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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Getting to Know...Pamela Callow

1. What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?

I have written three thriller novels for MIRA Books, featuring Kate Lange, a struggling thirty-something lawyer. In each of them, I delve into a thriller subgenre: DAMAGED (June 2010) revolves around a biomedical thriller element, INDEFENSIBLE (January 2011) focuses on psychological and legal suspense, and TATTOOED (June 2012) features forensic anthropology.

Although I have several more stories planned for the Kate Lange series, I have switched gears from contemporary suspense, and am working on a historical espionage novel.

2. What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?

My readers tell me that they enjoy the pace of my books – I keep the plot moving between multiple points of view and maintain a tight time frame in the Kate Lange series. Also, I think I’ve brought a very human element to the fast pace of suspense writing, and I know my readers have enjoyed reading about my characters’ struggles, and how they handle the consequences of the situations they face. After all, when we read about a terrible crime in the news, don’t we all wonder how we would react if we had to confront a killer? And how would that affect our lives? This is what I like to explore – the impact of crime on people, from the professionals who investigate it, to the victims and the people who are inadvertently pulled into the vortex.

I don’t really focus on what other authors are doing, but in terms of my own approach to writing, I invest my time heavily in research to ensure that I provide the most accurate subject matter that I possibly can. For example, when I wrote the Kate Lange series, I researched and consulted subject matter experts in police procedure, legal procedure, forensic pathology, psychology, forensic anthropology, and tattooing. I like to create complex, plausible layers in my books.

3. What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?
I find writing the opening of a book the toughest. Finding your characters’ voice, establishing the setting, creating dynamics, and ensuring that the plot and character arcs are set up is challenging. I usually find that the first one hundred pages are the most exacting, demanding, hair-pulling and agonizing parts of the writing process. Many Americanos -- and the occasional dose of chocolate -- are required.

4. Do you work with critique partners?           
When I first began writing as a career, I critiqued extensively with historical romance author Kelly Boyce. She and I have similar sensibilities. But both of us have become so busy with our work deadlines, that we have not been able to continue regular critiquing. However, we still bounce ideas off each other and will seek each other’s advice when we are stuck on a plot point. My agent, Al Zuckerman of Writers House, critiques all of my work.

5. Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?
I often get snippets of ideas from news stories, usually based on criminal cases. I read the news every day.

But in general, I find I am often more inspired by an experience than a place. The character of Kate Lange was inspired by my career experience working in the legal and consulting fields.

I often write to theme music, and the emotional experience that I pull from the tone or mood will put me in the headspace I require for writing a character’s voice. For example, in TATTOOED, the lyrics of Tears’ For Fears’ Mad World (…the dreams I had of dying/were the best I ever had…) were very evocative of the desperation and anger of the main antagonist, and I used those to put me in the head of a newly-released offender who is obsessed with a woman to the point of sexual murder.

Conversely, I am listening to Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire for a key section in my current manuscript.

6. What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?
Years ago, when I was revising my first, unpublished novel, I knew I had a problem, but I couldn’t figure it out. Then, historical romance author Deborah Hale gave a workshop on Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, based on Joseph Campbell’s THE HERO’S JOURNEY, and it was a major epiphany for me in terms of structure. I find myself returning to Vogler every so often when I am creating an outline. I don’t slavishly follow it, but it reminds me of elements I should bear in mind.

7. Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I have returned to my historical roots, and am working on a sweeping espionage novel set at the end of the French Revolutionary Wars:

The powers of Europe are dangerously shifting, and a lone female spy holds the key to the fate of nations…


This novel has been a major undertaking for me, but I am loving the challenge. From a creative perspective, the old adage, “ a change is as good as a rest” works for me. I like to mix things up a bit, because then when I return to my other characters, I am refreshed and recharged. I always want to make sure that my readers – and my characters -- get the best of me, in every book that I write.

