Topher Hoffman: Hello! Today we have Atina Atwood answering questions at The House of 1000 Books. She’s the creator of the Holiday Heartbeats Series. This series includes His Epiphany, Love Games, and her newest novel, Luck of the Irish!
She states in her bio that in general, her stories vary in heat levels— from YA to sweet romantic stories to steamy contemporary romance. All of her books have multicultural characters that are strong-willed and purpose-driven.
I’m interested in what she has to say, so with that, let us get to the questions.
Hello Atina, and welcome to the House of 1000 Books blog. I have a few questions that I would like to ask you, that I’m sure our readers would love to find the answer out too.
Every author ignited their writing career at one point in their life. That point where they said, hey, I’m an author. At what age did you realize that you were an author, and accepted it?
Atina Atwood: Thanks for inviting me. It’s hard to pinpoint the age where I initially self-identified as being an author. I see myself as being a lot of things, author included. My first published work was a poem when I was 12, but I guess the most defining moment for me was when I became a traditionally published author in nonfiction back in 2012.
TH: Sometimes to follow your dreams, you need to make sacrifices. If you had to give one thing up that is important to you to make you a better writer, what would it be?
AA: This makes me think of my main character in LUCK OF THE IRISH, Nhu. She made the mistake of sacrificing her dreams for what she thought was love, and ended up misaligning the trajectory for making that dream come true. Now, she won’t let anything — or anyone — stand in the way of accomplishing her goal.
In my case, thankfully, things are less dramatic. I’m used to giving up sleep for reading and writing. It’s exhausting, but it’s worth it. Coming from a strong Performing Arts background, followed by a career in Academia, being prepared to make sacrifices is kind of ingrained in me. In my experience, with determination and focus, it’s usually worth it.
TH: Writing takes time, skill, and a lot of practice. If you had to do one thing differently as a child to help you with your writing practice today, what would it be?
AA: I like this question. Honestly, the experiences I’ve had led me to be the writer I am today. I understand the importance of self-motivation and discipline. There will be wins, and there will be inevitable losses, but nothing will happen if you don’t show up, day after day. These skills are proving to be helpful in my writing career.
TH: Now that you have three books that you have written, and I’m sure you read hundreds of other stories, could you tell us what, in your opinion, are the most critical elements of good writing?
AA: I can only repeat what the seasoned, great authors stress — and that is to study your craft. Learn what moves you as a reader, ask yourself why it moved you, and then spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how those word combinations moved you. Experiment to learn how you can create that same kind of magic for readers of your own works. Read, read, and then read some more. Find your voice. I’m still searching for mine.
TH: With writing being time-consuming, do you keep a schedule while writing, and if so, can you describe a typical writing day?
AA: On my designated writing days, my work day starts at around 9:00 AM; if I’m lucky, I can get in a half hour earlier. Mornings are my most productive work hours, so that’s where the most tends to happen. By 3:00 PM or so, my brain is ready for a break. My husband sends me reminders to eat, and I have apps that send me reminders to drink and step away from the computer. (I try not to ignore them.) Evenings are reserved for my family; after that, I’ve got another two hours to write before I go to bed and read for another 2-3 hours.
When deadlines approach, or when a particular scene needs to be written, I’m up until 2:30 AM getting it done. Writing is my job, and I treat it like one. The most dangerous thing novice writers can do is treat their writing careers like it’s a hobby.
TH: Writing habit and personal ticks, what would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
AA: I love wearing my malas when I write, one made of rose quartz and the other made of Tiger’s Eye. I’m big on crystals, and I have an amazing, inspirational assortment on my desk.
TH: Many people have said things over the years. Some sounded smart, others wise, and some funny. What is your all-time favourite quote?
AA: Because I’m bilingual, I have to pick two:
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Unknown
“Hier bin ich Mensch; hier darf ich’s sein.” – Goethe
TH: Now that you have a few novels out, could you tell me do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
AA: I appreciate the time any reader takes to write a review of one of my books. This is one of the best ways to connect with an author, and so far, I focus on that.
At this point, I’m still my biggest critic, so once I put something out there and It’s actually published, I need to accept that I gave my best at that time. Every project for me is bigger, more ambitious than its predecessor. There’s no chance of me growing as an author without pushing past my self-imposed boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone. LUCK OF THE IRISH is exactly that. It’s hard to make three likable main characters when you already know that one of them will not walk away with the prize. I’m curious to hear what readers think about that.
TH: In your profile, you mentioned that you have a wide array of written work, where does all your inspiration come from to keep things fresh?
