Robin: Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing author Casey Hagen. Hi, Casey! Nice to have you here.
Casey: Hi Robin! Thank you for having me here. I’m excited. This is officially my first interview!
Robin: You are, I believe, as yet unpublished, but you write contemporary romance with a bit of suspense. When did the writing bug first hit you?
Casey: I had a phenomenal English teacher who turned me on to banned books. I read Lolita and we had a one-on-one book discussion. I told him I was horrified by Humbert’s obsessive love for Dolores. He asked me, “Are you truly horrified by that or horrified that you feel for him despite who and what he ultimately is?” And he was right. I felt for Humbert despite the fact that what he was doing was so wrong. I hated reading. My teacher shifted my direction entirely. I earned my BA in English Literature and made up for all the reading I hadn’t done in high school.
When I graduated that teacher told me I should write a book of my own. He knew I liked edgy, controversial, and gritty and believed firmly that I should stick with what I love. I started plotting books with my best friend who was, and has always been an avid romance reader. We would record ourselves coming up with character ideas and scenes. Those cassette tapes lay buried in my closet for at least fifteen years before I dusted them off, struggled to find a cassette player to play them on, and listened to them again. At the time, I had never even read a romance novel, although when my former mother-in-law gave me Debbie Macomber’s This Matter of Marriage, I devoured it and became an avid romance reader ever since.
Robin: What type of setting do you give most of your stories? Exotic? Small town? Big city? Based on the name of the novel you mentioned to me, Sunset at Lake Crane, the story takes place at or near a lake. Do you have a specific affinity? Is the location based on somewhere familiar and/or important to you?
Casey: Sunset at Lake Crane is the first of three books I have planned for The Livingston Valley series. Just recently I decided to add a novella to the series that will come out last. It’s a small town setting and the hero lives on Lake Crane. Lake Crane is similar to a lake I loved to visit during my teen years. Every time I wrote, I pictured Shadow Lake in Glover, VT. Last summer, our family all met in Lake Ann, Michigan and that Lake Ann was a close second to Shadow Lake so it also served as inspiration.
Small towns come naturally to me. I grew up in small towns. I spent most of my time in Walden, Vermont going to one room school houses. Like Little House on the Prairie. Don’t laugh…I’m completely serious! Although, my settings aren’t quite that small, they are similar in size to the town where I attended high school. St. Johnsbury, Vermont has a population around 8000 so I like to stick to that size. It gives me a good frame of reference.
I do have a completed novella I plan to release this fall also. It takes place both in a big city and an exotic location. The characters live in San Francisco, but end up taking a trip to Fiji together. That one required a ton of research since I based it on real places. Places I’ve never been to in real life to boot!
Robin: Where does the suspense aspect come in?
Casey: In Sunset at Lake Crane, my heroine, Erynn is given an assignment to do an in depth interview on a wildly popular, mysterious writer. He writes under a pen name and no one has ever been able to find out a single detail about him. When she comes face to face with him she’s shocked to discover it’s none other than the man she walked away from eight years earlier…
She left, to protect him. Now that she’s forced to return, little clues crop up that lead her to believe whoever blackmailed her is still there and watching. The question is…who is it?
Robin: Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?
Casey: My friend and I used to talk about unlikely couples and how it would be possible to make those relationships work. In this case, I wanted to write a student/teacher romance that didn’t take the safe route of a college student and teacher. I dance close to the taboo line without really crossing over it. Everything is perfectly legal, between two consenting adults. The issue is, they can’t prove that their relationship developed after graduation so that’s why she takes off. She doesn’t want to risk his career.
Robin: You shared with me the news you are pitching to an editor and to an agent at RWA in New York City this July. How much time have you spent in front of a mirror honing your pitch? Are you nervous at all?
Casey: Ummmm, none. *Casey hangs her head in shame* I quite literally have not written my pitch, logline, synopsis…anything. I need to, but I’ve been so wrapped up in this book and getting it to my editor that everything else has been on the back burner. I’ve also encountered some personal challenges so it looks like the month of July will be for my pitch, *cough* impending panic, and tearing my hair out. Am I nervous? Actually no. These pitching appointments are more for my practice and experience than about end results.
Robin: I know you have a plan to self-publish if you are unable to find a home with a traditional or indie publisher. What timeframe did you give yourself for that decision? What do you feel are the pros and cons of traditional and self-pub?
Casey: You know how to hit with the hard questions! With each passing day, I solidify my decision to self-publish. This is my story, and I plan to do it my way.
As for a timeline, I want this book and stand-alone novella out by this fall. My goal is to have the rough draft of book two finished by the time I release book one so I can keep the momentum going.
Robin: I recently interviewed a singer/songwriter and asked him about his routine for creating, and he told me he often will write while doing household tasks, such as laundry. I know I perform a lot of the mental creative process in my car, and then spend the evenings hunkered over my keyboard. How much time do you devote each day to your craft? Do you have a space set up for the sole purpose of writing, or do you type away with your laptop on the kitchen counter while you cook the evening meal?
Casey: First, I’m better at writing in the morning. Early morning. Before my kids can fill my head with a million different things they need me to do for them. I have to write with the TV on. I don’t watch it, but I hear the noise and that works for me. From 6am to 7am I listen to music on my computer as I get going. By 7am…I’m writing and listening to Parking Wars on A&E. At 8am I put it on Hallmark and listen to The Golden Girls. I know, I need help. After that it’s a series of court TV and Dr. Phil playing in the background.
Casey: Those are my best days for writing. Of course, like most writers, I have to earn money too, so I own and operate my own residential cleaning business. My husband has taken over dinner duties so I work right up until dinner and then after dinner, we all settle in the living room to watch our favorite shows together. I bring my laptop with me and keep it in my lap until we go to bed at night. It’s working for me for right now, but I’m getting my own office.
Ideas strike while I’m cleaning at customer’s houses, particularly during vacuuming. I don’t know what it is about vacuuming, but it’s very zen for me. I carry a small, leather bound notebook in my purse at all times. In one day I came up with three short story ideas and plotted them out, all during vacuuming.
Robin: Are you currently working on another novel?
Casey: I am. I’m working on Nightfall at Hunter’s Ridge, which is the second story in The Livingston Valley series. In the first book, Erynn’s best friend Kat makes several appearances. Kyle, her love interest in the book is also in book one as sort of a surrogate brother to Erynn. Kyle has had a thing for Kat for quite some time, but she can’t stand him. He’s a cop and she hates cops.
Robin: When you picture the future of your writing career, what do you see?
Casey: I’m easy to please. My financial goal is to replace my cleaning income with writing income. I don’t clean that much so it really shouldn’t be too difficult after a few years. My husband views me as his retirement plan. I don’t like to get my hopes up to high so I’m not disappointed. He thinks I’m going to take off with this, he’s supportive like that!
I want to increase my output. I want to be able to put out four books a year. I don’t want to sacrifice quality to do it. If I can make that happen, I’ll be happy. I need to write. That’s what it all comes down to. If I can make some great friends, earn some fans, and continue to learn and grow, I’ll have achieved all of my goals.
Robin: Well, thank you, Casey, for taking the time to speak with me. Good luck at RWA. Let me know how everything works out!
Casey: Thank you so much for interviewing me! And for the well wishes at RWA…I’m going to need all the good mojo I can get since I’m working on my pitch, logline, and synopsis at the eleventh hour!