Pick Six Author Interviews are occasional features on A Slice of Orange. We send a bunch of questions to the author who then picks just six of the questions to answer. This month we are featuring a Pick Six Author Interview with Vicki Crum.
Vicki writes contemporary and paranormal romance, creating tales full of love and laughter and discovering one’s soul mate in the most unlikely places. Her published works include Loving Luc, a contemporary romance with futuristic elements, and the first two books in her sexy, light-hearted werewolf series, Once in a Blue Moon and Moonspell.
Vicki resides with her husband in a charming seaside community in Southern California. She has two grown daughters and two adorable grandchildren who light up her world. She loves interacting with readers. Connect with her at email@example.com, or visit her at http://vickicrum.wix.com/author and www.facebook.com/vickicrum.author
One: What kind of writer are you? A page a day or a burst writer?
I try to write for at least a couple of hours a day, especially on the weekdays, more if I can. It just depends on what’s going on. For instance, I have two young grandchildren, and if I get the opportunity to spend time with them for whatever reason, I pretty much drop everything and go for it! Sadly, I am too-easily distracted these days. A sale at Macy’s, lunch with a friend (or occasionally even my husband!) and I’ll take off and go. I like to be active, so keeping my butt in the chair can be an effort sometimes. Writing is the most fun and the most productive when I am in the middle of a particularly fun chapter or scene, and I’m really emotionally invested in the outcome. Those are my favorite writing times.
Two: How do you stay motivated? What keeps you writing?
Believe me, I’ve thought of quitting, more than once. Just before I found my current publisher in early 2014, I was seriously thinking about giving up on my writing aspirations. I’d been at it for a long time and had suffered my share of rejections over the years. My world had been expanded in the most joyous way by becoming a grandparent, and my priorities were realigning themselves in a lot of ways. Still, writing had become such a part of who I am that I couldn’t seem to give it up entirely. Sooner or later I’d end up right back at the computer with another new or intriguing idea for a story, or an interesting character rattling around in my brain. And I have to say that having a dedicated group of writer friends that I can engage with regularly is great for keeping me dialed in and moving forward. It’s fun to celebrate their various successes, and that helps keep me inspired.
Three: What are you working on now? Can you tell us about your next project?
I’m writing the third book in my “Moon” series. This is the first series I’ve ever written and also my first foray into paranormal romance. It’s been lots of fun. The first book in the series, Once in a Blue Moon, is a sexy romp about a werewolf who doesn’t know she’s a werewolf due to a stubborn case of latent genes. It takes the hero, a seriously hot, motorcycle-riding alpha hunk, to introduce the heroine to her true nature. The second book, Moonspell, was released in January, and I’m just getting underway with the third one, tentatively titled, Moonrise. Both Moonrise and Moonspell have the hero, or the male protagonist, as the dominant character in the book. The books are related through what I hope are a fun and endearing cast of characters. I like a little humor in my stories, and I’m trying to keep that sexy, light-hearted theme going as I write this series of books.
Four: What’s on your To-Be-Read-Pile?
My TBR pile, like so many other writers I know, is quite high. I’m currently reading two books, when I can find the time, Legend of Love (The Muse Chronicles) by Lisa Kessler and Rules of the Game by Lori Wilde. Next on my list is Kat Martin’s Into the Fury, Nora Roberts’ Tears of the Moon, and Frostline by Linda Howard and Linda Jones. There are so many books that I’m dying to read, but it may take me a bit of time to work my way through them since I very seldom allow myself the opportunity to curl up in the sun with a good book. I had a lot more time to do that before I started writing!
Five: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?
My favorite character of all the ones I’ve written is from my book, Loving Luc, published in 2014. Luc is the epitome of what I think a romantic hero should be. He’s strong and handsome, with plenty of those alpha-hero protective genes I love so much, but he is also thoughtful and gentle and caring. Did I mention brave and highly intelligent? Luc is one of a kind as far as my romantic heroes goes because he is not of this world. Luc is from a planet in a solar system far distant from Earth. He comes from a world, a race of people, so similar to ours that he can blend in here on Earth almost seamlessly—with a few minor adjustments, of course. His very existence is fated to be intertwined with that of my heroine, Maggie, in every way possible…spiritually, emotionally, and physically. They are, essentially, pioneers on the cusp of a brave new world, and it was so much fun creating them!
