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Friday, September 16, 2011

Interview of Author R. Ann Siracusa

Today it's my pleasure to present an interview of romance author R. Ann Siracusa!

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R. ANN SIRACUSA has been writing fiction and non-fiction for over thirty years. While working in her chosen career of architecture and urban planning, and raising a family, she made time to travel and to write. This talented author combines those loves into novels that transport readers to exotic settings and immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures…and give them a good laugh.

Today, she is retired, lives in San Diego, California, and writes full time (which is as many hours as an Italian husband, three grown children, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild will allow on any given day). She has been active in Romance Writers of America since 1985 and recently served two terms as Co-president of the San Diego RWA Chapter.

Her first novel, a mafia thriller, was published in 2008, and since then she has had six e-Books published in the humorous romantic suspense series Tour Director Extraordinaire and a seventh scheduled for release in September, 2011. Other published works include a paranormal romance and a time travel novella.

Q: What’s the first thing you did when you received word you’d sold a book?
A: I got all excited, ran around telling everyone, and then started to worry whether or not it was a good choice to go with an e-publisher. So I started contacting people who knew more about e-publishing than I did. Thinking too much can be a real bummer.

Q: What part of the book is the easiest for you to write? Why?
A: In terms of the structure, the beginning of the book is the easiest to write because I generally have a clear fix on the inciting incident and the character’s reactions to it. Finding exactly the right place to start is another matter. I may have to write several chapters (or even finish the first draft) before I determine the correct scene to open the novel.

In terms of the actual writing, scenes that vividly depict location, culture, attitudes, moods, and ways of life and fast-moving action scenes are easiest to write.

Q: What part of the book is the hardest for you?
A: The hardest part is usually whatever I’m working on at the moment. But, like many authors, I labor over the sagging middle. Those are often lower-action scenes, and sometimes I find it hard to keep up the level of interest and involvement. For me, the middle of the novel requires more editing in the end to keep up the pacing.

I usually have lots of characters in my books, and scenes with four, five, or more characters in a conversation or involved in the action are difficult. The action and dialogue have to be perfectly clear to the reader without constantly repeating names and dialogue tags.

Q: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
A: Will Talbot is definitely the hottest hero and my favorite character to write. I am sooo in love with Will. He’s everything perfect on the outside (strong, handsome, intelligent, successful, patient, generous, sensitive when he allows himself to be, does what’s right, great sense of humor―definitely bigger than life) and vulnerable on the inside. He’s anal when it comes to honor and duty, and initially was out of touch with his emotions. He has a dark past, a calling to rescue innocent victims, huge issues with trust and guilt, and because of PTSD and resulting memory loss, he doesn’t know why. He’s a gorgeous hunk who has it all and who needs to be “saved.” Everything a woman loves.

Angela, the heroine of my Mafia novel, is the character I admire the most. In post WWII Sicily, she has to conquer overwhelming odds and an upbringing that’s taught her to believe women are helpless, in order to grow enough to take a stand against her Mafia boss husband and get away from him. She matures from an innocent and sweet, but headstrong girl, into a strong woman goes after what she wants. She has, as the Italians would say, square balls.

Harriet Ruby, my tour director extraordinaire, is the character I’d most like to trade places with. She’s young, intelligent, witty, fun, has a unique sense of humor and a quirky, offbeat attitude and, without intending to, attracts all kinds of bizarre situations. Plus, she travels the world and experiences the most out of the ordinary adventures (she does get beat up a bit), but she always lands her feet with a positive attitude. She is fun.

Q: Do all your heroes and all heroines look the same in your mind as you “head write”?
A: No, they don’t. Physical looks aren’t too important when I’m creating the characters unless there is a physical feature that comes to play in the story, but I have a “vision” of the character, physically, emotionally, and personality-wise. That, of course, may change as I write, but usually not radically.

Every author develops their characters differently. Most of the time, my plot ideas come first, which may account for my plot driven approach. Then, I have to find the right characters to fit the plot. Every now and then, a character pops up in my mind, and the challenge is to find the correct storyline that would engage that particular character. Sometimes characters and plots kick around in my mind for years before I find the magic combination.

Once I write out the backstory for my own use, I begin to see more clearly the characteristics, goals, and motivations of the characters. Often, as I write, a character will reveal something I didn’t know or plan, by something he/she does, says or thinks. Something surprising and out of character. I used to change those things. Now, I’ve learned to just run with them, and eventually I find out there’s a good reason the character did or said something, or reacted in a certain manner. They know. They just haven’t let me in on it yet. About 25% of the time, those things don’t pan out and are deleted. Usually they end up enriching the characters and the novel.

Q: Do you eat comfort food when writing? If so, what food inspires your imagination?
A: When I’m immersed in writing and no one interrupts me (which doesn’t happen often), I don’t remember to eat. Unfortunately, ice cream is my comfort food no matter what I’m doing. Too bad it has the least amount of food value of anything a person can eat (except maybe cardboard, which has the advantage of no calories and no cholesterol).

What food inspires my imagination? Does wine qualify as a food group? Bailey’s Irish Cream?

