fiction

Interview + Giveaway with Michelle Diener

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My guest today is Michelle Diener, debut author of the historical fiction IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, published by Simon & Schuster and released earlier this month.

Leave a comment or ask Michelle a question to win:
1 of 5 custom bookmarks
A copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT
** International shipping **

Welcome, Michelle!  I’ve been seeing this gorgeous book everywhere!  Tell us about it.

My debut book, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, was released just over two weeks ago. It’s a historical novel set in the court of Henry VIII (before Anne Boleyn) and features the real historical figures of Flemish artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and his Yeoman of the Crossbow.

The quick blurb:

An unconventional woman. A deadly enemy. A clash of intrigue, deception, and desire. . . .

1525: Artist Susanna Horenbout is sent from Belgium to be Henry VIII’s personal illuminator inside the royal palace. But her new homeland greets her with an attempt on her life, and the King’s most lethal courtier, John Parker, is charged with keeping her safe. As further attacks are made, Susanna and Parker realize that she unknowingly carries the key to a bloody plot against the throne. For while Richard de la Pole amasses troops in France for a Yorkist invasion, a traitor prepares to trample the kingdom from within.Who is the mastermind? Why are men vying to kill the woman Parker protects with his life? With a motley gang of urchins, Susanna’s wits, and Parker’s fierce instincts, honed on the streets and in palace chambers, the two slash through deadly layers of deceit in a race against time. For in the court of Henry VIII, secrets are the last to die. . .

Brilliantly revealing a little-known historical figure who lived among the Tudors, Michelle Diener makes a smashing historical fiction debut.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today?

That both my main characters, Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, were real people.

What sparked the idea for this novel?

I stumbled across a reference to Susanna Horenbout and just loved the idea of a woman artist, so good she gathered praise from many master painters across Europe at a time when women were not easily acknowledged in her field, who was sent to Henry’s court. That’s how my series was born.

What creates the biggest conflict between your hero and heroine?

Initially Susanna knows something which Parker wants her to tell him, but she’s given her word not to talk and won’t. But after that is resolved the main conflict between them is that Parker needs the King’s permission to marry and Susanna has always thought her work as an artist makes her a very poor catch as a wife. That doesn’t stop them finding happiness with each other while they can, though.

Even more beautiful in person!
Click to see larger image.

Why did you put these two together?

Well, aside from the fact that they really did get together? 🙂 Obviously, I had to make up their characters, even though they were real people, and their past and their jobs made them natural outsiders. They are attracted to that in each other — they recognize it.

What is your strategy in creating villains?

I only create villains who have really solid motivations for what they do. In Henry VIII’s court, it was all too easy to find a number of people who would have enough motivation to try and undermine his reign.

What was the hardest part of this book to write and why?

The fine balancing act of keeping the complex court politics in the story, while still making the story easy to follow and keep the pace fast, even for people not familiar with this historical period.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

I think the single most important element is author invisibility. The story should shine, and the reader shouldn’t be aware of the author at all.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I read, walk, spend time with my family and friends and I bake. I love to bake 🙂 .

What are your current projects?

I’m about to dive into the copy edits of KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, the second book in the Susanna and Parker series.

Where can we find you online?

My website , blogging at Magical Musings, or socializing on Twitter and Facebook.

Do You Believe That The Cup Is Half Empty Or Half Full?

Definitely half full. I’m by nature optimistic and happy. Not very writerly, lol, no doom and gloom for me. 🙂

Leave a comment or ask Michelle a question to win:
1 of 5 custom bookmarks
A copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT
** International shipping **
Born in London and brought up in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, reading and writing have always been my passions. I write historical fiction and my debut novel, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, is set to release August 2nd, 2011 with Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books. Set in the court of Henry VIII, it features the real historical figures of artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the King’s Robes, John Parker.

The second book in the series, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, also featuring Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, is scheduled for a February 2012 release.

I currently live on the west coast of Australia with my husband and two children.

>Interview + Giveaway with Michelle Diener

>

My guest today is Michelle Diener, debut author of the historical fiction IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, published by Simon & Schuster and released earlier this month.

Leave a comment or ask Michelle a question to win:
1 of 5 custom bookmarks
A copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT
** International shipping **

Welcome, Michelle!  I’ve been seeing this gorgeous book everywhere!  Tell us about it.

My debut book, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, was released just over two weeks ago. It’s a historical novel set in the court of Henry VIII (before Anne Boleyn) and features the real historical figures of Flemish artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and his Yeoman of the Crossbow.

The quick blurb:

An unconventional woman. A deadly enemy. A clash of intrigue, deception, and desire. . . .

1525: Artist Susanna Horenbout is sent from Belgium to be Henry VIII’s personal illuminator inside the royal palace. But her new homeland greets her with an attempt on her life, and the King’s most lethal courtier, John Parker, is charged with keeping her safe. As further attacks are made, Susanna and Parker realize that she unknowingly carries the key to a bloody plot against the throne. For while Richard de la Pole amasses troops in France for a Yorkist invasion, a traitor prepares to trample the kingdom from within.Who is the mastermind? Why are men vying to kill the woman Parker protects with his life? With a motley gang of urchins, Susanna’s wits, and Parker’s fierce instincts, honed on the streets and in palace chambers, the two slash through deadly layers of deceit in a race against time. For in the court of Henry VIII, secrets are the last to die. . .

Brilliantly revealing a little-known historical figure who lived among the Tudors, Michelle Diener makes a smashing historical fiction debut.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today?

That both my main characters, Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, were real people.

What sparked the idea for this novel?

I stumbled across a reference to Susanna Horenbout and just loved the idea of a woman artist, so good she gathered praise from many master painters across Europe at a time when women were not easily acknowledged in her field, who was sent to Henry’s court. That’s how my series was born.

What creates the biggest conflict between your hero and heroine?