Six: If a spaceship landed in your backyard and the aliens on board offered to take you for a ride, would you go?
Absolutely! As long as I didn’t believe they posed a serious threat to my life. I’ve always loved astronomy, especially the study of the moon and stars. It’s fascinating to imagine what other life forms and worlds might exist in the universe. It’s a huge assumption to think we are all alone in the heavens. I refer back to my previous answer about my hero, Luc, who comes from a planet and life form that is parallel to ours on Earth in so many ways. I think it’s a very romantic notion to think of falling for a brave and daring, handsome and sexy alien who happens to be madly in love with you!
Thank you to Vicki for answering six questions for A Slice of Orange.
If you would like to read one or all of Vicki’s books, they are available in the Book Store.
If you would like to be featured in a Pick Six Author Interview, please send us your information through the Contact Form.
Oh, what fun! It has been ages since I’ve written a blog on A Slice of Orange, but I could not pass up the opportunity to get in on this wonderful site’s relaunch. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Geralyn Corcillo and I write romantic comedy about women who try not to trip as they valiantly march to their own bongo beat. I write to amuse and delight readers, and in this column, I will write about what makes me happy – what in entertainment, literature, and life makes me go mmmrrh and fuels my zany fires. What makes me curl my toes in squeeful delight and what makes me well up with tears of utterly verklempt happiness and what makes me laugh my head off.
For instance, one day a few months ago as I was switching channels, I happened across the very first episode of Little House on the Prairie, titled “A Harvest of Friends,” which originally aired in 1974. The Ingalls family had just moved to Walnut Grove, and no one in town would take a chance on an unknown farmer and give him the seed he could not pay for until he harvested his crop in the fall. No one, that is, except O’Neil, the hard-nosed, flinty merchant, who trades seed for Pa agreeing to stack bags of grain when it arrives in two days. If Pa does not stack the grain by midnight of the day it arrives, O’Neil will take his team of plow horses, and thus his livelihood as a farmer. And then the day before the grain arrives, Pa falls out of a tree and breaks his arm and some ribs. And O’Neil will not give Pa an extension on the deal. So Pa stalks into town, broken arm and ribs, and starts to stack the grain. Concerned for their Pa’s health and safety, little Mary and Laura follow him but stay hidden. Pa stacks grain until the pain becomes too much to bear and he passes out, most of the grain still unstacked. So little Mary and Laura run from their hiding spot and try to stack the huge bags of grain themselves. O’Neil smugly watches all, not lifting a finger to help.
And then it happens.
Men from all over the town – the bank, the doctor’s office, the mill, the church, the General Store – walk into the street, all heading toward O’Neil’s, where Pa is passed out and the girls struggle to move just one huge bag of grain. The men form a line and all the grain is stacked within the hour. O’Neil’s name is now mud in the town and Pa gets to keep the seed and horses. And all the townsmen ask in return is that they can use Pa’s land to hold the church picnic on Sunday.
Gosh, I started crying like you wouldn’t believe as all the men, this harvest of friends, moved as one toward O’Neil’s in common purpose to come to the aid of a fallen man and his little girls.
Well, that is what I hope A Slice of Orange turns out to be – A Harvest of Friends, all moving in unison toward the common purpose of loving good stories – whether we are reading them, creating them, marketing them, or all of the above. I write to make readers happy, and I adore finding pockets in life where generosity, delight, and laughter abound. In my writing, I try to capture the essence of such pockets of beauty and sparkle in everyday life. A Slice of Orange is one such pocket.
Watch for my column on the 27th of every month and drop by to see my daily posts on Facebook and Twitter. Wherever I am posting, please feel free to comment away and we can dish – I love to connect with other lovers of good stories! And you can find all of my books on Amazon.
First and foremost, Geralyn Corcillo loves reader reviews! In other news…When she was a kid in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching black & white movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who’s even cooler than Kip Dynamite.
