Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong. She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told. Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow.
Fae: This is going to sound funny, but it seems that all my friends are more excited than I am. I’m very happy to finally share this story, but even though I have lots of work still to do—there’s marketing and social media to do, PRISM 2 to write, another series to revise the first two books that are already written, and a third series that I’ve finished the first two books “in my head”—for now, I’m learning how to make social media more user-friendly for me. Next week I’ll start plotting and writing PRISM 2 and begin the final revision of Keeping Athena, the first book in my adult science fiction romance series. I’ve been working such long hours for the past eighteen months, it’s nice to just take a breather and bask a little in the congratulations. And…there is a kind of sadness that I’m not hanging out with these people in the same way anymore.
Fae: More than five years ago, Jenny Hansen, Laura Drake, Sharla Rae and I started a blog for writers: Writers in the Storm. Jenny said we needed a platform for when we got published, so I climbed on the blog train along with them. It took a year before I finally understood the technology and idea behind a blog for writers.
Everyone says to write the best book you can, so I did. Every chapter went through the WITS critique shredder. I probably re-wrote the beginning of the book eight times. When I finished the book, I had an hour-long “session” with Michael Hauge. I felt like I’d been steam-rolled, but his questions and suggestions helped me clarify the soft-points in the book that I hadn’t seen. It’s amazing what he can cover in sixty minutes! I entered it in half a dozen contests to get feedback. Young adult science fiction is not a large sub-genre, so I didn’t expect much, but it finaled in just about every contest. I took it to an Immersion Class with Margie Lawson. Because I wanted to put out the best book I could, I worked with Tiffany Yates Martin, my editor, through four revisions to bring out themes I hadn’t even known were there. Remember, I’m a math major who avoided writing classes. I’m a pantser who abhors plotting and cringes when someone asks the theme or turning points of my novel. Luckily, I’ve always been a voracious reader, so those story-telling “landmarks” have been absorbed by osmosis. (More on this below in the answer to question #3.)
Eighteen months ago, when I decided to self-publish, I attended as many of the self-pubbing workshops and panels at RWA 2016 San Diego as I could. I filled a notebook with tips, timelines, and scheduling calendars. I thought I’d have my first book out (I was thinking it would be Keeping Athena) within six months. Ha! That deadline got pushed back four months, then another four, then two more, then two more. What caused all the changes? I was very picky about my cover, so that took two months longer than I’d anticipated. (But I love the results from Deranged Doctor Designs. They are marvelous to work with.) I reworked my website, with help from June Stevens Westerfield. I looked at other author’s newsletters and websites. I took a social media class. A few months later I started looking at my Facebook page once every two weeks. I started a Pinterest site to collect pictures and quotes that are pertinent to my genre in general and my books, specifically. Both Keeping Athena and P.R.I.S.M. required a fourth pass with Tiffany, requiring another couple of months. I joined a blog of YA authors, and I started telling people in my circle of acquaintances that I had written a book. (I have this secretive streak…)
Fae: I don’t get inspiration about characters. The weird thing is, long before I ever start typing, my characters and their story show up in my brain. Don’t ask me how that works. One morning, I wake up, and they’re there. They aren’t fully fleshed out and I don’t know much more than the beginning and the end of the book, but I hang out with them. If they are persistent enough and I’m engaged in their lives, I write their story.
A very spiritual friend says she thinks I channel my stories. If that’s true, I wish I channeled better writing! I know my characters—and I believe that the exile world of Prism is also a character—very well. I’ve “lived” in their heads and in their surroundings. I know why they react as they do because I know their backstory. In the early drafts, when someone asked a question about some detail I invariably left out—because heck, I live there—I know the answer immediately. This has happened during pitches with agents and editors and they seem shocked at the information I can give them about what doesn’t appear in the book.
When I started P.R.I.S.M. I was hiking fifteen miles a week and eating more than a normal person would of protein shakes and bars. On the beautiful trails I wondered what it would be like if there were no ducks or squirrels or rabbits or lizards. I remembered what the Middle East was like when I spent a month there a few years ago. Long stretches of desolate sand dunes, very different food, a language I didn’t understand. I’ve been all over the world, but I couldn’t even figure out the road signs. All these bits of my past end up in the world of Prism.
Music has always been important in my life. I wrote my first book to only one song. I played that song the entire nine months I wrote that story. I played the song at work, too. Sometimes, brave co-workers asked if I had any other CD’s. Now before I start a book, I’m lucky to hear new songs on the radio that mesh well with the story. I end up with a playlist for each character, so when I’m writing a scene in that character’s POV, I listen to that playlist. For instance, Guardian (Alanis Morissette), Bring Me to Life (Evanescence) and I Drove All Night (Cyndi Lauper) are three of O’Neill’s songs, while every time Cal thinks about Jericho, it’s He’s a Pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean or when he’s with O and their friends it could be Uprising (Muse). Jericho’s POV comes to life with Geronimo (Say Hey to Single Life) and Satellite (Rise Against). Selecting my playlist is not a one-time chore, but more of an organic growth as I drive and listen to the radio. Once I identify a song for my playlist, I purchase it and listen to it until I find the next song. Usually there is a scene in each of my books that is based on a song on the playlist.
