With over 2.5 million books sold, Vivian Arend is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 65 contemporary and paranormal romance books, including the Six Pack Ranch and Granite Lake Wolves.
Do you remember the moment that you decided on becoming a writer? What would you say has been the catalyst to your success, as a #1 best-selling author with over 2.5 million books sold?
I fell into writing by accident, but I’ve always been a storyteller. It was a way to encourage the kids to hike a little farther as I made up tales about secret paths into the forest where talking animals lived fantastic lives.
I think the biggest thing that has contributed to my success is that I truly enjoy what I do. There are tough moments, and frustrating ones, but overall I look forward to getting to go to work, and that’s a good thing!
Your books are humorous yet emotional, with romance and happily-ever-afters. How has your life experience formed you as a writer? Do you find things from your own experiences are reflected within the stories you write?
I once saw a writer with the T-shirt that said “Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my book.” Life does impact the story! For me, though, I tend toward the optimistic side of things, which means I believe in happily-ever-afters. I enjoy adventures and trying new things, and if I can laugh enroute, I will. Which means I put a lot of that in my stories!
You say that every book you write becomes special for some reason. Can you tell us a little more about this and give us an example that is memorable to you?
Since I write a big, expansive world with many generations, there’s a lot of opportunity to write about the good and bad I see in the world. Unlike real people, though, my characters eventually have to do what I tell them, which means I can guide them toward a better situation. I can’t fix everyone around me, but when a heroine finds courage, she can be an inspiration to a reader (and me!) to also be brave. When a reader identifies with a character in one of my books, and sees the character learn and grow, it gives hope. I feel I’m making a difference through something as simple as storytelling.
“When a reader identifies with a character in one of my books, and sees the character learn and grow, it gives hope. I feel I’m making a difference through something as simple as storytelling.”
What interesting hobbies do you have? There is a rumor around that you are well travelled, love high altitudes and you are a seasoned duct tape operator!
I do a lot of artsy type things, but all of them just well enough for personal enjoyment. Before writing (which took over a lot of my spare time!) I quilted, scrapbooked, knit, painted, built things, gardened, sewed. And the traveling right now is mostly with a backpack in the Canadian wilderness, which isn’t a hardship at all. My biggest hobby right now is I’m growing and harvesting herbs.
You write a lot of series, how do you keep track of everything and keep the inspiration for each series alive? We would love to know if the Colemans are based on real people!
Here is where I have to admit that I have no idea how I keep track. I do have story bibles, and editors and others who help me keep some details lined up, but I seem to have the kind of brain that tracks the most important ideas. Sometimes my brain tosses in things that I have no idea WHY it’s in the story in the first place, but it later ends up important. Example? In an upcoming book, in an early chapter the hero pulls a picture from his wallet of a woman surrounded by wild roses. That picture comes up again in 5 or 6 different ways throughout the book, and it’s vital. I had no idea when I started that would happen, but I really like how it turned out!
Are the Colemans based on real people? Maybe bits and pieces. I tend to start writing without knowing a lot about the people until they introduce themselves. Which means the Colemans stepped onto the page pretty much the way they are now.
You have a number of books that are due to be released. Could you pick one that stands out for you as a favorite and must read and tell us why?
Upcoming books? I’m going to cheat and tell you to go read a series. It’s called Holidays in Heart Falls, and book 3—A Hero’s Christmas Hope—is coming in December. (Gorgeous covers by Damonza!)
Why this series is so special is that they are all holiday-based romances. Think of watching your favourite cozy Christmas movies—with some steamy sex included. I had always wanted to write a holiday story, and two years ago I finally wrote A Firefighter’s Christmas Gift. It’s got friends to lovers, and includes a little girl who thinks she’s moved in with Santa!…I had such a good time writing it. Book 2 (A Soldier’s Christmas Wish) continued the feel-good, get away from it all sensation with two people in a committed relationship figuring out exactly what an “old-fashioned Christmas” means. And this year’s book will mean even more sexy but sweet holiday goodness. I’m excited to share it! You can check them out here: https://vivianarend.com/western-romance-books/holidays-in-heart-falls/
With any book release comes the inevitable cover design. How does a seasoned writer like yourself approach book cover design now as opposed to your first book and how crucial is it, in your own view?
