Posts Tagged ‘vampires’


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Well… the holidays are over and that means back to work. Now that the world is slowly returning to its usual rhythm, I’m eager to get back to the book I’ve been working on, so when Tamara Thorne (http://tamarathorne.wordpress.com/) asked me to follow her on The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, I was happy to do it. I’ve been invited to do the Blog Hop before, but up until the past week or two, things have just been too crazy, making it impossible. So, my apologies to the folks I had to decline.

 

Q: What is the working title of your book?

A: The White Room. Or maybe Cadence. I’m hoping something will hit me, as it sometimes does, during the process of writing or revising the book, but as it is now, I usually refer to as “TWR”–The White Room–and will probably keep it unless the actual white room in this book ends up not playing a part substantial enough to title the novel after.

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?

A: It evolved slowly, but it began in a night club in Salt Lake City. We were downstairs playing pool in a multi-storey dance club when my friend said, “Let’s go upstairs to The White Room.” Right away, The White Room sounded like a fantastic place, and before I saw it, I knew that it was going to be a title of something. When we got to the room, there were white sofas and white gauzy material hanging from the ceiling. It really was a white room, although I never was sure if that was its actual name or if my friend had referred to it that way for simplification purposes. The rest of the story came in fits and starts, slowly evolving and turning into a cohesive storyline over the course of about six or seven months, I think. Somewhere along the way, I decided this was going to be a vampire story. I later interspersed the concepts of addiction, slavery, and domination into the storyline.

Q:What genre does your book fall under?

A: Horror. Maybe thriller (with an erotic edge if I have anything to say about it.)

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

A: This is always a tough question. I don’t give much thought to this when I’m writing, and I figure the casting directors would be better at finding the right people for the roles than I am. However, if I were to go by basic physical appearance, general mannerisms, etc., I could see Ashton Kutcher, or maybe a darker-haired Ryan Reynolds–or maybe even James Franco–playing Brooks, the suffering older brother.  When I think of Cade–the protagonist and Brooks’ younger brother–I think of a Daniel Radcliffe type—handsome in an offbeat way, but ultimately a kind of geeky charm. As for Piper, I see her as a kind of Katy Perry-looking type, although I don’t think Ms. Perry does much acting. Piper is the only character that I see absolutely clearly, down to the cast of her nose, the slant of her eyes, and the shape of her lips. Katy Perry is the only person that comes to mind for her. Finally, Gretchen, the bad ‘guy’, would be played by a platinum-haired Kate Hudson, Tara Reid, or maybe Heather Graham. Someone who looks good in black and dark purple, and isn’t afraid of spiders…mwa ha ha ha (evil laugh)!

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A: Hmmm… “Prepare to come unfanged!” …?

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

A: I lean toward the traditional publishing divisions of the industry.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A: The first draft was written about two years ago and took about five months. I’ve since decided the story needs to be told from a different perspective and have basically started over, so really, I am writing the first draft now.

Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?

A: The inspiration originally came from a life-long love of vampires. As a kid, I dressed as a vampire almost every Halloween. I think we’re seduced by the power and beauty that vampires have come to represent, and of course, the prospect of eternal life; and that’s what really inspired this book: I reached a certain age and realized that I would not, if given the choice, want to live forever. It made me wonder if, after having given it some honest thought, a person would really choose to walk the earth eternally.

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A: The White Room will carry on in the same tradition of Beautiful Monster in that it will have a healthy dose of sex and violence, but The White Room begs deeper questions. I think readers are ready for a protagonist who sees a less seductive side of eternal life. I also think readers will be interested in some of the vampire myths and legends that are incorporated into this story. There are several hybrid concepts threading this story together, and if it’s as fun to read it as it is to write it, I’m confident it will inspire some interest.

Next Wednesday, January 16th, follow the blog hop and read about the wonderful work of Monique Rockliffe (www.moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com), Jennifer Latas (http://jenniferlatas.wordpress.com/), and Kim Williams-Justesen (http://kwjwrites.wordpress.com/)

Find me at:

Twitter: JaredSAnderson3

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6517308.Jared_S_Anderson

Beautiful Monster fan page: http://www.facebook.com/beautifuldamnation?ref=hl

Beautiful Monster is available in eBook and Paperback at Damnation Books: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727742

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beautiful-monster-mimi-a-williams/1112783047?ean=9781615727759

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-Mimi-A-Williams/dp/1615727752/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1354247199&sr=8-5&keywords=Beautiful+Monster

and everywhere books are sold.

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Hello, and happy Halloween!

