Kirsten Osbourne is the USA Today bestselling author of over 170 contemporary and historical romance novels. She shares how she chooses titles for the books and series which earn her five figures a month, how she writes 1,000 words in 20 minutes, and how she decides which book to write next. During our Q&A, she had a power outage and typed her responses on her cell phone in her car.
Q. You recently shared your writing process on Facebook and I appreciate your giving me permission to post it here on my blog. I will refer to it a bit throughout the Q&A.
A. Fine. Totally good with that.
Q. You said you write in multiple genres within romance. What are they?
A. I started with contemporary. Then did a regency. Then historical western romance. Contemporary western romance. Medieval. Paranormal. Time travel. Is that enough or should I write more?
Q. That is good. And do you have pen names that you want to publicly share?
A. This is my pen name. All of that was written as Kirsten Osbourne.
Q. Ha! Okay. What does a prolific author like you do when there’s a power outage for as long as you have?
A. We had edits to do, and we have a regular electric jack in the car. Plugged into that. Edited in car. Drove to local truck stop and plugged in there… basically I go insane, but I find a way to keep going!
Q. What kind of mindset do you need to sprint 1,000 words in 20 minutes? How do you keep those fingers flying?
A. It’s seriously “practice.” The first thirty minute sprint I did, I didn’t get the competitiveness of it. As soon as I realized I could WIN, I went insane. Best thirty minute sprint was 3k, but that was before carpal tunnel.
Q. Win against yourself? Or against others? I find that if I don’t sprint with someone else, my speed goes down.
A. So when I don’t have someone to sprint with, I make myself hit a goal, like 2k words, and then my family comes into my office (we’ll call it the living room) and we watch whatever show is next. We’ve done the whole Arrowverse and we’ve moved on to KyleXY.
Q. You sprint and then watch whatever the family is binge-watching for the moment. So during the sprints, you turn the TV off?
A. Yes!!!!!! No music. No tv. Just me and my keyboard.
Q. So this is like a family-sprinting affair? I am smiling over here. Because that sounds really supportive.
A. It is. The fifteen year old boy often says, “How many words do you have LEFT?” I’ll give him a number and he knows how long before show. Husband and son usually do cleaning sprints while I word sprint.
Q. Ha ha ha, I love that. Cleaning sprints.
A. It works for us.
Q. It sounds like it! You have been publishing for 8 years, yes? So starting in 2011?
A. April 2011.
Q. How did that come about? As in, what propelled you to publish in April of 2011?
A. I’d written probably a hundred books before that, but I always threw them away, because I didn’t think I was good enough.
Q. A hundred books. Seriously? Why? Oh, wait, you said they weren’t good enough. How did you know it was finally good enough?
A. My husband lost his job in September of 2010. Unemployment was running out and I read a book on indie publishing. I already had a book on my computer, so I edited and made the world’s ugliest cover, and a stay at home mom became an author.
Q. Which book was that?
A. All for Emma. Cover is better now 🙂 Took me two weeks to get a sale and I cried for hours when I saw someone had paid money for a story I made up in my head.
Q. I can imagine your joy. What inspired you to write that book?
A. No clue. I have seriously always had stories flitting through my head. I made up stories as a young girl…six or so.
Q. So you started steamy and then went sweet, is that accurate?
A. I was sweetly steamy. I’ve never used language. My couples in 95% of my books are married before sex. My grandmother read my books from day one. That’s not true. But she read them ALL once I admitted I was Kirsten Osbourne.
Q. That’s a good litmus test. You once told me that your background makes it easy for you to write a clean draft. Can you remind me again what your education or background is in writing?
A. My degree is oral interpretation. My minor was creative writing. Every school I went to that offered a typing class, I took it. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was ten.
Q. Which explains the speedy fingers. How many books have you published now?
A. 170ish. I keep losing count.
Q. Yowza. So yesterday, I actually was thinking, what if I come up dry on book ideas someday? I had finished book #27. How do you come up with your book ideas and how easy is it when you get up to those numbers?
A. I know what series I want to write in next always. I haven’t really plotted until the last month or so. I just come up with names and a situation and get started.
Q. How do you keep track of all the names and make sure you don’t double up?
A. I double up ALL THE TIME. I can’t keep track of anything. I have at least ten heroes named Bob.
Q. Ha ha ha!
A. I do sometimes wish I was kidding. 🙂
Q. I love your chill attitude. What is the shortest series you have written? And the one with the most books? I guess I am meaning numbers in the series.
A. Shortest is a two book duet in regency times. I don’t even remember the name I gave it or if I did. I know the titles though! Longest is Brides of Beckham. I released book thirty less than a week ago.
Q. How do you avoid series burnout? Have you wanted to end it but you didn’t because why?
A. I’ve ended BoB (Brides of Beckham) twice now. At seven books and then at fourteen books. My fans always talk me into writing more.
Q. How did you interface with fans before and now? Have things changed in 8 years of publishing? Sorry, as I posted the question I realized how silly the question was. Of course things have changed…
A.I used to email. Or interact through my fan page. I have several Facebook groups now that work better for me. And I’m good with burnout as long as I don’t have to write only one thing.