You can find out more about Pamela Callow's thriller series at her website, follow her on twitter or connect on Facebook.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Getting to Know... Michelle Helliwell



Today on the blog, aspiring historical romance author Michelle Helliwell. Michelle juggles a day job, family life and her obsession for Lego video games with her all too precious writing time. Sometimes the bricks win...

 1. What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?
I write historical romance. What attracts me? I’m not sure, but the historical has always loomed large in my imagination. My undergrad degree is in Medieval European history, with a splash of Atlantic Canadian history on the side. I grew up in the shadow of Citadel Hill, played on the ruins of old forts in Point Pleasant Park. I love connection between what was and what is now. That, and the clothes were pretty awesome!  Love them puffy shirts.

 2. What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?
Craftwise – I think I have a strong voice, and dialogue comes very naturally for me. I used to think I wasn’t very strong with my description, but I’ve been told otherwise, so I’ll take that as a positive.  As to what separates me - this is a tough question.  But, frankly, I write the historicals I want to read, and there of them out there like mine - which probably sounds awfully snobbish. It doesn't mean I think they are better - just different. My historical settings are not rooted in ballrooms and parlours. In fact, that’s usually the last place my heroines want to be.
     
3. What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?
Plotting. External motivation. I’m not a plotter by nature and perhaps never will be, but I’m learning that I need structure and some outlining to help guide my story. The idea of outlining heavily sends me into fits – I don’t think I’ll ever manage that, but without it I get lost and have to write my way out. I've also needed to get over some serious mother guilt and make the time to write. However, I'm blessed with a supportive family who make that easier for me.

4. Do you work with critique partners?
I do and they are great. You need fresh eyes on your work and each of them comes with a slightly different perspective. They are each talented writers themselves and can get to the heart of some of my story issues very quickly. I firmly believe they've taken my writing so much further. 

5. Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?
I enjoy myths and fairy tales – always have. I love the idea of stories and themes that transcend time and culture. But mostly my ideas come out of nowhere – there is just something that triggers them – often quite mundane things – and I go from there.

6. What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?
Stick with it and just finish the darned book. Perseverance counts in this game, as well as intestinal fortitude and a willingness to trust yourself.

7. Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I’m working on the second book in my Happily Ever After series – all based in Fairy Tales – called No Prince Charming. It’s based (as the name would suggest) on the tale of Snow White. I'll make a decision about self-publishing the first book in that series - Not Your Average Beauty - over the course of the summer.

Michelle blogs regularly at her website, tweets occasionally and Pins far too much.



Monday, 17 February 2014

Words of Inspiration

by Donna Alward

I’m not generally an overtly religious person, though I do spend a lot of time thinking about spiritual health. I also hardly ever do chain letters. Most of the time they come to my inbox and end up getting deleted. Sometimes I think about doing them, because they sound fun and a little interesting. But usually not. Until last
week. An author friend of mine included me in a chain letter for words of inspiration. It had been a busy, slightly crazed week. Inspirational pick me ups are always welcome, you know? Some days more than others…

So I did it. I found an inspirational saying and sent it to the first person on the list. Then I sent the e-mail to 20 people and waited for inspiration to strike.

I’ve already received some short and sweet gems. 

How about “No one ever damaged their eyesight by looking on the bright side!” I make it a policy to try to be really positive and look at things as opportunities, and not roadblocks. So this quote is like “yeah! I got this, bro!” 

On a more poetic and somewhat sobering note, I received this one. 

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will, comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.
- Aeschylus 

I find this one really comforting. It’s like saying “It gets better.” Or it’ll be okay. Just when we’re sure things suck and perhaps we can’t comprehend things improving, it’s taken out of our hands when we need it most.   

And then there’s this one, which is so beautiful that I want to put it in my office by my computer so I can remember it when I get overwhelmed and lose my perspective a bit: 

 "Time is not measured by the years that you live but by the deeds that you do and the joy that you give-
And each day as it comes brings a chance to each one to love to the fullest, leaving nothing undone that would brighten the life or lighten the load of some weary traveler lost on Life's Road-   
So what does it matter how long we may live if as long as we live we unselfishly give?" 
- Helen Steiner Rice 

Every day I get a quote in my inbox from GoodReads. Sometimes they’re meh, but sometimes they’re little nuggets of inspiration or reassurance that all is well. And all will be well. And all will be well.

