interviews

Today my man is going for a job interview. We pawed through his closet putting together the whole shirt/tie/suit jacket/pant ensemble. Did it match? Did it make a statement and if so, was it the right one? He’s a big guy and some clothes pinch around the collar or snug too tight around the arms. I thought if he was going to sit in a 2-3 hour interview he should be comfortable.

But he was much more concerned about the impression his clothes would make than his own comfort.

I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but I just can’t wrap my head around that. The fact is, he could do the job just as well in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt as he can in a suit jacket and tie.

At home, I sit most of the day at my computer typing away, dressed in nothing more than my pj’s. The cats don’t care as long as I get up once in awhile to play with them and fill their food and water bowls. My editor and publisher don’t care what I wear as long as my writing is solid and tells a good story. And I suspect my readers don’t pick up my books wondering what I have on that day.

Of course I wouldn’t go out in public that way … I’m not that inappropriate. (Though I used to slip on boots and a winter jacket and cap over my pj’s and bed-messed hair to drive my kids to school, but that’s another story.) But I bump around in jeans and a sweater most days.

When I go to conferences I always end up buying new clothes. I want to look “professional”. I don’t do the suits and dresses like so many attendees, but I do wear colored jeans and dress shirts.

I know — always dress for success.

But aren’t I the same person in jeans as I am in slacks? Can’t I still write the same words and weave the same story despite my outer appearance?

Why exactly do the clothes make the person?

When you go to a book signing to meet your favorite author does it matter to you what he/she is wearing? Do you prefer to see a professional woman in a skirt rather than slacks? (As my father-in-law always insisted I wear a dress to an interview.)

As a teacher at an outreach Center I wore jeans every day. My dad came to visit and was appalled that one of the teachers came to the Center dressed in jeans. (Schools often relax the dress code for their teachers on field trips, so this wasn’t surprising to me.) When I questioned why he found it offensive he said the children won’t respect them and be polite. I had no issues with classroom managment and the kids didn’t know me from the tooth fairy … okay, maybe the tooth fairy … but you get my drift. The clothes didn’t make me a good or bad teacher.

Do the clothes, if they’re clean and neat, really make a difference to you? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

w00t! w00t! There’s a party going on right here! (Can you hear the music?) I’d like to welcome author, Destiny Blaine!

Destiny Blaine is an author who loves to bring her southern roots into her stories. With the exception of casino-related story lines, most of her books have a southern setting. All of Destiny’s books have her true southern voice and you can see it as you turn the pages.

The proud mother of two teenagers, Destiny and her husband are on the move a lot with sports activities keeping them on their toes. For enjoyment, the family likes to look for sandy beaches with huge waves for surfing and just relaxing!

Destiny Blaine writes erotica romance, suspense, and mainstream fiction. She’s agreed to answer a few questions (Silly Destiny … has she never visited my torture cham … er, um… guest blog before?)

Please tell us about your newest release.
Unspoken Truths (no cover curently available) is a contemporary erotic romance about a sexy-hot alpha male that has a very interesting “day-job” (as a football bookie well connected to organized crime) and a woman he’ll be forced to leave behind because of conflicting career interests. Tanner, the hero in Unspoken Truths, is one of my favorite heroes to date. He’s known the woman of his dreams his whole life but in order to protect her, he’s continually pushed her away-until he simply can’t stand the thought of leaving her behind. Coming August 29th to Whispers Publishing, let me know if you’d like to see an excerpt by dropping me an email to destinyblaine@yahoo.com!

Your characters sound dreamy. How do you come up with them?
Often, the heroes in my stories remind me of someone I know. Sometimes, the physical descriptions match someone I’ve just observed for the sole purpose of writing them into my books and short stories. Of course, since I seldom see’ vampires, my imagination typically runs wild regardless of the inspiration! (Smiles)

Is there a particular genre you enjoy writing and why?
Right now, I’m wildly partial to western erotic and paranormal. However, I do write a lot of gambling-related love stories. I guess I’m sort of ‘known’ for them since a lot of my readers come from a gambling-related/poker background. Many of the folks who read my sports and gambling-related books first read my work under my real name before they discovered I write under the pen name of Destiny Blaine. It’s been really interesting to write in this arena because it’s like a new genre rising and I’m glad to be a part of it! 

