What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia, and now live in Torquay on the Surf Coast, which back in the days of the colonizers was known as the Shipwreck Coast.
I was a dancer for most of my working life. Ten years ago, I began writing. After having devoted a lifetime to reading, I always knew I’d write something one day. Books have always been such a vital part of my life, and the thought of not having anything to read sends a cold shiver through me.
I chose to write in the erotic romance genre because it’s popular, and fun to write.
Thornhill trilogy was my first and, to date, my most popular story. I took a little inspiration from Jane Eyre. Not just in the storyline, but by imbuing Aidan Thornhill with some of Rochester’s brooding presence, and the female lead, Clarissa Moone with Jane’s smart but gentle nature, and love of drawing.
My second novel The Importance of Being Wild came to me after I imagined a story about a woman, who in self-defense, hits her husband over the head with a hardcover of Oscar Wilde’s complete works. When he rouses from his coma, he is no longer that same belligerent man, instead, he is gentle, effete and loves poetry, just like Oscar Wilde himself.
The idea for my romantic suspense novel, Take My Heart, arrived after I read about the sad fate of the Romantic poet, Percy Shelley. Following his drowning, Lord Byron, and friend Edward Trelawny built a funeral pyre. As his body burned, Trelawny reached into the flames and pulled out Shelley’s heart. That rather gruesome image of a ripped-out heart informed the premise for this story, which has whispers of the gothic, as its theme revolves around the haunting nature of obsessive love.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Strange but true stories about people and their relationships.
How do you deal with creative block?
I don’t have too many thankfully. But when I do, I don’t force it. I move on to revising, or more menial tasks. I have so many stories banking up, dying to be given air, that I can’t imagine too many creative blocks in my lifetime.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
To not have a self-published book professionally edited and proofread.
In romance, the characters shouldn’t espouse political views. The main characters should never cheat. And today, a “happy for now” ending, which was once tolerated in romance, has become the much-maligned cliffhanger. Big words are a no-no. I’ve been accused of using a Thesaurus. Guilty as charged. Am I the only writer who uses one?
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Look for a poetic line that connects to the story. Single-word titles work really well. I’m in love with alliteration. Show me a writer who isn’t. With my latest project, I’ve come up with a title inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Finding the right cover can be a battle. It’s almost easier to write a book in many ways.
Whether it is a shirtless man, romantic couple, or even a rose dripping in honey, it’s best to stick to a cover that sings romance. Unless you’re a famous writer, like Nora Roberts. She could probably publish a story with a blank cover and still sell books!
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Writing is such a solitary art form that reviews, good or bad, are hard to ignore.
I tend to linger over the negative reviews, which is a form of masochism I suppose. I do, however, like constructive criticism. It helps me grow as a writer. Sadly, there aren’t too many of those. In the romance scene, readers can get rather incensed if the book doesn’t meet their expectations. In those cases, I remind myself, “You can’t please everyone.”
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’ve become merciless when editing. If the plot doesn’t move along, I delete it.
I’m at my most perspicacious in the mornings, so now I make sure I write during those hours. I get a lot done that way. Forcing myself to write when my mind is dull, can be painful and unproductive. Whenever I’m incapable of stringing an intelligible sentence together, I pause and do boring but essential tasks like promotion.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best part is typing “The End.” The worst is being stuck on one sentence for far too long. The most surprising part is seeing how the story unfolds.
After chiseling out the characters, the plot, and settings, I allow myself a little improvisation. Because that’s where the magic happens.
Along the way, interesting auxiliary characters are born, or deviations that open doors to useful subplots. As the characters take shape, I learn things about them that I didn’t know in the beginning. The longer I’m with them, the more nuanced they become. Now that’s surprising.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
If one’s trying to survive from writing, aiming solely for personal satisfaction can be fraught with risks.
I like to know that readers have been moved by my stories. Nothing compares with that. And the only way to achieve that requires that I write what audiences want, which is easier said than done.
Formulas are expedient. But they can also become a little outdated and overused, especially in romance.
It’s a subtle balancing act, I suppose. Even though many readers are often on the lookout for something fresh, the romance writer must adhere to a HEA ending. She must also ensure that the male lead is hot, strong and sensitive and that there’s a smart, sassy female lead, who not only steals his heart but takes him by the hand and leads him onto that elusive path of self-discovery.
