Rae: Thank you for hanging out with me. First, if we were meeting at a coffee shop I’d be drinking a spiced Latte with Coconut Milk with caramel drizzle, what would you order?
Rowan: I’m fairly simple in my coffee needs. I’m in love with hazelnut lattes, iced or hot. Just make sure it’s a large.
Rae: I can’t believe it’s March, where has the year gone? Last month the Winter Olympics were held and in my house all other TV shows were automatically DVR’d. How about your house, did you watch? Was it a family gathering with food and conversation watching historical moments? I always hope that the key games and “must watch” events are not in the middle of the night or everyone has a crazy sleep schedule for three weeks.
Rowan: We’re not huge watchers of the whole thing. The events we’re fans of don’t usually get coverage on TV, and when they are, invariably right when things get interesting, the broadcast cuts over for a human interest story or leaves the medal race in luge to cover the round six eliminations in speed skating because there’s an American in that heat. When I first saw this question, I realized that we cut the cord with cable, and are living off Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. We had to figure out how to watch these via the Internet this year! That worked somewhat—I was able to custom watch a few of the things I wanted, and caught others on replay.
One of my best friends is from a tiny town in Wisconsin, and one of the “kids” there, Matt Antoine, was on the USA Skeleton team, so we were tracking those races!
Rae: What were your thoughts on the opening and closing ceremonies?
Rowan: I did catch a replay of the Opening Ceremonies, and thought they were amazing.
Rae: How has serving as the President of WRWDC chapter changed your perspective of the writing industry?
Rowan: I can honestly say it hasn’t changed my perspective of the industry (yet). It is interesting living the changes being President has made in how people see me. It has been eye-opening to be one of the people who the Board Members approach at Nationals, or other chapter presidents flag down to chat with about various issues. The RWA National staffers have been a joy to work with, and are always there to answer the basic or out-of-left-field questions.
Rae: What has been the most challenging part of the job?
Rowan: The challenging part has been trying to maintain a balance among a giant and hugely diverse chapter—we’re 270 members strong, and have writers ranging from fresh-out-of-college newbies to over-75 established best-sellers. They write everything from Young Adult or New Adult romance to Fantasy romance to Science Fiction romance to Romantic Suspense to every era of Historical Romance to LBGQ Romance, and do so in every heat level from Christian sweet romances through mid-level heat to ménage/BDSM erotica. There’s a wide range of common ground, but there’s no making everyone happy all the time.
Rae: What has surprised you about the position?
Rowan: The surprising part? There’s actually less bureaucratic paperwork than I expected. There’s some, but it’s not overwhelming, boring or annoying. The parts that were unpleasant surprises were things like the unrelenting phishing attacks on the Treasurer using the names of the Board members and the complete inability of the U.S. Postal Service to track a package—and its total lack of interest in trying.
Rae: What advice can you give to an aspiring author or published author that is considering joining their local chapter?
Rowan: Don’t be scared. Go ahead and join—we’re actually very nice people who want to help. This is especially true of Romance Writers of America chapters. We’ve all been where you are.
When I joined RWA and WRW, I had been jotting down scenes and stories for years without quite realizing I was trying to write books. I had majored in English in college. I knew about “real” authors—Shakespeare, Austen, Faulkner, Hemingway. Books that were hard to understand and not particularly fun to read. And the authors were all dead. I saw major roadblocks on that career path.
When I realized I was writing romance, and there were really groups out there like RWA, I was both elated and terrified. I joined, and went through the chapter membership list and wondered what the heck I was thinking. It read like a Who’s Who of the NYT Bestseller List. My second event with the chapter was the WRW Retreat, and I gathered the nerve to ask one of my favorite authors to sign a book for me. It blew my mind to discover she was just as excited about it as I was, and spent the rest of the Retreat telling folks someone had asked for her autograph! I quickly learned that all of these authors were real people who were thrilled to share what they have learned—and to keep learning themselves.
Rae: For readers who are not familiar with your book can you tell us a little bit about what genre you write and how you found yourself writing in that genre?