Today was the last day to participate in the “Name That Serial Killer” contest that my co-author, Mimi A. Williams and I hosted for a chance to win a signed copy of Beautiful Monster. I’m thrilled by the amount of people who participated and surprised by how well everyone did! There is a definite winner which we will announce on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/beautifuldamnation?ref=hl) within the next few days, but with so many people doing such a great job, we’ve decided to give out some books to the runners-up as well. Thank you to everyone who participated. You guys rock.

The proof copy of my dear friend Patricia Scanlan’s upcoming novel, With All My Love, arrived in the mail last weekend. Patricia mailed me the book several months before its official release as a token of appreciation, and I couldn’t be more flattered or more honored by the gesture. I haven’t had a chance to get into it yet, but I’m stoked about being the first person in the United States to read it, so I can’t put it off much longer! With All My Love will be released on Mother’s Day (March in Ireland, May in the U.S.) and along with it, I’ll be posting an interview I did with her several months back. As soon as I get the go-ahead, I’ll also post some pictures of the book.

The past weeks have been busy with critiquing, reviewing, and proof reading that I’ve been doing for a few of my writer friends, and I’m making good headway on the project formerly known as The White Room. I finished chapter ten last week and am still hopeful I can have it finished by (or shortly after) the end of 2012. I’d hoped the re-writes wouldn’t be too heavy, but in truth, I’m re-writing the entire book, so it’s going to be a few more months before it’s ready to be submitted.

The good news is, I’m finding ways of being more efficient. I’ve learned that if I do my writing in the mornings, the critiquing and proofing for other folks in the evenings, and spend a few hours working on Saturday, I can take Sundays off…which is becoming more important to me as I get busier and busier. Also, I have officially employed a research assistant who is currently investigating blood types and vampire lore…and taking a lot off my shoulders!

Busy as it’s been, I love it. This is what I’ve always wanted, and I’m happy to say that all the hard work of writing (and it is hard work!) is well worth it.

I hope you have a fun and safe Halloween. I plan to hole up in bed with The Haunting of Hill House!  

On a final Halloween-related note, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in California did an interview with my good friend Tamara Thorne. It’s always interesting to get a look at the minds behind the stories. Check out Tamara’s interview at: http://www.sgvtribune.com/living/ci_21877136/celebrated-horror-novelist-tamara-thorne-finds-inspiration-close


I discovered the books of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro just a few months ago, and have become a great fan of her work. I became acquainted with her through a friend of mine, and I was eager to get an interview with her. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is a kind, fascinating, and very talented writer. She’s been writing for 44 years, and has penned everything from science fiction, to horror, to westerns, to non-fiction. She is presently the author of 87 published novels, and I am honored to have her. I’ve been reading her Saint-Germaine vampire series, and I strongly recommend it to anyone. However, I’ve found one negative side effect to reading the books of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro: she serves as a great reminder to me of how far I have to go to get as good as she is.

Visit Chelsea Quinn Yarbro at: http://www.chelseaquinnyarbro.net/

Q: You have written so many historical novels. How and why do you choose to write about the eras you do?

A:  In the case of the Saint-Germain novels, I originally set the stories — with the exception of Tempting Fate, which takes place after the historical man was dead — in places the real man had claimed to have been, and expanded from there.  Over the years I’ve developed a chronology for Saint-Germain, Roger, Olivia, Niklos, and Madelaine as well as some notes on what happens to others from his colorful past:  Rowena Saxon in Writ in Blood shows up again in Midnight Harvest, for example. In the case of other historical novels, which includes my two westerns, I chose times that interested me for their ripple effect on their time, or events that so appalled me that I  wanted to explore how they happened.

Q: Which are your favorite historical time eras and why?

A:  This one, because it’s where I live.

Q: You’ve been quoted as saying, “History is horror.” Can you elaborate on that?

A:  Not all history is horrifying, but a lot of it is. I call the Saint-Germain Cycle historical horror novels (and have from the first, meaning from Hotel Transylvania on; the sentimentalized “novel of forbidden love” was the publisher’s idea, which is why I cross it out in every copy I sign) because what people do to people tends to be more barbaric than anything a vampire could do.  Go ahead: compare, say, Stalin with one vampire, or a dozen of them.  Who is the more inhumane?

Q: Of the novels you’ve written, which ones were the most difficult to write, and how did you get through them?

A: Since I’m a character-driven writer, once the characters “come alive” the only way to shut them up is to finish the story; otherwise they linger.  I have two large portions-and-outlines that haven’t sold yet sitting in my head, and I would like to find them a home so they can retire from my thoughts.  It’s my general experience that stories drive themselves once the characters become “real”.  Any book worth its salt is difficult to write — that’s part of the deal.  Some are harder than others, but if they’re easy, the writer is cheating not only the reader, but him/herself as a story-teller.  For me, westerns are fun, but not easy.

