The Writing Process with Vicki Batman

Season of Promises Anthology 

I came into writing in what I refer to as the back door. I didn't have creative writing or journalism classes in high school or college. I did write good papers and some poetry. 

A friend challenged me to write. She knew how much I admired Dick Francis' books and the writing. All I had for me going was being a good reader which is where a lot of writers come from. So I took up the pen—slash—computer and plunked down eight chapters. I showed what I'd done to my friend and she said to keep going. 

I did. 

And in doing so, all I wanted to do was better myself in this craft. In a way, it's like knitting or any other hobby. In order to be very good, you have to practice. I took classes, read craft books, kept writing, critiqued, got critiques, and finally, I sold a bunch of short stories to the True magazines. 

Most days, I work out, eat, shower, and sit down for a good day's work. Sometimes, I do a lot of social media; on others, I work on my current project. Because I am a pantser, I don't have an outline and tend to write slowly. That is what works best for me. But in the end, I have a project I am proud of. 

From the Season of Promises holiday anthology, I present "The Littlest Angel," a romantic comedy short story. 

Two people. One Christmas ornament. Who’ll win this tug of war? Lauren MacDonald has always coveted her mother’s ornament, The Littlest Angel. When her mother gave it to another, Lauren finds a replacement only to have it snatched from her hands. Smith Hancock’s grandmother had a little angel which is now missing. Finding another at a flea market would make her holiday the best ever. Only a pretty girl is claiming it for herself. Can the twosome find common ground and learn the true meaning of Christmas? 

Find Season of Promises at: Amazon

 

An Interview with Jennifer Hallock, Author of Under the Sugar Sun

Under the Sugar Sun full.jpg

 

What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?

I’m a sports nut. Though I don’t write sports romance right now, I actually do coach football—the kind with helmets and everything. It’s like contact chess: no matter how athletic your players, a coach’s mistakes—either in poor training during the week or in play calling on game day—can cost the team a game. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s always a thrill.

Tell us Scribblers a bit about Under the Sugar Sun, and what inspired you to write this story.

My first completed manuscript was a football book—with a quarterback stepbrother hero, before that was the thing. But my husband said: “Why are you writing Midwestern contemporary sports romance when you’re a history teacher living in the Philippines? You should write something set here in the American colonial period. They sent American schoolmarms just like you over to the islands in 1901. What if one fell in love with, I don’t know, a sugar baron or something…isn’t that Jane Austen-y enough for you?”

I’m paraphrasing, but not much—the original character ideas came from my husband. And you’d think that at first I’d be like, “What a great idea! Thanks, honey!” But I was a little intimidated by the task.

Fortunately, I got over that fear quickly and dove into the research—one of my favorite parts of writing. The research showed me that the sugar industry suffered from American trade restrictions, so there was Javier’s struggle right there. And I found a letter published in the Manila Times in 1902 entitled: “Sister Hunting for Brother: He is Supposed to Be in the Philippines.” There was Georgie’s backstory. Voilà!

I fell in love with Georgie and Javier: they were smart, funny, and sexy, flawed and intriguingly complex. What traits do you believe are an absolute necessity that will keep the reader turning the pages?

Both heroes are stubborn and opinionated, but they are incredibly loyal, too. All of these traits are part of their attraction for each other. Right from the start, Javier falls for Georgie’s fire. (When you read chapter one, you’ll get what I just did there.) Even if she is rather misinformed about the Philippines at first, she does pay attention. She questions everything, including the racist underpinnings of her own colonial mission.

The problem is that Georgie does not really know she’s in a romance novel. She thinks that she’s living a Gothic adventure story, which is part of her appeal to the American reader. Having never left Boston in her life, she heads off to a very foreign land at a time when trans-Pacific travel was arduous and time-consuming. And she doesn’t do it for love, either—at least, not the romantic kind. Her challenge will be to set aside some of her old loyalties in order to embrace the new ones right in front of her.

Javier’s loyalty is more straightforward. Once he gives her his heart, it’s hers forever. The problem is that he falls in love with a woman who may signal the end of his way of life—quite literally. Not only does she represent the foreign government squeezing his sugar industry, but she also questions how he runs his hacienda. As the daughter of an Irish-American seamstress, she is a working-class heroine with some radical notions. He needs to keep his family’s legacy alive—but part of that legacy is to marry and pass down his land, which he has never cared to do until he met the exact woman who could unravel it all.