Rowan: I’ve got one series with my agent that is Contemporary Romantic Suspense. My Indie series is Paranormal Romantic Suspense—wolf shifters. It’s set in modern day North Carolina, with shifters and wizards operating under the radar of regular human society. And the odd thing? I started writing that genre by accident.
Rae: What was the inspiration for your Foresters series and how you would categorize the books you write?
Rowan: I’m splitting the previous question with this one in regard to my answer. The inspiration for this book was a late-night experience. My husband used to work for the U.S. Park Service, and was working at a national park far enough away that he usually only came home for his weekends (Sunday/Monday). It was me, the kids, and the dogs (two border collies and a shepherd-elkhound mix that looked like a black wolf) most of the week.
In the middle of the night one night, I sat bolt upright in bed, alarmed and on edge without any clue as to why. Two seconds later, there was a huge crash of thunder that shook the house. And another flash of lighting, and more thunder—there was a really bad storm moving in. I’m guessing the first bolt of lightning and/or previous thunder was what woke me up. Right as I started to calm down, something moved on the bed next to me. I jumped about three feet before it registered that all of the dogs had moved into bed with me, and me being awake was making them stir. (The kids slept through the whole storm.)
The storm raged, and I had one of those “what if?” writer moments. I grabbed the notebook next to the bed, and started scribbling. That was at about 2 a.m. The scene grew into an unexpected love scene, and the dialog kept going off in all tangents. At a pause where I was trying to figure out how to up the stakes, I thought the only thing that would make it more intense was if he wasn’t human, and then went, Ohhhh… At 6 a.m., I typed those pages up, and sent to my critique partner and said, “Well, I don’t write super hot, and I don’t write paranormal, but tell me what you think.” She sent back a brief, “Shut up and keep writing.”
Rae: Rumor has it that the second book will be released soon, can you confirm when readers will be able to one-click it?
Rowan: *wince* Yeah, that rumor mill is something. I still don’t have a firm one-click date for Perfect Stranger, but hope to have it out in early April.
Rae: As the year is well underway, there has been a lot of chatter on social media about planning and organizing to stay focused and help us succeed in our personal goals for 2018. How do you keep it all from spiraling out of orbit between the family life and writer life? Are you a planner girl or digital calendar queen?
Rowan: I love electronic calendars and try desperately to use one whenever I can. I also have an app called ToDoist on my phone (and there’s a website as well) that sends reminders via email.
I also love hard copy calendars/organizers, however, I could be the queen of distraction setting up, color coding, and clipping inspirations for my planner. I would never actually get anything INTO it, because I’d lost the correct color pen for that entry—or needed to change the color palette and re-enter everything. And I’d be too busy doing stickers, decorations, color coding, etc., to actually write.
Rae: Your blog post at the end of 2017 spoke about resolutions and how you prepare for the new year. Can you share with the readers your letter? It’s a fabulous idea. We are three months in, are you able to stay true to those goals?
Rowan: I forget where I first heard about the Holiday Letter to Yourself, but I do love it. At the end of December, instead of compiling a bulleted list of New Year’s Resolutions, I write a letter to myself pretending it is New Year’s Eve of the FOLLOWING year. So, this one was dated December 31, 2018. It reads like one of those holiday letters you get in December greetings cards, talking about all the fabulous things that have happened that year as if they’ve already occurred. Instead of saying:
• Lose 30 pounds
• Write 1,000 words a day
• Clean the study
It says things like, “Had such fun at the RWA Nationals conference in July. I got a wonderful new dress for the RITA Awards since the one I had planned on wearing was too big with my new bicycling routes. I talked to two editors about my next book, which just flowed out of me after I donated a ton of clutter from my den to Goodwill and set up a new workstation in my redecorated study.”
Hey, we’re fiction writers! That’s what we do. The theory on the way this works is your brain sees you write this down as fact and starts going, “Uh oh…none of this is true. But it’s here in writing as having happened. I need to get on the ball!” and subconsciously starts making the connections to have things start happening to make this reality. And, overall, I’ve found it pretty successful—more so than the stern lists.