AA: I started in nonfiction, and during a very stressful time, I turned to fiction (primarily Romance) to switch gears mentally. I’m fortunate to be able to write in both worlds, so I have plenty of opportunities for continued inspiration. Primarily, my inspiration comes from my desire to help, educate, and entertain. Escapism is a necessary act within the human experience, and I love creating stories that facilitate this process.
TH: I’m sure as you write, you get more and more ideas that flood into your brain that get you excited. Do you have any plot ideas that you haven’t written about yet, if so, can you tell us about one?
AA: My ideas sit with me and incubate, sometimes for years. There’s a YA fantasy trilogy inside of me, and it’s about 7 years old now. I’m not ready to tackle it yet, but I am looking forward to the day when I will be. I just finished my first YA novel last month, working title CHRISTMAS AT LOVEMOUNT HIGH (unrelated to the trilogy). I already have the entire plot developed for the second book in that series as well.
Let me point out that I don’t yet consider myself to be a YA or FF author. Still, when characters speak to me, I have to put them in the appropriate environment.
TH: Now, the time has come! The question you are dying to answer! Your newest book. Can you tell us about your latest book?
AA: LUCK OF THE IRISH (HOLIDAY HEARTBEATS #3) is a sweet contemporary romance novella, out on August 8, 2019, but is ready for preorder. It’s the third installment of my Holiday Heartbeats series, a collection of novellas with strong, diverse characters. The stories take place in various locations throughout San Diego, California.
Nhu Hoang’s tired of putting her needs second to everyone. When her boyfriend reveals he’s still not going public about their relationship after nearly two years, she’s blindsided. She deserves better, but it’s hard letting go.
Jack can’t win. Destined to stand in his father’s shadow and continue the Smith’s political legacy, he doesn’t trust himself to do anything that could lead to disapproval. He hates hurting Nhu, but losing his father’s favor would destroy him.
Eoghan Kelly knows what he wants, and he came from Ireland to California to get it. Winning the internship isn’t a surprise, but falling for the enigmatic barista with her stack of law books is unexpected.
When Eoghan learns Nhu’s not completely over her ex, things get complicated. When he finds out her ex is his cousin, Jack, things get messy.
Only one of them can be with Nhu. Will she make the right choice?
TH: Where did you come up with the idea for this book?
AA: While I was writing LOVE GAMES (HOLIDAY HEARTBEATS #2), the main character Marisol was talking to her best friend, Nhu. They were both waiting for their exam results. It ended well for Mari, and I wondered what happened to Nhu.
One of my advance readers requested a continuation of Dante and Marisol’s story, suggesting that someone from their past resurfaces, causing conflict. This made me think of love triangles and the challenge writers have of writing one that isn’t cringeworthy. That’s how Nhu’s dilemma rose to the surface.
TH: That sounds great! What did you edit out of this book?
AA: I like to point out that my Holiday Heartbeats series is a sweet-heat, closed-door romance series, also known as “clean” romance. (Calling one type of romance “clean” infers that others are “dirty,” imposing an unnecessary sense of shame on readers that I do not agree with.) In this closed-door romance series, there are plenty of hot moments that progress the story, but there are no sex scenes.
TH: Out of the three main characters in the book, who is the one that you like the best?
AA: I have to say that I really like Nhu. She has so much to gain, and it’s beautiful watching her as she slowly begins to realize it. She begins to recognize and claim her sense of self-worth, and I love how she knows from now on she’ll be happy with — or without — a man beside her.
Eoghan is so confident and easy-going, and Jack is incredibly loyal, but conflicted as to where his loyalties must lie. I like that there’s no true villain here — just three people who have to make some hard choices involving people they love and don’t want to hurt, but they all know that no one will get out of this conflict unscathed.
TH: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
AA: This is another question that I appreciate. When readers finish reading LUCK OF THE IRISH, I hope they will remember that the hardest decision to make in love and life is to remember to love yourself first. By treating yourself with loving kindness, you gain a better understanding of what you want to give and receive in love. You understand that your sense of self-worth is not contingent upon being with someone in any relationship that makes you feel less than what you know you deserve.
TH: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
AA: I’m Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™ Readers can join my quarterly newsletter to get updates about new releases and giveaways. Follow my blog, atinaatwood.com for my favorite motivational and romantic quotes, as well as my latest take on current events surrounding Love, Life, and Romance. I’m most active on Twitter (@Atina_Atwood), but I’m also on Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Thanks so much for interviewing me! I hope that more people will find LUCK OF THE IRISH and get to know and love Nhu, Eoghan, and Jack as much as I do.