The girls of Night Owl Romance are pleased that you have granted us an interview
We would love to get to know you
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I've been a professional writer for most of my adult life. I started when I lived in Hawaii, wrote for a number of publications there, and also worked in corporate America as a copywriter/newsletter editor/communications manager and a video producer/director. My first fiction sales were some romantic short stories I sold a number of years ago to Woman's World, the magazine you always see at the checkout counter at the grocery store. I also write about financial matters and I've had a number of my political essays published on national blogs.
A while back, I decided to try a romance novel. I wrote a book called Shadowed Knight, submitted it to a traditional publisher, received a fairly pleasant rejection letter that contained some very good suggestions for making the book better, rewrote the book and, because I think ebooks are the format of the future, submitted the book to Samhain Publishing. They accepted it and it's now in their catalog, available December 4th.
Other things that keep me busy? In a very small way, I breed and raise Welsh Ponies. On my website, you'll see a picture of me and one of my favorite "guys", the multi-champion Welsh Pony stallion Pecan Creeks Overture, who's owned by some friends of mine. (I had my picture taken with him because I'mvery ordinary looking and I wanted something in the shot to make the picture more memorable!) I'm also getting into the VSE (Very Small Equine) division of carriage driving with a Miniature mare I've been training.
What's your favorite genre to read?
I don't really have a favorite genre. I just like good writing and by that, I don't necessarily mean everything classified as great literature. (Except for The Old Man and The Sea, for example, I find Hemingway very heavy slogging.) I read mysteries, horror, fantasy..I have favorite authors in all these fields. I have all of Ellis Peter's wonderful Brother Cadfael mysteries. I like the way Dean Koontz writes. I love the really early Andre Norton books, written when she had to use a male pen name just to get editors to look at her work because "women can't write science fiction." Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and I'm still waiting for someone to make a good movie version
In the field of romance, I collect classic romance novels. I love Rafael Sabatini, the guy who wrote Captain Blood (every seen the Errol Flynn movie?) and I have about eight of his novels Very hard to find, since most of them were written in the 1920's and 30's. I have a hardback copy of The Sheik, the inspiration for the Rudolph Valentino movie. When I was a rather solitary, introverted teenager I read every Georgette Heyer Regency romance I could get my hands on and I still have a number of her paperbacks.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
Well, mostly I just keep trying to put something down on paper. I may shift to a different "scene" further along.I almost never write fiction in straight chronological order. (I actually write by first working out a "movie" of the story in my head. Then I sit down and basically translate my visual images into text.) If I really get to a point where I'm sick of the whole business, I go build a fence, vacuum the house, take my Miniature mare Jewel for a spin, work on a non-fiction project or go see a movie, basically giving my brain a chance to "defrag." Mostly, though, you just have to plug along. Anyone who thinks writing is primarily a matter of being "inspired" and then sitting down and letting the words flow has never done much writing. Sometimes that does actually happen, and it's a joy.but mostly you scratch your head and say "How the heck do I make this work?" Writing is a craft as much as an art.
Please tell us what you have planned next?
Well, I'm working currently on turning those Woman's World stories, plus one extra story, into a collection, which I'll then submit to my Samhain editor. (Woman's World only purchased the first serial rights, so I'm okay to resell the stories.) I'm also working on a novel called A Payment of Women which will put a whole troop of medieval men in an interesting marital situation!
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
I really don't like the word "perfect." No real human being is perfect; when you try to create such a character, it always rings false. What I like in a hero is someone who is intelligent, confident without being vain, has a sense of humor and, despite mistakes or flaws, is basically a decent, responsible person. In Shadowed Knight, my hero, Berenger, is a grim, rather savage creature, but as the book goes on, we learn he also is highly responsible, quite capable of wry humor, and chivalrous in the best sense of the word.
