Monday, April 11, 2011

ANITA CLENNEY TALKS ABOUT THE BOOK OF HER HEART AND THE WRITING LIFE


Anita Clenney
 We are happy to welcome Anita Clenney to our blog today to talk about writing and her new book coming out next month. Anita says it took three years, eleven months, and twenty-two days before she got "the call" from her agent telling her she not only had sold her first book, but the publisher wanted a three book deal. The first book in the series is being released in May 2011, the second in November 2011, and the third in spring of 2012.

Your book, Awaken the Highland Warrior, will be out in May 2011. Could you share a bit about the story and characters?


I would love to. This really is the book of my heart. The story is about a secret clan of warriors appointed by Michael the Archangel, who protect unsuspecting humans from demons hiding among them, disguised as their neighbors and possible their friends. In Awaken the Highland Warrior, Faelan Connor gets locked in a time vault, an elaborate box that was intended to stop time inside, so that a demon could be imprisoned until Judgment Day. Faelan is betrayed and gets locked in the box instead. Along comes Bree Kirkland, a historian who has inherited her grandmother’s house, complete with graveyard and creepy crypt. She finds a treasure map and a journal that leads to what she believes it hidden treasure, but she finds far more, and suddenly she realizes that the world isn’t quite what is seemed. Neither are the people. With a warrior from the past who believes women are to be cherished and protected, and a modern day woman who doesn’t think twice before running into danger, this couple have an interesting journey. The story has romance, adventure, suspense, drama, and humor. My husband says it appeals to all audiences, and would make a wonderful movie (not holding my breath on that one, although my agent has gotten some film interest). But of course, my hubby is biased.

What inspired you to write about Scottish clans and immortals? Could you discuss the challenge of writing paranormal fiction?

Actually, the setting is modern day but there’s a time travel element since Faelan has been sleeping for 150 years and wakes in another century. The story started from a dream, a really terrifying dream where my son and I were stranded and had to seek help from a nearby castle. Once inside, I realized the handsome, smiling man wasn’t what he appeared, and that my young son and I weren’t only going to be killed, but we were going to be entertainment. The dream bothered me for days, and then the idea was born of having demons hiding in plain sight among humans and a champion warrior who was thought dead. At first I’d planned for him to be buried in a cellar, and then I decided the crypt would be better. The paranormal aspect of the story wasn’t hard to write. It came naturally. The hardest part was making sure the bits from the hero’s past were accurate. It helped that even though he was a highlander, he had spent most of his adult life to this point traveling the world in search of demons. This isn’t a typical highlander book. Yes, there are hot guys with kilts and swords, but this series really focuses on warriors who happen to be highlanders.

What do you do to develop your characters to the point that readers want to cheer them on?

I try to make my characters likeable and interesting. I have an idea of the character in my head, and I do a lot of brainstorming before I write, so I know a bit about the character’s back story, but he or she really becomes clearer to me as the plot moves along. I learn things about them as I go, just as the reader does.

This is a series. Did you find it difficult to plot? Did you outline the entire series before you wrote the first book?

In some ways writing a series is easier, because you already have the characters in place. But the difficult thing about a series, especially with plots as big as I write, is that there are so many pieces that have to match. Foreshadowing can really get tricky from book to book. You need to have an idea about the plot for book two so you can plant the proper foreshadowing in book one. I didn’t outline the series before writing the first book. In fact, when I started the first book, I didn’t know it would be a series, but as the secondary characters emerged, I knew I had to write their stories.

How did you get started in writing?

My husband and I had an agreement that I would stay home with the kids until the youngest started kindergarten. The year before, I had been on an intense reading frenzy, and I thought, I could write a book. The thought took root and I wanted to write a story my way. If I had known how difficult it is to get published, I probably wouldn’t have attempted it, so I’m glad I didn’t, because I love writing. I only wish I had started sooner.

What ignites your passion and galvanizes you to write?

Deadlines. LOL. No, seriously, I love writing. If I pick up a book and start to read, immediately I’ll feel the urge to create. Driving also inspires me. I don’t know what it is about zipping down the road with the trees flashing by (really I don’t go as fast as I’m making it sound) that unleashes the creativity inside me. Also, when I’m trying to sleep at night ideas will start bouncing around my brain. I have a wonderful critique partner who is the greatest at brainstorming. Whenever we get together, we immediately start bouncing ideas off each other. We prefer getting doing our brainstorming at Cracker Barrel. They have the most amazing pancakes.

