Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Layla Reyne!!

Today we’re welcoming another Mermaid, Layla Reyne, a 2016 Golden Heart finalist in Romantic Suspense with her manuscript FOUR TRAGEDIES.

Layla Reyne - Author Photo-1Attorney by day, writer by night, Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her scientist husband and three smush-faced dogs. Growing up surrounded by generations of southern storytellers and at the knee of her soap opera loving grandparents, she began writing at an early age. Now writing romantic suspense and contemporary romance, Layla is inspired by her coast-to-coast experiences and delights in weaving the people she’s met and places she’s been into her stories for readers everywhere to enjoy. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Silicon Valley chapters. She is represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.

Here’s a blurb for FOUR TRAGEDIES:

University professors are dying in Hanover, North Carolina, and their murders bear a striking resemblance to the deaths of Shakespeare’s wronged heroines. Police Chief Charlie Reddmann is on the case, which becomes complicated when her ex-fiancé, FBI Agent Hayes Keller, joins the investigation. Hayes was forced to leave Charlie behind two decades ago when his parents threatened to expose a secret that would destroy her family. Since he’s been gone, Charlie’s done everything in her power to keep that secret buried and protect, at all costs, the son Hayes doesn’t know exists. But as the case Charlie and Hayes are investigating leads closer and closer to home, the tightrope they’re both now walking is stretched taut under the weight of their past and their secrets. If it snaps, the free fall will be deadly.

Awesome!! I’m a Shakespeare fiend, so I love the conceit! (Layla calls it “a second chance romance wrapped in a Shakespearean-themed murder mystery,” which is pretty much like crack for me.) Looking forward to this!

Okay, readers—it’s time to pin on your FBI badges and gather round for some intense (but friendly) interrogation of Layla Reyne!


-Let’s start with my perennial favorite question: What was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a finalist?

My husband’s alarm had just gone off, so I was still in snooze-land when the call came in from a 707 area code. I was like, “Why is wine country calling me at eight in the morning? Something is very wrong with this picture…” I quickly realized something was very right and there was no going back to sleep after that! This is my first time everything – entry, finalist, RWA Nationals – so while a bit overwhelming, in the best way possible, the other GH Finalists have been great at answering questions and providing advice. I’m excited for Nationals in San Diego and the chance to meet and connect with another community of writers.

-You’re going to have SO much fun at Nationals!! It’s a fabulous experience, especially with that pink FINALIST pin on your badge. And you already have a great agent, so that anxiety is lifted. Clearly, you’ve jumped right in with both feet. What’s the backstory to your writing career?

I started FOUR TRAGEDIES back in college and then life as a lawyer got in the way. I made some career moves recently—leaving behind law firms and opening my own practice—which freed up a tremendous amount of writing time. I dusted off FT, finished it during NaNo 2014, and then after editing and polishing, queried and signed with my agent, the fantastic Laura Bradford, at the end of last year.

-Hats off to you for freeing up writing time while keeping the day job!! So how do you use that writing time? Plotter? Pantser? Heavy reviser?

Total plotter; years of organizing my tasks and time by billable hours can’t be shaken. I start by outlining scenes and doing full character sketches. Scrivener is my new BFF! Next, I write the first scene, first kiss, sex scene(s), climax and last scene. Then I go back and write a dialogue layer connecting those scenes. This ensures dialogue and character interactions drive the plot all the way through. Once the dialogue layer is done, I start filling in action and emotions. I do a round of self-editing (TIP: Start from the last chapter and edit backward so you’re not tired by the time you work on your ending) before it goes to my beta readers, CPs and my wonderful freelance editor for assessment. I work in their comments and then it’s off to my agent.

-Wow! I bow down to your organizational prowess! Clearly, being a lawyer has influenced your process. How does it influence the stories themselves?

