This week, I celebrate Awesome Authors Month with . . . my first interview with a real, live published author! (I'm excited too.)
I first met this talented writer via a mixture of Jezebel.com, Twitter, and this very blog. Her first novel, the historical romance An Experienced Mistress, will be published by Wild Rose Press in June. (I am totally jealous, but also very happy for her.) She also has her own witty and warm writing blog, where she actually talks back to the commenters (which always gets points in my book).
Please give a warm Unpro welcome to a frequent commenter (drumroll) . . . Bryn Donovan!
How did you start writing?
I always liked to! In fourth grade I wrote a forty-something-page story. It was about a girl in fourth grade.
What led you to romance/genre fiction?
Ever since I was a kid, I read sci-fi and fantasy, but I had all those usual preconceived notions about the romance genre…I expected the writing to be bad and the heroines to be dumb. I got the idea to try writing a romance because they’re really popular, so I started reading them…and it turned out I really loved them. So many modern romance heroines are terrific—I wish we had more interesting female characters like them in movies and TV.
What makes a good romance novel? In the same vein, what makes a good love/sex scene?
As a reader, I really want some scenes that are so emotional, I have to go back to them again and again. I like the hero and heroine to be independent, imperfect, and capable of real selflessness. And yeah, I want good sex scenes! I think the best ones have a lot of sensory details…appealing to three or four or all five senses. Good scenes describe how the characters are feeling emotionally as well as physically. Each one should reveal something new about the characters or the relationship.
Describe your writing process. Do you adhere to any particular routines?
I have the basic story plotted out before I start, although it does morph and change as I write it. I work anywhere between three and six nights a week, for a few hours at a time. I don’t rush too much; for me, that just means more re-writing later.
I’ve realized that at least once in the process, I’m going to feel like the story is just complete, irredeemable crap. Now I know that feeling is coming and I hopefully can just push through it the next time.
Sometimes the prospect of revising can overwhelm me, so I break it down by elements. On one pass, I’ll make sure I’m happy with the point of view choices; on the next, I’ll make sure it’s sexy enough, or has enough humor, and so on.
Tell us about An Experienced Mistress: what inspired you to write it, how you got it published, and anything else you want to add!
I read a lot of random history books. One morning after I’d been reading about the Crimean War, I imagined this Crimean War vet waking up in his bed and thinking how amazing it felt to be warm after freezing half to death overseas, so that was the start of my hero.
A little while later I got the idea of a relatively sexually inexperienced woman pretending to be experienced. I’ve always loved pre-Raphaelite art, and I know a little about how figurative painters work because I modeled for several in college, so I made my heroine a pre-Raphaelite painter. Of course in Victorian England, it was almost as transgressive for a woman to be an artist as it was for her to be a mistress.
I just submitted three chapters and a synopsis directly to publishers, and a few people asked me to send the full manuscript. One morning I got an email from the editor at The Wild Rose Press saying they were publishing my book and they’d send me the contract. It was awesome!
What inspires your writing? Anything in particular (authors, musicians, etc.) you revisit for inspiration?
It depends on the project. Rereading Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit and Nicholas Nickleby helped me with An Experienced Mistress. Those books are sweet and funny, and they helped me get that Victorian England period feel. I’d never read Stephen King’s The Shining or Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House before writing a haunted house romance, and they were both great inspiration.
I always make a playlist for each story. For An Experienced Mistress it was a lot of Chopin and Beethoven, for the haunted house story it was very goth, and the playlist for my new project rocks pretty hard.
You have a day job writing greeting cards for Hallmark, plus a significant other. How do you balance writing, work and life?
It helps that I don’t try to be perfect in every area of my life—for instance, I don’t cook, and the house is a little messy. My significant other helps a lot with my writing! He’s a writer, too, and a great editor for me. He can read a synopsis and zero in on a weakness in the plot. And he doesn’t complain when I lock myself away for hours.
What are you working on now? Any details you're comfortable sharing?
Oh yes! I have an agent now who’s shopping around the haunted house romance, and I’m working on a new, more action-filled paranormal romance that I’m envisioning as the first of a series. This one takes place in Tucson and the surrounding desert. I lived there for a few years, and I think that part of the country is very magical and surreal. I have a couple of ideas for historicals on the back burner, too.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why? What are you reading right now?
I suck at picking favorites, so…I’ll just answer the second question! I just started the Ravishing in Red, the first book in Madeline Hunter’s new Regency series. Hunter wrote the first historical romance I read, and I still love her…she gave such a smart, honest, and inspiring talk at the 2009 RWA Conference, too. I’ve also been devouring the historical m/m romances Running Press is putting out. I read both of the Alex Beecroft “Age of Sail” titles, and now I’m in the middle of Tangled Web by Lee Rowan.
Any advice for aspiring novelists?
Don’t assume you’ll just naturally know how to write a novel. Read some books on story and character development, and maybe go to a writing conference with seminars on craft.
Plot before you write. It’s a pain in the butt, but if you don’t do it, revisions will be an even bigger pain.
I wish someone had told me all that stuff. But if someone had, I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. I tend to learn the hard way.
I ask all of my interviewees this question: what are your desert island, all-time, top 5 favorite movies?
Hahaha, I have to pick favorites after all! That’s OK, movies are easier. I’ll say:
LOTR: Return of the King
The Princess Bride
Shakespeare in Love
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
This was fun! Great questions. Thanks for having me on your blog!
You're welcome. :)
Stay tuned for next week, when I (a romance-novel neophyte) review Bryn's debut novel, An Experienced Mistress!