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.
A California native, novelist Tracy Reed pushes the boundaries of her Christian foundation with her sometimes racy and often fiery tales. After years of living in the Big Apple, this self-proclaimed New Yorker draws from the city’s imagination, intrigue, and inspiration to cultivate characters and plot lines who breathe life to the words on every page. Tracy’s passion for beautiful fashion and beautiful men direct her vivid creative power towards not only novels, but short stories, poetry, and podcasts. With something for every attention span. Tracy Reed’s ability to capture an audience is unmatched. Her body of work has been described as a host of stimulating adventures and invigorating expression.
Jann: What inspired you to write The Good Girl series?
Tracy: This is a very easy question, sort of. I was asked to be in a box set and needed a book. The box set was focusing on heroines in their twenties. I had a possible book, but the heroine was older and it wasn’t possible to make her younger. I kicked around a few possibilities and then I got an idea for a book. A young Christian woman gets her dream job and how she handles the possible ethical and moral challenges. I kicked the idea around some more and started writing.
Jann: How long did it take you to develop your characters, Gabriella Townsend and Phillippe, and plot for the series?
Tracy: I’m a pantser, so all I had was a basic idea…an office romance. I develop my characters on the fly as the story unfolds. I write books with faith and sex. In all my books someone is wrestling with their hormones, urges and faith. I call it real life. People of faith or Christians are not super heroes. They face the same challenges and temptations as anyone else. It’s how they handle them that’s different.
Since I use a basic template, it didn’t take long for me to develop this story. The biggest challenge is to keep Phillippe’s identity a secret. I think I handled that pretty good. I didn’t want Gabriella to come off as naive or not bright although she’s very perceptive. She knows he’s keeping something from her, but she hasn’t been able to figure it out. I sort of address it, by having him tell her there are things about his employment contract he can’t divulge.
I knew the characters had to be the opposite of each other. Gabriella is petite, curvy, pretty and has curly hair. She loves God and has a heart for people. She values character more than money. In the beginning of the series she sounds a little immature, but when she is exposed to Phillippe’s world, she grows up fast. Her dream is to work for Morgan Grant, eventually earning a VP position and a corner office.
Phillippe is a triple threat…handsome, smart and rich. To make him even more appealing, I made him very tall, dark, part French and African. He often slips into French when he gets excited. Which makes some of the love scenes very interesting. Gabriella refers to this womanizer as a walking sex dream. He’s amassed a fortune of his own, but heading Morgan Grant isn’t something he expected to do until much later.
Jann: The Good Girl Part Trois makes its debut this month. What major conflicts do your leading characters have to work through in this book?
Tracy: The way I write books is a little sadistic. I rope you in with a semi-sweet story and slowly turn up the heat throughout the series.
This book is no different. On a scale of one to five flames, I think this is about a 3.95. Gabriella is wrestling with her emotions and raging hormones. She’s promised herself she would save herself for her husband, but that’s a lot difficult to do when your boyfriend is a walking sex dream…your boss…and neighbor. She’s adjusting to her new life, feelings for her boss and convincing it might be possible to have a future with Phillippe. There’s just one thing gnawing at her, what is Phillippe hiding?
Phillippe has been hiding his identity from the outset of the series. He’s terrified if Gabriella finds out before he proposes, she might leave him. Oops, I let one of the cats out of the bag. The reader has known from book one, who he is, but not Gabriella. In a way it seems like their relationship is built on lies, but it’s more like half-truths and secrets. Phillippe is trying to figure out why his grandfather is insisting he get married before taking over the company and why is his ex-girlfriend back in town.
Without giving too much away, a quiet vacation in Anguilla changes the course of their relationship forever.
Jann: Part One and Part Deux in The Good Girl series are novellas, why is Part Trois a full-length book?
Tracy: Book one had to be a novella for the boxset. As I was writing, I thought it was going to be a one and done. But something happened towards the end. The characters took a turn and I really wanted to see if they could make their relationship work.
