Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Anne Hope

Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with Anne Hope, a fellow Samhain author who has some wonderful insights on breaking into the writing world and creating dynamic stories and characters.


Hi, Anne! First off, can you tell readers a little about your background?

My background is in marketing. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in business administration. I worked as an account executive in a marketing agency and as a product manager for Neutrogena. As much as I enjoy marketing, my first love will always be writing, and I’m thrilled to now have the opportunity to make a career out of it.

Hmm...Neutrogena, huh? Any way I can score some free samples? (just kidding) When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?
I officially started writing when I was eight years old, but I was spinning tales long before that. I was an only child for ten years and was pretty introverted. I entertained myself by creating characters and stories in my head. Now, I’ve become far more social, but I’m still making up stories. I guess some things never change!

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My debut novel and Golden Heart finalist, Where Dreams are Made, is now available from Samhain Publishing. It’s a deeply emotional Beauty and the Beast story with loads of sexual tension.

Daniel is a reclusive toymaker trying to atone for his sins. Jenny is a hunted woman, secretly hired to mend his heart. One magical Christmas, these two lonely people learn that love can heal the deepest scars, but it comes at a price. Even as Jenny struggles to hold on to the tenuous sanctuary she’s found, the world she’s desperate to escape refuses to release her. Someone from her past is watching. Someone who will do absolutely anything to own her. Even commit murder.

Congrats on publishing your first novel! How do you go about developing your characters?

The first thing I do is write the first chapter or two, which I subsequently end up completely rewriting. But it’s my way of getting the characters talking. Once I start hearing them, then I have a better idea who they are.

The next step is to fill out a GMC (goals, motivation and conflict) grid for the hero, the heroine, and the villain. This gives me a better understanding of where the book is heading and what plot devices I need to incorporate to challenge these characters and help them grow. It also points out my villain’s weaknesses, which the hero and heroine can use to defeat him or her throughout the course of the book.

Finally, I write a short blurb on backstory for each character. Backstory is a wonderful tool when used wisely. Unfortunately, I often feel compelled to tell the reader everything about the hero and heroine in the first chapter (that’s why I usually chuck the first twenty pages or so and start over). Writing out the backstory in a separate document helps me overcome this compulsion. It also allows me to integrate specific information in dialogue or introspection that increases the depth of the characters, motivates their actions, and enriches the story.
What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

First and foremost, learn your craft. Like with any career, there’s a learning curve. You never stop growing or improving, and there are always techniques you can glean from more experienced authors that will allow your work to shine.

Second, don’t give up! Believe in yourself and in your vision. This business is very subjective. Just because someone rejects your manuscript, it doesn’t mean the next person won’t love it. I firmly believe it’s all about perseverance. You only fail if you quit.

Third, don’t underestimate the importance of a strong high concept. Many editors and agents will request your manuscript based on a query letter. You need to be able to hook them with one or two paragraphs, and that’s very difficult to do without a compelling high concept. In many romance novels, the hook is the emotional growth of the characters and the development of the love story. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to convey in a couple of sentences. That’s where high concept comes in. If the premise is interesting and the conflict is powerful, you’re more likely to get a request.

Finally, always challenge yourself. Look at the market, at what’s selling, and ask yourself: how can I capitalize on that and still do something different? Trends are important. They tell us what the market wants. But by the time a trend is set, hundreds of books have been written in that particular style or genre. You want to aim for something different, while still giving readers what they’re looking for. That’s what will set you apart.

That's wonderful advice. But what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult part of writing is facing the blank page. Every time I sit down at my computer I wonder if I’ll be able to write, and not only write, but write in a witty, creative way that will keep readers turning the pages. It can be quite daunting at times, especially on days when I’m not feeling particularly witty or creative.

The greatest reward is when I type in the last word, then read the book with a fresh eye and think: “Hey, this isn’t half bad. Did I really write this?” Another incredible reward, which I have recently discovered, is getting an e-mail from a reader telling me how much they enjoyed my book.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Not very well, I’m afraid. I have two young children and finding time to write can be a challenge sometimes. Now that they’re both in school full time, it’s gotten a little easier. Still, writing isn’t a nine to five job. You write when the inspiration comes. You will often see me running to my computer to type in a couple of lines, then get back to whatever it is I was doing before my muse interrupted me.

Generally, I try to write when the kids are at school or after I’ve put them to bed. Of course, the laundry often sits in baskets for a few days and meals aren’t nearly as interesting as they used to be.

What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. I absolutely love that movie! Is there anyone Mr. Darcy couldn’t inspire? I think he may be behind every smoldering look I’ve ever written. That movie is a great example of chemistry and subtext. As much as the hero and heroine pretend to hate each other, the viewer can see the attraction sizzling between them. That’s what I strive to achieve in my books—a balance between conflict and blood-pounding chemistry...

Ah, yes, the allure of Mr. Darcy. I wonder how many romance novels he's inspired?? Readers, hop on over to Anne's website today to find out more about her latest book. And have a wonderful day!


Marianne Arkins said...

Anne, your book sounds great and WOW!! I love the cover!

Good luck :-)

The Blonde Duck said...

Wonderful interview! Anne sounds fabulous and her book sounds delightful!

Dayana said...

Great interview, Anne! I can certainly relate to things slipping through the cracks and not done with the care they once were *grin*


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