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?

It’s so rewarding to know I’ve written a book that as a reader I would buy. Even before I sold, I still had that sense of accomplishment. Now that I’ve sold, it’s amazing to be part of the whole process; having an agent and an editor, seeing the book come together piece by piece. The cover, the edits, and finally on the shelf. And yes, I admit that I love seeing my name on the cover and feeling it in my hands. The disappointment is in how much time it takes away from other things, family, my house, and how much time it takes to promote. It’s hard to juggle it all.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be? What tools are invaluable for new writers?

Advice: Don’t try to fit a mold of how your friend got published or how so and so got published. Each path to success is different. Find yours and stick with it. This isn’t a one size fits all business. There is more than just talent required. It takes luck as well. We all know someone with an incredible manuscript that just doesn’t sell because of bad timing or a myriad of other reasons. Don’t give up, but be flexible. Okay, that was two pieces of advice. I’m big on overkill. Ask my editor.


As far as tools, there are so many. When I first started writing, I was pleasantly surprised to see how helpful authors are with advice and tips. Learn all you can about writing from authors who have made it, but then apply it to your style. Take classes. There are really inexpensive ones out there. Read, read, read. Find books you like and see what the author did right. Books that you don’t like, then identify what the author did wrong. But most of all…write. You can’t sell a book that isn’t written, or at least conceived.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?

I think sometimes writers get so caught up in this wonderfully supportive environment with loops and groups that they forget to write. As a beginning writer, if you don’t have a great book written, you’ll certainly never sell one. Don’t get so caught up in learning how to write that you don’t actually write. I’m going to say something that perhaps I shouldn’t. I was at a conference once and was talking to a senior editor of a publishing house. This editor told me to look at the women around me, and then the editor told me that most of them will never sell because they’ve spent all their time and energy attending every conference they can instead of writing. That was eye opening to me, but it resonated because as much as I love conferences and as beneficial as they are, I’ve always known that I could only spread myself so thin. Time management is NOT my forte.

-and-

What is a little known fact about yourself?

On the silly side – I’m absolutely insane about diamonds. I think I may be in love with them. And I’ll toss in another one that you may have seen on my website. On occasion, I traveled with a group of Aztec Fire Dancers, organizing performances for them. Wow. I couldn’t stick my foot in that fire for anything. No thank you. Now, sticking a flame under my characters…that I can do.


Diseases. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease, and also Sarcoidosis of the lungs. Shocker, because I didn’t know anything was wrong with me. Everybody and his brother seems to have thyroid issues, but the Sarc is not as common. Don’t worry, I’m not contagious, don’t even require meds or treatment. Apparently I’ve inhaled something (black mold, I suspect) that my airways didn’t like, and those little fighters in my body that attack infiltrators of the two autoimmune diseases attacked the infiltrators. But they kept on fighting even after the danger was gone, causing inflammation. If you have black mold…don’t clean it with bleach and no mask. Bad, bad idea.

What book are you reading right now?

Don’t Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden. A wonderful how to book that would benefit all writers of any genre. I’m writing a cozy mystery series in addition to my secret warrior series.


If you could have a beer, coffee, or tea with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?


Tea, definitely. Or even better…Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi. Hmmm, I think I would have tea with Diana Gabaldon of the Outlander series. I just discovered her books about a year ago, and I’m just in love with them. She’s a brilliant writer, with an amazing grasp of plot, characters, and setting. I have trouble with setting. I don’t usually have enough, so I truly admire writers who do it well

If you liked this interview, please leave a question or comment for Anita.
 


Coming on Friday-an excerpt of Awaken The Highland Warrior.

Email Anita at anita@anitaclenney.com and friend her on facebook.com.

44 comments:

Robin Kaye said...

Great interview, Anita! I just love your books and it's fascinating that you got it from your dream/nightmare.

Judi said...

Your book sounds really interesting. I'll look for it.

Alexis Morgan said...

I love the concept behind your series--and men in kilts is never a bad thing. Congratulations on your series!