After writing and signing it, you put it in an envelope somewhere to read in the next December. And that will inspire you to do your next one.
Just keep in mind. The biggie: It HAS to be hand written. Typing it out does NOT make the same connections in your brain. And try not to lose it—you can read it midyear if you want a reminder, but sometimes it’s fun just to open it cold and see what matches. Also keep in mind to keep it to things you have control over—you don’t want to start with, “I spread my wings as my dragon form glides across the British Crown Jewels I’ve recently added to my hoard.” But I’ve heard stories of people who wanted to get married, and were engaged by the following year; or started a business; or moved to a better house. Sometimes things you DON’T expect to match up connect and open up new opportunities. You put in “It’s great to open the bank statement and see high balances in all my accounts.” thinking to yourself, “from the sale of my book!” but three months later, run into an old friend at a company looking for someone just like you and suddenly get a job offer that doubles your salary.
Rae: Do you find a need for lists or post-its to keep you on track? Or, do you just post that letter somewhere to remind you of your path for success in the new year?
Rowan: I review the letter once in a while—when I fall off track. A lot of that letter exercise is subconscious as well—you suddenly find you’re doing things that you don’t remember you wanted to. I try to put a few major deadlines/goals on my calendar to try to keep me on track. Lately, life has made things challenging—I was startled it took nearly a full year to recover from helping my Mom clean out her house (the family home of 50 years) and move into a senior apartment. I was drained both emotionally and physically. I was hoping to do a big dramatic push to get book 2 out at the end of 2017, and my Mom ended up in the hospital with flu and pneumonia, then the rest of the family came down with the flu. Suddenly it was February…March…
Rae: When you sit down to write, do you write the old fashioned way or type away at the keyboard? Writing all the words is a challenge, do you have a writing ritual or secret location to get the work done?
Rowan: I used to write my first drafts long hand. When I worked outside the home, I used to write a lot of things longhand when I could squeeze in writing time. Now, I find I need reading glasses, and I find it’s annoying to have to wear glasses to write. I do a lot more drafts on the computer. I don’t really have a ritual or secret location. I can tune out a lot of things when I’m on a roll.
Rae: Are you the writer who has a notebook for all the words that flow while driving or do you dictate into your phone?
Rowan: Before the dictate-to-the-phone days, I bought a little hand-held recorder to keep next to me while I drove, and set it to voice activated. I was startled to find I had 90 minutes of recording when I got home. Turns out, the radio counts as a voice for activation. The 10 minutes of my actual story telling was buried in there somewhere.
I used to commute from Fredericksburg, VA, to Washington, D.C., every day, 56 miles each way. Most of the time, I drove. There were often other people in the car (vanpoolers, slugs, etc.). When I wasn’t driving, I would write longhand and hope I could translate the bumpy chicken scratch when I got home. There were usually too many prying eyes for a lot of computer work. I mostly did major scene exploration in my head, so when I got to my destination, I could actually focus and write.
These days, I go straight to the computer most of the time. I have files, flash drives, etc.
Rae: How do you tackle plotting your series? Is it on a massive board, sheets of paper or just write as you go with a simple outline?
Rowan: Plotting. Cute theory. I am NOT a plotter. Seriously not a plotter. I get scene ideas and I write them out. Usually, the story starts growing as I write. And it usually works—or I can make it work. The book I started in the storm just flowed for ages. Then I had a scene idea and went, “Hm…that seems later than this story…” so I stuck it in a different file. And realized I had the sequel started. I worked on those two for a while, when I realized I was using flashbacks to cover A LOT of material—and realized that storm book was NOT book 1, but book 2. And a new character showed up in Book 1 that had to be worked into what I had of Books 2 and 3—but to make sense sequentially, that character needed to have his story in book 3, so book 3 became book 4…
Luckily, fairly early in the process, I learned of Scrivener, and created a master series file that let me work on the entire series in one file, moving scenes around as needed. That was a lifesaver.