In my books, I offer all of the above, however, I like to have a bit of fun while I’m at it, by inventing quirky, flawed characters, who are often creative.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Emotions play an essential role when drafting the story. However, at the revising stage, it pays to be pragmatic in order to avoid attaching oneself to frivolous passages that might be excitingly poetic but offer little to the story.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Daydreaming is not only enjoyable but can be very constructive. I find ideas arrive when I’m least expecting it. I make sure I have a notepad handy and fill it with everything and anything I consider interesting. Discipline is a creative’s best friend. The trick is to be consistent. A writer once said to me, even if you’re blocked, write anything and see where it goes. A very useful technique that is tantamount to warming up before a dance performance.
What are your plans for future books?
I plan on writing a sequel to the story I’m working on. Two characters have emerged, who I believe are too fascinating for their story to remain untold.
Then I plan to write a series about the children of the Thornhills as grownups. I loved how the same families reappear in those novels by Balzac, collectively known as the Human Comedy.
One day I’d love to have my own Gabriel Garcia Marquez moment and journey through three or four generations of my Sicilian family. The stories I’ve heard over the years have that streak of magical realism about them and have been percolating in my imagination for as long as I can recall.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
For my first ever dance audition, I had to improvise to Pink Floyd’s Money. Just being at that audition was strange enough, in that, I never expected to earn a living from dance. At the age of sixteen, I got the gig and continued to make a living from dance for three decades.
INTERVIEW ROMANCE JUNKIES BLOG
I am so glad you could join us here at Romance Junkies. To start, will you please tell us a little bit about your current projects?
I am just finishing “Enlighten” which is the second book from the Thornhill Trilogy. I plan to have it out there by Feb 2018.
When was the moment that you knew you had to be a writer?
It is hard to say. I always felt the urge from a very young age, but I got distracted by becoming a professional dancer. Mind you, that involved writing lots of grant applications, which, if anything, put me off writing. I started my first book back in 2007. Other than my latest book Entrance, I have only ever published one under a different name.
Who gave you the one piece of writing advice that sticks with you to this day?
I’ve picked up lots of advice along the way. But one that prevails, at least in my memory, was from George Orwell: Never use a long word if a short one will do. And avoid writing purple prose. The latter was difficult for me as I had an unnatural tendency to use an excess of adjectives.
Describe the “perfect” hero. What about the “perfect” hero for you?
In many ways, Aidan Thornhill is the perfect hero for me. I know that is subjective, considering I invented him. Although he had a difficult start in life, Aidan went out and developed not only mentally and physically, but also culturally through art. He is loyal to a fault. And will sacrifice everything for the woman he loves. For him, Clarissa represents everything that is perfect in a woman, not just her physical beauty, but her sensitivity, creativity and intellectual prowess, which he is in awe of. I suppose it also helps that he seriously hot, and as steamy as they come.
What are some of your favorite pastimes? Do you have any hobbies or collections?
I read a lot. I’m still dancing a little to stay fit and I love swimming at the beach.
What has been your biggest adventure to date?
If your fairy godmother waved her wand and whisked you away to the location of your choice, which place would you choose, and why?
South of Spain. I love the music, the spirit and vibe of the place.
When it comes to food, are you the adventurous type who will try anything once, or do you prefer to stick to tried and true foods and recipes?
Being from an Italian background, I grew up with colorful dishes and amazing food. Nowadays, I keep it plain and simple. Maybe not as exciting for the palette, but it’s healthier that way.
What is the one modern convenience that you cannot do without?
What is your idea of the ideal romantic evening?
Dinner at the beach
How do you describe yourself? How would your family and friends describe you?
Impulsive, mentally overactive, and strange at times.
What is your favorite comfort food?
What is your favorite season? What do you love about it?
Summer. I love swimming in the sea.
What is the one modern convenience that you cannot do without?
What project are you working on next?
After Thornhill, I have two ideas for the next book. Both contemporary sexy romances, of course.
Tea or coffee: both
Vanilla or chocolate: chocolate
Early bird or night owl: early bird
Favorite holiday: Europe
Favorite season: Summer
Cat or dog: Dog
Favorite color: green
INDIE BOOK BUTLER INTERVIEW
You’ve just released Entrance, book one in the Thornhill Trilogy. What can you tell us about the story?
