Interview with Ann Aptaker, author of Criminal Gold

Ann AptakerToday’s interviewee is Ann Aptaker, who just had her debut novel, Criminal Gold, published with Bold Strokes Books. Criminal Gold is a crime/mystery adventure novel set in 1949.

Let’s start with some warm-up questions:

Chocolate or cookies?

Well, I love chocolate passionately, but I’ll have to go with cookies, since chocolate doesn’t love me, which is a serious romantic disappointment, yes? I cheat sometimes, have a little chocolate, but if I have one bite too much, I pay for it the next day. Drat!

E-books or paperbacks?

I don’t own a reader or tablet yet, still out of my financial league I’m afraid, but I’ve recently downloaded the Kindle app on my laptop, so I’m just now getting ready to try e-books. If I had a reader or tablet, I could be seriously addicted; the efficiency is undeniable. But I have to fess up and admit that I’m one of those who’d miss the feel and smell of real books. Plus, I do a lot of my reading-for-pleasure as bedtime reading, and after a day of working at the computer, the last thing in the in the world I want to do is to look at yet another screen. The bedside lamplight illuminating the words on the paper is much more soothing at bedtime.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

No way I’ll choose one over the other! Love ’em both! Take us out, Mr. Sulu…Engage…and may The Force be with us. Wink

Beach or mountains?

Seashore, definitely seashore. And all the seafood I can stuff into my mouth. Second to living here in my much loved hometown of New York, a little shanty by the sea would be heaven.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

A little about myself: well, I’m a native New Yorker who’s also lived briefly in Florida and San Francisco. And though each has its wonderful qualities (great weather in both, good food, wonderful seashores, and, in SF, much LGBTQ cultural and political power), they just can’t compare to my extraordinary hometown. So I came running home to New York, where life is a financial struggle but the cultural and creative riches are boundless.

So, what does that say about me? I guess it says that I’m a city-slicker to the core; that the presence of so much writing and other top-notch cultural talent in this city helps keep me sharp; that living in walking distance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art matters to me so that I can swoon over their Greek art collections and early 20th Century stuff (can’t get enough of John Singer Sargent:  is “Madame X” delicious or what?); that I love great theater on or off Broadway and go whenever budget allows, which isn’t often enough; I love movies, so I’m addicted to Netflix (and also addicted to Orange is the New Black); also addicted to Downton Abbey (can’t wait ‘til it starts again here in the States in January!); and last (and probably least) I’m currently single. I guess that’s about it.

When I’m not writing, I -

-work on getting my lectures ready for the classes I teach at New York Institute of Technology (Art History, Exhibition Design);

-write art related materials for various clients (galleries, artists, etc.);

-write other freelance stuff (was hired to edit/re-write a treatment for a proposed TV show).

So I guess I’m always writing! Even when I take my deliciously long walks through the city, I’m writing in my head, especially the book I’m currently working on, the second in the Criminal Gold series.

CRIMINAL GOLD-coverPlease tell us about your journey in becoming a published writer. What challenges did you face when you published your first book? How did you come to publish with Bold Strokes Books?

Getting my early short stories published wasn’t particularly difficult. In fact, the first story I ever submitted for publication, a hard boiled tale called “The Sweetness at the Crummy End of Town,” was accepted right way by Michael Bracken, who was the editor of the “Fedora” crime anthology series (which has since met a much lamented demise…sigh…such are the financial vicissitudes of the publishing game.   Michael was/is a true gentleman of literary crime). It wasn’t a lesfic story, but the two main characters in next story he accepted for the Fedora series, “Her Game,” were lesbians, very much out. The early success of these stories spoiled me for all the rejection that came later, when I submitted my novel. It seems I didn’t have a golden aura around my head after all! It took forever, two agents (the first, retired; the second, come and gone, though it wasn’t a bitter breakup), glowing rejections from publishers (but no sale is no sale, even when it comes with ultimately useless praise) and an abiding faith in my work (call it arrogance, call it chutzpah) to stay with it. Needless to say, I’m glad I did. Criminal Gold found a home at Bold Strokes Books, where it (and its author) are treated with respect, and benefits from the wisdom of the highly professional staff, especially my extraordinary editor, Ruth Sternglantz. Ruth definitely “gets” what I’m trying to do with this book and its protagonist, the criminal Cantor Gold.