Q: How important  do you think historical accuracy is when writing a novel set in a different time era?

A: It depends on the book.  In general I’m a stickler for historical accuracy, but I have done alternate history, like Ariosto, which I find challenging and engaging.

Q: How do you feel about narrative non-fiction?

A: It depends on how well it’s done, and unfortunately much of it is filled with sloppy writing.  When it’s done well, it’s quite intriguing.

Q: How many Saint-Germaine novels are there, and which are your favorites?

A:  There are 24 novels, including the one I just turned in, and 2 collections of shorter fiction.  My favorite book at any time is always my next one.  Collaborations are a bit different, but even they have charm for me.

Q: What do you hope readers come away with from reading your Saint-Germaine novels?

A: The satisfaction of money well-spent.  Anything beyond that is extra.

Q: What is the one thing you think most readers would be surprised to know about the Saint-Germaine novels?

A:  Probably that most of them were written in less than six months, some in less than four months.

Q: What do you think is the most fascinating or peculiar thing about life as a writer?

A:  Making sense of royalty reports.

Q: I’ve read that you have written over eighty novels, and that you release three to four books per year. How do you remain so prolific? And how many hours of writing do you do in the course of an average week?

A:  At present 87 books — novels, collections, non-fiction — and over 80 shorter works are listed on my bibliography; in my 44 years of professional writing, I’ve had five books completed canceled before publication, six completed novels that never sold — or haven’t sold yet — a couple of for-hire ventures that fell apart after my work had been done, and two books that vanished in a puff of smoke when the acquisitions editor left the acquiring publisher.  However my end of publication happens, it happens, I’m glad it does.  My average day goes like this:  up between 7 and 7:30, feed the cats, answer email and such, take a hot bath to get my arthritic joints moving (I’ve had arthritic knees since my 20s), then do writing until 12 or 1, when I stop for lunch, the main meal of my day.  Then I take an hour or so for chores such as shipping, shopping, watering the garden, and get back to work between 3 and 4, break at 5 for the news, come back to the machine either around 7 or 9, depending what’s on tv.  Toward the end of a book, I may go back to work at 10 or 11 and work until 1 or so, and then I get up an hour later than usual.  Sunday I visit friends in the South Bay, and I allow myself one half-day a week.  A couple times a year I have house-guests, and play tourist with my visitors.  I have lunch out a couple of times a month.  There are days when Crumpet, Butterscotch, and Ekaterina the Great, Empress of all the Russias demand more of my time than they usually do, but that’s pretty much it.

Q: Who are your own favorite writers and what are some of your favorite books?

A:  Shakespeare, all else is changeable.

Q: What are some things in a novel that bother you and will cause you to put it down?

A:  Poor grammar and syntax in narration will do it every time.  Dialogue can be a linguistic mess and that doesn’t bother me, but if I have to stop to parse a sentence or deal with a misused word, I am no longer “in” the story, and I quickly lose interest in it.  Obvious story lines and motivation based on stupidity can also turn me off.

Q: What are some things that make it impossible for you to put a book down?

A:  A friend wrote it, it’s not a genre I’m working in at the time and it’s well done, the characters are compelling, it has an unusual perspective or a narrative point-of-view that opens a lot of doors.  Style can also catch my attention. if the storytelling is solid.

Q: Do you outline your novels, or does the plot come to you as you write it?

A:  Yes, I outline, though I often wind up getting rerouted through the story line by the characters on my way to the end.  If the characters and the book isn’t mostly set in my mind, I can’t write it, but once the basic form is there, and the characters are established, I’m ready to go.

Q: Did you have any false illusions when you began life as a novelist, and if so, how have these evolving understandings changed your approach to your craft and the business of writing?

A: All illusions are false by definition.  When I began, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into.  Of course my understanding has been evolving, as has every writer’s:  publishing has been evolving, and at the moment more rapidly than in past decades, which certainly changed the business end of writing.  For one thing, advances are down sharply and print-runs are smaller.  Then there’s the whole matter of e-publishing, and who knows how that’s going to shake out.  At least for now, it is reviving the back-list so that mid-list writers like me are not compelled to live in garages or in spare rooms.  For now there is cause for encouragement, which is a nice change.

Q: What makes you laugh?

A: Mark Twain’s essay on “The Awful German Language” is sure to make me laugh.  My three cats.  The rest is timing and my state of mind.