The story of Georgie and Javier is one of an interracial romance, which is not so unusual. However, the Philippines is not a culture much written about. What drew you to set your story here and in this culture?

At the heart of Javier and Georgie’s romance is the important issue of race, but in a specifically Filipino way. Javier is wealthier, more educated, and more widely traveled than Georgie—typical for his class in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the American colonial order, for all its talk of merit, made him inferior solely because of color. Telling their story without recognizing this dimension would have gone beyond romanticizing history all the way to fairy tale. (I should note that the opening novella in the Sugar Sun series does involve two white Americans as the primary characters, but this is because a real life adventurer named Annabelle Kent inspired me to consider a different kind of diversity. Look her up!)

Again, though, what drew me to this whole endeavor was our countries’ shared history. The Philippines was the first major U.S. venture in overseas imperialism and one that launched over a century of intervention abroad. It started with both sides fighting a nasty guerrilla war—one that angered Muslim separatists and divided the U.S. in the midst of a presidential election. Sound familiar? At the same time, the Yanks were successful in teaching English and exporting American culture, everything from basketball to beauty pageants. In 2015, the Philippines had the highest approval ratings of the United States out of any country in the world, including the United States itself!

Part of my hope is to bring this important period of history to life. I lived and taught in the Philippines for four years, and visited for far longer than that (as my husband worked there as a photojournalist). This country—and particularly its people—helped me through a difficult time in my life, inspired my romance writing, and won my heart. Even now, while I live in New England, they are supportive. There is a thriving English-language indie romance community in the Philippines called #romanceclass. They write contemporary and new/young adult romance, yet they still spread the word about my historicals. And, truly, they are the innovators: if you want fresh contemporary romance with feels galore, check out http://romanceclassbooks.com.

What is the one thing about your heroine, Georgie, that drives her hero Javier crazy? And what is the one thing about Javier that drives Georgie crazy?

Crazy sexy or crazy frustrated? I’ll do both.

Javier is driven crazy (sexy) by Georgina’s intelligence and strength of character. Georgina is driven crazy (sexy) by Javier’s old fashioned courtship, called ligaw in Filipino. Imagine an unchaperoned London Season, but in the tropics while the hero and heroine have to hold down full-time jobs at the same time. That’s this story.

Both Javier and Georgina are driven crazy (frustrated) by one essential barrier: Javier wants all of Georgina. She came for a two-year contract, but he wants her to settle permanently, accept his country in her heart, and raise children with him. That is a lot to ask in 1902, even without the colonial-racial component. The sexual frustration is one thing, but happily ever after is another.

How much influence do your characters have on the direction the story takes?

I think characters should direct the story. There are at least two layers of conflict in any good romance: (1) the relationship itself (is he/she The One?); and (2) each character’s own personal objective. If the characters are fully-developed people, their hopes and dreams cannot be shoved aside, even for love. For example, Javier wants to save his hacienda and see a strong, independent Philippines. Georgina wants to find her brother, an American soldier lost in action in the Philippine-American War, and take him home. Had these two characters not met each other, they would have been working on those missions independently, but because—boom!—they meet, and—wow!—they want each other, they have to find a solution to their individual conflicts that allows for the relationship to blossom. Romance does not erase everything about a person outside of the relationship: that is co-dependence, not love.

Do you figure out deep backstory for each of your characters before beginning, or invent it on the fly as you write?

You often hear authors say, “My characters live in my head,” and it sounds so trite and, honestly, a little precious. So, I’ll put it this way: my characters and I drive each other crazy. I can’t get them out of my head, but at least while they’re there I ask them why they do the things they do. I end up with lots of backstory that I do not put in the books. My software, Scrivener, allows me to save detailed files and deleted scenes about each character. Even my villains have backstories and—sometimes—redemptions and quasi-redemptions (even if only in my head).

Do your stories have a common thread apart from the romance element?

My take on historical fiction is unusual. I look for the outliers—the obscure, strange, and even dangerous people in what is called micro-history. Though they may not be average, they are real. Real vignettes pepper my writing, including: the cholera house burnings, a missing soldier brother, the snake scene, the dinner with Pedro, the shooting on the hacienda, and so much more. I lead a workshop on this process for writers because it is that important to how and what I write.

Who was your favorite secondary character to write, and do you see them having their own story to tell?

