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Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Lisa Heartman!!

Today we’re welcoming Lisa Heartman, one of the Omegas, the 2019 Golden Heart Finalists. Lisa is a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category with her book HIGH HEELS AND HANDGUNS.

Lisa Heartman is a coffee-swilling, sass-spewing, romance writer who believes love is messy and magnificent. She writes things she wishes she had said, and some she wishes she hadn’t, delighting readers with exhilarating stories and swoon-worthy characters in a world where danger and desire collide.

In addition to writing, Lisa enjoys movies, music, reading, baking, traveling, anything dark chocolate or coffee related, and hobbies like jewelry making and sewing. Growing up in New Jersey in a large Italian family full of strong role models gave Lisa the confidence to chase her dreams all the way to Arizona where she still lives with her husband and cat.

Here’s a blurb for HIGH HEELS AND HANDGUNS:

For Kate Howard, former Army Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, life as a one-woman personal protection detail comes with challenges. Wearing civilian camouflage while guarding high-profile clients is a dangerous game of rock, paper, hollow point. After an explosive and deadly end to her client’s re-election fundraiser, which left his young son in critical condition, Kate must accept help from an unwanted source: the soldier she loved and left in Afghanistan, bloody, broken, and barely alive.

Special Forces Officer Paxton Banks, Kate’s former captain-turned-FBI agent, is brought in to investigate the attempt on her client’s life. After twelve years, old emotions and new threats whip Kate’s world into complicated chaos. But when other elected officials are threatened, Kate and Paxton must tamp down their fiery feelings to catch a madman hell-bent on revenge.

That sounds deliciously intense! “Old emotions and new threats,” indeed!! I’m just imagining the dialogue….

So glad to have you with us here today, Lisa!! I’m having a blast getting to know the Omegas!

Since Lisa’s a Romantic Suspense finalist, I’m going to invite everybody into my virtual bulletproof bunker today. Don’t worry—I’ve got comfy couches inside, and there’s a fresh pot of coffee brewed up by one of the hunky FBI agents who always seem to be hanging out. Grab a seat!!

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Welcome, Lisa! Congrats on your Golden Heart Final, and thanks for being with us today! So, tell me a little about your background as a writer. Did you always know you wanted to write?

Well, if you asked my mother, she would tell you that I put a red typewriter on my Christmas list back when I was eight or nine years old. Santa did not come through, but mom and dad got me one for my birthday a few months later. I wish I could say that was when I knew I wanted to be a writer, I’d probably be much farther along now, but I didn’t. It wasn’t until about 5-6 years ago that I really started writing. I was reading this terrible romance novel (that shall not be named) and thought “I could do better than this. I know words. I can string them together to form sentences and paragraphs and chapters.” Too bad it’s not that easy, right? Thank goodness for RWA. I got involved with my local chapters and a few online, and it just snowballed from there.

LOL! I think I had a similar start with romance writing…and learned SOOOO much through RWA about how far I had to go. Does Fate plant those (rare) lousy novels to hook us? I mean, if we knew up front how hard it is, I’m not sure any of us would start. And isn’t it amazing how much support is out there for honing our skills? Thank goodness for the generosity of those who have gone before us!

 So tell me about your day-to-day approach to writing. Plotter? Pantser? Do you wait for the muse to strike in the middle of the night, or do you have a more disciplined approach?

I’m a very organized person. I’m a planner. I live by my calendar and to-do lists. I’m not necessarily a minimalist (you should see my sticky-note and Sharpie collections, it’s insane), but I like everything to have a place and purpose. I think being organized helps me to structure the story in a way that flows clearly with good pacing, revealing clues and hints along the way. I have a social media calendar that I use to plan out posts 2-3 weeks in advance so I’m not scrambling at the last minute and wasting hours watching funny animal videos. I know what the content and message are; I copy/paste the post, and get on with my day.

On the flip side, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I can get lost for thirty minutes in the thesaurus looking for that right word or down the world-wide-web-rabbit-hole researching a tiny detail that probably only matters to me, when I’m supposed to be getting words on the page. Then when I do get words on the page, I have to force myself not to edit it or I’ll never move forward. It’s a constant struggle in my writing life.

 Ah, so even the highly organized can fall down the world-wide-web-rabbit-hole (and the urge-to-edit-prematurely-rabbit-hole)! That’s weirdly comforting to me, as someone who’s allergic to spreadsheets. Other ways in which you don’t fit the stereotypical Highly Organized Writer mold?