Your books seem to cover a little bit of everything. Is there some common thread to all your stories? 
My stories typically have an alpha-male, though not always. Some have southern settings and many have gambling-related elements, or a sports theme. As for one thread? I don’t think so. I have to keep things interesting and different! 

Okay, what’s your favorite type of paranormal hero, werewolf, vampire, fairy or some other dark mystery man I didn’t name?
Vampire (Oh, should I mention I’m writing my first vamp story? No! Bad hostess. Down, girl. Down!)

Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter or pantzer? Do you have comfort drinks  or snack foods? Any favorite music you play while writing?
My writing process is boring. I write all the time-how dull is that? I have a novel I’m working on right now that has been plotted and outlined too death but I fly by the seat of my pants with some stories. This one just had a very unique plot so I had to make sure everything fell in the proper place with the right timeline so an outline helps when there’s a lot of research involved.

Comfort drinks? COFFEE! (She’s not kidding her folks. She ‘s scoffed down two double latte moches with foam and an iced coffee. And did she offer me some? Umm … that would be a negative.)

Good Writing Music? It changes day by day and week by week. Today it was: James Blunt, Elvis, Three Doors Down, Hinder, and Nickelback. Then, total silence-which often happens when I am dying to type “the end”. It’s mere minutes away! 

You have books with several different publishers. Is there one you like to work with more than the others?
I have a couple that stand out above the rest because of the open communication.

Since I promote myself more than I’ll ever depend on someone else to promote for me, I count on the open communication so I can figure out what works and what doesn’t. If I can’t ask for and receive feedback, then I’m working solo and wasting my time. Ultimately, writing is a business. No matter how much I like someone in this business, the bottom line (yes, the money) is always going to matter to me-it must because I write full-time. Supportive publishers who are willing to offer constructive criticism and yet still point out an author’s strengths are a rarity in this business, or at least, that’s been my experience. However, I do have a couple or publishers who go the extra mile to help their authors succeed-which is nice.

That said, those who know me, know I look at e-publishing and small press a little differently than most. It only took a Las Vegas minute to understand that small press is political, to an extent, just like anything else. I’ve been in this business long enough to be indifferent to a lot of the surrounding elements which is why I can stay so focused.  

I know there will be rejection along the way-I accept it. Sometimes I might question it (not openly, of course) if I bother to compare other books or whatnot, but I still accept it and move on. I know there will be bad reviews-I always consider the source and decide if it’s well meaning or well targeted for another purpose.

I look for the best place to thrive as a writer-where I feel welcome and comfortable. That said, a writer can only be as good as their publisher and vice-versa.  I try to watch where I submit now for that reason. I want to be an asset to my publisher but in small press, I really expect the same in return. It’s a team effort-a joint venture-and again, I’m fortunate enough to be with some publishers who have similar visions and an outstanding work ethic.

If you could be one of your characters who would you choose and why?
It’s a tie between Constance in Winning Virgin Lust (coming soon) and Darlene from A Matter Among Men (out now). Why? Ahem…you’ll have to read the books!

You have a Yahoo loop that runs on Mondays. Could you tell us about that?
While writing the first stories of the Winning Virgin Series, I noticed a need for a chat group where authors and readers could come together and share their paranormal book excerpts, post contests, and just keep in touch. Just Another Paranormal Monday was born and it’s been rocking and rolling ever since it’s grand opening several months ago. (She’s not kidding her folks … it’s an awesome group! It’s how I first stalked, err … got to know Destiny. Come on over and check it out …   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ParanormalMonday)

A hot soak in the tub or a smokin’ BBQ with friends?
Hmmm…it depends. Who will be in the tub and who did you invite to the BBQ? (Men in kilts … have you not been listening to the bagpipe music? *g*)

Anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Yes! Right now, I’m running a sweepstakes. It officially kicked off with the release of Love, Lust, and Scandal in Professional Football but since football season doesn’t officially kick off until later this month, the big rush for prizes will begin in late August. Members of my loop will be able to score touchdowns and win prizes throughout football season. It’s a great contest so check it out at : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/destinyblaine_romance/ 