Initially Susanna knows something which Parker wants her to tell him, but she’s given her word not to talk and won’t. But after that is resolved the main conflict between them is that Parker needs the King’s permission to marry and Susanna has always thought her work as an artist makes her a very poor catch as a wife. That doesn’t stop them finding happiness with each other while they can, though.

Even more beautiful in person!
Click to see larger image.

Why did you put these two together?

Well, aside from the fact that they really did get together? 🙂 Obviously, I had to make up their characters, even though they were real people, and their past and their jobs made them natural outsiders. They are attracted to that in each other — they recognize it.

What is your strategy in creating villains?

I only create villains who have really solid motivations for what they do. In Henry VIII’s court, it was all too easy to find a number of people who would have enough motivation to try and undermine his reign.

What was the hardest part of this book to write and why?

The fine balancing act of keeping the complex court politics in the story, while still making the story easy to follow and keep the pace fast, even for people not familiar with this historical period.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

I think the single most important element is author invisibility. The story should shine, and the reader shouldn’t be aware of the author at all.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I read, walk, spend time with my family and friends and I bake. I love to bake 🙂 .

What are your current projects?

I’m about to dive into the copy edits of KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, the second book in the Susanna and Parker series.

Where can we find you online?

My website , blogging at Magical Musings, or socializing on Twitter and Facebook.

Do You Believe That The Cup Is Half Empty Or Half Full?

Definitely half full. I’m by nature optimistic and happy. Not very writerly, lol, no doom and gloom for me. 🙂

Leave a comment or ask Michelle a question to win:
1 of 5 custom bookmarks
A copy of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT
** International shipping **
Born in London and brought up in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, reading and writing have always been my passions. I write historical fiction and my debut novel, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, is set to release August 2nd, 2011 with Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books. Set in the court of Henry VIII, it features the real historical figures of artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the King’s Robes, John Parker.

The second book in the series, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, also featuring Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, is scheduled for a February 2012 release.

I currently live on the west coast of Australia with my husband and two children.

Misty Evans Interview + Giveaway!

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Welcome to my guest blogger today, author Misty Evans, here talking about writing and the writing life. Her book, Soul Suvivor, released June 21st.

One lucky commentor will win a copy of Soul Survivor and five others will win one handmade custom bookmark for Soul Survivor.

Misty, tell us about Soul Survivor.

Joan, thank you so much for having me on your blog today! Soul Suvivor is a dark paranormal romantic suspense published by Carina Press. Here’s the blurb:

Haunted by tragedy, FBI profiler Rife St. Cloud is driven to find the person who brutally attacked six women. Unfortunately the only survivor, Keva Moon Water, has no memory of what happened, and the evidence makes her the prime suspect.

Keva cannot die. She has waited a thousand years to be reunited with the man she loves, whose soul sleeps within Rife. Though he refuses to believe her claims of immortality, there’s no denying the passion that burns between them. Keva desperately hopes their sexual connection will be enough to awaken Rife’s memories of the love affair that started a war and bound their souls together for all eternity.

But when Keva’s own memories come trickling back, she realizes that a future with Rife depends upon confronting the mistakes of the distant past…

Soul Survivor is the first of your Lost Worlds Series. Can you tell us what inspired the series and what is in store in the sequels to Soul Survivor?

My twin sons have long been fascinated with lost civilizations, both real and mythical. Their interest sparked a similar interest in me, especially about North American civilizations such as the Anazazi and Hopewell groups. For my fictional series, I created a lost tribe of Native Americans of which my hero and heroine were members of a thousand years ago and was destroyed because of their love for each other. In the second book, Soul Protector, my archeologist hero discovers the bones of the lost tribe and releases a bunch of angry ghosts.

The story’s heroine is a shaman and ghost whisperer, so she’s against him digging them up in the first place and then must get the ghosts to cross over before they destroy her, him and many other innocent people in their quest for revenge. Even though there’s a new hero and heroine for this book, Keva and Rife from Soul Survivor will make an appearance. The third book in the series, Soul Walker, is still rattling around in my head.

Can you tell us a little about your Witches Anonymous series and what inspired it?

Witches Anonymous is one of my most loved series by fans. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s light paranormal or because the heroine’s torn between Lucifer (definite bad boy) and Adam (the original Adam who’s on Earth for a redo), but my readers love this series. Which is great for me, because I love writing it. There are three novellas published so far in the series and a fourth coming out late summer. The series was inspired by my Baptist upbringing and my God complex. I’ve always wanted to rewrite a few biblical stories, and in this series, I get to do that.

What is your writing routine?

I write for several hours in the morning M-F, and then promote, edit, do interviews, etc., in the afternoon. Weekends I try to save for family and fun and recharging my muse.

How does your family view your writing career?

Most of my immediate family supported it from the beginning. A few outliers are starting to warm up to it. There are always moments when it feels like my writing and my family life are at odds, but only because of time constraints and the fact I can completely immerse myself in writing and forget to come up for air. That’s when the kids, my husband and my friends do an intervention and return to me to the real world for awhile. I find it difficult to maintain a healthy balance!

How do you keep in touch with your readers?

Readers are absolutely the best part of being an author. I love writing stories, but if I didn’t have fans who enjoy reading them, I’d question my abilities as a storyteller. They send me emails, post nice messages on my Facebook author wall, and chat with me on Twitter. Some are even gracious enough to join my Yahoo Group and sign up for my newsletter. I try to make it as easy as I can for them to contact me and I love hearing from new fans as well as tried and true ones. Knowing I have readers makes me show up to the keyboard every day.

What authors do you like to read?

Currently, I’m on a Meg Cabot kick, so I’m reading both her adult and YA books. I love so many authors, it would take weeks to name them all. Consistently I enjoy Jodi Picoult, Edie Ramer, PJ Alderman, CE Murphy, Rachel Hawkins, Jennifer Estep, Cassandra Claire and Stacia Kane.

