ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.
ABI: When I was little I always said I wanted to be either an author or an architect. Having eventually learned that getting published was even less likely than becoming a huge movie star, I went to school for architecture. I’ve had a number of different jobs, including nanny, craft store clerk, telephone customer service, resident director and instructor at a local college. That last one was the only time I actually used my degree, teaching architecture students.
I grew up in Colorado, after IBM moved our family from Florida to Ohio, then Kentucky. I met my husband in Wyoming, and we moved to Vermont as newlyweds to be closer to my family (who transferred here after I graduated High School.) We’re still plotting our return West.
ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
ABI: It has to be Luke Skywalker. He started out as a brash, idealistic young kid who made mistakes and endured the consequences. But the arc of his character took him to become a true hero in every sense of the word.
ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
ABI: This one’s harder. I love Antagonists who have redeeming qualities that make us really feel like we understand and sympathize with what they’re going through, even though they’re the bad guy. I think the Antagonist I’ve always felt the most empathy for is Wile E Coyote.
ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
ABI: I always have a hard time figuring out what my first novel really is. I have several of those first novels that are in the back of the drawer and, if they’ll ever be seen it will be with a heavy dose of revision.
A friend told me about NaNoWriMo last October and I decided to do it. I loved the challenge of finishing a novel in one month, and having help and guidance as I did it. The caveat was my husband made me promise that, this time, I would send my manuscript to an agent or publisher.
That novel was Dogs, Cats, and Allergies, and even though it won’t be the first one I query, it counts as “first” in that it was the first one completed with the intent of eventually querying.
ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
ABI: Not flushing the whole thing down the toilet when I go through that phase when I hate what I’ve written. I have to remind myself that I won’t always feel that way, and that after the editing process it will be a much better story.
ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
ABI: I’m reading Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right by Kieran Kramer. Her romances are playful and have a wonderful, light sense of humor. I do hope that some of her voice creeps into my writing… in fact I even earmark the occasional page to refer to later.
I’m also reading The Stars My Destination which is a sci-fi classic by Grandmaster Alfred Bester. There’s a strange story behind that… on facebook I occasionally ask my friends a “SyFy Question of the Day”. After posting a question about teleportation, John DeChancie (Yes, the John DeChancie, author of over two dozen books including the Castle Perilous series, whom I go totally fan-girl over) commented that I should read The Stars My Destination. I’m just a few chapters in, but it’s a completely different voice than the lighthearted romance, and it will be interesting to look back and see how it shows up in what I’m writing now. I’ve already started using the term jaunte in my serial Synaesthesia.
ABK: Why do you choose to be a redhead?
ABI: Both my husband and I love red hair, but other than some highlights on my rapidly graying head and some odd stray hairs in his beard, it doesn’t run in the family. I dyed it back in 2000 just for fun, and we both kinda liked it. Then we adopted the most adorable little red headed girl, and she thought it was the coolest thing that I dye my hair to match hers! So the red hair is now a permanent part of my persona, not just as a writer, but as a mom.
ABK: What sorts of creatures do you have (aside from your husband) and does wrangling them all interfere with your writing?
ABI: Wrangling the kids is definitely the biggest hurdle to my writing time. We have two girls, ages twelve and three. Our big lovey puppy, named Hemi, is not so much a distraction as he is a tripping hazard. We have five (Yes, five, long story.) cats, and they actually help the writing process. They are perfectly happy to just lay around, purring and getting pet, which lowers the blood pressure and helps me settle into my writing time. Sometimes when I’ve been writing for an hour or so I look around me and realize that every cat in the house has gravitated to me.
ABK: When it comes to writing are you an early bird, or a night owl - When do you find you’re the most productive?
ABI:“Early” should be a four-letter-word. I am absolutely the most productive at night. Unfortunately, my most creative state happens to be the just-getting-sleepy state that only lasts so long before it becomes the I’m-so-sleepy-I’m-falling-asleep-in-my-chair state.
ABK: If you had to get rid of every book you owned except one, which would you save?
ABI: I think I’d keep the Ozark Trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin. It’s out of print and hard to find, so I couldn’t replace it. I love the blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and it touched a nerve in my teenage psyche when I first read it.
ABK: To turn a few questions back on you - How much editing do your manuscripts go through before you’ll consider sending a query to an agent?
ABI: Apparently it never is ready, and I’ll never send that query! Since November, I’ve produced three rough drafts and I’m working on a fourth. (And a fifth… maybe a sixth if I do http://www.3daynovel.com/)
I’ve had a couple of experiences where I was overconfident and sent something out before it was ready, and ended up being rather embarrassed and discouraged. This time, I need to make sure what I send out is a good, professional piece of work. I have a good crit partner who will scour it for me, and hopefully after that I can decide whether it’s ready or if I need to do a second and third round of critique and revision.
ABK: Do you have rules for how steamy you write your sex scenes?
ABI: I worry about this more in the editing stage. I try to keep in mind how the book will be marketed, and make sure the heat level in the book fits that market. For example, a faith-based romance does not usually have a sex scene at all, while an erotic romance has plenty!
While writing, I don’t usually keep these rules in mind. If I feel like having the curtains flutter as the camera fades away, that’s what happens. If the sexual relationship between the characters is an important aspect of the story, I’ll write out every steamy detail.
I’ve also found that my own personal biorhythms affect the heat level of my writing. After being on fertility drugs for many months, the story I was working on started to mimic The Story of O. That’s when I depend on edits to bring the story to the heat level it should be.
ABK: If you could choose one place to hide away for a month to do nothing but write, where would you go for inspiration?
ABI: I’m not so sure my goal would be inspiration, or peace and quiet. There are all kinds of exotic locales I’d love to visit so I could do research set a story there. But if I simply wanted to finish my WIP I’d choose a nice cabin or hotel with room service and internet access. My crit partner and I have talked about renting a sea side cabin for a week, and that could work as long as I don’t have to worry about cooking and cleaning.
ABK: Why do you ask who shot first? And what is your opinion on the matter?
ABI: After I’d been doing interviews for a couple of months, I was composing questions for Ethan Stone, author of MM erotic romance. I noticed a Star Wars reference on his blog, so instead of just asking “So, do you like Star Wars?” I asked the incendiary question “Who shot first, Han or Greedo?”
This is a question that never fails to get fans riled up. In the original movie, Han Shot first. But when the movies were re-done decades later, the scene was revised to show that the bounty hunter Greedo shot first, and missed. The idea was that, since Han is a good guy, of course he could never be so sneaky as to shoot Greedo under the table! But fans were incensed, saying that Han shooting first was true to his character arc.
I compare the question to blogging. Unlike a traditionally published story, I can go back to a blog post at any time and revise the heck out of it.
My opinion? Han shot first. They should not have tried to make him look like a perfect hero who always does the right thing. He began as a badass, and he needed to start out that way in order for the arc of his character to have as great an impact as it did.
ABK: What’s the prime root of 4596^3 while balanced on a monkey?
ABI: Funny you should ask… I was trying to prove that we didn’t actually need to get a hold of an actual monkey to figure this out, and the whole conversation degenerated into a talk of unladen swallows and whether it really makes a difference whether it’s an African or a European bird. Well, it does, but we never figured out the monkey thing
Now I have to figure out what to do with all these coconuts…
Visit AmyBeth at her blog: The Inverness Press and check out her interview with me