by Anna Sugden
I’m delighted that one of my favourite Silhouette authors, RaeAnne Thayne, is able to join us today.
RaeAnne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her husband and three children. She has written more than thirty novels for Silhouette Special Edition, Silhouette Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense and Bantam Loveswept.
Her books have won numerous honors, including a RITA nomination from Romance Writers of America, the 2007 RIO award for best short contemporary from Reviewers International Organization, a career achievement award from Romantic Times Book Reviews for series romantic adventure and the RT Reviewers Choice award for best Silhouette Special Edition of 2006.
Check out her current series The Women Of Brambleberry House, published by Silhouette Special Edition. Set on the Oregon coast, in a beautiful rambling house overlooking the ocean, all three books feature a match-making ghost and a dog who’s so smart it’s spooky. The first book, The Daddy Makeover was a wonderful read - full of the rich characterisation and emotional depth RaeAnne is known for. Book 2, His Second-Chance Family is available in January.
For more information please check out RaeAnne’s website: http://www.xmission.com/~rthayne
Hi Anna and the rest of the Banditas! I’m thrilled to be here.
Can you tell us a bit more about what inspired you to write this wonderful series?
Two different things, actually. A few years ago, my family had the memorable experience of spending a week camping along the Oregon coast and I truly fell in love with this area. I’ve always lived in landlocked areas (Indiana and Utah. You can’t get much more landlocked!) and while I love my mountains, I’ve also truly come to love the ocean. Visiting the coast soothes my soul in ways I can’t really explain. I knew I wanted to set a series in Oregon but it took a little time for the idea to simmer in my head.
The other life experience that definitely came in handy when writing this series about two women who inherit a rambling old house on the ocean was the 15 years my husband and I spent trying to restore a 1904 Queen Anne Victorian. We built a new house two years ago that better meets our family needs but I still miss that graceful (but drafty!) old place.
Your previous series was for Silhouette’s Romantic Suspense line. How different was it to write ‘home and hearth’ books?
Actually, not different at all. Many of my books for IM/RS had that home-and-hearth feel with perhaps a little bit of danger sprinkled through the book. My books have always very much focused on the emotional journey the hero and heroine make toward each other. My SSEs may have a little gentler pace but that journey is still the same.
The third book in this series is connected to some of your Romantic Suspense books. Can you tell us which ones and how it is connected?
I’m pretty sure this is a universal experience with writers but I have to confess sometimes I create characters I expect to be kind of throwaway people and they end up having minds of their own, siblings, deep histories I have no idea about when I first use them as placeholders in other books. That happened when I created the character of Sheriff Daniel Galvez, who appeared briefly in my 2005 SIM, The Interpreter. I loved Daniel in that book and I wasn’t really surprised when he showed up again in High-Risk Affair, which came out in January '07 from SRS. Eventually I knew I had to write his story and Daniel became the hero of Shelter From the Storm, a June SRS.
And of course in the process of creating that book, I realized Daniel had several younger siblings –Ren, a sexy researcher in the wilds of Costa Rica who became the hero of my SRS, High-Stakes Honeymoon (August '07) and a younger sister Anna whom I sent away to live somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. When the idea for the Brambleberry series was percolating in my mind, I suddenly knew exactly where Anna Galvez was – living in a rambling Victorian on the northern Oregon coast! Anna will be appearing in her own book, the finale to the Brambleberry series, set to be released in August '08.
One of the things I love about your books is the emotional depth you give your characters. Have you got any tips on how to achieve this?
It’s not easy, especially with shrinking word counts. But that emotional intensity is what takes a book from good to truly memorable. Three of us - Deb Salonen, a fabulous writer for Harlequin Super, my editor at Silhouette and I - have actually pitched a workshop to National for San Francisco about punching up the emotion in your writing. I haven’t heard yet whether it’s been accepted. But just for the Banditas, here are a few of the areas we hope to cover if we do end up doing the workshop …
* Intense stories start with powerful characters.
* Ramp up the conflicts -- twist that knife hard!
* Don’t forget setting! Sometimes picking the right time of day, weather, or location for a scene is just as important to building the emotional intensity as the scene itself.
* Pace yourself and your characters. Think of a roller coaster ride in reverse, with several smaller hills and valleys leading up to a huge, stomach-clenching drop.
* Careful use of point-of-view can work wonders in times of great emotion. Showing the emotion through the other character’s POV often works better and gives the reader a little more space to breathe than showing it through the angsty character’s POV.
* See it, smell it, taste it: Use five senses to layer in emotion.
* Dialogue! When it comes to long sections of moody introspection, less is usually more.