Unfortunately, writing with a day job is incredibly easy. You simply keep writing material with you at all time. Paper and pencil work as well as an iPad. Then when you find a block of time (like I usually have to wait for that student who never shows up for a scheduled appointment or arriving hours early for my appointment because the 60 freeway is completely and inexplicably free from traffic) you write. After dishes are done and the family is watching reruns on TV, you write. When you awaken hours before the rest of the world, you write. I imagined my whole blog would be one word long:
That would be the world’s shortest blog. In addition, I suspected I would be preaching to the choir. People who write and have day jobs know this. Who else would care? Maybe, I should blog about something else. But what?
Inspiration struck while I wandered the local bookstore and sipping my venti café mocha I noticed a whole wall of thick serious books on how to write everything from baby picture books to novels to true-crime police procedurals. Stuck in the middle of all this writing information were two thin books on How NOT to Write.
Heck, not even Nora can want to write all day every day. I would have thought there would be a bit more information on how not to write. Constant writing must be some type of mental illness or at the very least a nasty bad habit. Surely, there must be tons of books on breaking such a habit. I looked. There wasn’t. Just two tiny little books all alone in the vast sea of heavy writing advice.
Clearly, not writing was a topic few writers were comfortable discussing. I’m pretty brave. I can handle controversy. I’ll write a blog on how not to write. I could come up with a set of rules. Break new ground. Give out sage advice.
So here it is:
1. Pay attention, this is important. Not writing is the hardest work you will ever do. It is not for the faint of heart. Not writing takes planning, dedication, and a tenacity that many writers lack. Don’t try it unless you have the necessary backbone.
2. To not write you must get up early in the morning. The perfect time is 4:30 A.M. but for you sleepy heads 5:00 A.M. will work as well. If you sleep until 8, half the day is gone and you may as well just waste the rest by writing.
3. To not write you must have a full pot of coffee. Dedicated non-writers program their coffee pots so they can start their day with a fresh cup as soon as they leap out of bed. I suspect that tea drinkers can’t help themselves and start writing as soon as the tea bag hits the trash can, so if you really want to not write break your tea drinking habit immediately.
4. To not write you must have an outfit. You can write in your PJs and no one will care. Not writing takes more style, especially if you want to avoid pointed questions about your mental health. Your outfit can’t just be jeans and a tee-shirt unless of course, you’re male. Females must have a complete, color-coordinated outfit with jewelry, makeup, and styled hair. For women, I strongly advise pantyhose and two-inch heels as well. For men, not shaving is NOT an option.
5. To not write you must have a clean office or not-writing space. If your space is messy and cluttered, then you must take the time to make it tidy. Organizing it would be even better. I recommend categorizing all the bookshelves in your house by subject and author. Should you use the kitchen as your office, alphabetizing your spice rack while you’re at it is always an excellent idea. It wouldn’t hurt to get some of those cute little bins for all your rubber bands and paper clips. You should also consider sharpening all your pencils and testing all your pens to see if they still work. However, cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry is a bit excessive. Should you find yourself contemplating such work, just give up and write. Let’s face it if you’re going to work that hard you may as well get some recognition for it. Completing your manuscript and sending it out will, at the very least, get you an RWA Pro pin and a round of applause at the next chapter meeting. Only your mother will notice whether or not you clean the bathroom.
6. To not write you must play computer solitaire until you win. None of that two-game only nonsense; this takes a real commitment. You must win. Four Suit Spider Solitaire is an excellent choice for those truly dedicated to not writing. Less adventuresome types can try the Two Suit version or Free Cell. However, should you select One Suit Spider and not win in 30 seconds or less, well, just don’t tell me. I firmly believe everyone I know is smart enough to get an advanced degree in rocket science if only they had the time. Shattering my world view like that is just plain cruel.
7. To not write you must build into your schedule time for physical exercise. As I mentioned above, not writing is hard work. Drinking coffee, while playing Free Cell, in your spanking clean office, and keeping your outfit stylish is quite emotionally draining. If you are not careful you could actually get bored and open up your WIP. Your whole day of not writing will be shot to heck. Walking around the block, especially if you live on a steep hill should help.