Just one? That’s a tough choice. My readers would probably say Father Andrés (and, yes, he has his own story in book three, Sugar Communion), but for me it was Allegra (who is the heroine of book two, Sugar Moon). During my research, I found an old lantern slide of a beautiful Filipina with a “WTF?” look on her face. Knowing that she is looking at an American photographer that way, I thought: “Wow. Who are you? I like you.” And, thus, Allegra Alazas was born. She needs every ounce of audaciousness in order to handle her anti-hero, Ben Potter, Georgie’s brother. (By the way, the slide is on my Under the Sugar Sun Pinterest site.)

How much time do you put into research before you begin writing?

I have over 1800 sources in my bibliography, which—now that you’ve read my other answers—probably doesn’t surprise you. You might say that I do too much research. If I have a character taking a steamship from Manila to Dumaguete, I look up the name of a real ship that plied that route in 1902: the S.S. Elcano. That’s compulsive, I know, but I love the challenge.

On the other hand, I am not as historically strict with diction or accents—though I do make sure all vocabulary was available at the time, even if not common. My style is modern because I want the story to read smoothly.

Are you a panster or an outliner?

Under the Sugar Sun was pantsed, which meant it took me twelve drafts or more to get it right. I don’t do that anymore. I still brainstorm for a while, jotting down all sorts of ideas that I get while I run, while I commute, or while I lie down to sleep at night. It’s a jumble and a mess, but I do believe that’s where creativity starts. That’s my pantsing phase.

But then I plan. Once I find a coherent story line, I write out a synopsis. I show this to my husband, who is great with story arcs and conflict. He asks questions or gives me notes, and I go back to brainstorming until I hand him a synopsis he likes. I turn that general plan into a chapter outline. On Scrivener, I create files for each scene with the appropriate part of the chapter plan in the notes sidebar. Once that’s ready, I write. Whew!

However, some flexibility is key. I may veer away from the plan as I write a scene, but I must achieve the designated objective. Each scene must move the plot forward. In the end, I hope to only rewrite a book five or six times, which is about where I am with Sugar Moon (coming in late 2016).

If this story were to be made into a movie, and you could cast anyone to play the roles of Georgie and Javier, who would you choose?

I think about this all the time—not as a movie, but as a Filipino teleserye. This is why Pinterest was created, in my opinion. I have actors, sets, and costumes on there. In my mind, Javier was always singer Enrique Iglesias, a Filipino-Spaniard; and Georgina was actress Karen Gillan, the clever redhead of Doctor Who fame.

Do you have critique partners?

I’ve used critique partners in the Philippines and in my home RWA chapter (NECRWA). However, my most important CP/editor/proofreader/cover designer/technical expert is my husband. He is the entire back end of our small indie publishing enterprise, and I could not be luckier to have his input and support.

Do you write to a specific word count daily or write to the inspiration and mood of your muse?

While teaching at a boarding school (sometimes a 24/7 job), it is hard to demand a daily word count out of myself, but I require that I touch an active manuscript, brainstorming board, or even blog post at least once every day. Sometimes, though, the busier I am at the day job, the more I want to write—and the more productive I am at it. Compared to grading piles and piles of adolescent essays, writing my own stuff is pure joy.

On the weekends or during the summers, I write every day. If I am writing new words, I try to draft a full scene at a time (around 2000 words or so). If revising, I can comb through three or four scenes in a day, and then go back to them the next day. I polish and polish until I feel I can move on.

If you were going to give only one tip to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Write what you love.

Because I work in a high-powered academic community, I first tried to write the Great American Novel. Nothing less would do. Sure, I dabbled in genre fiction—science fiction first, then romance—but I kept hitting my head against a wall of my own literary snobbery. Guess what? I got a concussion. I was not meant to write highfalutin “literature.” Frankly, I do not even like reading it.

I like romance because it is character-driven storytelling with an uplifting ending. I won’t write anything else now. Since I came to this realization, I have completed five books and published two so far. I barely finished a chapter of my Great American Novel.

This lesson can apply to subgenre, too. Don’t write erotica if you’re squeamish about genitalia. Write what you love because that’s the only way to get your butt in the chair.

What books or other projects do you have coming out in the near future?

The Sugar Sun series will be three full-sized novels with a smattering of novellas. One of the novellas—a redemption of a secondary character named Rosa Ramos—is in the editing stage now. That will come out in September or October of 2016.