How did you come up with the idea for Criminal Gold?

Y’know, I’m not really sure “how” I came up with this book. The character of Cantor Gold has been running around in my head for a long time. I’d written a previous story about her while I was living in San Francisco and taking a Mystery Writing course taught by Shelley Singer, author of Blackjack, featuring the fabulous Rica Marin (now there’s a dyke to be reckoned with!) In addition to being a marvelous writer, Shelley is a wonderful teacher, and she unlocked everything for me on the very first day of class! From that day on, Cantor became alive on the page, and her story evolved. Eventually, I made the move back to New York, where Criminal Gold came to fruition. It really had to be written here. The city is part of Cantor.

How much and what kind of research did you do for Criminal Gold?

Since the story takes place in 1949, I had to do a considerable amount of research. Much of my time was spent in the microfilm room of the New York Public Library (reading 1949 newspapers—New York had 7 daily papers then!), the New York City Archives, whose collection of New York City photographs is unsurpassed, and the New York Historical Society Library for general information. I also read (and still do) lots of books on general New York history, crime history, and even entertainment history, all of them elements of Cantor’s world. But I also spoke to a lot of people. The World War Two generation is still around (but leaving us day by day, sadly), and they remember the post-war years in New York rather well. So I got a lot of information, especially the more colorful sort, from personal reminiscences. Listening to them speak, and remembering how my own family spoke, their accents, expressions, slang, etc., gave me a sense of how New York sounded then.

What would you say is the most important theme in Criminal Gold, and what personal meaning does that theme have for you? 

As with any good yarn, there’s more than one theme woven through it, but for me (and Cantor), the most important theme of the book and her life is the idea of Freedom. In 1949, and really only until very recently, it was quite dangerous to live openly as a gay or lesbian person, especially if you were a butch dyke or a femme male. Cantor insists on living openly, thus taking her Freedom, which is a very different idea than simply winning her “Rights.” Rights are things given; Freedom is something lived. To me, Freedom and Rights, though they have much on common, are not the same thing.

How long did it take you to write Criminal Gold?

While I was employed full time, I worked on the book on-and-off for about two years. But when I left my full time curatorial job to work only part time (teaching) and freelance gigs, I wrote more consistently and with deeper focus, and finished it in about a year.

How do you find enough time to write, even though you have a day job? Any tips for how to be productive as a writer who can’t write full time?

As an Adjunct faculty member, I’m only in the classroom two days a week, though there’s prep-time for each class. Still, other than classroom days, my working schedule is mine to set, and as long as I meet my obligations to school and my freelance clients, I am then free to devote whole chunks of time to writing.

Now, having said all that, there’s the issue of financial stability, which I definitely do not have. There are some very scary days/weeks/months in my life. But my full-time career as a curator meant long days, often seven days a week when preparing an exhibition, and generally left me too exhausted to write when I got home, which was often late and after a long commute. So I had to make a decision: do I want to write, or do I want to curate? A management and policy change at the museum where I worked provided the trigger: I didn’t go along with the new policy and management, and I decided it was time to get out and follow my own dream, not facilitate someone else’s. I’ve never regretted it. Though my life is financially tough, it is creatively alive, which I value more than anything.

So I’m not sure what tips I can give about being a productive writer; everyone’s situation and needs are different. But writing takes commitment, so I guess to be a productive writer, you have to commit to it, each in their own way.

What’s your favorite scene in Criminal Gold?