Suzanne said...

Great interview! Congratulations on the book, Anita--and here's raising a diet soda to more hot warriors in kilts!

Callie Burdette said...

Wow, Anita, the book sounds great. And I appreciate your comments on making the time to write. Conferences, workshops, entering contests...all worthy but time-consuming!

Brinda said...

Great interview. I agree that writing is the main focus for writers and some people lose sight of that. I do get sidetracked sometimes with the loops, groups, and classes. There should be balance in a writer's life.

Diana Quincy said...

Anita: I love the cover of your book. And thanks for the comments about the road to publication. It is easy to get caught up in conferences and contests!

Kimberly said...

Hi Anita! I love that you find inspiration when you drive, because now I don't feel so weird about zipping down the highway, talking to myself (okay, to my personal recorder, but still. You get the drift)! All I have to do is put the car in drive and BAM. I'm set.

Great interview! :)

Kim

Shellie said...

Dear Anita,

Thank you so much for this insightful blog. I was especially heartened to read that beginning writers (me!) can get swept away in the romance of becoming a writer and forget to actually write the book. I've struggled with that in the past and with the approach of RWA in June and having a little sparring contest with it again.

Looking forward to reading your new release and hearing your amazing story.

Shellie Williams

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Robin. Thanks SOOO much for dropping by. I can't wait to see you at WRW Retreat.

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Judi, I really appreciate that. I had a blast writing this book.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Anita,

Great interview, and that's quite a tight release schedule. I hope you had a good lead on all of them before the ink was dry on the contracts!

I love your advice on finding your own path to write and publish. We are all cut from different cloths, why would we ever expect to write the same way? I know its frustrating trying to break in as an unpublished writer, but if you don't know who you are, you will get lost along the way.

Maggie
http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/

Anita Clenney said...

Alexis, thank you! That's wonderful praise coming from you :)

Anita Clenney said...

Suzanne, thanks so much for stopping by. Diet Soda raised :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Best of luck with your new releases. I love anything Scottish so am thinking I'd love to read your story.

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Callie, thanks for the kind words. Writing is a tough but wonderful business. I love conferences and workshops...not to mention Facebook and Twitter, but we have to remember to write or the other stuff is just fun, not productive.

Vanessa said...

Great interview and wonderful advice about writers writing. When I started my first mss, I got caught up in the contest cycles -- I worked a year on the first 30 pages based on various feedback, making little progress on the other 270 pages I needed to draft...by the time I finished the book, I needed to change those 30 completely anyway. Live and learn (and learn from others!).

Kathy Altman said...

Great questions and intriguing answers. Interesting tidbit about the Aztec Fire Dancers, Anita! :-) And some super writing advice in there. Congratulations on the release of your book!

Eliza Knight said...

Great interview Anita! I can totally relate with the mom stuff :) Keep on writing, can't wait to read your book!

Anita Clenney said...

Okay, my comments are disappearing. Let's try again.

Rochelle Staab said...

Great interview and excellent advice - write! I enjoy conferences and love to engage in writer-speak but you're so right: the blogs, classes, loops, and conferences can eat up what we need the most: writing time.

I share your diamond addiction. Confess - did you indulge when you finished writing Highland Warrior? When it sold?

Congratulations on your coming release - can't wait to meet your handsome warrior in print. Toasting you with caffeine-free Diet Coke.

Marilyn said...

Interesting interview, Anita. Your book sounds fabulous.

Something deep within us helps us discover story, as demonstrated by your dream. (I started writing for children as the result of a dream, too.)

I also have a weird disease: pseudoxanthoma elasticum. Who comes up with these names???

M

kara ashley dey said...

Really enjoyed this interview. Great questions and answers. Stories that come from dreams are sometimes the most fun to write! -Kara

Renee Vincent said...

Can't wait til Friday to read that excerpt, Anita! Great interview and I wish you much success!

Clancy said...

Don't forget to remind us all on release day! And I love diamonds too.

Donna Cummings said...

Anita, I am so excited to read this book. I get a lot of brainstorming done by driving--I just got back from a nice long drive with the radio blasting, and a song made me think of a great scene. :) So I agree that it's a wonderful creativity tool.

Kimberly said...