Ben and Allegra’s story, book two of the series, will hopefully come out before the holiday season. I am doing one last rewrite before the editor gets a hold of it.

Finally, there is Andrés’s story, which is eagerly anticipated by some of my readers. Andrés himself is a little concerned about exactly how eagerly they anticipate his fall from the priesthood, so he says I can hold off on that book a while. But it’s planned and started, and it will be out in 2017, no matter what my noble priest thinks! (See, I told you, the characters haunt me all day long. Sometimes, when I am doing something else, they stand and tap their feet impatiently. Psychologically, it is not a good sign.)

Bio:

Jennifer Hallock spends her days teaching history and her nights writing historical happily-ever-afters. She has lived and worked in the Philippines, but she currently writes at her little brick house on a New England homestead—kept company by her husband, a growing flock of chickens, and two geriatric border collie mutts.

Blog: http://www.jenniferhallock.com

Buy links: http://bit.ly/jenniferhallock

Twitter: @jen_hallock

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferhallockauthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/undersugarsun  

 

 

An Interview with Tinthia Clemant, Author of The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish

What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?

Just like Annah, I’m an earth witch. 

Tell us Scribblers a bit about The Summer of Annah, and what inspired this story?

The story was inspired by real life events—my search for love. It tells the story of a 55-year-old woman’s search for love. She soon learns that finding love isn’t the hard part—it’s trusting her instincts and recognizing love that challenges her. 

The decision to write The Summer of Annah came on the eve of my 59th birthday. I had all these wonderful stories about love clambering around inside me and Annah was the loudest. She spoke to me as I went about my day-to-day life, asking for a chance to have her story told. I like to say I live vicariously through my characters. Annah has the brave qualities I wish I possessed. And she has Eric.

I found it interesting how you begin with a love spell; did you simply make one up?  Do you think spells such as this work? 

As an earth witch, I am a believer in the power of spells, which is nothing more than channeling energy to bring about change. We do this whenever we make a wish for something, such as picking up a heads-up penny or blowing out birthday candles. Would I cast a spell for love? Well, let’s just say I lit my cones of sandalwood incense this past Midsummer’s Eve.

The older woman, younger man is not the typical in Romance stories. What drew you to taking on this topic in an industry that has hardly (if at all) addressed it?

Baby boomer women may be aging but we haven’t stopped our search for love. In many ways, the Romance industry is forgetting we exist, except to pair us with men our own age. Having the hero, Eric, be younger than Annah, appealed to me because I believe many women are missing opportunities by looking for love in packages we’re told we must accept—women fifty or above must fall in love with someone fifty or above. That’s stifling. If a person has a good heart, pure soul, and we feel the connection, love can spark and survive, despite an age difference. We need to be open to all possibilities.

Your heroine, Annah, and your hero, Eric, immediately intrigued me. What traits do you believe are necessary in creating characters that will keep the reader invested in their story and turning the pages?

Characters must live, breathe, love, and behave like real people. If they don’t a reader won’t invest the emotion the story will need to succeed. All my characters have backstories no one will ever read. I know their shoe sizes, when they first tripped and scraped a knee. By creating three-dimensional characters off the pages of the story, the characters will be three-dimensional on the pages of the story. They’ll come alive and, if I’ve succeeded, stay with the reader long after the story is finished.

What is the one thing about your heroine, Annah, that drives her hero, Eric, crazy? And what is the one thing about Eric that drives Anna crazy?

Hmm, well since Eric is the perfect man, there isn’t much that would drive Annah crazy. However, if she had to choose one thing, it would be his stoic temperament. For Eric, it would be her quick-temper. In truth, however, they balance each other. Eric is the tethered line that keeps Annah grounded, while Annah is the fire that Eric uses to fuel his decisions. 

How much influence do our characters have on the direction the story takes?

This question made me chuckle. There are days when I have a scene all played out in my head and just need to get it into the computer. The characters have other thoughts. They’ll pull me in directions that are completely out of line with my goal. 

When I first started writing, I used to fight this tug-of-war. Now, I’ve learned to trust them and allow them their freedom. Quite honestly, there are times when I sit back, close my eyes, and ask the character what she/he wants. For example, I struggled with the opening scene in The Summer of Annah. When I listened to Annah, the prologue came alive. It’s a wonderful experience to hear your characters whisper, and sometimes shout their input.

