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.
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
Coming on Friday-an excerpt of Awaken The Highland Warrior.
Email Anita at email@example.com and friend her on facebook.com.