Wow, a favorite scene. Well, I don’t think I can pick a single favorite, but I suppose three could qualify. Since the book just launched, I don’t want to give the game away before people have a chance to read it, but I’ll say that in one of the scenes, Cantor becomes aware of the true feelings of someone important in her life. It’s a very subtly revealed moment, but it has deep emotional implications for Cantor, turns everything she thought was true inside out. Another scene, a bit earlier, is a meeting between Cantor and the city’s major Crime Lord on the terrace of his penthouse. It’s a seesaw act between the two of them.  And the third is the very last one of the book, which I won’t give away at all! The reason that last scene is among my favorites, is because it actually wrote itself. I had another ending in mind, but as the words came, I felt like I had no control over it, the story had completely taken over. The book had to end the way it did. The story essentially told me to get the hell out of its way.

Which scene in Criminal Gold was hardest for you to write?

That first, subtle one, was the hardest. The relationship between Cantor and this other character is highly complex, and becomes even more complex as a result of that subtle moment when Cantor learns the truth, when her whole history turns upside down.

If there would have been Starbucks in 1949, what sort of coffee would Cantor Gold, the main character in Criminal Gold, order? Black coffee? Soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte? Double chocolate chip Frappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate sauce? Something else?

Strong black coffee, no milk, no sugar, no nonsense.

What projects are you working on right now?

Most of my creative time is spent writing the next book in the series, which I’m proud to say Bold Strokes has accepted for publication (yay!) But I’m also partnering with the wonderful composer Jody Gray on what we hope will be a Broadway musical in the not tooooooooo distant future. He’s writing the music, I’m writing the script, an adaption of an Oscar Wilde short story.

Yeah, I’m a writer. Finally.

Thank you for that great interview, Ann, and best of luck with Criminal Gold and your future writing endeavors!

Readers, if you have questions or feedback for Ann, please leave a comment. You can also reach Ann via Twitter or Facebook. For now, Criminal Gold is available at Bold Strokes, but starting on November 18, it will also be available at several other online bookstores.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Jae

New lesbian romance: Under a Falling Star is available!

UAFSHave you ever wished on a falling star?

Austen, the main character in my new romance novel, Under a Falling Star, has just one wish: to prove herself to her new boss. That’s why she volunteers to decorate the Christmas tree in the company’s lobby on her first day in the new job.

Dee, the company’s COO, is a control freak who leaves nothing to chance when it comes to work, not even the positioning of the lights on the Christmas tree. When she tries to rearrange them, the star-shaped tree topper falls off and hits her on the head. Even though she blames Austen for her mishap, she is instantly attracted to her.

The problem is just that she’s practically Austen’s boss…and Austen doesn’t know it.

The novel takes them on a roller coaster ride that includes amusement parks, Secret Santas, paper snowflakes, piña coladas, and a potty-mouthed cockatoo. There’ll also be a reunion with Aiden and Dawn from Conflict of Interest.

Under a Falling Star is a contemporary lesbian romance of 91,000 words (369 pages). You can buy it or read an excerpt here.

I hope you enjoy my latest novel!

Jae

Interview with Gerri Hill, author of lesbian romances

hunway_lgWay back when I first started reading lesbian fiction, one of the first books I read was one of Gerri Hill’s romances. Some of her novels such as Artist’s Dream, Gulf Breeze, and Sierra City, are still on my all-time-favorite list. Since she has 25 novels published and more on the way, I was sure that Gerri had been writing full time for a long time, but it turned out that she gave up her day job and became a full-time writer around the same time I did–at the beginning of this year.

Gerri took the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about her latest novels and her life as a full-time writer.

How long have you been writing full-time?

Technically, since January. But it took me a little while (months!) to find a routine. I was so used to getting up at 4:00 a.m. and writing until I had to go to work. Actually, I’m not sure I do have a routine yet!

 

What was the process of moving into full-time writing for you?

