Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Interview with Alexandra Sellers

Comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of one of Alexandra Sellers books (Captive of Desire, Fire in the Wind, or Season of Storm).

Thank you for agreeing to interview with me.
Well, thank you for inviting me.

What makes up the pillars of your life right now?
Reading, writing, swimming, champagne and, of course, love.

In your brief bio it states that you "first started dreaming about exotic locales at the age of 10, when she first cracked the cover of a small collection of tales and pictures called The Arabian Nights." Can you tell me about your becoming a writer journey?
Hmmm....it was a bit of a chequered path. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a writer; I put my first story on papter at age ten, but long before that I was telling stories to anyone who would listen. I also loved the other arts, and I dabbled with graphic art for awhile as a child. At the age of 15 I was volunteering in a theatre wardrobe department, and decided to be a theatrical director. From there I decided to study acting—at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Throughout this time I was always writing—stories, letters, poetry. Someone from my RADA days reminded me recently that I used to dream up a complete backstory for any character I was playing, and possibly all the others in the play as well.
            My time as an actor wasn't wasted. The character insight and development that an actor works on translates directly into fiction writing. And I've used the acting world as a background in a book or two. So then one day when I was what is politely called 'resting' or 'between shows'—that is, didn't get cast yet again!—writing began to call a bit more loudly. I had no typewriter, so I was writing longhand during the day and going to my uncle's office in the evenings, where I would type up the day's output, with the help of my cousin. (Since neither of us could touchtype, this tended to be a laborious process.) And one day we forgot the key, but the glass in the office door was cracked down in one corner, and we managed to pull out the broken triangle of glass, reach in, and unlock the door.  I then wrote a romantic short story that begins with just that scene—Dear Aunt Martha—and it sold to the first magazine I submitted it to. At the same time I wrote a science fiction short story, and it did not sell to the first magazine I sent it to. I was too green to know that new writers don't often sell to the first publisher they approach, and it never occurred to me to submit the sci-fi to another publisher. I just thought, oh well, I'll write romance, then. So I did.

 I'm going to put Dear Aunt Martha up on my website as a taster soon.  I hope people will enjoy it.
How many books have you written?
Call it 40. A couple are novellas, so it's hard to give an exact count.

You have been publishing books since the 1980's. As an author, what has changed the most from the 80's until now?
When I wrote my first romantic novel, there was no such thing as an Author Tipsheet.  That's one thing. You wrote a book, an editor read it, and if she liked it, she published it.

I can still remember my feeling of horrified disbelief when, on the back of a couple of very successful books, I went to a newly promoted editor, hot with a new book idea and wanting to discuss it with her. She looked at me with bland lack of interest and said, yes, fine, if I would just put it all on paper she would take it to the Marketing Department and see whether they liked it and get back to me. 

 She had rolled over and given up her editorial power without a murmur.  Without even noticing.

The rot would eventually spread through the industry—and it has meant the death of something very special.  The truth is, art is born in uncertainty, and Marketing by its nature doesn't like uncertainty.  Marketing uses Focus Groups to find out what people want, and then it goes to Production and tells them to produce that very thing. So if you are going to market books like soap, it follows that you have to produce books like soap—a consistent product with a predictable outcome.

The only problem is, what readers want is to be surprised and delighted by a book, and that just isn't as quantifiable as cotton whiteness. So the Marketing gurus pick what is quantifiable—they ask their Focus Groups how much sex they want in a book, how much mystery, how much hero insight—and they market the books that way.  If you don't think that in the first five minutes of the Fifty Shades phenomenon, marketing people all over the map were running around screeching, “Readers want masochism! Get me some masochism!” you don't know Marketing.

So the worst of writing now, especially in romance, but really all across the board, is the rigid formulaic demands of Marketing, delivered via the pale shadows of what used to be editors, who are happily engaged in hammering out their very own 'line branding'—under the illusion that this is what an editor does—and then forcing writers into that mould.
 And the less the model works, the more desperate they seem to be to make it work: the more limits they impose; the more 'line brands' they perceive a need for; the more specific and rigid the guidelines become.  
 In addition, there's the fact that the universal globalisation impulse has also infected publishing—big publishers now also burn incense at the altar of Total Market Share, just like CocaCola, and to realize this they have had to snap up small publishers and put them out of business. That also negatively impacts the writer—and the reader.
But now publishing has been caught by the tidal wave of eBooks and Indie publishing, which is maybe taking us back to earlier days; all kinds of books are getting published again.  If you look back at the invention of the printing press—it meant that everyone could buy a book, everyone could read.  The eBook phenomenon now means that everyone can write and publish a book. And who knows where that will lead?