8. To not write, I must caution you, taking two dogs for a walk as your scheduled physical activity will invariably set you right back on the writing path. How you may ask? Two dogs are not going to agree on speed, direction, or when to leave odorous land mines for you to pick up. This lack of coordination on their part will provide comic relief at your expense for your neighbors. If one of them says something like, “Martha, ya got to come see this” while you, of course, are in the middle of the street, tangled up in dog leashes attached to a white dog going North and a black dog going South, juggling three baggies of land mines, a pouch of special doggie treats, the training clicker that supposed to help train the dogs, but actually makes the black dog cry and the white dog sit until he gets to eat all the treats. Well, can plotting this neighbor’s death be far behind? If he’s going to die, you’re going to have to think of a better reason then laughing at you to kill him. Then you’re going to need several characters who also want him dead for equally good reasons, and finally, the proper sleuth and her love interest will just pop right into your head. The next thing you know a whole series will be in the planning stages and you won’t be able to not write for months.
9. To not write you must have a not writing buddy or sponsor. This buddy is someone you can call any time of the day or night whenever that uncontrollable urge to break out Chapter Four and fix it threatens. Your mother or sisters cannot be your not writing buddy. This is considered cheating as it is much too easy to get them chatting and waste valuable not writing time. No, your buddy must be trustworthy and kind and also dedicated to not writing. She must intuitively know when not to ask how you worked out that problem you accidentally but cleverly wrote into Chapter Eight. She should NEVER tell you she’s finished her WIP. She should always know when to invite you to Starbucks for venti mochas or to Nordstrom’s for a good day of shoe shopping. Shoe shopping is, by the way, the only shopping for which you can indulge without guilt.
10. All not writing writers should know that guilt free shoe shopping is a rule. I think it was left over from the Regan administration. Subversive media types, probably male, tried to kill this rule with cruel stories featuring Imelda Marcos and her shoe closet. (Can you imagine the press if she has attended a public event wearing pre-worn shoes? The press coverage would have rivaled the media frenzy surrounding a certain female prosecutor and her new hair cut.) More sensible wisdom prevailed and shoes are officially guilt free. I must point out that as a corollary to this rule, any other type of shopping is not only riddled with real stomach turning guilt, and it requires an actual paycheck. This will naturally require you finish that book, not a good situation for your not writing goals.
11. To not write you should avoid the Internet like the plague, especially emails. Some people think the Internet is the perfect not writing tool. They are sadly mistaken. Consider, if you will, the simple task of checking your emails. You are going to get them from your weak-willed friends who are writing. Those people are unfortunately smart. Good writing ideas follow them around like ants at a picnic and they SHARE. Read one email and you’re going to get enough ideas to keep you writing for the rest of your natural life and that of your youngest child’s. You’ll have to make a pack with the devil just to finish. Really, do you want to risk your immortal soul just for email? And if that wasn’t bad enough, they’ll answer your emails by says, “Gee that idea would make a great (pick one) book, novel, short story, article, online class, workshop.”
12. To not write you should also drop out of all your critiques groups. (See above for the primary reason.) Secondary reason: Every conversation will start with, “So how’s the writing?” You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write. That clever accident in Chapter Eight, they’ll not only fix it, they’ll give you enough material for three sequels, two novellas, and cookbook. You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write.
*This was originally titled Twelve Easy Steps, but someone recently complained that I say everything is easy. She pointed out that if I would just say things were hard she would feel heaps better when she figured out how the heck to do it. When I tell her it’s easy, she gets no sense of accomplishment. Heaven knows I want people to have a real sense of accomplishment when not writing.
Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne is NOT not writing, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.
I thought I’d share a talk I gave on “The Substance of Romance” for the University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum almost fifteen years ago (October 17th 2002)! I am indebted to Anne Maxwell/Elizabeth Lowell for her ideas included in a talk she gave at a Novelists Inc. conference many years ago. I don’t have the dates, but do know I have internalized her insights on literature/popular fiction and incorporate them here. Hope you enjoy! Isabel Swift
I love reading romances. I love reading what might be termed “literary” romances. I love reading romances that are part of what would be defined as “popular fiction.”
