Monday, March 26, 2007

Make-Believe Monday with Susan Grant

Today on Make-Believe on Make-Believe Mondays, I'm pleased to introduce Susan Grant.

Susan, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Susan: I just finished edits on How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days. It comes out in August July 26th. It’s a stand alone final book in my Earthling trilogy. I love bringing back bad boys as heroes. I got to here. Reef was the villain from Your Planet or Mine? He’s a cyborg assassin whose hardware is ultimately disabled, requiring him to learn to live as a human. Since he’s being hunted by killers of his own, he’s forced into a witness protection divorced mom Evie Holloway’s suburban home!

Debra: There is something about bad boys, isn't there?

Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Susan: I try to do nice things FOR ME--like bubble baths, and pedicures, and long walks in pretty places, or a good book in my favorite chair, or a meal of my favorite foods, i.e. Treat Yourself. It’s easy to not make time for this, but you have to if you’re to keep your muse plumped up and content.

Debra: This is so true. We should schedule a little me time every day, even if it's only twenty minutes.

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

Susan: Oh, yes! They seem so real to me that I tend to forget they’re not people I’ve actually met and interacted with!

Debra: So good to hear this. At a certain point they stop being characters and become people.

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?

Susan: Not dreamed, no but lived them, yes. I fly all over the world as a 747 airline pilot. I had the best adventures in foreign lands. Many of these experiences make their way into my books. For instance, at dawn on the street in Shanghai, there is a lady who will cook you breakfast for about 25 cents. She has a metal drum cover a coal fire. She’ll pour a cup-full of batter and a filling you choose, like cooked vegetables, and make you a crepe. The “pancake lady” as we call her, showed up in the book The Scarlet Empress, in a futuristic version of Korea, where my characters are starving and on the run form the bad guys, and buy street food!

Debra: Oh, I love these travel stories! (I'm probably going to corner you at RT, you know, pestering you to tell me more.) :)

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?

Susan: Why, the ones I am writing now!

Debra: 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?

Susan: I want to tell all the yet-to-be writers here not to give up hope, to hang tough and never take the first (or even the 2nd or 3rd “no” for an answer). I always want to let each and every reader of my books how deeply I appreciate them. I just sold my 12th book. It would not have been possible without you.

I have a website at

A blog, too!

And Myspace:
Thank you for having me at Make-believe Monday!

Debra: It was my pleasure, Susan.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Make-Believe Monday with Bonnie Vanak

Today on Make-Believe Mondays I'm pleased to introduce my friend Bonnie Vanak. All my bellydancer friends will be thrilled to meet you here as they are always asking about books with bellydancing in the story. ;)

Bonnie, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Bonnie: I just finished my first Silhouette NOCTURNE book. The working title is Empath, and is slotted for December 2007. It’s about a gentle veterinarian seduced by a fierce warrior werewolf who must mate with her and turn her into a killer to destroy the shapeshifters stalking his pack. Maggie is an empath, a werewolf who heals with her touch. She’s been living as a human, blocking out any knowledge of being a wolf. Nicolas is a big, muscled werewolf who has devoted his life to killing the enemy to keep his pack safe and he extends this protection quite vigorously to Maggie, his mate. I love the dichotomy between these two. Nicolas is a killer and Maggie is nonviolent. In the end, their differences make them stronger. He forces Maggie to acknowledge her wolf and she exposes the tender, vulnerable side of Nicolas that he’s afraid to show to the world.

Debra: The dichotomy is fascinating. I look forward to reading their story.

Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Bonnie: Excellent question! I love that quote, and have used it often. A good author friend, Jennifer Ashley, always reminds me to “fill the well” and take a break. It’s really necessary for us as writers to take a break and sit back and relax. For me, it’s watching a good movie, relaxing with my hubby on the beach near our home or just going for a walk and letting my imagination drift. If I had more time, I’d take more trips to places that inspire me. Part of EMPATH was written on the beach on the west coast, and the opening chapters are set there. That always inspires me; being able to research a location.