What are you reading now?

Fiction: Insatiable by Meg Cabot and Ghost Ship by PJ Alderman; and nonfiction: A Writer’s Journey by Christopher Volger.

What is in your TBR pile?

My TBR is always a mile long, both in physical books and ebooks on my Kindle. Galaxy Girls by Edie Ramer and On Any Given Sunday by Marilyn Brandt are up next.

Do you have a second career? If not, what did you do before you became a full-time writer?

Does motherhood count as my second career?  Before I decided to become a full-time writer, I was in the business world as a marketing manager. My last job was working in the public health field and I did everything from edit newsletters to manage a breast and cervical cancer program. During my writing career, I’ve also taught creative writing and been a substitute teacher.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Strong voice and stronger characters.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

Characters come first, plot second. I don’t have a set formula for writing per se, but since I write series that are in different genres from each other, I do follow a loose formula for each series that works for me. For the Super Agent series, I do a lot more research and plotting. For the Witches Anonymous series, I let my muse direct the story. The Lost Worlds series is a sort of in between…some plotting and some pantsing.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

Coffee, thesaurus, creative imagination and an undefeatable attitude.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

I hold writers in the utmost regard, so becoming an author and being allowed to tell my stories is an honor. To have the kind of fabulous readers I do, and to know my stories lighten their day, is the best dream come true I could ask for.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I write in bed. I have a bad back, so it’s the only way for me to type.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, grow herbs, hang out with my family and friends. I also make silver jewelry, homemade cards and I love to bake. I’ve been decorating cakes since high school. All those things are great stress relievers and provide me with creative outlets different from writing.

Where can we find you online?

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Blog
Goodreads
Yahoo! Group

Thanks for being with us, Misty!
Remember to comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Misty’s Soul Survior or one of five bookmarks! (International)
*MUST* leave contact email to WIN!

>Misty Evans Interview + Giveaway!

>

Welcome to my guest blogger today, author Misty Evans, here talking about writing and the writing life. Her book, Soul Suvivor, released June 21st.

One lucky commentor will win a copy of Soul Survivor and five others will win one handmade custom bookmark for Soul Survivor.

Misty, tell us about Soul Survivor.

Joan, thank you so much for having me on your blog today! Soul Suvivor is a dark paranormal romantic suspense published by Carina Press. Here’s the blurb:

Haunted by tragedy, FBI profiler Rife St. Cloud is driven to find the person who brutally attacked six women. Unfortunately the only survivor, Keva Moon Water, has no memory of what happened, and the evidence makes her the prime suspect.

Keva cannot die. She has waited a thousand years to be reunited with the man she loves, whose soul sleeps within Rife. Though he refuses to believe her claims of immortality, there’s no denying the passion that burns between them. Keva desperately hopes their sexual connection will be enough to awaken Rife’s memories of the love affair that started a war and bound their souls together for all eternity.

But when Keva’s own memories come trickling back, she realizes that a future with Rife depends upon confronting the mistakes of the distant past…

Soul Survivor is the first of your Lost Worlds Series. Can you tell us what inspired the series and what is in store in the sequels to Soul Survivor?

My twin sons have long been fascinated with lost civilizations, both real and mythical. Their interest sparked a similar interest in me, especially about North American civilizations such as the Anazazi and Hopewell groups. For my fictional series, I created a lost tribe of Native Americans of which my hero and heroine were members of a thousand years ago and was destroyed because of their love for each other. In the second book, Soul Protector, my archeologist hero discovers the bones of the lost tribe and releases a bunch of angry ghosts.

The story’s heroine is a shaman and ghost whisperer, so she’s against him digging them up in the first place and then must get the ghosts to cross over before they destroy her, him and many other innocent people in their quest for revenge. Even though there’s a new hero and heroine for this book, Keva and Rife from Soul Survivor will make an appearance. The third book in the series, Soul Walker, is still rattling around in my head.

Can you tell us a little about your Witches Anonymous series and what inspired it?

Witches Anonymous is one of my most loved series by fans. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s light paranormal or because the heroine’s torn between Lucifer (definite bad boy) and Adam (the original Adam who’s on Earth for a redo), but my readers love this series. Which is great for me, because I love writing it. There are three novellas published so far in the series and a fourth coming out late summer. The series was inspired by my Baptist upbringing and my God complex. I’ve always wanted to rewrite a few biblical stories, and in this series, I get to do that.

What is your writing routine?

I write for several hours in the morning M-F, and then promote, edit, do interviews, etc., in the afternoon. Weekends I try to save for family and fun and recharging my muse.

How does your family view your writing career?

Most of my immediate family supported it from the beginning. A few outliers are starting to warm up to it. There are always moments when it feels like my writing and my family life are at odds, but only because of time constraints and the fact I can completely immerse myself in writing and forget to come up for air. That’s when the kids, my husband and my friends do an intervention and return to me to the real world for awhile. I find it difficult to maintain a healthy balance!

How do you keep in touch with your readers?

Readers are absolutely the best part of being an author. I love writing stories, but if I didn’t have fans who enjoy reading them, I’d question my abilities as a storyteller. They send me emails, post nice messages on my Facebook author wall, and chat with me on Twitter. Some are even gracious enough to join my Yahoo Group and sign up for my newsletter. I try to make it as easy as I can for them to contact me and I love hearing from new fans as well as tried and true ones. Knowing I have readers makes me show up to the keyboard every day.

What authors do you like to read?

Currently, I’m on a Meg Cabot kick, so I’m reading both her adult and YA books. I love so many authors, it would take weeks to name them all. Consistently I enjoy Jodi Picoult, Edie Ramer, PJ Alderman, CE Murphy, Rachel Hawkins, Jennifer Estep, Cassandra Claire and Stacia Kane.

What are you reading now?

Fiction: Insatiable by Meg Cabot and Ghost Ship by PJ Alderman; and nonfiction: A Writer’s Journey by Christopher Volger.

