What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
After writing and publishing three romance novels, a novella and four short stories, I switched to romantic suspense and hired a developmental editor on the recommendation of a mystery author friend whose work I admire. With help and guidance from the editor, the plot and character development in the novel’s second rewrite were stronger and more defined. I was proud to publish a much improved book with an eye-catching cover designed by another paid professional. I couldn’t have gotten there on my own.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I met mystery author and Funds for Writers newsletter editor C. Hope Clark at a writer’s conference several years ago. Her workshop on story arcs and an honest critique of my work inspired me to challenge myself as an author. She hooked me up with the editor who keeps my suspense novels and political thrillers from going off the rails. Hope’s writing and her discipline as a writer motivates me to keep going and do better. Karen Nortman knows her niche and markets well to maximize sales of her cozy mystery campground series. Karen reads and reviews my books and hosts the Book Bums online writers’ group and an annual conference to connect authors with readers.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
While I keep an eye on trends, readers will know if the author put his or her heart and soul into the story or just cranked it out to follow a trend and sell books. My books begin with a theme and the characters tell their story. No book or genre will appeal and sell to everyone. My job as an author is to write the best story that will appeal to and stay with the most readers who enjoy that genre.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I write each of my books as a standalone story in a series with a story arc. My romance series spans three generations of the McKenna family saga that begins in New York City, transitions to small town Iowa, and ends in the Scottish Highlands. Each book in my romantic suspense series set in Chicago centers on a theme. The antagonist in The UnMatchables Case #1: Danger Noted used his international celebrity as a symphony orchestra conductor to sexually abuse vulnerable women. The second book in the private investigator series that I’m currently writing exposes the tragedy behind the human trafficking trade. The first in my political thriller series to be published in April of this year is about gun control. The idea still under development will link The UnMatchables Case #2: Danger Revealed with the second book in the political thriller series through a character common to both novels.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Many of the characters in my books are amalgamations of personality traits and the physical attributes of people I’ve known, admired or didn’t like at all. Careful or you’ll end up in my novel! That said, my characters are fictitious in a work of fiction and are in no way exact duplicates of persons in real life.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
As a former journalist, I love doing the research. I’ll ask other authors and readers to recommend books and other sources, virtually walk the streets through Google Maps, and have visited the settings for scenes when travel was an option. Before and while I was writing my first romance novel Reservations, my husband and I stayed in a bed and breakfast in Brooklyn, had lunch in the upscale Manhattan restaurant where Chef Darien would command the kitchen and visited the botanical gardens in the Bronx where Darien and Ali would be married and celebrate their wedding day. We drove rural roads in Iowa until we found a real life prototype for the fictitious town of Harmony in Heartland. Friends living in Chicago helped us tour the outdoor settings and venues where The UnMatchables would take place. Writers may be lulled into not doing the research for contemporary novels. But all it takes is one false reference to an existing landmark or street and readers will call the writer out or be so turned off the reader will never recommend or pick up another title by that author again.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
I wrote and published my first novel in 2013 and the second in 2015 while working full time as a development manager for an animal shelter. I continued to work as a consultant and freelance journalist while I wrote and published my third novel in 2016. The first draft of The UnMatchables was completed before we moved to Canada in August 2019. That’s when I was able to realize my dream and write full-time.
What did you edit out of this book?
Before I begin a book, I write detailed character descriptions loaded with backstory. I plead guilty to including too much of that backstory in the book that later gets edited out. In The UnMatchables Case #1, the scene edited out was mostly dialogue between private investigator partners Eddie and Kelly about getting tickets to a concert. While that scene didn’t move the story along, the concert scene was pivotal to plot development.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Police procedural scenes with tension, dialogue, and realistic action challenge me most. My father was a police officer so I want to get it right, from the weapons used to the correct stance to fire the weapon and the circumstances that would warrant use of the weapon. Writing the scene from the perspective of the Chicago PD detective and a similar scene in Ottawa with an RCMP officer required more than attention to detail. I had to get inside their heads, feel each step taken, and strain to hear what they heard. It was exhausting! A scene in Capital Strings was easier to write but difficult to live through the writing. The main character faced losing his family. By the end of the scene, I was weeping with him.
Teresa LaBella grew up in Davenport, Iowa, the largest of the Quad Cities settled along the bend in the Mississippi River where the river runs east to west. The daughter of a police officer and business executive was inspired by a relentlessly Irish grandmother who taught her to read fortunes with playing cards, brew a perfect pot of tea, and always tell the truth.
Professional years invested in learning the craft of writing as a journalist led to courtrooms, city halls and houses of government in three states. The people she interviewed, from politicians to professional athletes, teachers to grassroots community volunteers, colored her future fiction writing canvas and sharpened Teresa’s love for telling a good story.
Teresa published her first contemporary romance novel Reservations in 2013. The story of Chef Darien McKenna and savvy media consultant Alison Clarke spanned the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. In Heartland, the second book in the New Life in Love trilogy, tragedy forces an abrupt change of life plan and takes Darien down an uncharted path to love again in a fictional Iowa town called Harmony. Darien’s daughter Marisa begins her new life in Belonging. Her struggle to recover from heartbreak and discover that state of being and place where she belongs completes the circle of the McKenna family saga. Four short stories in Tales from Heartland revisit the charm of Harmony and the lives of neighbors met in book two. In the novella Love Unlikely Marisa’s sister Rachel gets a surprising chance at happily-ever-after.
The author switched genres to romantic suspense in The UnMatchables Case #1: Danger Noted, published in October 2020. Private investigators Eddie Emerson and Kelly Gillespie’s deep dive background check on a client’s intimate partner turns deadly when the case leads to a high society celebrity with more than his reputation to protect.
Teresa moved from her hometown in Iowa to Nova Scotia in 2019 with her Canadian filmmaker/indie publisher husband John and their rescued Husky fur kids. The couple enjoys exploring Atlantic coast beaches. Rosie and Ellis prefer naps on duvets to hiking and snow.