Interview: R. Ann Siracusa

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. This week, I am thrilled to introduce to you R. Ann Siracusa, an architect turned romantic suspense author who met her husband at the Fountain of Love in Rome.  The romance author in me LOVES that she met her husband there.  Ann is incredibly entertaining, and I thoroughly enjoyed this interview.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Here’s the short―just give me the facts, ma’am―version. I grew up in southern California (my father was a lawyer and a State Senator), I have a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and I’m retired from a 37-year career as an architect/urban land use planner (which makes me older than dirt). I’ve been married to the same man for more than 48 years (an Italian policeman from Sicily whom I met at the Fountain of Love on my first day in Rome). We have three grown children and eight grandchildren. Now, I write humorous romantic suspense novels which are published by Breathless Press and have one Mafia thriller published. Ta da!

My two passions (after sex, of course―well, you wouldn’t expect me to lie about that, would you?) are traveling the world and writing fiction. I combine those loves into novels which transport readers to exotic settings and immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures…and make them laugh.

I live in San Diego, California with my husband (no pets anymore, but lots of gophers and wild rabbits, one which lives under the workbench in our garage) and write full time. I’ve been active in Romance Writers of America since 1985 and have served my local chapter in a variety of offices. My hobby is quilting and riding quads in the desert.

Tell us about your current release.

All For A Fist Full Of Ashes is the second novel in a romantic suspense series entitled Tour Director Extraordinaire. The lead characters are the same in each book, but the romance moves to a new level in each, while the external spy story is resolved.

● Meet Harriet Ruby, Tour Director Extraordinaire
She’s an intelligent, well-balanced but over-trusting young woman whose biggest problem is that she doesn’t have any real problems. For twenty-four years, her life has been good but predictable and ordinary. When she graduates from MIT, she wants a little out-of-the ordinary excitement before she settles down to career and family.

She takes a position as a tour director in Europe, but instead of being a trainee, she is responsible for a small group touring Spain and Morocco. All goes well until she and her group get lost in the medina in Tangier…and one of her tourists dies.

Will Talbot, a handsome stranger and Europol spy in disguise, offers to help her smuggle the body out of Morocco. At that moment, Harriet’s once-predictable life turns upside down and will never be the same again.

Little does she know that getting out of Morocco is only the beginning.

● Meet Will Talbot, Mysterious Spy
Tall, dark and to-die-for gorgeous, this Europol spy and ex-Special Forces contract operative for the US government has a troubled past, huge issues with trust and guilt, and a calling to rescue innocent victims.

He’s everything perfect on the outside that a principled spy should be–intelligent, intense, self-disciplined, creative and intuitive, and with a great sense of humor to boot–definitely larger than life. But vulnerable on the inside and out of touch with his emotions.

Nothing in his action-filled, dangerous existence could have prepared him for Harriet Ruby.

● Water And Fire
Harriet and Will’s intense magnetic attraction to each other creates a volatile combination. Together, they experience hilarious misadventures, great sex, and life-threatening journeys in pursuit of murderers, smugglers, terrorists, and a once-in-a-lifetime love.

● All For A Fist Full Of Ashes
In Book 2, Will and Harriet have been seeing each other for a year and have agreed to a no-strings attached, sexual relationship, but there’s no denying the feelings are far more than casual.

They come together on the job in Italy. Harriet is conducting a private tour of Italy for an Italian-American family (fourteen relatives, for three weeks, with four teenagers). What was she thinking? Will has one of the family members under surveillance as a suspect in an assassination plot. He convinces the family matriarch to let him travel with the tour.

The matriarch, searching for the unknown location of her mother’s grave so she can bury her brother’s cremated ashes (which have been smuggled into Italy wrapped in Cuban cigars), and her quirky family members sweep through Italy leaving chaos, hilarity, and danger in their wake.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write?

I’ve always liked to read and write stories, but I never considered writing as a profession.

I did a lot of non-fiction and professional writing in my career as an architect and urban planner, but I didn’t follow up on my interest in fiction writing until I was in my forties. I read a novel that everyone was raving about and said, “Oh, man. Even I can write better than this.” So I wrote a novel in about 8 months. It wasn’t better – learning the craft took a while – but I was on my way. I’d been writing seriously (in spite of my demanding family, a 60 hr+/week job, and a two-hour-each-way commute) for about ten years before I realized that fiction writing was my “calling.”

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write?

I’m about fifty-fifty. I wrote my mafia thriller with only a loose outline and ended up with 300,000 words. Cutting over 600 pages was like killing my children. Some of my favorite scenes and best writing had to go. I cried for 6 months, and then it took another year and a half to revise.

After that, I wrote from a tight plot outline until my experiment with writing humor in first person (All For A Dead Man’s Leg – Book 1 in the series). That started out with a general idea and not a clue what was going to happen. It worked, but I was so lucky.

Now, when I get an idea for a novel, I write several pages of back story, delving into the circumstances which lead up to the inciting incident (this is where I do initial research). Then, I think about what kind of characters would be involved and engaged by these circumstances. I rewrite the back story with those characters in it. Some of it is the characters’ backgrounds, but not like the character profiles some writers use. Pieces of the back story may show up in the actual novel, most of it doesn’t. It’s information I need to write the story, not the reader.

At that point, I prepare a one page outline that looks like a calendar – one box for each chapter, one sentence about what happens in each of the scenes in the chapter. Like a Story Board. Only the essential actions needed to move the story forward. “Joe kills Marcia.” I identify the plot points in the chapter boxes. Many authors use 3×5 cards instead, so the chapters/scenes can be rearranged at will to try out other ways to play out the story.