In book one, the relationship happened quickly because I was on a deadline. Once I got to the end, I did a horrible thing and ended it with a cliff hanger confirming there would be another book. When I started book two, I read something about the power of cliff hangers for sales. So that’s what I did. I amped if the sexual tension and left it with a cliffhanger. I immediately started writing book three and a couple of people and a highly respected author told me no cliffhanger. Readers don’t like them unless the next book is available.
When I started the third book, I really thought it would be a novella too and that I could tie up everything. Once I started writing, the story kept going. I wish I could tell you what happens. If you’ve read the series, I don’t think you saw the ending coming. I know I didn’t. I have to admit, I was tempted to make Gabriella pregnant, but I thought that was expected. Instead I did something else while keeping Phillippe’s identity a secret from her.
Jann: How many books do you plan for this series? If there is a book four, when will it be out?
Tracy: Yes, there’s a fourth book and I think it will be the end. Book four is a result of what happened in book three. The Good Girl is now a sophisticated businesswoman engaged to her boss. That’s the only spoiler.
I’m writing the last chapters now. My goal is to release it a few months after Part Trois.
Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
Tracy: Good question. You don’t have to sacrifice your beliefs for love. Or as some would say, It’s just as easy to fall in love with a billionaire as it is to fall for the average bloke.
Jann: I understand you’re planning on rebranding your Alex series. Tell us about the series and what’s involved to rebrand it.
Tracy: The Alex series are the very first books I’d written. The series is about five best friends and a pact they made in college to never get involved with any of their exes, employees or relative. Unfortunately, they break the pact.
It was originally written as a chick lit. It was the book I used to get my agent, I had. While it was being shopped around, I wrote another book and started reading a lot. [Early in my career, I was told not to read anyone else’s work. I later found out that was some very bad advice.] The more I read, I more I knew the series needed work. I did a major rewrite.
I stand by this series. I received an Amazon review from a reader who got my style. “Book one of the series was set on simmer, but book two was a rip roaring inferno. The word used incessantly throughout the book, passion, tells you all you need to know. My favorite couple, Alex and Moses, finally get married, and boyyyyyy they dang near tear each other’s clothes off with their teeth!!! Y’all know that feeling!!!😁😁😁 The second part is just as good as the first part, but be warned, there were some unresolved issues that cropped up. There may be a book three, SURPRISE!!😄😄😄 incess. Buy it, read it and enjoy!!”
Sales have been slow and the few reviews have been pretty good. I believe in this series but know it’s time for a new look The new covers scream contemporary, which is what I want. The female body image is being replaced with man chest. I’m also changing the fonts and updating the blurbs. I’ll be testing the covers with my reader group later this month.
Jann: You’re a multi-published author. How do you stay motivated? What drives you to keep writing?
Tracy: Good question. The answer for both questions is the same. I like telling stories.
Jann: Thanks Tracy for sharing with us today. Good luck with The Good Girl Part Trois!!
Marianne H. Donley writes fiction from short stories to funny romances and quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Tennessee with her husband, son, and a new puppy. Marianne manages the multi-author blog, A Slice of Orange. She’s a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, Music City Romance Writers,Sisters in Crime, and Charmed Writers.
You can find all her social media links at https://linktr.ee/mariannehdonley
We’re here today with an amazing woman of many talents: Author, Editor, Wife, Mother, Friend and the woman who is the creator of this wonderful blog site—A Slice of Orange. She’s a featured author in the newest anthology from the Bethlehem Writers Groups’ awarding-winning “Sweet, Funny, and Strange” series of anthologies, FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES!
Jann: You have two adorable tales in Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which made its debut yesterday. The first, When I Was Your Age and the second, Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name. How did you come up with the ideas for your stories?
Marianne: From life! When I Was Your Age was based on my grandmother (my dad’s mother). She had so many stories about growing that got worse every time she told them. Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name is totally about my husband and my sister, and they were not the good little bunnies.
Jann: I love the book cover. It’s perfect. Who did it?
Marianne: Well, now I’m blushing. Thank you. I did the front cover, and my partner-in-crime, Carol L. Wright did the back cover for the print version.