As well as being a multi-published author, Dawne Dominique is also a cover art designer. In fact, Dawne is responsible for the cover art for Beautiful Monster (scheduled for release September 1st, 2012 by Damnation Books LLC) written by myself and Mimi A. Williams~ and neither of us could be happier with the work Dawne did for us!

As I’ve been getting to know her, I’ve been struck by Dawne’s kindness, her passion for her work, her flexibility with the authors she works with, and of course, her talent. When Mimi and I saw the draft of the cover art design for Beautiful Monster we were absolutely thrilled. So thrilled in fact, that we overlooked Sterling’s eye color in the picture. When I realized we’d made a rather big deal of Sterling’s piercing blue eyes throughout the novel, I thought I’d probably better see if it wasn’t too late to ask Dawne if we could make the alteration. I was a bit nervous about doing this because first of all, I was worried it was going to be too late, and second, I didn’t want to seem persnickety about the very good work Dawne had done for us. I realized I’d be happy with the cover either way, but finally decided it was worth asking about on the off-chance it wasn’t to late to make changes.

As it turned out, it wasn’t too late. Within a few hours of talking to Dawne about the cover, I received an updated draft of the cover on which Sterling looked back at me with a pair of the brightest, bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I still can’t stop staring at it!

Dawne Dominque will always be a very special person to me. I liken her to a kind of magician. She made my fictional character real. She gave corporeal life to the man I plucked from somewhere in my own twisted mind. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what else is.

Interviewing Dawne was a ton of fun and I look forward to working with her more in the future. For more about her, her novels, and her cover art, visit her at: http://www.dawnedominique.com/

Thank you so much for having me here today, Jared.

Q: Why did you decide to get into cover art design?

A: It was quite by accident. I was designing signs and banners for authors in my writing forum. When I was approached by a publisher to submit a novella for an erotic cowboy anthology, she suggested I do the covers for each eBook submission, and then the print format. It was the first time I became a published author and a cover artist.

Q: Over the course of your career, about how many novels have you done the cover art for?

A: *chuckles* You know, I was just thinking about that the other day. I’d guesstimate well over a 1,000 covers, with the majority of them eBooks. I began as an artist at the start of the eBook emergence. Let’s see:  I do about 30 covers minimum a month (sometimes more), as I work for several publishers: two of them release quarterly, and the majority release monthly. So, let’s multiple that by seven years. I wasn’t doing as many in the earlier days, but now it’s crazy nuts…and I love it.

Q: Are there any covers that you are especially proud of? Why?

A: Geeze!  There’s too many to count. The first one that made me realize I actually had some talent was a book cover called Hard Winter. Each cover is a personal experience for me. I know that sounds bizarre, but I try walking in an author’s shoes, getting inside their heads, so to speak. One of my recent favorites  is a Steampunk cover I did for an Indie author called The Hands of Tarot. Some of my horror favorites (and I’m not saying this because it’s you) is Beautiful Monster and Grim. I like some more than others. It’s way too difficult to pinpoint only one.

Q: What is the best part of being a cover art designer?

A: Hands down…an author’s reaction.

Q: What are the most significant ways technology has changed your career?

A: Well, to be honest, I self-taught myself everything I know. I prefer certain programs for certain formats. I began with a free drawing program called Serif. Then I upgraded to Photoshop. Every couple of years, I purchase an upgrade, which can do more magic. The old days of hand-drawn artwork is gone, and I’m thankful for it, as changes/revisions can be easily done with photo-manipulation.

Q: Along with the artwork, you are also the author of several novels. Which do you prefer: designing, or writing, and why?

A: That’s a tough question. Both are an integral part of me. I’ve always been a writer and artist ever since I could hold a crayon.

Q: What do you think is the most important quality a good writer must possess?

A: Their imagination.

Q: Which of your own novels are you most proud of, and why?

 A: My vampire series called The First. I began writing it well before the Twilights and True Bloods of the world. Hell, I’m still writing it. Unfortunately, the first novel was picked up and released by another publisher, who held it hostage for three years. An absolute horrid experience, which made me shelve the entire project, which was heartbreaking as I’d already had three novels written for it. Although it was a bad experience, it was one I learned a lot from, so in the end, it wasn’t so bad after all. It’s the reason why I work with the authors as I do—getting input with respect to their cover art.

Q: Are you writing anything now, and what can you tell us about it?

