Please join me in welcoming Stephanie Rowe to Debbie's Book Bag today. Stephanie is here to talk with us about her latest release in the Soulfire series, Hold Me if You Can. The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for two copies of Stephanie's book, see details at the end of the post.
SR: After writing 18 complete manuscripts and 9 partials (and accumulating over 150 rejections), I sold my first book in 2004. I've sold more than twenty since then, and I'm been published in an assortment of genres. I am currently focusing on my paranormal romances and romantic suspenses, and my contemporary teen fiction.
DEB: Tell us a little about your book, Hold Me If You Can and the Soulfire series?
SR: The Soulfire series is about a team of immortal warriors who have recently escaped from the Den of Womanly Pursuits, after 150 years of torture and sensitivity training by Death's grandma. These hardened survivors can, much to their dismay, wield a pair of knitting needles as well as they can vanquish a demon with a sword. Not that they will admit that. Ever. Denial only goes so far, however… If a man's got a talent with a curling iron, he can hide it for only so long…
In HOLD ME IF YOU CAN, book three, Nigel Aquarian is the only warrior who's entirely at peace with his softer side. Give him a sketch pad and some markers, and he's happy. But those that giveth taketh away, and Nigel suddenly finds that his art has become deadly to those he loves. Without his art, Nigel has no outlet for his darker side. He has to find a way to regain control before he kills everyone he loves, and the only woman who can help him is Natalie Fleming, a passionate woman with a talent for chocolate, demons and maybe, just maybe, his salvation. If, of course, they don't kill each other first.
DEB: What was your inspiration for these novels? Is the paranormal something you've always been interested in?
SR: I've been reading paranormal romance for quite a while. The first two authors I read were Katie MacAlister and Christine Feehan, many moons go, and I was hooked on the genre as soon as I read them, and I've been reading voraciously in that genre ever since.
When I started writing the Soulfire series, my goal was to take the traditional and twist it into unexpected directions. I wanted to surprise the reader by creating a powerful, sexy story about the triumph of love in the most unusual of circumstances. Of course, I wanted the men to be badass immortal warriors who had been sufficiently tortured to make it impossible for them to trust, to connect or to bond (except with the woman who was meant for them, and their loyal team of warriors). Who wouldn't want that kind of man in her books?
But I also wanted these guys to be more complex and unexpected than your typical tortured warriors. I wanted to turn the traditional paranormal hero on its head, so I wanted to give these guys an unexpectedly soft side that torments them as much as it gives them peace. I did that by having them spend a few centuries being tortured in the Den of Womanly Pursuits by Death's grandma. While in the Den, the men of the Soulfire series were forced to tap into their softer sides. It's to their great dismay and embarrassment that they have become addicted to their delicate pastimes for their sanity (literally), and they try their best to do their cross-stitching, knitting and other such skills in private, or when appropriately covered in the remnants of a man-battle. I wanted to show that a man can be a bad ass warrior, and still tap into his gentle nature without losing that which makes him so powerful and appealing.
The whole series is based on that kind of approach: I wanted to take the expected and twist it on its head. Like the main villain in TOUCH IF YOU DARE is Cupid, who normally you'd think would be a good guy. The book is full of satirical twists on the paranormal romance norm, not just with the warriors, but in many different ways. I had a lot of fun creating it, and readers seem to enjoy it as well.
DEB: What kind of research did you have to do to make this book come alive?
SR: Let's see, I had quite an assortment of things I had to research in this series: cross-stitching, motorcycles, French-braiding, tasers, knitting, parking tickets in Boston, local Boston beer, stainless steel, fire, portals, prisms, the Grim Reaper, and of course, I had to spend a lot of time thinking about sexy, immortal warriors with great bodies, tortured souls and scarred hearts. That last one, that was the tough part. Ahem.
DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have to have specific things in order to write comfortably?
SR: In an ideal world, I like to write in the morning, power through until I'm finished, and then gallivant gleefully throughout the rest of the day. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. I often have to stop to take a break and workout, because my brain gets tired, or life interferes. At the moment, I usually find myself working until midnight or so seven days a week, and then I'm up at six, so it's a bit of a busy schedule right now. Ideally, I'd like to take evenings off but I'm going to be needing to put in this many hours for at least the next six months. We'll see how things look like after the summer! I have a pretty extensive outline before I start to write, and I usually end in the middle of a scene (not the end of the scene), so it's pretty easy for me to pick things back up when I sit down again…or at least, that's my theory… In terms of setting, I can actually write in pretty much any situation. I can write in a coffee shop with all sorts of chaos around me, I can write with music blasting or the TV on, or I can write in the total silence of my living room, or even in my car in a parking lot. It depends partially on my mood, but there is also an element of awareness that this is my job, and I have to find a way to work in whatever situation I'm in. Sometimes it's tough to get going, but once I become immersed in my story, the environment I'm in ceases to matter. Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to write on a sunny afternoon lakeside in the woods of Maine with a gentle breeze blowing, and I must say that that was quite awesome. If I could recreate that moment at will, that would be a beautiful thing.
