An Interview with Siera London

Love is in the air at MilspoFAN. Mil-spouse and romance writer Siera London offers a peek at the allure and escape of a nom de plume, provides intimate craft details for writing romantic literature, and shares secrets to a successful writing process.

MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.

Siera: I was seven years into my naval career before I became a military spouse. Honestly, it was a tumultuous transition for me. I had been indoctrinated into my active duty corps of social norms and activities. Even having interacted with other military spouses in my active duty capacity, I lacked a true understanding of the impact spouses have in our family programs, community outreach efforts, and service members’ well-being.

My husband and I were geographically separated during our courting and engagement phases. Two weeks before our wedding, he PCS’ed back to the United States, so I had zero connection to area spouses or his gaining command. Looking back, I’m so grateful for those spouses who embraced both my roles, the active-duty sailor and the officer’s wife. Belinda, the commanding officer’s wife would offer me a big hug every time I managed to arrange my schedule to participate in a spouse function. I used to feel guilty because I missed a lot of events, but she would always look me straight in the eyes and I say, “I’m so glad you’re here.” That one statement made me believe I could successfully contribute in my role as a military spouse and maintain my career. 

I served a total of 23 years on active duty before retiring in 2013. Travels took me to Newport, Rhode Island (more than once), Portsmouth, Virginia, Okinawa, Japan (twice), Jacksonville, Florida, Bethesda, Maryland, San Diego, California. Twenty years and eleven houses later, the hubby and I still love the thrill of receiving new transfer order and packing up the house. 

MilspoFAN: Tell us about the process of writing under a pen name. How did you pick one? When did you decide it was time to create one? Do you feel like it’s a different headspace, like in acting where you embody a character? 

Siera: It never occurred to me to write under my legal name. I knew before I penned my first manuscript (which I started on a legal pad during my lunch break) that my stories deserved their own identity, their own brand. Truth be told, I believe if I had tried to write under my own name, my stories would be different. My sense of duty to my former career, profession, and family would intrude on my creative process and fundamentally change the message I want to communicate in my stories. 

I have written romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and crime fiction, but my primary genre is contemporary romantic fiction, so I created a pen name that communicated sensuality, in print and phonetically. The syllables in my nom de plume are soft, almost lyrical. Even the letters are curvy and round, feminine. Does Siera London sound like a writer of blood and guts heroines or champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries from the sailor next door?  

Writing under a pseudonym is liberating. Siera London has no past, no parents, no children, no emotional wounds other than the ones she crafts in her head. She is fearless. She is bold. Compromise is a curse word. Siera yields to her own voice above all others. 

MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative process and how that influences what you write? 

Siera: All of my stories start with a pen to paper. There’s an ongoing debate in the writer world as to which is better; plotting or writing by the seat of your pants. I’m a hybrid blend of both methods. A working title helps my story idea and the characters come into focus. A loose outline with the major turning points that move the story forward is all I need to start writing and keep the manuscript flowing. I don’t try to write a perfect story with my first draft. My goal is to get the idea out of my head as fast as humanly possible with all the key story elements on the page. 

Who’s telling the story? The hero or the heroine? A male character will describe events or feelings different from a female lead. A woman is more likely to phone a friend about relationship problems where as a man might withdraw when the love train skips the track. Of course finding lasting love is a tenant of a true romance, but is the central message of these two people fighting for that love a journey of hope, redemption, forgiveness, or self-worth. Making sure I’m crafting a romance versus a love story or women’s fiction also happens with the second draft. The answers to these questions and more become transparent after the initial rough idea is on paper or in the computer. 

A writing program called Scrivener is a non-linear writer’s best friend. Because I write in pieces, the Scrivener software allows me to write every scene as a singular document, and then I can move it around within the manuscript with the click of my mouse. So, I can write the ending first or the opening scene last. The online binder saves everything I type in an organized, color-coded filing system. The story elements are like puzzle pieces that I can re-shape to form a complete, cohesive picture for the reader. 

MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity? 

Siera: I talk out my story ideas with my husband, writer friends, and I read—a lot. Magazines, newspapers, books, Twitter posts, Instagram feeds. From my perspective creativity is powered by everyday life. If something you see or overhear causes you to pause and question, then that’s the seed of a story idea. 

Whether it’s creating a new recipe or pairing your new shirt, with old jeans, and your favorite Rothys or ballerina slippers. Cultivating creativity is removing the boundaries from my mind and allowing old patterns to quilt a new masterpiece. This is especially true in romantic fiction storytelling. Romance is a pattern most people can relate to and find desirable—two people meet, they grow together, life rips them apart, and then love conquers all circumstances and knits two lives into a new, yet familiar happily ever after. The pattern is familiar, but the circumstances impacting the two characters is where the creativity comes into play. 

MilspoFAN: What’s next for you? 

Siera: I’m outlining another three-book series set in small-town America. Hometown heroes, the guy next door, the local biker bar, the military man or woman returning home are some of my favorite romance tropes. For the month of February, I’m launching Season 4 of Messy Mandy Presents: Lunchtime Chronicles. It’s a multi-author short story series surrounding the shenanigans of a fictitious online gossip columnist and the people who draw her unsolicited criticism. Think of it as a cartoon version of Wendy Williams, but you follow Messy Mandy off-script and that’s when the reader gets a peek into the steamy romances.

MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists? 

Siera: Practice your craft every day. On the days that I don’t feel like writing, I set my Pomodoro timer (kitchen timers work, too) for eight minutes, and then I write. The app is great for disciplining your mind to connect with the action of writing. Sometimes, the words are golden. Other times, it’s a raging dumpster fire, but every word counts towards honing my craft.  Also, your draft belongs to you. No one has to see the scribbles of a mad writer or the scratchpad of a crazy artist. Give yourself the freedom and grace to create minus the self-criticism. Remember, no one has to see your original draft or marred canvas. So, go for it. Find the beauty in the chaos. Your creativity is a gift. Don’t allow the fear of mediocrity to minimize your gift to the world. 

Connect with Siera

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