Wow, she talks faster than me and that’s saying something! Destiny and her books can be found at her WEBSITE or at MYSPACE and on her BLOG.Destiny’s agreed to stick around a day or two … haven’t you hon? (She’s nodding… or maybe her nose itches. It’s hard to tell with her hands tied to my keyboard.) In any case, don’t be shy. Ask her a question. Leave a comment to tell her you stopped by. Or just plain tell her how much you loooove her books. (No sweetie … bathroom breaks every hour on the hour … really, no complaining … next time maybe you’ll share that cup of coffee.)

Really folks, she’d love to hear from you.

I am so pleased to have another author visiting on our cyber tour … welcome Sharona Nelson!. Her latest release, COVER ME is out now from Amber Quill Press.

BLURB:

COVER ME-the story of a single mom, a single man, and a health insurance plan…

Single mom Sunny Montgomery survived a lousy childhood with hippie parents as well as a terrible marriage with the cheating Kirk Stanley (AKA Kirk the Jerk), so she figured she could deal with whatever life threw at her. In short order, however, Sunny loses her job, car, health insurance, and life’s savings.

What’s a single mother to do? Get married, of course-though not for love.

Sunny accepts a marriage-of-convenience offer from her landlord, Ben Hart, so that she and Libbie, her asthmatic daughter, will have health insurance. The only problem is, she’s falling in love with him-despite the fact she thinks he’s gay. And, while she sometimes craves more distance from the temptation known as Ben, heaven knows that good, affordable apartments in Boston are as rare as winters without snow.

Through it all, Sunny perseveres. Whether beset by estranged hippie parents, money troubles, a creepy new boss, an is-he-or-isn’t-he faux husband, or the Boston mob, Sunny sustains herself with her inner strength, her best friend Dulcie, odd-duck neighbor Ray, and lots of mac-and-cheese, hot dogs, and ice cream. Oddly enough, what Sunny’s daughter, Libbie, wants-comfort food and plenty of SpongeBob SquarePants on the tube-aren’t fundamentally different from what Sunny wants-happiness and love.

Sunny’s struggles teach us that making lemonade from life’s abundant supply of lemons isn’t too difficult, as long as we follow our hearts…

Wow, that sounds wonderful! Where did you get the idea for your latest book?
A long time ago, I was living with the man who’s now my husband. We’d never felt any special impulse to tie the knot, but when my ex said he planned to remarry, that meant I’d lose my health insurance. So, my live-in of nearly ten years and I got married. Though we do love each other, we had some fun with the wedding, including putting the initials of the health plan on the arch over the bride and groom atop the ice cream cake (ice cream cake because my daughter doesn’t like regular cake.)

I told the complete story of my wedding to someone once, and they said, “You should write a story about someone who gets married for health insurance.” The idea appealed to me, and the inspiration for COVER ME was born.

I spent most of my adult life in the Boston area, so setting the story there was a no-brainer. By the way, the information about health insurance options for the unemployed was accurate when the book went to press. But now Massachusetts has a completely different system. (Just wanted Massachusetts readers to know that yes, I do the research, but the Commonwealth changed the game on me when it was too late to revise the manuscript!)

With which character do you identify most closely?
I partially identify with the heroine, Sunny, but also equally identify with her nutty hippie mother, Daphne (“Daffy”). Because both characters have elements of me in them, COVER ME was a pure hoot to write. I was very much a hippie chick for many, many years, and still hold a lot of the same political values. I also have a grown daughter, so I know how the mother would feel about the estrangement with her daughter. But, because I’ve also dealt with difficult parental relationships in my own life, I perfectly understand why Sunny might want to keep her mother and father at arms’ length, and why she might feel pissed off at them.

What makes a hero for you? Do you see them on the street, or are they simply in your head?
Ah, heroes. They’re almost always completely in my head, though occasionally inspired by men I’ve known.

While I sometimes write those alpha he-men guys, I tend to prefer someone a bit less, um, alpha in my real life. Ben’s sort of an amalgam, a bit more beta than I normally care for. However, he reminds me of some hard-science academics I’ve known and loved.

