Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Today though I'm very late in posting this I have romance author Minnette Meador being interviewed by me today on TAMFA. Though I also interviewed Minnette live on my second episode of my live podcast show, TAMFA—Phoebe Jordan, hosted on Blog Talk Radio on July 14. Well Minnette will also be guest blogging about her Centurion series on Thursday, Sept. 3rd so remember to stop by again. Also I'm going to be reading and reviewing the first two books of her Centurion series, The Centurion & the Queen and The Edge of Honor, which you should keep a look out for the review I will post soon. Now on to my very informative interview with Minnette.
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Phoebe Jordan: When did you know that writing romance was going to be the thing that you would do with your life? Which author inspired you to start writing romance? Minnette MeadorMinnette Meador: Actually, I write in several genres including romance, but romance does have a special place in my heart; I love the HEA of romance novels and the trouble lovers get into! I read romance when I was a teenager, but didn’t really start getting into it until about three years ago. I guess Susanne McPherson, Delilah Marvelle, and Lisa Hendrix are my three favorites right now, but there are so many good romances out there, it’s hard to choose. I think who influenced me the most would have to be Mary Stewart when I was a kid. Her stories always sparked me to write and still do. Phoebe: Did you know what type of romance you wanted to write about or did you experiment with different genres before you chose the one that you felt was for you? Minnette Meador Historical romance will always be my first love, hands down, especially the Roman era. I love ancient history since it was so brutal and exciting. However, now I’m writing an urban fantasy romance and a paranormal comedy, so I’m having fun experimenting with some new genres. Don’t have to do quite as much research on more contemporary pieces! *LOL* Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you? Minnette: I wrote a ton of stuff when I was in school, but that was more years than I’d care to comment on. Starsight was actually based off a short story I wrote in high school and I think I still have that. Otherwise, I doubt it. It’s funny how all your kids’ stuff kind of pushes your stuff into the recycle bin! Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and does it take you a long time to gather that research? Minnette: For both The Centurion & the Queen and the Edge of Honor I had to do a lot of research. Thank God for the internet, my local library, and fabulous museums! I was very lucky to get connected with an American Renaissance Martial Artist who just happened to be a scholar in Roman fighting styles. He has a group of men (many of them green berets, navy seal, and Special Forces trained) who were gracious enough to choreograph the battle scenes from both books. It does take a long time to do research, but I’ve learned a trick that serves me pretty well; research TO the subject. It’s so easy to get sidetracked. I bookmark places I want to look into later or write down good references when I find them. You never know when you’re going to need them later. Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your novel, The Centurion & the Queen, which is also the first book in your Centurion Series? Minnette: Actually, this was a dream, believe it or not. I had seen a special on Boudicca, the Celtic Queen from Britannia who gathers hundreds of thousands of Celts to rise up against the Roman Army. A few days later I had this amazing dream. I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t get the story down fast enough. Altogether, I wrote this in about 10 weeks, which I’ve never duplicated. Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your novel, The Edge of Honor, which is also the second book in your Centurion Series? And what are your titles and plans for any of your future books in your Centurion Series? Minnette: Edge is a direct sequel to Centurion about the aftermath of the Boudicca revolt and was a natural. The Romans were brutal to the Celts after the revolt, so I wanted to see how my hero and heroine would handle it. I have several more books planned for the series, but the next one is called The Gladiator Prince. In Edge Delia meets a gladiator who is the last surviving prince of a tribe annihilated by the Romans after the revolt. He was enslaved and trained to be a gladiator in Britannia. When he finds out his two daughters have been taken in a slaver raid, he kidnaps the spoiled daughter of his master and forces her to take him to Rome to find them. I have two additional novels featuring Aelius and Glenys from Centurion and another featuring Evyn and Kuna’s sister. Gladiator is planned for the first part of next year after I get some other deadlines met. Phoebe: How do you come up with each of your