Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Pub Day!

Hi everyone!  I lied about this week being the query critique winner post, because tomorrow is the publication day for Shana Figueroa's VENGEANCE!!  Shana was my first romance deal ever, and I just love her awesome main character: kick-ass, Veronica Mars-esque Valentine Shepherd, who has a mind-boggling skill that gives her an edge as a PI, but draws her into an underground, occult world full of danger after her fiance is murdered.  Enjoy Shana's pub day interview and be sure to buy a copy of the book! (The monthly query critique is going to get a bit scrambled because there is another pub day interview next week--yay!--so the winner for the last contest will posted the week of the 19th.)

For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.

Throughout my entire life, I've always enjoyed writing and making up stories.One of my favorite things to do is come up with alternate story lines for movies and TV shows - especially the ones that suck and could really use some help (I'm looking at YOU, final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

I didn't start writing seriously until about five years ago. After suffering some painful setbacks in my primary career, it occurred to me that I really needed a Career Plan B. So after a slow and steady build-up, I'm finally going pro! 

You have such an interesting background working in the Air Force!  How did writing and editing the book jive with your duties as an aerospace engineer?  And can we expect to see any Air Force romances from you in the future?

Due to the long hours I keep at my primary job, I have to do almost all of my writing in the evenings, after I put my kids to bed. For me, the key to finishing a manuscript on time is to work on it a little at a time every day, with few exceptions. My usual quota is 300 words a day. I also have my husband to thank, since he tackles most of the child-rearing duties while I go to work and then come home and write. He hardly ever complains!

As for Air Force romances...I do plan to write a novel set in the world of the Air Force, but it will be a modern day take on Anna Karenina, so...not exactly a romance, if you know how that story goes. But still a good book! That'll be my Pulitzer Prize winner, I'm pretty sure!

What was your inspiration for writing this book?  What about the main character?

Before VENGEANCE, I wrote and self-published a romantic comedy novel called SPICE OF LOVE, about a woman who goes on a reality dating show and ends up falling in love with the head producer while wacky hijinks ensue (available now on Amazon!). In that book, there are two (fairly tame) sex scenes. One day I told my friend how the parts of the book I enjoyed writing the most were the sexxy times, and how I should write a whole book of mostly sex scenes. So we started spit-balling ideas about what kinds of situations would put a heroine in the position of having lots of sex for some plausible reason that didn't involve BDSM, sex work, or sex addiction. Then it came to me - WHAT IF when you had sex, instead of having an orgasm, you saw the future? That would be pretty cool, right? Maybe??

At first it seemed like a dumb concept, but then it occurred to me - if you saw the future at climax instead of the big O...that would suck. You'd have problems maintaining intimate relationships, no one would believe you if you told them, and those who did could take advantage of you, you might grow to hate sex or think of it as a tool rather than an act of intimacy, and you'd feel alone and like a freak. Your life would probably be kind of a mess...Now THAT'S a story!

Keeping all of the above in mind, I envisioned my heroine, Valentine Shepherd, as tough but also vulnerable Private Investigator, someone who's come to uneasy terms with her strange ability through a mixture of steeliness and sass. In a nutshell, Val is very much like a tougher, sexier version of Veronica Mars.

What was your road to publication like?

My road to publication was probably smoother and shorter than average, only because I treated my writing as a second job rather than a hobby. Writing a book worth publishing was the part that took the longest. I read a lot of how-to books to hone my craft, attended monthly writer's group meetings to get other people's opinions as well as get a feel for other styles, and went to writing conferences and workshops not only for writing advice but for info on the business and marketing aspect of the craft. When I thought I was ready, I shifted into business mode, steeled my heart for an onslaught of rejection, and started the agent search. After I found an agent (the best one - Carrie! Woo!), the rest of Publication Road went pretty smoothly!

In the end, the prep I did before I found an agent - understanding my genre, recognizing which of my story ideas had the most economic potential, writing a book worth publishing based on solid storytelling physics and word-smithing, establishing an online presence,  and carefully crafting my pitch (query letter, synopsis, etc.) - was the key to success.

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest?

Editing was the most interesting part. Everyone thinks they've written a close-to-perfect manuscript the first time around. To have that bubble burst with editorial comments - ex: "This part is confusing" or "This character is inconsistent" or even "???" - that you realize make complete sense even though you hadn't noticed those flaws before is enlightening.

Coming up with alternate titles was the most fun. My original title for VENGEANCE was RED RAVEN, which makes sense if you read the book. However, my editor pointed out that a romance with an animal in the title could lead people to believe it was were-shifter erotica; we didn't want some poor reader to drop their hard-earned cash on the novel thinking they'd get hot shapeshifting bird sex, then feel cheated when those sexxy times failed to happen. No one wants that! So here were my suggestions:


...Okay, I'm slightly juvenile.

Finding an agent was the hardest. No one wants to be rejected over and over and over...and over again. But that's what it takes if you're serious about breaking into the business.

What is some fun promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for?

Unfortunately, being in the military means I don't have a lot of time to do promotions much more involved than telling all my friends about it. Writing this blog review was fun!  Book Enthusiast Promotions is doing the release day blitz starting tomorrow, which should be a lot of fun!

Tell us a little bit about Book 2!

Each book in the Valentine Shepherd series follows the same characters; specifically, the series as a whole tells the story of the evolution of Max (the hero) and Val's relationship. Book 2 (RETRIBUTION)  picks up several months after the conclusion of the events in Book 1. Without spoiling any major plot points from VENGEANCE, both Max and Val are...not in good places, to say the least. They're struggling to readapt to life after their worlds were turned upside down at the conclusion of VENGEANCE. During a very strange encounter with an old nemesis, Val has a vision of a woman being murdered - the same woman who happens to be the missing daughter of a client. To save the daughter's life, Val must jump back into the dark underworld of Seattle's richest and most depraved elite, but the only way inside is through her one rich "friend" - Max. Will he overlook their tumultuous history and help her, or will that same history finally force them to confront their lingering feelings for each other that won't die...even if it literally kills them?

Now fun question!  If these books were turned in to a movie (or movies ::salivates::) who would you cast to play the main characters? 

Val is tough-as-nails, yet she looks deceptively delicate. She's impulsive and isn't afraid to let her raw feelings show and guide her actions - sometimes for the worse. She's very physical, just as willing to beat answers out of people as much as sweet-talk (...well, mostly lie) to them. Yet she's also vulnerable, often overcome with the need to right all the world's injustices and crushed when she fails. ...I'd cast Tatiana Maslany! (Natalie Dormer would be a close second choice)

Max is much more vulnerable, despite a cool and controlled exterior. He's dark, brooding, empathic, extremely intelligent, often depressed, and somewhat neurotic. He's rich and handsome, but doesn't care much about either. Like Val, he also uses snark and sarcasm to navigate a painful world. ...I'd cast Tom Hiddleston!