Laura Heffernan is the author of the Reality Star series, contest host, #PitchWars mentor, and more. Ask me anything about my books, reality TV, querying, writing, or junk food (especially Canadian chocolate).

Laura Heffernan
Mar 9, 2018

I have three traditionally published romcom/chicklit novels, with three more already scheduled. The Reality Star series follows Jen, who auditions for a reality show in order to win cash to pay off her debts. She's expecting some fun, some adventure, and a free place to stay while she figures out her life.  She doesn't expect to fall for a fellow contestant. This series was a lot of fun to write, and I'm happy to talk about finding inspiration in the world around you. More information is availble about the series on my website.

In addition, I serve as a #PitchWars mentor, host of various querying contests, and freelance editor. I used to intern for a literary agent, and have a good idea of what tyes of thing an agent will look for in a query or manuscript before offering representation. I'm ready and able to answer questions on my process.

I'm also a total geek, and can talk all day long about reality TV, books, junk food, and tabletop board games. Ask me anything!

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How does one join a reality TV show? Do you really have to have connections from the inside?
Mar 14, 10:03AM EDT0

Different shows send out casting calls once in a while. Sometimes you can see advertisements at the end of a show, like with the Bachelor. Or you can find casting agencies on Google and check out their open listings.

I don't believe you need connections on the inside. I know three people who've appeared on shows not knowing anyone, and I now have a friend in casting with consistently casts a wide net. It all comes down to whether you happen to have what the producers are looking for, which varies by show.

Mar 14, 10:17AM EDT0
What's most difficult about writing? How can one get through these difficulties?
Mar 13, 3:05PM EDT0

For me, the most difficult part of writing is the uncertainty. There's no way to know if people will like a particular book, if it'll take off and be successful or flop. There's no way to know if a particular agent or editor will like a new book when it's finished, or if it'll fit the market. That's tough.

Lucky for me, I'm stubborn, so I just keep writing what I love and moving forward. All I can really do is write the books and hope for the best.

Mar 14, 10:22AM EDT0
Do you think online "reality TV" shows can also work? Like would it be nice for someone who has equipment and knows his way around the Internet to work on something like this?
Mar 13, 12:28PM EDT0

I'm afraid I don't have any experience with making, producing, or posting videos online. I personally don't watch any online reality shows. But good luck if this is an area that interests you.

Mar 14, 10:18AM EDT0
Who is your favorite reality TV show contestant/participant of all time?
Mar 13, 5:48AM EDT0

That would have to be my real-life best friend, Stephanie, who starred in The Glass House in 2012 and inspired the Reality Star series. :-) 

Mar 14, 10:18AM EDT0
Would you say that you're truly satisfied with what you are doing at the moment?
Mar 13, 5:20AM EDT0

I love writing, I love sharing my words with people, and I enjoy helping other writers. So I am largely satisifed. To me, true satisfaction would come from being able to make a living doing this full time and I'm unfortunately not there yet. 

Mar 14, 10:19AM EDT0

Do you still get writer’s block? How does one get through writer’s block?

Mar 9, 4:43PM EST0

I do sometimes still get stuck. Usually when that happens, I'll take a walk to clear my head. Getting out into the fresh air helps me a lot. Going for a drive sometimes works, too. 

I also don't always write in order, so sometimes jumping ahead will help get me going.

Mar 9, 5:57PM EST0
Do you like writing on paper too? Or do you only write on your computer?
Mar 9, 3:17PM EST0

I'm unfortunately not able to write on paper because I've had tendonitis for more than 10 years. The computer aggravates it too, but not nearly as much. Even holding a pen is painful. 

At this point, I wouldn't be able to read my own handwriting if I were to put words down on paper. When I can't get to my computer and I'm inspired, I take notes on my phone.

Mar 9, 5:56PM EST0
Is it difficult to be funny when writing?
Mar 9, 12:54PM EST0

It's easier to be funny when writing than while speaking, becuse I can go back and edit and re-edit. I can send drafts to other readers who let me know when jokes fall flat or get lost in translation. In person, I feel like I always think of a great joke about an hour after it would have been funny. 

Mar 9, 12:58PM EST0
What are some underrated and not-so-popular books that are really good and you would recommend?
Mar 9, 12:27PM EST0

I adored SOFIA KHAN IS NOT OBLIGED by Ayisha Malik. That's one of my favorite under-rated romantic comedies. Amy Reichert also writes excellent women's fiction. 

Mary Ann Marlowe's FLIRTING WITH FAME series is excellent romance. If you like mysteries, check out HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE by Kellye Garrett. Or for epic fantasy, Michelle Hauck's BIRTH OF SAINTS series. 

Mar 9, 12:30PM EST0

WHEN STARTING A PROJECT, WHAT COMES FIRST IN YOUR AWEARNESS: THE CLOSING STATEMENT?.. OR THE PLOT, SUBPLOT?... OR SIMPLY YOU HAVE A TITILE APPEAR FROM NOW'WHERE?... OR ALL TOGETHER ... ALL AT ONCE?.. BLESSINGS FOR BEING A WORD WARRIOR... PSG..

Mar 9, 10:28AM EST0

I usually start with a specific incident or scene in mind. Then I start thinking about what sort of people would find themselves in that situation and how they would react.

Sometimes that incident winds up being Chapter 1. But I've also got manuscripts where it wound up in the middle once the characters and plot were more well known to me. I don't outline in advance, so I have to be willing to go with the flow.

Mar 9, 10:53AM EST1
How do you stay motivated to keep on writing?
Mar 9, 10:14AM EST0

At the moment, I have a contract, which is pretty strong motivation - I don't want to get sued. 