Q. Ah, so the key to not getting burned out is changing up genres…
A. For me it is. And there are more (seekrit) changes on the horizon.
Q. And your fans follow you. Were they more resistant to some genres than others?
Q. Which genres seemed to throw them off?
A. A lot of them don’t like it when I write medieval. But then some will only read historical. Others will only read contemporary. Readers are loyal to their authors but even more loyal to their genre. And I need to add all my books are connected. Like…you can follow them from medieval England to modern day.
Q. You mean same setting?
A. No…I mean linked characters.
Q. Ah, like descendants? That kind of thing?
A.Sometimes descendants, sometimes cameos. Sometimes friends. You never know which series will show up in another.
Q. How do you research the settings for your books? Do you use fictional or real places?
A. Sometimes fictional sometimes real. Research is constant. I actually buy courses on time periods and places when I can.
Q. Wow, courses. Do you travel, too?
A. I do at times travel for research, but I try and do most of it as close to home as possible. I’ve been to a couple of historical villages that were done for different reasons. Most in the 1800s. That’s become the most common place I write.
Q. Who is your cover artist?
A. Erin Dameron-Hill. We’ve worked together for 6 years. As soon as I have a title and a setting I commission my covers.
Q. How long does it take her to make a cover from commission?
A. She’s usually pretty quick. I would say less than a week. We’ve worked together so long, that I pretty much just give her a setting a title and a series name and she goes from there. Sometimes I feel like she can read my mind.
Q. That is fantastic. An author’s dream. She does beautiful work.
A. I wouldn’t trade Erin for anything.
Q. How do you come up with your titles? Because they can’t all be “Bob’s Romance”.
A. I still wish they could! So, when I start a new series, I tend to come up with the naming convention. I like alliteration a lot. Probably more than anyone should. But all titles can’t be alliteration because even I run out of those. So it really just depends on what the series is.
Q. Naming convention…?
A. So I’ll decide that I want the two words in the title to start with the same letter. Or I wrote lazy love as a standalone. But then people wanted more from the series, and I came up with an idea for a second book. Because the first one was lazy love, are used to love for all the others with l-names. It’s only a four book series. Book 2 is literary love, books 3 is lying love, And book or it’s lost love. Or, for Brides of Beckham, I do Mail Order M word. Mail Order Mayhem, Mail Order Mama, Mail Order Madness.
Q. Ah, okay. Your husband nearly died twice last summer. Glad he made it through okay both times. Has that changed your outlook as an author or person? And if so, how?
A. It’s made me work a lot harder to make sure I have time for my family. I used to be all about work, and I’m still a lot more about work than most people are, but now I am trying to pick up the slack around the house. Keith has been a stay at home dad for 6 1/2 years. So before, I just expected him to do all the moms. Now I know he needs a lot of help with it. And now we have 3 hour drives to doctor’s appointments regularly. More of my life needs to now be spent living, And a lot less time needs to be put in the work.
Q. What kind of schedule do you follow during the day when you are drafting a book? Do you subsist on less sleep than the rest of us?
A. When I get up, I edit whatever I wrote the day before, then I usually take a nap. I’m usually up by about 10, and then I will edit until about one in the afternoon, and then when I get up from my nap, I will spend some time with family, and then I will try and walk for 30 minutes, and then I help with dinner. After dinner, I start working. And I would say we eat around seven or eight. Then I will work until 2, 3 sometimes 4 in the morning.
Q. A night owl by choice? Or have you always been a night owl?
A. I worked nights All through college, and it’s just become my natural schedule. There are times when I am up until 10 or 11 in the morning.
Q. Do you feel like you have ever written to trend? Or do you just have an innate sense of what will sell?
A. I wrote one billionaire series. I hated it so much that I promised myself I would never do that again. I started writing what I wanted, and then it became a trend.
Q. Was billionaire early on or recently?
A. Very early. 2012.
Q. What was it that you wrote instead, that became a trend?
A. Mail Order Brides. They gave me my first five-figure month.
Q. Do Mail Order Brides work in contemporary, too?
A. Yes. I actually have a series. It’s called At the Altar. I have a crazy matchmaker introduce people at the altar.
Q. Oh my gosh, that sounds like mayhem waiting to happen. I love it.
A. It is. I write humor 🙂
Q. I have just a couple more questions though I could ask you questions all day… How do you balance writing all the books and being in the world with fans and other authors?
A. I usually only deal with fans on Facebook or if I’m doing a lunch. If I travel I do my best to always set up a reader lunch. And you don’t want me to get started on authors at the moment.
Q. Probably not, though it makes me sad.
A. Me, too.
Q. What is your advice to someone who is aiming to be uber successful then?
A. Write. Use the next book as your marketing until you have at least 20 books out. Professional editor. Professional cover designer. Don’t look unprofessional by trying to do a Go Fund me to pay for those. Work and save your money.
Don’t get into any of the ‘trend things’. Write for you and then you will find your audience.
If an editor tells you to scrap a book then scrap it.
Q. I love that. Thanks Kirsten. You have been so great to take the time to chat. On a power outage day no less. I hope it comes on soon for you.
A. Thanks for saying you hoped power would go back on. Took less than three minutes.