 My writing process is kind of messy. It starts out neat and orderly with my notes of what needs to happen in each chapter, who’s there, what’s revealed, cause and effect, conflict, emotion, blah, blah, blah – plotter, party of one! – but when you’re chugging coffee while cruising down the highway, dictating into the recorder on your iPad during rush-hour traffic, the story takes on a life of its own. Sometimes it’s forty minutes of me brainstorming and hollering at drivers to “move over already,” and other times there are some great nuggets in there that I can use with a little grammar clean up. I try to sneak out of the office at least once a week to cram in a few words at my favorite coffee shop or lock myself in a boardroom just to keep the momentum going. My goal writing schedule is to get in front of the computer at least four times a week by 7 pm and write until 10 pm, plus whatever I can squeeze in on the weekends. Sometimes instead of writing, I edit, research, answer emails, read industry news/blogs, or create social media content. As long as I’m productive and moving toward my goal, I consider that time well spent.

Sounds like there’s definitely some Pantsering in your Plotteriness (do those words exist?). I think a little bit of mess is inherently a part of the creative process. Also, it’s very brave of you to record yourself in traffic! Actually, I commute with my kids, so Mommy’s Bad Traffic Words do get parroted back to me anyway….I guess I should actually try the iPad thing!

 You’ve got some great methods for being sure you get words on the page. And then what? How do you shape that raw material? What do your first drafts look like?

My first draft is incredibly lean. It’s mostly dialogue and telling and comments for future me like INSERT KISS HERE or ADD X CLUE or RESEARCH HOW TO GET OUT OF ZIP TIES. My second pass is when I add descriptions, visceral responses, body language, actions, internal thoughts, and dialogue cues. Basically all the fun stuff that makes the story transform from telling to showing. This step takes longer than any of the others. It’s just the nature of the beast. If you ever see me online and I’m complaining about “editing hell” I’m right here chugging along. I do a third pass for a quick edit before handing it off to my critique partners, Jenn and Justine, and a fourth pass at it after I get their comments back. Occasionally I’ll realize in a later chapter that I needed to hint at something earlier in the book and write notes on one of my million sticky-notes to go back, but I try to keep moving forward.

You’ve really got this down!! I love the idea of mostly writing dialogue first, and filling in around that. (See, I KNEW when I read your blurb that dialogue was going to be a big thing!!)

 One last question from me: What’s the best tip you can give other writers?

Don’t be afraid to fail. I read this quote somewhere, and I wish I could remember who said it or where I read it, but it goes like this. “Successful people are just failures that never gave up.” Everyone’s writing journey is different, but failure is inevitable, whether that’s an agent/editor rejection or negative reviews or losing a contest or a critique partner that tells you something’s not working (#TheTruthHurts). Those frustrations are common in the writing world. Sure, they suck and they’re going to slow you down, but you can’t let them stop you.

I’ve been told you have to have a thick skin to survive as a writer. I am a very emotional person, so that’s unrealistic to me. I see no reason why you can’t shed a few tears, say enough four-letter words to make a trucker blush, mainline a pint of Chunky Monkey, have a glass or six of wine, use your rejection letter for target practice, or whatever you need to do to process that failure, but afterwards, you need to hike up your big-girl panties and keep writing because the world needs your story.

#TheTruthHurts, indeed. Isn’t it ironic that writers are by nature sensitive souls, yet the business end is so freakin’ brutal? Pass the chardonnay!!!! And, heck yeah, the Chunky Monkey, too!! AND THEN WE ALL KEEP WRITING!!

 Okay, I know we’ve got readers eager to join in the conversation. Do you have a question you’d like to pose to them?

 I’m a BIG coffee drinker, aside for pumpkin spice latte season (yum), I’m an Americano girl. I like it tall, dark, and strong just like my heroes. I get a kick out of hearing everyone’s orders at the coffee shop so, coffee or tea and how do you take it?

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Connect with Lisa Heartman on social media:
-Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @heartmanlisa  

44 responses to “Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Lisa Heartman!!”

  1. jayson says:

    this was awesome, I hope your book is as amazing as this interview.

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  2. Becke Turner says:

    Lisa,
    I enjoyed reading about your process. I admire your discipline to plan each chapter. I try–really.

    Thanks for the reminder to confront failure. A rejection isn’t failure. It’s feedback. But I’m with you on sniffling as I pull up my big girl drawers.

    But no failure coming in July. See you there!

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Thank you, Becke. I like having that plan when I start. It keeps me on task, but it doesn’t stay that way when I write…which can be good or bad.

      XOXO

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  3. Congratulations on your final, Lisa! I loved the peek into your process – To-Do List Lovers Unite!

    I don’t really care for coffee – diet coke is my addiction of choice – but if I find myself trapped in a coffee shop surrounded by coffee-drinkers I sometimes order a chai latte as a sweet treat. The way other people talk about coffee I always feel like I’m missing out on something, but then I taste it and my reaction is always, “Nope, that’s disgusting.” 😀

    Good luck in New York!