I’ve created a series bible (currently in Excel, but that may need to grow to something else soon), and did write down a list of major external story arc points I wanted covered in each book. The series is romantic suspense with a couple of serial killers, so I actually had to start keeping track of the dead bodies in a separate file.
Rae: What can we expect in 2018? Do you have other projects in the works?
Rowan: My plan—and my Holiday Letter to Myself—have me getting at least one more book in this series out in 2018 (Books 2 and 3, total). I’ve also been giving serious thought to going through the books currently with my agent and maybe going indie with those as well.
Rae: Thank you for hanging out in the cafe today.
Rowan: Thank YOU for having me! It has been wonderful, and I truly enjoyed it.
1. What is a must read book and why? How do I chose a romance for this category? I love them all?? Right now, I’d say EDGE OF MIDNIGHT by Shannon McKenna. Her McCloud Brothers series is amazing, and book one, which just sucked me in and made me want more. She’s got a way of keeping you on the edge of your seat, has amazing plots and characters you don’t see anywhere else, and super steamy intimacy.
John Scalzi’s RED SHIRTS is a great book for an author to read. Picture STAR TREK, where the characters suddenly realize they’re in a book, and all their problems are caused by the author…so they start tracking down the author to make him stop. It is funny and moving, and I don’t think there’s an author out there who doesn’t think their characters are really real.
David Drake’s PATH OF THE FURY is one of my favorites—it’s Sci Fi, with a female Special Forces officer as the lead. Her entire squadron has been killed, and her family wiped out. As she is dying herself, she cries out for vengeance so strongly she connects with the final bit of energy of the last Greek Fury, who saves her life and accidentally possesses her and the AI of her spaceship. It’s a truly unique look at possibilities, and ties in science fiction and Greek myth with action, adventure, and a hint of romance. The author also has a great sense of humor and amazing world building.
2. What is one place that I should see if I visit your hometown? I live in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There’s a lot to see here! The Civil War battlefields are the easy answer—we have five in the immediate area. For the unexpected tip, I’d say the stained glass windows of the church I was married in—St. George’s Episcopal Church. Six of the windows are Tiffany, and absolutely gorgeous.
3. Do you take-in or cook? If so, what is your “go-to” dish? Take in, I like mooshu pork, pad Thai, or sushi. I enjoy cooking; I’m pretty proud of my lasagna, which I’ve also adapted to use in filled shells. A quick specialty is eggs Benedict.
4. What is one thing readers would be surprised to know about you? I took a trapeze class from a retired circus performer in Denver during college.
5. Hard Rock or Classical? Favorite Band or Artist? My tastes are eclectic. I got into Country music after a bad breakup, and still enjoy that. I’m a sucker for ’80s rock—ABBA and the BeeGees. Growing up, my Mom was into classical, so our home radio listening was always classical or opera. I love Gilbert and Sullivan. Mom still holds season tickets to the Kennedy Center ballet and symphony. She used to also have an opera series. My sister and I trade off going with her regularly.
Luckily, my husband also has eclectic tastes. There was a mix CD in the car that had a rider looking at me oddly once. It had everything on it from Johnny Horton to bagpipe rock to Pat Benatar to ZZ Top to Gregorian Chants.
6. If you had an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world for research, where would you go? I love travelling! I was a military brat, and we lived in Germany and Thailand, as well as in various places in the States. I’m torn—I’d love to go back to Europe, but I have to say an all-expense paid trip would have me going to Australia/New Zealand/the Islands. I’d love to see Fiji and the Great Barrier Reef.
7. What is your guilty pleasure? Reading and sushi.
8. What are you afraid of? Oh, toughie. Failure is a biggie. Now that I have kids, I worry that we won’t be able to provide for them the way I want to, both now and after my husband and I are gone. Trying to go Indie is a big leap of faith.