Things change after I start writing and working out the details, and sometimes they change enough that I have to change the story board. Most of the time, it’s figuring out how Joe is going to kill Marcia, killing her, and what happens when he does.

Preferred method of writing?

For the most part, I use a computer to write, but I learned early on that a writer should learn to write anywhere. That allows you to use even the smallest increments of time in a productive way.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’m not sure what I wanted to be as a small child, but by the time I was in the 6th grade I knew I wanted to be an architect. My biggest regret is that I didn’t realize until I was in my forties, that my calling was to write. I probably wouldn’t have changed my career path, but I would have joined writing groups, taken classes, and prepared myself for the time when I could write novels.

Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?

I have several novels and short stories coming out in the next six months.

* Halloween in the Catacombs – Short Story 2 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
A free read coming in October

* Destruction of the Great Wall – Book 3 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
Coming in November

* All In The Game
Sci Fi Romance – Coming in November

* First Christmas Follies – Short Story 3 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
A free read coming in late November

* All For Spilled Blood – Book 4 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
Coming in February 2013

All In The Game
I’ve always loved science fiction. This is my first Sci Fi Romance, so this coming release is exciting for me.

Shauna Evans, a romance author with problems maintaining relationships with men, promises to help a family friend of her literary agent write a video game to appeal to the women’s market. Shauna owes her agent, and it will only take a few days. She soon discovers that the friend, Donlyn Kennedy, isn’t the nerd she imagined. He’s a serious physicist and mathematician doing research for NASA, and the game is part of experiments he is conducting with new virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies.

When Shauna and Don test the game in a simulator, they are transported physically into the imaginary game world, far in the future in a distant galaxy, where they exist as lead characters in the video game. The only way back to their reality is to work cooperatively to win the game from the inside. A daunting task when they find themselves as leaders on opposite sides of a military conflict and an alien invasion.

Shauna must battle the personality of game character, Commander Shauna, with whom she shares a body and consciousness, to keep from losing her own identify and becoming absorbed into the game character.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

It’s hard to be succinct about this topic. There are so many things I’d like to share. Here’s a pared down list.

First, my advice would be “Run away from home!” Not very practical or even possible, but it’s the best thing a writer could do. In lieu of that, prepare yourself for the difficult task of juggling even more plates in the air than you already have. The important thing is to set aside the time to write and stick with it, in spite of your family and your job. Don’t allow interruptions, even if it’s only fifteen minutes a day.

Second, start now. Don’t put it off until the “right time” because that never comes.

Third, learn to write anywhere. Always have something with you and use whatever time is available to write.

Fourth, learn to “write by the rules” first. When you master them, then you can break the rules by making conscious choices. Bottom line: Most of us have to pay our dues.

Fifth, learn to take and use criticism, don’t get discouraged, and be persistent. But don’t take your advice from your best friend or Aunt Mary who loves to read or you English professor. They may, or may not, know what it takes to write and sell a novel. Go to experts and people in the industry for advice.

Sixth, prepare a career plan.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I don’t know that I can name a single author as my favorite because I admire so many. However, I aspire to write like a combination of Dick Francis, Katie MacAlister, and Janet Evanovich. (Don’t I wish!) Why? Because they’ve mastered the techniques, the writing is seamless, the humor is great, and their books take me to places I haven’t been and let me do things I haven’t done.

How did you deal with rejection letters?

I use them to wall paper my extra bathroom. Not really, but I’ve thought about it, along with weeping bitterly and threatening to give up writing forever.

Since I started writing, I’ve heard many agents and editors speak and have talked to many of them. I now realize that a rejection is often just being in the wrong time and/or in the wrong place, and not because the writing is terrible. Of course, terrible writing might also be the reason.

First, I never respond. If I do, it’s after a couple of weeks, and only to thank them for their time.

Second, I look for any hint about why it the manuscript was rejected. Most of the time, there isn’t much, but occasionally I’ve been able to glean some insights by studying the letters carefully.

Third, I keep the useful comments in mind and I forget the rest of it, and I go on to the next manuscript.

Find Ann online here:

Website:   http://www.rannsiracusa.com/blog

Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/R-Ann-Siracusa/140519942680667

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/AnnSiracusa
https://twitter.com/#!/rannsiracusa

Blog:    http://www.rannsiracusa.com/blog

Google Circles https://plus.google.com/105467292422978603982/posts

Good Reads  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2993012.R_Ann_Siracusa

RB4U Author Page:  Romance Books 4 Us Author Page

Amazon Author pg. Amazon Author page

 

 

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5 Responses to Interview: R. Ann Siracusa

  1. Mary Galusha says:

    Great interview. I can especially identify with Ann’s suggestion that writers have to learn to write anywhere. That is something I’m still tryintg to master.
    Also, not to respond to an editor or agent rejection immediately, but wait a couple weeks to do so and most importantly, keep writing.

  2. Of course, no one expects you to lie about loving sex!

  3. Ann’s books always take the reader on a trip and will never return home without gaining knowledge of the place visited. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling and even visited some of the same places as Ann’s book locations, and yet, the books give me added information about the country. Great interview.

  4. Mannouchka says:

    I really enjoy this interview to know more Ann and nice books
    Have a nice week-end
    Cheers

  5. Toni Noel says:

    You are one busy lady. All your advise is spot on. I wish I had read this when I was forty, or thirty, or twenty. There is so much for a writer to learn.

    Toni

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