When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I’ve wanted to be an author since the second grade. Our librarian read Gordon Korman’s This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall to my class, and I adored it. When she told us he’d started the book in the seventh grade as an English project, and I knew that writing a book was something I wanted to do, too. I didn’t have to wait to be a grown up.
As for romance, that was a natural progression. While my earliest works were about pencils that came to life when everyone went home after school, my later works revolved around the hunks from teen magazines. I would write stories about my friends and their latest celebrity crushes. My friend’s mom would marry the father of the chosen celebrity crush, and the new step-siblings would turn from enemies to boyfriend-girlfriend and *gasp* kiss. The ultimate in sixth-grade love affairs!
What was your path to getting this book written and published?
Last year, I entered the first chapter of Kiss and Makeup in Harlequin’s SYTYCW contest and was lucky enough to make the top 25. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw from the contest but I was invited to submit my story and after a nail-biting, ulcer-inducing, three-month wait, on January 15, 2015, I got The Call. It’s been full throttle ever since, and I’m loving the ride.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
Because Taylor is so common, I found myself wondering how often I’m seated beside or standing in line behind someone who shared my last name without knowing it. So I saddled Ben and Chloe with the same last name and decided to see what kind of misunderstandings--and sparks!--would arise when they found out.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
I love to travel, and planes and hotel rooms seemed like a great way to strand Ben and Chloe together. These two characters are such opposites--she’s an aspiring YouTube makeup artist, he’s a dedicated ad-exec--that their paths would never cross in their everyday lives. They just needed a little forced proximity to push them out of their comfort zones and into each other's arms...over and over again. Sometimes without clothes. *wink*
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
I definitely draw physical inspiration from celebrities. As far as personalities are concerned, I try to give my characters a strong enough backstory that they become themselves, rather than carbon copies of people I know. And while I could ramble on about how I do that for the good of the story, truthfully, it’s mostly for self-preservation...lest any of my friends or family recognize themselves!
As far as the books reflecting me goes, it seems to be inevitable. I never consciously set out to put myself on the page, and yet, once the novels are finished and I’ve had some time to reflect, I suddenly see little pieces of me--from broad themes to tiny moments--showing up in the story. It’s like therapy that I didn’t even realize was happening!
Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
I face crippling self-doubt on a regular basis! It’s the price of putting a piece of your heart onto the page, which is exactly what writing is. I’ve noticed that when I get blocked, it’s usually when I start getting ahead of myself and worrying what people will think of what I’m writing--Will people laugh at this joke? Will people respond to this character? If my parents read this sex scene, will I ever be able to sit across from them at the dinner table without blushing? (Seriously. This is a very real fear.)
And so far the only thing I’ve found that can remove all that blockage is just to focus on the story and write like nobody’s reading. Am I an expert at doing this? Heck no! It’s a skill that I’m trying to develop one day at a time. But that’s what you do when you love something...you work at getting a little better at it every single day.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I’m happy to report that the biggest surprise I’ve encountered is a good one! People have been so supportive of Kiss and Makeup, and of me as a writer. It’s something that has been so private for so long, my writing, and while I’ve got a great family and a very supportive writing group, my authorial ambitions were not something I ever broadcasted far and wide. (It’s an introvert thing.) So when I found out I was going to be published, that I would actually have to put myself out there with coworkers and acquaintances and tell them about my book...let’s just say I didn’t know what to expect.
I have been overwhelmed by how awesome people have been. People you know have never read a romance novel in their lives have given me the most lovely, most heartfelt congratulations. It’s been really amazing.
The worst surprise? Writing is always a waiting game, whether you’re pre-published or post-published, you’re going to be biting your nails and waiting for the next email or phone call with bated breath. The waiting is part of the biz, so get used to it.
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about corporate-type heroes and makeup artists?
I learned a couple of things from this experience. First of all, I am a chronic procrastinator, and whipping up a five-page essay the night before it’s due is far different that writing a whole book. So my pre-published process--write when you feel like it--wasn’t going to cut it. The key is just to write. Every day. Even when you don’t want to. Because it never gets easier...you just have to keep practicing. That’s how books get written.
Plus, if you do that, you’ll never have to pull an all-nighter to finish up a submission...and then you’ll never have to learn the hard way, like I did, that energy drinks are the embodiment of evil.
I also learned that no matter how many YouTube videos you watch on the subject, applying cat-eye eyeliner might be a skill that always eludes you. (Please tell me I’m not the only person who struggles with this particular makeup skill...please?)
