Rising Star Spotlight: Rebecca Heflin!


You say your world changed when you first read Kathleen Woodiwiss' book, "Shanna"  What is it about that book that affected you so much?
I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I was not a reader as a child. While my reading skills were high, I couldn’t be sedentary long enough to make it through a book. So, when my sister gave me “Shanna” when I was fifteen, I took a look at the size of the book and the font size, and said “no way.” She told me to just give it a try. So I did, and well, I was hooked. I’ve been an avid reader ever since. I guess I never realized how enjoyable reading was until I read that book. I’m sure the sex scenes didn’t hurt, either. Lol.
How did that book make you want to become a romance novelist?
I enjoyed the push-pull of the physical attraction between the hero and heroine, which turned into mutual respect and admiration, and finally into love. And I love that when I read romance, I’m guaranteed a happy ending. We need more of those these days. Since I enjoyed reading the genre, I thought it would be fun to write it as well.
Your day job is as the Asst. Director of Research at a major university, researching cancer?   How did that come about?
Actually, my husband and I have a non-profit foundation that provides assistance to cancer patients and their families. For my day job, I review research of all kinds involving human subjects to ensure compliance with state and federal law, as well as ethical guidelines. It is a very interesting job.
I began my career at the university as an attorney in the general counsel’s office. I worked in that role for 16 years, and as part of my job I advised the university’s committees that review human subjects research. When I decided I needed a change, working for the committees I used to advise seemed a natural fit. I’ve been working as an Assistant Director of Research for four years now, and I love it.
Tell us about what it is like working in a research environment?
I think it’s very interesting. I get to review protocols involving cutting-edge research in cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, among others. So many smart people doing amazing work to improve our lives. And I’m a small part of that.
Does your day job affect how you write your novels?
Between my day job and the non-profit foundation my husband and I founded, I have to squeeze in time to write. Sundays are typically my day to write. Otherwise, I grab time where I can. This is why it takes a year for me to write a full-length novel. But I haven’t done too bad, considering I’ve released 10 books and I’m working on my 11th.
If you have wanted to write novels from the age of 15, why did you not pursue that originally?
I guess the short answer is life. It was always there in the back of my mind. It took a mid-life crisis midlife. Crazy, huh? I was having a tough time adjusting to some recent changes in my life, and found myself in a very unhappy place. Though I'd always wanted to write, I never had the courage to do it.
A friend strongly encouraged me to give it a try, thinking it might help me out of my funk, if nothing else. She was right. Once I'd finished the book, I set a goal. Get published before my 50th birthday, two years away at the time. I succeeded in getting two books published by the age of 49.
What made you choose contemporary fiction/romance as the genre of choice?
It’s funny, historical romance is what I cut my teeth on and for years it’s all I read. Somewhere along the way, I added contemporary romance to my reading, and fell in love with that genre as well. When I made up my mind to write a romance, a contemporary plot was the first one to come to mind, so that’s what I went with. It just grew from there. All the ideas that come to me are contemporary.
I also naively thought that I wouldn’t have to do much research if I wrote a contemporary novel, which didn’t turn out to be true. It’s just a different kind of research. I research locales, my characters’ professions, even their psychologies. I like to learn what might have happened to a character growing up that would make him or her cautious versus reckless, or eternally optimistic versus permanently pessimistic. 
I almost always interview an expert on something related to a book I’m writing. In “Dreams of Her Own”, my hero was dyslexic. I knew very little about the learning disorder, so I contacted an expert at the university where I work, and she graciously entertained my questions.
How would you best describe your characters and their stories?
I like to think I write about smart, capable women and the men who ‘get’ them. Most are a little lost at the beginning, even though they may not know it, unable to live up to their potential until they overcome whatever “wound” is holding them back.
What prompts your ideas to begin a story?
My inspiration comes from a variety of places. Some from my own life: trips my husband and I have taken, incidents in my life or in the lives of my friends and family, even things I wished I’d done but didn’t. Other times I’m inspired by something I stumbled across in my research, a story on the news, or a story shared by a friend. And still other times I have no idea where the inspiration comes from – it just seems to materialize out of thin air and I just run with it.
Two of my published books were inspired by my travels. The inspiration for my debut novel, “The Promise of Change”, came from a trip I took to Oxford University England, in 2010.   I loved Oxford so much I returned in 2011 and 2012.
My second novel, “Rescuing Lacey”, was inspired by a trip my husband and I took to Costa Rica over fifteen years ago. More specifically, it sprang from an incident involving a small plane and an unplanned landing. The incident is easily recognizable in the story (although the names have been changed to protect the innocent).
I danced (mostly ballet) throughout my childhood and into adulthood, finally calling it quits when I turned 30, so it only made sense to write a book about a dancer. “A Season to Dance” is that book. I really enjoyed calling on my years of dance experience to write the book. It was amazing what I was able to remember. I’m pleased that book was first runner up in the 2019 RONE Awards in the contemporary/steamy category.
I have ideas for two other novels, one based in Sonoma Valley, and another in Tanzania, both inspired by travel. There’s always a story waiting to be written.
What do you most hope people take away from the books you write?
That love conquers all. And that the romance genre isn’t about damsels in distress waiting for their white knights to rescue them, but about strong kick-ass women who have careers and responsibilities. And while they don’t need a man to make themselves whole, they do appreciate a partner with whom they can share their lives.