If this story were to be made into a movie, and you could cast anyone to play the roles of Annah and Eric, who would you choose?

I’ve had fun thinking about the casting of my characters for my fantasy movie. Without a doubt, Diane Lane would play Annah. Annah needs someone who had a spark to her, which Ms. Lane possesses. Eric, ah Eric. He’s more than a handsome face. He requires an actor who will bring his soul to life. I would love Chris Hemsworth for the part but I’m open to holding a casting call and getting my hands dirty during the selection process.

What is your opinion of traditional publishing versus self-publishing?

An article I read stated that over 60% of the books loaded to Amazon on a daily basis are self-published books! Self-publishing is here to stay. I knew I wanted to self-publish The Summer of Annah from the moment I typed the title. Why? I despise rejection. (By now, one would think I’d be used to it after being divorced from the same man twice. Alas, that’s another story waiting in the wings.) 

Going the traditional publishing route conjured visions of long days waiting for the rejection letters while empty containers of Chubby Hubby buried me. Moreover, I’m a control freak. Self-publishing affords me the opportunity to call the shots. It’s a great feeling. I’m free to choose my story arc, name my characters, color their hair, the list goes on. It’s wonderful to be in complete control, which I didn’t want to relinquish to a publishing house.

Soon Barnes and Noble will be featuring self-published books in their brick and mortar stores. Self-publishing is the sleeping monster and she’s waking up.

Do you write to a specific word count daily or write to the inspiration and mood of your muse?

I don’t write specific word counts. Each day is different. I choose to write in the early morning, each and every morning. Some mornings I’ll only get 300 words written and other times, I’m able to push into the thousands. It’s all in the content. If the story is flowing, I won’t stop, unless I have to. If a brick wall stands in my way, I admit defeat and reach for chocolate.

By the way, my muse is Jacqueline Suzanne. Obviously, on the days when the voices in my head are silent, she’s off helping some other writer.

If you were going to give only one tip to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Never, never, never take criticism personally. Use comments and critiques to sharpen your skills but let the pain roll off like water off a duck’s back. Buy plenty of chocolate. Finally, write every day. Every single day! Even if the words are junk, write them down. You’re only going to improve by working on your skill. Remember what Raymond Chandler said about writing. ‘Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean it up every noon.’ (My bad, I gave three pieces of advice.)

What books or other projects do you have coming out in the near future?

I’m writing the first book in a new series due to launch at the end of 2016. The second installment of The Summer of Annah will continue Annah and Eric’s story in June, 2017, and I’m working on a darker story due out in the autumn of 2017. I’d like to dabble in science fiction and there’s a murder-mystery in my head. I also want to write a time-travel story. My fear is that I’ll die with all the stories I’ve kept bottled up still inside of me. 

Bio:

Tinthia Clemant was born in Medford, Massachusetts, over sixty years ago. In other words, she's old! As a child, she lived happily in a loving home with her three siblings and mother and father. She always wrote. From the time she first picked up a pencil, or perhaps it was a crayon, she wrote. Love stories. Happy stories. Stories about love with happy endings. Her first book was self-published. (At the tender age of seven, she stapled the pages together and presented it to her mother on Mother's Day.) As contemporary women's fiction's newest author, Tinthia fell in love with love stories and true love when she first learned about true love's first kiss. That did it for her! Unfortunately, she has yet to find that special kiss. Throwing her arms up in defeat, she decided to write about it and live vicariously through her characters. Tinthia lives on the banks of the Concord River and spends her time teaching science at a local community college, gardening, painting, feeding her multitude of Mallards (follow her natural history blog at: concordriverlady.com), reading, and, of course, writing contemporary women's fiction about romance, relationships, and true love. She also enjoys Chunky Monkey and American Dream Cone and other enticing flavors produced by Ben and Jerry.

Interview with Tracy Brogan, Author of LOVE ME SWEET

What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?

My birthday is on Christmas day, and since I’m the youngest in the family, my older sisters refer to that as “The year Tracy ruined Christmas.” I’m pretty sure they’re over it by now but I’m not placing any money on it.

Read More

The Cuban Chronicles: A True Tale of Rascals, Rogues, and Romance - An Interview with Wanda St. Hilaire

What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?

That I have the spirit of a girl–that I still believe in my dreams of life as a wandering storyteller and in the magic of the road less traveled despite the countless roadblocks and harsh detours of heartbreak, illness, flood, financial ruin, and the dark nights of the soul. My Sagittarian fire still burns … not dead yet!