9. Tats or No Tats? If tats, how many and what did you choose for your first one? No tats. And no plans to get any. Ever. I like temp tattoos. Does that count? It’s a combination of things—I change my mind a lot, so fear I’d regret whatever I got in six months, much less 60 years. And I don’t do needles well. I even made a big deal of my shifters not being able to do tattoos. Tattoos are sooo popular right now, I wanted to do something different.
10. Organized or Free Floating? Mostly free floating, but I do feel like I have my own way of tracking stuff. My computer files are pretty darn organized. Except my photos. *sigh*
11. Binge watcher or weekly viewer? Which show(s)? We finally got rid of cable because we weren’t watching regular TV. I used to be a TV-aholic, but lately, nothing has appealed. I binged some of the Marvel series—Flash, Agents of SHIELD, Arrow—but everything got so dark—or so preachy political—I stopped enjoying it. I loved Supernatural, but that got bleak as well, so I’m a season or so behind. Right now, the family is watching The Goldbergs and I’m finding that far funnier than I expected.
12. What’s on your playlist? I love Michael Bublé’s first album, and write a lot to that. Sway, Moondance, etc. I love the duet by Pink and Nate Ruess, Just Give Me A Reason. Hozier’s Take Me to Church is amazing. And I enjoy the heck out of Best Friend’s Brother, but the cast of Victorious. I’m also an 80s music fan, so lots of ABBA and Bee Gees.
13. What play or musical do you want to see next? It’s been eons since I’ve seen either live on stage other than a school production.
14. Are you a crafter? Oh, yeah. I’ve always done crafts. Painting, lapidary (jewelry making), clay. Everything looks interesting—lately, a lot of my friends are doing crochet and knitting, and I’m thinking of dabbling. I have done crochet before, but never really finished anything. I have the needles; I may get some yarn and give a smaller project a try. I’m also trying out some custom beadwork on bookmarks as prizes.
15. What’s your favorite TV show and why? I’m still a fan of a lot of the classics from my childhood. We’ve made the kids watch everything from Gilligan’s Island to Adam-12. I’d say probably classic Star Trek.
16. If you could pick a book you’ve read and make it into a movie, which book would it be (besides yours 🙂 ) ?
Oh, HARD choice!! Romance? Other? I’d love to see Ann McCaffrey’s Dragonriders series made into movies. And J.D. Robb’s In Death series.
17. What’s your favorite movie of all time and why? Raiders of the Lost Ark! Adore that film. Action, adventure, romance—how can you go wrong? The hero has brains, a whip, and a revolver and the heroine is a hard-drinking, well-travelled business owner with a brain.
18. Would you rather see a movie in the theater or at home on DVD and why? Tough one…I hate paying movie theater prices, but love the giant screen and real theater popcorn. Mostly, these days, we get the DVDs.
19. What is the one thing you can’t live without? Books.
20. If you could invite 5 people to dinner (not friends and family – that’s too easy) who would be at your table? Where would you eat? Dead or alive? Shakespeare. Leonardo da Vinci. Queen Elizabeth II. Kate Middleton. Homer.
Where to eat? I might do a bunch of take in from various favorite restaurants. Or maybe my favorite sushi place.
21. If you could try any career for a day, what would it be? Astronaut. (Or pirate, if there’s time travel available.)
22. Person you admire and why? Leonardo da Vinci—he could paint, sculpt, build machines… He made up codes.
Rae: Thanks again for hanging out! Time for another spiced latte 🙂
Rowan: It was a great time! Thanks again.
This was such a treat to read!
Thanks to Rae for such great questions, and to Rowan for such interesting answers — all kinds of things that make me wish we were hanging out at that favorite sushi place right now. 🙂
Thanks, Laurie! Definitely need to make plans for that. : )
Thank you Laurie!
“Plotting. Cute theory.” LOL! What a fun and informative interview, Rae and Rowan! I’m SO looking forward to the release of Perfect Stranger, *and* now I need to go check out the Tiffany windows in St. George’s Episcopal Church. And hey, count me in for sushi! 🙂
Absolutely!! We could make a day of it and do the windows and sushi on the same day. They’re close enough. Thanks for stopping by!