Welcome, Talia Quinn Daniels, Golden Heart Finalist!

lcqtmfbw[1]Today’s interview is with Talia Quinn Daniels, author of What’s Yours is Mine, a finalist in the Contemporary Single Title category of Romance Writers of America’s® 2013 Golden Heart® contest for unpublished manuscripts. This is the premier contest (worldwide) for writers of the romance genre. Welcome, Talia!

Welcome! Tell us a little about yourself, Talia. 

I grew up in New York City, went to college in Boston, and came back to New York because it was the center of the universe. (Isn’t it?) Despite that, I moved to Los Angeles a couple of years later with my boyfriend, who is now my husband.  We were both assistant film/TV editors at the time, and it made sense to be in the middle of the action.  We moved back to New York after a suitable trial period (seventeen years).  My husband and I call ourselves go-backs after the Oregon Trail denizens who decided they weren’t suited for the West after all.  Though our son was born in LA, he was enchanted the first time he saw snow, and has never looked back.

Ironically, there’s as much television editing work now in New York as there is in LA, so we’ve done just fine here.

Tell us about your manuscript, What’s Yours is Mine, that just finalled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest!

Darcy and Will have reason to hate each other.  Problem is, they just accidentally bought the very same condo.  It would be easier to battle it out if they could keep their hands off each other.

The story takes place in a brand new, clean and green condo complex on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in a bucolic seaside community north of Santa Barbara.

How do you feel about the Golden Heart experience?

This is my second go-round. I actually won the Golden Heart in 2012.  Last year, I was overwhelmed.  In shock.  Thrilled.  And did I mention overwhelmed?  Finaling sent me into a bit of a tailspin. I just wasn’t prepared for anything like that, and I had to figure out what direction I wanted to go with positioning that book, the next book, my career… It took a few months to sort through.

As you’ve discovered this year, the best part, hands down, is getting to know my fellow finalists. I also got such a kick out of going to National with that finalist ribbon on my badge.  I hadn’t been involved with RWA at all before this, so it was a great chance to begin to develop relationships with other romance writers.  I think that kind of peer support and connection is so crucial for any writer.

This year has felt calmer, though equally wonderful. I think I’ve managed to internalize the validation.  It’s like a lovely warm bath instead of an electric jolt.

Where did you get the idea for this story?

When I worked in episodic television drama, we sometimes got scripts for what are called “bottled” shows.  These are episodes shot entirely on pre-existing sets.  They’re done to save money, but they’re often the most intriguing stories.  Putting your cast in a single space, forcing them to rub up against each other, often creates a fascinating tension.  So I thought, well, what if I bottle two characters who hate each other but have crazy chemistry?  And what if they’ve got opposing goals so they can’t just fall into each other’s arms?  The setup forces them to actually deal with each other, peeling layers and getting to something underneath the surface.  It’s like snowbound or stuck-in-the-elevator stories, but with a twist.

What has your writing journey been like?

I came to novel writing in a backward sort of way. I wrote short stories in high school and college, but they never had any real plot. They were like long, meandering tone poems. Without a strong throughline, they were incredibly hard to write and probably just as hard to read. I nearly turned to drink, but there’s only so much Chambord and Amaretto one woman can stomach. (I was a frou-frou sweet drink type.)

When I started working in film editing, I began reading screenplays, so I naturally started writing them, too. The thing about screenwriting is that it cuts to the bone. You can’t obfuscate with poetic language and quirky characters. I had to learn how to create satisfying plots.

I came back to the prose form when I started an online journal (the precursor to the personal blog), which was essentially a series of personal essays. Doing that on a regular basis, getting positive feedback from readers, I remembered how much I loved writing prose. From there, it was a natural step to writing fiction again, this time with actual plots.

Last year’s Golden Heart manuscript, No Peeking, was my first romance novel but my third manuscript.  What’s Yours is Mine is my second and fourth, respectively.

What’s your ideal writing environment?

How’s a quiet cabin in the woods with a daily delivery of personally tailored fresh-cooked meals sound?  Or maybe a beach house in a quiet oceanside community, so I can write to the sound of the surf pounding the sand and go for walks barefoot between writing stints.

Yeah, maybe someday…

In the meantime, I have a tiny home office.  I love writing in there, when I get the chance (not often enough!).  It has a view of our pleasant street: small brick houses side by side, each with minor but telling differences in character.  Flowering trees in the spring.  An expanse of sky, rare in NYC, with an occasional view of a plane descending quietly into one of the city airports a few miles away.