A: I’m editing Crimson Cries, which is about a chapter short of being finished. It’s the fourth novel to The First series. Then, there’s Surrender: Sins of the Father, the final novel. These aren’t your usual romance/paranormal novels. They call them “erotica” because there’s sex in them, but it’s not your fluffy, romancing stuff that dreams are made of. I’m a “say like it is” gal, and my writing is an extension of myself. No purple prose for me, thank you very much. With this series, I’ve blended biblical and mythology facts into fiction. The gist is why, where, and how the first vampires came to be. There’s several significant characters and a few “aha” moments.  It may surprise people to learn who was actually nailed to the cross that faithful day.  *grins*

I’ve also started another novel called Hellhound Bound. It’s only in its infancy stages, at about 13k being written, but it’s about a paralegal who gets caught up in a murder trial she’s working on. Of course, it’s speculative fiction, so there’s magic and paranormal aspects involved.

Then there’s several novels I  must get back to. I began as a classic fantasy writer, like Lord of the  Rings, but with kick-ass women heroines. I have an almost 200k fantasy novel that needs major edits. Finding the time is the main obstacle. Once The First series is completed, I plan to do some serious editing on them. My publisher has been itching to release them, but in my eyes, they’re not ready to venture into the world yet.

Q: What is the hardest part of being a writer for you?

A: Right now…finding the time to set my muse in motion. I work three days a week as a contracted paralegal (Thursdays being a ten-hour day). Every night I come home and do cover art. I try my best to use the late night to write. That’s my time. It’s not uncommon for me to look at the clock and realize it’s four in the morning.

Q: Who is the most difficult character you have written? Why was he or she so difficult, and how did you make it work?

A: Sam Ethbert. He’s an inmate on death row who dies by lethal injection and wakes to find himself being interviewed by two very strange men. Sadly, while he’s in prison, he’s convicted of anther crime he didn’t do—murder of another inmate.  It was the first story I posted in my writing forum in order to receive critiques. First, I had to think like man, and not just any man, but a career criminal. A few people who reviewed it were surprised to learn I was a woman.  *snickers* The story is written in first person, and for me, that’s always a challenge to write.

Q: Do you do the cover art for your own books?

A: Remember the horrid publisher experience I suffered? It all began with the cover they designed for me…with my name spelled incorrectly on front. Yes, I design every cover for myself…and man, oh, man, am I anal! I’m never satisfied.  hahahaha

Q: You did the cover art for Beautiful Monster, the novel written my me and Mimi A. Williams. What was your favorite part about doing that cover?

A: The finished product. When I’m nearing the end of the creative process, I always ask myself one question:  Would I be proud to have this as my own cover?

Q: In your e-mail you said that after reading our Author Information Forms you wanted to do the cover art for Beautiful Monster yourself. What made you interested in doing the artwork on this book?

A: It was the complexity of Sterling Bronson’s character that tugged at me, I wanted to show the two dimensions of him at first glance. Taking descriptions and creating the artwork is a challenge I strive on. And yours was certainly a challenge I wanted to delve into. ☺

Q: What was the most difficult part about Beautiful Monster’s cover art?

A: When I finally managed to get both features to blend realistically. *whew*

Q: Have I told you how much I LOVE the cover?!?

A: *blushes*  Yes. And because you love it, I keep smiling. My job is done.

Q: When you aren’t writing or designing, what do you like to do?

A: That’s not too often, let me tell you. I enjoy having a few beers on the deck. I’m a simple Canadian girl. Our winters are long—and damn cold. When summer arrives, that’s where you’ll usually find me…if I’m not chained to my computer in the dungeon.  If a good Blues band comes to the city, you’ll find me there dancing and partying. I really don’t go out much.

Q: Have you ever been stumped and not had any idea what kind of cover you were going to give a book? If so, how did you overcome it?

A: No, I’ve never been stumped, but I will confess that I’ve scratched my head at some ideas authors have given me. I always try to work with it as opposed to against it. If I know it won’t sell, then I design something of my own, trying my best to incorporate a few of those details. 99% of time, authors are stunned at what I’ve come up with. More times than not, we usually never have any changes. When an author tells me to “run with it”, those are best!  I allow my imagination to go wild. It’s why I adore doing horror cover art. I find little restrictions in that genre.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about being a cover art designer?

A: I’m a stickler for details, so I like to get it right the first time, with minor tweaks. More importantly, the artwork has to look realistic. There’s some covers out there that I’ve done that I don’t like, but the authors were adamant about certain aspects they wanted. It’s their cover, right? If they’re happy, so be it. But if it’s right off the wall, I’ll refuse, especially if I know it’s not going to sell. I’ve been in this business a long time, so I’ve learned a few things. Authors trust me, and that is by far the greatest compliment I could ever receive.

Q: What is the most rewarding?