The first several weeks, I didn’t write at all. I think it was because I was relishing something I hadn’t had before—time. We have a large piece of property with two vegetable gardens, flower gardens, some fruit trees. In the past, I was used to spending every weekend tending to all that, sneaking in writing when I could. Suddenly, I had “time” and I just took a few weeks to exhale and relax! That’s not to say that I didn’t tinker with outlines or jot down notes here and there. But actual sit-down writing….no.

 

Do you write every day? Do you give yourself weekends or days off or vacation time away from writing?

I write nearly every day. Whether it’s for an extended period of time or just a few sentences, I usually write something. I try to limit it on the weekends so that my partner and I can have more time together. As it is, I still write in the mornings (although not at 4:00 a.m.!!) and she has her morning routine too, so even on the weekends, we have a few hours of “work” time each. I generally don’t travel without my laptop and certainly never without my digital recorder. I always have notes or bits of conversation between characters, usually from current and future books, on my recorder and/or phone. You never know when inspiration will strike!

 

What does a typical work day look like for you?

After morning chores (filling bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, feeding the outdoor cats, watering flowers, etc), I spend as much time as needed catching up with email and Facebook. I also take time out to read newspapers and whatever blogs I follow. I’ll then transfer any notes I may have made the day before from my recorder/phone to the document where I keep them. Before I start writing, I go back and read what was written the day before (sometimes two days before). Inevitably, I find something to change! Then once I start writing, I have no timetable, unless it’s a day where I have an appointment or a need to venture into town. I write as long as the words come easily, whether it’s an hour or three or more. I do take breaks. Sometimes just to get up and walk around, other times to get my thoughts together, time for breakfast or lunch, things like that. As soon as I find that I’m struggling to put scenes together, I stop. I stop writing, that is. I never stop thinking about the story, the characters. I never stop having conversations in my head between the characters. So for the rest of the day, whatever else I’m doing around the house or yard, I have my digital recorder in my pocket!

 

Do you have a daily word-count goal or a set number of hours you spend writing?

No. Never. In fact, I rarely even check my daily word count.

 

Where do you write?

I have two main places—on the deck of our garden cabin or at my desk. My desk is next to a large window that looks out over the back woods. I have a bird feeder in sight, that, when I’m “thinking”, my gaze is usually fixed on the feeder! I have a love-hate relationship with the garden deck, however. While it is relaxing and I love being outside (there are bird feeders and hummingbird feeders scattered about the garden), I find I sometimes get too distracted. Not from the birds, but from seeing things that need to be done! Weeds to pull, vegetables to harvest, mulch to put out, flowers to water….all things that I could/should be doing! So when I’m in a groove writing, I will usually force myself to stay inside at my desk.

 

How did family and friends react to you giving up your day job to become a full-time writer?

Most all had some reservations, some were more shocked than others. My immediate family was mixed with my mother being the most supportive.

 

How much time do you spend promoting your books, including blogging, social media, etc.?

Not much at all. I post on Facebook whenever there is a new release. I have a website with information on it, but it’s not something that I update unless there’s a new release. Bella Books, my publisher, does a great job of promotion.

 

What’s the best thing about being a full-time writer?

For me, it’s being able to write when I want to and not when I have to. I am less regimented now and I find I enjoy it a lot more. I also like that I can sleep past 4:00 a.m.!!

 

What’s the most difficult thing about being a full-time writer?

So far, I don’t have any reservations or regrets at all. Like I said earlier, I’m not sure I have a routine down yet.

 

What advice would you give a fellow author who wants to write full time?

Make sure it is indeed your passion. Some authors will say that writing is lonely. I agree to a certain extent and you must enjoy your own company, if that’s the case. However, I don’t find it lonely, really. I am constantly “talking” to my characters and listening in on their conversations. Make sure you have the drive and willpower and discipline to work at your craft. Some people who leave the structure of a fulltime job—with set hours and a boss who keeps them on track—find it hard to keep to a writing schedule.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your latest devroc_lgnovel?

My upcoming release is Angel Fire, a cross-over book with Tori and Sam from Hunter’s Way fame and Cameron and Andrea from Devil’s Rock/Hell’s Highway.

