t judge me.
WOW: Somehow I knew Buffy was going to come up in that answer . . . And as someone who is completely addicted to current CW show “The Vampire Diaries,” I also cannot judge! You’ve turned writing about the paranormal into a successful career. What advice can you give writers about writing paranormal romance?
Molly: Keep it grounded in reality. Yes, it’s great to write about fantastical creatures and magic, but your characters have to share common ground with the reader. I enjoy writing about paranormal creatures with everyday problems because there’s something weirdly funny about a vampire worrying about taxes and shopping for dental floss. I think that has allowed my readers to put themselves in my characters’ shoes and enjoy that skewed reality.
WOW: In the FAQ section of your website, you mention you speak to book clubs and schools "Advice For Writers." Can you elaborate on the section called "Don't Act Like a Lunatic?"
Molly: Almost every agent I know has a story about an aspiring writer doing something extreme, like sliding a manuscript under a bathroom stall to them or sending an absolutely insane response when their manuscript is rejected. Writing is a business. Yes, it’s a dream come true to have a book published, but it’s still a business. If an agent or publisher rejects your work, it’s not personal. It’s business. So behave in a professional manner and avoid becoming a cautionary tale that industry types tell over lunch.