By the way, whenever possible, I think it's better to have your characters do things that indicate their personalities, rather than have you, the writer, describe character traits. For example, at one point, I have my heroine Margaret wondering what Berenger would be like as a father. Instead having her find this out via some kind of conversation with him, I put in a little scene involving Berenger and one of the servant's children. Margaret witnesses this and learns what she wants to know.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Oh, gosh. I have "movies" in my head for books in every genre. I have a mystery I'd like to write, an end-of-the-world novel I'd like to write, two or three fantasy novels banging around in my brain..I'm never short of ideas. Ideas are easy. It's getting the darn stuff down on paper that's hard.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I love history. The lives of real people can be so fascinating, especially seeing how people thought and acted in different places and eras. So researching Shadowed Knight was a pleasure. I went to three libraries, gathered a number of books about the era Shadowed Knight is set in- books on social mores, day-to-day life, etc. more than what the big shots of the time were doing-and basically enjoyed every minute of reading the stuff. I didn't need to know, or include, every tiny detail-this is a romance novel, not a term paper-but I did want to give an authentic feel of the era. I'm sure I made some mistakes, but hopefully they're minor ones.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
No one encouraged me. I simply decided I'd like to try it. Could I write a novel in this genre? Would someone want to publish what I wrote? Only one way to find out.
I think as a professional writer I did have the big advantage of knowing not to take any rejections-and remember, I did initially get rejected-personally. Clients always want rewrites, editors always want changes.the only thing that bothers me is when I think what they want is not an improvement and then I'll usually negotiate. When Linda, my editor at Samhain, told me that Shadowed Knight would only need "minor" changes, I didn't realize this meant five different versions before we were finished! Most of the time, I went along with her suggestions, occasionally I made a fuss if I felt something should stay the way I'd written it. She's a nice, funny person, so we ended up exchanging rather comical emails: "Okay, if you insist, I'll delete this adverb, but then I get to keep these two exclamation points!"
You just can't take your own deathless prose too seriously. When Linda made a comment on a certain amount of "noise" included in one of Shadowed Knight's lovemaking scenes, I wrote back: "Yep. Roll me over, in the clover! Roll me over, roll me over, do it again!" She, via email, cracked up. (By the way, those are the lyrics to a song that was popular in the 1920's. Don't ever think that Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma didn't have their moments!)
What would you like to tell your readers?
Try many different authors and different genres. Go to your local library-it's a great resource-and check out some books by authors you've never read. Read a few pages of the book, and if you don't like it, feel free to set it aside. Try Elizabeth Peters' wonderful "Peabody" mysteries. Read Ellis Peters work, or the fascinating series of books set in prehistoric Alaska written by Sue Harrison. Try some non-fiction, such as that terrific book, Seabiscuit. Try some Dickens, or read the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
And if you're interested in writing yourself, analyze the books that keep you turning the page. What techniques does the author use to advance the plot, show the personalities of the characters, etc? What works? And just as important, what doesn't work?
When I started reading The Sorcerer's Stone I knew Rowlings was a terrific writer the moment I read that Harry's "bedroom" in the Dursley's house was the space beneath the staircase. Just that one small piece of information told a reader exactly how those people regarded, and treated, poor Harry. A less skilled writer would have written a half-dozen paragraphs to make the same point.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
I have a fairly simple website-if nothing else, go there to look at the pictures of that very handsome pony!-at www.JanAlyceAvery.com.
You'll find more info there, including excerpts, from Shadowed Knight if you're interested. Or you can check the "Coming Soon" list at www.samhainpublishing.com.
I belong to a few of the Samhain groups, mostly just because it's a good way to get information about marketing, upcoming events, etc, but I don't regularly post on those or other blogs. Too busy writing. Maybe after I've had my fourth or fifth novel published (!) I'll get around to creating a blog or MySpace site, but for now, I just need to keep writing. (How do authors who are constantly blogging, grouping, MySpacing, message-boarding, etc. etc. ever find time to write? Maybe I'm just an exceptionally slow writer. Or maybe I'm just too fond of driving my pony, LOL.)
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I'm more than happy to hear from readers or other writers.
Thank you for this opportunity!