It was nice to get back with all of those ladies, especially Tori and Sam. I hope readers will enjoy their new adventure! It’ll be out in December.

 

What books can we look forward to from you in the future?

I’m currently working on a romance, Pelican’s Landing. It’s a little different for me and when you read it you’ll know what I mean! After that, I’m not quite sure. I’ve had a lot of requests for another book with CJ and Paige (Keepers of the Cave/Weeping Walls) so I may go that route. I also have a couple of other romances lined up, so I may do back-to-back romance. We’ll see!

Thanks again, Gerri, for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m very excited to hear there will soon be another Tori/Sam book, and I’m also curious about Pelican’s Landing.

Readers, if you have any questions or feedback for Gerri, please contact her via her website or leave a comment.

Thanks for reading this interview!

Have a nice weekend,

Jae

Writing hours in September 2014

It’s October already; can you believe it? Here in Germany, summer is definitely over, even though we’re having a few sunny days here in the Southwest.

As always, I’ve been keeping busy, and I’m already making writing plans for 2015. When my publisher saw what I intend to get done next year, she asked me, “When will you be sleeping?” Wink

This month, I put the finishing touches on my upcoming novel Under a Falling Star, which will be published in late October, and I’ve worked on translating my novel Conflict of Interest into German. Have I mentioned that Dawn and Aiden, the main characters from Conflict of Interest make an appearance in Under a Falling Star?

Fellow Ylva author Alison Grey and I also got started on our vampire novella, Good Enough to Eat, and we’re having fun with it!

Plus I did a lot of nonfiction writing on my writers’ guide series.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

 
Writing
Editing
Research
Nonfiction Writing
Marketing & Administration
TOTAL
2014 - TOTAL729 hours366 hours195 hours203 hours258 hours1,751 hours
January75 hours60 hours1 hour--30 hours171 hours
February48 hours70 hours35 hours--17 hours170 hours
March50 hours41 hours47 hours--12 hours150 hours
April109 hours31 hours48 hours--40 hours228 hours
May102 hours48 hours28 hours37 hours39 hours 254 hours
June75 hours7 hours--8 hours15 hours105 hours
July61 hours15 hours4 hours7 hours15 hours102 hours
August121 hours54 hours15 hours40 hours62 hours292 hours
September88 hours40 hours17 hours111 hours28 hours274 hours

On popular demand, I added a TOTAL column. If I subtract my 5-week vacation in the US, that’s a 52-hour workweek. But this job is much, much better than my old one, so I’m a happy gal!

Check back soon for the publication of Under a Falling Star!

Jae

Writing hours in August 2014

calendarAugust was an incredibly busy and productive month for me, as my colorful calendar can attest to. The green stickers point out days on which I wrote over 2,000 words, while yellow stands for days with 1,000-1,999 words.

Not only were two new short stories of mine published (“Pigeon Post,” which is still free today, and “Whining and Dining“), but I also completed two novels–Under a Falling Star and its German translation, Vorsicht, Sternschnuppe.

Under a Falling Star is with the proofreader right now and will be published in October.

I also completed revising my contribution to Ylva Publishing’s Christmas anthology, and I edited a couple of stories for that one, too.

Finally, I also found some time to work on my series of writers’ guides. That’s the nonfiction writing in the table.

Here are the numbers for August:

 
Writing
Editing
Research
Nonfiction Writing
2014 - TOTAL641 hours326 hours178 hours92 hours
January75 hours60 hours1 hour--
February48 hours70 hours35 hours--
March50 hours41 hours47 hours--
April109 hours31 hours48 hours--
May102 hours48 hours28 hours37 hours
June75 hours7 hours--8 hours
July61 hours15 hours4 hours7 hours
August121 hours54 hours15 hours40 hours

If I add 62 hours of marketing, answering e-mail (about 1,000 e-mails this month!), and other administrative stuff, I get about 300 working hours in August. Good thing I don’t have to pay myself for overtime ;-)

In September, I will mostly focus on my vampire romance novella, Good Enough to Eat, which I will co-write with Alison Grey. We’ll start brainstorming and plotting this week, and I’m curious to see how collaborating with another writer will go.

