Author Spotlight Interview: Tessa Layne
Today’s Author Spotlight Interview is with USA Today Bestselling Author Tessa Layne. Tessa writes steamy contemporary romance with swoon-worthy happy endings that fans go crazy for. Today she’s celebrating the release of her latest novel, Ride Rough, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with her about her books, inspiration and life outside of writing.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
TL: I write stories with strong emotional arcs, themes of redemption and unconditional love. My stories are often a mix of humor, tears, angst – the full breadth of emotions. I think I gravitate to these stories because I recognize that as humans, we’re all broken – some more than others – and we’re all seeking the assurance that we’re lovable and worthy of love. I write strong characters and model healthy relationship behaviors because I discovered romance in the back of the library when I was twelve, and my own healthy relationship expectations (autonomy, sexual agency, equal partners, etc.) were built from the romance novels I read. That’s super important, and I want to be those stories for current readers and the next generation.
HG: That’s fantastic and really touching. Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
TL: My inspiration comes from everywhere. For starters I have an incredibly active imagination, so often the story seeds pop into my head. Other times, I get ideas from blog posts or news articles, stories other people tell me, artwork – you name it! I also play this game with myself called “What if..” And I’ll ask myself “What if… a cowboy fell in love with an astrophysicist?” (That’s my first book, Prairie Heat!) or “What if a rower in the first seat fell in love with his coxswain because he overheard her calling him a Pussy Magnet?” (That’s Pu$$y Magnet) Or “What if a female helicopter pilot with PTSD fell for a firefighter and then had to be the one who rescued him in a forest fire?” (That’s Prairie Fire, and still one of the books I’m most proud of.)
Only once have characters literally sprung into existence as I was writing. When I was finishing A Hero’s Home, Jason Case (the hero) turned around and came face to face with his triplet half-brothers. I yanked my hands off the keyboard and said “Where in the hell did they come from??” But there they were, and I needed them to finish A Hero’s Home, and the next series- The Misters, was born on the spot. If you like alphaholes who are brought to their knees by strong women who don’t take any sh*t, you’ll have fun reading those stories. They were super fun to write – because how do you take a ‘villain’ in one story and soften him enough that readers want him to have a happy ending too?
HG: Wow! So you write cowboys, military heroes and billionaire bad boys. How do you switch gears between projects/genres?
TL: I don’t write different books at the same time so I can immerse myself in whatever I’m working on. All of the genres I write take place within the same world, so there’s overlap between characters. For instance, the heroes of my billionaire stories occasionally make appearances in my cowboy books. Just like I read a wide variety of romance – highlanders to hockey players, pirate romance to 1st person POV billionaires and rom-com… writing in different genres keeps my writing fresh. I think if I was a one-trick pony, I’d become bored, and writers should never become bored!
HG: That’s great. How do you come up with the character names?
TL: Sometimes I ask the women in my reader group for suggestions. Other times the names just pop into my head. Or sometimes the name of another person will inspire me, and I’ll riff off that.
HG: How awesome that your readers get to contribute! What feeling do you want to leave people with when they finish one of your novels?
TL: I want people to feel emotionally full. Like they’ve just enjoyed this amazing meal! And maybe they laughed, maybe they cried – hopefully both! But at the end of the journey they feel filled-up and happy and hopeful.
HG: Perfection! Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Has it changed since the pandemic? Where and when do you write?
TL: My writing has absolutely changed since the pandemic – as in, I haven’t done much of it! It’s definitely harder to stay focused and find inspiration. This is where the ‘muscle’ of writing (and also deadlines!) is really important! I typically release five or six books a year, this year I’ve released… one. And I’m grateful for that – SUPER grateful! I learned that I CAN write while super stressed out, and be happy with my writing ☺ The pandemic isn’t going away – we’re all learning to live differently. And writing romance, writing hope, love, redemption – all this is super important right now – our hearts need these stories!
We live in a TINY Chalet in the mountains, so I write all over my house – kitchen table, couch, bed… you name it. I also ‘write’ while I hike. My best inspiration comes when I’m outside moving around. It gives my brain time to think and ramble. When I allow myself to do this (because let’s be honest, self-care is challenging for some of us, especially me!) I come home, and the words just flow!
HG: I love what you mention about writing hope, love and redemption. Our hearts DO need these stories. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
TL: Well, if you’re talking about the process of writing, my children would tell you it’s that I lose myself in the stories when I write. I crack myself up and laugh out loud, I also sob when I write really intense scenes. One afternoon my youngest walked by the door, saw me sobbing, stopped and said “Who’d you kill?”
Other writing quirks involve crunch time food. I can’t live without dark chocolate toffee from Annadore’s chocolate in Kansas City. I mail order it. I also need big bowls of homemade popcorn I’ve laced with olive oil and black pepper. I think the crunching helps me think!
HG: Mmm chocolate. Tell us, what do you like to do when not writing?
TL: I love being outside! In the summer, I’m passionate about hiking. In winter, it’s skiing and snowshoeing. I love riding horseback when I get the chance. I’m also a VORACIOUS reader. I’m one of those book-a-day readers when I have the luxury – and sometimes, even when I don’t! I love to cook – I have a collection of French cookbooks in both English and French, and I love pairing wine with food. And – when we’re not in a pandemic, I LOVE to travel. Travel expands your horizons, pulls you out of your comfort zone, and teaches you so much! I absolutely love going on adventures, meeting new people, trying new food, and exploring our amazing planet. When my youngest goes off to college, I’d love to become a full-time gypsy – traveling the world with my husband, my laptop, and a backpack!
HG: That sounds magical! If you could ask your author idol one question about their writing, writing process, or books, what would it be?
TL: When I was in the 4th grade, I got to do this. Madeline L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) is my idol. She made me want to become a writer – when I was in 3rd grade. In 4th grade, our school held a writing contest where two winners would be selected to participate in a writing workshop with Madeline L’Engle. I went home that afternoon and started writing. I submitted an INCH of papers (this was back when we had to use typewriters!) filled with poems and short stories, and I was chosen!
Not only did she critique our work and choose some of it to be in a student publication, but she let us ask her questions. I don’t exactly remember what I asked her, but I remember vividly that she treated us like fellow writers, not children. She talked to us as fellow authors when she was critiquing our work. And I remember vividly that she said her stories weren’t “Children’s Stories”, but simply stories. And that as readers, we ALL connect with themes of hope, love, redemption, etc. I still have her critique of the work I submitted. I keep that packet in my writing desk as a reminder that the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer.
HG: Wow! How incredible. I have goosebumps! Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with us today! For readers that want to find out more about your stories and future projects, where should they go to connect or learn more?
TL: First, visit my website. Then, if you like to hang out with a bunch of wild ladies, join me in my Facebook Reader group! We have a lot of fun in there! As far as future projects, it’s actually release day for me. Ride Rough, the second novel in my Roughstock Riders series is out in the world today, and you can grab the first in series, Ride Hard for free this week from your favorite eBook retailer.
If you want to read more from Tessa Layne and other author’s like her, for FREE, just sign up for the Hidden Gems ARC program. Each morning we send out offers for books from any of the over 15 genres you’ve selected to hear about and selected readers will be send those ebooks to read and review on Amazon.