Each month, the All The Kissing team features an author in our ATK spotlight to bring you their stories, insight and challenges. We hope that you can learn from your favorite authors, pick up writing tips, and empathize with names you know because they’ve been there. This month, we’re interviewing author Layla Reyne.
Introducing Layla Reyne
Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs.
Welcome, Layla! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. You just finished the conclusion to your Agents Irish and Whiskey series, and now Tequila Sunrise, an AIW offshoot, is out and available for purchase. Where did you get your inspiration for these books?
Countless hours of watching action movies and cop shows, ten-plus years living in hyper-tech Silicon Valley, and a whole lot of romance reading and whiskey. It was the perfect storm!
I’m a sucker for cop shows, too! What was the hardest part about creating this series?
Agents Irish and Whiskey was a continuation series, meaning I had the same main characters—Aidan and Jamie—for all three books, plus an overarching mystery that spanned the series.
Consistency—in timing, romance, characters, and plot—was key.
It took a lot of advance plotting, and as I wrote, a lot of double-checking to make sure everything and everyone stayed on track. As someone who comes from fandom, retroactive continuity is my nemesis, and I strive to never have to invoke it.
I’m stealing that phrase—retroactive continuity. I feel like that’s a nemesis I’ll have to face in the future. What’s your editing process like? Any go-to resources or advice you’d like to share?
I write and edit in layers. I write a dialogue layer first, which helps get down the bones of the story and ensures dialogue and character interactions drive each scene. Once the dialogue’s there, I can move scenes and events around as needed for pacing, and then I launch into the next layer, filling in action and emotion around the dialogue. After the second layer is down, I start my self-edit from the last chapter and work backward, to the first. I find going in reverse helps spot plot holes more easily and gives proper, equal attention to the later chapters.
That’s a really unique editing process. What about any specific advice for those editing and writing in the romance genre?
Read, read, read! As far as craft goes, I’ve learned more from reading than from any class. The little things—oxford commas, ellipses, italics, how to format a text—will vary depending on house style, current custom, etc., but reading and understanding how great writers weave a story and make you fall in love with their characters is the real heart of the matter.
You want action come to life on the page, read HelenKay Dimon. You want sex scenes that are full of emotion and don’t get lost in the technical, read Santino Hassell. You want the ups and downs of everyday life made special, read Annabeth Albert.
How did your writing journey begin?
The first time I thought “I want to be a writer” was in twelfth grade English Lit when I wrote an epilogue to Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, because I didn’t like the original ending. My first piece of fanfiction, as it were, and I kept writing fanfiction—The X-Files—through college. My legal career derailed things for a bit, but eventually I started writing fanfiction again. And eventually, I wanted to write stories with my own characters, plots and settings, so I made the jump to original fiction.
Was there any particular facet of writing, craft or otherwise, that you struggled with in the beginning?
The toughest thing for me, in the beginning and still, is balancing the emotional element with the dialogue and action. I used to work with screenplays so dialogue comes naturally, as does directorial action. I can block the hell out of a scene or car chase. But really digging into a character’s emotions and translating them onto the page is where I have to work the hardest.
How did you find your agent?
Cold query in the slush pile. I pushed to finish my manuscript in time for Pitch Wars, submitted it, and was not selected. The query letter did, however, get selected for Nightmare on Query Street, and the mentors there really helped hone it and my opening pages. With my query materials sharpened, I went into the query trenches, and a month and a half later, I had an offer from my dream agent.
Wow, what a quick response! It’s inspiring to hear that your success came from the slush pile. I hear all too often of people giving up simply because they didn’t get into a contest. What advice would you give to the budding romance writer about writing and/or the industry?
The manuscript I was signed on was not the manuscript that sold. I wrote Single Malt while I was querying. Which is to say, be willing and able to adapt with the ever-changing industry, have back-up plans, have back-up plans for your back-up plans, and don’t have blinders on. You never know from where or what manuscript your call or break will come.
A back-up for your back-up—having multiple stories in the pipeline can never hurt. Speaking of, can you tell us a little about what you’re working on next?
Relay, releasing January 8, is Book #1 in my Changing Lanes male-male sports romance duology about Olympic swimmers. Medley, Book #2, releases in April. Then, later in the year, the next AIW spin-off launches, another male-male romantic suspense trilogy featuring FBI Agent Cameron Byrne and Assistant US Attorney Dominic Price.
Wow, you’re a writing machine! I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on that delicious swimmer romance you’ve created. Thank you so much for interviewing with us, and we wish you the best of luck in your endeavors!
If you’d like to know more about Layla Reyne and her latest releases, you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. You can also join her Facebook Group, check her out on Goodreads, visit her website, and sign up for her newsletter.
Feature image courtesy of Layla Reyne’s Facebook page.