What little jolts of inspiration do you find in your day to day?

Donna Alward
www.donnaalward.com

Friday, 14 February 2014

Getting to Know ... Debbie Boutilier

by Debbie Boutilier
Twitter: @westboutilier

1. What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?

As a new writer I am still finding my way but I am leaning towards paranormal and fantasy  / science fiction based romance. The idea of being able to create my own world and rules is exciting. I hate being boxed in and like to think outside the box so contemporary romance for me is too restrictive at least now.


2. What’s your writing strength? What do you think separates you from other authors?

I have no idea. Perhaps, that I am willing to try. As to what separates me from other authors, to some extent it is that we are all unique in our own way, a mosaic of our past experiences which gives us each a different perspective and that my perspective will bring something new to the table.


3. What’s your writing kryptonite? What is always tough for you to tackle?

At present, getting past the first few chapters without having the focus change. For now it is the whole outline aspect. As stated previously, I really hate being boxed in, so having to sketch it out is really hard for me.  It reminds me of when I belonged to a painters' group who met one Saturday a month, I could never understand the concept of completely sketching out a painting as if it was a finished drawing, I just put paint to canvas and let the picture evolve one stroke at a time, so committing to an outline is really hard.


4. Do you work with critique partners?

Not really. I have one friend who I bounce ideas off, but haven't got to the point where there is enough content that is cohesive to actually critique.


5. Where are your favorite places to find inspiration for new ideas?

I read a lot so there are times when I read a particular book that broadens my horizons as to what can go into a fantasy world and gets me thinking of what else could exist. For characters and places I troll Pinterest to get visuals. It has helped me to anchor my characters a bit more and give me a starting point to describe locations.


6. What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?

That's a difficult one to answer.  I can't really say that it's a single piece of advice but the collective message to keep working and moving forward.


7. Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

A paranormal romance with Acadian lineage set in Nova Scotia.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Getting To Know ... Anne MacFarlane

Today we have contemporary romance writer Anne MacFarlane on our blog.

1) What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?
I write contemporary fiction - I like the magical spells and the demons. Oh, crap that's not me, it's Paula. Can I get back to you on this one?

2) What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?
My writing strength is my ability to eat chocolate, sing and write at the same time.

3) What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?
Tackle kryptonite? Uh Uh. Not me. I hear that stuff will kill you. Or does it turn you to stone? Either way. I'm not touching it, except maybe with a blow torch...

4) Do you work with critique partners?
Yes. I emerge bloody but undefeated from our weekly wrestling matches. (I have to keep an eye on Nikki's boots, though. Those things are lethal.)

5) Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?
Macy's. Unfortunately we don't have Macy's in Canada. I'm looking for a made-in-Canada solution. Any suggestions for a place that stocks good inspiration? Preferably male? And shirtless?

6) What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?
From Deb Hale: Finish the Book. From Julianne MacLean: Treat writing like a job. Seriously. Would I make crazy stuff like that up? And I don't care what you've heard, they really are as nice as they seem.

7) Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
Yes, I'm working on losing twenty pounds ( okay, damn it, thirty pounds, jeeze put away the thumb screws) I keep losing it and it keeps finding me. If you find it, I beg of you, please don't return it!


Anne MacFarlane
Website | Twitter 

Friday, 7 February 2014

Getting to Know: Annette Gallant

by, Annette Gallant

What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?

When I first joined RWA and RWAC, I was writing a historical romance set on Ile Saint Jean, which is now Prince Edward Island, my home province. But I soon realized that although I loved reading this genre and my characters and plot, what I really wanted to write was contemporary romance and women’s fiction.

What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?