Today I will be taking you through: a definition of terms; a brief historical framework of the genre; the wide ranging, broad and successful aspect of romances; criticisms the genre faces. But I plan mostly to focus on the remarkable timeless appeal of the romance genre, how it crosses boundaries of time & culture, how it has changed and continues to change as it continues to grow and thrive
So what is a romance? It is a work of fiction where the focus of the story is on the developing relationship between two people. The story’s climax resolves it and delivers a sense of emotional “justice” and satisfaction.
As with any genre, there must be essential narrative elements, or it’s not a romance: The center of the story is a love story with an emotionally satisfying ending. Archetypic narrative elements broadly include 5 things: Meeting; Attraction; Barrier; Destruction of barrier; Declaration.
In a tale well told, the destruction of that barrier frees the characters from their constraints. It empowers them to choose; it enables them to act, and the reader rejoices.
The genre is a diverse one, with many sub-genres, from contemporary to historical romances: Sexy, Sweet, Suspense, Paranormal, Humorous, Fantasy, Inspirational, Western, Regency…the possibilities are endless and endless possibilities have been explored. Romances have a universal and timeless appeal.
There is no unanimously agreed upon “first” romance, though romantic texts have been cited as early as the 4th Century B.C. The crusades, Arabian fables & chivalry all incorporate elements of romance. But in 1740 Samuel Richardson’s PAMELA delivered a clear romance novel and a best-selling one at that (interestingly beloved of both men & women at the time). In Clara Reeve’s Progress of Romance (1785) she notes that: Novels were seen as “pictures of real life and manners, and of the times in which they were written.” Whereas romances used “lofty and elevated language, describing what has never happened, nor is likely to.”
Some of what we see now as “overblown” prose clearly springs from this historical vision of romance. Henry Fielding (1707-1754) an 18th Century kind of guy who wrote a take-off on PAMELA— SHAMELA scorned romances. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) a 19th Century type of guy and a “romantic” scorned a novelist like Jane Austen (1775-1817). But both Scott and Austen wrote romances —one wrote larger than life stories, drawn on a sweeping canvas; one more intimate tales, realistic and of the times.
Romances, in general, represent over half adult popular mass market fiction, depending on your definition of “romance.” It was a 1.5 billion dollar industry last year (2001), with more than 2,000 titles released. 50 million women in North America read romances. Clearly romances are a vital element of our lives and in our literature. The stories cross cultures. They cross centuries. They continue to have phenomenal appeal.
While I want to focus on exploring that appeal, I did want to respond to some of my favorite criticisms of the genre: I must note that almost all criticisms are voiced by people who declare, without shame, I might add, that they’ve never actually read any romances. Interestingly, they do not see this fact as a disqualification for an opinion!
There’s the “pornography” one, which I can’t imagine anyone who has ever read a romance lending any credence to. The essence of a romance is about the unique rightness of uniting these particular two people and the challenges they face in creating a good partnership. The stories are about both the emotional and physical connection, body and soul. Some romances are certainly sexy, but the physical is always in the context of a connection between two unique people.
Romances are sometimes faulted for having romantic conventions and being part of a genre. Like Homer (and I feel that one could convincing argue that the Odyssey is a quintessential romance) and the Homeric epithet, these familiar elements are ways the teller of the tale communicates to her reader that she is in a genre, a world both familiar and new. While humans can enjoy change and uncertainty, many also enjoy elements in their life that can be depended on and are relaxing. The issue of “sameness” is the point, not the problem. If we turned some of these principals to, say, sports, I think we’d find some interesting commonalties and insights.
162 baseball games every year—year after year. Football, basketball, hockey, all are much the same. Same number of players, same positions. Now isn’t that boring? Don’t guys get tired of it? Don’t they wish everyone just switched places every inning or so? Or we added a few players? Or took some away? Just think of what the response would be to that. Outrageous! Absurd! It wouldn’t be baseball! (or football, or whatever). By the same token, a romance without the essential elements would not be a romance, it would not deliver the key elements that inspired the reader to select that genre and that story to begin with.
