Welcome back to Writer Wednesday! It’s so good to see you all again. You’ve no idea how I treasure our Wednesday meetings, especially when I can bring you someone like Tamara Shoemaker!
Tamara and I are good friends in real life, which is awesome because she’s pretty darn cool – and it shows how writing brings people together, since we met in our local critique group. Wahoo!
Tamara’s got not one, but TWO YA fantasy series she’s penning. Today she’s here to tell us a bit about her and about The Guardian of the Vale, the third book in her Guardian of the Vale series – the series I’ve called The Last Airbender meets Harry Potter. Take it away, Tamara!
Typically, in a romance (or in your case, a romantic fantasy), halfway through the story, you’ll have a pretty good idea of who is “supposed” to end up together. You buck this tradition for your Guardian of the Vale trilogy. Why?
Good question. If it helps, I’ll say it’s not my fault. 😉
When I wrote the outline for Mark of Four (the first book in the trilogy), the romantic leads were who I intended to put together by the end of book three. However, as the story progressed, so did the characters.
By the time I wrote Guardian of the Vale, I had created a monster–that is to say: this character that I had created was so very strong, he wouldn’t let me pigeonhole him into the nice, neat portion of the story I had intended for him, and he insisted on becoming the romantic lead.
As much as it messed up my outlines and plans, I kind of liked it. It’s so much easier to write a character who takes the initiative than one who melts like so much flaccid ink onto a page with nary a struggle to be seen. Such a character may moldable, but there’s no depth there.
What type of romance do you love most and why?
I feel very … torn about this question.
Undoubtedly, the type I love the most is the happily-ever-after type where character A meets character B, and, after finally conquering the “problem” that keeps A from B and B from A, they finally declare undying love for one another, and voila, kiss, wedding, the pitter-patter of tiny feet, followed by “The End.”
On the other hand, while I love those, the stories I remember the most–the ones that never leave my head and usually burrow deep into my heart are the ones that are bittersweet, where something of great importance is lost in the struggle for great gain:
Gone with the Wind (don’t get me started on how much I dislike the main female lead; why, oh why, do I remember this one so well?)
Jane Eyre (sure, they lived happily-ever-after, but only after he was blinded and maimed, and they spent a year and more apart while they learned equal shares of pain)
Redeeming Love (a husband who loves his wife even through adultery and prostitution and any number of times she tries to leave him, and yet. And yet. Oh, that book makes me bawl my eyes out.)
I don’t know if there’s a way to say I love one kind of romance more than the other kind. They both affect me differently, though no less powerfully, I suppose, for those differences.
Welcome back to Writer Wednesday, that delightful day of the week on which I get to share with y’all one of the many fabulous authors I’ve met in this writing journey.
This week, I’m pleased to have Courtney Hunt with us. Courtney is the author of smart and sexy romance (my favorite kind!), including, as she puts it, “smart, funny contemporary romances featuring strong heroines and the sexy heroes who steal their hearts.” Oh, yeah! Sign me up!
So grab that cup of tea and settle in for a minute to read a bit about Courtney and her latest work.
What inspires you to write?
Like many writers, I get my inspiration from anywhere and everywhere–a newspaper article, a snippet of dialogue overheard in the elevator, or an anecdote from a friend. I use Evernote to capture all my ideas until I’m ready to develop them. Right now, I have over 50 different series ideas so I’ll be busy for a bit:-) As for what gets me to write daily, if I don’t write my stories no one else will. My characters are counting on me.
Which type of romance do you love most, and why?
As a lifelong romance reader I love and read all kinds of romance. Any story that contains a happily ever after is fine with me. Some tropes I especially love include second chance, friends to lovers, fairy tale romance, and arranged marriage/marriage of convenience.
Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book:
When I was writing Coconut Iced Coffee, the August Cupid’s Coffeeshop release, I learned that the US Virgin Islands are considered national parks. Therefore, it’s illegal to take sand and shells home from the islands. As part of the plot, the heroine’s brother and cousin give her a mason jar to bring back sand and shells in. I ended up having her leave it on the island with the hero as a memento of their island fling.
Name two things people don’t know about you:
Once, when helping my little sister do her homework, I set it on fire–accidentally, of course! The assignment was to create an ancient looking scroll. I thought I’d just burn the edges but that didn’t work out so well and the whole thing went up in flames. Of course, it was late the night before it was due and my sister had worked for days on it. Whoops. My mom wrote a note to the teacher and all was well but I’ve never been allowed to forget it.
I also once won a Harry Potter trivia contest. My sister and I attended all the Harry Potter release parties together. At the one for Half-Blood Prince (the 6th book), the emcee kept trying to stump us with harder and harder questions, but we prevailed. The winning answer? Naming all Hermione Granger’s classes in 3rd year in alphabetical order 🙂
What fellow romance author do you recommend reading, and why?