Debra: The beach does this for me as well. There is something about the ever changing ocean and those shifting sands.

Bonnie: For my Egyptian books, I’ve never traveled to Egypt but I find inspiration in books, magazine articles and television specials on Egypt. Just the idea of exploring ancient Egyptian history fills my well!

Debra: You and I both share a love of ancient Egpyt. I once pulled our son out of junior high when a famous Egyptologist visited our college to speak. He wanted to be an Egyptologist when he grew up and I think he still has the tape. One day perhaps we'll both go there.

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

Bonnie: Definitely! I suppose it sounds odd, but my characters do surface and begin to speak their minds. In The Sword & the Sheath, my March Egyptian release, Tarik was quite assertive in stating his demands in wanting to seduce Fatima, the heroine assigned to guard him. And Fatima was equally demanding in her need to prove herself among the men. I remember writing one scene in Starbucks on a Sunday… it was the scene where Fatima watches women belly dance for Tarik and then one woman comes over to take him to her bed for the night. He refuses because he wants only Fatima, his beautiful Tima, his only love, not just the pleasures of the flesh. I could see and hear him as clearly as I could hear the orders at the counter for non-fat decaf mocha lattes!

Debra: I can't wait to read this story. It's every woman's dream to be the one and only.

Bonnie: I’m so thankful I was given the gift of words. Being a writer is a terrific way to express ourselves. We can soar the heights, explore places we’ve never visited, and mine the depths of our imagination. It’s hard work, sweat, tears and sometimes it feels like there’s blood on the keyboard, but I can’t imagine having a more fulfilling dream. I’m very grateful I have the opportunity to share my imagination with readers.

Thanks for the interview!

Debra: You're quite welcome, Bonnie. It was my pleasure.

You can visit Bonnie at my Myspace page:
Or at her blog:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Make-Believe Monday with Darlene Marshall

Today on Make-Believe Mondays I'm pleased to introduce my friend from RWAonline, Darlene Marshall. Darlene is just back from Epicon where Pirate's Price and Captain Sinister's Lady both won Eppie awards in the historical romance category.

Darlene, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Darlene: In my WIP, Captain Jack Burrell has a good life--loving parents, loyal friends, a fine ship with which to harass the British during the War of 1812. In fact the only really terrible thing that’s ever happened to him was the fault of Miss Sophia Deford, who robbed him, stripped him naked, and left him at the mercy of a Royal Navy press gang.

And now she’s back in his life. She has a pirate treasure map and a letter from Jack’s late mentor calling in a debt of honor. And to discharge this obligation, all Jack has to do is team up with Sophia and help her find the treasure. Without wringing her neck.

It’s a “road book”, set in 1817 Florida and I promise it will have excitement, passion, danger and laughter.

Debra: It sounds exciting! When pirate treasure is involved anything can happen!

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

Darlene: Yes, but I never know when that will occur. I’m a “seat of the pants” writer, or to use a more elegant term, “an organic writer”, and it usually starts with a scene in my head, the hero and heroine interacting in some fashion. But I don’t always know who these people are, or what makes them tick. I have to start writing about them to find out the answer for myself, and for my readers.

Oftentimes though a character will appear to me in a scene. For instance, the first time I “saw” Morgan Roberts, the hero of Captain Sinister’s Lady, he was looking into a mirror in his cabin and wondering when he got so much gray in his hair and beard. He covers the white with red paint to give him a ferocious, bloody appearance before going abovedecks to attack a ship.

Even though this scene didn’t make it into the novel, it gave me clues about Morgan right from the start–there were issues about aging, he was a pirate captain, he liked to use tricks to get his way. That was the start of how I began writing about Morgan and his desire to settle down and raise a family.

Debra: The aging pirate, how fascinating!

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

Darlene: I loved Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Mara, Daughter of the Nile. I first read it in the 6th grade and it had everything! Danger, spies, romance, a plucky heroine, a mysterious hero, a cool historical setting and historical accuracy to make it all come alive. A heroine overcoming the odds through her own wit and courage has always appealed to me, and in Mara I found a story I could enjoy over and over again. Even today I still re-read because it’s so well written.

