Monday, March 29, 2010

A visit with Carla Neggers

Carla Neggers is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including The Mist, The Angel and Cold River. Her work has been translated into two dozen languages. Carla is a founding member of the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America and has served as president of Novelists, Inc. She is currently a vice president of International Thriller Writers.

Carla and her husband, Joe Jewell, live on a hilltop in Vermont, not far from picturesque Quechee Gorge.

DRose: Thank you for joining us, Carla. Let’s start by telling us a little about yourself. Where are you from? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in rural western Massachusetts, with a Dutch father, a Southern mother and six brothers and sisters. I always wanted to be a writer and wrote my first stories up in a tree! But I also was a musician, and for a while I thought it'd be fun to be a plant pathologist.

DRose: How long did it take for you to get published and what was the journey like?

"How long" depends on when we decide to start the clock ticking! I submitted a manuscript to an agent a few months after my first child was born. The agent took me on, but I was writing first-person romantic suspense, which wasn't selling at the time. I tried my hand at category romance—which was hotter than hot!—and discovered I could write funny, sexy books with no murders. I ended up writing one of the launch books for the highly successful Bantam Loveswept series.

DRose: Do you plot your story before you write it or do you sit and let it flow?

Yes. ;-) I do 'big picture' plotting before I write. Then I sit and let it flow—I still love to write longhand.

DRose: Tell us more about your book. What's it about and what inspired you to write it?

THE MIST, my 2009 hardcover, is just out now in paperback. It picks up where THE ANGEL leaves off—these two books are tightly connected, although the series starts with THE WIDOW. I was inspired to write THE ANGEL and THE MIST on trips to Ireland. Although primarily set in Boston, the stories also take us to the southwest Irish coast. I remember walking into a remote, ancient stone circle at dusk and just knowing I'd set a scene there at some point. THE MIST opens with Lizzie Rush, a hotelier and amateur spy, taking on a would-be killer in just such a stone circle!

DRose: Any current projects you're excited about and can share with our readers?

I'm very excited about THE WHISPER, my July hardcover, which picks up where THE MIST leaves off. Boston detective Scoop Wisdom has been in Ireland, recuperating from the injuries he sustained in the bomb blast in THE MIST. He wants to find out who planted the bomb, and he thinks it's another cop. Enter Celtic archaeologist Sophie Malone, who is fighting her own demons. And right now I'm finishing up COLD DAWN, the next book in my series set in the fictional northern New England town of Black Falls.

DRose: Musicians often note the musicians who influenced them. What authors have influenced you and your work?

I read and read and read as a kid—anything I could get my hands on, from Jane Austen to Alistair MacLean and The Hulk. I learned early on that I love adventure, action, romance and a satisfying (happy!) ending.

DRose: Most people see writers as hermits, closed off in a room, clacking away at the keyboard until the final page is typed. Do you consider yourself this disciplined as a writer?

I'm disciplined but not regimented, and I have the good fortune of being able to write anytime, anywhere—which means I could write on a two-week personal retreat to Ireland last September. I'd write, walk, write, hit the pubs, write some more…it was a wonderful experience! My husband gets to go with me next trip, though. That'll be fun, too. ;-)

DRose: Do you consider yourself eccentric as a writer? Is there something you must have or do before writing?

Oh, how funny! Hm. No, I guess not. I do like having a lot of pens and pencils around me when I'm writing longhand. I once was hand-searched at the airport, and the TSA agent told me, "You have a lot of pens." I did—twelve!

DRose: Do you write to music or the TV?

I can do either, depending on where I am in the book. I particularly love to write to the Dropkick Murphys.

DRose: When you're not writing, do you have any hobbies or interests?

Definitely—I love to hike, kayak, garden, travel. I'm thinking about going back to karate. I've been on hiatus since a neck strain. Probably a good idea!

DRose: They say you can learn a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your work area look like?

I write longhand on a project table by a window overlooking our backyard and woods. You can actually see the view on my photo blog—check out the Vermont sunrises.

