Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Guest Blogger: Anne Mallory

Anne Mallory is a member of the (in)famous Wet Noodle Posse, and we’ve known each other for almost four years.

Her first book, Masquerading the Marquess (a romance set in Regency-era England and released in 2004), featured a female caricaturist who gets into hot water because of the not-so-nice comics she draws.

The cover of Anne’s first book could have been what gave me the idea to write a “Buffy in Jane Austen’s England” book, but fortunately, I already had started the book before I saw Anne’s cover…but I was holding my breath for months until my book sold, waiting to see if anyone else had seen the cover and had the same idea. (I don’t know if you can tell from this pic, but the girl on the front cover looks just like Sarah Michelle Gellar…)

Anyway, Anne’s here today and we’re giving away a signed copy of her latest release, The Earl of Her Dreams, which is a cozy English house-party murder mystery masquerading as a romance. (Or vice versa…).

Simply make a comment or ask Anne a question, and you’re entered to win!

Now…let’s get onto the interview….

Anne, it's sort of a long way from computer engineer (programmer?) to historical romance novelist. Tell us the story of how you went from there to here.

It worked out very synchronously for four years - I did both - computer programming during the day and writing at night. I think it helped both jobs to use different areas of the brain - it gave a nice break for each.

But for all that, the two do have similar qualities - creativity, problem solving, drafting, revisions, constant back ups! I love problem solving - whether it is debugging code or trying to figure out a character's motivation (or where to hide the body).

When you sit down to write a new book, what's your process? Do you have one?

At the start of a book proposal I have a germ of an idea, and usually a scene I work toward (usually the end or the black moment). I write out a proposal, fleshing the idea into a synopsis. Then I start at the beginning of the book and just try to motor my way through.

I've tried different ways to write and plot, but I think the loose outline fits me best at the moment. I have a spreadsheet with chapter listings down one column and I just fill in the cells to the right with ideas for future scenes and where I want them to fall (the initial bits come from the synopsis and I just plop the appropriate paragraphs into the outline).

The whole thing is very low key. Fragments. Ideas. Lines of dialogue. Whatever pops into my head I write in the cell to the right of the appropriate chapter heading.

Then when I get to that chapter I can look over the notes and have an idea right away of what I want to do. And when things change in the story, I just remove the outdated bits from the cells and put them in a "Deleted" file. The document is fluid.

I also find writing down cues for what comes next to be pretty essential. If I stop at the end of a chapter, I may write on a piece of scrap paper by my computer, or preferably in my loose outline - "Heroine needs to find the note. Hero needs to go to Parliament to discover X. Heroine should be torn between confronting Mr. Y and believing hero. Revisit her fear of Z." It just makes it easier to pick up the next day, or the next week, if something happens.

And for all this nice neat outline gibberish I'm spouting, I'm the queen of getting random ideas in random places. So I have paper and notebooks everywhere - by my bed, by my couch, in my car, in my purse... Makes for a bit of a paper nightmare.

Anything on my mind concerning the story goes down on paper, in a text document or in my outline. If it doesn't get cued and tied to something tangible, it slips into the ether of my brain or sieves out completely. :)

What do you think is the most interesting thing about being a novelist? The most boring? The most annoying?

Most interesting: Creating worlds every day. Giving two people a happy ending. Continually celebrating love.

Most boring: Staring at a blinking cursor.

Most annoying: Still staring at a blinking cursor two hours later.

What's this about you and sharks?

Heh. As a swimmer from the Jaws generation there is little scarier to me than open water. I decided to do the Sharkfest swim from Alcatraz across San Francisco Bay anyway. Very liberating! Didn't completely cure me though.

When I'm in a large body of water with my head above the surface and my limbs dangling below...well, let's just say that I turtle up and make sure that my digits are out of the water. You'll have to bite my rump, shark!

Since you're on my blog, we have to find out how you weigh in on certain things to see if we can let you stay....such as, name three or four fictional men with whom you'd throw it all away and run off with.