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Vivi,
      Yes, to-do list lovers unite! It’s such a rush to cross that stuff off the list as you complete it.

      If Diet Coke is your jam, go with it. Own it. Confession, I don’t think I’ve ever tried a chai latte. Might have to add that to my list.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I drank Diet Coke for years and years…to the point that my students would occasionally arrive at an 8 am class and give me one, the way they’d give other teachers an apple.

      Eventually, I got worried about my tooth enamel, and eased my way into coffee. Started very sweet with lots of milk…now I can’t live without it. Learned to ditch the sugar, though.

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  4. Elly Kate says:

    I love this: “I see no reason why you can’t shed a few tears”. Yes!! It’s okay to feel and express emotion! You don’t have to share it with the world, but it’s so important to let yourself feel what you feel.

    Always, always, always: my coffee is ALWAYS black. Milk and sugar have no place in my caffeinated beverages! I also love tea, but again: strong and just plain.

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Elly, right?! We’re romance writers. Feel those emotions and then turn around and use them to deepen the story on your next edit.

      You had me at “my coffee is ALWAYS black.” Me too!

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  5. Sammi Spizziri says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I loved reading about your process. And it’s always a good reminder to keep going when you fail!

    At a coffee shop, I usually order a vanilla chai latte with almond milk. Daily, I drink black tea (plain) but if I’m out I like to make it extra fancy. ☕️

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Sammi, thank you. My process is organized chaos for sure, but it works for me.

      Another chai latte fan. I’m really going to have to try this stuff.

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  6. Jennifer Whitney Bray-Weber says:

    Great interview! Love your process, too, Kate. I absolutely agree that everything writing-related—research, blogging, note-jotting, day-dreaming, etc.—are all important forward-moving steps.

    Me…not a coffee drinker. I tried but failed. My juice of choice is energy drinks.

    High-Heels and Handguns sounds like fun! Good luck in NYC!

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Jennifer, yes, the day-dreaming is so important to give your mind creative freedom.

      Energy drinks. Wow, you are a strong one! I’m afraid of them. Like “if I drink this my heart might explode on the first sip.” kind of afraid.

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      • Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

        LOL! Been drinking them for years. But like coffee drinkers, I sip. I don’t slam them. Hard to concentrate when trying control your shaky fingers and racing heart.

        Oh…and sorry about the slip on your name. NO idea where Kate came from. Probably because I hadn’t cracked open my energy drink for the morning yet. hehe

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  7. Sara Whitney says:

    More cream than coffee, thanks!

    Love the advice about not being afraid to fail. All the supportive Omega friends I’ve made are definitely helpful with that! ❤️

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Sara, thank you. It’s easy to feel like those failures are going to swallow you whole, but friends like your writing chapter mates, critique partners, and the Omegas are a great support system.

      More cream than coffee, okay.

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  8. Nicole says:

    Great interview Lisa! I enjoyed reading about your writing process.

    I’m not a huge coffee person but I do like iced coffee with mocha flavoring in it from Dunkin Donuts.

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Nicole, thank you. Sometimes when I’m looking to mix it up I’ll order a mocha, but I haven’t ever tried it iced. I’ll add that to the list to try too.

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  9. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Hi, Lisa, your book sounds amazing! Good luck in NY.

    My coffee order: light roast, room for cream, one cube of ice.

    Thanks for joining us on the blog.

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Thank you, Elizabeth! It’s been a pleasure being on the blog today. I’m soaking up all this author love and encouragement.

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  10. Lisa Heartman says:

    Nicole, thank you. Sometimes when I’m looking to mix it up I’ll order a mocha, but I haven’t ever tried it iced. I’ll add that to the list to try too.

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  11. Fenley Grant says:

    Hi, Lisa!

    I’m sitting here with my hot, black coffee (#2 for the day), reading your amazing interview.

    Like you, my first draft is, at its core, a screenplay. All dialogue. I add the rest in edits. My style is more ‘pantser’ than ‘plotter’, but, like you say, whatever works for you.

    I can’t wait to meet you in NYC (along with our other Omega sisters)–congrats on your final and I hope to read your novel soon!

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Fenley, thank you. And two thumbs up for terrible first drafts! Well, maybe not terrible, just lean. That just makes the editing that much more rewarding when you see how they transform.

      I think I’ll join you on that second cup of coffee. See you in NYC!

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  12. Jilly Wood says:

    Lisa, I am in awe of your process! I was always a planner in my working life and I assumed my writing would be the same, but…yeah, not so much;-) I pants my way v-e-r-y slowly to one clean draft. By then the story is usually quite tightly woven so revising is mostly tweaking and polishing rather than moving the pieces around.