Based on feedback I’ve received, I guess the ability to make my characters seem like real people going through real situations. I’ve also been told repeatedly that my writing flows and is enjoyable to read. I wouldn’t necessarily say this separates me from other authors, though. But it’s definitely great to hear! :)

What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?

Where do I begin? Dialogue is hard for me. Description, especially setting, is tough. But adding enough conflict (my critique partners are nodding at this one!) is probably my biggest Achilles heel. I tend to avoid conflict in my own life if I can, so I guess it makes sense that I’d shy away from it in my writing too. I’ve also learned the hard way that while I love being a pantser, it creates a nightmare situation for me come revision time. So I’ve learned to love the plotting process a lot more. But it’s still a challenge to put my pantser-loving ways behind me!

Do you work with critique partners?

Yes, and they’re awesome! Every two weeks we meet in person, and they are completely honest but always fair. My husband and daughter also brainstorm with me and read my work whenever I ask them to.

Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?

I don’t actively seek out new ideas because characters and their situation pop into my head all the time. This is always my jumping off point with a story, so the hard work is figuring out what else happens so these ideas turn into fully realized stories.

What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?

Don’t let anyone who can’t tell you yes, tell you no. This doesn’t mean I ignore the advice of my critique partners or family because I always trust and value their suggestions and insights. But rather, if you love your story and believe in it, then you’ll find a way to make it work, even if it’s in a genre that’s not hot right now. 

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

This dovetails nicely with the previous question. The first story I wrote to completion was a romantic chick lit. It was very well received in any contests I entered, but I was told repeatedly by the judges (usually by other unpublished writers) that it wouldn’t sell because “chick lit was dead.” Fast forward a few years and chick lit is apparently still dead, but I’m revising this story anyway because I love it too much not to. My plan is to self-publish it this spring.

Thanks for having me! If you’d like to get to know me better, you can find me on Twitter 


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Getting to Know: Jennie Marsland

by Jennie Marsland

  1. What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?
I write romantic historicals. I’ve always liked history, and I enjoy research. I’m also an incurable romantic, so it’s a good fit.
  1. What’s your writing strength?  What do you think separates you from other authors?
People tell me that my characters are very real and that their emotions ring true. I think that’s the biggest compliment anyone could give me as a writer.
  1. What’s your writing kryptonite?  What is always tough for you to tackle?
I’d say my biggest challenge is causing enough pain for my characters. My most recent books, Shattered and Deliverance, deal with the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and its aftermath, so I had to really put my characters through the ringer, which included the deaths of close family members. I found this especially difficult when it came to my heroes, who had already endured their share of suffering in battle overseas, but it had to be done. Who was it that said ‘no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader’?
  1. Do you work with critique partners?
I don’t have a critique partner, but I do have a few trusted beta readers who read my final drafts before I send them for editing. I enjoy getting feedback from several readers. If they all mention the same problem, I know it’s a real issue, rather than just one person’s opinion.
  1. Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?
I never know where inspiration will come from. The main character for my first novel came to me out of the blue when I was on a camping trip. The idea for my Halifax Explosion trilogy came from a ghost story a friend told me. She lives in a house that was built on the foundation of a house that was destroyed in the Explosion, and one day she came home from work and saw a man in old-fashioned clothes sitting at her kitchen table. While she was staring at him, he vanished. That story rattled around in my imagination for years before I started writing Shattered.
  1. What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?
To believe in myself. Rejection happens, disappointment happens. You have to push through it and keep believing you have something to offer.
  1. Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

I’m working on the final book in my Halifax Explosion trilogy. It’s called Flight, because the hero, Cam Hatcher, is a former RAF pilot, now a barnstormer. The heroine, Georgie O’Neill, is a sister to Alice, the heroine of Shattered, and to Carl, the hero of Deliverance. Georgie’s a product of her times, a free spirited flapper with a lot of reservations about commitment and marriage. Of course, Cam’s just the man to change her mind.

You can find Jennie online here: Jennie Marsland