My legal background, though not in criminal law, does play-in to my inclination to write suspense and characters who have a legal background, in one form or another. Little things too, like my characters have a tendency to count things off, which as my editor once told me, is a very doctor or lawyer thing to do. Well, yeah!

An even more writing-relevant life experience was the cross-country move my husband and I made ten years ago. Living in the Bay Area has provided a whole new landscape to creatively play with. A big city, diverse people, cutting edge jobs, the food and wine. OMG, the food and wine; it bears repeating!

Reyne - Food Photo 2-*Waves to you from the other side of the Bay.* It’s true…we’re so lucky to live in such a beautiful, diverse, and inevitably delicious place. (Sadly, aside from the wine, the Bay Area’s not as handy for inspiring stories of Regency England, which is what I write, but I make the sacrifices I have to make.) Where else do you draw your inspirations?

Reyne - Southport PhotoIf it’s not obvious from my bio or the previous answer, the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met are what inspire me most. While tropes often drive romance, I often start with a location I want to use, or someone I’ve met who inspires a character, and build from there. Growing up, I spent a lot of summers in my grandparent’s garden or on the coast, and since moving to California, I try to get to wine country or the coast as much as possible. With FOUR TRAGEDIES, the hook came come first, but then everything else revolved around my love for coastal North Carolina. Be it the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Gulf, I don’t think I’ll ever write a story without at least one beach scene.

-Speaking of places: what’s your dream for where you’ll be in five years?

Writing full-time (or near to it) in my mythical house on the North Carolina coast 😉

Reyne - Crow Photo-Nice!! One more question from me: what’s one crazy fact about you that most people who meet you probably wouldn’t guess was true?

I love my designer shoes now, but I was a total tomboy as a kid. My grandparents had a huge garden, and I grew up climbing trees, playing with pet crows, picking strawberries and peaches, and stringing beans with my grandpa (after which we’d come inside and watch Santa Barbara together; he had a fangirl worthy crush on Eden Castillo).

-LOL! Sounds like an ideal childhood!! Okay, what question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

As inspired as I am by places, settings play a big role in my stories. What are some of the most inspirational places you’ve visited?




Connect with Layla on social media:

34 responses to “Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Layla Reyne!!”

  1. Melonie says:

    Your process fascinates me! And wow, what a great hook, can’t wait to read this 🙂

    I always feel inspired by water, most summers I spend a few days at a lighthouse on Lake Michigan, those sunrise walks recharge my soul.

    On my honeymoon we took a supper cruise on the Thames – that amazing experience has stuck with me and it makes an appearance in my GH MS 🙂

    See you in San Diego, fellow mermaid!

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Layla!!

    I’m totally an ocean girl, too. Grew up going to Ocean City, NJ in the summers, and have never been able to live anywhere but a coast since.

    If I could travel anywhere for inspiration, though, it would be Britain. It’s been 30 years since I’ve been there (man, that’s amazing to think about….) and I wasn’t writing Regencies then. I want to visit London and Bath and the countryside and soak in the atmosphere.

  3. Seana Kelly says:

    Great interview, Layla! I am impressed by your plotser ways. 😄
    The settings that inspire me the most seem to have water as a common thread: San Francisco, Boston, Bar Harbor, New Orleans, Carmel, Paris.
    See you at National’s!

    • Layla Reyne says:

      Thanks, Seana, for your kind words here and your FB post! My great-grandmother was actually from Bar Harbor. Never been there myself but the paintings/pictures she had of home were beautiful.

  4. McCall Hoyle says:

    Love the post, Layla! You plotting/drafting process is VERY intriguing.

    The two places that inspire me are the mountains and the ocean. Everything I write is set in one or the other. My roots are in North Carolina as well–lived on the Outer Banks and near Asheville and several places in between.