Check back next month, and I’ll let you know!

Jae

Get Pigeon Post FREE on September 1 – September 3!

freeJust in time for Labor Day, my newest short story, Pigeon Post, is available for free on Amazon today (September 1) until the end of Wednesday (September 3).

Pigeon Post is a 13,000-word short story set in a world in which shape-shifters just came out to the human public.

Kelsey, a submissive wolf-shifter, has always done what she has been ordered to do. But when Madsen, the Wrasa’s highest alpha, sends her a letter via pigeon post, containing very unusual orders, she’s not sure she can obey. Madsen and the newly hired Wrasa PR firm think it’s a good idea to celebrate the anniversary of their not-so-voluntary coming out to the human public with a Wrasa Pride Parade–and they want her, a lowly nederi, to lead it.

If you haven’t read it already, here’s your chance to get it for free:

US: http://www.amazon.com/Pigeon-Post-Jae-ebook/dp/B00MV25RD0/
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pigeon-Post-Jae-ebook/dp/B00MV25RD0/
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/Pigeon-Post-Jae-ebook/dp/B00MV25RD0/
Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/Pigeon-Post-Jae-ebook/dp/B00MV25RD0/
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/Pigeon-Post-English-Jae-ebook/dp/B00MV25RD0/

Enjoy and please feel free to share this post.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!
Jae

My short story Pigeon Post is now available

cover_Pigeon-Post_500x800I’m pleased to announce that my latest short story, “Pigeon Post,” has been published today, even a little bit ahead of schedule.

“Pigeon Post” is a short story, but at 13,000 words, it’s not a very short one, and at $0.99, it’s not expensive either.

It’s part of my shape-shifter series and stars Kelsey and Rue, the main characters from True Nature.

If you have read other books in that series, you might remember that the Wrasa, my shape-shifters, are much more lesbian/gay-friendly than your average human. So it’s no wonder that their PR experts come up with an interesting plan to fight for the acceptance of shape-shifters in society—they want to have a Wrasa Pride Parade…and they want submissive wolf shifter Kelsey to lead it.

To find out what happens, check out the story, which is available here.

Interview with fellow author Laina Villeneuve

BEL-TakeOnlyPicturesIt’s been a while since I interviewed a fellow author on my blog, but today, I had the opportunity to interview Laina Villeneuve, a first-time author with Bella, who’s already hard at work on book number two and three. You can find her first book, Take Only Pictures, here and read an excerpt of it here.

Welcome, Laina. Let’s start with some warm-up questions:

Chocolate or cookies?

Definitely chocolate. One of my earliest memories is of me pouring over a box of See’s chocolates and skipping over the chocolate covered cherry. When my mom commented on my choice, I pointed out that I was the only one who ate them; thus, they would be there until the end. Strategy!

E-books or paperbacks?

This is tough since I do have a Kindle and have recently reaped the benefits of Whispersync on a trip to San Francisco, enjoying the audio while I drove and the book in the hotel (not to mention the added benefit of being able to read in the dark while my children fall asleep…) But none of that replaces the feel of my favorite book in my hand or the smell of the binding on an old hardcover. When push comes to shove, I prefer paper.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Battlestar Galactica

Beach or mountains?

In California, I have easy access to and enjoy both. I lived on the coast for nearly eight years and loved walking on the beach, but I hate the sand and long sun exposure. Ultimately, I’d much rather spend my time in the mountains, especially on horseback. I’ve been across the Silver Divide and have taken a string of mules through the San Joaquin River. The mountains are much more exciting to me (and have so much more shade!)