Anita,
Your book sounds great, and I will definitely be looking for it! Are you attending RWA National, and if so, will you be signing?
I look forward to meeting you at the WRW conference. And, yes, it looks like I won't be writing very much that weekend. I see what you mean about taking it easy on the loops and conferences. I have to admit guilt there as well. Sometimes I need to go so somewhere with my laptop where there isn't any internet access. I have very little will power.
Good luck to you! I hope you hit the bestseller list!
Kim

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Brinda, I'm as guilty as anyone. I've spent the better part of two days on loops and the internet. SOme of it is necessary, but I'm getting NO writing done.

Anita Clenney said...

Diana, it is so easy to get caught up in other things besides writing. Like promoting...a real time suck. When I started writing, promoting wasn't even on my radar. I thought the publisher did that. They certainly help, and mine has been very helpful, but there is a lot of work to do.

Anita Clenney said...

Kimberly...you too? It's crazy. As soon as I get in the car, my writer's brain kicks in. I can just pass a tree and I feel the urge to write. Maybe I should put a small tree inside the house for inspiration.

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Shellie. It gets tricky trying to find a balance between writing and all that other stuff. If anyone has the answer, let me know, because I don't have a complete grasp on it. But I know if we don't have a wonderful story, none of the other stuff will matter.

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Maggie. I wish I had gotten a better head start with the books coming out so close. I've actually pushed back the third book, which was supposed to be released Spring 2012, to Fall 2012. I'm just so overwhelmed with everything. Writing, family, promoting. It's wonderful, but time consumign.

Anita Clenney said...

Thank you Paisley. I do like Scottish stories, too. I appreciate you coming by.

Anita Clenney said...

Vanessa, I never did contests because I didn't think I could manage the time involved. I did enter the Golden Heart one year, but that's it. Part of my problem is that I'm lousy with time management. For people more organized, it's probably not quite so frustrating.

Anita Clenney said...

Thanks Kathy. Yeah, the Aztec Fire Dancers were interesting...to say the least:)

Anita Clenney said...

Thanks Eliza. I'm so caught up now in different projects. I'm writing a mystery series as well as trying to finish the third parnanormal. And my kids are so active in sports. In need another me.

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Rochelle! Oh, I do love conferences. I want to go to Crime Bake. I've never been. It's all so important, but the writing has to come first, and lately I'm not doing such a great job.

Ah the diamonds...actually I didn't buy one to celebrate. I have more than enough. I once told my jeweler that I should be in Guiness for the poorest woman with the most diamonds. Here I am with lots of jewelry but I'm skipping RWA this year because I'm low on funds. What's wrong with this picture? But those bargains...I'm telling you...they call out to me. Pawn Shops, estate sales, and my wedding set upgrade came from Faycullen.com. If you want do drool, check it out. Beautiful old rings.

Anita Clenney said...

Thanks Marilyn. I have the most vivid dreams. If I could capture the emotion and suspense, I'd be a New York Times bestseller instead of a struggling writer.
I had to google your disease. I had never heard of it. Good luck with it. I think mine affects me a little more than I realize, just in that I get tired easily. Of course, that could also be because I need to lose thirty pounds.

Lizzie Walker said...

Anita, what a great story, thank you for stopping and sharing with your readers. I look forward to reading your book when it is released.

Sandra Allan said...

Congratulations. Fantastic interview. I can't wait for the book to come out and thanks for the great advice. I'm with Alexis - you've gotta love a man in a kilt!

Grace Burrowes said...

Anita, What a wonderful chance to get to know you, your writing life, your characters and your upcoming release so much better. Loved the advice to writers, too!

Debra Key Newhouse said...

Anita - What a great interview! I love learning the little known things about authors, although I was sorry to hear about your health issues. I found out from amazon.com that you once worked in a pickle factory :-) I pre-ordered Awaken the Highland Warrior because I love paranormal and I love men in kilts - two birds with one stone kind of thing! Keep on writing chica! You've got an audience!

Debra

E.C. Smith said...

Great interview. Lots of super advice! Cant' wait to read your book...I love a good warrior series. The fact that they are Highlanders? Even better!

Clarissa Southwick said...

Anita, you are a voice of wisdom for writers. I'm so happy to see your success. Thanks for sharing a great interview.

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