Tell the Scribblers a bit about The Cuban Chronicles, and what inspired you to write this story?

In spite of my love of all things Latin, I put myself on a travel ban to Cuba, one that lasted twenty years. I’d been there at the beginning of tourism under Castro. I have a weakness for Latin men, and cubanos are far too hard to resist. I did not want a complicated Cuban entanglement, so I avoided the tiny island.

When I was forced to cancel a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico at the last minute, I found myself in Cuba twice, on back-to-back trips after finding an offer I couldn’t refuse. Walking into the backstreets of Havana, eyes wide open, I was pulled into a dalliance with a charismatic cubano.

I had actually gone with the intention of writing a different book, but I simultaneously began writing a series of letters to a friend in Paris about my adventures, which I dubbed The Cuban Chronicles.

The story that unfolded and its tempestuous twist was worthy of a book. I changed direction and began writing this one as soon as I returned from my second fateful trip to Cuba.

Is this story all autobiographical, or a combination of memoir, travelogue, and fiction?

It’s a combo of memoir and travelogue that reads like a novel, but is completely true. (Epistolary composition)

Was it difficult to share such personal experience and moments from your life?  And, why did you feel it was important to do so?

It was terrifying! For many years I wanted to write my travel memoirs, but I wanted to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. I wrote The Cuban Chronicles with candor and raw honesty. My flaws and biases are revealed along with what some might consider questionable activity.

I felt the underlying theme of the story was somewhat universal and with my epiphany at the end of the book about my patterns in (romantic) relationships, I wanted to inspire women who have accepted too little to have their own ah-ah moment. I’ve received feedback from many women who did, in fact, recognize themselves in my story.

You are clearly a seasoned traveler. Not every travel adventure would make a good book. What about your experiences in Cuba convinced you this was the one?

Cuba is an anomaly. I hoped for readers to gain a better understanding of Cuban life and what communism does to erode personal liberty and dignity.

The book is an irreverent, cautionary tale told from a deeply personal perspective with a “buyer beware” warning for both men and women when engaging in foreign dalliances. I know many single travelers can relate to such stories, especially those of us who come from cold cultures with a lack of sensuality and spice.

My romance with a Cuban journalist took a dramatic turn when he realized I could not be seduced into marriage.

For those who would never do what I do, I’ve had many respond to tell me they loved traveling along with me on the journey from an armchair.

Was there a person, a character you crossed path with in another travel adventure that you feel would make a good story?

Oh, yes. I’m writing it now.

Can we have an excerpt from The Cuban Chronicles?

  Castro promised his people ‘bread and freedom without terror.’ Paulo has a university degree and makes between $15 and $40 per month as a professional journalist and has no freedom of speech whatsoever. Journalists are frequently thrown in jail for their writing content. Ration books that are issued for food and other basic necessities, such as soap, rarely last two weeks into the month. Although extremely poor, Paulo is proud. His briefcase was filled with pictures, articles, his current projects, and his journalist’s ID—the stuff of his profession and life to show me.   With our North American lives mostly devoid of sensuality and brazen passion, it is easy to see how we foreign women get swept into romance with these men. Maybe the repression and hard existence of daily life makes them so incredibly amorous; it may be all they have to give them happiness and life, and it is the one thing they can control without Big Brother’s interference.   For more visit: http://www.wandasthilaire.com/pdf/tcc_excerpt.pdf

Castro promised his people ‘bread and freedom without terror.’ Paulo has a university degree and makes between $15 and $40 per month as a professional journalist and has no freedom of speech whatsoever. Journalists are frequently thrown in jail for their writing content. Ration books that are issued for food and other basic necessities, such as soap, rarely last two weeks into the month. Although extremely poor, Paulo is proud. His briefcase was filled with pictures, articles, his current projects, and his journalist’s ID—the stuff of his profession and life to show me.
 
With our North American lives mostly devoid of sensuality and brazen passion, it is easy to see how we foreign women get swept into romance with these men. Maybe the repression and hard existence of daily life makes them so incredibly amorous; it may be all they have to give them happiness and life, and it is the one thing they can control without Big Brother’s interference.

For more visit: http://www.wandasthilaire.com/pdf/tcc_excerpt.pdf

What are your thoughts on solo travel for women? Do you have any advice?