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

First, I’m a mother of three, so much of my time includes answering various demands for food, help, or entertainment. We enjoy our local parks, spend a lot of time in the pool and love a good movie night. I’m also a full-time professor of English at a community college which means I spend many of my nights grading. Once, my daughter grumped at me when I gave her a blank piece of paper and demanded paper with writing on it, “Like Mama.”  All three have scrawled on my students’ work, too, “helping” me catch up on my work.

Please tell us about your journey in becoming a published writer. What challenges did you face when you published your first book? How did you come to publish with Bella Books?

I tried to publish a novella straight out of grad school more than 15 years ago. After several rejections, I dedicated all my energy to teaching. My wife encouraged me to write for years, and we began this novel around the start of 2012. We submitted to Bella Valentine’s Day the following year, and they called us in the spring to say they were interested in the book. My greatest challenge lay in the continued revising. My editor asked core questions that were difficult to answer, and our final edits came during my finals week at school. I had my first panic attack during that stretch of revisions.

We chose Bella because we are such huge fans of so many of their writers. I nearly fainted when I saw Karin Kallmaker’s signature on the first email we got back from them, and my wife insisted on joining me on the line when we first spoke.

How did you come up with the idea for Take Only Pictures?

Years ago on Facebook, some friends of mine asked their friends to post stories of how we DIDN’T meet. I slammed out something that went like this: “I was a cowgirl riding the trails, and you were working for the Forest Service. Although our professional worlds clashed, you admired my ass.” That was the seed idea for the story—two professional women whose jobs would put them in conflict with each other, the Forest Service employee having a problem with the impact of the Pack Outfit’s animals on the backcountry. As it turned out, I had to change Gloria’s profession to give her more freedom in the backcountry, but her position still puts her into professional conflict with Kristine, which adds a nice texture to whether the two women are well suited for each other.

How did you come up with the title for your novel?

There’s a sign that reads “Take Only Pictures; Leave Only Footprints” as you enter the backcountry in California. One of Kristine’s conflicts is whether to follow her natural talent raising and working with mules or pursue a career in photography. Initially, I liked the emphasis on photography. Working on the book, I liked how Gloria used it to describe relationships that leave no permanent mark. Now that I’m answering this question, I realize it’s also Kristine’s greatest desire, to walk away from her father’s ranch and spend her time taking pictures.

What would you say are the main themes in Take Only Pictures? What personal meaning do those themes have for you?

The driving force of this book is making a choice for yourself. In the opening chapter, Kristine’s father reminds her that there are two ways off a horse. She knows: when it’s their idea and when it’s yours. Kristine is in the position of figuring out how to make her own decision, first in trying to choose between the life goals her father has versus her own desires. Just as she’s figuring that out, she has to factor love in. I love Kristine’s dedication to her family and admire her quest to find out who she is an individual.

Years ago, my mom and talked about my decision to move five hundred miles away to attend a community college. What she observed struck me. She said that she didn’t think I would have become who I am today if I hadn’t made the decision to move away from my family. So how one discovers her identity is important to me.

How long did it take you to write Take Only Pictures?

From brainstorming the idea to sending in the “final draft,” I think about fourteen months, but at least half of that was spent on two major overhauls. I like to talk to my students about how I’m an okay writer, but I’m a really good reviser. I had an okay first draft and amazing advice input from a colleague that completely reshaped the conflict and pushed the story in a more action-oriented direction. When I finished a draft for him, my wife said, “This isn’t a romance anymore!” so I was thrown back into revision. Once I’d made her happy, we were ready to submit.

How do you find enough time to write, even though you have a day job? Any tips for how to be productive as a writer who can’t write full time?

Habit and sacrifice. I got about four or five chapters written during my winter break between semesters, and once the semester started, I gave myself one evening and one weekend morning to write. That usually means I get between two and three hours of writing time, minimum, a week. I made that part of my budget and balance it like anything else. Research papers took away my hour this week, I’ll take two weekday hours next week. The hardest part has been sacrificing snuggle time on the couch with my wife. I cut out a lot of TV to increase my writing hours when I really got into a writing groove. No-matter what, though, the consistency is key. The mornings I just wanted to sleep, I’d tell myself, “You’re a writer. Writers get up and turn on the computer.” And then I would.