DRose: Can you tell us about the workshop you’ll be doing for the Desert Rose Conference?

I'll be doing two workshops. One is on writing as work/writing as play…how to create synergy between "work" (craft) and "play" (inspiration). We'll have fun. The other is on romantic suspense—figuring out what it is, where you might fit on the continuum between romance with a touch of suspense to flat-out suspense with a touch of romance. We'll have fun there, too.

DRose: Is there anything we didn't cover that you'd like to mention?

I'm looking forward to being in Phoenix again. I'll never forget how incredibly warm and welcoming chapter members were when I was in town for a signing in 2007.

For more information, please visit Carla at her Web site, www.carlaneggers.com.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Countdown Begins

The Desert Dreams Conference is only days away and we hope you are all as excited as us.
The Desert Dreams Conference has always been considered one of the best RWA Chapter conferences around and this year is no exception. The committee, headed by Cathi Lombardo and Patti Osback, have been diligently working to bring you an experience you will not want to forget.

You can find all of the information about the conference by following the link on the sidebar.

After opening the conference on Friday night with several wonderful workshops we will meet at the main dining room for a "genre-themed" dinner. All guests and attendees are welcomed to dress in character. The dinner tables will each be set up to represent a genre and will be hosted by some of our wonderful speakers. Below is a list of the tables and host/hostesses.


Table Hostesses for Genre Dinner

(DR Members in Red)

1. Category Carrie Weaver/ Linda Style

2. Category Kathleen Scheibling (editor) / Cathy McDavid

3. Contemporary Beth Kendrick

4. Contemporary Carla Neggers

5. Erotic Laurie Rauch (editor) / Calista Fox

6. Erotic Cassie Ryan

7. Historical Jodi Thomas

8. Inspirational Pam Tracy

9. Mainstream Connie Flynn

10. Mainstream Eileen Rendahl

11. Mainstream Peter Senftleben (editor)

12. Mystery/Suspense Sharon Sala

13. Mystery/Suspense Miriam Kriss (agent)

14. Regency Jennifer Ashley

15. SF/Fantasy/Paranormal Erin Quinn / Kathryne Kennedy / Deborah Werksman (editor)

16. SF/Fantasy/Paranormal Deborah Leblanc / Vijaya Schartz

17. Sweet Romance Annette Mahon/ Kim Watters

18. What’s My Genre? Laurie Schnebly Campbell / Susan Yarina (these ladies will answer all questions about writing)

19. Woman’s Fiction Kate Seaver (editor)

20. Women’s Fiction Robin Lee Hatcher

21. Young Adult Janet Reid (agent)

For the past two months we have been featuring many of our speakers on this blog. In case you missed any of the interviews you can click on their names below to read more about them.

Stop back by in the coming days for more interviews or information about the conference.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Visit with Vicki Lewis Thompson

Vicki Lewis Thompson’s romance writing career has given her many wonderful things –New York Times bestseller status, an appearance on LIVE with Regis and Kelly, the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award from Romance Writers of America, thousands of readers, many dear friends, and the cutest little yellow convertible in the world. Her career has also given her work she loves.

Although she’s written more than 100 books, she continues to be fascinated by the many ways that a man and woman fall in love. The age-old story remains a challenging puzzle to be solved anew with each book. That makes her a very lucky person, indeed.

DRose: Welcome Vicki, it’s an honor to have you with us. Let’s start by telling us a little about yourself. Where are you from? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

VLT: Because I moved to Arizona as a kid, I count myself as an Almost-Native. I had dreams of becoming a ballerina, but I’m short and the least flexible woman on the planet, so I flunked dance class. Fortunately, I’ve always loved to write!

DRose: Are there any authors who have influenced you and your work?