Jann: All the stories are remarkable. What was the experience like being one of the Editors for the book and one of the Authors?
Marianne: Well, we have rules.
Rule number one—you don’t edit your own stories.
Rule number two—all the stories (with the exception of the contest winners) must be workshopped by Bethlehem Writers Group at one of our semi-monthly critique meetings.
Rule number three—editing is not writing. Just because I wouldn’t write a story the way you would write that story does not mean you are wrong. Different is not wrong. We have to let the author’s voice shine through. I hope we have done that.
Rule number four—writing is not editing. If the editor makes a suggestion to me, I need to have a really good reason not to follow that suggestion.
Jann: This book has everything from unicorns to wolves to bunnies. However, the one with ants hit home with me, as I have been battling those beasts for years in my home. Tell us about how this anthology came about and the authors who are contributors from the Bethlehem Writers Group.
Marianne: Ah! The ants–Six Feet Under by Dianna Sinovic. I must say I related to that story as well. Every summer in California—ants.
When we’re brainstorming the “theme” for our next anthology our members all throw out ideas, and we debate the merits of each idea. It’s a pretty lively discussion because we have all stripes of authors–children’s, fantasy, humor, inspiration, literary, memoir, mystery, paranormal, romance, science fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult.
We look for themes that are appealing to most of the members. We also run The Short Story Award in conjunction with the theme of our anthologies. So, we look for ideas that we think will attract the interest of other authors. We always interpret the theme—broadly—so there is a lot of creative leeway for the authors to come up with a sweet, funny, or strange story.
The first anthology was a natural—A Christmas Sampler—because we’re based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, The Christmas City. Animal stories, I believe, was suggested by Jeff Baird. He writes very heart-felt stories about the dogs in his life.
Our next anthology, scheduled for 2022, is An Element of Mystery, Sweet, Funny and Strange Tales of Intrigue. The Short Story Award opens for entries on January 1st.
Authors interested in submitting to The Short Story Award might like to read some of the finalist for Fur, Feathers, and Scales to see what we like. The second place, third place and honorable mention stories will be published in the 2021 Winter Issue of The Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, our online magazine—also available January 1st. You, Jann, will recognize one of the honorable mentions—Louella Nelson! (I may have shouted when her name was announced.)
Any member of BWG can submit a story (or two or three) to our anthologies, providing it has been workshopped by the whole group. Any member can elect not to submit a story. Since we’re working on our seventh anthology, I think we have a system that works.
Jann: I know you write short stories, romances and murder mysteries. Is any one of these genres your favorite? What are you currently working on?
Marianne: I go back and forth. My mysteries always have a romance sub-plot and my romances usually have a dead body somewhere. Probably from all those Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters novels I read over and over. Currently, short stories seem to be the easiest for me to finish. Right now, I’m working on a cozy-ish novel with a romance and plotting a short mystery.
Jann: With everything going on in your life, how do you keep it all together?
Marianne: That made me laugh. So . . .
1) Don’t look in my closets.
2) Dennis does the grocery shopping and birthday shopping and Christmas shopping. He wraps the presents, too. (Okay sort of—gift bags are his favorite and he hates bows. But since I don’t have to do it, I’m good with this.)
3) I only need about 6 hours of sleep every night. No matter what time I go to bed, I walk up 6 hours later. I do work on thinks when everyone else is sleeping.
4) I have a lot of friends who help out. Look how seamless A Slice of Orange ran when my son had a medical emergency this Spring.
5) I have a lot of family who are also willing to help. All I have to do is ask.
Jann: This was so much fun. Thank you, Marianne, for spending time with us talking about Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which is available now, and you.
It’s true, Jann has gone fishing. We hope she catches one (or two) and has a lovely relaxing day. In the mean time click the tab below and read some of Jann’s recent interviews. You can also leave her a message.
Jann says she’s off today helping Santa. But don’t worry she’ll be back on December 4th with a special interview featuring the members of the Writing Something Romantic critique group.
Mark your calendars because the group has something fun to share.
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 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.
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