* And finally, don’t be afraid to dig deep -- in your characters or yourself! Many writers are afraid to explore those emotions too deeply but you have to tap into your own deepest fears, worries, hopes, etc. in order to make your characters real and worthy of empathy from your readers.
As well as the final book in the Brambleberry series, you have a novella in the Mother’s Day anthology and a Silhouette continuity book. How do you manage to juggle the writing with three kids?!
It’s not easy, I’ll admit. Many days the only writing time I find all day is at night after everyone’s in bed. I often work from about 9 p.m. until 11 or so (and yes, there have been nights I’ve actually fallen asleep with my hands still on the keyboard!). My older two are in school so when the 4-year-old naps, I write. When he has a playdate with friends, I write. He goes to preschool two mornings a week and they’re sacred writing times!
I had four books out in 2007 and will have five out in 2008. Though I’m thrilled to have the work, I always seem to have a deadline looming. It can be very frustrating to block out that sacred time to write and then have unavoidable family stuff get in the way. But I try to remind myself when I’m gnashing my teeth and keeping my eye on the calendar that my husband and kids are the most important thing in my life right now.
My 4-year-old is only going to be at this magical age once when the whole world is spectacularly exciting to him. My 17-year-old daughter will be going off to college next year and when she actually wants to sit down and watch a chick flick with Mom, I can’t turn my back on those rare, ephemeral moments.
A couple of things help me cope:
1) The egg timer. I love these little things and buy them by the dozen at the dollar store! If I can get three thirty-minute segments of writing done throughout the day, I can usually write about six pages of rough draft. It also helps me stay on task by setting a time limit of ten minutes of email or web browsing before I sit down to work. When the timer goes off, I know it’s time to get down to business.
2) I try to make the rest of my life as efficient as possible to free up more time to write. I almost hate to write this because I’m still so scatterbrained most of the time but even one or two changes can make a huge difference. A few years ago I started doing freezer cooking (Once A Month Cooking) and I’ve been amazed at how much that simple thing helps the flow of my day, to know there’s always something in the freezer my family can have for dinner if I get too wrapped up in my characters to remember to shop that day.
With the holidays almost upon us, do you continue to write or do you abandon the writing until the festivities are done?
Wrong time to ask since I just had a party for 25 people at my house Saturday and I’m still recovering from it! I haven’t written a thing in a week. But I can’t abandon the writing entirely because I have a book due Jan 15. I try to get up a little bit earlier in the mornings and I use my old friend the egg timer. I’m lucky if I manage to squeeze out a couple of half-hour stretches of writing amidst baking and shopping and wrapping but that can still be 3 or 4 pages a day. Writing sprints can definitely pay off!
Do you have any special holiday traditions?
Lots of them! We love Christmas at our house and having kids around makes it all seem new and exciting all over again. We love taking outings to see lights, dropping secret presents at the neighbors’ houses, going to visit family and friends. Last year I read a great idea in a magazine to help kids countdown to Christmas – an Advent read-a-thon. Thanksgiving weekend, I wrapped up 24 of our Christmas books – everything from Jan Brett’s gorgeous Wild Christmas Reindeer to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Starting Dec. 1, my boys get to open one book a night and that’s our bedtime story that day. Part of the fun is trying to guess which book we’ll open that night.
We started a new one this year I’m sure we’ll do again. We live two hours away from most of my husband’s family but they all came up this year to our house for our annual Christmas party. We’re lucky enough to live in a fairly rural area and a neighbor and friend hitched up his big wagon and Clydesdales for us and took all 25 of us on a hayride. My husband’s aunt is 78 and said this was the first wagon ride she’d ever been on! It was a priceless memory.
Wow! Love the sound of those traditions - especially the Advent read-a-thon.
Christmas in the mountains of Utah must be beautiful. If you could spend Christmas anywhere else, where would it be?
Really, anywhere with family. That’s the important thing to me. The older I get, the more important these rare, transitory moments seem to me. I love nothing more than sitting down with my family playing games or watching a DVD or enjoying a great meal.
I can understand that - I feel the same. We never travel on Christmas, though anyone is welcome to visit us. Being with those you love is the best! But if I had to choose something totally different, I'd like to go to Lapland one year and see Santa!
Let's throw that question open to our visitors. If you could spend Christmas anywhere else, where would it be? RaeAnne has got some fab prizes - two lucky commenters will win a copy of both The Daddy Makeover and His Second-Chance Family!
And RaeAnne has a delicious recipe too! It's for her husband's famous:
Black Bean Dip
1 16-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed.
1/2 cup prepared salsa, hot or mild
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
In a food processor, combine black beans, salsa lime juice, cilantro, and cumin. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. Great with tortilla chips or as a topping for Mexican pizza!