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
I’m actually a bit of a writing nomad, to be honest. While I have a desk at home, I can often be found haunting a number of local Starbucks locations. I also go back and forth between typing and writing long hand. I find for me that different types of scenes need different types of stimulus--from dead quiet, to idle background chatter, to awesome music. Switching from desk to coffee shop and computer to notebook lets me customize the exact right ambiance to craft the scene I’m looking to write.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
I love Anne of Green Gables. It’s funny and heartfelt, and it speaks to my writer’s heart. Anne Shirley and I connected at a time when I needed proof that wanting to be an author was a dream worth exploring.
I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak blew me away. Such an interesting exploration of narrative structure, and I get something different each time I reread. Also, the coolest concept EVER. Lord of the Flies is one my favorites for the mere fact that I thought I would hate it. I couldn’t skip out because it was assigned school reading, and it didn’t take long before I couldn’t put it down! It taught me that books can seduce you if you give them a chance.
And for all out fun, sex, and romance and murder? The In Death series by JD Robb is still winning my love after 40+ books. And as a bonus, it’s an incredible lesson in growing a cast of characters.
What are you working on now?
My next Blaze, Playing To Win, is about Luke Maguire, a professional hockey player, and Holly Evans, an aspiring sports reporter. These two were a blast to write, because they are in a race against time, and each other, to figure out who’s behind a sports betting scandal that could rock Luke’s team to the core. I loved giving Holly and Luke the power to destroy the other and the responsibility of deciding whether or not to pull the trigger. It made for some great sexual chemistry, too! Extra-added bonus--a hero is nothing without his team, so there could be some more hot hockey heroes in Blaze’s future!
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
I would love to write a YA novel. One’s been brewing in my head for awhile, and it’s not going to be content to rattle around in there forever. I just love how strong the genre’s been of late, how much depth of subject matter is being explored. YA has been a staple of my TBR pile, and I’m consistently impressed with the work of authors like Markus Zusak, Moira Young, and John Green, among a whole host of others. And I’d love to try my hand with some slight fantasy elements as well, really let my imagination run wild!
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
Paleontologist, no question. Dinosaurs are the best!
What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
Believe it or not, the romance! I have a really bad habit of going for the joke. How’s this for an actual quote from my editor about the original ending to Kiss and Makeup: “The end is really funny...but we’re wondering if you could make it more, you know, romantic.” My first drafts sometimes come out more like buddy comedies than romance novels, but I try to trust the process and get the jokes out of my system in the first run through. Then I can focus on the really important stuff--the sexy, sultry, and emotionally satisfying stuff that turns a book into a Blaze.
Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
I hope this isn’t a cop-out, but I can’t pick just one! The beauty of writing, and reading for that matter, is the infinite number of combinations that align to make a hero you fall for and a heroine you root for. I definitely have a type though!
I like my heroes with a sense of humor and a hint of badass--Roarke, Dean Winchester, Kid Chaos, Jim Halpert. (Hey, putting your coworker’s stapler in Jell-O counts as badassery! I stand by that.) And let’s face it, abs don’t hurt either. *angelic grin*
I like my heroines plucky and independent, so when they choose their man, you know it’s not because they need him as because they want him--in every sense of the word. Love me some ladies with brains and vocabularies to match, too--Eve Dallas, Veronica Mars, Elizabeth Bennett, and Anne Shirley come to mind.
A hot shade of lipstick calls for a hot, sexy guy…
Makeup artist Chloe Masterson has a look for every occasion. Flying home for your sister's wedding and family torture? Easy. Bring out the sarcastic wit and black eyeliner. Bonus—the look catches the eye of the corporate hottie sitting beside her on the plane. Turns out Ben has the exact same last name, and everyone assumes they're married.
When they get stuck in a hotel room together, Chloe decides to accept the gift the Fates have bestowed upon her. (Tip: a bold lip color does wonders for seduction.) But as their lies begin to snowball, Chloe and Ben find it harder and harder to distinguish between what's real and what's all just smoky eyes and mirrors.
Taryn Leigh Taylor likes dinosaurs, bridges, and space, both personal and of the final frontier variety. She shamelessly indulges in cliches, most notably her Starbucks addiction (grande-six-pump-whole-milk-no-water chai tea latte, aka: the usual), her shoe hoard (I can stop anytime I...ooh! These are pretty!), and her penchant for falling in lust with fictional men with great abs (yum!)
She also really loves books, which is what sent her down the crazy path of writing one in the first place.