I put on music to suit the mood of my scene, sit at the pale pine three cornered desk my mother bought at a flea market when I was a kid, and sink into the story.  Until my son comes knocking and the cats try to clamber on the keyboard and the phone rings and it’s time to make dinner and the spell is broken.

How can fans (and agents and editors!) reach you?  

Website: http://taliaquinndaniels.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TaliaQDaniels

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaliaQuinnDaniels

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I want to recommend that every Lucky 13 (current Golden Heart finalist) write a speech. It’s hard to believe, I know, but some of us will actually win, and it could be you.  You’ll want that speech at hand.  When I stood on the podium last year facing that huge audience, my brain was absolutely blank. That flimsy bit of paper in front of me was the only thing keeping me from saying, “Uh, yeah, thanks,” and running offstage.

Thank you, Talia, for visiting Leslie Lynch Writes – and we wish you the very best in your publishing future!

Thanks for having me, and for doing this!  It’s great fun to read everyone’s descriptions of their writing experience and their contemporary romance stories.


About Leslie Lynch

Leslie gives voice to characters who struggle to find healing for their brokenness – and discover unconventional solutions to life’s unexpected twists. Her manuscript, Hijacked, was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America® 2013 Golden Heart® contest, and attained Amazon Best Seller status in its category when published. Other books by Leslie include Unholy Bonds, Opal's Jubilee, and novellas Christmas Hope and Christmas Grace. A graduate of Spalding University's low-residency MFA program, she is an occasional contributor to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s weekly paper, The Criterion, and can be found on facebook at Leslie Lynch Writes, as well as Twitter @Leslie_Lynch_
This entry was posted in Creative Process, Creativity, Golden Heart, Leslie Lynch, Romance Writers of America, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Welcome, Talia Quinn Daniels, Golden Heart Finalist!

  1. Leslie Lynch says:

    Welcome, Talia! I’ve come to envy people like you who understand story structure. It’s an aspect of writing that I struggle with. Hopefully, all the time I’ve spent with my nose in a book has led to some osmotic learning!

    Do you ever get tired of writing your own work after spending a workday working on writing for someone else?

    Thanks for being my guest today!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Whoops, I think I gave the wrong impression with my bio! I’ve been a stay at home mom working with my special needs son for the last several years. I also never sold a full script, though I did have some nibbles. I’ve written other things for pay — essays and the like — but that’s another story for another time.

      Thanks for having me here, Leslie!

      • Leslie Lynch says:

        Sorry, Talia – I knew that, but it fled my mind as I was reading your interview. Still, you’ve had experiences that many of us have not. In film editing and screenplays, you’ve learned a LOT about structure that I’ve struggled to comprehend. To this day, when I pick up a book with the intention of analyzing it, I forget what I was doing about three pages in and find myself at the end without having analyzed a darned thing about how the author got me there!!! 😉 We all bring strengths to our writing, and I am quite certain that you’ve got that aspect down pat. Which is only validated by last year’s Golden Heart win and this year’s final on your part!

      • taliaquinndaniels says:

        Ha, thanks, Leslie. I certainly hope I have that sense of structure internalized at this point, yeah. Took a while to get there! I confess, a part of me does always stand apart from the story I’m reading, taking note of the inciting incident, the midpoint turn, the dark moment…. but you can also just as effectively (maybe more so?) look at the book after you finish reading to pick out how it’s structured.

  2. Sonali Dev says:

    Talia, I’m so glad you are my Lucky 13 sister, getting to know you has been such a pleasure!
    I love the idea of the bottled show. With your experience I hope you’ll write an on set story someday and give us an insiders view into the TV world.
    I visited Santa Barbara some twenty years ago and it remains one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been to. Cannot wait to read this book!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      I feel the same way, Sonali! Can’t wait to meet you in person. (And read your books!)

      I’m actually developing an outline right now for a New Adult novel that flirts with the film biz. Film school, low budget features, that sort of world. Maybe someday I’ll get an idea set in the dramatic episodic TV arena…

      Hugs back!

  3. Jean Willett says:

    Congratulations, Talia! I’m so excited to see you up for another Golden Heart. Good luck and I’ll be in the audience cheering loudly 🙂 or flapping my Firebird wings in support.
    Meanwhile I’m almost finished with your GH story and LOVING IT!! 🙂 Darcy and Will have a great chemistry and I’m sure everyone will want to read it!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Yay! *does happy dance* I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!!

      (Can’t wait to see you, Jean!)