characters for your novels? How do you choose their names out of so many names out there? Minnette: Since all my writing is very heavily character driven, I build them very precisely. I use character sheets for back stories and traits, but honestly, I base a lot of my characters off of friends and family. Marius and Delia from Centurion were actually based off my mother and father. Now, having said that, as any writer will tell you, characters have a mind of their own and grow as you’re writing, especially in a series. So, honestly, I think they build me instead of the other way around. Being a research geek I love to have names that mean something about the character. Even in my fantasy books, I come up with names that actually mean something, but it’s usually not in English. There are countless resources. For more conventional names, again, I research the meaning of the name before giving it to the character. Since all Roman names are based on Latin, and Latin names ALWAYS mean something else, there are lots of resources for these. Sometimes, I just plain and simply like the name; my newest comedy has a protagonist named Keenan. Not sure if that means anything, but I really like the name. Phoebe: Do you have a favorite character that you really enjoyed writing about in your novel, The Centurion & the Queen? Did you have a character that you felt you could really relate to in your novel, The Centurion & the Queen? Minnette: Marius is my favorite character, only because he is so handsome, strong, ethical, handsome, sexy, brave, handsome… *LOL* He is all that, but he is also flawed in many ways. I always give my heroes a mighty height from which to fall. The one I really related to in the book (and is maybe a little based off of me) is Delia. A klutzy, insecure, funny, brave, and kick ass heroine, who gets bitten by horses, makes rash judgments, and leads her people without faltering in a world dominated by savage men. Not that I do any of those things, mind you, but it’s who I wish I was. The klutzy insecure part is me all over! Phoebe: Do you have a favorite character that you really enjoyed writing about in your novel, The Edge of Honor? Did you have a character that you felt you could really relate to in your novel, The Edge of Honor? Minnette: It was wonderful to introduce a new character in Thane, the last prince of a massacred Celtic tribe. The research about gladiators was extensive for this book, including having the American Renaissance Martial Arts Assoc. choreographing the fight scenes. Thane is an amazing character and will be the protagonist in the next book in the series, Gladiator Prince. Also in this book, is a real character from this time period; Seneca. He was a writer, a philosopher, and a dreamer who ended up counseling Nero (who later had him commit suicide). In the book, he helps Delia to save Marius and is there to help deliver her baby. I did a lot of research on this man and found he was brilliant, kind, and an amazing writer. Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels? The Centurion & the Queen by Minnette MeadorMinnette: I usually come up with a general idea; beginning, middle, and end. Then I work out from there. With some books I plot extensively, do character sheets, organize my notes, and then write the book. Others, I’m completely “pantsing” them (i.e. writing by the seat of my pants without guidelines). For the most part, however, I usually do a combination of the two. You never know where those pesky characters want to go; I usually give them free reign. Phoebe: Which do you like best, writing a series or writing stand alone novels? How is writing each different for you? Minnette: I seem to have gravitated to series, only because there is just so much story with these characters or the history of the times, depending. In my own experience, it’s tougher to write the series, but it’s also a lot more rewarding when you get it right. Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long? Minnette: I decided early on to start with small publishing instead of New York, mostly because I wanted to learn the business, establish a platform, and get my promotion campaign fine tuned. I did a lot of research on small publishers and finally went with Piers Anthony’s website to find a publisher. Piers rates and critiques publishers based off of research, writer recommendations, and publisher interviews. The reviews were very honest and, as with all things Piers, straight forward. I discovered Stonegarden on this site. I had sent in many queries to NY pubs before this and to two e-book publishers. Stonegarden was a trade paperback publisher, very small, but with fabulous reviews by their writers. SG accepted Starsight in 2007 and it came out in March of 2008. I’ve never looked back; SG is growing the way I’d want my children to grow; solidly, straight, honestly, and slowly. Phoebe: Do you ever get writers block? What do you do to get rid of it so you can get back to writing your novels? Minnette: Writer’s block is a curse I think we all live with and it’s devastating, especially when you’re on deadline. The best way for me to get through it is to just write. There’s really no other way out for me. Writing doesn’t take inspiration, it takes dedication. You have to treat it like a job. Phoebe: is your biggest reader pet peeve, if you have any? (stock characters, unresolved endings, predictability, everything wrapped up hurriedly in the end, etc.) Minnette: I like my stories rich and warm. I like to snuggle with a book and relish it, so all of the above are pet peeves for me. Phoebe: What is the one writing tool can you not live without? Minnette: My laptop…I spent years writing by hand. Yuk! Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane? Minnette: It’s tough to find time for everything, but I have been unemployed for the last couple of years so that’s helped. I’ll be going back to teaching this fall, but that will work well since I get off of work at 3:30. It’s all about schedules…I’ll do promo/emails in the morning, write for about 4 hours a day during the week, and then full time on the weekends. And sleep? Well, I tuck that in around the edges. *LOL* Oh, and having a very understanding, helpful mate who takes care of you when you need him/her to is an absolute must. I don’t know what I’d do without my DH. Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long while writing? Do you have any hobbies? Minnette: No time for hobbies anymore, unfortunately. I’m lucky if I can read during the week, to be honest. I am addicted to Ghost Hunters, Nova, Nova Now, House, and the Simpsons. About all I have time for. DH and I love movies, too, so try to watch one or two during the week. Otherwise it’s work, write, promote, and write some more. Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you? Minnette: I always give this advice to any writer. The list keeps expanding every day: 1. Writing is 10% writing and 90% editing. Edit 'til you can't stand the thing, then do it three more times. Then have someone else edit it and then go through it three more times after that. You should be there when you start to change words BACK to what they used to be. Here’s a good example; I edited this interview for three hours before I was almost satisfied. You know you’re a writer when...you edit your IMs and text messages... 2. Get yourself a critiquing partner and a set of beta readers (family does nicely, especially if you have older kids...they do owe you; friends and co-worker are always good). LISTEN to what they have to say and be prepared for criticism. That’s what you don’t pay them for. A critiquing partner is absolutely an imperative and there are lots of groups out there that can help you find one...your local RWA, Critters Workshop comes readily to mind, but there are many out there. Check in your genre. Or join a writing class in your community...that’s where one of my fabulous, wonderful, adorable partners came from. 3. Take classes, join associations, join groups, get involved in the writer's community (it's huge) and contribute to it. Harder to do than you think, believe me. 4. Be prepared to spend every waking hour on your dream and even some of your sleeping ones. The muse doesn't rest...at least until you need her, which leads me to... 5. DON'T RELY ON THE MUSE TO HELP YOU. (S)he will always let you down when you need her/him most. Being a published writer does not take inspiration, it takes dedication. You cannot wait until the art moves you...art is a lazy, drunken sod and it’s up to you to move it along. Hardest thing to do as a writer is to keep going. There are lots of tips on how to break writer’s block out there. The best advice I ever received? Get off your ass and hit those keys (or move that pen, if you’re a purest)—who cares what you write, just write. 6. Be kind, be loving, live well, and treat others well. When you critique someone or even give them an opinion of their work, keep in mind yours is (or will be) in another's hands one day. Creation is a fragile thing and easily destroyed...look at an egg sometime. I know; I shelved writing for twenty years because of a criticism. I regret it to this day. 7. You must develop a thick skin for this business...the whole “slings & arrows” thing. Not everyone is going to like your work....not everyone appreciates the hours that went into its creation...not everyone is kind. A gentle grace is needed to be a writer, I think...swear and punch through walls when you get home, but keep in mind it’s only one person’s opinion. You can choose to agree...or not. Did I mention this profession takes a bit of ego, as well? 8. There is no reward without sacrifice. When you see your name in print, the paperback crushed in your trembling hands, I promise, it will be worth all the pain. All you have to do then is write the next one... Phoebe: Is there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you? The Edge of Honor by Minnette MeadorMinnette: PROMO/MARKETING: 1. Get yourself a web page by any means necessary. 