Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Authorsday: R. Ann Siracusa
My mother was a librarian, so I’ve always liked to read and write stories. Also, I had a wonderful English teacher in high school who encouraged me to write, but I never considered it as a profession. I earned my degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, worked in Rome, got married there, and was caught up with family and profession.
I did a lot of non-fiction and professional writing in my work, but I didn’t follow up on my interest in fiction writing until I was in my forties. I read a novel that everyone was raving about and said, “Oh, man. Even I can write better than this.” So I wrote a novel in about 8 months. It wasn’t better – learning the craft took a while – but I was on my way. I’d been writing seriously (in spite of my demanding family, a 60 hr+/week job, and a two-hour-each-way commute) for about ten years before I realized that fiction writing was my “calling.”
2. How did you pick the genre you write in?
I think it picked me, at least for the humorous romantic suspense series I’ve been writing for Sapphire Blue Publishing. I get bored writing in the same genre, so I like to switch, which didn’t help getting a writing career established. (Publishers, and readers, like to know what kind of book they are getting when they pick up something by a particular author.)
World travel and writing are my two passions. I had no idea when I started traveling that I’d work the things I saw and learned into novels, but I’ve managed to combine them. No matter what genre I’m writing in, my work tends to be action/adventure oriented, and I’d say most of my work is 60% external action driven and 40% character/relationships driven. And I don’t have much success writing to guidelines. I tell the story that’s inside me to tell, so my work never quite fits the genre guidelines.
3. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I’m about fifty-fifty. I wrote my mafia thriller with only a loose outline and ended up with 300,000 words. Cutting over 600 pages was like killing my children. Some of my favorite scenes and best writing had to go. I cried for 6 months, and then it took another year and a half to revise.
After that, I wrote from a very tight outline until my experiment with writing humor in first person (All For A Dead Man’s Leg). That started out with a general idea and not a clue what was going to happen. It worked, but I was so lucky. Since then, I settled into using a one-page plotting outline (one sentence per scene about what has to happen) so I know where I’m going, what scenes I need to get there, and the plot points, but not specifically how I’ll accomplish it. And, of course, things change along the way (no matter whether you’re a plotter or pantser). I update the plot outline if modifications are important enough to impact other scenes, plot points, and overall direction.
4. What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?
The first novel I wrote was entitled “Ride on the Back of Lightning,” a romance about a young woman who wants to make a career in motocross racing. You have to understand this was in the early 1980s when Harlequin Presents was about the only romance line, and the heroines were limited to being nannies, school teachers, and nurses, or they just stayed home and lived with their parents. Boring! I was an architect. I didn’t want to write about nannies, grammar school teachers, or nurses. I thought American woman wanted more challenging and adventurous heroines. (This was before Harlequin had ever published a novel set in the US.) I got an agent (Florence Feiler) who liked the concept, but Harlequin told her they never touched entertainment or sports heroines because readers didn’t relate. Ho Hum. Well, I didn’t sell that one.
Years later, I thought about rewriting it as a young adult, but before I got it finished, Disney came out with a movie based loosely on the same idea (a young woman successful in motocross racing). While the story line was different than mine, I felt it would look like I’d lifted the concept from the Disney movie, so it’s still sitting in a three ring binder somewhere in box in my garage.
5. What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know pre-published that you wish you knew?
A whole lot. In fact, I’m giving a class through my RWA chapter on “Everything I Wish I’d Known (and done) a Year Before I Published.” Once you’re published, writing becomes a business, and being a good writer doesn’t make someone a good business person.
A lot of what I didn’t know has to do with marketing in today’s electronic world, but a lot is preplanning, organization, and contacts that make life a lot easier and less stressful. My first novel (Family Secrets: A Vengeance of Tears) was published in 2008. Since then, I’ve had six published by Sapphire Blue and a seventh coming out in January. I’m still playing catch up.
6. How many rejections have you received? Lots! Was I supposed to be counting? Oh, man.
7. Why did you pick the publisher that ultimately published your book?
Like most beginning authors, I accepted the first offer I got. Not the smartest way to pick a publisher, but I believe it’s fairly common. And I haven’t been unhappy about the choice.
I went with an e-publisher because, as I pointed out, I can’t write to guidelines, so my work never quite fits the genre requirements. With the market as it is, my chances with a NY publisher were slim. E-publishers are more open to new authors, mixing genres, and approaches that are a little less “formula.” And I accepted the offer knowing the differences in business plan and marketing and accepting those differences.
That said, I would advice aspiring authors to really understand why they write, to pin down their expectations and goals, and to analyze the styles and the genres they write in. Then, do serious homework to select the appropriate publishers/agents to submit to. If the author has done a good job being honest with him/herself and has found appropriate matches, it probably won’t matter who makes the offer (unless there is something personal about the agent or editor, or the money deal stinks).
8. Tell me one thing about yourself that very few people know?
Let’s see. I like these two because they always let me know which of my friends and colleagues have actually read my interviews.
I had to look up the word fidanzata in the English-Italian dictionary to find out I was “engaged”, and the most unusual place I ever made love was on the steps of Palazzo della Civiltá Italiana in Rome. (Well, it was late at night and dark.)
9. What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?
Describing locations, cultures, attitudes, and ways of life vividly and with the kind of details you can’t get any other way than being there so the readers feel as though they have been there.
10. What’s your favorite quote? There are many that strike a chord, depending on the moment. One of my favorites is: We have met the enemy, and he is us! ~ Pogo.
R. Ann Siracusa is involved in many activities, but her two favorite are traveling the world and writing fiction. This talented author combines those passions into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.
Retired from a career in architecture and urban planning (multi-published in professional non-fiction), she lives in San Diego, California, and writes full time. Her first novel was published in 2008, and since then seven additional works have been published by Sapphire Blue Publishing. She has been active in Romance Writers of America since 1985.
Title: Destruction Of The Great Wall
I’m Harriet Ruby, Tour Director Extraordinaire, and my fondest wish has come true! Will Talbot, my favorite Super Spy, wants to include me in his covert mission to recover a list of double agents. I am so-o going to love this!
I only have to pretend we’re husband and wife when he accompanies me on my China tour. How hard can that be?
Surprise! My parents show up on the tour. Then my mother and I are kidnapped, luring Will into a trap. Not to mention the damage my assault rifle does to the Great Wall. It wasn’t my fault. Really!