We connected with debut Harlequin Special Edition author Makenna Lee to talk romance writing—advice, inspiration and writing process! Read on to meet Makenna and hear about new release A Sheriff’s Star, wherein a small town police chief returns a lost little girl to her frantic mother…and falls for them both.
Q: We love asking authors about their writing process. Could you tell us about yours?
A: Even though I’ve tried to plot the whole story ahead of time, I’m more of a pantster, meaning I “write by the seat of my pants.” A new book idea often starts with how the hero and heroine meet and what their conflict will be. I don’t always know what will happen next, and that can be both exciting and frustrating. My short outline usually changes as I write and get to know the characters and their wounds and motivation. The story unfolds as I type, and sometimes I’m even surprised at where the characters want to take the story.
Q: Your debut Harlequin Special Edition, A Sheriff’s Star, is out now and has been featured in Library Journal! Can you tell us a bit about the book and what inspired you to write it?
A: Being featured in Library Journal is so thrilling, especially since my oldest son was the inspiration for this book. Lee is twenty-three, has Down syndrome, and is my movie watching buddy. He has taught us what’s important in life and keeps me on my toes. I used a lot of memories and personal experiences while writing. Favorite memories of my son as a toddler helped me bring life and spirit to the little girl. Harder memories, like heart surgery, brought emotion to many of the scenes.
This is a story about family, love, and acceptance. It’s about the single mother of a four-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. She takes a temporary job in the Texas Hill Country and must spend time with her chief of police neighbor—who is exactly the danger-seeking type she avoids—but her daughter teaches them that scars can heal and love is worth the risk.
Q: This is a warm and heartfelt holiday story about finding love and family. What do you love about writing holiday romance?
A: I enjoy writing holiday romances because I love the holiday season. There are so many fun traditions you can work into the story, and it feels like magic is a little more accepted at Christmas time. One of the important things my son has taught me is that the magic of Christmas is not just for children. He believes, and the pure joy on his face is one of the best things ever.
Q: What have you read and enjoyed recently?
A: I just finished Christmas Charms by Teri Wilson. It is a delightful story with just the right amount of Christmas magic.
Q: Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
A: I’m currently working on book three of my Home to Oak Hollow series. And guess what? It’s another Christmas story! This heroine was a minor character in books one and two. Jenny’s new boss is not what she envisioned. He’s better. Eric is more sexy highland warrior than stuffy rich guy, but she can’t do anything to risk this paycheck—her long-awaited ticket to design school. Before she leaves to follow her dream, she’ll show this irresistible man and his adorable daughter the magic of Christmas. But has her dream changed?
When the single dad of a toddler with special needs moves into a historic home and plans to restore it, he hires a nanny, but she’s not the grandmotherly type he expected. No one has ever accused him of being Mr. Christmas, but his tempting new nanny is convinced she can make him feel the magic of the season. And she has a list.
Q: What advice do you have for romance writers?
A: The most important advice I can give is to write, write, and write some more. The more you write, the more you will find your voice. And don’t be afraid of writing a bad first draft. For me, going back to make a story shine is the best part of the process. Listen to advice from others and give it a try. But remember, what works for one writer might not for another. Don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong if one person’s method doesn’t work for you. Take time to discover what feels natural and develop that.
Lots of people say the best way to write a first draft is to write the entire story without stopping to do any editing. This works great for some writers, but this method is not for me. My brain doesn’t work that way. I start by writing a scene or chapter rough just to get the thoughts out. Then I go back and read it and let it play like a movie in my head. What’s around them? What are the scents and sounds? How do the characters move, touch, or look at one another? I give a bit of polish to what I’ve written before I move forward. Adding in those details gives me ideas for what happens next.