But I also really want to be able to do this for a living. The idea of being able to get paid for something I love helps. And when I'm not feeling motivated, I've learned to take a break. Going for a walk or a long drive (depending on the weather) helps clear my head. Sometimes reading a good book reminds me how much I love writing. And sometimes, I just need a nap. :-)

Mar 9, 10:52AM EST0
Are you planning on writing and releasing more books aside from the ones you have on the Reality Star series?
Mar 7, 8:14PM EST0

Yes! I have another three book series coming from Kensington starting next year. The first book , SHE'S GOT GAME, follows Gwen as she competes in the American Board Game Championship. A life-long gamer, Gwen's been preparing for this competition for years. She's ready to kick some butt - but not ready to fall for her #1 competitor, Cody.

Mar 9, 6:40AM EST0
How do you market or promote your books? Any best practices you can share?
Mar 7, 5:36PM EST0

For me, the key is visibility. Trying to get my name out there and let people know about the books. That means doing largely whatever I can: guest articles, blogs, social media, things like this Ask Me Anything, giveways. If it's free, I'll try almost anything once. I've also tried placing ads and hiring marketing experts, with varying results. Before spending money on something, I'd recommend talking to people who've tried it before. The KBoards are good for that, whether you're indie or traditionally published.

The best practice for me right now is to make a budget and stick to it. I once read an article by a woman who spent something like 18x more than she made marketing her book. That stuck with me. If you get an advance, set aside some or all of it for marketing. If you don't, be aware of what you're buying and what you're getting for that money. A lot of published authors make less than $1,000 per year, especially early on, so it's important to be aware of what you're spending. And spending more doesn't necessarily translate to more sales, unless you can afford an ad in Entertainment Weekly (about $30k, last time I checked).

Mar 9, 6:52AM EST0
What are the common mistakes committed by writers that cause them to fail?
Mar 7, 3:41PM EST0

One of the most common mistakes - and easiest to avoid - is not following directions. Most agents have a website that lists:

  • Whether they're accepting unsolicited queries
  • What type of books they represent
  • How to query them/what materiels to send

Sending a query to the wrong email address will get deleted. Sending a query when the agent is closed will get it deleted. A query for the genre the agent doesn't represent will get deleted. Sending the entire manuscript instead of the requested number of pages will usually get deleted.

Along with that, it's important to send a basic query letter. The letter should primarily talk about the book's plot, not the author. It shouldn't insult other books in the genre with statements like "This book is way better than the other YA out there." There are a lot of sites that talk about how to write a query, and with a bit of research, it's easy enough for writers to draft a letter that will get their book noticed by agents in the right way.

Mar 8, 8:08AM EST0
What’s the best feedback or reader comment you’ve gotten so far from any of your books?
Mar 7, 10:39AM EST0

This may be one of my favorite questions, so I spent a lot of time thinking about it. Positive feedback is like oxygen to writers. In a business that's so often frustrating, there's nothing like knowing that you words spoke to someone.

This comment made me tear up a little. "[Reality Wedding] is fun and fast paced. It will make you forget reality as you turn pages to reach the fitting ending. It's sad to see the end of these books. I'm going to miss them." 

I'm going to miss these books, too. But I'm also excited about my next series. 

Mar 9, 7:12AM EST0
As a #PitchWars mentor, what’s the most memorable experience you’ve had with one of the writers you coached?
Mar 6, 12:24PM EST0

The most memorable experience would have to be when I wound up in Chicago for a conference and got to hang out with my first ever mentee. Her husband made chocolate chip cookie dough in honor of the ocassion. 

When mentees become friends, it's one of the greatest parts of the contest. 

Mar 6, 8:47PM EST0
What made you interested in reality TV as a topic for your books?
Mar 6, 10:52AM EST0

Several years ago, my best friend starred in a reality show, and I found myself fascinated with how it all really works. There’s such a huge world between what goes on and what we see. I loved the idea of creating the type of show I'd want to be on, casting it, and seeing what happened next.

Mar 6, 1:17PM EST0
Who is the target audience for the Reality Star series?
Mar 6, 10:15AM EST0

The books are PG, so readers as young as 15 or 16 could read and enjoy them. And my grandma liked it, so I'd say the book is appropriate for readers 15-97. :-) 

More seriously, I would say the books target women between the ages of 19-45. Readers who enjoy Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, or Emily Giffin are going to like these books. Fans of reality TV will also like the books, but they're written to be accessible to people who've never seen a reality show.

Mar 6, 1:16PM EST0
What are some of the worst reality TV shows of all time?
Mar 6, 10:13AM EST0

An excellent question! That's so hard, because there are so many shows out there. Personally, I never got into the "scripted" reality shows like The Hills or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I Wanna Marry Harry was pretty bad - they found a Prince Harry look-alike and trained him to act like Harry, but never actually say he was. And of course, all the women were in a castle, so they just assumed. That was weird, and I couldn't get into it.

A few years ago, there was a show called Temptation Island where couples went to decide if they wanted to have affairs (I think, I could be misremembering). And I started out liking Stranded With a Million Dolllars, but one of the conestants crossed the line into some seriously harmful behavior (targeting others), and the producers should've stepped in. That was a different sort of bad.

Mar 6, 9:09PM EST0
Have you personally joined any reality TV shows yourself? If so, what is the show all about?
Mar 6, 9:03AM EST0

I've never been on a reality show. My best friend was on a show called The Glass House a few years ago. Other friends have appeared on Masterchef, Beauty and the Geek, and even Jeopardy!. It's always fun to watch and cheer them on and listen to the stories.

I'm also friends with someone who works in casting several reality shows, including Project Runway. 

Mar 6, 9:29AM EST0
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