Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Welcome, Rowan Speedwell

1: Thank you so much for being here, Rowan. First up is the obligatory question. When did you first begin writing?

I don’t remember ever NOT writing. One of my earliest memories of before I could read or write is of my mother giving me a pen and an opened-up paper grocery bag to “draw stories on.” She always read to me and my brothers, so I started reading at 4 and writing stories as soon as I learned how to print. I still have a story I started when I was in fourth grade—it begins “It was a dark and stormy night…” and stars my three best friends and the boys they had crushes on. It was a ghost/vampire/werewolf tale inspired by the TV show Dark Shadows, long before I’d ever heard the term “paranormal romance.” Of course it’s unfinished. Most of my work is unfinished!

2: What inspired you to write?

My mother, primarily. As I said, she read to us every night, and the stories and language and rhythm of the words fascinated me. I liked the fairy tales best of all—they seemed to offer such possibilities: that anyone could do and be anything they truly wanted. And she is an artist and the books she chose had such beautiful artwork that now I always SEE what I’m writing about.
She and my father had a deep and abiding respect and love for books that they passed on to us kids. Not just novels, but poetry and biography and history. Even though we couldn’t afford to travel much, my parents gave us the world through books.
Another contributor to my delinquency was my best friend, whom I’ve known since I was four (four being a pivotal age in my life, apparently!). Off and on over the last mmmty-mmm years we’ve passed stories back and forth and she’s always pushed me to keep writing. All those stories—though most would be completely unpublishable, since we stole ideas and characters and even songs blithely from every possible source—have really helped me hone my craft.

3: What do you like the most and least about writing?

The most? When I get on a roll and everything just pours out, and the characters are not only cooperating but being enthusiastic about the plot, and I can see the events and the settings and the action, and it’s beautiful and effortless and reminds me why I write.
The least? It’s a toss-up between the days when the characters are being obstinate and won’t do what I tell them, and when I have to excise whole passages to get the story back on track. I want to cry on those days.

4: What do you for fun and relaxation when not writing?

If it were up to me, I’d lay around and read all day and do nothing else. And I do, sometimes. But I need to feel productive, so I schedule things—events, dates with friends, that sort of thing. I’m a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is an international non-profit organization that selectively recreates the Middle Ages, so on a lot of weekends I dress up like a 15th Century lady and do calligraphy and blackwork embroidery and watch hot guys whack each other with sticks. When I’m not doing that I do other kinds of embroidery, make garb (medieval costumes), crochet, knit, make jewelry, paint, play with my cat and watch movies. I LOVE movies.

5: Which authors do you like to read?

I read a LOT. And I read fast. I can polish off a book a day—and I work full time and have a two-hour commute. It’s not unusual for me to knock off eight books in a weekend, so I have a lot of favorites. I’ll keep it short, though: My all-time favorites are probably Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts and Lois McMaster Bujold (especially the Miles Vorkosigan stuff). I love Neil Gaiman (I read his blog daily), Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde; in romance it’s Jo Beverley, Julia Quinn, Mary Balogh, Jayne Ann Krentz in all her incarnations. I love Jane Austen, of course, and Wilkie Collins and Rudyard Kipling. And of course my peeps from Dreamspinner Press—I could read their stuff forever. They’re amazing.

6: What’s the one thing you’d most like people to know about you?

I have very thin skin. It doesn’t take a lot to make me feel bad.  A mean look will do it. Very immature, but there you are. It also makes me very nervous about being the center of attention—I’m always concerned about looking stupid.

7: Tell me about your current novel, where I can find it and your website/blog.

“Finding Zach” is a story about love and survival. At the beginning of the book Zach is rescued from a horrible situation where he has been abused and tortured, and the book is about him dealing with what has happened to him and building his future. And about his friend and lover David helping him. Reviewers have said it’s an emotional book, and it is, but I think it also has funny bits and romance and a happy ending, which are important to me.
It’s available at Amazon in paperback http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Zach-Rowan-Speedwell/dp/1615814469/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273500373&sr=8-1
and on the Dreamspinner Press website in both paper and e-book format http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=181
Also in e-book format at All Romance http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-findingzach-427376-145.html
I have a blog at http://www.rowanspeedwell.wordpress.com/

8:Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Read. Think about what you like to read and how you can write that way. And keep writing. Write every day. Even if it’s just junk you throw away at the end of the day, it’s still honing your craft.

9: Do you base your characters on real-life people?

Only the villains.  No, but I will “borrow” personality traits or likes/dislikes, and incorporate them. I never have a problem coming up with characters—they’ll usually sneak up on me in the supermarket and tap me on the shoulder. Then my job is to fill them out.
My stories are all character-driven. My favorite books are, too. I can put up with a lot of crap in the story if I like the characters—and the best story in the world means nothing to me if I can’t identify with the people in it.