A: As I mentioned earlier, it’s an author’s reaction. Knowing they’re proud to display their covers and boast about it, then I’ve done my job, and I’ve done it well.

Q: Do you find most authors to be easy to work with when it comes to their book covers?

A: In all the years that I’ve been designing cover art, only two have driven me almost over the edge. Needless to say, I survived, but barely. I’m adamant about allowing an author three drafts only. If we can’t get right in three, there’s something radically wrong. I’ve done up to 18 drafts before I pulled the plug. There was just no pleasing this author. There are times when they have this conception in their head about how their covers should look like, and nothing will deter them. No matter how close I came, it wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, I refuse to work with that author again.

I’ve been absolutely blessed with the authors I’ve worked for and continue to work with. True, some are more pickier than others, but I’m an author, too. I understand where they’re coming from, and that gives me a distinctive edge. They keep coming back, so I must be doing something right.

Q: Were you an author or a cover artist first?

A: An author first and foremost. Without words, a cover can never be accomplished.

Q: What is the one question you wish people would ask you more often, and how would you answer it?

A: Well, you have me stumped there. I’m rather shy and modest, and would prefer talking about anything other than myself.


Syrie James is the bestselling author of Dracula, My Love, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Nocturne, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and most recently, Forbidden, a young adult novel she wrote with her son, Ryan M. James. The release of a new novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, is scheduled for release in January of 2013.

 

Syrie began writing novels after a successful career in Hollywood, in which she wrote nineteen screenplays and teleplays for Tri-Star Pictures, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox TV, Fox Family Films and The Lifetime Network. Her novels have gone on to be bestsellers and have been translated into sixteen foreign languages.

I made Syrie’s acquaintance last summer after reading her novel Nocturne. I loved the book so much that I wrote a blog about it! (Real Men Read Romance: https://jsascribes.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/real-men-read-romance/).  She was kind to me then, as she is to me now. Syrie is friendly, down-to-earth, and she writes some seriously good stuff. When I asked her to do an interview for my blog, she was enthusiastic about it and more than happy to oblige me. She has become a good friend, and I hope her insights into the world of writing give you as much inspiration as they have me. For more information on Syrie, check her out at: http://www.syriejames.com/

Q: What inspired you to write The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë?

A: I have always adored the novel Jane Eyre. I felt compelled to know and understand the woman who wrote it. I wondered: who was Charlotte Brontë? How did she come to write this remarkable book, which is still so popular all over the world more than 160 years after she wrote it?

As I started researching Charlotte’s life, I was astonished to discover how many parts of the novel were inspired by her own experiences. I was also captivated by the engrossing saga of Charlotte’s family. Charlotte lived in Victorian England in a tiny village in the wilds of Yorkshire. Her brother became an alcoholic and a drug addict. Her father, a clergyman, was going blind. Her sisters Emily and Anne were also very talented writers. All three sisters, despite the difficulties of their circumstances, became published authors at the same time. Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights is considered one of the greatest masterpieces ever written in the English language. I can’t think of any other family in history who’ve achieved a similar literary feat, and I wanted to explore that and show how it happened.

Add to that the true story of Charlotte’s romance! Her father’s curate, the tall, dark, and handsome Arthur Bell Nicholls, lived right next door to the Brontës for more than seven years, and carried a silent torch for Charlotte all that time, before he had the nerve to propose. Charlotte greatly disliked him for many years, but her feelings eventually changed, and she grew to love him. I knew that would make a fabulous story—and it had never been told!

Q: Which parts of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë are true?

A: The novel is based almost entirely on fact. All the details of Charlotte’s family life, her experiences at school, her friendship with Ellen, her feelings for Monsieur Heger, the evolution of her writing career, and her relationship with her publisher, George Smith, are all true and based on information from her letters and biographies.

All the critical notices the sisters read about their poetry and novels are real. The details about Mr. Nicholls’s childhood and Charlotte’s experiences with the Bell family in Ireland are factual. Most of the characters in the book—even the girls at Roe Head School—are based on real people.

The details of Mr. Nicholls’s passionate and agonized proposal of marriage, as well as its stormy aftermath and Patrick Bronte’s vehement opposition, are all based on fact, and were meticulously recorded in Charlotte’s correspondence. Charlotte and Mr. Nicholls’s strolls from Haworth to Oxenhope during those bitingly cold days in January 1854 are so well known, that the path came to be called “Charlotte’s Lane.”

 

Q: You also wrote a book about Jane Austen. Did you find any similarities between the two women?

