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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Anne Barwell and Lou Sylvre here today talking about writing, characters and their latest story, Sunset at Pencarrow. Welcome, Anne and Lou!
Lou: Before we get started answering questions, Anne and I just want to say thanks—first to readers, but equally to STARW for hosting us on our Sunset at Pencarrow blog tour. A heads-up: We have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on so don’t forget to enter early and often!
How much of yourself goes into a character? Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?
Lou: The answer to that question depends on how I look at it. In the most literal sense, plunking myself down in a fictional situation and writing about what I would do there, never ever. On the other hand, I’m sure many readers have heard it said that characters are all different versions of the author, and I believe there is some truth to that. I mean, how can we write characters with integrity—real reactions, responses, interactions, and inner workings unless they somehow come from inside ourselves? But so much goes into making up all the hidden parts of ourselves, not just our experiences and so forth, but our empathy, not to mention those characteristics that are part of us and we would never be able to say why. When I write a character, I definitely draw on that resource. Sometimes, it’s just little bits of gut knowledge or subtle reaction. Sometimes, though, it’s extreme—for instance when I write a “bad guy,” what they’re made of are my own honest responses exaggerated and twisted.
So the process goes something like this: Imagine a character vastly different from me, then write as if I am him (or her). Use my own honest emotions, reactions, responses, etc., to drive him along his trajectory toward whatever it is he wants or needs.
Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
Anne: I don’t really choose the genres I write—they choose me. I enjoy researching, but I also love the challenge of making up my own worlds and cultures. I’ve written a few historicals and writing those always entails lot of research, and I always learn something new with each book. I work at a library so I tend to refer to a mix of print and electronic materials when I need information. Although I don’t have to worry so much about every little details being as accurate as possible when writing fantasy, I still want consistency in my world building and to ensure that whatever magic system I’m using makes sense. So… instead of a lot of research in the traditional sense, I’m still spending the time I’d usually research in making up a new world.
Lou: I don’t see that as an either/or question. Every novel takes place in a fictional world, even if it is contemporary romance set in a real city, with real buildings and streets and even events—because your characters don’t live in that real city and their story isn’t happening there. And even the most far-flung paranormal, sci-fi, or fantasy has to have elements of realism, because if it didn’t, it would make little sense to readers, and because to hold such a story together the question of “how” is at least as important as “what.” I do enjoy research a great deal regardless of the kind of story I’m writing. That was one of the bonuses of writing Sunset at Pencarrow; it required quite a good bit of research for me, never having been to New Zealand, not having a Vietnamese Buddhist mother, not having been familiar with the places fighting might have occurred in Afghanistan, etc. Anne and I do have another work in process which would fall, genre-wise, somewhere between fantasy and magical realism, but it’s worked around a real series of events in historical Scotland. Lots of research needed there, too—interesting, and one of the fun parts of the writer’s job.
Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?
Lou: As a teen, I loved fantasy, sci-fi, and suspense/thriller fiction. I veered away from that in my thirties and forties, reading a lot of Native American literature, women’s literature, lesbian fiction, and mainstream novels and short stories (though I never really stopped reading fantasy and sci-fi). Sometime in the last two decades, I’ve come back around, and now read genre fiction almost exclusively, especially fantasy and (with or without the suspense) romance—the latter mostly M/M. Not surprisingly, those are also the things I like to write nowadays.
Anne: Definitely. I grew up on a reading diet of mostly SF/fantasy and comic books, with the odd historical and mystery detective thrown in. I loved—and still do—Susan Cooper, Madeleine L’Engle, Robert Heinlein, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Andre Norton, to name just a few. If a book looked interesting, I’d read it, which is still my criteria for picking up one today.
My writing, like my reading, covers a range of genres, and sometimes a book will ‘misbehave’ and not stick to one genre. I’ve written historical (WWI and II so far), fantasy (contemporary, high, and urban), SF (time travel), and contemporary romance. There’s a touch of mystery detective through several of those too.
Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?
Lou: Either can be satisfying to me, but I do want one or the other if I’m reading romance. I don’t particularly care for endings that are essentially cliffhangers (unless the next book picks up where the last left off in a series), or endings that just leave too much to the reader to decide what happened, in any genre. To me, however, the very worst kind of ending is the one that tidies everything up too neatly, with no room for me to imagine a future for the characters in my own reader mind.
Anne: I don’t mind whether characters get a HFN or HEA, as long as they don’t go through a lot of strife for nothing. In some situations, such as an historical, a HEA isn’t going to happen, but that’s fine. Sometimes, the story is a slice of someone’s life, and like real life, I’d prefer not to know what happens in the future. As long as they’re happy now, I’m happy.
Sometimes characters aren’t going to get either, but there needs to be a good reason for that, depending on the story. If there isn’t a good reason though, I get annoyed. I read a series a couple of years ago, and devoured all three tome sized books, only to have the author kill one of the main characters in the second to last chapter of the final book and then have something happen that undid everything the characters had worked for. And yes, I’m still muttering about that one.
Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?
Anne: I didn’t read any romance stories until I was an adult, although some of the stories I read had some romance in them, so I have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve always enjoyed stories that are more character driven and as romance is a part of life, it makes sense that I’d be drawn towards reading the genre. I read across a lot of genres, and my romance reading tends to be more MM rather than MF, although I do enjoy a good MF romance too.
Lou: I didn’t really start reading romances until I was in my twenties, unless you count things like Jane Eyre, which I read as a young teen. In the 1970s, I read authors like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and Johanna Lindsey—that was the infamous bodice-ripper era. I stopped reading them for a while except Lesbian romance. For the past decade or so, I’ve been reading mostly (but not exclusively) M/M when I read romance.
How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?
Anne: I read both ebooks and hardcopy, but given the choice I prefer the feel of a hardcopy book. However, if it wasn’t for ebooks, I wouldn’t have been able to read many books that I’ve enjoyed. There are more novellas available now than there used to be, as most of those aren’t in print, and also being in New Zealand, books and postage to here are very expensive, so many books I want to read would be out of my reach in hardcopy.
I think there’s a place for both ebooks and hardcopy for that reason. Each has their pros and cons, and readers who prefer one of the other, so I’m hoping we’ll continue to be able to have the option to read whichever way we want for.
How do you choose your covers? (curious on my part)
Lou: I’ve been lucky enough to work with Dreamspinner Press and Harmony Ink, their YA imprint. More so than some publishers, they allow the author to have a good deal of input about what goes on the cover, but it’s the assigned artist who interprets that. They provide mock-ups to choose from, and also accept suggestions for changes. So I don’t have to just accept a cover as a done deal, but I also don’t have to create one or go shopping for one. When I choose from the mocks and offer possible tweaks, I’m looking to evoke a feeling or atmosphere that gets at the heart of the book. I am more than pleased with the covers I have, and honestly I’m delighted with the cover Anne and I got from Reese Dante for Sunset at Pencarrow.
Do you have a favorite among your own stories? And why?
Lou: I’m going to take the liberty of changing the question slightly. Since Sunset at Pencarrow is my current love, I’m going to choose my favorite among my other books. It’s not easy, but I’d have to choose Because of Jade, the final book in my Vasquez and James series. Through five previous stories, I put those men through hell. They faced unspeakable terrors, they grew as individuals, and they grew in their love for each other. At the end of each book, they had a happy ending, but never quite complete. In BOJ, they are finally mature, and though they face problems and scares, the main focus is the way they grow their love outward, as they adopt a little girl and make a family. I love the men the characters grew into, I love the world they make for themselves in this book, and I love their little girl. More than that, it makes my heart sing a little that I finally got to give them a true happy ever after, which they so richly deserved.
Anne: Choosing a favorite story is like choosing a favorite child, but one of my favorites would have to be my Echoes Rising series. This series has been a part of my life for well over a decade, and when I started writing the first book—Shadowboxing—it was the first time I knew that what I was working on was a novel. It actually turned out to be three novels, but these books and their characters will always have a soft spot in my heart.
What’s next for you as an author?
Anne: Comes a Horseman, which is the 3rd and final book of my WWII Echoes Rising series releases from DSP Publications on 1st August. After that, One Word, which is book 3 of my contemporary fantasy series Hidden Places is being published by Dreamspinner Press in November/December this year. Writing wise, I’m finishing up Prelude to Love which is a contemporary romance set in New Zealand. After that I’m heading into another co-written book with Lou called The Harp and the Sea, which is a historical set in 17th century Scotland with a touch of magic realism. While she’s working on her side of that, I’ll be writing A Sword to Rule, the 2nd and final book of my fantasy series Dragons of Austria.
Lou: I’m re-working the first two books and writing the third in a series that spun off from Vasquez and James, and making some decisions about the series future. Anne and I have a novel in progress (the Scottish historical/fantasy mentioned above), and I’ve got a couple of novellas in the early stages. So, I’m busy, and hopefully will have more specific news soon. Thanks for asking!
Lou and Anne: Thank you again, readers. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment (and get another giveaway entry in the process). We also hope to see you along the way throughout the tour.
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for the complete schedule and links!
Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.
Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.
World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf
About the Authors
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She works in a library, is an avid reader and watcher across genres, and is constantly on the lookout for more hours in her day. Music often plays a part in her stories, and although she denies being a romantic at heart, the men in her books definitely are. Anne has written in several genres—contemporary, fantasy, historical, and SF— and believes in making her characters work for their happy endings.
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The romantics on her pages are men who fall hard for each other, end up deeply in love, and often save each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very sexy. Among other things, Lou is the creator of the popular Vasquez and James series, which can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and many other online vendors.
Lou and Anne’s shared Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/
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