The problem is for those books to find their audience. There's just so much available now, and it's not so easy for a new writer to find her audience.

What hasn't changed at all?
I hope, the readers' pleasure in a good, well-written book.
When did you realize that you were a successful writer? Was there a specific moment or occurrence?
I suppose it was with the publication of CAPTIVE OF DESIRE, my second book. That struck a note with readers and I got a lot of fan mail! And I was doing the thing one dreams of—like being flown to New York to appear on talk shows.  

You have taught a class on How to Write Romance. Many authors struggle with writing love scenes or romantic encounters. Can you give some tips on being a successful writer in this area?
Even more than in fiction writing generally, you have to lay yourself on the line writing love scenes. That can be hard for a woman at first, because it can make you feel vulnerable. And you are vulnerable, you have to be vulnerable. And you absolutely have to let the scene arise organically from the character interaction. If you're having trouble with a love scene it may be because it's externally inspired—trying to fit into a line formula, for example.  The scene has to come from the characters' passion for each other.
I think this has to start right at the beginning—a man or a woman (character) comes to you, and they want to find their true love. They, being from the Other world,  know that they are one half of a divided soul, and they want to unite with their other half. You are their means of achieving that end, that's your job. But you can't grab just anyone off the shelf—you have to find the right one, their true other half. Once you do that, then the two characters will, in their deepest selves and whatever stands in their way, want to realize their union in love. If they didn't want that, they wouldn't have come to a romance novelist to have their story written.  And if you yourself weren't an essential part of their story, they wouldn't have come to you.

So now, you have these two people who are each half of a soul that was divided in the time before Time. Their urgency, filtered through the essence of your own being, your talent and skill, arrives into the material world, and will result in love, in love scenes. That is what has to drive you. You can't take shortcuts, and you can't cheat on using the essence of yourself as the channel. You have to fling yourself into it, throw your heart over, whatever you want to call it. Then the love arises organically and finds its way. Passion must enter—you are the door.

As an author, of what are you most proud?
That I write about love.

What does the future hold for you?
Thank you for asking! I've got three books in the works—the first is SEASON OF STORM, which I've revised (but not updated) for its first eBook release. It's the story of a Canadian Indian activist who kidnaps a lumber baron's daughter to stop her father wrecking his tribe's ancestral homeland—and then falls in love with her. That should  be available very soon on amazon. The second is another story in my SONS OF THE DESERT mini-series, which I'm probably going to self-publish quite soon. And third is my work-in-progress, a psychological thriller which has been nagging me for years and is finally working its way onto the page.

What advice do you give to Rookie Writers? 
I really don't know what practical advice to give in these days of such seismic change in the publishing world. Publishers are panicking and who can say where things will go next?

Thank you for interviewing with me and good luck in your life and writing adventures.
Thank you again for having me, and good luck in yours!

Comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of one of Alexandra Sellers books (Captive of Desire, Fire in the Wind, or Season of Storm).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Words: What Our Books Hinge Upon

"Words Roxanne I was Afraid of Words" This is a line from funny Steven Martin movie "Roxanne."
Recently I ran into an article on Mental Floss.com titled 35 Modern Words Added to the Dictionary. The article talks about new blended or coined phrases or words we have in the English language. Check-out the article.

1. Bling
2. Bromance
3. Chillax
4. Crunk
5. D'oh
6. Droolworthy*
7. Frankenfood
8. Grrrl
9. Guyliner
10. Hater
11. Illiterati
12. Infomania 
13. Jeggings 
14. La-la Land
15. Locavore 
16. Mankini
17. Mini-Me 
18. Muffin Top
19. Muggle
20. Noob
21. Obvs
22. OMG
23. Po-po
24. Purple State
25. Screenager
26. Sexting
27. Textspeak
28. Totes 
29. Truthiness
30. Twitterati
31. Unfriend
32. Upcycle
33. Whatevs
34. Whovian
35. Woot

Do you know all the words? Definitions are in the article if not. I know I didn't know all of them. Some of them I could figure out the meeting, but had never heard the saying. I am not sure I would say the word Droolworthy to anyone but my dog.

I certainly will not being adding Crunk to any book anytime soon. That is unless I have a very unintelligent teenage boy as a character.

As a writer, I love learning new words. I do the elementary school thing by trying to look at the context of the word being used to figure out its meaning. I LOVE that on my Kindle I can move the cursor over the word and it shows me the definition. I collect words, I use new ones three times to solidify them as mine, and love hearing people say some new words then look them up when they leave the room. It is always fun when I find out they used it incorrectly.

FYI my spellcheck only recognized 7 out of 35 of these words.

Where do you get your new words?
Will you use any of these 35 newly added to the dictionary words in any of your books?
Have you made up words in your book?