10: Where do you get your ideas and what inspired you to write this book?

I get ideas from everywhere. The trick is to notice things and think “what if?” “What if” is the most important part of writing for me. I look at a picture and think “what if that person was an international spy?” Or “what if a giant tsunami were to suddenly crash on that calm, serene beach?”
Finding Zach had its earliest incarnation in a what if. A few years ago I saw a poster—I think it was about not buying guns for felons—that had a young dark-haired guy standing in front of some jail bars. It was a shot from the back with his hands in handcuffs. So then I started thinking about prisoners, and of course because I have a taste for the slightly exotic, it couldn’t have been an ordinary jail. It became a cell in a hostage situation, and gradually got darker and darker. Zach had a few lives in alternate universes before he ended up in Finding Zach, but that’s where he came from.

11: What are you currently working on?
Multiple things, as usual, but I’m focusing on a m/m Regency. I’m a little over halfway through. I thought it would be fun to take the two most common hero tropes in Regencies—the dissipated rakish man-about-town and the dashing cavalry officer—and have them fall in love with each other. It’s requiring a lot of research, but I absolutely adore Regency romances, and this is my homage to them.
Just recently a side character from Finding Zach sidled up to me on Michigan Avenue and offered the information that he’d just relocated to Chicago and wanted me to write his story. So I’m considering a short story or novella for him. (Pesky characters!)
My beta readers are also demanding that I finish a couple of other books I’ve had percolating for a couple of years: a straight Regency and an epic fantasy.

12. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I hate grocery shopping and I’m a rotten cook.

Excerpt from Finding Zach
“So, I talked to Maggie today,” Zach said as he dug his fork into the bowl of salad he and David were sharing.

David had been asleep when Zach came back with the bowl of salad, a platter of warmed-up pizza, and two bottles of water; Zach had set it all down on the dresser and pulled the comforter over David, sitting down at his drafting table to wait for his lover to wake up. A minute or two later, he had, blinking in confusion a moment before sitting up and giving Zach a sleepy smile. “Sorry,” he’d said, and Zach had told him no problem, and now they were sitting with their legs folded under, Zach on top of the comforter and David with it tucked around his waist, the pizza platter and bowl of salad balanced on the comforter between them, just as they had when they were kids and Zach stayed over with David for one of Annie’s absentee dinners.

David finished chewing his bite of pizza, then said, “Maggie? What about?”

“I asked if she could tutor me for my GED,” Zach replied. “She asked me a whole bunch of questions and when we were done she said she thought with intensive study I might be able to get it by the end of the summer. Then I talked to Dad this afternoon and he’s going to talk to some of the professors he knows at UCo, and see if he can’t get some of them to tutor me this fall and winter, and then maybe I can apply at MIT for next fall. Depending on how the tutoring goes. Might not really be for another year or two, but I’ve kind of decided to do that, so the timing is flexible.”

David was staring at him, his pizza slice hanging limply from his fingers. “What? When did you decide all this, Zach?”

“I thought about what you said. And I thought, so what if I missed a couple years of high school? I’d already gotten the early admission thing from MIT. So it should mostly just be trying to remember what I knew, not so much learning things I didn’t, right? And I thought about you offering to tutor me in CAD and if you’re still up for it I’d like that. But I need stuff like biology and math, not to mention the usual core classes you gotta take like literature and history and that, and I thought Maggie’s really smart with that stuff, and better than you at the history and literature, so if she can give me some real intense tutoring then maybe I can test out of some of the classes, and Dad has a lot of friends at UCo that he thinks would be willing to take some time tutoring me too. Talking with Maggie made me think that maybe you’re right, I’m not so much stupid as I am undereducated, and that’s fixable. And my therapy yesterday and today were about fear and dealing with fear, and I realized in my afternoon session today that most of what I’m afraid of is people making judgments about me and if I don’t do anything to, to improve myself, then I deserve whatever judgments they make.”

Taking a bite of pizza, David chewed a moment, then said thoughtfully, “Whoa. Info dump. Let me take a minute to process, okay? Cuz this is like, completely a new direction for you.”

“Yeah,” Zach said anxiously. “You don’t think it’s stupid, do you?”

“Hell, no,” David replied.

“Good. Because your opinion is important to me.” Zach sighed faintly.

David brushed his fingers across Zach’s hand. “I have a good opinion of you, Zach – I’ve always had a good opinion of you. Just the fact that you survived as well as you did all the horrible stuff that bastard did to you – that alone makes you a hero in my book. The rest is gravy.” He grinned.

1 comment:

Kendall said...

Good interview! And the book rocks--I'm just finishing the chapter before that excerpt (talk about timing). ;-)