Monday, August 07, 2006

Make-Believe Mondays With Rowena Cherry

The author I had originally scheduled to visit had a computer accident so I've had to juggle the schedule a bit.

Now, let me introduce my friend Rowena Cherry who writes romantic science fiction. I met Rowena on Daytona Beach while attending the RT convention where we spoke of sand crabs (fascinating creatures), holidays and writing.

Rowena, thank you for jumping in at the last minute. Tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Rowena: I’m working on INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, which will be released by Dorchester’s LoveSpell imprint in February 2007. It is a sequel to FORCED MATE (another chess-titled romance), and continues the antagonist’s story moments after the brutal duel at the end of FORCED MATE.

The hero and heroine are forcibly marooned on a desert island, and left to sink or swim.

I was fortunate enough to be able to consult the Science Channel’s SURVIVORMAN, Les Stroud on my survival research and scenes.

He made some helpful suggestions which I am now adding to the manuscript… such as that moss plus absorbent fabric cut from an ejector seat would make a better sanitary pad than either one alone.

Also that, if one is on a naturally occurring island, the best idea is to try and find a spring of fresh water in the most overgrown area of any forest, rather than digging a beach well. As it happens, the island that my hero and heroine are shot down on in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL is not naturally occurring.

Once I’m happy with my edits (and my editor is, too), I shall start writing chapters for the next full length novel.

Mark Twain said, “You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” How do you fill your creative well to keep your imagination in focus?

Rowena: Sometimes I don’t! There’s also a popular song with lyrics “If it don’t fit, don’t force it, just relax and let it go …” I’m not sure what the context of that song was supposed to be.

Sometimes, if I’ve nothing inspired to write, I simply don’t write. It’s a bit like my Grandmother’s advice about gossip!

All too often, when I think I am inspired, I amuse myself a little too much, and write scenes that have to be deleted later. I call such scenes Gorilla Testicles, because there is too little content to be worth showing them to anyone else. I have been known to post out-takes on the Out damned Story blog.

Debra: What fun! Sort of like the out takes or deleted scenes from the movies. I shall have to pay the blog a visit.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Rowena: This is acutely embarrassing to admit, but I prefer to be able to dream about my characters —especially my heroes-- before I start to tell their stories, yes.

Debra: One of the things I've learned through these interviews is how active a role dreams take during the creative process. How romantic that your heroes show up first in your dreams.

Rowena: There’s one character -–the god-Emperor Djohn-Kronos of MATING NET—- who was most unwilling to let me end his story. He “wants” another crack at love…. Or maybe I simply want to tell more of his story. I think he is the most powerful and fascinating of all my characters.

When I wrote Tarrant-Arragon, I never thought I’d say that of anyone but Tarrant-Arragon.

I am not the sort of person who would ever use the F-word in my own conversation, so I was profoundly shocked when the hero of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL insisted on using it both as an expletive and as a verb. That is his voice coming through.

Debra: A strong and insistent voice I would guess.

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Rowena: Yes. It seems logical, if the hero is an alien, that he would not speak perfect English. The supremely arrogant hero of FORCED MATE, Tarrant-Arragon grasped that we use various prefixes to make a negative (in- ; un- ; im- ; dis- ; non- … etc) He follows the rule, approximately, but pleases himself which prefix he uses. So “nonsense” becomes “unsense” when he deigns to speak English.

I had a bit of trouble with a copy editor over that!

You wouldn’t expect an alien to use the same words for his genitals that we do. Various authors have introduced alien terms, especially if their equipment works on different physical principles or looks very different.

I suppose you know that our so-proper and clinical word “penis” comes from the Latin word for a tail?
How silly! You’ll never look at one in the same way, will you?

Debra: No, I don't suppose I will.

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

Rowena: All the time. I like to dream-load a scene I want to write, and dream it repeatedly until the scene achieves a certain inevitability (or thusness).

Debra: Oh, I like this idea.

Rowena: A psychic, it wasn’t John Edwards, but it was someone who knows a lot about “Channeling” and talking to people from the other side, once told me that I channel my characters, and that their stories really took place in a parallel world.

Debra: Fascinating.

Rowena: I am skeptical about that, actually. I like to think I have a bit more creative control over the process, and that I am rather more than a cosmic Dictaphone.

Debra: Yes, I agree. We do have free will.

As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Rowena: I remember “Waggon Train”, which you might think of as an Earthbound “Battlestar Galactica”. As a child growing up in England, the American frontier seemed so far off that it might as well have been an alien world.

When I was thirteen, my mother introduced me to Georgette Heyer’s Georgian and Regency romances, and to this day I love her articulate and well-bred heroes.

Debra: She set the standard and paved the way, I believe.

If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

Rowena: Isn’t that what’s called The Book of One’s Heart? I guess I did that when I started to write about my alien djinn gods from outer space, about 12 years ago, when no one was touching that sort of fiction.

I’m sorry, that came across as a smartass comment. On the other hand, if I had a story such as you describe in my head, I think I’d want to write it, sell it, and copyright it before I gave away the premise.

Debra: No worries. I understand completely. (And there are many authors who refuse to discuss story ideas before they are written down as it tends to reduce the impetus to write them.)

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Rowena: What makes any story unique is the angle -—or slant-- and voice and technique of the author. There are only so many plots… some say there are 5, others say there are almost 30.

You might say that telling a story is a bit like making pastry. How many sorts of pastry are there? Rough puff, water-crust, flakey, pie crust, short-crust … I forget, but I once knew them all. Normally I’d look up the variants, but I put all my cookery books away because I needed more kitchen cabinet space, and I can’t remember where I put the books.

All cooks use flour, water, fat according to the recipe, yet some cooks make better pastry than others. It might be the coldness of their hands, or the lightness of their touch, or their technique with the cutting-in knife, or whether they warmed or chilled the bowl, or how well their oven keeps temperature. Not to mention their sense of timing. And then, there is the magical “I don’t know what”…. Luck, I should say. Or vision.

I’ve strayed a bit from imagination and dreams, though. Imagine trying to make pastry romantic! On the other hand, that’s the sort of intellectual challenge I love. If someone were to dare me to make a canderu romantic, I’d do it!

Debra: It is a bit like pastry making isn't it? I like the analogy. (Though I have to admit you are making me hungry for the blueberries I froze a few weeks ago. Mmm, blueberry pie for dessert tonight. My husband will thank you.)

Rowena: If I may, I’d also like to advertise where readers can find more of my burblings.

Debra: Certainly.

Rowena: I’m lucky enough to blog:
At Amazon:

At Alien romances (a group blog I share with Susan Kearney, Linnea Sinclair, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Cindy Holby and Margaret L Carter)

At my yahoo group

At Rowena Cherry Remarks

At Out, damned story

I also publish a newsletter from my website

If you like fooling around with bare-chested hunks, there are some interactive jigsaws at

Also at survival-romance

Rowena, thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

Rowena: Thank you, Debra!

Debra: You're quite welcome.

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