I hear people ask all the time, “how do you write?” and the only answer I can offer is, “If you have a story in you, just sit down and start writing it. And then write some more, and write some more. When you’re not writing, read. That’s the only ‘writing secret’ I know.”

If readers would like to see excerpts of my work, stop by my website, and to keep up with my writing and what’s happening in my life, visit “Darlene’s Digest” at Blogspot,

Darlene, thank you for visiting Make-Believe Mondays to share a bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Make-Believe Monday with Diane Komp

Today on Make-Believe Mondays I'm pleased to introduce a dear friend of mine. Diane Komp (affectionately known as Doctor Di) and I met at the Antioch Writers Workshop several years ago and I'm thrilled that her book is finally in print.

Diane, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Diane: “The Healer’s Heart” is a modern setting of the life of St. Luke, who was, like me, a physician and writer. I asked the question, “If Dr. St. Luke were alive today, what kind of medicine would he practice, who would he chose for companions and where in the world would they hang out?”

My fictional “Luke” became the head of the AIDS program at Yale Medical School (where I was on faculty for more than 20 years). The best traditions say that Luke was a Greek converted to Christianity by the Apostle Paul. I wanted an engaging, larger than life Paul.

In the novel he appears as an African-American preacher who serves as chaplain to the AIDS team. I wanted the novel to climax in one of the most dangerous countries in the world and I wanted that country to be related to the American slavery story (through genealogical links to both Luke and Paul).

This took me to Sierra Leone, a country in the throes of a ten-year civil war (readers may have seen the historically accurate current film “Blood Diamond.”) In Sierra Leone, Luke seeks the answer to a question posed by his grandfather in an unpublished story of their family history: . If you have no cause worth dying for, do you really have a reason to live?

Debra: Diane, the work you do over there fills me with admiration. So many people talk about problems in our world, yet never lift a finger.

Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Diane: For “The Healer’s Heart”, I filled my cup in Sierra Leone. My fictional doctor was going to be dropped out of Yale’s ivory tower into the bush to practice medicine. To authenticate this journey, I volunteered to work in mobile clinics in Sierra Leone bush. Before I left for Sierra Leone, I updated my will and drafted the Sierra Leone portion of the book. Although my will stayed intact, I had to throw out everything I wrote from stateside research. If I had not gone to Sierra Leone, I could not have written that part of the book.

When I came home, I tipped the cup and poured out a new character, Brima, the local nurse with whom Luke works. The character is based on a real nurse named Brima with whom I worked. Parenthetically, I got hooked on the people and have gone back to Sierra Leone annually to work. Of course, this has filled my cup with sequels.

Debra: Oh, the stories you can tell... and now we'll be able to read some of them!

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

Diane: Early on, I “see” and “hear” my characters, but like Dr. St. Luke, I did not want to overwrite the physical features of my characters. The biblical writers only included physical characteristics when it furthered the plot of a story, not just to paint a picture. When I read Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostle, I appreciate the freedom the author gave me to put faces from my circle of friends onto his characters.

Although I have vivid pictures of my characters, I want to give my readers the same freedom. There are minimal but plot-important features of Luke, his wife, Paul and Brima in the book, all of which advance the plot. For example, as Luke struggles with his father’s terminal illness, he looks in the mirrors and reports the physical similarities he sees to his father. When we (and Luke) first meet Theodora, we learn of her remarkable resemblance to Botticelli’s model for women of mythic importance. Paul, whose personality is larger than life, is “plagiarized” from an African-American pastor in my community whom I saw vividly as I wrote. (Anyone who knows Rev. Woody recognized him in the book.) And, I describe Brima as slim and sinewy “like one of those African runners who always win the Boston Marathon.”

Debra: I'm looking forward to reading this book. I can only imagine how facinating these charcters must be!

Diane, thank you for visiting with us here on Make-Believe Mondays to share a bit of the magic of creation and imagination with our readers.

to learn more about Diane and her work.