It's the final week of the Wild Roses Blog Tour, and today I'm off being guest hosted by paranormal and historical romance novelist Caroline Clemmons. I hope you'll stop by, and leave a comment there. Anyone who does is automatically entered to win not only a copy of my paranormal shapeshifter eBook Wolf's Den, but an entire giveaway basket of books and prizes.
That means today is also my last chance to interview one of the wonderful authors who have joined me on the tour. Let me introduce Long and Short Reviews Best Book of 2009 Nominee Amber Leigh Williams. As you'll see toward the bottom of the interview, she has some solid and practical advice for writing sex scenes.
Amber Leigh Williams is a multi-published author, a member of Romance Writers of America, former Secretary of GCCRWA, and a reviewer for The Season. Her western romance, Blackest Heart, is a 2009 More Than Magic winner and her historical romance, Forever Amore, was nominated by Long & Short Reviews for Best Book of 2009. She is represented by D4EO Literary Agency.
Aileen Harkwood: Hi, Amber! Thank you for the interview and welcome to the last leg of the Wild Roses Blog Tour. I'm going to start by asking you a question to which many of my other interviewees have responded.
I've always been fascinated by the sense of place that finds its way into books by my favorite novelists. Do you like to set your stories where you live, or someplace far away? Do you have favorite settings you like to use?
Amber Leigh Williams: There’s no limit to where my stories go. My first book, Denied Origin, a romantic suspense, started out in Rio de Janeiro and throughout the story the characters went on a scavenger hunt that took them to the Vatican City, Cairo, the Taj Mahal, and even The Philippines.
However, I’ve written books closer to home like my western romance trilogy which is based in the fictional small town of Wayback, Texas. My historical romance, Forever Amore, takes place all across Italy in the 1940s, starting in Veneto and exploring bits of Milan, Florence and other parts of Tuscany. My paranormal series takes place in present day New York City. I can only guess where my muse will take me next.
AH: What subgenres do you prefer to read? Are they the same ones you like to write?
ALW: I’m a huge fan of Regency romance, and I finally took the plunge and am working on one of my own now! I also read quite a bit of paranormal. I love a good western, medieval, and inspirational romance, too. Sci-fi romance is my latest favorite.
AH: What’s your favorite part of writing a story and why do you love it?
ALW: I love watching the characters grow. As the story progresses, I try to give them as much room as possible to live and breathe. It’s wonderful when surprise characteristics spring up and everything starts clicking into place naturally.
AH: I know that feeling well and always breathe a sigh of relief.
Speaking of characters, romance tends to focus description primarily on the hero and heroine and their relationship, while sometimes giving other forms of description short shrift. What does setting mean to you as a writer?
ALW: This is an excellent question. I believe that setting doesn’t just make the story more colorful, it can influence mood, themes, and the characters themselves. It can even take on characteristics unto itself. Think what the Harry Potter books would be without Hogwarts and all its mysteries and quirks, or Gone with the Wind without Tara which was the foundation for all that grounded Scarlet and kept her going through the hardships of war and its aftermath. It’s a shame when authors don’t take advantage of all that setting has to offer a story.
AH: How important is daydreaming to the creation of your stories? Or are you all business when you write?
ALW: I’m such a daydreamer. I do quite a bit of woolgathering while brainstorming. As long as I have pen and paper on standby, nothing works better than daydreaming when a story concept is waiting to take shape.
AH: While you're woolgathering, you know, visualizing your story in your head, do you ever “cast” the roles of your heroes and heroines with celebrities or other people you’ve seen?
ALW: If I start out modeling a hero or heroine after a celebrity, they quickly take on a life of their own. They’re their own people, completely individual from anyone else.
For example, [take] the silent cowboy from Blackest Heart, Judd Black. After I completed this western romance, I did a character break-down and tried to find an actor who could pass as a stunt double for him at least. Absolutely nobody came to mind. When I asked readers to chip in with their thoughts, they too seemed to think that no one in the world could portray Judd Black except for Judd Black himself. I think this is why he’s my favorite hero and the subject of most readers’ emails.
AH: Now that's when you know you've achieved something with your writing! I'm going to pester you with another movie question, though.
AH: If you could have been the person to write a favorite movie of yours and could have written it as a romance book instead, which one would it be, and why?
ALW: I thought The Lake House was a great premise and was so envious of whoever came up with the concept. I also would love to have been the one to write My Best Friend’s Wedding. I love that movie and the point of view of the “other woman” whom Julia Roberts played to absolute perfection. To this day, I still wish I could have given Scarlet and Rhett their HEA. And if there isn’t a National Treasure 3, I might have to gain enough rights to write Riley’s story. I love that sarcastic computer geek!
AH: Okay, last of the Rorschach Test questions—Do you feel like you're taking a personality quiz yet?—If you could live a romance novel, what type of romance would it be? And what type of heroine?