Jack from Romancing the Stone, Thomas Crowne (Pierce Brosnan) from The Thomas Crowne Affair, Wolverine (and when are they going to introduce Gambit?!) from X-Men, Dean from Supernatural, Christian Bale's Batman, Westley from Princess Bride.

Um, you said 6 or 7, right?
(as many as you could handle, Anne...we're not picky here!)

And...who's your favorite Disney villain?

Oooh, so many good ones. I'm going to go with Captain Hook. :) Your Maleficent pretty much rocks though.

What television shows do you watch? Have you given up on?

Every week I watch Supernatural, Survivor, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I still watch SNL occasionally, but not like I used to.

And...who's your geeky crush?

Gary Oldman. I'm not sure if that's geeky though, or just out of the ordinary. LOL.

Anything else you'd like us to know?

Colleen wears socks on her head!
(How did you know that???)

Thanks for joining us, Anne!

Remember to make a comment to be entered to win a signed copy of Anne’s latest…The Earl of Her Dreams!

And you can find more info about Anne and her books at her website.


Blogger angela soliloquized...

Seriously, Gambit better be making an appearance on X-Men 4! I had heard a rumor last year that he'd be in 3, but I guess they figured they already had too many big league mutants in it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 8:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Annie soliloquized...

Just have to say that all of the fictional characters listed that she'd run away with? I second each and every one!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 8:40:00 AM  
Blogger Katkat soliloquized...

My wish list on Amazon just keeps getting bigger with cool books.I will def check yours out.
How long have you been writting?

Colleen, I just ordered -A Whisper of Rosemary. Can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 9:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous soliloquized...

All the covers for your books are great. Do you have a personal favorite? :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 9:31:00 AM  
Blogger Jaye Wells soliloquized...

Cool interview. It's always interesting to learn about the way other writers work.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 9:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Kate soliloquized...

Hi Anne and Colleen,
I enjoyed the interview very much. One question for you though - how easy was it to get your first book published?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Valerie Smith soliloquized...

Hello Colleen and Anne
Interesting interview and questions from all. What group(s) would you recommend to someone interested in writing but who has poor english/grammer/writing skills?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 1:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Janet soliloquized...

Your spreadsheet idea is fantastic! I keep one for presents using the same format (names on left, space to write in on right).

Also, yummy Dean! His brother reminds me of a younger John Fogerty.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 2:04:00 PM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Thanks Katkat! That book was written several years ago, with not a vampire in sight! :-) I hope you enjoy it.

Kate, I wrote nine full-length novels before my agent (who is a well-known, well-respected agent) sold my Gardella books. She had been representing me for two years before we sold those books...and I'd been writing for years (probably ten) before that. So, for me, it wasn't easy. Now...if you ask Anne, her story is different...

Valerie (hey! great seeing you a few weeks ago!)...if someone wants to improve their grammar and writing skills, I'd suggest a creative writing class at a local community college to start.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 2:29:00 PM  
Blogger Anne Mallory soliloquized...

Angela, a fellow Gambit lover! Whoohoo!

Annie, nice taste in men. :D

Katkat, I've been writing seriously (with intent for publication) for five years. :)

Hi, Bonnie! Thanks! Masquerading is still my favorite, though I really like how The Earl turned out. :)

Hi, Jaye!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 3:02:00 PM  
Blogger Anne Mallory soliloquized...

