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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monica Burns

Once again I am able to bring you an interview with a wonderful author. Monica Burns was gracious enough to answer my burning questions. (You knew I couldn't help that.)

Monica is a multi-published author of erotic romance. A workaholic wife and mother, Monica is a 2005 Golden Heart Finalist, 2006 EPPIE finalist, 2005 CAPA nominee and a recipient of JERR’s Silver Star award. Her latest book is "Dangerous", a very sexy historical romance.

I asked Monica for an interview because she always gave such sage advice on the private Samhain loops. I hope you enjoy today's visit and walk away with a greater appreciation for the writer's life.

How long have you been writing? Can you tell us your first “Call” story?
I wrote my first romance at the age of 9, and it was shorter than a short story. LOL I didn’t start writing seriously with the intent to publish until about six years ago. I got my first “email” in 2004 when my novella "Rogue In Disguise" was contracted by New Concepts Publishing

Tell us about your writing process. Do the characters come first or is it the story?
Generally, it depends on the subgenre of romance. When I write historicals, I know my world there so well that for me the characters and their problems are what come shining through. With my new urban fantasy series that my agent and I are tightening up, it’s much harder to focus on the character straight out of the gate. The world building has to mesh with their interaction and their story, so it makes it more difficult to create their story, particularly since I love action-adventure romance. I love the cool things I get to do with my characters when it comes to things that happen to them. Nothing more fun than trapping the hero/heroine in a tomb and letting them figure out how to escape. Something that even I as the writer doesn’t always know.
You write about exotic locales or exotic characters. How do you prepare for them? Is there a lot of research involved or do you draw from personal experience?
Egypt is a place I’ve always been drawn to, although I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting. One day when I’m old and my children and DH no longer need me to survive, I plan to go and visit all the places I’ve written about and researched. Whenever I use a time or locale that is new or unusual to me, I do lots of research, but I tend to do it as I go along with the story. It irritates my Muse because I’ll stop in the middle of a scene to go find something to backup my description and then I’ll spend an hour or so researching and confirming. It can be a frustrating way to research, but in the end it helps with suspension of disbelief and over all my research isn’t as time consuming as it would be if I was allowed the pleasure of simply reading ALL of my research books from front to back. LOL

Of all the characters you’ve created, who’s been your favorite and why?
I love all of my characters, it’s sort of like your own children, it’s impossible to choose one as a favorite. I do have characters I indentify with more. Julia in my story "Love’s Portrait" is a woman I understood well for personal reasons. Then there’s Alex in "Mirage". I’ve had dreams that I’ve tenaciously followed. As far as heroes, Devlyn from "Love’s Revenge" is always the first hero to pop into my head when I’m asked questions such as these. I love his arrogance, his passion and his dominating manner. The same is true of Morgan in "Love’s Portrait" as well.

My heroes in "Mirage" and "Dangerous" are more tortured because of the internal conflicts they’re dealing with. And one of the things I love the most about Lucien (Dangerous) is the way he expresses his love for Constance at the end of the book.

Alpha males figure prominently in your books. What is it about the alpha male that draws you to him?
Being an alpha female, I understand them. Any alpha (male or female) is all about keeping their deepest emotions inside, never letting anyone see into their hearts. They refuse to admit that they might need someone because they don’t want to admit any type of vulnerability. When it comes to the alpha male, I love their dominating behavior without being abusive. But it also gives me the opportunity to peel back the layers so they’re seen as vulnerable and yet incredibly strong. Not to mention that UATWS (up against the wall sex) is really, really hawt!! LOL

Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?
In the beginning I would have written constantly while my agent was shopping my books. I have the tendency to stop working on something when she’s sending out a completed project. Mostly it’s nerves that make me do that, as well as trying to figure out what the next best thing is to write when I don’t even know if the project will fly. I’m getting better at that. One wants to create the next best trend, but that breakout novel isn’t always an easy one to write or even sell. I also would have spent less time on promo and more on writing.

You have a wonderful website and blog that gives you a strong web presence. Did it take time to hone this web presence or did you already have a good idea on how you wanted to present yourself?
My current website and blog are the latest of three different designs. The original site was the frilly, sweet, light webpage that didn’t represent my writing at all. I then changed it to deeper, richer purple hues to focus on my Victorian historical writing, but it became bulky and my writing was evolving so I had to redesign. My current design is all about what the reader can expect when they read my works. It’s not about the setting or subgenre, but about the satisfaction a reader gets if they fall in love with my writing. I work to give them Ahh…Sensation Something that gives them that Calgon take me away feeling. LOL

My website and blog are about my brand, and the type of writing I do. No matter what new book I list on my site it will fit in because ultimately the goal is to make the reader think, “yeah that was a good read.”

Once the website was revamped it’s been easy to maintain, although I don’t want to redo the site anytime in the near future. It’s a huge time sink.

Do you have any career advice for pre-pubbed authors for making that first sale?
The best advice I could give would be learn characterization. It’s critical to a story. I’m still honing that in my work. I’m a strong plotter, but the characterization is what keeps readers coming back for more. It’s also the magic that holds the reader’s attention. I’d also advise limiting TV viewing and participation on various loops. Finally, stay away from confrontation with anyone on the net. It can come back to bite you in ways you could never imagine. *grin*

Check out Monica's website and blog for more information on her books, news, contests and more. Writers: Monica also has some wonderful articles and resources too.


J.K. Coi said...

Monica, great interview! Congratulations on your new release and on your many other writing achievements. I know what you mean about the alpha males. I love writing them, being the one who can dig the deepest into their soul and figure out how they really tick, what really makes them vulnerable and how best to test that and make them both stronger and more open to that vulnerability--with the right partner of course!

I also think you're right when you said it's important to keep writing, even after you've sent off that manuscript. It's tough to focus on something else when you're waiting for word (on anything), but the best thing to do to make that time pass more quickly is to jump right into another project. It also helps you hone your craft so you can tell and agent or editor when they happen to call and tell you how brilliant you are (*g*) that you have other works on the go, ready and willing to pitch

Monica Burns said...

Thanks for comment jk, I'm now revisiting an old manuscript that I'm trying to rescue. It has a horrible beginning, but the characters grow and mature from midway to the end of the book, so if I can come up with a better beginning, I think I'll have another book to sell.

So I'm doing that while I wait for editors to get back from RT and the London Book Fair. *grin*


Josephine Damian said...

Monica, great advice about limiting tv and online time. Also about online confrontations - if only Tess Gerritson would get that message, she'd be much better off.

Maria, good job with the inteview!

Monica Burns said...

Josephine, thanks for the compliments. I always try to make my words help others. It's not easy with comments, posts, email, etc. Sometimes I can say something, but when people don't see my expression or body language it's easy to misinterpret me. *grin* Even when I use the emoticons it doesn't always help. *sigh* The Inet is a great tool but it definitely has its drawbacks on every front. Thanks for posting! Mon