Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Q&A with Best-Selling Author Renee Carlino

If you love a good New York City love story, you will fall in love with Matt and Grace. Before We Were Strangers  (Atria Books, August 18, 2015) by Renee Carlino is a complicated love story of missed opportunities and the influence that outside factors have on a couple’s journey…or is it all really just part of their journey? I pulled Renee away from her writing desk to answer a few questions for her ever-growing fan base.

HH: What was your inspiration in using New York City as the backdrop to Grace and Matt's story?

RC: When people normally ask me what BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is about, I  say it's about a guy who sees "the girl who got away" on a New York subway fifteen years after they last saw each other. But I think BWWS is really about how people, rather than places or things, can color our experiences. I thought Matt and Grace would fall in love with New York together. Through their exploration of the city, they got to know each other, so NYC made for a great backdrop. There is an undeniable energy there, but I also thought it could be a place where one might feel extremely isolated among the masses, which is how we find an older Matt at the beginning of the book. I've been to a lot of cities in the US, but every time I visit New York, I get a sense of vitality and togetherness, yet at the same time I feel extremely small. I see New York City as a versatile character that I can use in many different ways to help tell a story.

HH: Both Grace and Matt are complex, deep characters...do you spend a lot of time character sketching before writing? 
RC: I usually know the big pieces before I start the book. Through the writing process other characteristics will develop, like the way Grace smells her food or swings a door open wider than the average person to accommodate her cello case, even when she's not carrying it. They are alive in my head and not based on a real person, so I suppose I am sketching them but not necessarily on paper. I do flesh the characters out much more in revisions so I enjoy the editorial process and find it extremely beneficial and rewarding.

HH: On a Saturday night would you rather be home in sweats or out in a LBD and heels? 
RC: I love my sweats and being a writer allows me to be in them an awful lot. I don't know any writers who get ready, do their hair and put on make-up to sit at the computer for six hours, so on a Saturday night I enjoy getting dressed up and going out when I can.

HH: Explain the muse of music as a prominent theme in your novels. 
RC: I just cannot live without music, so it finds its way into all of my books and it is the best food for my imagination. For BBWS, I remembered watching Nirvana Unplugged on MTV and thinking about the cello player. I wished that I could play like her. When I started researching this book, I found a more recent youtube video of Lori Goldston, the same cellist. She was playing in a station in Seattle. As soon as the music began, I got chills. The way she describes her instrument in the video is inspiring.

HH: If you could meet one of your characters in person, which one would it be? 
RC: I would want to meet Matt from BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS. He's closer to my age, he and I share a passion for photography and I think I would have a lot of questions about his work for National Geographic. He seems like he would be a great conversationalist, which is high on my list of good qualities.
Thank you, Renee!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Q&A with Best-Selling Author K.A. Tucker

With over a dozen novels under her pen, K.A. Tucker recently added a new novel, Chasing River: A Novel (The Burying Water Series), to her Burying Water series.

I caught up with K.A. just before its release to chase down some answers about her fascination with Ireland, the depth of her characters, and her dream automobile.   

HH: Your passion for Ireland is palpable in Chasing River: A Novel; what is your connection to it?
KA: I dreamed of visiting Ireland long before I ever set foot there. I have Irish roots (as so many people do, it seems.) I finally made the trip last summer and, though I was there for less than a week, I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the countryside. I plan on visiting again, and braving the “wrong side of the road” driving in order to see the rest of the countryside.
HH: Amber’s character is complex in a common theme—torn between striving for independence and living up to her father’s standards; was it a conscious choice to downplay the role of her mother?
KA: I don’t know that it’s so much about downplaying the role of her mother as it is that Gabe Welles has always been such a strong and authoritative figure in his children’s lives. We first see this in Burying Water, with the situation that Amber’s brother, Jesse, finds himself in. Gabe Welles is the sheriff, after all. It felt only natural that it would be Sheriff Welles who would come running to Amber’s rescue in Ireland, just as he did for his son. Plus, Amber is still very much daddy’s little girl.
HH: Chasing River: A Novel has so many layers—love, friendship, family—and yet the landscape around these relationships is painted with great historic detail; how much research did it take versus innate knowledge?
KA: Before beginning this book, I spent weeks delving into both Ireland’s history and its current political situation. I knew that I wanted to weave the IRA into the story, but I didn’t have a good grasp of what that would entail. So I began digging… and digging… and digging… and so many dots in my knowledge base began connecting—the religious strife between Protestant and Catholic, the political strife between England and Ireland, the mass exodus of Irish to North America. Ireland has a rich history (much richer than I anticipated) and having a handle on it made spinning an authentic story much easier.
HH: What is your dream automobile?
KA: A Hummer (deer have a tendency to jump out in front of me on the road and tanks are illegal.)

HH: With over a dozen and counting novels under your pen, which character was the hardest to create?
KA: I struggled with both main characters in Surviving Ice: A Novel (Ivy and Sebastian), because they’re quite similar to each other. Ivy is not necessarily “likeable” as far as suspenseful romance characters go, and going out of my way to make her softer didn’t feel like the right thing to do. Her character does grow and change, but it’s done in a more subtle way. I hope readers see and appreciate that.
Click here to read my NewYork Journal of Books review for Chasing River.
Thank you, K.A.!