2. Join all the social and writing networks: Myspace, Facebook, Bebo Site, Coffeetime Romance, Manic Readers Author Site, The Romance Studio, Gather, Redroom, Author Nation, etc. Keep them maintained and post something every day to at least one of them. 3. Start a blog and do an article at least once a week. 4. Get involved in writers’ associations in your area and get involved in their loops. 5. Join other blogs and write on them. 6. And most important: JOIN THE NATIONAL RWA SO YOU CAN JOIN YOUR LOCAL RWA. This is probably the most important connection you’ll make as a romance writer. If you don’t have a local one, you can join others on-line. I belong to Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, From the Heart Romance Writers, Valley Romance Writers (Salem), and Rose City Romance Writers (Portland) and try to stay involved in all of them. You will learn more about promotion and have new opportunities open up with these groups like no others. Workshops, critique partners, writing competitions, book fairs, conventions, and so many other activities that will help you in your career. RESEARCH: I majored in Western Civ when I went to college many, many years ago and then realized a history major wasn’t going to get me much in the way of a job. Very few history majors (beyond professors and other teachers) make a living at it. Like archeologist, anthropologist, geologist, or French literature majors, historians usually end up doing something else unless they teach…or write. What I discovered while I was writing my first historical romance was that research is VERY DANGEROUS. If you love history as I do, every fact you find leads to several hundred other facts. You can spend your life doing research and never write a word. So that brings me to suggestions for research with the preamble that these are just things that worked for me. Everyone has their own way to do research for a book. I think everyone needs to find their own way and methods, but maybe this will help you avoid some pitfalls. 1. RESEARCH TO THE BOOK—It is very easy to get so involved in research that you lose sight of writing altogether. I try not to let myself get distracted by a subject that is off topic. Believe me it takes discipline…I LOVE studying history, especially ancient history. So when I find myself off on a topic that has nothing to do with my book, I add the link to a special favorites folder (or make note of the book) and come back to it when I have the luxury of researching for research’s sake or for the next book. Keep in mind you are a writer…not a historian. 2. PUT IT WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT LATER—One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was first doing research was not keeping track of where I found the resource. It’s easy to add an internet link to a favorite’s folder or writing down a library/book resource as you’re going along. It’s next to impossible to do it miles down the research road when you’ve forgotten it. Keep a log. The reason it’s important? I can’t tell you how many times someone has questioned a fact…I knew I had looked it up, but couldn’t remember in my hours of research exactly where. I then had to go back and re-research it. Trust me, it’s a very frustrating process. Keep track of your resources, especially those you use directly in your writing. 3. FOCUS—I try to focus research on only the time, place, people, and events taking place in my novel unless I need background information I’ll need to build in later. As with any writing I do, I research the general time quickly and concentrate on specific details as needed for the story. 4. TOO MUCH BACKGROUD—Weaving historical information into the fabric of the story gives it depth and pulls the reader in. Too much information is distracting and makes people start skimming. Keep your facts to a minimum to push the story forward and build them in gradually, not all at once. As with any writing, ask yourself these questions: Does this information have something to do with the novel directly? Is it vital to the story? If it isn’t, don’t use it. 5. CLOSE YOUR EYES—I do this exercise whenever I start a project. It gives me a wonderful way to figure out where to start in my research and saves me a ton of time…and it also helps me to figure out what is important. Give it a try and see if it works for you: I sit in my comfy chair, close my eyes, and concentrate on the story. This, to me, is the best part of writing…shutting out the modern world and putting myself in another time and place. Imagining what your day would be like as a Roman soldier, a Celtic queen, or a gladiator. What is my “home” like? What did I have for breakfast that morning? What clothes did I put on that day? Who’s my best friend? Do I own a dog? I ask lots of questions. I try to put myself in the character’s shoes (or his underwear as someone once suggested) and imagine what his/her day would be like. I make a list of all the gaps…those things I don’t know. Once I’ve done that, I have a whole list of areas to research. In order to make the history come alive, you have to share what goes on with this person on a very intimate level. 6. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AN EXPERT, BUT YOU MAY NEED TO FIND ONE—I do not consider myself a historical expert. As a matter of fact, I am a “closet” historian who admires the real historians who spend their lives in search of the truth of history. These people teach at our universities, write books, contribute to history channels and movies, and head wonderful museums and associations. I’ve discovered, to my delight, that they LOVE to talk about history. I have worked with a couple of museums and a prestigious reenactment association to help me with my scenes just by emailing them and asking questions. The reenactment people actually choreographed my fight scenes for me. So don’t be shy…ask! The worse they can say is “no” or completely ignore you. The beauty is there are lots of museums, libraries, and academia out there. 7. WHERE TO FIND ANSWERS—Everyone has their own method for research. For me personally, I use books, articles, and the internet. Here are a few links I’ve used for my subjects, but the library is a great place to start and of course places like Wikipedia. The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA), BBC Ancient History—, Ancient Rome, Roman—Britian, Legio XX—The Twentieth Legion, Wikipedia and Romance Dialects. 8. ARTICLES ABOUT RESEARCH—Here is an article I wrote about doing research for Rose City Romance. There is a plethora of article written by other historical writers on research. Do a search…just make sure you don’t spend all your time researching research. *LOL* Phoebe: Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)? Minnette: I’m a sucker for sci-fi/fantasy and Nero Wolf books. I have so many favorites, but I think Robert Heinlein is still at the top of my list, followed very closely by Piers Anthony and Spider Robinson. I love to laugh when I read, so I’m drawn to comedy of all kinds. A roaring good mystery will always pull me in…I also love the classics; Charles Dickens was my mentor very early in life, but Captain Ahab, Charley, Bilbo, Sherlock Holmes, and Lord Peter Whimsey lived with me for many years as well. I’ve never met a genre I didn’t like. Phoebe: What are you reading now? And what do you plan to read after that? Minnette: I’ve been reading Delilah Marvelle’s wonderful regency Lord of Pleasure, sequel to Mistress of Pleasure and Lisa Hendrix’s fabulous fantasy/historical Immortal Warrior. Both books are absolutely wonderful! I’ve just picked up Variable Star, Robert Heinlein’s unfinished book co-written by Spider Robinson, so I’ll probably do that one next. Of course, I read as an editor almost every day. Stonegarden and Resplendence Publishing have some amazing books coming out as well! Thank you so much for inviting me, Phoebe! What fun this was. You are the best! ~~~Minnette

3 comments:

  1. Oooh. I'm always on the lookout for other lovers of ancient historical fiction...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice to know someone else love ancient historical fiction as well. It's an unusual period of time to write about, but that's why I love it; I'm notorious for pushing the envelope. :o)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice meeting you here Minnette. And what a wonderful list - I need to keep a copy of this article. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

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Phoebe Jordan
I'm a part-time aspiring romance novelist, book reviewer and blogger. I've always wanted to travel the world and learn everything I can about other countries. Learning the Italian language is one way of trying to make that dream come true. Traveling will help me with my writing because I'll be learning about the history of the U.S., Latin America, England, Italy, and Ireland, the countries I find so fascinating while reading the romance genre.
 
I read and review romance novels of almost every subgenre along with erotic romance, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy and young adult novels. You can find the reviews at my blogs, Talk About My Favorite Authors and Phoebe Jordan's Reviews. I’ve also started a live podcast show called TAMFA | Phoebe Jordan hosted on Blog Talk Radio. This show is dedicated to everything I love about romance and young adult novels. I love having romance and young adult authors live on my show to be interviewed and showcase their books.

I plan to write contemporary romance, romantic suspense, erotic romance, paranormal romance and young adult when I get my writing career started with help from Keta. I'm not sure what genre I'll write to begin with since I love to read so many different romance genres.
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