Romance and Royalty
The news and movies has lately been filled of late of the lives and times of the monarchy. The romance, and the mayhem - they have become the fodder of entertainment. Be it the raunchy scenes of retold historical tales, the illusion of a regency piece, or the latest news story fresh off the press, it would appear that we cannot get enough of the them past and present. But one of the key focuses for all their stories, regardless of if they are real or not, is the romance behind the names. The ideal that princesses and princes are the epitome of what romance could be (or not as the case sometimes is!). The concept has spawned tales over generations, and given us numerous stories and ideas as authors. I was wondering how it must feel to be the centre of those stories? Do they feel the need to live up to the romantic idealisation?
I thought I would speak with some authors this month and see what expectations they had placed on themselves, and if they felt like they were living up to their own ideal.
This month's authors: Mark Leslie Lefebvre Mark is a man of so many talents, that his self-expectations must be off the charts. So I was keen to learn from him, what helped keep him focused in his writing.
You have an amazing background as a writer, publisher and speaker. What would you consider the highest and lowest points of your career to date?
I suppose I’m lucky in that I can quickly think of a handful of high points both in my career in the book industry and also as an author.
Among those book industry professional moments would be having the honor of handing lifetime achievement awards to both Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, having a casual dinner conversation with Michael Connelly about his career in writing, and being asked by Dean Wesley Smith to be the first guest editor of Pulphouse magazine.
As a writer, one of my proudest moments was receiving a letter via one of my publishers from a teacher who wanted to share that a student in the fifth grade who was a reluctant reader had never finished reading any short story until he encountered one of my short stories in an anthology that had been assigned to the class. Not only did he love the story, and it opened up his eyes to the love of reading, but he was so inspired he wrote a sequel story to share what he imagined happened next. The thought that something I wrote played a role in helping a child discover the wonders of reading and of books is among the pinnacles of what I’ll ever achieve as an author.
The highlight of my speaking career was when I was flown out to Los Angeles in 2014 for an all-expenses trip to stay in a hotel off Hollywood Boulevard and do a keynote on the future of publishing at The Writers & Illustrators of the Future black tie gala event. It was a red-carpet event, complete with limo service, fancy meal, and mingling with the stars. It was also my first, and only experience with getting to have a teleprompter for a live talk.
As someone who writes across multiple genres, what inspiration drives you for a particular genre or story?
As I’m sure most writers will agree, inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. It can be something seen or overheard, a tale relayed second-hand, a slight nuance or manner of speaking that you pick up in a crowded coffee shop. A stray thought or single line in every-day conversation can lead to the creation of an entire universe of events.
But the one thing in common with the majority of the stories that I write is pondering “what if?” That’s often the genesis for a science-fiction, fantasy, or horror story, but it’s also, for me, the genesis of all kinds of tales. Because it’s asking and then answering those questions that stories are born from. For example, I witness a man sitting by himself and writing in on a sheet of paper in a coffee shop. There are a hundred “what ifs” from seeing him that can spin a tale, moment, character, or situation. For example, what is he writing? A love letter, a letter of resignation, a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, a suicide note, a grocery list, a plot outline for a story, plans for a backyard shed. Even choosing a single one of these, the question then comes about who he is and what drives him. And a hundred other possibilities spin out of that.
So, sometimes, that man sitting with his coffee and scribbling quietly onto a sheet of paper can lead to a reflective somber literary tale, a scene in a nail-biting thriller, a romantic romp, a heart-breaking devastation, a bone-chilling horrific story. The possibilities are endless.
What would you tell a young person who is starting out at writing?
I would tell them to embrace and enjoy the act of writing, the act of creating, and the act of imagining. I would remind them that they will never stop learning about the craft and business of writing; and that, at the age of 51, having been writing since I was in my mid teens, I’m still learning just as much today as when I was starting out. And that every time I sit down to write I’m a slightly better writer than I was the day before.
I would tell them to pause to acknowledge and celebrate the little victories along the way, because a writer’s life is rife with rejection. Whether it’s rejection from agents and editors and markets, or rejection in the face of one-star reviews on the online platforms, or of people not actually buying or reading your work. It could be rejection of the self – because writers are often harder on themselves than they ever deserve. It’s an ongoing uphill climb, and much of the work is done in one’s own head, which can be a frightening and isolating place. So when good things happen – when a story is sold, when a reader reacts, or even when a story, paragraph, or even line flows just so from their pen or keyboard, don’t forget to pause and enjoy those moments, because they can be fleeting and missed if you don’t stop to look for them.
I would also tell them that patience, persistence, and practice are three of the landmarks of writerly success. And to not give up, because the world needs dreamers, thinkers, and storytellers.
Who is your role model or idol, and why?
I’m lucky to have so many role models and idols to look up to. But if I had to narrow it down to one, it would be Neil Peart. Neil was a drummer and lyricist for the Canadian rock band Rush, but was also a writer and brilliant philosopher.
Not only has Neil’s writing and music inspired multiple creative works in me, but his approach to life and to art and to performance, continue to inspire me every day.