O’Neill has a lot of me in her. I didn’t realize just how much until Tiffany kept after me to dig deeper into O’s character arc. And Cal. Ah. He was just perfect for O. They came to me as so-in-love teenagers. Caring, always there, supportive Cal to balance O’s brashness and tight-leashed temper. They were, literally, destined to be together. And then Jericho shows up from Earth, just after O’s father goes missing. Can I just say right now how much I love O’s father? If Jocko Neill walked through my door, I’d be a goner. How did I not see when I was writing the book that he’s got so many of my husband’s good traits?
That was a really long answer. I guess the short answer is I find my characters in my life, in the people around me. But I couldn’t really match one character to one person. My characters are bits and pieces of what several people are—and my impressions of who they could become.
Fae: Thanks for asking. I’m so glad you visited my website. I wish I had time to hang out there more. I love writing the character blogs. And posting my “other” writing from what seems like a previous life.
Keeping Athena is an adult science fiction romance. When I wrote the book, a long time ago, I planned to write “sequels” about her two brothers. I wrote Keeping Athena and Contracting Joy, about Athena’s younger hot-shot cocky fighter pilot, before I started P.R.I.S.M.
Maybe I should mention here that I didn’t start writing to publish books. Did I say before that I might be considered weird? I started writing to tell the stories that accosted me every night when I turned out the light. (I was lucky to have a husband who was willing to eat corn flakes for dinner when, after work, I couldn’t stop writing in the middle of a space battle.) The Keep Sphere is populated with several planets, all having wonderful places and people with stories that could keep me busy for a long time.
Keeping Athena is filled with space battles, lies and betrayal, and two worlds at war. This is the kind of science fiction that made me a science fiction freak, and the romance that made me love the romance genre years later—all rolled into one story. Think Star Wars and Gone with the Wind, if Rhett and Scarlet ended up together and madly in love. Athena, an Agran fighter pilot and trained assassin, crashes behind enemy lines onto Drake’s tiny asteroid, becoming his prisoner. Drake is the second-in-command of the Keep forces, but he hides that fact from her, pretending to be a space bum. She struggles to escape. He struggles to decode the secrets in her nav boards. They both fight against the attraction they feel.
I got the idea for the Hangar Bay that’s on my website (www.faerowen.com) from the flight deck in what will be my third series, The Regent Fleet Academy. I wish I had a clone, because the first two books in that series are fully written in my head, I just need time to type them out. And, as usual, I’m in love. With a bad-boy hero, which I’ve never written before. Can I just share a song from Fire on Roof, the first book in the series? Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon is on my main character’s playlist the first half of the book, then it flips and is on the hero’s playlist. There is a scene for each of them based on the song, and they just might be my favorite scenes in the book.
Fae: “The book won’t write itself.” Laura Drake told me this when I complained that I wasn’t getting the daily word count I wanted. She asked how long I was sitting at the computer. Uh…not long.
Fae: I’d love to write about Navy SEALS and special ops. I’d be willing to do the research for that, but I don’t think I could pull off the on-going suspense. I can tell you that I will never write historicals, even though I love to read regency romances. I don’t have the patience for hours of research that passionate readers know much better than I ever will. And because I don’t plot, mysteries are out. My stories are too convoluted with lots of subplots to be short. (P.R.I.S.M. came in at over 125,000 words.) My first book, still under the bed, was a medieval fantasy romance. I liked writing about knights and swords. But I have a lot to deal with in the future, and I’m good with that.
Fae: I love being able to work whenever I want to-late at night, early in the morning, all day and night if I want to. And it’s great not to have to get dressed for “work” with make-up and hair to impress whomever.
Fae: Are you kidding? Beam me up!
Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard. When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen
Fae also blogs at YA Outside the Lines on the fifth of every month.
P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, lies, and love is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Jann Ryan grew up with the smell of orange blossoms in Orange County in sunny Southern California, where she has lived her entire life and dreamed up stories since she was a young girl. Never an avid reader, she was in her thirties when she picked up her first romance quite by accident. She fell in love with happily ever after and has been reading romances ever since.
Wanting to put pen to paper, Jann joined of Romance Writers of America®. Currently, she is working on a romantic suspense series set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town along the California central coast to fulfill her publishing dream.