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I am so honored to have Romance writer Alison Bliss on my blog today! Not only is Alison a success story of Pitch Wars, a contest that is near and dear to my heart, but she is my very newest agent-sister!! That’s right – Alison is represented by the one and only Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc., and she’s here to talk to me today about how that came about; her manuscript, RULES OF PROTECTION; her experiences in Pitch Wars; and how she ratcheted up her writing skills to land the best agent in the biz, in my totally unbiased opinion 😉 Thanks so much for joining me, Alison, and I hope you all think she’s as awesome as I do! (Don’t worry, you totally will.)

1. So excited to have you as an agent-sister, and to hear we had at least one similarity in our Calls 😉 Especially, for those who might not be quite as familiar with this one particular idiosyncrasy of Andrea’s, can you tell us about your Call?

I’m excited also, Dahlia!  And, yes, our stories are eerily similar.  Apparently, when Andrea calls to offer representation, she doesn’t actually “offer” it verbally.  Nearly an hour into our conversation, I had to ask Andrea if her call was an official offer.  She laughed and said, “Of course.”

The funniest thing happened at the beginning of that call, though.  After asking for me by name, the first words out of Andrea’s mouth were, “If I scream or drop the phone, don’t hang up.”  My first thought was, “She’s getting robbed.”  My second thought was, “Then why the heck would she call me?”  Apparently a spider crawled into her phone right as she dialed.  Yep, Super Agent Andrea Somberg is scared of spiders and makes offers of rep even at gunpoint.  🙂

2. You were one of our very first Pitch Wars success stories! What was your experience like with the contest, and what drove you to apply?

By sheer luck, I found Summer Heacock’s blog on the MidWest Writer’s website and followed her.  Days later, she posted about PitchWars and I wanted to know what the heck a “PitchWars” was. I’d never participated in an online contest before, so this was all new to me.  I didn’t even have a Twitter account at the time (seriously!).  My MS was a mess, it was the end of November, and the entry deadline was December 5th!  Let’s just say I got very little sleep, but had my newly-overhauled entry sent in by December 3rd.  Never did I think I had a snowball’s chance in hell at being chosen, but I was!  The great and powerful Oz (otherwise known as Shelley Watters) chose my manuscript to mentor.  It was such a positive learning experience, and I made many new writing friends.  I highly recommend it!

3. Your agented manuscript, RULES OF PROTECTION, is Romantic Suspense. Who/what do you consider a must-read in the Romantic Suspense genre?

Ooooh!  An easy one.  Linda Howard rocks my world.  The woman is pure plotting genius.  I own all of her books and reread them often.  But you know how they say don’t judge a book by its cover?  Well, seriously – don’t!  Every time I ever read the blurb on the back of her books, I told myself I wasn’t going to like it.  And every time I’m hooked by the fifth page.  Skip the blurb, but read her books.  You won’t be sorry you did.

4. What do you do when you’re not writing?

You mean we get to take a day off now and then?  Why wasn’t I informed of this?  🙂  Actually, I’m one of the crazies that write/edit every day no matter what.  The only time I took a break was when we took my two boys to Disney World last year.  Ten days.  No writing.  About killed me.  But if I had to hear another person tell me to “Have a magical day” I would’ve gladly taken myself out, anyway.

5. I know you took some time off from writing to work on developing the actual craft, and obviously it paid off? What did you find to be useful tools in improving your writing skills?

I caught the writing bug three years ago when I started my first novel.  I quickly realized I didn’t know how to write a novel.  I made every mistake possible from info dumps to bad grammar.  I put the novel aside and read every how-to book on writing I could get my hands on, watched free webinars, joined three writing groups, and read actual books…you know, the kind that’s already published.  I still make some of the same mistakes, but now I’ve learned to spot them during revisions.  RULES OF PROTECTION is the second novel I’ve ever written.  The writing was much stronger, but I still strive every day to improve.

6. You chose Andrea out of three (!) offering agents. How’d you know she was the one? What do you think is most important to look for in an agent?

I believe it’s different for everyone, depending on their personality.  I’m a control freak and like to be on top of things, so my agent had to have those certain qualities that I’d appreciate.  I wanted an agent who I could trust to do what she says she’ll do, when she says she’ll do it.  Also, she had to have great communication skills and be able to laugh at herself.  The spider incident told me a lot about her, but you get a vibe about a person.  Her vibe shouted, “I’m your agent!”  Even if she didn’t verbally offer it.  🙂

7. Rumor has it you’ve got some sexy scenes in your manuscript! Does writing them make you squeamish? How do you get past it?

Hah!  Yeah, people tend to fan themselves while reading my book.  I love writing steamy scenes!  Sexual tension intrigues me because what makes one person tick, doesn’t always do the same for the person on their left.  When I write, I don’t usually think about who will read my words until after the fact, but when my mom starts reading a chapter that has a really hot scene in it, I start sweating.

8. Do you write to music? If so, do you have a playlist for RULES OF PROTECTION, or a song you associate with it? If not, what do you listen to when you’re not writing?

I have weird musical tastes.  I’m originally from Texas, so country music is my favorite.  But I also like anything from Bruno Mars to Michael Buble.  And I love me some eighties music!  But I can’t write to music.  I wish I could, but every time I try to, I end up singing more than I write.  Never works for me.  I can’t write in silence, either.  I have to have background noise, which my two boys readily supply.  Like right now, I’m writing this with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme music in the background.  Wait a minute!  Does that count as writing to music?

9. I’m lucky enough to have been the very first person to interview you! So what have you always wanted to be asked about??

Aww, you’re sweet!  And I think it’s the other way around.  I’m lucky enough to be interviewed by YOU!  And the one thing I’d like to be asked about is my writing credentials.  Weird, right?  But there’s a reason for this, and I hope readers will find this inspiring.  I don’t have any.  Yep, you read that right.  I’ve never taken any creative writing courses, don’t have a literary degree, never interned for a literary agency, and haven’t won any major writing contests.  I’m a stay-at-home mom who found a passion for writing three years ago and stuck with it.  I brushed up on all of my grammar/punctuation skills that had long been forgotten and spent a lot of time dissecting books just to figure out this elusive thing called plot.  And to top it off, I didn’t have much of a platform, either.  Instead of spending the last three years blogging, I spent them learning how to plot, how to write, and how to revise.  Not only by writing daily, but by reading published authors in different genres.  I think aspiring writers spend too much time trying to build a platform.  That great platform isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you can write a saleable book.  Also I think it’s important for other writers to know it’s not always about how many courses you’ve taken, how many degrees you have, or how many followers you get.

It all boils down to one thing: write a great story!

Words of serious wisdom! Get to know Alison even more by following her on Twitter at @alisonbliss2 and checking out her blog, Pure Bliss. And, of course, leave some love and any questions you may have for her in the comments!