Q: What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?
A: I’m a quilter. Learning to quilt was one of my goals after I retired eleven years ago. And something I actually learned to do, although it’s harder for me now. I’m not as fast as I was ten years ago.

I also ride a quad in the desert for relaxation. I used to ride a dirt bike, but I gave that up for a quad, and then a go-cart.

Q: You’re on a remote island with a handsome man, a computer, and a “mysterious” source of electricity to power your computer. What do you do?
A: If I were twenty or thirty years old again, and the handsome man was Will Talbot (or my husband at that age), you could forget the computer. At my current age…well, I’d probably ask the guy to give me ideas for writing hot love scenes.

Q: What genre would you like to try writing in but haven’t yet done so?
A: No contest. Science Fiction. I love Science Fiction. All kinds. As a long-range planner in my former life, the challenge for me has always been to envision a technological innovation (like a matter transmitter or time travel, for example) and build a society based on that innovation. The old “What would happen if?” question.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when only a few people in the City of LA had computers and we shared one printer for thirty people, one of the issues my long-range planning division wanted to study was the potential impact of the Internet on land uses in the future. The LA City Council thought I was nuts. But, in fact, that technology has had huge impacts on how land is used and particularly on transportation. My current interest is Ray Kurzweil’s theory of radical life extension and his work “The Singularity Is Near.” Very interesting.

I’m not sure I have the technical background and knowledge or the imagination to write good Science Fiction. A Time For Melody, my recently released novella, is a time travel romance, and I’ve written one Sci-Fi romance (unpublished, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed).

Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all! (I’m having a problem with this website and it’s hard to use. Have patience while I’m constructing a new one.)
Family Secrets:

She appeared out of nowhere, blown into Red Gulch, a decaying mining town in the Mojave desert, on the crest of a desert breeze like the ever-present tumbleweeds that filled the empty streets in the blink of an eye. Except everyone knew where tumbleweeds came from.

Brandon O’Donnell never figured out where Melody came from, but she captured his heart with her flaming red hair, hypnotic light-grey eyes, and intense but distant way of speaking. As though, Brandon had thought for years, she knew a lot more than she let on.

Brandon is about to find out how much more that really is.

After several miles of silence, she scooted closer to him. "I never realized it would be so desolate."

Ah ha. I knew she wasn't from around here.

Her thigh brushed his, and the question on his lips died in a renewed surge of attraction. Or maybe pure unadulterated lust.

Without warning, the temperature in the cab soared. The lavender scent of her cologne tickled his nostrils. His damp hands could barely hold onto the steering wheel. His senses reeled. Unable to concentrate, he almost drove past the road to his property. At the last second, he spun the steering wheel and made a sharp left turn, throwing Melody against his side.

"Sorry. I wasn't paying attention. This is the road to my place." He swiped the beads of perspiration off his brow with his forearm as they bumped across the desert on the rugged dirt trail, the dust billowing out behind the truck like an impenetrable white wall.

"Is it all yours?" Her sweeping gesture took in the miles of desolation, ending with her hand coming to rest on his thigh.

Her touch discharged a jolt that left him trembling. No girl had ever come on to him that way, and he'd never felt a stronger attraction. He took one hand off the wheel and caressed the inside of her wrist, pushing the fabric of her blouse up a little and revealing a strange black watch with unusual markings.

Brandon's glance lingered on it with interest.  He knew watches almost as well as he knew the desert-they'd been his father's second passion, after mining-and he'd never seen one like this. The strange hands and numerals were unusual for telling time.

"What kind of time piece is that?"

She jerked her arm away just as the truck hit one hell of a big dip in the dirt road. The pickup flew through the air and came down with a bone-wrenching crash, sending the bales of hay all over the bed. The pickup groaned, and the old museum piece came close to breaking in half right then and there.

"Sonovabitch!" He slammed on the brakes, stopping the vehicle in the middle of the trail, and clambered out to assess the damage.

After readjusting the load, he climbed into the truck. Melody moved closer to the passenger door and stared out the window.

"How long have you lived here, Brandon?"

When she rolled his name in her mouth as if tasting it and enjoying the flavor, Brandon's pulse accelerated a beat or two. He swiped his fingers through his short hair and steadied his voice.

"All my life. Born here." He shot a quick glance in her direction and caught a glimpse of her horrified expression. "Well, not out here in the desert. Actually, I was born in the hospital in Victorville. We lived in town until my mom died when I was eleven. After that, Pa insisted we move out to his claim in the desert. Been living on this dry patch of dirt ever since, except for the five years in college. How about you? Where were you born?"

She made a show of fanning her face with her hand. "Is it always this hot here?"

Irritated, he shot her a suspicious glance. He couldn't abide dishonesty, and her ignoring his question seemed deceitful. As quickly as it came, the annoyance dissipated, and he repressed a sigh over his unreasonable reaction. While he sensed her intent to divert his attention, her questions rang true. She apparently didn't know. What an enigma.

"Hotter for most of the summer and cold in the winter," he answered, trying not to sound antagonized by her games.

"Hmm. And what are those plants?"

"Barrel cactus. The tall ones are saguaros. Are you writing a book, or something?"