What is in your TBR pile?

My TBR is always a mile long, both in physical books and ebooks on my Kindle. Galaxy Girls by Edie Ramer and On Any Given Sunday by Marilyn Brandt are up next.

Do you have a second career? If not, what did you do before you became a full-time writer?

Does motherhood count as my second career?  Before I decided to become a full-time writer, I was in the business world as a marketing manager. My last job was working in the public health field and I did everything from edit newsletters to manage a breast and cervical cancer program. During my writing career, I’ve also taught creative writing and been a substitute teacher.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Strong voice and stronger characters.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

Characters come first, plot second. I don’t have a set formula for writing per se, but since I write series that are in different genres from each other, I do follow a loose formula for each series that works for me. For the Super Agent series, I do a lot more research and plotting. For the Witches Anonymous series, I let my muse direct the story. The Lost Worlds series is a sort of in between…some plotting and some pantsing.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

Coffee, thesaurus, creative imagination and an undefeatable attitude.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

I hold writers in the utmost regard, so becoming an author and being allowed to tell my stories is an honor. To have the kind of fabulous readers I do, and to know my stories lighten their day, is the best dream come true I could ask for.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I write in bed. I have a bad back, so it’s the only way for me to type.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, grow herbs, hang out with my family and friends. I also make silver jewelry, homemade cards and I love to bake. I’ve been decorating cakes since high school. All those things are great stress relievers and provide me with creative outlets different from writing.

Where can we find you online?

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Blog
Goodreads
Yahoo! Group

Thanks for being with us, Misty!
Remember to comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Misty’s Soul Survior or one of five bookmarks! (International)
*MUST* leave contact email to WIN!

RITA Nominee Kendra Leigh Castle & Dark Awakening

>Sometimes you meet people and automatically click.  It was was like that for me with Kendra.  She is so personable and warm I felt like I’d known her for far longer than a few emails.  I think you’ll feel that way about her after reading through the interview below, and I hope you all enjoy her as much as I have!

We have several giveaways today — 2 books and 5 handmade bookmarks.  Comment to enter!
 

Kendra’s Harlequin Nocturne RENEGADE ANGEL finalled in the 2011 RWA RITA, Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure Category.  And her newest release, DARK AWAKENING, just released last Tuesday.

I am a professed vampire novice, though you can’t be a living, breathing author of any genre without catching news of the hottest paranormal creature alive…or not.  So when I read my ARC of DARK AWAKENING I was immediately taken with the many and varied twists Kendra put into the storyline.

Here’s a desription of DARK AWAKENING:

Tynan MacGillivray has spent the better part of his three hundred years serving at the pleasure of the queen of the Ptolemy dynasty, her prized hunter in a world where blood is destiny. But the lowblood cat-shifter gets far more than he bargained for when his new target, a human woman whose rare abilities make her the only hope for saving the greatest of the vampire dynasties, turns out to be far more than she seems. 

Lily Quinn is an innocent whose beauty hides secrets that could change the world of night forever…and Ty will have to choose between the loyalty that has kept him alive, or a love that promises more than he ever imagined…if it doesn’t destroy them both.

So many aspects of this novel fascinated me: the way Kendra infused the Celtic Highlander history into a modern vampire hierarchy; the complication of social classes within this society and the internal and external conflict it brings to the characters; the constant spark between the hero and heroine from their first intense meeting; her superb worldbuilding.  Far too many elements of fine storybuilding to outline here.  I hope you’ll purchase this novel and enjoy all its intricacies personally.

Kendra, congratulations on finalling RITA! You attended the RWA National convention in NYC last month. Can you tell us what was different about attending the conference as a RITA finalist?

Thanks so much for having me over today, Joan! It was such a huge honor. And attending the conference as a finalist was amazing. This past year has seen a lot of wonderful forward movement in my career…a lot of things seemed to happen at once, and getting the RITA final for that particular book was really the icing on the cake. It’s so incredibly validating to be singled out by your peers as someone who is capable of writing something really special. The whole thing was magic.

Romantic Times said, “Castle’s world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more.”

I find paranormal world building one of the hardest elements to establish in a concrete, believable, seamless way in writing. How do you do it?

I love that world-building quote from RT. It’s a huge compliment, particularly because having your characters interact in and with a world quite different from the everyday isn’t the easiest thing, at least not if you want to do it well. No one wants to get pulled out of the story and see the woman behind the curtain pulling the levers. Preventing that is always at the back of my mind!

I don’t pull everything together all at once. I’m a pantser at heart, despite the fact that I now have to write outlines for my editors (*sniffle*). So I normally start with a more nebulous framework for the world that gets added onto over time. In the case of the Dark Dynasties, I knew I wanted a caste system, a dark world ruled by disaffected nobles and populated by a vast underclass either serving or trying to avoid them. The idea of the bloodline marks came early, and in fact the first character I really “knew” was Queen Arsinöe. 

I, um, had thought she might be a bit nicer when I started. That happens sometimes. Anyway, that loose idea of the world I was operating in, and the relationship between the Ptolemy dynasty and their “pets”, the Cait Sith, got the ball rolling. And as Lily and Ty made their way through the story, the details got filled in. Someone once called my process “organic”, which is a really nice way of saying “fumbling around in the dark”, but it works for me. And frankly, I have a lot of fun discovering things at the same time as my characters!

I love the way you’ve given these paranormal characters such human quirks—Lily, the heroine, and her hopeless sense of direction, and Ty, the hero, his love for late night television and movies. These elements add depth and dimension to your characters.

Can you tell us more about your thought process behind those quirks? Are they characteristics of yours or someone close to you? What other quirky elements have you added to other characters in the past that have added dimension? How do you choose quirks for your characters?

