Monday, August 25, 2014

Someone Wanted To Interview Me!!

Hello folks. I did this interview for a blog and thought I'd share.

Where are you from?
I was born in northern Indiana on the Michigan border. I've lived in five states and two countries.

Tell us your latest news.
I am taking a pause on the L&J series to write a standalone novel. Oh, and I packed my whole life and my cat and dog into my car and moved to Mexico two months ago. Everyday is an adventure, and I can promise you there will be a book at some point about my experiences, because it has been one hell of a ride!

When and why did you begin writing?
I received a journal for my 8th birthday. I've been journaling ever since. I've written short stories before, but only in high school. I hold a bachelor's degree in Anthropology, and the nature of the field is such that you do ALOT of writing. It was all academic writing of course, as well as reading.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
While I was writing Melted & Shattered. I would run home from work and hit the laptop until late at night. I guess it was when ideas started to go full force in my head, screaming to be let out, that I felt like a "writer." Or a fiction writer, I suppose.

What inspired you to write your first book?
My BFF turned me on to the Kindle and indie authors.  I realized I liked the grittier romances with antiheroes. A story idea came to me and I sent it to an author I befriended. It was mostly a bunch of ramblings like, "What if this happened?" She gave me the thumbs up and told me to write it. I told her I wasn't a writer, and asked if she could write it. Of course, she declined, insisting that it was my story and I needed to write it. So I did.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I tend to get an idea in my head, always a "what if this happened?" type of idea, and I usually have the beginning and the ending right away. I make a super janky outline with the main events that need to happen to get us from point A to point B. Then I write, letting the ideas naturally come to me as I create the details of the story.  Things often happen in my books that weren't initially planned. My hero in the L&J series wasn't Native American to begin with. He and Elle, the heroine, were having an after sex chat and she said something like, "I don't even know your last name." As I created this after-sex dialogue between the characters, he suddenly became Lakota, a culture we studied at length in a Native Americans of North America class I took. His culture is woven through the entire story.

In the book I'm writing, a song lyric inspired me. It's a Weezy song where he raps about a hoe named Tammy, and voila, one of my characters was nursing a broken heart from being cheated on by Tammy, "the hoe." (I hope no one named Tammy is reading this! If so, no offense. Blame Weezy)

In the L&J series, I didn't intend for undocumented youth and immigration to become such an intrical part of the book. As the story unfolded in my head and on the computer screen, the nature of the story demanded it. I didn't intend to mix politics with my smutty smut smut. It just happened. Though if you know me, and know that Elle is me, you would know that it makes sense. With this info in mind, read the books and you will see why.

How did you come up with the title?
For Steel & Ice, it was a conversation between a friend and me. I had no idea what to name it. We threw around titles. I asked other betas. In the end, Steel & Ice seemed appropriate. I already knew there would be a second book and Melted & Shattered made sense.
For J Speaks, I have no idea. It just came to me. It is his chance to have his voice heard as Steel & Ice is all in Elle's POV.

For Us, I was at a loss. I decided to write the book and see what came to me. There is a theme in the book that I won't say so as to not give spoilers, but it lead to the title being Us. I also liked that it was short. If I couldn't go with the something & something theme I had going with Steel & Ice and Melted & Shattered, I liked the idea that the final book would be two letters. Something very simple, kind of how we want love to be—simple.  Though, we all know if never is.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I received a review where the woman said I made her think about people in a different way. There were characters in the L&J series different from anyone she'd ever met, and reading about their lives allowed her to make informed decisions rather than judging people based on what she thought she knew. It wasn't my intent, but I thought it was freaking awesome. And I knew exactly what she was talking about, which scenes had informed her, and certain pieces of dialogue where you learn about the lives of others that you will never know if you don't meet someone from a different culture and actually listen to what they have to say.

