Romancing the Holidays – Volume 2
Author Q & A
Karen Renee – Holiday Fixation (An O-Town Short Story)
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? I chose New Year’s Eve because it’s a time of reflection and preparing for new beginnings. Not to mention, Alex is determined for Deanne to try a new beginning with him.
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? I read a news story about a married man in Texas who was leading three lives [engaged to two other women]. It was one of those stories where fact was definitely stranger than fiction. He was proposing to women after two or three dates! I struggled to wrap my mind around it, and I knew that was a situation Deanne had dodged. Or so she thought.
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I don’t have a process for creating my characters. They typically come to me, and it’s a matter of them revealing themselves. If they’re being coy, I might interview them or introduce them to spunkier characters who will draw them out of their shell, but I don’t create them so much as they show up in my mind.
Deanne first appears in two of my other books in a very ancillary capacity since she’s the administrative assistant at a private investigation firm. I didn’t know much about her at the time of those books, other than her being a hard worker and a computer whiz of sorts. By the end of Abrupt Changes, she hinted to me that she had a story to be told.
As for Alex, I knew he had worked at Otero-Silva Investigations years prior to Deanne working there, but he left the firm to get his law degree. He lives to needle Deanne, and when he finds out she’s in trouble, he finally gets serious about exploring things with her.
Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Clint Ramsey, one of the investigators Deanne works with, plays a part in the story coming to life. He knows Deanne has a problem and forces her to confront it. He also tries to keep Alex away from her since Alex and Deanne don’t get along.
Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser? How does that help you create? I’m a complete pantser. It helps me because it gives me (and my characters) the freedom to figure out the story as we go.
Vickey Wollan – The Secret Santa Surprise
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? There are so many cute details surrounding Christmas celebrations. They help me to create entertaining plots.
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? I wanted to try to write in the young adult genre and needing thirty hours of community service to qualify for Florida’s Bright Futures college scholarship was the fact that got me started.
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I wanted Yvette and Brad to be in opposing high school clicks so I could utilize the enemies to first date trope. The I used the professor archetype for Brad and the boss archetype for Yvette. Then I added personal quirks and wounds to create their motivation.
Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Absolutely, Big Red, the football captain with red hair, helps to create the conflict and provide backstory so the reader understands the relevance of the conflict.
Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster? How does that help you create? I’m definitely a plotter. But while I’m bringing what I put in an outline to life the pantster in me come alive as well.
P.K. Brent – True Love Found
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? Valentine’s Day is my birthday! I also have a heart-shaped birthmark.
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? My first job, at age 16, was in an Italian bakery, so I know a lot about bakeries. I write paranormals and wanted extra sweet characters for romance anthology stories, thus fairies are the best choice. My 2020 anthology story featured a fairy, so I continue with fairies. Down the road I will feature a brownie. These are very shy paranormal characters who sneakily live in a home and do cleaning and repairs but do not want to be seen.
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I have no idea!
Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Yes! I plan to write every FCRW anthology story in this same world, each one featuring a 2ndary character from my current 2021 anthology story. My next story will feature my wealthy fairy woman, Faye, going broke and making it alone in the human world without her wealth and only her friends for support. She will rent the vacant apartment mentioned in my current story (in Marielle’s double house where Aunt Nina used to live).
Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster? How does that help you create? I am a pantster. Sob! I try to be a plotter but I am doomed to be a pantster. The plus side is my stories are extra creative and a little unusual. But I suffer! Due to spontaneity and lack of planning, I always have things to fix.
Maggie FitzRoy – Christmas Peril, Christmas Promise
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? Christmas is for me the most romantic holiday of the year. It’s all about love.
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? I write historical romance (American) and am now writing historical romantic suspense. So I needed a story that included love, danger, and Christmas. That takes place in the past. At a romantic location with snow. I live in Florida, so the ultimate Christmas romance for me includes snow. Christmas Peril, Christmas Promise takes place in December 1954 at a rural lodge in Maine.
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? My hero is a private investigator, since my story is romantic suspense. And my heroine is a strong-willed heiress who realizes the man of her dreams is not who he seems, which puts her in danger.
Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Yes. The sister of my hero is a secondary character in this story, and she will be the heroine of a series I am planning to begin writing soon.
Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser? How does that help you create? I am a plotter. I create the plot and characters and a few-sentence working outline for each scene, so I know where I’m going as I write. It’s like laying out a map and deciding the key places I want to visit before reaching my destination. Then, once I actually start traveling, I learn a lot more about each place when I get to it, and am open to exploring it more, or veering off to somewhere else nearby that I hadn’t even known existed. So plotting for me allows me to relax when I write, because I know where I’m ultimately going—and how I’ll get there. With a lot of discovery and creative options along the way.
Melody Johnson – Fated by Fire
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? Fated by Fire is the third short story in my Witchy Business series, each romance occurring on Halloween night. This installment features two main characters: Jenavieve St. Clair, a young witch whose unnervingly accurate visions consistently cast Marcus Kyle as the harbinger of death and destruction, and Marcus, a powerful warlock of a rival coven. When Marcus stops to assist a stranded driver change a flat tire, the last person he expects to face is Jenavieve. Crossing paths with her is unsettling, but perhaps fate has intervened on his behalf, granting him the opportunity to prove to her that he’s just a man, not the monster that her visions predict him to be. What better holiday than Halloween to stage this magical, fated romance?