Thanks! I don’t really pick and choose quirks for my characters. It’s more like they turn up with them and I just have to put them in the right situation to discover them. With Lily, some of her terrible sense of direction was born of necessity (she wouldn’t have met Ty if she’d gone the right way!), and some is just…her. Well, and me. I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag, even with a map and a flashlight. Sharing that particular quirk with her was an early way of relating to the character, since she’s quite different from me in other ways.

Ty’s love of late night television and his knowledge of pop culture was one of those things that just clicked into place. The guy is up all night, every night. Often, he isn’t doing much. What’s a bored vampire to do in the wee hours? Jaden, his friend, likes to cook. That was one that just sort of happened, and I got mushy over it. “Aww, a vampire who likes to make comfort food!” Weird, maybe, but revealing of his personality. I love things that humanize the dark and dangerous heroes.

In addition to having a heated sexual chemistry, your hero and heroine seem to spark in every interaction. What is your philosophy on creating characters whose interactions light up the page and keep the reader invested?

It’s a delicate dance, and I always know if it’s not working. Imaginary characters can be surprisingly stubborn to work with! I think for me, I try to hit a balance between the hero and heroine having enough in common to relate, but enough differences to intrigue and infuriate one another. I know dialogue is key for me…I love to have them talk, and dialogue is one of my favorite things to write. Between the verbal sparring (which all of my hero/heroine combinations do) and dealing with a magnetic sexual pull between them strong enough that even getting close sets off fireworks, I always hope readers will pick up on and enjoy all of that sexual tension. I’m glad you think I’m managing it!

You are married to a Navy fighter pilot—an undeniably heroic career. What has prompted you to write about vampires, werewolves and magic instead of something more Suzanne Brockmann-like where you’d have your own expert in-house? 

(As an aside, I ask this question because I’m married to a career firefighter and for a very long time wrote about cops and FBI agents. My critique partner kept asking me, why don’t you write about firefighters? My first sales were of heroes as ex-firefighters. So I thought I’d pass the question along.)

It was amazing to watch Brian when he was flying (he developed some serious back problems around the ten-year mark, and after a couple of surgeries has moved into defense acquisitions). There were things I got a kick out of (flight suits!) and we had a wonderful, tightly-knit community I enjoyed.

But you know, it’s really funny…living with the Navy day in and day out has made it far less appealing to write about. Not that it’s bad, but I write to create a fun escape, and being a Navy spouse is my everyday reality. Apart from that, I’ve always been drawn to stories with a magical and/or supernatural element. I’ve never been much interested in writing tales without it! And by the way, thanks to you and your husband for pursuing (and supporting) such a challenging and heroic career.

As the wife of a military man, you’ve moved around a lot. How do you think that has affected your writing?

I don’t know if or when I would have started writing seriously without the Navy! I was very good at finding excuses not to buckle down. And with having babies early on in our marriage, the excuses were pretty valid. But then we got stationed in the Nevada desert, which was like being sent to the moon for this New Englander, and I knew it was put up or shut up time. If I couldn’t write a book in a place with…we’ll be nice and say “few distractions”…it wasn’t going to happen. As far as the further moving affecting my writing, I think it’s helped me set things in different locations. I’ve seen a lot of places!

You have three children and your husband must be gone quite a bit with his career. How do you manage your writing and promotion schedule?

“When do you find time to do this?” is the number one question I get from pretty much everyone I know! Actually, my husband is around most of the time now that he drives a desk instead of a jet, and that has helped immensely. Still, he’s at work all day, and I play chauffeur to the kids (11, 9, and 5, respectively). We have three dogs and a cat. Life is wonderfully (sometimes insanely) full. So I write when the house is quiet, which means staying up late. Sometimes, as a deadline approaches, very late! But I expect that when the youngest heads off to kindergarten in the fall, I’ll find myself with something that could be a regular work day…and not that I’m anxious to see my baby go, but being able to get all that writing time in when I’m at my most awake sounds awfully nice.

Thank you so much for having me, Joan! Those bookmarks are gorgeous, and I also have a signed copy of DARK AWAKENING to give away to one lucky commenter! I’ll be here all day to chat, so if you’ve got questions about the writing process, my books, or paranormal romance in general, fire away!

Kendra Leigh Castle writes dark paranormal romance and lives in Southern Maryland with her husband, three children, and menagerie of pets. You can find her online at www.kendraleighcastle.com, on Twitter as @KendraLCastle, and on facebook.

Thank You, Kendra! 

Comment on Kendra’s interview or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes: (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)
* MUST leave a contact email * 
  • A print copy of DARK AWAKENING
  • A print copy of RENEGADE ANGEL
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

>RITA Nominee Kendra Leigh Castle & Dark Awakening

>Sometimes you meet people and automatically click.  It was was like that for me with Kendra.  She is so personable and warm I felt like I’d known her for far longer than a few emails.  I think you’ll feel that way about her after reading through the interview below, and I hope you all enjoy her as much as I have!

We have several giveaways today — 2 books and 5 handmade bookmarks.  Comment to enter!
 

Kendra’s Harlequin Nocturne RENEGADE ANGEL finalled in the 2011 RWA RITA, Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure Category.  And her newest release, DARK AWAKENING, just released last Tuesday.

I am a professed vampire novice, though you can’t be a living, breathing author of any genre without catching news of the hottest paranormal creature alive…or not.  So when I read my ARC of DARK AWAKENING I was immediately taken with the many and varied twists Kendra put into the storyline.

Here’s a desription of DARK AWAKENING:

Tynan MacGillivray has spent the better part of his three hundred years serving at the pleasure of the queen of the Ptolemy dynasty, her prized hunter in a world where blood is destiny. But the lowblood cat-shifter gets far more than he bargained for when his new target, a human woman whose rare abilities make her the only hope for saving the greatest of the vampire dynasties, turns out to be far more than she seems. 