How much of the book is realistic?
I'm Elle. Most of Steel & Ice is my story up until the ending. J is sadly pure fiction, but he is my idea man. The teens in the book are either based on a specific teen, or a mixture of a few. Fernie is two teens that I pulled different personality traits from. Many of the scenes at the Center really happened. Most of the bad situations that Elle talks about from the past in Steel & Ice happened to me, or are based on a situation I lived with a little extra something to take it to the next level.

After Steel & Ice, we get into pure fiction, but when I needed to decide how Elle would react to a certain situation I thought about how I would react or what I would do. She is hardcore, yet has deep emotions. She loves fiercely, has an inappropriate sense of humor, and is loyal to those she cares for. She may not seem like an overt nurturer, but she naturally takes care of the people around her. It's not a conscious action. It's just who she is.

The transformation she goes through during the course of the books is true, though it didn't happen like in the books. I did go through a transformation, and my teens helped me to want to be a better person, but I never had drug cartel shoot outs in Mexico!
I also worked at Applebee's for seven years as the only woman in the kitchen.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think I answered most of this in the above Q.

What books have influenced your life most?
Non romance novels – Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach, and Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky greatly affected my personal belief system.
Romance novels – I read Belinda by Anne Rice when I was 16 and fell in love with the story. I related to it as Belinda had to straddle two worlds; one being the adult world she was forced into, and the other being one where she still had to exist in this teenage world she didn't fully fit into.

I also love how Kristen Ashley creates such compelling side characters. Chris became a major player in the L&J series, and by the end of Us, I knew she had to get her own book because I had created such a rich background for her as well as new situations she will need to deal with. 

Madeline Sheehan is the queen of MC romance. Her UnDeniable series is a work of art. I recently finished UnBeloved and amidst the violence and action, I found myself bawling.

In the Stillness by Andrea Randall shook my world up. I had the honor of meeting Andrea and I told her that she wrote my own personal hell and I loved every minute of it, even if I cried for most of the book. As well, Making Faces by Amy Harmon turned me upside down. It was gut wrenching. Bawled through that one too! Both books are flawlessly written, and they pull these incredibly deep emotions from the reader (or at least me) and I hope that I can give readers the same opportunity to go on an emotional journey with the characters. If I can get even close to using words to convey emotion in the manner that Harmon and Randall do, I would be a happy lady.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider your mentor?
V.J. Chambers was my mentor when it came to the actual process of writing and publishing. Her book, Slow Burn, was the first gritty romance I read. Previously, I was reading what my friends read, which was more Contemporary Romance and Erotica. I had this moment when I read Slow Burn that I said to myself, "Damn, I've been missing out on all this great action!" That's when I realized I could have action, romance, and steamy sex all in one book. Chambers also is the grammar queen. We exchanged various emails about commas, quotes, and when to use lay, lain, and laid. (And she actually knew!) Chambers was a high school English teacher, so she had the answer to everything. I couldn't have published Steel & Ice without her guidance.

I was used to academic writing—double spaces between sentences, light on the commas, and direct and emotionless descriptions. I struggled at first to put the emotion in the book that it needed. I ended up reading a bunch of old journals where I poured my heart out on paper (it was a rather depressing read) and used the ideas. There are a few places where I found things I wrote in my journal that went almost word for word into a book.

What book are you reading right now?
I just finished rereading Fallen Crest High by Tijan. I read Mason, a prequel, and adore him so much I wanted to keep going. I don't read much YA, but Tijan has a way of making her YA characters compelling enough that I am right there with them in the story.

I also just finished The Ride by Jaci J. and the sequel, Crash and Burn, is next up.
I'm waiting on a handful of books: Two Roads by Lili St. Germain,  Addicted After All by the Ritchie sisters, UnDenying by Madeline Sheehan, and Fallen Fourth Down by Tijan to name a few.

Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?
Hell yes! Lili St. Germain's Seven Sons series is pure brilliance. She's got me hooked on her series like a crack addict.

