Thanks for joining me today on Night Owl Romance.
Tammie King of NOR: Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
Ann Whitaker: I live in the heart of Texas with my journalist husband and two dogs. I'm a reformed high school and college English teacher and have published poetry, non-fiction, and short fiction in newspapers, literary journals, and magazines. When not writing, I play mah jongg, work on computers, read, play the guitar (poorly), and sing. I'm also a volunteer for the local Animal Birth Control clinic.
Tammie King of NOR: Who or what influences you when you write?
Ann Whitaker: Everything. My own experiences or those of friends. Snatches of conversations overheard in restaurants. Something I see on TV or read in a magazine. For years I've collected bizarre stories from the newspaper. I keep paper and pens in every room of the house to jot down ideas as they come to me. I've been known to wake up in the middle of the night and write a line or two so I won't forget it.
So far, I've set all my books in modern times in the parts of Texas I know, because I feel I'm capturing a time and place that will never exist again. For example, I have a manuscript I wrote in the late 1980s, during the oil boom and bust in Texas. Reading it now is like revisiting a wild and crazy part of my past.
Tammie King of NOR: Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
Ann Whitaker: Dog Nanny (which is set for release June 12 from The Wild Rose Press) is about a doggy do-gooder named Julie Shields, who has one month to save two delinquent poodles from becoming doggies of divorce. She's also a self-proclaimed born-again virgin with a biological clock running out of juice and needs to find a husband for a couple of reasons.
When a hunky pilot named Nick Worthington arrives at the Abilene airport to fly her to Waco, he sends her into a tailspin. But he also may be a drug trafficker and smuggler of illegal aliens. Not only that, he's involved with another woman.
Julie's quest for a suitable husband leads to several misfires-one disgusting, another downright dangerous. Only Nick leaves her panting for more. Will she have to put a choke chain on him before the month is out?
That's the love story.
An underlying theme is the importance of pet adoption, training, and spaying and neutering our pets. I didn't consciously set out to write a lesson in dog-rearing. Those parts of the story are the result of my interest in dogs and living with and training my own two poodles, both of whom are now senior citizens. If only I could sign them up for Medicare benefits.
By the way, all the tricks mentioned in Dog Nanny, except one, are tricks both my dogs have mastered. But then, they're poodles. And as I like to say, poodles are so intelligent they make their owners look smart.
Tammie King of NOR: Please tell us what you have planned next?
Ann Whitaker: I'm working on a collection of essays called "Born To Be Fried." The title comes from a comment my mother once made about chickens. She said, "Don't you think some things were just born to be fried?"
I've also written the first draft of another romantic comedy, Desire Daily, that was a result of a Book-in-a-Week workshop. I call it my book-in-a-week-that-took-twenty-two days. It's about Mahogany Marsh, a nightside editor for the Desire (Texas) Daily Democrat. When she loses a promotion to a good-looking Yankee with Kennedy hair, she thinks she's getting even by reducing him to hero-fodder for her romance novel-in-progress. But who will get the last word?
Tammie King of NOR: Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Ann Whitaker: Since I love mysteries and suspense stories, I'd love to be able to write one. And as a former teacher of British literature and an Anglophile who's been to England twice, I think it would be great fun to create an atmospheric English setting with a who-done-it plot. However, for me, plotting is the most difficult part of the writing process, and strong plot elements are a must for mysteries and suspense. Too, my voice tends toward humor, so I'd probably have to tone that down a notch. For now, I'll content myself with reading works of other writers who have mastered the genre.
Tammie King of NOR: Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
Ann Whitaker: Writing freelance for newspapers and magazines helped me deal with deadlines. But with fiction, I do my best work when I have time for my thoughts to develop. When I'm writing or editing a novel, everyday events and ideas creep in. Like aging wine, a novel needs time to ferment to develop its unique color and flavor.
Tammie King of NOR: When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
Ann Whitaker: After I completed my master's degree, I felt a letdown and needed another goal. So I asked my husband what I should do next, and he said, "Why don't you write a novel?" Unlike some English teachers who dream of writing The Great American Novel, I'd never entertained the idea of writing fiction. Then I thought, why not?
My husband made the mistake of telling me to put everything I had into it. And did I ever. Seems I misinterpreted him. I had everything from grandma's slop jar to the proverbial drunken uncle knocking over the Christmas tree. I ended up with a thousand-I kid you not-pages of words, sentences, and paragraphs. I even had some dialogue. What I didn't have was a novel.
Every summer, I'd try again. Finally, when I quit teaching, I decided to give it another go. Dog Nanny is my fourth completed novel manuscript. Desire Daily, my work-in-progress, the fifth.
Tammie King of NOR: What would you like to tell your readers?
Ann Whitaker: Since the world is already full of enough disaster, sorrow, and pain, I hope my work will bring you a few laughs or a smile. Or maybe you'll learn something you didn't know. But most of all, I hope you're entertained and uplifted.
Tammie King of NOR: What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
Ann Whitaker: The best was from my mother. She once said, "If you marry him, it will be the worst mistake you ever make in your life." Did I listen? No. Was she right? Yes. Are we still married? No way. (But for over two decades now, I've been married to a man both my mother and I adore.)
Another piece of good advice was from a writer friend who said it's sometimes easier to write a new novel than try to fix an old one. That's what prompted me to write Dog Nanny.
Tammie King of NOR: Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
Ann Whitaker: The best ever! After I joined Romance Writers of America, I discovered a new online chapter just forming called Elements. Elements writers don't fit the traditional romance mold but write stories with strong romantic elements. My critique partners can't be beat for support, inspiration, constructive criticism, friendship, and lots of laughs.
Tammie King of NOR: What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
I would love to hear from readers. They can reach me at any of the addresses or sites listed below. Thank you so much for having me here.
Thank you for this opportunity!