  4. piperhuguley says:

    Hi Talia!
    What a great concept for a story! Anything you can do to get your h/h right up in each other’s face and increase tension (the home plays into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, too) will make for an awesome story. It was a long, long time ago but when I went to UCLA, there were always stories circulating around campus about the film school. Another great idea! I wish you the best of luck with them!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Hi Piper! The biggest struggle with writing lighthearted contemporary romance, I find, is coming up with a concept that will naturally lead to tons of conflict and tension. I hit the jackpot with this one, and it made it SO much fun to write.

      You went to UCLA? I don’t think I knew that. Cool. We share a past in LA, then.

      (And thanks!)

      • piperhuguley says:

        Yep, Talia,

        I’m a Bruin. Thanks for the mention of the finalist ribbon. I posted a question about what the badges look like on the loop the other day but folks must not have seen it. These mentions are so helpful to newbies like me, especialy since I probably won’t get to go to the first-timers orientation, so thank you!

  5. Terri Osburn says:

    Your speech last year was awesome. It moved everyone in the room. I’ll be there cheering you on again this year! (And I’ve never been to New York City, so clearly I’ve never been to the center of the universe. *g*)

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Terri, you will be remedying that shocking oversight in two years, yes? (I hope when you do, you find time to get out of midtown. Hey, maybe I should set up an off-the-beaten-track tour for out of town RWA folk, that could be fun.)

      And thanks re. the speech. Now I just have to come up with a decent one again! Gah.

      (Glad you stopped by!)

  6. Hi Talia,

    Um, could you please sign me up for the house a the beach with the personally catered meals? And of course maid service. Thanks!
    Your writing journey is fascinating. We had Alexandra Sokoloff speak to our chapter last year about screenwriting principles and it was so enlightening! Like you said, it must teach you to cut out all the crap and plot a really good story.
    Thanks for all the advice you’ve given us GH newbies along the way, too. So helpful!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Miranda, you’re welcome at my fantasy writing retreat any time! The more the merrier, as long as we all work quietly and take breaks to chat. That makes it even better, in fact. And yes, unobtrusive, impeccable maid service is a must!

      And you’re very welcome! I had tons of questions last year too.

  7. Heidi Howard says:

    Leslie, thanks so much for giving us fans a glimpse at your fellow GH finalists. I hope all of you remain friends, even though you will win. And thanks to Talia for the little peek into her story. Are all of you going to join a group blog like some have done in past years?

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      Thanks for your vote of confidence, Heidi! I am honored to be considered part of this very talented group of writers. 🙂

      I don’t think I’ve seen any interest in setting up a Lucky 13s-based blog on our loop. I think that we’re all trying to keep our heads above water at this point!!! If something like that comes to be, you’ll be the first to know. 😉

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Hi Heidi,

      As a 2012 finalist, a/k/a Firebird, I’m part of a group blog already. This year’s group has decided not to form one, though.

      The funny thing about this contest is that it matters less who wins than you’d think. Partly because the email loop and the in-person time at the conference cement relationships, which are ultimately more important. Partly, too, it feels like a real honor to be a finalist. (Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself here…?)

      (And yes, absolutely, we all do and will stay connected.)

  8. Nan Dixon says:

    Hi Talia!
    It so much fun to learn about the other Single Title finalists! And wonderful of Leslie to do the work to herd us cats.
    I sure can’t wait to learn more about your screenwriting and editing career. Are you doing any editing now?

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Hi Nan! No, I left it behind. The hours are not terribly compatible with childrearing. Though people do make it work, it’s tough, plus my kid has needed more hands-on attention from me than most do. But my husband is an editor, so I feel like I still have one foot in that world.

      Ply me with hard cider at the bar in Atlanta, and I’ll tell you cutting room stories. 🙂

  9. What? NYC is the center of the Universe? Huh. They told my kids in their Mexico History class that it was Roswell…. 🙂 I’m looking forward to cheering you on in Atlanta again!

    Good Luck!!

    • New Mexico History class…sheesh

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Tammy, those teachers might have a point. 🙂 Though if you tote up how many movies take place in Roswell vs. NYC… Just saying.

      When I moved to LA, everyone was so very amused that I, the dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, was moving to California. As if that proved me wrong. Then I came back. 🙂

      And thanks! See you there!

  10. Great post, Talia! And there I was, thinking that a bottled show involved copious amounts of drinking and not much else, 🙂 Thanks for sharing your unique take on story structure. And I guess I’ll go work on that speech now. LOL

    Can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Ha! That would be more like a hallucinogenic show. Could be fun.

      (I have a unique take on structure? Cool.)