People decide to watch a basketball game because they want to watch a certain number of players of a particular sex play in a specific setting under a clear set of rules. And even within basketball, viewers are highly specific, many preferring to watch only professional or college or women’s basketball (or whatever). The rules are different; it’s a more exciting game, or less political (or whatever). Now that seems to me to be a fairly rigidly codified entertainment viewing experience, doesn’t it? Yet those same viewers express surprise at hearing similar types of preferences voiced with reading romances. Go figure.
With the sports viewing experience one could argue it is the suspense of finding out who wins that makes each game interesting. But the fact is that some people enjoy suspense, I really don’t.
Romance readers enjoy reading about relationships; they are interested in how the relationship puzzle is worked out. We read because we are optimistic, and we enjoy the genre’s assurance that sometimes things work out for the best. We believe in the positive power of love and in its ability to overcome obstacles. It gives us strength and hope as we face our own lives and the world we live in. In the stories the heroine, and she is a heroine, not a “protagonist” has a right to find happiness. She must discover what that means for her, which is often a process of self discovery and self acceptance. She must also have the courage to go after it. And happiness may not be what is expected.
Romances are usually by, for and about women. The heroine is the center, it is her story. They are stories of empowerment, stories where women succeed, her values are confirmed, her beliefs are validated. Ultimately, love is seen as a vitally important ingredient to life by both sexes. And all are worthy of love. But before hero or heroine can surmount the “barrier” they each must become a more complete and whole person. Strong enough to partner with another, to love and be loved.
And who does not want to be loved, valued and appreciated for who we are? Most also want to grow, succeed and be challenged to be more. Romances celebrate the commonalties and the differences, and each story strives to find that resonant middle ground. Romances explore the compromises we must make to live with others. To understand what are reasonable accommodations, and what are not. They remind us of the challenges of building a relationship, but also the triumphs.
It is hard to live with others and to share! But these are skills we need to work on as humans, we only have to look at the news to understand why.
Ideally the process of the romance story is the alignment of the yin/yang and the expression of the reverse circle in each, black within white, white within black, Jung’s animus and anima. The partnership allows a balance between hero and heroine, freeing the woman to be more independent, sexual, confident; freeing the man to be more vulnerable, emotional, capable of compromise. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts and forms the basis for a partnership, a family.
One could divide literature through the ages into tragedy or comedy: Tragedy: usually political, focused on power, often pessimistic, and ends in death. Comedy: focuses on social issues; optimistic, often ends in marriage, a celebration of life.
Romances have a positive, life affirming resolution, a HEA (Happily Ever After). Love stories, or stories with romantic elements don’t necessarily.
If we look at Shakespeare’s tragedies & comedies: Romeo and Juliet, though an intensely romantic love story is, of course, one of his tragedies because they all die. His romances, the Tempest being the best known, ends in marriage & his comedies do too.
Tragedies force us to face our mortality, a difficult, but necessary lesson. Works that address this are often deemed literature. The comic genre has a much harder time catching that “literary” brass ring, but they serve to remind us why it is we are happy to be alive, and why we’d rather not die, though we know we must.
Romances are stories that are meant to be entertaining. They aren’t how-to manuals for life, but they express a belief in life’s possibilities and the potential for chang, even if it is only change within. Romances make you feel good.
Romances authors usually start out or become readers. Their goals are to give back to their readers the pleasure they got from reading. They work to make the reading experience as enjoyable as possible. I don’t think anyone asks how many calories you’ve burned or weight you’ve lost going to the movies, you go to the gym for that! Romance writer’s desire is to entertain, not exercise. Everyone should feel empowered to take some time for pure enjoyment, to relax, refresh and center themselves, whatever that means to them.
Romances remind us of the world’s possibilities and the belief that partnerships, though difficult to establish and maintain, are possible, and can deliver remarkable benefits.
The romance genre springs from universal myths, tales and legends: the moral lessons, quests and the struggle between Good and Evil. Romances celebrate the ability of hero and heroine to have courage and compassion, to challenge themselves, to perservere and transcend obstacles, both real and metaphorical, through the power of love.
And I think we should continue to nurture and cherish those beliefs, now more than ever.