Neil has constantly stated that he has never been bored in his life. Not with all of the things in this world to be interested in, to learn about, to think about. He also continued to work at and re-learn his craft regardless of how much he had already accomplished, demonstrating that there’salways something new to learn and appreciate. And he also inspires me with a question he regularly asked himself: “What is the most excellent thing I can do today?”
Mark likes to stay in touch with his readers via his website which you can find here:
http://www.markleslie.ca/ I hope you can take a moment to offer support for him by checking out his book, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
Jennifer Cody Jennifer knows a thing or two about writing steamy romance. Whilst her royals might be fiction, her author skills are anything but. So I was keen to hear how she managed it.
As a writer of m/m gay romance who is married with kids, where did you interest form for this genre?
Hello! Great questions! And thank you for having me here. I can't remember the first mm romance I read, but I'm fairly certain I was initially intrigued by the omegaverse concept. I love romance as a whole and have explored all the subgenres that interest me. I started with PNR MF romance and loved it so much. I didn't start reading the genre until my mid-twenties and discovered just how empowering it was to women as a whole. Certainly there are exceptions, damsels in distress and such, but as a whole the genre as it is written today feels a whole lot more empowering, telling women that they are enough and worthy. As a rather independent and completely comfortable and confident woman, I didn't realize how much of an impact having a whole genre of books dedicated to hitting all my buttons and making me feel good about myself would have on the evolution of my inner self as I matured. Needless to say, feeding my soul with romance for the last fifteen years has had a significant impact on me as a person. When I discovered MM it felt like a huge breath of fresh air had suddenly filled my lungs, and I didn't really understand why until I'd switched over to reading MM almost exclusively. With MM there's no pressure to relate to the heroine, there's not worry that something will trip one of my women-issues triggers. I can sit back and enjoy the story because it's all about men relating to other men. Of course there are secondary characters and usually women around, but the main story is about men, and I happen to really love men. All kinds of men, big ones, small one, mediums, grumpy, happy, excitable, and calm--I don't have a preference when it comes to my reading. And also, I have a distinct preference for what's below the belt on men versus women.
Getting involved in the writing of MM actually helped me discover a lot more about myself than I expected. I've known since I was in middle school that I toed the line of bisexual, but didn't understand it until I really delved deep into a queer genre. All the research I've put into my books has really helped me define myself, my preferences and habits, and helped my understand my own sexuality in a way that I never would have thought to even think about while I was reading strictly straight romance. I don't think its an understatement to say that getting involved in both the reading and writing of gay romance set me free in ways I never could have predicted.
How do you juggle being a Mom and being an Author?
Oh this one is difficult. I have a 12 year old, a 9 year old, and a 4 year old; it's not easy working from home with the diversity of needs going on with them. Fortunately, the older two have been super helpful from the start of this new adventure. When I explained that sometimes I would have to work in the evenings and they would need to make dinner, those two jumped on learning how to read recipes. Admittedly, some things fall by the wayside. I don't think my floors have been mopped recently because that is absolutely 100% my job. My husband would, but he's in a wheelchair and really can't, and I don't feel like that's a burden I can put on my kids when they do their own laundry already and load the dishwasher after supper. So, it's a struggle, but I get the blessing of having a hugely supportive family.
You have a massive release list for this year, which story are you most excited about releasing?
Wow! Way to hit the hard questions! Actually, I think out of my upcoming releases, the one that excites me the most is set for release in December. I think I have it tentatively titled: Watching You, but I will inevitably change it. I will need to get some beta input on the title first. It's a contemporary mm romance with a lot of fun characters and a small mystery to it: What's that guy's name??? I think for about half the book the second MC's name is a mystery, and I love the tension. It's fun.
If you could do one thing differently about your writing life, what would it be, and why?
I think all authors have some complaints about the first draft to publishing process. In my case, formatting annoys the crap out of me. I can get the formatting correct for the mobi ARCs, but when the book hits Amazon's kindle edition, which is also mobi, the formatting is wrong. I haven't quite figured out how to fix it, but I will. other than the software issues, I think I would simply give myself faster fingers and a computer to keep up with the typing pace. Because I have given myself such a brutal schedule (and for the most part I have a six month lead on the books I intend to publish), I end up working about ten hours a day. This is not a complaint, I knew going in that I would be doing this and have no problem with it, I just want to get it all done faster. Ha!
You can find Jennifer Cody's Cocky Cuties (www.facebook.com/groups/jennifercodyscockycuties) which is her favourite contact point; or you can can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org I hope you can take a moment to offer support for her by checking it out, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
I wish to thank you for taking the time to read and engage with me! Happy reading everyone!
What are you willing to fight for? I would fight for my children and my loved ones. I'd fight for my pets and my friends. There is a lot of things I would fight for. How about you? Do you think you are strong enough? I've not learned how to throw a punch. I feel pretty weak but I know how to scratch and bite--you know, girl fighting. Celisse would certainly kick my butt. Yet, I know she would have my back if I was in trouble. She's a stand up person who risks her life for people she cares about.
FIGHT PRINCESS is a gripping story about redeemed love and standing up for what you believe in. You won't be able to put the story down so be sure to preorder your copy today!
Coming soon! A brand new paranormal romance by VK Tritschler is coming to a store near you....