    I make a pot of coffee at home every morning–it’s my fave way to start the day. I buy freshly roasted beans and grind them myself. I usually have at least half a dozen options to choose from–Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Malawi…it’s a guilty pleasure and making my selection is like taking a micro vacation 🙂

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Thanks, Jilly. I think I would prefer your writing process, but it just doesn’t happen that way. It makes editing really difficult, but when you look at first draft to final story there is a sense of accomplishment there that I cannot put into words.

      All those wonderful choices for morning coffee would make for a mini-vacation for sure.

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  13. Sarah Andre says:

    Hi Lisa, I’m the SWFRW coordinator who called you last year when you finaled in the Joyce Henderson contest. Thrilled to see your entry made a GH final too! Welcome to TGN and all the help and support we old-timers bring.
    Best of luck next month and in networking/pitching/selling your novel.

    -Keurig coffee addict, rarely go to coffeeshops (too introverted.) 😉

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Sarah, hi! Thank you so much for stopping by to leave your well-wishes. I cried on the phone with many contest coordinators last year, but you never forget a first place win with requests for fulls from the final judge agent and editor plus a cash prize. That was the very first money I ever made on my writing. The Joyce Henderson contest was a wonderful experience, and your chapter should be proud of it.

      Keurig addict…have you tried Green Mountain Island Coconut? It’s not sweet, just a slight tropical undertone. SO GOOD! It’s my go-to Saturday morning coffee.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      That’s awesome!! Congrats, Lisa!!

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      • Lisa Heartman says:

        2018 was a great contest year for me. I placed in 8 of the 10 contests I entered. I even placed in the top-ten for your Make it Golden contest. Golden Heart Finalist was the delicious frosting on top fit all.

        The local RWA chapter contests are amazing! It’s a great opportunity to get feedback on your story. I highly recommend entering them.

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        • Lisa Heartman says:

          Should probably mention that in the 5 years prior to this I entered dozens of contests (including some of the ones I won last year) and didn’t place, but I didn’t let that stop me. I read the feedback, learned what I was doing “wrong,” and kept writing.

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  14. Lisa,
    “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

    So much this. Few people are born with both the talent and skills needed for any activity. To me, that’s always meant try>not hit the mark>try again, until you get where you want to be.

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Janet,
      Right? It’s a simple concept, but really hard to do when you’re in the failure. Keep trying, and celebrate the little wins until you get to where you want to be. And we’ll keep encouraging each other.

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  15. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Great post, Lisa! I admire your process and wish I could be less pantser-y and more plotter-y as you are. I’ve got acres of sticky notes on my desk too!

    Drink of choice? Tea for me, with milk and sugar. Looking forward to meeting you in New York!

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Janet, thank you so much. Yay another sticky note collector!

      Yes, I look forward to meeting you in NY. We can sip tea, pinkies out.

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  16. Addison Fox says:

    Congratulations on your final, Lisa. HIGH HEELS AND HANDGUNS sounds fantastic!

    And as one coffee drinker to another – I couldn’t agree with you more. Tall, dark and loaded with caffeine is my style all the way!

    Addison

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Addison, thank you so much! I had a blast writing it. Too bad the editing isn’t as much fun, but worth it in the end.

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  17. Anna Collins says:

    Yes! Someone once told me – the only way to fail at being a writer is to stop trying. I remind myself of that every time something feels hard.

    Your book sounds truly captivating. Congrats on finaling!

    I’m a tea drinker – preferably a fruity rooibos blend or tea latte. Somehow in spite of fitting all the most coffee-drinking stereotypes (Swedish, a teacher, a writer, live in Seattle) I never learned to like it!

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Anna, thank you. Yes, every time it gets hard and I think “Why am I doing this to myself?” I remind myself to hang in there. Lean on your friends, family, local chapter, the Omegas for some encouragement. Someday all the work will be worth it.

      Shhh, don’t tell the people of Seattle that you don’t like coffee. They might make you move out of the state. LOL! 😉

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  18. Tracy Brody says:

    Lisa, sounds like our stories would fit great together in an anthology filled with camouflage-clad heroes. Yours is definitely my kind of read so I’m glad you’re a finalist!

    I look forward to meeting you in NYC only I’m one of those rare writers who does NOT drink coffee. Occasionally, I drink hot tea and sweet iced tea.

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    • Lisa Heartman says:

      Love men in uniform. Now I’m really excited to hear your story too!

      Hey, as long as it has caffeine in it to get you through the days, that’s what matters.

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  19. Claire DeWolf says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Tea– Earl Grey with lemon. Preferably loose-leaf steeped three minutes.

    But, I miss coffee. Haven’t been able to drink it for years. Loved a good Mexican mocha latte with a dash of cinnamon on the top. Yum.

    Delighted to be your Omega sister. Can’t wait to see you at Nationals.

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