      See you and your cabana boys soon!

  11. Kay Hudson says:

    Looking forward to seeing you again in Atlanta, Talia, especially since you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the conference this year. But I don’t know why people are convinced the center of the universe is on one or the other edge of the country. Clearly it’s here in the Houston area!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      The universe apparently has many centers. (Sounds like the makings of a SF novel.) As many as there are people, perhaps? 🙂 Mine is here, that’s for sure.

      I’m looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta, Kay, and just being there, too. And yes, it’ll be much easier to have fun this year!

  12. Sheila Athens says:

    Loved getting to know you better, Talia. You are obviously a gifted writer since you have made the GH finals two years in a row (and won last year!). So looking forward to meeting you in Atlanta.

  13. Sandra Owens says:


    Sign me up for the beach writer retreat house, too! I absolutely love your idea for What’s Yours is Mine. That sounds like so much fun and what great conflict for you H/h. I look forward to reading it.

    Thanks for all the RWA conference insights you’ve given us newbies. I’ve been making notes on all your advice. 🙂

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Sandra, I’m thinking this could be a real thing. A writer’s beach retreat. Maybe not year round (more’s the pity), but it would be bliss, wouldn’t it?

      And thanks, I had a lot of fun writing this one. And you’re very welcome. You’ll have fun in Atlanta!

  14. Jackie Floyd says:

    Hey Talia,
    Congratulations on you second nomination. I love the way your “other” writing background has provided you with a sturdy foundation for romantic fiction. Strong conflict and keeping the hero and heroine in each other’s face is definitely the name of the game! Best of luck with your writing and I look forward to meeting you in Atlanta!
    Jacqueline Floyd

  15. taliaquinndaniels says:

    Thank you, Jackie, and congratulations on your sixth!! Strong conflict sustains a book so well, doesn’t it? Though we also have to find room for the warmth and falling-for-each-other beats. Tricky stuff, writing romance.

    Looking forward to meeting you too!

  16. Hi Talia! I enjoyed getting to know about another side of your life in this post. I’m a recent convert to the screenwriting-based method (Save the Cat, Alexandra Sockoloff’s books) and I have to say I love it. It makes things so much more clear to me, so that can only help when the reader gets ahold of these things eventually, right?

    And you should totally write something with that film school setting. It’s a world most of us will never experience, but most people find movie-making fascinating (or at least enjoy the end product)!

    Really looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Hi Amy!

      That get-down-to-it screenwriting structure is so helpful, isn’t it? I dislike when it’s used in an obvious paint by numbers way (a la so many tentpole movies) but when you use it like a clothing mannequin on which to hang the dress-in-progress fabric, it’s awesomely useful.

      I’m definitely writing at least one film school / film world set story, and soon. It’s a page one rewrite of a mystery I wrote (sans the mystery this time), so I’ve figured out a lot of it already. I have a second, semi-related story in my head too. Glad I’ll have one potential reader. 🙂

      And ditto! And soon! A month from now! Wow.

  17. Leslie Lynch says:

    Hey, Talia, it’s late here on the East Coast, and you are probably already in bed (like I should be!). Thanks again for lending the time to be my guest. It’s been a pleasure having you! Looking forward to meeting you in person in Atlanta, and wishing you the very best in your publishing career!

    And of course, best wishes for your son as he tackles his life challenges. With you as a mother, I’m sure he will succeed.


    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Thanks again for hosting us, Leslie! Seriously great idea. And I’m looking forward to meeting you in person, and I wish you much success!

  18. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the life of a film editor, Talia! The concept of a “bottle show” is very interesting and, of course, perfect for a romance novel. Here’s where I’m thinking (as with all great ideas): why didn’t I come up with that?! 🙂

    And I agree, the best part about being a Golden Heart finalist is getting to know one’s fellow finalists. It’s a unique bonding experience. One to be treasured.

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      Feel free to steal it, Jacqui! I’m sure it’ll come out entirely differently, especially if it’s a historical. I’m equally sure I’d love to read it. 🙂

      Absolutely, treasured is a good word for it.

  19. Sharon Wray says:

    I know I’m a day late, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing your past writing experience and your journey so far. And I’m so glad we get a chance to be together again as finalists!

    • taliaquinndaniels says:

      I feel like I’ve been talking about myself a whole lot these past couple of weeks on all the blogs. Feels almost strange, but I’m glad, too. (Though if I do another anytime soon, I’ll borrow your idea and bring along a character or two.)

      I’m very glad we’re sharing the experience again too! See you in a few weeks.

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