DEB: What was it like when you found out your first book would be published?
SR: It was funny, because my agent called me and told me that I'd sold first my book, I just stood there and cried silently, tears running down my cheeks. She said, "Stephanie? Are you there? Did you hear me?" She expected me to start screaming and yelling, but truthfully, I was so overwhelmed and the emotion was so intense, that I literally couldn't even speak. It had been a very long, emotional, difficult journey, and I'd given so much to the process that I just broke down when I sold. The crazy exuburance didn't set in for a couple days, but when it did, I was one happy girl!
DEB: Do you have advice for new writers?
SR: My usual advice is to write a lot, start new books instead of revising old ones to death, join RWA and go to conferences to learn about writing. And, of course, continuing to read. But with the advent of self-publishing, I would add a caveat of DON'T SELF PUBLISH TOO SOON. I wrote 18 books before I sold my first book. Had self-publishing been an option back then, I'm sure I would have put up lots of those books, and it would have been a mistake. Why? Because the books weren't good enough. Recently, I decided to self-publish some of those old books, but when I went back to look at them, I realized that I would have had to completely rewrite them from scratch because they weren't high enough quality to put up. The truth is that we often think we are ready to be published when we aren't. Enter contests. Query agents. Write another book. And another. Eventually, when you start doing well in contests, and when you start getting good responses from agents, that will be a sign that you're writing well enough that maybe it's time for you to self-publish successfully. Until you can do well in those contests and get good responses from submissions, don't put your book up on Amazon. Putting up books that aren't ready will hurt you more than waiting a year will. Be patient. The opportunities aren't going away. They are simply getting better.
DEB: When you aren't writing, what kind of books do you like to read? Do have a favorite genre or author?
SR: My favorite genre to read is historical romance, because of the pure magic of love in those stories. I also enjoy historicals because I don't write them, so I can turn off my writer's mind and just lose myself in the story. I also love to read paranormal romance, contemporary romance, YA and even some middle grade fantasy. There are just so many wonderful books out there! Katie McAlister was my first real exposure to paranormal romance, and I really enjoyed her humorous take on life. I also love Christine Feehan's emotional intensity, and, although Lisa Kleypas doesn't write paranormal romance, her historical romances are the most beautiful love stories and a great standard try to hold for my own stories.
DEB: What are you working on right now?
SR: Right now I'm doing the final edits for CHILL, the second book in my Alaska Heat romantic suspense series. The first book, ICE, just came out this weekend, and I'm so excited. I'm also working on my edits for my brand new dark & sexy paranormal romance series, The Order of the Blade. The Order of the Blade is an elite group of ancient warriors called Calydons with a mission to save the world from members of their own race when they go rogue. Each Calydon is destined to meet his mate and bond with her, but the moment the bond is complete, both will die and destroy everyone one they care about, unless the Order of the Blade kills them first. No warrior can afford to bond, and yet it is their destiny to do so. The first three books will be out this spring, with the first one coming in March.
Later on this year, I have lots more projects coming! The fourth book in the Soulfire series, SEIZE WITH YOUR KISS, is scheduled for July, which is Christian's story. He's been battling a huge burden that he hasn't been able to share with his team, and we will finally get a chance to find out what is going on with him. I also have a new book in the Immortally Sexy series coming in late 2012. Readers have been waiting a long time for Mona and Rafi's story, and it's finally here. I'm so excited! I'm also hoping to squeeze one more book in the Alaska Heat series in late 2012, but we'll have to see. So, busy year! For more details, visit www.stephanierowe.com or visit me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StephanieRoweBooks or on Twitter at StephanieRowe2.
DEB: Tell us one thing that readers may not know about you?
SR: I think the most important thing about who I am is my belief that we all deserve to be happy and feel good, no matter what is going on around us. I've been through some hard things for the last few years, and there are times it's been such a challenge for me to put one foot in front of the other, and to believe that things are going to be okay someday. It's made me realize how important it is for all of us to keep striving to feel good, to be good to ourselves, no matter how tough life is. Of course, it's not always that easy to stay positive when life is crumbling down around you. I've spent a lot of time figuring out ways to feel better, to feel good enough to get up in the morning and make an effort to change things, and it helped a lot. I put together a lot of those essays into a non-fiction book called THE FEEL GOOD LIFE, hoping that I can help people who are going through the tough days like I did. If my own journeys can help, or if becoming immersed in one of my romances can give someone a respite from what they're facing, then that's biggest gift I could ask for. That's why I write romances, because I believe that we all need to have that dream of a happily ever after, and we need to remember why it's okay to have hope and believe that things are going to be okay. Romances always give you that happy ever after, no matter how tough things get in the middle, and I think that's a reminder and a lift we all need sometimes. Taking the time to read books that uplift your heart is one of the gifts we can give ourselves, so I'm honored and privileged to have the opportunity to write books and maybe be that moment of relief for someone whose having a tough time.
The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for two copies of Hold Me If You Can by Stephanie Rowe.
~ You must be a GFC follower or an E-mail subscriber to participate.
~ US and Canadian addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST February 8th.
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