Clarissa Moone is a young, classy, impoverished art history graduate. Her life transforms when she lands a job working for the enigmatic billionaire, Aidan Thornhill. As the contract stipulates that she reside at his lavish Malibu estate, Clarissa suddenly finds herself surrounded by jaw-dropping art and opulence. A significant step up from the run-down apartment she shares with her best friend.
Aidan Thornhill is a self-made billionaire whose earlier start in life was riddled with poverty and a dysfunctional upbringing. Running away from scandal, he joins the army and works his way up to the Special Forces. Accompanied by haunting memories, Thornhill re-enters civilian life with a million dollars gifted to him by a dying buddy. He travels to Europe where he develops a passion for art. And after many astute investments, he becomes one of LA’s wealthiest bachelors.
Voluptuous, intelligent and sensitive, Clarissa Moone’s beauty makes Aidan gasp for air. But with a reputation that is as much invented as true, he has to convince Clarissa that he is not a heart-breaker. Aidan Thornhill’s movie-star looks, love of art and passionate support for the downtrodden, soon wins Clarissa’s heart, soul, and innocence.
After living a life devoted to intellectual pursuits and art, being new to love, she succumbs to her smoldering hot boss, who stops at nothing to pleasure her, sending Clarissa off into toe-curling ecstasy.
Behind the scenes, however, the claws are out. Determined to stir trouble, three characters, one of whom, a spoilt heiress, do everything to reap revenge.
With mutual burning passion impossible to extinguish, the couple’s chemistry is so potent that their souls implode when Thornhill’s mysterious past threatens to drive a wedge between them. The former soldier goes into battle determined to have Clarissa even if it means losing everything.
Where did your inspiration for the story come from?
My inspiration for this story came from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It’s not exactly like that, of course. But Aidan Thornhill has a similar brooding quality to Rochester. Like Rochester, Aidan regrets his past. Clarissa Moone, like Jane Eyre, is self-contained, creative, and although gentle in nature, is tremendously smart. And, as with Jane, Clarissa’s fortune rises when she receives employment working for Aidan Thornhill at his large, beguiling estate. But that is the only comparison, for with the Thornhill trilogy, passion fills the pages early on in the story, and being a contemporary romance there is a fair share of descriptive love-making.
Did you plot the whole story out prior to beginning the writing?
Yes, I did. I sketched the outline for the whole trilogy.
How did you find leaving it open to further books in the trilogy? Was there a natural break point?
In the first book, Entrance, there is a crescendo that naturally leads to the ending pages. Although tearfully dramatic, it ends in hope. The second book was a little more difficult to conclude, given that I introduce a bevy of revengeful, complex characters. I had to find a place in the second book – Enlighten, that ends in a positive tone, while leaving readers wondering if Clarissa can accept Aidan, when she eventually learns of his past. The final book – Enfold, propelled by the drama of the second book, was the easiest to conclude. After conquering the many obstacles that appear in book 2, there is a colorful, exuberant ending that was a joy to imagine.
What are your hopes for the book?
That readers will want to read the whole trilogy.
What are the challenges in writing a great story?
Creating interesting, three dimensional characters that readers care about. To sprinkle just enough drama in the story so that readers worry so much about the main characters they cannot put the book down.
Is there a particular reader that this collection would appeal to?
Women who love contemporary romance novels about successful men who are self-made, handsome as sin, mysterious, edgy, sexy, and who will go to great lengths to pleasure the woman he loves.
Have you received any early feedback from readers?
Yes. So far, very positive, some being 5 star reviews.
Which books have influenced you most, both as a person and as an author?
As a person, the French writers – Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal, Zola, Hugo, Dumas, and many other 19th century writers. As an author, the English writers – the Bronte sisters, Eliot, Austen, Hardy, Somerset-Maugham amongst so many more. In the contemporary romance world – E L James, Sylvia Day, Sophie Jackson, Lisa Kleypas just to mention a few. They are the ones that come instantly to mind.
How did you set about the task of creating the enticing cover art?
I purchased it from SelfPubBookCovers. It was a very difficult thing to arrive at, I must admit. There are so many male torsos out there, that I was determined not to go down that path. Although, I suspect that the genre I am writing in would probably benefit from a sexy male torso cover. And despite the saying, I sense that today, people do judge a book by its cover.