by KJ Howe
Reality television has infiltrated the literary world with the American Title competition—talented writers vie with each other to impress fans with excerpts from their novels and the author with the most votes conquers the literary island! Our very own Bandita, Trish Milburn, has made the top two with her paranormal romance, Out of Sight. Please visit http://www.romantictimes.com/news_amtitle3.php to vote or click on the American Title on the sidebar. Trish has had an unbelievable year, selling a traditional romance to Harlequin American and a Young Adult novel to Razorbill (Penguin). You may ask, “Who is this masked Bandita and how is she swashbuckling through the romance industry?” Let’s get Trish to answer a few of your questions!
KJ: First of all, congrats on making the top two of American Title. Your writing has obviously stood out as judges and voters alike are raving about your work. What do you like best about your hero and heroine in Out of Sight? And—give us the low-down on their faults. After all, the more interesting the faults, the more tantalizing the characters!
TM: Jenna, my heroine, has a special place in my heart because she’s tough and insists on being herself even when it might be easier to not be. Because of her special ability – she can make herself invisible – she’s recruited to work for a secret government agency. The catch? She doesn’t have a choice. If she doesn’t comply, her worst fears of becoming a government lab rat might come true. But she’s not going to just play Miss Meek Mouse. She balks on occasion, dictating her own terms even when the hero, Daniel, who is an agent for the secret agency, thinks she’s lost it and pushed his superiors too far. And even when she’s quaking inside despite her outward appearance. I guess this reason I admire her might also be seen as a fault because she finds it near impossible to trust anyone who works for the federal government, even when that person (like Daniel) might be on her side. Her distrust stems from the fact that her father once worked for the government in covert ops, but after he went missing the government refused to admit he’d ever worked for them.
As for Daniel, he’s sexy, is a fun mixture of serious about his job and a teasing smart aleck. He’s the perfect match for Jenna, even though she’d rather eat live worms than admit it. Perhaps his biggest fault is not questioning the why behind his own ability and the agency’s mission more.
KJ: You wrote 17 manuscripts and finaled 8 times in the Golden Heart (winning twice!) before selling. During that time, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned about the publishing industry?
TM: That you just have to keep at it. Perseverance is key to achieving that dream of publishing. After so many years of going to workshops, reading craft books, learning about the industry, and trying to improve my work with each new manuscript and each set of revisions, it was hard to keep going after so many “no, thank you” rejections. But we’ve probably all thought about quitting at some point. The thing is to not allow yourself to act on that thought if you really, really want to see your books on store shelves. It’s like athletes who fight through pain and injury for their one chance at the Olympics. Eventually, you will find the right editor at the right time with the right project.
KJ: Given that you write Young Adult, Traditional Romance, Paranormal Romance, and Romantic Suspense, what rituals do you have before sitting down to write to get those different voices down? Do you listen to different music, dress in unique clothes? Please give us the scoop.
TM: Honestly, I tend to watch TV shows or movies in the same genre to get the mood and feel. I have always loved TV and movies; I connect with them and the stories they present. They seep into my subconscious and put me in the right mood. For instance, if I’m getting ready to write YA, I’ll watch shows like Gossip Girl or Smallville or movies like 10 Things I Hate About You or The Prince and Me. That gets me to thinking “teen.” Same thing for the other sub-genres.
KJ: A Firefighter in the Family will be coming out September 2008. Your first Harlequin American. What is it about this line that appeals to you?
TM: I enjoy so many different sub-genres of romance that mix in other elements with the romance, but it’s nice to have a place to present stories that are just pure romance. A Firefighter in the Family has a bit of a mystery going on, but it’s dialed way back from some of my grittier romantic suspense manuscripts. Nobody is finding dead bodies in the woods. :-)
KJ: Adventure is as passion of mine as is nature—and you have combined those two in your YA novel Heartbreak River that comes out in Spring 2009. Can you tell us a little about your rafting experiences? I had the opportunity to raft in Pennsylvania and can’t wait to tackle it again!
TM: LOL! This is where my ability to research comes in rather than real-world experience. In reality, I’d be scared to death of getting in a raft and getting anywhere near whitewater. That’s actually good because I tapped into that fear for part of the story. Part of my fear comes from the fact that I can’t swim (Trish’s embarrassing admission of the day); part comes from the fact that I’m just a wienie. That’s why I like to write about tough gals who can take on anything physically. They can do things that I doubt I ever will. But while my idea of adventure is driving cross-country by myself (I have no problem doing that), I do love nature and being outdoors. Actually, I have this dream of through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, but that is not my dear hubby’s idea of a good time. :-) Heartbreak River is set in Colorado, and I drew inspiration during the writing of the book by simply looking out the window of the Amtrak train I was taking from my home in Tennessee to California. It was so cool to write about the river and rafting as the train meandered along the Colorado River.
KJ: I heard y’all from Nashville, the site for RWA’s National conference for 2010. Planning ahead is always fun. Can you give us a list of must-see sights when we venture into the land of country music?
TM: Of course, if you like country music, the Grand Ole Opry is a must-attend show, and it’s conveniently located next door to the Opryland Hotel where the conference is being held. You can also do one of those bus tours where they take you around to see the country music stars’ homes. A few years ago, they opened up the brand new Country Music Hall of Fame downtown, which replaced an older museum that was on Music Row, which is where a lot of the country music-related businesses are based.
For me, however, I love the historic homes and buildings in Nashville. Belle Meade is a plantation which has a thoroughbred horse raising history. Kentucky Derby winners such as Secretariat and Barbarro have bloodlines stretching back to when Belle Meade was active in the horse business. Historic Carnton Plantation was used as a field hospital during the bloody Battle of Franklin during the Civil War. One of my favorite places here is The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson. A truly unique place to visit in Nashville is The Parthenon, the centerpiece of our Centennial Park. It is the only reproduction of Greece’s Parthenon in the world. Built in 1897 for the state’s Centennial Exposition, The Parthenon also houses a 42-foot statue of Athena and a city art museum. There’s a lot more to see, so you might want to take time to visit the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau site before arriving in Music City USA.
KJ: Thanks for joining us today, Trish, and best of luck in the finals of American Title. If you would like to learn more about our intrepid finalist, visit http://www.trishmilburn.com/ where you will have a chance to win free books!
TM: Thanks, KJ! It was a fun interview. And thanks for all the support given to me by my fellow Banditas and all of you fabulous people out there in Banditaland. :-)