Lily Quinn is an innocent whose beauty hides secrets that could change the world of night forever…and Ty will have to choose between the loyalty that has kept him alive, or a love that promises more than he ever imagined…if it doesn’t destroy them both.

So many aspects of this novel fascinated me: the way Kendra infused the Celtic Highlander history into a modern vampire hierarchy; the complication of social classes within this society and the internal and external conflict it brings to the characters; the constant spark between the hero and heroine from their first intense meeting; her superb worldbuilding.  Far too many elements of fine storybuilding to outline here.  I hope you’ll purchase this novel and enjoy all its intricacies personally.

Kendra, congratulations on finalling RITA! You attended the RWA National convention in NYC last month. Can you tell us what was different about attending the conference as a RITA finalist?

Thanks so much for having me over today, Joan! It was such a huge honor. And attending the conference as a finalist was amazing. This past year has seen a lot of wonderful forward movement in my career…a lot of things seemed to happen at once, and getting the RITA final for that particular book was really the icing on the cake. It’s so incredibly validating to be singled out by your peers as someone who is capable of writing something really special. The whole thing was magic.

Romantic Times said, “Castle’s world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more.”

I find paranormal world building one of the hardest elements to establish in a concrete, believable, seamless way in writing. How do you do it?

I love that world-building quote from RT. It’s a huge compliment, particularly because having your characters interact in and with a world quite different from the everyday isn’t the easiest thing, at least not if you want to do it well. No one wants to get pulled out of the story and see the woman behind the curtain pulling the levers. Preventing that is always at the back of my mind!

I don’t pull everything together all at once. I’m a pantser at heart, despite the fact that I now have to write outlines for my editors (*sniffle*). So I normally start with a more nebulous framework for the world that gets added onto over time. In the case of the Dark Dynasties, I knew I wanted a caste system, a dark world ruled by disaffected nobles and populated by a vast underclass either serving or trying to avoid them. The idea of the bloodline marks came early, and in fact the first character I really “knew” was Queen Arsinöe. 

I, um, had thought she might be a bit nicer when I started. That happens sometimes. Anyway, that loose idea of the world I was operating in, and the relationship between the Ptolemy dynasty and their “pets”, the Cait Sith, got the ball rolling. And as Lily and Ty made their way through the story, the details got filled in. Someone once called my process “organic”, which is a really nice way of saying “fumbling around in the dark”, but it works for me. And frankly, I have a lot of fun discovering things at the same time as my characters!

I love the way you’ve given these paranormal characters such human quirks—Lily, the heroine, and her hopeless sense of direction, and Ty, the hero, his love for late night television and movies. These elements add depth and dimension to your characters.

Can you tell us more about your thought process behind those quirks? Are they characteristics of yours or someone close to you? What other quirky elements have you added to other characters in the past that have added dimension? How do you choose quirks for your characters?

Thanks! I don’t really pick and choose quirks for my characters. It’s more like they turn up with them and I just have to put them in the right situation to discover them. With Lily, some of her terrible sense of direction was born of necessity (she wouldn’t have met Ty if she’d gone the right way!), and some is just…her. Well, and me. I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag, even with a map and a flashlight. Sharing that particular quirk with her was an early way of relating to the character, since she’s quite different from me in other ways.

Ty’s love of late night television and his knowledge of pop culture was one of those things that just clicked into place. The guy is up all night, every night. Often, he isn’t doing much. What’s a bored vampire to do in the wee hours? Jaden, his friend, likes to cook. That was one that just sort of happened, and I got mushy over it. “Aww, a vampire who likes to make comfort food!” Weird, maybe, but revealing of his personality. I love things that humanize the dark and dangerous heroes.

In addition to having a heated sexual chemistry, your hero and heroine seem to spark in every interaction. What is your philosophy on creating characters whose interactions light up the page and keep the reader invested?

It’s a delicate dance, and I always know if it’s not working. Imaginary characters can be surprisingly stubborn to work with! I think for me, I try to hit a balance between the hero and heroine having enough in common to relate, but enough differences to intrigue and infuriate one another. I know dialogue is key for me…I love to have them talk, and dialogue is one of my favorite things to write. Between the verbal sparring (which all of my hero/heroine combinations do) and dealing with a magnetic sexual pull between them strong enough that even getting close sets off fireworks, I always hope readers will pick up on and enjoy all of that sexual tension. I’m glad you think I’m managing it!

You are married to a Navy fighter pilot—an undeniably heroic career. What has prompted you to write about vampires, werewolves and magic instead of something more Suzanne Brockmann-like where you’d have your own expert in-house? 

(As an aside, I ask this question because I’m married to a career firefighter and for a very long time wrote about cops and FBI agents. My critique partner kept asking me, why don’t you write about firefighters? My first sales were of heroes as ex-firefighters. So I thought I’d pass the question along.)

It was amazing to watch Brian when he was flying (he developed some serious back problems around the ten-year mark, and after a couple of surgeries has moved into defense acquisitions). There were things I got a kick out of (flight suits!) and we had a wonderful, tightly-knit community I enjoyed.

But you know, it’s really funny…living with the Navy day in and day out has made it far less appealing to write about. Not that it’s bad, but I write to create a fun escape, and being a Navy spouse is my everyday reality. Apart from that, I’ve always been drawn to stories with a magical and/or supernatural element. I’ve never been much interested in writing tales without it! And by the way, thanks to you and your husband for pursuing (and supporting) such a challenging and heroic career.

As the wife of a military man, you’ve moved around a lot. How do you think that has affected your writing?

I don’t know if or when I would have started writing seriously without the Navy! I was very good at finding excuses not to buckle down. And with having babies early on in our marriage, the excuses were pretty valid. But then we got stationed in the Nevada desert, which was like being sent to the moon for this New Englander, and I knew it was put up or shut up time. If I couldn’t write a book in a place with…we’ll be nice and say “few distractions”…it wasn’t going to happen. As far as the further moving affecting my writing, I think it’s helped me set things in different locations. I’ve seen a lot of places!