    Can’t wait to see you in SD! 💛💛💛

  5. Diane Holiday says:

    Wow, I’m so impressed with your organization and writing process. I’m with you on the ocean. I live at the Jersey Shore and love the beach. The most inspiring place I’ve been, though, is the Thousand Islands in Canada. We used to boat up there and it was breathtaking. Turquoise blue water and so clean and gorgeous. Wonderful interview. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Melanie Novak says:

    “Writing full-time (or near to it) in my mythical house on the North Carolina coast.”

    Umm, can you order me up one of those lives too? 🙂

    I love books set at the beach or with beach scenes in them.

    I do most of my traveling in books, but I’d say my most inspiring place was Hemingway’s Key West house. I actually was a kid when I went but I never forgot the place…though as a kid I was more impressed with all the six-toed cats that run around the place than its literary merits. I’d like to set a book there one day, and go back for extensive research 😉

    I look forward to meeting you in San Diego!


  7. Nicole Hohmann says:

    Hi Layla,
    Your story sounds great and I love your process. I may have to try out your method of writing the pivotal scenes then linking them.
    I grew up mostly in Northern California and I have a book idea set there (ok, a couple).
    I’d like to retire to the Monterey/Carmel coast and write full time someday.
    This will be my first conference too. I look forward to meeting you!

  8. Tracy Brody says:

    Wow – you have a great writing and editing process. I’m intimidated. 😉

    I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like, in part because I’m a beach girl and go to the same SC beach most every year. I’m very creative there and love to walk the beach and plot or sit under an umbrella to write or read.

    One of my favorite places to visit was your current home, San Francisco. I especially loved Golden Gate State park.

    Look forward to meeting you in San Diego!

  9. Karen Miller says:

    Wow, what a great blurb! I can’t wait to read the book!

    One place that has stuck in my mind over the years is Mesa Verde. I have always liked history, and it struck as I stood there looking at the amazing cave dwellings that the Native Americans were building them about the same time castles were being built in Europe. There are things like this which tie together different cultures around the world in unexpected ways. It’s been over 15 years since I was there and I still remember that epiphany, so maybe it will work its way into a story one day.

    Looking forward to meeting the woman behind the amazing blurb in San Diego!

  10. What a fascinating post! I loved getting to know you a little better, Layla. I’m looking forward to reading your story once it’s published. It hit all the right buttons for me.

  11. Layla Reyne says:

    So much fun to wake up to all these great comments and stories about your own inspiring locations. Sounds like there are a lot of “mermaids” out there 😉 Thanks so much to all for reading and commenting. Can’t wait to meet everyone in SD!

  12. Congratulations on your GH final, Layla! I’m inspired by your method of plotting and writing in layers. I’m more of a start-at-the-beginning and write straight through girl, but the pivotal-scene method you described is worth trying.

    I’m inspired by deep-south home-town communities like the one I grew up in (talk about soap operas….)so that’s where most of my books are set. But I also live near the gulf coast so I know it won’t be long till the beach makes an appearance in one of my books. But the place that makes my heart beat faster is Scotland. If I could, I’d move there, in spite of the cold, rainy weather.

    Enjoy your week at Nationals; do lots of celebrating! And good luck on GH awards day!

  13. Gabrielle says:

    Love the sound of Four Tragedies, and your plotting process. My ideas come with the opening and closing scenes usually fully formed, then I have to fill in the rest. The other thing I get handed is the setting. That’s *hugely* important to me, setting sets the tone. It’s also like a form of traveling/reminiscing. When I lived in Paris, I was working on books set in California and Maine. Now that I’m back in Australia, I’ll probably write about Paris, though my mermaid book is set in New York state. Looking forward to meeting you!

  14. Julia Mills says:

    Hi, Layla,
    Fellow SV RWA member here. Great ideas here with editing from the end of the book forward. So true, how you can get tired of the ending of an MS when you always start from the beginning. I’ll definitely try working from the end next time I’m in editing mode.