I think women who hold back from taking a vacation because there’s nobody to go with are missing out on a delectable experience. Once I began traveling solo, I became addicted to it. You meet people you’d never have met with a travel companion and if you’re friendly and open, you’ll get invited to places and events you’d never dreamed of going.

My advice is to be open, but trust your gut. The story I tell in The Cuban Chronicles was the first time I didn’t follow my own gut instincts and was instead coerced by the opinion of others. On my other solo adventures I’ve paid attention to red flags and said no when need be. I’ve had awesome experiences when my intuition says, yes.

What is your writing process?

I call my online shop a “café” because I do all of my writing in coffee shops, be it in Canada, a bustling European café, or ocean side in Mexico. I like the ambience of characters coming and going as I write. I enjoy making friends there. The process then doesn’t feel lonely. Also, I don’t have the distractions of thinking there is something else I should be doing.

I start by answering a wise question my editor asked me when we interviewed for The Cuban Chronicles: why are you writing this book?  I then create a rough outline, keep assorted notes on file, create a list of words, and occasionally review writing advice I’ve picked up along the way to remind me to stay on track. Then … I write.

What is the most interesting activity you’ve participated in for research?

My original subtitle for The Cuban Chronicles was Memoir of a Wanton Woman. Both my local and American editor didn’t feel I should use it for fear of offending potential readers (quite amusing now, after the Fifty Shades phenomenon). I created two other subtitles and because I was still attached to my original, I took a poll. I sent an email survey to all of my contacts, asked people in coffee shops, bookstores, and malls which subtitle grabbed them.

A True Tale of Rascals, Rogues, and Romance won by a landslide. The interesting part was that I did not offend anyone with the word “wanton.” I confused the hell out of them. People wanted to know what The Cuban Chronicles had to do with Chinese food and wonton soup. Some said they got hungry when they read the title! I let go of my attachment to the original subtitle in a big hurry after that bit of research.

Has writer’s block ever been a problem for you? If so, how do you deal with it?

After writing my first travel memoir, I couldn’t imagine writer’s block. I wrote everyday without fail after I began it and even if I was lagging, I’d do a rewrite or some research.

I was hit with a second diagnosis of breast cancer only 7 months after the launch of The Cuban Chronicles. It came after a twenty-year triumph and it rocked my world to the core. I’ve only recently pulled out of a bad case of writer’s block to write my second travel memoir, which was languishing on my laptop.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the challenge of writing to evoke an emotion or create imagery to properly depict a place that makes the reader feel it and see it in living color.

What do you enjoy the least?

The editing process. When I received the hard copy of my manuscript back from my editor, I nearly fell into a depression. I had to hide it in a cupboard for a number of days before I had the guts to tackle the task of the corrections and revisions.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

(I like this quote so much I put it on a small line of quote bracelets I created for my online shop).

What writer has inspired you the most and why?

Ernest Hemingway is my hero, a master gypsy-rogue. His life of travel and adventure while living on his own terms, more than his books, has influenced and inspired me.

Now for a few fun questions:

If money were no object, where would you most like to live?

In my Big Hairy Audacious Goal, I would live winters seaside in Mexico and summers in southern Italy and Greek islands.

What sound or noise do you most love?

The ocean. Even better, the sound of a breaching whale smacking the skin of the sea.

What sound or noise do you most hate?

Violent movies or shows. They can make me physically sick.

Favorite curse word?

There’s nothing like the F-word to get a point across, but only for emphasis!

What are you currently reading?

One Room in a Castle (again), by award winning Canadian author Karen Connelly.

What is the one piece of advice you would give for all of the aspiring travel writers out there?

Be yourself. Go to places that make you come alive, that awaken something deep inside of you, that coax out your childlike awe and wonder. Then write about it, authentically, without fear of the good opinion of others.

What books or other projects do you have coming up in the future?

I am currently working on my second travel memoir about another foreign love affair that begins in Portugal with a quixotic Frenchman and ends in Mexico. I am going to reformat the poetry book I wrote during this sojourn to couple with the book.

Another project I’m writing is a workshop called Life by Heart, which I plan to teach both at home and in other inspiring locales.

www.lifebyheart.wandasthilaire.com

www.writewaycafe.com

Where else can readers find you?

www.wandasthilaire.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cuban-Chronicles/212836997401

https://twitter.com/spicytraveler