You have three children and your husband must be gone quite a bit with his career. How do you manage your writing and promotion schedule?

“When do you find time to do this?” is the number one question I get from pretty much everyone I know! Actually, my husband is around most of the time now that he drives a desk instead of a jet, and that has helped immensely. Still, he’s at work all day, and I play chauffeur to the kids (11, 9, and 5, respectively). We have three dogs and a cat. Life is wonderfully (sometimes insanely) full. So I write when the house is quiet, which means staying up late. Sometimes, as a deadline approaches, very late! But I expect that when the youngest heads off to kindergarten in the fall, I’ll find myself with something that could be a regular work day…and not that I’m anxious to see my baby go, but being able to get all that writing time in when I’m at my most awake sounds awfully nice.

Thank you so much for having me, Joan! Those bookmarks are gorgeous, and I also have a signed copy of DARK AWAKENING to give away to one lucky commenter! I’ll be here all day to chat, so if you’ve got questions about the writing process, my books, or paranormal romance in general, fire away!

Kendra Leigh Castle writes dark paranormal romance and lives in Southern Maryland with her husband, three children, and menagerie of pets. You can find her online at www.kendraleighcastle.com, on Twitter as @KendraLCastle, and on facebook.

Thank You, Kendra! 

Comment on Kendra’s interview or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes: (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)
* MUST leave a contact email * 
  • A print copy of DARK AWAKENING
  • A print copy of RENEGADE ANGEL
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

>New Releases July 5, 2011

>Releases have become a bit overwhelming for me to post individually on Twitter, though I do love doing it because I believe each author deserves huge acknowledgement for the major amount of work and creativity and imagination that goes into each and every book.  And even here, I won’t be posting all the new releases I can find — there are just so many.  So this won’t be an exhaustive list, more of a selective list of the popular, interesting and beautiful — in my opinion, of course.  And for those authors who are friends or who are my favorite reads, I’ll still whoop them up on Twitter of course.

For now, I’m going to post new releases here on my blog on Tuesdays.  And we’ll play it by ear.  Enjoy!

Darynda Jones is my Ruby sister (2009 GH Finalist group).
FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT is an entertaining, laugh-all-the-way-through read and this is the first time it’s out in paperback. 

Lauren Dane is a fabulously talented and HOT writer!  Lucky for you all, she’s also incredibly prolific!  This is her latest REVELATION. www.laurndane.com @laurndane

 I picked up the first book in this series on a fluke — GRAVE WITCH, and LOVED it. This is the third book of the series.  Can’t wait to read book two so I can move on to this one.

I am a Tess Gerritsen fan.  Not everything she writes, but in general, so this would be one I’d take a serious look at.

More releases:
  
  
  





   

New Releases July 5, 2011

>Releases have become a bit overwhelming for me to post individually on Twitter, though I do love doing it because I believe each author deserves huge acknowledgement for the major amount of work and creativity and imagination that goes into each and every book.  And even here, I won’t be posting all the new releases I can find — there are just so many.  So this won’t be an exhaustive list, more of a selective list of the popular, interesting and beautiful — in my opinion, of course.  And for those authors who are friends or who are my favorite reads, I’ll still whoop them up on Twitter of course.

For now, I’m going to post new releases here on my blog on Tuesdays.  And we’ll play it by ear.  Enjoy!

Darynda Jones is my Ruby sister (2009 GH Finalist group).
FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT is an entertaining, laugh-all-the-way-through read and this is the first time it’s out in paperback. 

Lauren Dane is a fabulously talented and HOT writer!  Lucky for you all, she’s also incredibly prolific!  This is her latest REVELATION. www.laurndane.com @laurndane

 I picked up the first book in this series on a fluke — GRAVE WITCH, and LOVED it. This is the third book of the series.  Can’t wait to read book two so I can move on to this one.

I am a Tess Gerritsen fan.  Not everything she writes, but in general, so this would be one I’d take a serious look at.

More releases:
  
  
  





   

Conflict & Structure with Author Stephanie Rowe

>As a four-time RITA® Award nominee, a Golden Heart® Award winner and a nationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, Stephanie Rowe knows a thing or ten about writing.  So when I created interview questions for her appearance here, I thought craft would be a topic both writers and readers would enjoy.  I know I was intrigued with Stephanie’s answers and can’t wait for my copy of her July release, TOUCH IF YOU DARE, coming in the mail.  Yes, I won one early!  And you can too!

Comment on any of Stephanie’s answers or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes! (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)

  • A print copy of TOUCH IF YOU DARE
  • A print copy of KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK
    Stephanie’s prior release
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

Welcome, Stephanie!

How long does it typically take you to write a book from concept to polish?

It totally depends on the book. Last year, it took me almost six months to TOUCH IF YOU DARE, my July release, and that didn’t even include pre-work or editing. This spring, I wrote my latest book in 17 days! That one just came alive for me, and it was the coolest experience. From idea to polished book, that one took me just under two months. I wish they were all that easy! Over the last five years or so, I’ve focused on educating myself about how other writers prepare for writing a book, and I’ve created an extensive system of 10 or 12 documents that I go through as I brainstorm. They are cumulative, building upon each other as I learn more about the story and the characters and can dig deeper into everything. By the time I finish, I’ve got a 10 or 12 page very tight document that tells me exactly what I need to know to write, and not a bit more. It’s been working really well for me and I continue to refine it as I learn more and evolve as a writer.

You write in several romance genres: paranormal, suspense and contemporary.  What do you love to write the most?

I really enjoy the freedom of writing in different areas. Each one taps into different strengths and has different challenges and opportunities, so writing in the different genres helps to keep me fresh and it keeps me growing as a writer. I am usually most interested in whatever genre my current work-in-progress is in, which is good, since that’s what I’m immersed in all day!