  15. Gayle says:

    Hi Layla,
    Another fellow SVRWA buddy who knew about the shoes but not the inner tomboy. Great article. I love the heartbeat of a big city like NYC but also the peace and serenity I can find along the California shore. Sonoma is my favorite weekend spot and if I had a couple of weeks I might sail to Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket.
    Congrats again on your nomination. I’ll be cheering for you at Nationals!

    • Layla Reyne says:

      Hey, Gayle. Thanks for dropping in! I have an even better crow picture too. If I can find it, I’ll bring it Friday 😉 As for favorite places, Martha’s Vineyard is one for me too. Love it out on the Cape. May be headed there for a few days later this summer. Fingers crossed!

  16. Maria Powers says:

    My favorite place in the whole world is just a little bit south down from you. Big Sur. It’s my dream place. I’d love to live there someday.

    I also want you to teach a course on your process. I am not sure it would work for me but it sounds so intriguing.

    • Layla Reyne says:

      You know, we’ve been here 10 years and I still haven’t been down to Big Sur yet. Anytime we get away for a weekend, it’s up to Napa or out to HMB. As for my writing process, it’s also helped me write a lot faster. No more banging my head against a wall if I’m stuck on the “next” scene, chronologically. I go where the muse takes me!

  17. elise hayes says:

    Congrats on the final, Layla! It was interesting to see that you’re a Scrivener gal–I’m new to Scrivener and am still in that, “wait, what?” phase. But hopefully soon it will all feel intuitive and helpful!

    • Layla Reyne says:

      Thanks, Elise. FYI, OCC-RWA is putting on an online Scrivener course starting in just a few days. Check it out! Hoping to pick up some new tricks myself.

  18. Eva Moore says:

    How interesting to hear how you work through your WIP. As someone who struggles to maintain consistency and flow over writing sessions that are often too far apart, I have definitely been embracing more plotting. I’ll keep those ideas in mind for the next go around. My most inspiring place is wherever we happen to be. My darling but ambitious husband keeps us on the move, so every few years I am meeting new people, seeing new places, building new communities. And then the stories fill my mind. I’ve written stories set in Chicago, The Bay Area, and Bali. Singapore is still on my list of places to set a novel, and my current WIP is set in Las Vegas. I cannot wait until 4 Tragedies is published! I love that plot line.

  19. Rayn Ellis says:

    Congrats on the 2016GH final Layla!! As a first time everything-er too, I completely agree with what you said!

    Awesome book!!! And I so love your process! My pantser brain can’t possibly comprehend it but the CPA in me is all smiles! You must be a very efficient writer!

    Inspiration for me?? Green spaces. A park, the forest, big, glorious trees! And ocean, ocean, ocean. That’s why I love the West Coast.

    Can’t wait to meet you in SD!

  20. Your story sounds great Layla and I really enjoyed this interview. Your process is so cool, I might have to give the edit from the ending a try.

    As for inspirational places – I was in Bermuda last September and found tons of inspiration. But really – I can finds inspiration in pretty much anything if I look close enough. 🙂

    Looking forward to meeting you in San Diego.

  21. Layla Reyne says:

    Thanks to Elisa for organizing and to everyone who read and commented. Loved your responses (and have made a list of future vacation spots)! I had a great time on the Rubies blog today. Excitement continues to build for SD. Can’t wait!!

  22. Wow, Layla!! What a process!

    I’m definitely a plotter but I have to finish one scene as close to perfection as I can before moving on to another. I’m fascinated now to read your book – for one because it sounds fantastic, but I also just want to see if your process works, lol!

    Which of course it’re nominated for a Golden Heart. 😉

    Looking forward to meeting you in San Diego, my mermaid sister!

  23. Elizabeth King says:

    Hi Layla
    Sorry I’m so late coming in here. Your process sounds amazing. I’m really tempted to give it a go. My process sounds more like Alyson’s – I can’t move on from one scene to the next without making the first one perfect! I’m trying to change that, by using Scrivener actually, but it’s still a work in progress.
    Looking forward to meeting you in San Diego.


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