Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Friends with Monica Burns

Thank you, Monica for joining us on Friday Friends!

HWH: KISMET is your current release. I LOVE the cover! Tell us about the book and other books that you have written or being released.

MB: Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be here. I love the cover of Kismet too. It was my January release, and Assassin's Honor just hit the shelves last week. Although I can't take credit for Kismet’s cover, I think it’s beautifully rich and stunning. The cover reflects the book's old school type of feel of the story. Kismet is the story of Allegra, a courtesan, and an English nobleman, Shaheen, who's disappeared into the desert and turned himself into a Sheikh. A courtesan in Shaheen's past helped destroy his life and naturally he's not too happy to come up against another courtesan, particularly one who stirs up his desire.

Assassin’s Honor, which was released June 1 is an action-adventure HAWT paranormal romance. It has dangerous alpha heroes who carry swords, villains who are truly nasty (they’re very cathartic to write! LOL), heroines who can hold their own with the heroes and in some cases drop kick their butts, a mysterious artifact and the Sicari culture is an ancient one, steeped in ritual, mystery and traditions of ancient Rome. For me, it’s like mixing up a historical with my love of paranormals. It doesn’t get any better than that for me.

What comes first, the plot or the characters?

It depends on what I'm doing at the time. I love sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal movies and TV shows. I'll be watching one of my favorites when I'll see or hear something that makes me think. WOW! What if....and I'm off and running with the plot. Characters generally occur to me when I'm working on a story. For instance, the book I just recently turned in had a character come out of nowhere. The hero's sister was beginning to be developed, when suddenly her love interest appears on the page, and I've got the characters for the next historical I'd like to write. Characters just show up to me, I don’t think them up, they just show up. They’ve got a mind of their own. *smile*

HWH: How do you know when to stop 'tweaking' your manuscript?

MB: When I have to turn it in. I'm a slow writer, which means I've only got a few months to write a book before the deadline shows up to slap me in the face. I work hard to get the book done early so I can go back and improve it. That NEVER happens. I get one brief look through before I have to turn it in. Then I get the actual edits from the editor and I have to make changes. After that I get one final look for copy edits only, which means no changes except for typos. Essentially the process itself tells me when to stop tweaking the book.

How do you edit? Do you use a critique partner or group? What have you learned to look for when editing your work?

MB: I haven't used a critique partner for several years now, but I do have a couple of beta readers. These terrific women read my manuscript as it develops and they tell me what they think reads off or what they're not buying. What's so great about it is that one of these readers is highly critical, but she's a reader only. So her input and observations are very different from what a writer's perspective is. It's a completely different dynamic, and I love working hard to try and meet the bar that she raises for me. For brainstorming, I've got a terrific friend who I can bounce ideas off of. I love her to death and she's saved my butt a number of times.

When it comes to editing, I do it as I go. I tend to review the last three to four pages I wrote so that I can get back in the mood and allow the writing to start flowing. When I've reached a point in the book where I'm stuck or I'm losing my grip on sanity, I'll print out what I've got up to that point and read the book from beginning to where I left off. This gives me renewed perspective as to how to proceed. It's a good way to help me move forward and solve plot or characterization problems.

A couple of things I've learned to look for are craft issues, things like dangling participles, using certain words too much, things of that nature. I've recently been working even harder to develop characters that talk to each other more. Readers seem to want more interaction in this area, and I aim to please my readers.

HWH: What do you think makes a good romance novel?

I think a good romance novel, or any book for that matter, is one that completely takes you out of your current environment and drops you into a world the author has built. I want to be swept away if I've had a bad day at work, the bills are piling up or just needed to be cheered up for whatever reason. I want to feel that sense of hope that love can conquer all. A good romance gives me a healthy dose of fantasy with the themes of love, empowerment, and hope as the foundations. For me, I want my heroes dark, dangerous, and totally alpha because they fall harder that way. I want my heroines to be strong and self-sufficient, yet vulnerable. Last but not least there has to be a HEA, no ifs, ands, or buts. For me, it's just not a romance without those ingredients, and they're items I work hard to put in all my books.