Melody flinched and pulled closer to the door. He focused his attention on the dirt road. He had no idea where she'd come from, but he didn't believe her story about ‘just down the road a piece.'

Otherwise, she'd have known about the desert. About the saguaro and the burrowing owl, about the subtle shading of the desert soils and the splendor of its solitude.

Finally, they came to some rotten fence posts draped with barbed wire.

"Here we are. This is my place." Pride sounded in his voice, although God knew there was little enough to be proud of. A few hundred feet beyond the fence stood a three-room cabin built of railroad ties. "Nothing fancy, but it's weather tight. My old man built it years ago.  He put the screens on before he died last year."

He pulled the vehicle between the one lonely tree with scraggly foliage and a sagging barn, its weathered roof collapsing inward. The walls seemed to be held upright by a jumble of junk-half-rotten hulks of old vehicles and mining equipment rusting away in the brutal desert climate, bedsprings, plastic jugs. Whatever his old man believed might come in handy some day.

Melody didn't wait for him to help her, but scrambled out and into the bed of the truck before he could blink. "Let's get this stuff unloaded. What'd you say you use this for?"

"Animal feed. You don't need to help me." He tried to shoo her away. Judging from her pale complexion and smooth unblemished hands, her lifestyle hadn't accustomed her to this kind of physical labor.

"I know, but I want to. I'm much stronger than I look." She tied her hair back, and when she rolled up the sleeves of her shirt, he noticed she'd removed the watch.

Brandon compressed his lips and frowned. Since Pa died, he did things his own way. He didn't want help, or interference, particularly from a woman he didn't even know.

Already, the thermometer on the side of the barn registered ninety-five degrees. Too warm to argue and he wanted to complete the task before the smothering heat of the day descended on them like a heavy electric blanket.

And she seemed so determined to do her part. He found that irresistible. He found Melody irresistible.

"All right, but let me do the lifting. I don't want you hurting yourself."

They exchanged few words as they labored side by side, and to his surprise, he enjoyed her company. She helped him shove the hay over to the gate and balanced the cumbersome bales when he lowered them, one by one, to the ground. By the time the sun reached its zenith, they both dripped with sweat, and the hay sat in neat rows by the barn.

Blowing out a long puff of air, he stripped off his soaked shirt, sank down to the ground and leaned against the trunk of the tree.

"Thanks for the help." He patted the dirt. "Sit down and take a rest. I'm sorry it's not very soft, and there isn't much shade. It's the best I can offer right now. It's too hot to go inside." He indicated the cabin with the wave of a hand.

"That's okay." Smiling, she sat beside him with her shoulder touching his, triggering another jolt of desire as potent as an electric shock, and wiped the moisture from her forehead with the back of her hand. "This is fine. It's very hot here."

No way could she come from around there. Again, he wondered why she'd come to Red Gulch, and why, at that moment, she sat cross-legged on the ground beside him. His speculations left him with no words that seemed adequate and a deep sense of unrest despite their mutual attraction.

After they'd cooled down some, Melody blew out a long breath. "Let's go for a swim."

He straightened his spine and leaned forward to meet her gaze. "And just where do you think we could swim around here?"

She flashed a little smile, as though she already knew about his private swimming hole, the one below the entrance to his mining claim, where a mountain spring kept a deep pool filled year round. There, cottonwoods surrounded the pond, providing shade and seclusion.

Again, questions crowded into his mind, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Even after cooling down, Melody looked hot and uncomfortable in her no-longer-crisp shirt with damp stains under the arms. Crossing his arms, he sniffed surreptitiously to check if he could smell himself.

"A swim? Sure. I know just the place." He scrambled to his feet and pulled her up with him.

With renewed enthusiasm, they hopped into the truck and set out toward the hills. As the old Ford bounced along, she stared out the window, apparently fascinated by the creosote bushes and barrel cactus sprinkled across the flat expanse of yellow dirt like freckles on the landscape.

"See there?" He took one hand off the steering wheel and pointed at the smudge of green at the base of the foothills. "Those are the cottonwoods around my swimming hole."

Her gray eyes widened, and she shifted in the seat. "I see it, now. Yes, that's it."

Damn. This woman attracted him like an industrial-strength magnet but, at the same time, her odd behavior freaked him out. When he pulled into the grove, Melody opened the door and clambered out before he'd brought the pickup to a complete stop.

Definitely a woman full of surprises.

He compressed his lips and frowned. He'd already let both sexual attraction and curiosity get the better of his good sense, he admitted. He might as well go along for the ride and enjoy it.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Book four of the Tour Director Extraordinaire series, is scheduled for release in September. I hope you’ll travel with tour director Harriet Ruby and Europol spy Will Talbot to St. Petersburg Russia, and enjoy their face-paced adventure.


Mary Corrales said...

Great interview, ladies. Loved the excerpt.

Are you sure that ice cream isn't a food group? After all, it's dairy and that's good for you...I think. :)

jean hart stewart said...

Loved the excerpt Ann, althouhg I'm fond of Harriet Ruby too.

jean hart stewart said...

Loved the excerpt Ann, althouhg I'm fond of Harriet Ruby too.

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