Q&A with Rowena Cherry!
Tell us about your newest release.
Thank you for asking the most important question first. Knight's Fork is about a Knight on a quest, a Queen in need of a sperm donor, and a right royal scandal.
It's a bit of a departure for me.
Forced Mate (debut novel) and Insufficient Mating Material both began in the hero's point of view. In Forced Mate, the hero was listening to an astounding bit of spy footage in which the heroine made some ill-informed and politically damaging remarks about his sexual prowess.
Insufficient Mating Material opened with the hero about to undergo identity-changing surgery before a shotgun wedding to a political liability wife, and worrying that his enemy's surgeons might decide that his penis was too easily recognizable to leave intact.
(I do have a lot of politics and titillating scandal in my novels)
Knight's Fork begins with the heroine's thoughts. She is thinking about testicles, while looking very prim, proper and regal and waiting for a formal royal ceremony to begin. On-duty members of royal families have to spend a lot of time being watched by the public while they wait.
Electra-Djerroldina is a Queen whose life depends upon giving her King an heir. (Very Ann Boleyn!!!) The problem is that she is an alien on his world, and they are genetically incompatible. She cannot fake a pregnancy and adopt, because her husband and his subjects are hairless aliens who don't wear clothes.
She needs a sperm donor! One who doesn't advertise. One who is the soul of discretion. Only one green-eyed god-Prince has the right stuff.
From 'Rhett's point of view, the last thing he wants is to become entangled in any sense of the word with an Imperial Princess who is not only an enemy King's consort, but the high-handed and Machiavellian Prince Tarrant-Arragon's elder sister. 'Rhett has no desire to play a latter day Prince Paris to Electra's Helen of Troy.
So far, Knight's Fork has been awarded a PNR Reviewer's Top Pick and a LASR readers' choice for best book of the week (based on a review).
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
That is a tough one to answer. I'm not hard-wired to want what I think I can't have. Once, I toyed with the dream of becoming a lawyer, but I blush easily and my Latin isn't good, so I realized that I'd never make it. I never bothered to dream of marrying a prince, or owning a pony, or pinning down a Beatle, either.
At university, although I was financially committed to teaching, I thought it would be wonderful to stay in Cambridge and write learned and arcane doctoral theses about Shakespeare’s minor characters. However, I had to earn a living, so I sold my bicycle and most of my books and went out into the world and taught (and loved it).
Then, I married an international executive with an American car company, and he was promoted to a job in Germany. It didn’t make sense to work for anyone except my husband, so I did a bit of ghost writing for him.
I also wrote very long and creative letters to all our friends and family, partly, of course, to stay in touch. One of my husband's friends, a publisher of automotive magazines, told me that I ought to consider writing professionally.
The seed was planted.
Once we settled in the USA, and I was not required to be translator and secondary secretary, I began to jot down--long hand--an epic saga based on a recurrent dream that I'd enjoyed for about a year, and which seemed too good not to share. It was about 600 pages. Eventually, the center portion of it became FORCED MATE.
As for why I wrote Romance, in the early days it was a toss up whether I wrote Romance or Science Fiction. Then I was honored with a small award in a Chesapeake Romance Writers' contest for the last line of a novel. I think it was Most Poignant. In another contest, I was awarded second prize for Most Sexy Line.
My point is, with a poignant last line, and a sexy line somewhere else, FORCED MATE was trending away from science fiction!
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Taking ideas first, I like to take two traditional, time-honored plots (Ronald Tobias in "Twenty Master Plots" claims that there are only twenty stories) and weave them together. I often start with a classical myth, and then give it a futuristic, humorous spin.
Orson Scott Card said that there are four elements to a book, which every author has to a greater or lesser degree: Milieu (that's world-building to those of us who write speculative romance); Idea (some astonishing and original premise); Character (my focus) and Event (or Plot).
I write character-driven romances, so I spent a great deal of time thinking about the sort of person my hero is, how he talks, whether or not he swears (and if he does, what swear-words he'd use), what he has in his pockets, what he was like at school etc.
A lot of my inspiration comes from the glamorous places I've been and people I've met, things I've seen (including animals courting each other, and such damaging sights as the ground-sweeping erection of a stately hippopotamus, and my husband's reaction to an ostrich's erection).