I also love K.S. Adkins Detroit After Dark series. We've chatted and become homies. She lives in Detroit, which is not far from where I grew up, so I relate to her books as Detroit becomes a character all it's own. There is something about the grittiness of Midwestern big cities. I blame it on the fact that we are under a few feet of snow for half the year. I lived in Southern California for a while where it's basically paradise, especially for a Midwestern girl. The sun shines everyday, the ocean is indescribable, and the hills and mountains are something out of a postcard. In Detroit and my hometown, you can go weeks without seeing the sun in the winter. It's depressing and the murder rate goes up around mid January. Adkins really captures this harsh living environment in her books.

Amelia Hutchins is another new-ish author who I like. She wrote the Fae Chronicles. I was obsessed with them! There are five and only three are out. I was so depressed when I finished the third book. I wasn't ready to be done. It's PA, but not super out there where I need to keep a list of all the made up words and their meanings. Oh, and did I mention the sex? That lady can write the hell out of some sex scenes. I needed a fan blowing on me while I read because I was so hot and bothered!

What are your current projects?
I am writing a book that is 180 degrees from L&J. The heroine is still sassy, but not as hardcore as Elle. Whereas Elle is all me, the heroine in my new book is only a piece of me. It's hard to say much about it without giving it all away. The heroine has obstacles to overcome, obstacles that have debilitated her and her ability to live life to its fullest. As well, the person people see and the person she really is are different. Her major obstacle is one I had to overcome, and the public Emily and the private Emily are similar, but not the same.

The book is called Fighting Words, and I hope to have it out by early October. The heroine is in a band, so there is a lot of music in it. It is set in the Midwest, and again we will see a heroine go though a transformative journey. I can't think of much else to say at this time that won't spoil for ya'll. You'll just have to read it to find out.

What would you like my readers to know?
Something I related to in Amelia Hutchins' books, is that it was clear her writing got better with each book. Steel & Ice was the first fiction book I ever wrote. It's a little rough around the edges, but please keep going. When my mon read Melted & Shattered, she said, "Wow, honey, your writing has really improved."  It was a compliment, but I was also like, "Uh, thanks Mom... I think."

Also, Steel & Ice has a lot of drug usage in it. It's not there for shock or some random reason. Part of Elle's journey deals with her excessive weed smoking, and how she finds her way to a different type of life. You need to see how deeply enmeshed she is in the drug world in order to grasp the gravity of how she pulls herself out of it. At the same time, as you read through the series you'll find there is much more to Elle and the story than just drugs. Though it may seem like a dominant theme in Steel & Ice, by the time you get to Us, Elle has so much more going on in her life that the drugs takes a back seat to the adventure and romance. 

That's all I got for tonight. Enjoy!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why Am I In Mexico? & Love, In English

Hello all!!

After a bit of a book slump, I picked up Love, In English by Karina Halle. 


It's been on my 400-something long TBR list. I fell in love with Halle after reading the Artists Trilogy. I'm a big fan of gritty romance, and the fact that part of it was set in Mexico worked for me. Picking up Love, In English was just what I needed to get out of my book funk, but it has turned out to be more than that. Dejame exlicar. Let me explain.

I am an American gal who packed all her shit into her Chevy Impala, including two four legged partners in crime—Andre, my cat and Darla, my dog, and moved to Mexico. Did I get some fantastic job offer? No. Did I meet a man and follow him to Mexico? No. Was I deported??? Nope.

When I was in the process of getting things together in the States in order to move, people asked me all the time why I was going to Mexico. Now that I'm here, I get asked by almost every new person I meet, "Why are you here?"

Usually it starts with, "Are you studying here?" No. Then, "Are you working here?" Well, I'm trying to get a legit job so I can get a work permit, but for the moment I'm writing romance novels. Finally, when they just can't figure it out, "So, really, why are you here?"

My answers vary depending on my mood, but if I had to give you a 100% honest answer, it would be, "I have no idea. It just felt like something I needed to do."