There are so many amazing writers out there now, especially with the explosion of e-books and self-publishing. Right at the moment, I’m really enjoying reading Jill Shalvis, Marie Force, and Belle Andre. They have creative contemporary plots that I enjoy.
What one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?
A writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build up a backlist and that burnout is a very real risk. When I first started publishing, I would get up early and write before work and then write until the wee hours after getting my son down for the night. After I got pneumonia, I learned to be a bit more balanced.
What’s your favorite romance novel of all time, and why?
I’ll pick a sentimental favorite here. Partners by Nora Roberts as it was the first romance I ever read. I snuck it out of my mother’s library bag.
And now, a bit about the latest Cupid’s Coffeeshop, Apple Cider:
September means back-to-school along with crisp weather, ripe apples, and Apple Cider at Cupid’s Coffeeshop.
Single mom Harper Wells has pined for gorgeous Cooper Mason, ever since he moved in next door two years ago. But the widower seemed focused on raising his only son. Neither single parent had any time for romance.
As a fall friendship blossoms between them, can Harper and Cooper find their happily ever after right next door?
Courtney Hunt is the author of the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series, the Always a Bridesmaid series, and the Kindle Scout winner, The Lost Art of Second Chances. An attorney by day, Courtney lives outside Washington, DC. with her husband and son.
Want to connect further with Courtney? Find her here!
Woo hoo! Recently I sat down with friend and oh-so-talented author Tamara Shoemaker and asked her all sorts of questions, because I’m nosy like that. Luckily for me, she put up with it and didn’t incinerate me, like the dragons in her latest book Kindle the Flamemight be wont to do.
So sit back and get out that chocolate bar, because we’re all in for a treat.
What was the inspiration behind Kindle the Flame?
About a year ago, my then four-year-old son wanted to know where he went when he slept. I didn’t understand what he meant at first—“Uh, you stay in your bed, silly.” He was bowled over, shocked that his dreams were not reality (he may or may not have inherited a teensy amount of my own weird imagination). After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head; it was a great jumping-off point for a novel. Of course, now that it’s all said and done, there’s absolutely nothing in my book about moving anywhere while dreaming—sleep-walking, world-travel, or otherwise. But it was the first spark that started me building my world.
Which magical beast from Kindle the Flame would you choose to be and why?
Looking at West Ashwynd’s roster of creatures, I think I’d really enjoy being a Pixie, which is why I spent so much of my time with them in the Pixie Glades. They seem like a fun group of creatures, and they can make magic with their words. What author doesn’t dream of doing that?
If you HAD to pick between Kindle the Flame’s Ayden and Cedric, who would you want and why?
Oh, that’s a tough one! When I write a character, I fall in love with every single one of them, whether good or bad, because I get to know them so intimately. I enter into their struggles so completely that it tears me apart when they blunder, and I dance around my kitchen when they succeed. Ayden and Cedric both come from very different backgrounds, but both hold such appeal for me, because they both are lonely, unloved, and uncared for. Over the course of the book, however, that changes. When I first meet them, I pity them, but then that pity slowly morphs to love. Since someone, who shall remain unnamed, is forcing me to choose one over the other *glares pointedly in Margaret’s direction*—I’d probably go for Ayden. His silver eyes get me every time. 😉
How long does it take you to write your fantasies?
I cranked out Kindle the Flame‘s first draft in under a month (a product of National Novel Writing Month—or NaNoWriMo), and put the spit and shine on it for the next five months. What’s that—six months all told? That’s not normal for me. I do write fast, but NaNoWriMo lit a serious fire under me. I’ve never seen smoke coming from my keyboard like that. 🙂 This is a longer book—112,000 words. My shorter 90,000 word fantasies take a little less time.
What’s your favorite kind of character to write? Male/Female? Hero/Anti-Hero? Villain/Lover?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. Male/Female: I think I enjoy female just a bit more. They’re so amazingly complex and confusing and they make absolutely no sense, so they can go off on rants, and no one is surprised. If I sound like I’m speaking from personal experience, well… maybe I am.
Hero/Anti-hero: I think I may like writing the anti-hero’s point of view just a teensy bit better. Evil characters often have so much more complexity than a simple wish to do well, to better the world. As noble as those things are, and as necessary as they are to any plotline, the angst and struggles of an anti-hero are often more intriguing to me. 🙂
Villain/Lover: Again, villain, mostly for the reasons I listed above for the anti-hero. Lovers have a fairly simple, straight-forward mind-pattern (mostly ushy-gushy, ooh-la-la train of thought). Oh, the possibilities of a villain—there’s a reason they are the way they are, and I love to explore that.