I think of covers as the first hint of the contents of a story. Covers can convey a mood, or a feeling, and one of the most important things is to make sure what you promise on the cover matches what’s inside the pages. Which means my light-hearted, happy books need covers that share that feeling. That they say small town, not big city. That they say “you’re going to enjoy sitting and reading this story, and you don’t want to wait, come on, get cozy.”
And just as importantly, the cover needs to say “See how professionally put together this is? You can expect the same quality and care inside in terms of editing and content.”
I admit it. I judge some books by their covers. If it’s not a pretty, professional package, I don’t pick it off the shelf.
“The cover needs to say “See how professionally put together this is? You can expect the same quality and care inside in terms of editing and content.”
It’s often said that an author should leave the design of the cover to the designer and not interfere with that process? How do you feel about that?
I heard that advice from a fellow author when I first started writing over ten years ago. She said my job was to write the book. The artist’s job was to make the cover… So I started with that mindset, and I can tell you—it works. I’ve been extremely fortunate over the years to work with great cover designers who take non-specific descriptions and turn them into art.
I think giving an artist a selection of covers you do like can be a good way to start—but remember you don’t simply want those covers duplicated, you want your own cover. That’s the magic I can’t create. You should see my mock ups for the ideas I do have. There’s a reason why I’m a writer!
I do have concept ideas, for example, asking for “larger head/torso image against a bright background”. Or “woman with her back to the reader, in a country setting”, but the fine details, I don’t try to dictate headed into the beginning designs.
What has your experience been like, working with Damonza for your book cover designs?
I started with Damonza because I’d heard the draft covers would be ready quickly—and I’m all about quick at times! When the drafts came in under 2 weeks, I was so excited. But the best part was discovering the small changes to make the covers really shine were painless. Title in different fonts? Done. Brighter background? Done. As an indie writer, I’ve got a lot to do when I’m working, so to be able to open an email, gasp because WOW, make a decision in minutes, and send back feedback immediately is so valuable.
How good are the drafts? Here’s where I tell you that the three drafts I got back for one project were so good that I ended up contracting all of them for different titles.
Psst… Btw, I always order a banner for social media at the same time, which means one more thing off my checklist.
“This career is mine. So the stories I write need to fit me, and the tasks that fill my days need to be in my skill set, because when I do what’s right for me, life is so much better.”
As a seasoned bestselling author looking back at a stellar career and having navigated the maze of writing, publishing and then marketing your books, what advice can you give to someone that is just starting out. Have you ever been discouraged during the process and if so how should one deal with that?
I think the times I’ve become discouraged are when I’ve caught myself following someone else’s dream, or been comparing myself to others. But this career is mine. So the stories I write need to fit me, and the tasks that fill my days need to be in my skill set, because when I do what’s right for me, life is so much better.
After ten years it’s tough to give advice to someone new—because the world I started in doesn’t exist anymore. The advice I can give that I think is still valuable:
-Write what you enjoy. Even if you ‘write to market’ or try to follow trends, find the tropes and themes that make you happy. I think people can tell when you’re authentic sharing your joys, and it’s far more likely to get excited about working when you want to spend time with the story.
-Read. Don’t stop reading. It fills a well, and in turn you’ll be more creative. (Audio books count!)
-Learn as you go. Which means I do think there’s value in writing a trilogy to begin with. Partly because friends don’t let friends write single title books. Yet you will get better as a writer the more you write, so once that first trilogy is done, you can start a new series and be all fresh and shiny. AND have something to market in the meantime.
-Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Also, if possible, with people who have a life/work balance you admire. It’s good to work hard, and success takes hard work, but walks with the dog, playtime with the family and time with your significant other feed your soul and keep you healthy.
“It’s good to work hard, and success takes hard work, but walks with the dog, playtime with the family and time with your significant other feed your soul and keep you healthy.”