VLT: I didn’t discover romance until my thirties (gasp, choke!) but I distinctly remember reading D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover at an impressionable and hormonal age and thinking it would be cool to write about sex. I like unpretentious writers. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was a favorite. Once I discovered romance, I was definitely influence by Nora (who needs no last name). There’s not even an ounce of pretention in her writing. It’s clean and compelling. I admire that.

DRose: Do you have a favorite book or series?

VLT: I’ll always be partial to Nerd in Shining Armor because it was so pivotal in my career, but my favorite book or series is usually the one I’m writing.

DRose: When you're not writing, do you have any hobbies or interests?

VLT: When I’m not writing I usually indulge my hobbies of sleeping and eating. But sometimes I can eat and write at the same time. Sleeping and writing hasn’t worked out so well.

DRose: Tell us more about your book. What's it about and what inspired you to write it?

VLT: If it’s okay to talk about both Blonde with a Wand and Chick with a Charm, I’d say I was inspired by the dynamics of sister relationships. Two sisters, both witches, get into trouble using their magic inappropriately. Their predicaments are similar, but their reactions are not. Anica, the heroine of Blonde, and Lily, the heroine of Chick, are as different as two people could be, just as I’m different from my sisters and they’re different from each other. The interaction of siblings and the effect of birth order are subjects that have always fascinated me.

DRose: How long did it take for you to get published and what was the journey like?

VLT: From start to finish was about a year, which seems fast now but seemed to take FOREVER back then. Soon after I started writing romance I quit my day job, which meant I had to sell within that year or go back to the day job. I was extremely motivated, because I LOVED staying home to write. I still love it and am pretty much ruined for any other kind of employment.

DRose: Any current projects you're excited about and can share with our readers?

VLT: You bet! Thanks for asking! I’m writing a nine-book cowboy series for Harlequin Blaze that debuts in June. Three books will show up this summer, three more in 2011, and the final three in 2012. Currently I’m also writing a series for NAL that features comic werewolves. The first book comes out in February, 2011, and is called Werewolf in Manhattan.

DRose: Do you plot your story before you write it or do you sit and let it flow?

VLT: I plot as much as I need to so that my editor won’t panic. Editors have this crazy need to believe that the money they’re paying will result in an actual book with a plot. What’s up with that? But at heart I’m a pantser and prefer to discover the book as I go along.

DRose: Do you write to music or the TV?

VLT: Definitely not TV. I’m not hooked up to TV at home, although I love watching movies and TV shows that come out on DVD. But a thumbs-up to writing with music. One of my all-time favorites is the score to the first Pirates movie. Love. It.

DRose: Do you consider yourself eccentric as a writer? Is there something you must have or do before writing?

VLT: Someone’s been spying on me. They caught me wearing my lucky sweatshirt with crystals hanging around my neck and my creativity bracelet on, and the music cranked up to jet-takeoff levels, not to mention the glass of merlot and the plate of Seriously Sharp cheddar, plus my favorite spice pillar candle burning.

DRose: Most people see writers as hermits, closed off in a room, clacking away at the keyboard until the final page is typed. Do you consider yourself this disciplined as a writer?

VLT: Yes.

DRose: They say you can learn a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your work area look like?

VLT: It looks like my living room, because I write there on a laptop. I pretty much hate desks.

DRose: What do you consider your guilty pleasure?

VLT: Reading People magazine.

DRose: Can you tell us about the workshop you’ll be doing for the Desert Rose Conference?

VLT: I’m presenting two workshops, one by myself and one with my assistant Audrey Sharpe.

My solo act is “Just Ask,” in which we’ll discuss how a writer can get what she needs from editors, agents, and even her family.

The duet with Audrey is called “Rescue Me.” We’ll talk about delegating non-writing tasks using both love and money as rewards.

DRose: Is there anything we didn't cover that you'd like to mention?

VLT: My cat Eve thinks she should get a plug because she’s my muse and I couldn’t write a lick without her. That’s probably true.

DRose: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It’s been a pleasure.

VLT: Thanks for asking!

For more about Vicki and her work, visit her website at http://www.vickilewisthompson.com/

Monday, March 15, 2010

Special Guest Brad Schreiber

It’s a great pleasure to introduce to you to our next guest, BRAD SCHREIBER. Brad is quite the jack-of-all-trades. He has worked as a writer in all media, and as executive, teacher, consultant, producer and actor. He has sold and optioned screenplays, was nominated for the Kingman Films KASA Award for his script The Couch and has won awards from the Edward Albee Foundation, the National Press Foundation, the California Writers Club and others.

His books include the theatrical anecdote compendium Stop the Show! (Da Capo), the humor writing how-to What Are You Laughing At? (Michael Wiese Prods.) and the biography Becoming Jimi Hendrix, which will be published in September by Da Capo. He created the Court TV series North Mission Road, based on his book on the L.A. Coroner’s Office, Death in Paradise. (Running Press).

Mr. Schreiber has worked as an in-house writer-producer and a development exec for PBS station KCET Los Angeles, as well as director of development for TV/film director Jonathan Kaplan. He has taught at the American Film Institute, UCLA Extension, Columbia College at CBS Studio City and the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City.

Since 1999, he has been Vice President of Storytech Literary Consulting, founded by Christopher Vogler, and founded the international Mona Schreiber Prize for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction (www.BradSchreiber.com).

He is a contributor to Huffington Post and other national credits include Variety, The Writer and Backstage. Mr. Schreiber has lectured and conducted workshops for California Institute of the Arts, University of Southern California, Pixar Animation and writers conferences in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He also once made a living writing material for a phone line called “Dial-an-Insult” but he is not particularly proud of that fact.


Welcome, Mr. Schreiber. It’s an honor to have you join us. Our standard start up question is: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was born in Manhattan and lived in small towns, Stony Point and New City, NY, until I moved to Los Angeles, as a boy. In NY, for a brief time, I admired cowboys and even dressed up like one for a while, but inherently knew I did not want to work that hard. I admired lawyers and their ability to use words and defend/prosecute people but suspected when my mother told me I would have to go to school for four additional years, that was out. I never knew what I wanted to be until I was in my twenties. Even now, I have my doubts.


What or who influenced you to become a writer?

The first time I knew I could write well was in the fifth grade, when Mr. Ault, at my school in Belmont, CA read aloud a poem I wrote and everyone liked it. But know one knew who I was because I had just transferred there. When Mr. Ault announced after reading it that I was the author, literally, the boy across the row from me leaned over and asked, “Who’s Brad Schreiber?” “I am,” I said as I got up to proudly take my paper from the teacher’s hand.


My mother was a writer and instructor and influenced me greatly, which is why, in 2000, in her memory, I started the Mona Schreiber Prize for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction at www.BradSchreiber.com. Writing for my high school newspaper, becoming the only student to be simultaneously editor of the newspaper and literary magazine and then, writing and performing professionally with a theatre-comedy troupe called The Burlingame Philharmonic set me solidly on the path of writing.


Many artists note the people who influenced them. Are there any authors who influenced you and your work?

Too numerous to mention them all. Humor: Christopher Buckley, George Carlin, Roald Dahl. Mystery/Suspense: T. Jefferson Parker, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, John Collier, O. Henry. Nonfiction: Hunter S. Thompson, Simon Winchester. Novelists: Charles Dickens, Thomas Pynchon, Jane Heller, Russell Banks, Philip K. Dick.


That’s a pretty impressive list. So, what kind of books do you read for pleasure?

I tend to read a number of works simultaneously, in all forms. Right now, I am reading a mystery by my pal T. Jefferson Parker, the autobiography of Larry Gelbart, who sadly passed away last year, a biography of the writer Shirley Jackson and a book on music criticism.


You’ve had quite the list of professions. Is there any other you would like to attempt?

Music producer. Talk show host. Amusement park ride designer.


What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Curious.


I’ve heard you can tell a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your workspace look like?

Surrounded by books, audiobooks, tapes, DVDs, and CDs in shelves. Two windows look out on the hills of Sherman Oaks. On the walls, I have collages I have made, as well as artifacts related to some of my books.

Most people see writers as hermits, closed off in a room, clacking away at the keyboard until the final page is typed. Do you consider yourself this disciplined as a writer?

How dare you suggest that I “clack.” I am more a “klump, klump, klump” writer. I tend to think about projects for a bit too long but once I begin, I work rapidly and my first drafts are very close to what I want.


Do you consider yourself eccentric as a writer? Is there something you must have or do before writing?

Eccentric? Do you consider live animal sacrifice prior to writing eccentric? Actually, I have written shorter works longhand and I do not like laptops. Is that weird of me? This is strange: I have a Chicony keyboard for my desktop and that model has not been made in years. I like the action on it and the large size of the keys suits my plump, greasy, little sausage fingers. So when the old one broke, I bought the exact same kind, the only Chicony keyboard I could find, on eBay. I am ambidextrous in mousing, thanks to a previous attack of tendinitis in my right elbow.


With so many interests, do you have any hobbies?

I search the Internet for music of all kinds. I’m also in the middle of the laborious transferring of VHS tapes to DVD. Is that a hobby, an obligation, an obsession or compulsion?


If you were stranded on an island, what four things would you want with you?

A lovely and calm companion, a hacksaw for coconuts, a comfortable bed and an unlimited supply of tranquilizers.


What was the most dangerous or scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Driving on a rocky, unpaved road in the Andes Mountains of Peru, with four other people in a small pickup truck carrying a drum of gasoline to a remote village, just days after an earthquake.


If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead… who would it be?

Albert Einstein.


If you could live in another time period… when would it be and why?

I don’t want to live in other time periods. I just want to visit them and then leave quickly.


What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?

Favorite: “sesquipedalian.” (I had to look that one up.)

Least favorite: “awesome.”


What was your most embarrassing moment (that you are comfortable sharing).

I’m not comfortable sharing ANY of them but in order to be helpful, I refer you to the time I jumped off my high school auditorium stage, because the stairway had been removed, and fell to my knees in front of 90 of the smartest English students in the school, prompting a burst of laughter and my teacher, Mr. Christensen, offering me a hand, while saying, “Welcome to Retard P.E.” and bringing another round of derisive laughter.


Tell us something about you no one else knows.

I am so sick of how much this society worships youth over experience that I would like to pass a law that limits the number of books, TV shows and films that feature actors or are geared toward audiences under 35 years of age.


Flash Round:

Favorite Ice Cream flavor?

Paris Parfait, not made any more by Baskin-Robbins. Vanilla ice cream, chocolate and cherry chunks and bits of macaroon as well as softened pieces of sugar cone.

Favorite Food?

Too many. Favorite desert: English trifle or Princess cake. In my case, Jewish American Princess Cake.

Favorite flower?

For scent: Jasmine.

For its goofy, absurd appearance: Bird of Paradise.

For it being the favorite of my mother, Ranunculus.

Favorite Sport?

For playing: I loved basketball until I separated a shoulder playing tackle football without pads, like an idiot.

For watching: I like to watch highlights of all sports (except curling) but am stingy about spending time watching an entire game on TV. I tend to only watch championship games in their entirety. I did see Willie Mays in his last season for the San Francisco Giants, in person at Candlestick Park and for that, I am grateful. Despite being the oldest player on the field, he actually stole a base, due to my constant yelling, I believe.

Guilty Pleasure?

Everything I enjoy, not related to work, is a guilty pleasure.

Can you tell us about the workshop you’ll be presenting at the Desert Rose Conference?

My time at the Desert Rose conference will be an amalgam of lecture, anecdotes, writing exercises and questions and answers, including a discussion of the structure of the Writer’s Journey model and its application to the pursuit of writing as both hobby and profession.

Thank you so much for visiting the blog. We’re looking forward to hearing more from you at the conference.