What’s your favorite scene in Take Only Pictures?

When Gloria has returns from Fish Creek and offers Kristine an apple. There is so much sensory detail in what Kristine smells and feels when she puts the apple up to her lips, and I love her willpower when she puts it down and says she doesn’t want to spoil her supper. I love that she says supper, too.

Which scene in Take Only Pictures was hardest for you to write?

The final scene with the bear was the hardest to write. The only real-life experience I have with a bear was chasing a yearling away from my camp. I struggled to make the scene feel authentic, getting caught up in what that specific place in the backcountry looks like. My wife kept on saying, “It’s fiction! Just make it up!” A friend told me that Steven Spielberg says write first; research later. I find that advice very useful but also very difficult to follow. I get caught up in the research, wanting the details to be right.

What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would Kristine, the main character in Take Only Pictures, order? Black coffee? Soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte? Double chocolate chip Frappuccino with whipped cream  and chocolate sauce? Something else?

If, and that is a huge if, Kristine set foot in a Starbucks, she would get a small, black coffee and drink it just like that, piping hot. She’s a bigger fan of campfire coffee in a tin cup, the kind you bring to a boil before settling the grounds with a cup of cold spring water.

What projects are you working on right now? Any upcoming releases?

I’m wrapping up my first draft of my third book. My wife says the last six chapters need a lot of work, but the arc of the story is there. My second book, The Right Thing Easy is due for a Valentine’s Day 2015 release which I am really excited to hear. I figure I’m looking at edits for that book pretty soon, so I’ll most likely be juggling polishing the third book for submission with editing the second one for publication. Oh, and my wife is pestering me to get started sketching out the fourth…

Thank you, Laina, for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. Best of luck with your new books, and I hope to find some time to read Take Only Pictures soon!

Readers, has anyone read it? If yes, what did you think? Please leave a comment or send Laina an e-mail at: lainavilleneuve @gmail.com (please remove the space before the @).

Fellow authors, if you want to be interviewed on my blog, let me know.

Have a good week, everyone!

Jae

Jae, killer of computer mice

dead mouseMy computer mouse went to the Eternal Hunting Grounds yesterday, joining half a dozen other mice that I killed over the last two years. Or is it “mouses” when speaking about devices for computers?

Anyway, I used my laptop mouse for the rest of the day, but it’s too small for my liking and my wrist started to hurt within a few minutes.

I prefer a big mouse that I can rest my hand on—like the Logitech Performance Mouse MX or the Logitech G500. These were perfect for my hand, but sadly, they never last very long.

vertical mouseSo I went hunting for a new mouse, but all the reviews for mice that looked as if they might work for me didn’t sound very convincing.

Finally, I decided to try out a vertical mouse. I never had one of those before, but I thought now that I write full time and spend even more time on a computer, it’s worth a try.

I’ll let you know how we get along.

Does this mouse-killing thing happen to anyone else who works on the computer a lot? And what kind of mouse do you use? Does anyone have a recommendation? Has anyone ever used a vertical one–and if you did, how did it work for you?

Thanks and have a nice weekend, everyone!

And the winners are…

I almost forgot to draw the winners, so thank you for the reminder, Ann Wink

So, just a few hours late, here are the winners of my latest giveaway:

giveaway

So, Lee F. and Annegret, would you please send me an e-mail (jae @jae-fiction.com) and let me know your address so that I can send you each a signed copy of Departure from the Script and one of the coasters.

To anyone else: I’m doing giveaways for each of my books, so if you subscribe to my blog, you won’t miss any of them. My publisher is also doing giveaways, so you might want to subscribe to Ylva’s blog too for more chances to win a book!

Thanks for participating and have a great week!

Jae

Created by Krystel Contreras & Jorge Courbis