A: Both Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë were daughters of clergymen, had very close relationships with a sister, and felt frustrated in their search for true love. Both were extremely well-read, and were educated for a majority of their lives at home by their fathers.

The timeless issues which Charlotte wrote about in Jane Eyre were all dear to Jane Austen’s heart, and central themes in Austen’s novels. Both women enjoyed gothic novels, and wrote torrid and passionate stories in their youth.

Both published their books anonymously or under a pseudonym during their lifetime. And of course both were incredibly imaginative and brilliant writers!

Q: Why do you think Jane Austen continues to be so popular with modern readers?

A: Readers are drawn in by her sense of realism, her superb narrative technique, her brilliant understanding of character, her wonderful sense of humor, and the topicality of her subject matter. Her characters all wrestle with social and emotional problems we can recognize, and still confront on a daily basis.

Reading Jane Austen’s novels makes us feel we are in communion with a rarely gifted, wise and subtle mind. Her books are witty and ironic, and, at a time when people worry that the past is being lost, they provide a pleasurable way of connecting to it. But ultimately, what attracts us to Austen now is probably what’s been attracting people to her for two centuries: anyone, at any time, can relate to falling in love.

Q: What inspired you to write The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen?

A: I have long been a Jane Austen fan. One of my all-time favorite books is Pride and Prejudice. There are few novels which can match it for pure brilliance of plot, characterization and dialog. I adore the A&E mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and the films Sense and Sensibility and Shakespeare in Love. One day, I thought: what about a love story for Jane Austen?

Although Jane Austen’s biographers portray her basically as a spinster with a great imagination, I refused to believe that! We know that Jane had a brief flirtation with an Irishman named Tom Lefroy when she was twenty, but his family rapidly sent him away because she had no money.

I was more intrigued, however, by the story that Jane’s sister Cassandra confided to her niece: that the only man Jane ever truly loved, was an unnamed gentleman she once met at an unspecified seaside resort. This tantalizing anecdote is known as the mysterious “seaside romance.” Everyone wonders: who was that man? What happened to him? I decided to invent him.

Q: Jane Austen has a large male readership. Do you think that would have surprised her?

A: Not at all. Sir Walter Scott loved her work, and the Prince of Wales was one of her biggest fans; he even asked her to dedicate a book to him (which she did: Emma.) I think Jane knew she was writing books that would please readers of both genders. She had a gift for portraying the feelings of what women and men are like, and what they’d like each other to be.

Q: What was the most difficult thing about writing Dracula, My love?

A: The most difficult part for me was dealing with Mina Harker’s dilemma and still keeping her real and sympathetic: she’s in love with two men, which would be hard for any woman to handle, but this is the Victorian era with all its sexual and moral taboos, which made it even more complicated.

I wanted this to be a standalone book, so that readers could enjoy it and fully follow the action without having read Stoker’s original. It was important to me to stay true to the facts of Bram Stoker’s classic, while giving it a new spin (as it’s all told from Mina’s point of view.) At the same time, I was interweaving a brand new, romantic story, and creating what I hope are compelling and fascinating back stories for the main characters. Balancing all that was very tricky! I hope you enjoy the result.

Q: Dracula, My Love is very romantic, but there is little or no romance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. How do the main characters in your novel compare to–or differ from–Stoker’s characters?

A: Stoker’s Mina is smart, strong, logical, and sensitive–a woman with a “man’s brain,” as Van Helsing puts it. I strove to retain all these lovely, essential qualities, while at the same time fleshing out Mina’s character arc and reflecting her evolution as a woman. To that end, I focused on two major elements: the invention and exploration of her personal history, and her inner struggle between her affection for and loyalty to her husband, and her intense desire for that powerful being, Dracula, to whom she is drawn despite herself.

I wanted Dracula to be a central character and love interest–which meant he could not be Stoker’s hideous, selfish, elderly recluse. Neither did I envision him as the suave but evil charmer so often portrayed in the movies. I envisioned Count Dracula not only as an attractive, charismatic, and highly intelligent supernatural being, but a sympathetic one: a man who had a very different explanation for every terrible act attributed to him. A man who’d been completely misunderstood. An accomplished man who’d taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents, and who would do anything to win the heart of the woman he loved. Mina would fall madly in love with that man, and so would I.

Stoker’s Dracula can vanish at will, morph into a bat or wolf, and appear decades younger. Given these abilities, I reasoned, he would surely appear in his most attractive form to the woman he wished to woo–just as the female vampires at his castle appear to Jonathan as ravishing beauties.

Q: As a bestselling author what would you say is your secret formula to successful novels?