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? As my backlog of novels can attest, I’m a huge paranormal and sci-fi romance fan. My Night Blood series features vampires, my Love Beyond series features aliens, and the reason I’m so drawn to the genre besides the obvious—danger, action, and adventure—is the world building. I love taking a beloved genre and putting my spin on it with my rules in a world of my creation. For a while now, I’ve been drawn to shows like Charmed and American Horror Story (I’m a huge TV and movie buff in addition to being a book worm!), and gothic romance is a genre adjacent to my paranormal alley. So inspired, I decided to create my own witchy series.
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? When I develop my main characters, the hero and heroine in particular, I always do so as a pair, so that I can mirror, balance and create conflict in their personalities and backstories. For Jen and Marcus in particular, I really wanted to explore the ideas of fate vs. freewill and the inaccuracy of first impressions. Jen met Marcus years ago in her visions, but never in person. In her mind’s eye, she sees him as a monster in a parody of Carrie, wearing the blood of his slaughtered witches and warlocks with trembling glee. But the adorable man who stops to assist her change a flat fire is the antithesis of what she expects. Likewise, Marcus is unnerved by Jen’s visions long before ever meeting her in person. Despite her predictions of doom and gloom, Marcus has no intension of hurting anyone. Their false preconceptions of one another allowed me as an author to really up the ante on their “enemies to lovers” romance.
Question 4: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser? How does that help you create? I’m a pantser who forces herself to plot. I’ve made the mistake of pantsing my way through an entire book, and the end result was not a pretty sight. In order to get from point A to a logical point B, I need to know what point B actually is, but how my characters get to that destination is typically discovered as I write it. Specifically, for Fated by Fire, I knew that Jen and Marcus would know of one another before physically meeting and that their forced proximity would spark feelings of fear and resentment. I knew that Marcus would be motivated to prove Jen wrong, and that Jen would need a powerful motivation, like a new vision of Marcus killing people at a Halloween party, to keep her glued to his side. However, I didn’t know how her vision would resolve in reality until I wrote the story and discovered the ending for myself.
Question 5: How was this story different compared to what you typically write? Paranormal romance is my go-to genre, but usually, I write full-length novels. Writing my Witchy Business short stories is both fun and challenging. Fun because writing them is a bit like a naughty affair, taking a break from the project I’m currently working on to return to a world I’m already in love with, but challenging because I have to develop a relationship, motivation, and high stakes, and find a satisfying resolution, in only thirty pages. In this limited space, no action or word can go wasted. Everything, from character description and their banter to setting and action, needs to drive the plot to its conclusion. Compared to the long-distance pace of writing a novel, writing short stories has the intensity of a sprint. It’s exhilarating, and I’m actually planning to use what I learned from this experience to infuse my full-length novels with a similar intensity.
Abigail Sharpe – New Year’s Ex-pectations
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? The new year is a time of resolutions and new beginnings, of hope and of promise. A second chance romance seemed the perfect fit!
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? Molly is the sister to Riley, the hero of Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy. She spent so much time trying to find love for him and put herself on pause because of a painful divorce. I always wanted a happy ending for her, and there could be no other hero for her other than the love of her life.
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? Molly was easy, since she had been around for a few years. Dustin was harder, and it took me a few iterations to get him right. I wrote until I found what worked for them.
Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Molly herself! She’s a good sister, a good mother figure to her younger siblings, and had so much to give. I couldn’t leave her hanging there, waiting and waiting. This anthology gave me a great opportunity to get her ex-husband into gear.
Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster? I need to know a few things about my characters before I get started, beyond eye color and where they grew up. The two most important ones are the goal they have for the story (beyond falling in love) and what happened to them when they were younger that colors the way they see the world. Other than that, I just write.
Barbara Whitaker – Thanks for the Doughnuts
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? Thanksgiving evokes thoughts of family gathered around the table for a feast, but for a soldier on the front in 1944, who’d been living on K Rations, it was a lonely time. A visit from a Red Cross Clubmobile, especially during holidays, lifted their spirits.
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? A dear friend told me once that when she met her husband, she didn’t like him at first. She said she couldn’t stand him until she fell in love with him. I thought it would make an interesting beginning to a love story.
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I read accounts of the women who manned the Red Cross Clubmobiles. Their strong personalities and determination to support the troops helped to create Faye, Marie and Delores. As for Cliff, I’ve read so much about the WWII soldiers and listened to their oral histories that it wasn’t hard to come up with a soldier for the story.
Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? The other two Red Cross girls, Marie and Delores, added a lot to the story.
Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster? I’m a little of both. I like to lay out the story all the way through, but not in a formal outline. Then I kind of “pants” my way through the scenes. It is a little messy and requires revisions but it works for me.
Laura Salas – Love on Calle Ocho
Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? I chose Three Kings Day because I wanted to bring to light what I felt was an obscure holiday in the US. When I was growing up in Venezuela, school didn’t resume from Christmas break until after January 6 in observance of Three Kings Day. I was surprised to find out that school resumes in the US right after New Year’s Day.
Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? Love. I wanted a strong hero who would win and melt the heart of a wounded heroine. Of course, in the end they helped each other out, but isn’t that how love works?
Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? Their faces and their key personality traits came to me first. After those initial basic character sketches, I used Nina Harrington’s How to Plot Romance Fiction to work on their fears and wounds and on the romance story itself.
Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? I’d say tío Gonzalo. His fun nature brought spice into the story.
Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster? I am both. I must have the beginning, middle and end figured out, as well as the main characters, but everything else will come as I type.