Kate, I sold through the Golden Heart contest - the national contest of RWA (Romance Writers of America). I was very lucky to get my manuscript in front of the right editor at the right time, so my initial publishing journey was a little easier than others have had. Timing is a big part of the business both before you sell and after! I'd say the hardest thing about getting a book published is writing it in the first place. The second hardest thing is finding someone (editor or agent) at the right place at the right time who connects to your writing or story. Sometimes it takes years to find that person, or to get onto their desk at a time they are actively seeking new work and haven't come into their office with an enormous headache after a cab driver nearly killed them, and oh, you have a cab driver in your first two pages? Sometimes it takes twenty books to connect, sometimes it takes one. A good dollop of timing and luck backed up by a lot of craft practice! :)

Valerie, I second Colleen's suggestion for college or community development courses. Also, if you are a surfer, online courses might be available. There's a lot of info online too, but sometimes having an instructor makes things easier. Whatever works best for you! :)

Janet! Dean yumminess, yes! Can't wait for tomorrow night. :) I'm glad you like the spreadsheet use! It is very convenient and largely not intimidating, yes? :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 3:23:00 PM  
Blogger Trish Milburn soliloquized...

How did I know Dean would make an appearance? :) Poor Sam, so forgotten -- except by me. :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 3:33:00 PM  
Blogger Anne Mallory soliloquized...

*pets Sam for Trish*

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 4:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous soliloquized...

Hi Anne and Colleen,
Great interview! I am an engineer/programmer turned romance novelist myself, and it was interesting to read how you compare the two jobs. I would say I'm not quite so organized as you seem, although I'm trying.

I love a good house party/murder mystery...very Agatha Christie. And your title is great!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 5:10:00 PM  
Anonymous SilverWillow soliloquized...

Greetings Anne and Colleen:
Fascinating interview, and Colleen, your web site has become a daily ritual for me! I do have a question for Anne, "What is the process of determining a cover? Do you have a list of artists that you usually work with?"
Also...I have a love for Gary Oldman too, doesn't he make a sultry vampire? And even if he's dirty and haggard, as on Harry Potter's, PoA, he still holds that charm, like a wicked little schoolboy. must never forget about Alan Rickman....(sigh) "SEVERUS", now, he just butters my toast!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006 6:56:00 PM  
Blogger ren soliloquized...

i'm curious about covers too. i sometimes wonder if some novels get dismissed because of the style of the cover and how much of that is down to the publisher or the art director or do you, as the author have the final say?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 7:04:00 PM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Alyssa, I didn't know you were a former engineer. Cool!

Silver, I'm so glad to know we're a daily stop for you. Thanks for being a regular!

And as for covers...well, I can answer this and if Anne has a chance, she'll be back too with her perspective (having had more covers than I have so far)....

The publishers do it all. When you're published by a big publishing house (mine is part of Penguin, and Anne's is part of HarperCollins), the publisher handles every aspect of the cover design and artwork.

We authors are often asked for our ideas or concepts, but the art department at the publishing house actually designs the cover based on several factors: branding the author (you'll see that all of Anne's covers have a similar look to them), target market, and type of book.

I think I'll do a blog post on this topic in a little more detail next check back. It could be fun!

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 9:08:00 PM  
Blogger Anne Mallory soliloquized...

Alyssa, whoohoo! A fellow computer nerd! :) I'm not sure I'm organized organized. I just tend to feel less stress if I have everything in one place (aka a tidy mess of a pile). And I really hate being stressed. :) Thanks for the title compliment!

Lea, Colleen really covered it, but here's a little more. At Harper they convene in house about a year before a book is out to discuss cover concepts, art and title. The author's input is sought and we turn in a brief synopsis, character traits, ideas, etc. Some of these ideas might get taken, some won't. An oft heard complaint is that sometimes the people on the cover don't look anything like what is described on the page. That's decided apart from the author. I don't know any author that has said, "Well, my hero is blond, but I think I want him to have dark hair on the cover." :D So really when it comes down to it we turn in our ideas and just cross our fingers for what we get!! I've been pleased with my covers so far, so I'm going to keep my fingers in their crossed position!
Alan Rickman! We must be on the same page. How do you feel about David Bowie?

Ren, it's really up to the publisher. We just send our ideas/character descriptions and then hope for the best. :) Some bestselling authors have negotiated for final say on their covers, but that is far from the norm. :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 10:12:00 PM  

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