Tell us two things people don’t know about you that we wouldn’t expect.
Thing one: I’m extremely ticklish. Like the kind of ticklish that if you take a swipe at one of my feet, you’d better be prepared for a broken nose. I have NO control.
Thing two: I hate to answer my phone. Or anyone’s phone. I really, really, viscerally hate talking on the phone. I love to spend time with people, hang out, have fun, text, email, etc. In general, I have loads of friends, but if my friends know me well, they won’t call me. There are one or two rare exceptions to this, but in general, this is the case. If you ask me what my problem is… yeah, I have no idea. It is what it is.
(ML’s note: This is one of the reasons Tamara and I are soulmates. Of a sort. Phones suck.)
You are locked deep in a cave (but luckily have a sun lamp and self-generating chocolate) and may only have three books with you to read. Which would you choose and why?
First, thank you for allowing me the self-generating chocolate. It’s the important things in life… I’m assuming a Kindle is out of the question, because a.) that would be cheating, and b.) I have never learned to love e-readers. So moving on to my essential three books.
a.) The Bible. Because that’s the one book that has gotten me through everything and on which I base my entire belief system.
b.) Anne of Green Gables – because as I noted in a recent blog post, I am Anne. It is one of the few books that I can read… and read and read and read and read and never tire of. Although, I admit I’d struggle for a while choosing it over Pride and Prejudice and/or Jane Eyre. Still, I believe it would win out.
c.) Harry Potter (um, series? Does that break the three book rule)? – The bespectacled wizard was the first character to truly help me realize my love of fantastical magic. I owe a lot of my love of this genre to those amazing books.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: persistence is key. Plugging away, day after day, is what gets you through. It doesn’t sound fun, and sometimes it isn’t. I find that writing a novel is like journeying from one mountain to another. You start out on the peak of that first mountain. You’re excited; your idea is fresh and new, and you can’t wait to start laying those words on that paper (or that laptop). You look forward to completing the dream—a novel with your name on it! You take your first steps—the first chapter, or two, or three. The characters are new and fresh; the inciting incident is power packed and vivid. Loads of ideas roll through your head. You hit the first 12,000 words, and you’ve descended into the valley. Staleness sets in, and you lose the vision for your book. You follow a million rabbit trails, and your focus slides sideways. The only way you can finish that book is that consistent, persistent plugging away, climbing that second mountain, step by arduous step, 500 or 5,000 words every day, day by day, until at last, your book is finished. You’ve reached the second peak! The world lies at your feet, yours for the taking! Never give up, never.
What’s up next in your fantasy writing? Any hints on Kindle the Flame Part II? Or new books coming down the pike?
Yes, I’m currently working on the sequel to Kindle the Flame(with the idea of making a trilogy). Hints? Um, let’s see. Lots more Dragons. You get to know Chennuh and Ember pretty well in book one. There will be others in book two. Epic warfare. An evil king that only increases his horribleness. Love triangles, more than one! A huge twist ending (which I’m super excited about and have been planning for months).
Oh, and I have to tell you about a new release I have coming up in November! Mark of Fouris an urban fantasy about people who can wield the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), and most especially about an anomaly of a girl who can inexplicably wield all four elements, something no one else has ever been able to do. There’s a delicious villain in that one, as well. And here’s a secret. I really wish I could be that girl. Hmm, maybe that’s not so secret.
Now that we’ve sparked your interest in Kindle the Flame (hardy har har; yes, I love corny word play), here’s the blurb:
A girl who never fit in, a young man forced into an outcast’s life, a boy raised without a community, and a ruler who holds the key to their destinies…
Kinna has a Pixie she can’t train and a head full of doubts. Her worst fears come true when she fails the Tournament entrance test. She flees her Clan in disgrace, inexplicably drawn to a Mirage, a rare Dragon she has no business training.
Ayden is cursed—anyone he touches turns to ash before his eyes. He hides amongst the Dragon Clan with the only creatures he cannot hurt. When Kinna frees his favorite Dragon, his world turns upside down.
Cedric grows up in isolation, fostered by an outcast Centaur. When tragedy strikes, he ventures into a strange new world of Dragons, political intrigue, and magic.
Sebastian’s country hovers on the brink of war. Chased from his rightful throne, he schemes to retake his kingdom by any means possible, even if it threatens an ancient agreement that underpins the foundation of his realm.
Only by examining their pasts will these four find their futures. But will they survive the fires of discovery?
Tamara Shoemaker lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three children, a few jars of Nutella, and a never-ending carafe of coffee. She authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy:Kindle the Flame, as well as the upcoming Guardian of the Valetrilogy.