I loved Vera's answer in Love, In English about how she needed to see more of the world in order to study the cosmos. My educational background is Anthropology, so naturally I'm interested in other cultures, and Spanish being my second-ish language (still working on it), it made sense to go somewhere south of the border. I have friends in Mexico... so here I am. How can I understand culture if I don't get out in the world and see it for myself?

Another honest answer that I have only said out loud once since I've been here (but I'm about to share with the world apparently) is that I'm looking for something here. What is it? Fuck if I know. But I'm searching... for something. This illusive meaning for why we're all here that keeps evading me. That's what I'm looking for. At 15, I thought I might actually find the answer one day. At 34, I've realized I'll never find the answer, but I still wanted to give it a shot I suppose.

On so many levels, I've related to Vera. I have not met the man of my dreams or fallen in love yet, though I still have hope. Unfortunately, I'm a giant here at 5'9" in one of the shorter parts of Mexico. Eh, c'est la vie. Though I can say that speaking in a language that is not your native one does make you bolder with your statements. I recently told a dude his eyes were my favorite part of his face. (Maybe not the most suave way of saying it, but it was the best I could muster in my slightly broken Spanish.) There was a moment that passed between us, to which I quickly looked away, slightly embarrassed by what I'd just said, but also feeling like, "Well, it's not like I told him in my own language that I wanted to jump his bones. So it's not thaaaat bad, right?" When you are using a language that you haven't quite mastered, and are in a place where you are clearly the outsider, it can be freeing. You can say shit that you wouldn't normally say because, hell, you can always blame it on the language barrier.

So yeah, it's easier to be honest in a foreign language. I think that was my point.

I recently finished writing the latest installment in the L&J series where there is sex, drugs, violence, drug cartels, an MC, lots of cussing, kidnappings, and did I mention sex? I am currently working on a standalone that is night and day different from the L&J series. The only similarity is that the heroine is a sassy gal. Being one myself, I just can't imagine writing an innocent virginal heroine. I wouldn't even know how.  So in this regard, Love, In English also stuck out to me as it is very different from the Artist Trilogy. It's not gritty (so far. I'm 26% in.) nor has there been any sex, though I do see some on the horizon.  Yeay! For this reason, I find myself relating to Halle and her writing style. I stalked her ass during my Artist Trilogy obsession, and discovered that like me, she is well traveled.  Maybe underlying the adventurer's spirit is a sense of restlessness, of wanting to know what else is out there.  I'm shrugging my shoulders here. Regardless, I think it's the diversity of life that allows one to write vastly different books, rather than staying in one niche of the romance genre. Not that it's a bad thing per se, but for me, the ideas for books I have in my head all stem in some way from a life experience I've had. Since my experiences have been diverse, my books will likely reflect that.

Like Vera, I don't have anyone attached to me. No kids. No man. Just my two four legged homies that travel the continent with me. Also like Vera, I'm not sure where I belong. And like her as well, I find it easier to be alone, yet there is a lingering desire for social interaction. I was barely 10% into the book when I thought, "Does Casa de las Palabras exist? Or a place like it? And where do I sign up???"

In the part of Mexico I'm in, I'm just one step down from a circus freak because I live alone and am my age without kids or a husband. Again, I'm shrugging my shoulders. I want a man, I just can't seem to find one. And sorry, but I like the one's tall enough to be in the NBA. Sue me. I like 'em big!

So this is my rambling blog about how I need to be writing my book, Fighting Words, yet I really want to keep reading Love, In English and Karina Halle is my new lady crush.

On a similar but slightly divergent topic, those eyes I liked so much—totally wrote them into Fighting Words. So when you read my next book (please read it), every description and every emotion played out in the hero's eyes are real. Seriously, this dude has some off da chain eyes. Maybe he'll let me show you, or maybe not. We'll see.

I hope you all are chasing your dreams and searching for answers to unanswerable questions. If not, what's the point of life, right?

I'll leave you with a few pics of Mexico.

Deuces mis amigos-