A: I work long and hard on every book, pour my heart and soul into it, sometimes for years. While I’m researching and writing, I obsess about the book in progress, eat, sleep, and breathe it, and never stop thinking about it. I think that’s the formula to success in anything: be passionate about what you do, give it your full attention, and don’t settle for anything but your very best work.

Q: Any advice to budding authors?

A: Read everything. Study hard. Join writing groups. Write what you love. And: don’t get bogged down by trying to make the beginning perfect. Even if you change your mind midstream about a story or character or book’s direction, just jot down a few notes about it and keep going with that new direction in mind. When you get to the end, then–and only then–should you go back and revise. Reaching the finish line of that first draft is an indescribably satisfying feeling, and you don’t want to derail yourself by constantly revising the first few chapters.

Finally, I believe that the secrets to success are threefold, and they all begin with P: passion, patience, and perseverance. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you do, or what you wish for … I believe that if you press on, keep your goals in sight, and put in the hard work, you can achieve your dreams–no matter how impossible or unlikely they may seem to others.

And remember: Syrie’s next novel, THE MISSING MANUSCRIPT OF JANE AUSTEN, will be published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Books, in January 2013.  Be sure to get a copy!


    

     People are damned interesting.  And they’re everywhere. I have yet to get to know someone who doesn’t lend some kind of inspiration or insight into human nature, and the deeper you dig, the more you find.  The good news is that if approached the right way, most people will tell you just about anything you want to know.  In fact, a lot of the time, there’s nothing else most folks would rather discuss than themselves.  If you’re a writer, this is the best asset you have when it comes to character conception and development.

     But there is still something to be said about people in their natural state, when they think no one is watching. Before I even began writing fiction, I did a very creepy thing: I would watch people, listen to them, and jot down what interested me on loose pieces of paper that would ultimately do nothing but clutter my personal space (hey… don’t judge me). Anything that snagged my attention  for more than a millisecond was a worthwhile installation into the volumes of (at the time) utterly useless information.  Sometimes it was interesting dialogue or mannerisms; other times it was a person’s style or charisma, and sometimes, I just liked the way a person looked and made it a personal challenge to see how I could most interestingly and effectively put them on paper. (Some will say that spying is wrong and unethical.  I say that we live in an age where privacy is all but dead and if you don’t want any witnesses, then do it behind closed doors).

     These days, I still do much the same thing and I’m glad that, as pointless as it seemed to be in the past, I always did it. It gave me a lot of practice in people watching ~ something that is essential to writing… but now, I do it with more purpose.

     Last summer, when I was writing The White Room, I once followed a kid in grocery store because I thought that, if I were a vampire, this guy would be the perfect victim. I hung back far enough so as not to draw any attention to myself, of course, but still it was a little weird of me, I know. It turned out to be a valuable experience because it got me into the correct mind frame to write a necessary scene where my main character experienced blood lust for the first time. As I followed the guy around, I noticed things about him that I otherwise would have thought nothing of.  He was in his early twenties and seemed very shifty. Passing him, I could smell the lingering of marijuana which he’d tried to cover up with something minty. He was stoned, which explained his shiftiness. That and the fact that I suspect he may have been considering shoplifting a squirt gun from the toy aisle… but that is neither here nor there.  I ended up using this experience in the book and it is one of my favorite scenes.

     A few houses down from me lives another guy in his twenties. This guy has some of the most unusual habits. For example, he seems to always be looking for a good excuse to take his shirt off. If someone comes to his door, he takes his shirt off and stands in the doorway, literally posing so that all passersby can get a good look at him. When he is out walking his dog, he does it shirtless and is always on the lookout, as if trying to make certain that everyone can see him. He throws a lot of parties and I am often able to overhear some of his conversation with friends. I have determined that this guy is a total narcissist, much like the character I am currently writing, and I have used him more than once as a kind of yardstick for my story.

     I have another neighbor who is a great source of interesting things.  She has about a hundred boyfriends I think, and according to the snippets of conversation I’ve caught between her and her friends, this woman doesn’t know anyone who isn’t struggling with meth addiction. From her, I have learned the ins and outs of the world of meth. Not sure I’ll ever use the information, but I’m certain that at this point, I could probably even make my own meth lab!

    As fun as it is to spy on people though, it’s still a lucrative thing to ask questions.  A writer can spend hours, weeks, and even months agonizing over what a character would or wouldn’t do in a certain situation before realizing that the solution to the problem is really very simple: start asking people. They will tell you.  And if they don’t… well, polish up the binoculars, high-tune your hearing and start paying attention to people. In my experience, everything you need to know about writing believable characters can be found in the people around you. Just be sure to change the names…