What is your philosophy on conflict in a novel?

There are two kinds of conflict: external (e.g. bad guy) and internal (the character’s personal baggage). I believe that the most powerful conflict has to come from the soul, and it has to be the kind of conflict that can’t be overcome by a simple conversation or illuminating moment. A book without a powerful internal conflict will often lack that compelling element, while a book without a powerful external conflict can often be riveting. So, when I write, I always focus on the internal conflict and I allow the external conflict to arise from that.


How do you go about building your novel’s conflict?

My first step is to get to know my two main characters in their souls. I don’t bother with their favorite kind of ice cream. I need to sink myself deep into the emotions that drive them, and peel back the layers to expose their greatest fears, their greatest hopes, and their greatest joys. I find out what drives them, and I find out what terrifies them beyond belief, and then I create a story that forces them to defeat their innermost terrors in order to get that which their soul burns for. Sometimes those obstacles can be external, tapping into their inner traumas, and sometimes those obstacles can be internal, but every obstacle and every event and every relationship stems from that darkest place in their soul that is yearning for hope, for love and for light.

Do you plan out the structure of your novel? What model do you use?

From a structural perspective, I have created my own model based primarily on Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT screenwriter’s book, and the hero’s journey as described in Mary Buckham’s brilliant lecture, Plotting with Mythic Structure (I highly recommend going to her website, www.marybuckham.com, and buying her lectures. They are absolutely invaluable). I’ve taken those plot points and created a chart in word that I fill in with assorted ideas for events. I’ve created assorted brainstorming documents that I use, and as I proceed through them and come up with plot points, I write them into my chart. By the time I finish going through my brainstorming documents, my chart is usually rich with events to challenge my characters. I usually don’t have to do any more work, and I’m ready to write at that point.


Great tips for writers! Fun insight for readers! Hope you have enjoyed.

Comment on any of Stephanie’s answers or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes! (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)

* Must leave a contact email *

  • A print copy of TOUCH IF YOU DARE
  • A print copy of KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK
    Stephanie’s prior release
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

>Conflict & Structure with Author Stephanie Rowe

>As a four-time RITA® Award nominee, a Golden Heart® Award winner and a nationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, Stephanie Rowe knows a thing or ten about writing.  So when I created interview questions for her appearance here, I thought craft would be a topic both writers and readers would enjoy.  I know I was intrigued with Stephanie’s answers and can’t wait for my copy of her July release, TOUCH IF YOU DARE, coming in the mail.  Yes, I won one early!  And you can too!

Comment on any of Stephanie’s answers or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes! (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)

  • A print copy of TOUCH IF YOU DARE
  • A print copy of KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK
    Stephanie’s prior release
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

Welcome, Stephanie!

How long does it typically take you to write a book from concept to polish?

It totally depends on the book. Last year, it took me almost six months to TOUCH IF YOU DARE, my July release, and that didn’t even include pre-work or editing. This spring, I wrote my latest book in 17 days! That one just came alive for me, and it was the coolest experience. From idea to polished book, that one took me just under two months. I wish they were all that easy! Over the last five years or so, I’ve focused on educating myself about how other writers prepare for writing a book, and I’ve created an extensive system of 10 or 12 documents that I go through as I brainstorm. They are cumulative, building upon each other as I learn more about the story and the characters and can dig deeper into everything. By the time I finish, I’ve got a 10 or 12 page very tight document that tells me exactly what I need to know to write, and not a bit more. It’s been working really well for me and I continue to refine it as I learn more and evolve as a writer.

You write in several romance genres: paranormal, suspense and contemporary.  What do you love to write the most?

I really enjoy the freedom of writing in different areas. Each one taps into different strengths and has different challenges and opportunities, so writing in the different genres helps to keep me fresh and it keeps me growing as a writer. I am usually most interested in whatever genre my current work-in-progress is in, which is good, since that’s what I’m immersed in all day!

What is your philosophy on conflict in a novel?

There are two kinds of conflict: external (e.g. bad guy) and internal (the character’s personal baggage). I believe that the most powerful conflict has to come from the soul, and it has to be the kind of conflict that can’t be overcome by a simple conversation or illuminating moment. A book without a powerful internal conflict will often lack that compelling element, while a book without a powerful external conflict can often be riveting. So, when I write, I always focus on the internal conflict and I allow the external conflict to arise from that.


How do you go about building your novel’s conflict?

My first step is to get to know my two main characters in their souls. I don’t bother with their favorite kind of ice cream. I need to sink myself deep into the emotions that drive them, and peel back the layers to expose their greatest fears, their greatest hopes, and their greatest joys. I find out what drives them, and I find out what terrifies them beyond belief, and then I create a story that forces them to defeat their innermost terrors in order to get that which their soul burns for. Sometimes those obstacles can be external, tapping into their inner traumas, and sometimes those obstacles can be internal, but every obstacle and every event and every relationship stems from that darkest place in their soul that is yearning for hope, for love and for light.

Do you plan out the structure of your novel? What model do you use?

From a structural perspective, I have created my own model based primarily on Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT screenwriter’s book, and the hero’s journey as described in Mary Buckham’s brilliant lecture, Plotting with Mythic Structure (I highly recommend going to her website, www.marybuckham.com, and buying her lectures. They are absolutely invaluable). I’ve taken those plot points and created a chart in word that I fill in with assorted ideas for events. I’ve created assorted brainstorming documents that I use, and as I proceed through them and come up with plot points, I write them into my chart. By the time I finish going through my brainstorming documents, my chart is usually rich with events to challenge my characters. I usually don’t have to do any more work, and I’m ready to write at that point.


Great tips for writers! Fun insight for readers! Hope you have enjoyed.

Comment on any of Stephanie’s answers or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes! (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)

* Must leave a contact email *

  • A print copy of TOUCH IF YOU DARE
  • A print copy of KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK
    Stephanie’s prior release
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks