This week my featured writer is Vonnie Davis, author of Mona Lisa's Room.
Welcome Vonnie! This is exciting to have a busy writer on board with me today. Congratulations on the success of Mona Lisa's Room.
Christine, thanks so much for having me here and allowing me to ramble about writing romance. I love the genre, simply love it. Now that I’m retired I can fill my days with hot men and sassy, intelligent women. How awesome is that? I’m a romance writer and I love my job.
You're welcome Vonnie. First question: what draws you as a reader to the romance genre?
I’ve been reading romance since the late sixties. Yes, I am older than dirt, as my one son so often says—and how he lived to see adulthood is still a mystery to me. Nonetheless, romance has always been my favorite genre. I love seeing two people attracted to one another and yet fighting it. I love the push and pull of it all. Back in the sixties, we had the dark, gothic romances with those brooding, moody, sometimes cruel heroes. And I used to worry that the warm, loving man revealed in the final chapter was merely an act to ensnare the heroine.
Now we make our heroes more approachable, more studly…er…manly and often humorous. Thank goodness. But, more importantly, our heroines are stronger, less weepy and emotionally fragile. I love a kick-ass heroine, don’t you? She doesn’t have to be a gym rat, all toned and fit, but she does need to have spunk, spirit and her own brand of sass.
All valid points, Vonnie. What's the most difficult part of writing a love story?
For me, it's evoking emotions in the reader. I want to be able to wring every kind of emotion from them, ranging from laughter to anger to annoyance to fears to tears to those wonderful sighing moments. I don't know that I'm there yet but I'm trying.
Is creating a book title easy for you? Tell us about the process.
You know, it all depends. Some titles just present themselves as I’m writing the story. Others jump out at me from a snippet of an overheard conversation or something I’ve heard on the news, and I think wow, wouldn’t that make a great title for a book? I write it down in a file I keep on my computer for book titles and character names. Now, that doesn’t mean all editors are going to like my titles. One editor insisted I change Waiting on a Dream to Those Violet Eyes. In the end, she was right, but it stung at the time.
Do your characters love the direction you take for them or do they have other ideas?
My stories are definitely character driven, meaning they take over and I merely take dictation. I have a general idea of where I want my story to go, but they often highjack my storyline. Take my heroine in my current WIP—book three of The Red Hand Conspiracy—JAZZBEAT OF SURRENDER.
Simone went off in a snit and got captured by The Red Hand terrorist group. I hadn’t planned this. And since the terrorists take her to Syria, a country I know nothing about, I now have to research Syria’s weather, topography, buildings and social attitudes. Can we say I’m not happy? Plus, why didn’t the terrorists just kill her? They haven’t hesitated murdering anyone else? So I need to come up with a plausible reason for their uncharacteristic actions. I could shake Simone. Just shake her!
Ha! I can relate to characters causing frustration. Any tips for writers that you'd love to share?
Learn all the nuances of our mantra: Show, don’t tell. This pertains to dialogue, too. Stop using those annoying dialogue tags, a pet peeve of mine. Experts tell us using “said” and “ask” are non-intrusive. Not so. They’re annoying to this romance reader, especially “ask.” Every time I see a sentence in dialogue ending in a question mark, followed by she/he asked, I grit my teeth. Think about it. A question mark only has one function. One. It indicates the previous sentence was a question. So why, WHY would you want to insult the reader’s intelligence by slapping on the tag he/she asked?
Dialogue tags “tell” who is speaking. Action beats “show.” If our mantra is to show, don’t tell then there’s no room for dialogue tags.
Action beats can not only show who is speaking, but can give the reader a hint of the speaker’s appearance, mood and personality quirks, adding a layer of richness to our stories. Here are a couple examples of what I mean. Which creates a better visual?
“Are you freaking kidding me?” Benson asked.
Benson tossed his keys on the kitchen counter, their clang echoing in the suddenly quiet kitchen. He narrowed his eyes and planted his hands on his hips. “Are you freaking kidding me?”
“You know the reputation that man has,” Aunt Betty sneered.
“You know the reputation that man has.” Aunt Betty pursed her burgundy lips, wrinkles fanning outward to make her mouth resemble a prune. She tucked an errant too-red curl in her chignon, the hint of white roots showing.
Great advice and good examples. Tell us about your next book.
Once I get that impetuous woman out of Syria, I'm switching hears from romantic suspense t light-hearted paranormal. I promised my agent I'd finish WHEN PAISLEY MEETS PLAID. I'd submitted the first 20 pages to a contest and finaled with it.
Also, I've just finished edits on my second entry into the Honky Tonk Hearts series, BACK WHERE YOU BELONG, and am in the middle of edits on a contracted historical western romance, A MAN FOR ANNALEE. Cowboys-contemporary or historical- ya gotta love 'em.
Here's the blurb for Book One of The Red Hand Conspiracy - MONA LISA'S ROOM:
You won't believe this email. I'm sitting in a French safe house, eating caviar and drinking champagne with a handsome government agent, Niko Reynard. He's wearing nothing but silk pajama bottoms and mega doses of sex appeal. I'm in big trouble, little sister. He's kissed me several times and given me a foot massage that nearly caused spontaneous combustion. I'm feeling strangely virginal compared to the sexual prowess this thirty-year-old man exudes.
When I came to Paris for a bit of adventure, I never imagined I'd foil a bombing attempt, karate-kick two men, and run from terrorists while wearing a new pair of stilettos. I've met a German musician, a gay poet from Australia, and the most delightful older French woman.
Don't worry. I'm safe--the jury's still out on yummy Niko, though. The more champagne I drink, the less reserved I feel. What an unforgettable fortieth birthday!