For me, a real hero is a man who’s not afraid to take a chance and reveal his heart when it’s clear he’s fallen for the heroine. Ben was a little slow to risk it all, but in the end, he jumps off the cliff of love. He may not be Rambo, but he wants to help and protect Sunny and her child. He’s a genuine, 100% good guy. In a movie or TV show, Ben might be best played by the actor who plays Henry on “Ugly Betty” (Christopher Gorham). Gorham’s character looks very much as I imagined Ben would, and he’s got the perfect combination of awkwardness, nervousness, inexperience, and willingness to pursue the woman he loves.

What do you have planned for your next book?
I’m working on two stories. One is a novel set in Seventies Boston that, again, is inspired by parts of my own life. The book is written, but needs revisions-a lot of revisions. The working title is “Alice in Boogieland”, but I’m not wild about the title. So far, I haven’t come up with anything that’s much better. (Unless a title comes to be at the beginning of a story, my titles usually stink.)

The other novel is a contemporary story of two sisters who are like day and night, and who can’t really stand each other, but who come together to search for their third sister. But is she really their sister? The working title is “Shirley Goodness and Mercy,” and I’m told the first chapter-a funeral-is reasonably funny. The book’s not finished. It’s set partially in southern NJ, southern Delaware (where I’m from), and in the deep south-the sisters, Shirley and Mercy, were born and raised in Louisiana.

What does your writing space look like?
It looks as if a paper bomb has gone off, and I’m sitting at ground zero. I am a very messy person when I’m creating. When I have some time after finishing a project, that’s when I clean up (if then).

More concretely, I have a nice, big desk with a computer and several small items that have personal significance, along with all the paper. I spent some money on ergonomics because I have fibromyalgia, and I need my work space not to cause me any additional pain.

I have a wall lamp I rarely turn on, so I’ve draped a very colorful net-and-sequins shawl over the lampshade. It brightens up my little corner nicely. I also have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that holds my research books and my promotional materials, among other things. My calendars (I have two) are within eyeball distance and/or reach. I live or die by my calendars. If I don’t write something down, I’ll never, ever remember the deadline.

What advice would you give to aspiring romance writers?
Write what you love, because if you become a hit, readers are going to want more books in the same subgenre. That’s one of the best reasons not to write to market in some genre you don’t enjoy-you might end up with a career in it.

I also suggest you take the time to school yourself on the basics of grammar and story construction. It’s rare for an editor to buy a story whose mechanics aren’t the best.

Also-as they say in “Galaxy Quest” (and what a wonderful, silly movie that is)-Never give up! Never surrender!

Don’t quit trying, no matter what.

As if I haven’t asked enough personal questions … could you tell us about yourself?
I spent most of my adult life in the Boston area. (I miss the city, but not the winters. Heaven is eighty degrees and blue skies.) While in Boston, I was a jack-of-all-trades, mastering two: radio personality and technical writer/online help designer. I also worked as a taxi driver, clerical chartist for the Federal Reserve Bank, and temporary office worker for half a dozen companies. However, fiction writing is my first and longest-lived love.

The inspiration for COVER ME was my own life, though the book was heavily fictionalized, of course. I did not marry my husband for health insurance, nor is my ex a rat like Kirk the Jerk-far from it. I will admit to being a single mom for a while, and I do have a daughter, now grown, who could show a bit of Libbie’s attitude when young-and still does, on occasion…

I read widely, adoring a good story with quirky characters. Besides reading, I enjoy being around horses and cats, singing, creating new recipes, taking solitary road trips, and hanging with friends. I confess to being hopelessly addicted to the wonderfully-over-the-top television shows Boston Legal, House, Men in Trees, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, and 24. I write erotic romance under the name Barrie Abalard.

My family and I currently live in one of the Middle Atlantic states, but are considering relocating someplace it’s warmer in the winter.

Thank you so much, Sharona! To learn more about Sharona and her books, please visit her web site and blog. She’d also love it if you would friend her on MySpace.

You can read an excerpt HERE or buy COVER ME at Amber Quill Press.

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