ALW: It’s a tie – I’d either be Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice or Eve Dallas from J.D. Robb’s In Death series. I pick both of these for the heroes. There aren’t many heroes who are as iconic and delicious as Mr. Darcy and Roarke.
AH: Switching gears now back to writing, I've noticed that new writers often ask questions about the more commercially-oriented limits romance puts on heroes and heroines. Are there any potentially controversial characteristics, qualities, or situations you would hesitate to write?
ALW: I don’t think that any writer should hesitate to go where their imagination takes them. It’s a step backward to the bodice-ripping alphas and those notorious rape scenes that gave romance a bad rep in the ‘70’s that we want to avoid. As long as we don’t go back to that and as long as sex scenes aren’t gratuitous, there’s no limit to what romantic heroes can do. I think a good example is Elizabeth Amber’s Lords of Satyr series. Readers love her heroes and their “special abilities” and I believe the latest is an Romantic Times Top Pick.
AH: What is the craziest, wildest, or most unusual romance you’ve ever thought up that you’ve been afraid to write?
ALW: That was my paranormal series. I never thought I would write paranormal. I was just so intimidated by the process of world-building. Then a successful author of the subgenre took me aside one day at a RWA chapter meeting and told me out of the blue that she thought I would be a great paranormal author.
The idea kind of rolled gradually into the concept of the series that I’m in the midst of now, which I am thoroughly enjoying. Taking that plunge, seeing the outcome really makes me feel like I could write anything, no matter how challenging. When I’ve completed this series, I would really like to try a more fantasy-driven world. Maybe even science fiction. We’ll see.
AH: Are writing sex scenes hard or easy for you? Do you have any advice you can offer pre-pubbed writers?
ALW: It depends on what day it is. Sometimes these are the easiest scenes to write. Others, I have to chip the words out of the bedrock one grain at a time.
It’s just like any other scene, really, whether it be action-based or internalized. For pre-published writers, I would say that the key to love scenes is to make sure your characters are motivated in a realistic way and that the emotional journey of the hero and heroine is furthered in some way, whether they choose to admit it or not or even are aware of it or not. Again, it’s just another scene; give it one-hundred percent and, because love scenes tend to slow the story’s pace, be sure it moves the romantic plotline forward.
Interview continues below:
Look for Amber's western romance trilogy featuring the Ridges of Wayback, Texas in audio! On September 7, 1st Place More Than Magic Novella Blackest Heart launches from AudioLark.com, followed by Bluest Heart (Sept 14) and Bet It on My Heart (Sept 21) Learn more about these books, now available in ebook and paperback, at The Wild Rose Press or at the author's website: http://www.amberleighwilliams.com.
AH: Are you at all superstitious about writing, subbing to publishers? Do you have any rituals or habits you go through to get the job done?
ALW: Although I tend to be superstitious, I don’t think I do have any writing or submission superstitions. I believe that hard work pays off in this industry and that those who do work hard enough will be rewarded for their efforts, however long it takes.
AH: I can already tell from our conversation that you're fully into the business aspects of publishing, so let me ask you to add your opinion to the debate...Paper books or eBooks? Where do you think the future is headed?
ALW: There’s no getting around the fact that everything’s going digital. Even textbooks are available in digital formats now. I believe in ebooks and completely support where the market is going, but there is nothing better than holding a book in my hands and seeing it on my shelf here at home in my office. It’s such a comfort to be surrounded by them on a daily basis. When I was young and dreamed of being an author, it was of being on the shelf in a brick and mortar bookstore. I love ebooks, but I hate to think of a world without mass market paperbacks or hardcover editions.
AH: When you do go into a bookstore, do you ever fantasize about seeing your books there? I've asked this of other authors, but I'm always curious how a writer would handle it. What would you do if you saw a stranger pick up one of your novels? Would you approach that person?
ALW: I’d probably observe. And yes, I do fantasize. I actually worked for over a year in a local bookstore. It pleased me to no end that romance garnered better and better placement on endcaps and tables as the months progressed. And whenever a shipment of romance novels came in, I was the first to volunteer for stocking duty. I especially loved to see more and more people coming in and openly asking for and/or buying them. Most of the time, readers seemed to be buying at least three at once. And this was during the worst months of the recession.
AH: Last question and then you're through with my grueling interview. Let's go frivolous. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure? How do you reward yourself?
ALW: Reading is my guilty pleasure. When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading the latest book from my TBR (to be read) pile or reviewing historical romance for The Season. To reward myself for finishing a book or getting good news from a publisher, I usually buy another [Laughing again].
AH: Just what every author with a book about to be released would love to hear! Thanks, Amber. You give one terrific interview.
Be sure to leave a comment below. You'll be entered to win a giveaway basket with ten, count them, ten books from the authors of the Wild Roses Blog Tour, plus other great prizes. The more comments you leave on all the tour's blogs, the more chances you have to win.