As for information, I believe that if something can be researched, it ought to be. I only make up what is unknowable. I use the internet, books, I write to people, call them, take sword-fighting lessons… For Knight's Fork, I ended up filling out pages and pages of real forms as if 'Rhett was truly applying for a license to exhume human (alien actually) remains in Great Britain.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I would say it's my contrarian tendencies.
I like to reinvent the wheel, travel the path less trodden, take someone who would traditionally be called the villain and make him the hero of his own story.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That other people seem to think I write sex scenes well. Now that really surprises me!
Now, I don't want to mislead anyone. I write Romance. Friends who write Erotica, and its milder sister Romantica, have informed me in no uncertain terms that I do not write anything stronger than “SPICY” romance.
My heroines do not sleep with anyone except the hero after they meet.
The hero and heroine end up married, or planning to get married, and they promise the reader that they will live happily ever after.
They do not make love (or fool around) unless it is absolutely necessary, and if they do make love, there’s a grander point to the scene than having a sex scene for the sake of it.
Having said that, I’d better say a few words about the cover scene of Insufficient Mating Material, because I am on record as having admitted that I wrote in a “Sex ’n Surf” scene after I’d seen the cover art.
I didn’t just bang out a roll in the sea in a couple of days! It took me at least two months to re-write the book, and find “the right place” for that scene. There was only one place in the entire book where such a scene could be inserted, but it meant that I had to clear a battlefield of corpses–without recourse to magic—not to mention explain the heroine’s hair!
Also, given where in the book the scene had to happen, the lovemaking could not be entirely satisfactory, and could not signal the end of all conflict between the hero and heroine.
I suppose I could have simply tacked a “From Here To Eternity” scene into an epilogue. But, in my opinion—for the way I write--that would have been gratuitous, and the cover would have been a spoiler.
Since I went off at a bit of a tangent, I might also say that there's a lot of very surprising extra duties that an author discovers go along with a contract.
What authors or friends influenced you in helping you become a writer?
Rebecca Sinclair who was a very supportive judge when Forced Mate was doing the unpublished contest circuit, who gave me great advice about writing love scenes, and who is still a friend.
Victoria Alexander who sent the first three chapters of Forced Mate to her editor. (It didn't work out, but her kindness was incredible).
Susan Grant who judged Forced Mate when we were competitors on the contest circuit, and who had the generosity to tell me I'd be a fool not to enter the New Voice In Paranormal Romance contest (which was the start of my published career with Dorchester).
Jade Lee, who was a judge three years running in another RWA contest, and gave me one of the best bits of advice ever: to throw away my first 60 pages. Jade is still a good friend.
Linnea Sinclair. In 2003 I gave up on trying to be New York published, and submitted to an e-publisher. At the time Linnea Sinclair was one of their top authors and artists, and she was asked to read FORCED MATE for a second opinion. Apparently, Linnea sat up in bed all night, snorting and howling with laughter, much to the annoyance of her husband, and the next day Linnea informed the publisher that she should buy everything I wrote including my shopping list… or it might have been my laundry list.
Having got me my first contract with an e-publisher, Linnea has been supportive and a goldmine of professional advice ever since. Linnea is now a RITA award winning author for Bantam books such as Games of Command, Gabriel's Ghost, Shades of Dark, Down Home Zombie Blues.
What does your family think about your career as a published author?
Proud and appalled.
Seriously, my mother (who is in her seventies), my husband (who is in his seventies and very dignified), my daughter (who thinks sex is yucky, thank goodness!) would all much rather I wrote (wildly successful) cosy murder mysteries about spry, mentally alert, septuagenarian virgins solving cold cases.
What’s coming up next for you writing wise?
I have a promise to keep. Non fiction.
Fictionwise, one character from Knight's Fork was all but written out because my editor wants his story…. and I am mulling that over.
I also want to write a "wrinkly" romance because there are a couple of older characters whom I think really deserve a happy ever after (what's left of it).
The projected "forking" books are intended as a heroine-centered series officially known as Demetra's Daughters.
Moreover, if I get my act together, I mean to have a go at NaNoWriMo (novella in a month).
Thank you very much for asking, and thank you for this opportunity to chat about myself and my brainchildren.
Thank you, Rowena! You can learn more by visiting her website at www.rowenacherry.com