Thanks so much for being with us, Monica. Come back any time.

Okay, visitors, Monica will be around today to answer your questions. Be sure to visit her website at view updates and other books.

Remember, while you're here, become a FOLLOWER of Heroines with Hearts.


  1. Hello everyone, just popping in to say good morning, and looking forward to chatting. Trying to figure out how to subscribe. I think the Atom deal is where I click. *grin*

  2. Hey, let's rock the house. I've got a free copy of Assassin's Honor to give away to someone here today. Just ask me a question that I can answer about writing, books, movies, whatever!

  3. Hi, Monica!
    I love Kismet, but I'm a bit partial to it!
    Cannot wait to read the virgin heros! LOL.

  4. Hey, Monica, I just posted an announcement on FB. Thanks for offering a free book. Maybe that will get people crawling on over!!!

  5. D'Ann, I know you want Garrick really BAD! LOL

    Great Toni, I tweeted it and Facebooked it too. That usually brings them running to dinner table. Just like the old farm bell that used to hang on the back porch of my Great Aunt Mabel's farmhouse. God those were the days! I'm drooling thinking about her fried chicken, mash potatoes, corn on the cob fresh from the field, sliced tomatoes from the garden, GAWD I ate good as a kid!! LOL

  6. Wow, I really love the cover of Assassin's Honor! Eye-catching...ah...color. Plus action-adventure is my favorite read, fav for movies too. So nice to find another author to enjoy!

    Nice name btw...


  7. Hi Monica, I love Ares's cover too. As for the name...well, what can I say except ditto. *grin*

  8. Hi Monica,

    Thanks for visiting with us today!

  9. Hi Debra, it was nice of Toni to invite me.

  10. Hi, Monica! Saw your tweet from your FB post :) Thanks for the lovely interview--I love how you define a good romance. I find so many of the same things hold true for me and my reading choices. BTW, Assassin's Honor is part of a series, right? I think I'm a couple books behind in terms of your backlist, so I need to catch up!

  11. flchen1, Yes, Assassin's Honor is Book 1 of the Order of the Sicari series, Book 2, Assassin's Heart, comes out in Sept. I'm currently working on Book 3, working title Assassin's Inferno (a male virgin by choice *grin*)

  12. Monica, it is great to have you here! I've been awed by your writing for quite a while. For us-hoping-soon-to-be-published writers, top three things that are key to getting our manuscript read?

  13. Thanks, Ana. Wow, that's a tough question, but my gut instinct is the following. Have a great premise and express it well in the query letter.

    There's something called the high concept that encapsulates the book into 30 words or less, preferably 25 or less. That concept needs to be in the query letter and at the very top of the synopsis in expanded form. Then three great chapters that are followed by well-executed chapters to the end.

    The premise that sounds unusual without being too outside the box will get noticed. With my Sicari series, I got lucky in that my editor saw the potential of the series. One other house saw the same potential, but I didn't like a couple of the terms.

    It's important to make something old, new and different. Putting a twist on it. Think JJAbrams and how he completely re-energized the Star Trek franchise with his mega hit last summer. That is high concept.

    Does that help? Make sense? Sometimes it's difficult for me to answer these type of questions because I tend to digress into different trains of thought.

  14. Monica's historicals are great reads, but her Sicari series is simply fabulous! She hates it when I gush, but I can't seem to do anything else after reading her books.

    Hugs, Mon!

  15. You're right, but I'll at least work hard to just say thank you and let it go at that. *grin*

  16. Hi Monica - You already know my story about your cover on Dangerous!! It is sooo good! I will definitely be reading more of your work!!

  17. Hi Rebecca, I'm glad you're enjoying Dangerous and delighted to know you want to read more! Have a great day!

  18. Congrats to REBECCA RINGLER! She is the winner of a free copy of Assassin's Honor.

    Rebecca, please email your address to

    Thanks for joining us.