who's talking about her new book, Desire and Deception. Hi, Sharon.
Tell us about yourself. How long have you been writing? I have always been a story-teller. As a child, I got into a lot of trouble for "making things up." Now, I get rewarded for making things up. I love being able create heroes and heroines that people can relate to--even crazy cat ladies, as I did with Catastrophe, my first publication with The Wild Rose Press (WRP). I've been writing fiction since I was in middle school and have the rejection slips to prove it. In high school, I even submitted a script to "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." on yellow-lined paper in pencil. Not surprisingly, that was rejected, too. David McCallum, now playing "Ducky" on NCIS, used to play Illya Kuryakin on the "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." I had a major crush on him, part of the reason I wrote the script. LOL.
How did you get from an academic career to writing romance? After I graduated with a BA in Psychology and no job, I realized my dreams of working in the attic writing great prose would have to take a back seat to the simple pleasures of eating, drinking, and having a roof over my head. Fast forward a few decades, and I had a career path that would make all but the kindest say, "What were you thinking?" After working in health care delivery for years, I became a researcher, then an academic. I was a tenured full professor. I had it all-- a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son, and a wonderful job. But that itch to write (some call it obsession), kept beckoning me to "come on back" to writing fiction. After I published some short stories in horror and mystery, my friend, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, recommended I join the Maryland Romance Writers (MRW). I joined in 2005 and found friendship, support and the opportunity to develop as an author with MRW and the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Since romance has over a dozen sub-genres, I was able to turn my fascination with horror and mystery into paranormal romance and romantic suspense. I was home.
Who is your favorite author(s) and why? I’m an omnivore when it comes to books. I grew up reading Nancy Drew and everything by Heinlein and Bradbury--then I fell in love with King and Koontz. And, then Katherine Neville blew me out of the water with The Eight. I’ve read that book about eight times. Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth is one book I’d take with me on a desert island. I read John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire on a Chicago city bus, and laughed out loud so hard, the entire bus was staring at me. Oh and how could I forget Caleb Carr and the Alienist or Angel of Darkness? And Janet Evanovich and all her Stephanie Plum books. And Nora Roberts and JD Robb and Heather Graham and Linda Howard and Lisa Ruff and Kathy Love and Christie Kelly and Christi Barth and Joya Fields and Nalini Singh and Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krantz…and I should stop now. Why? Because I am curious about many things and about how stories can be told in different ways. If I lose the ability to be curious, I will know that my creativity is dying.
Tell us about your new book. Desire and Deception is the story of a driven woman who deceives her boss, her best friend, her lover -- and most of all herself in search of her desires. Isabel (Izzy) Ramirez and Sarah Wright-Rosen are newly appointed assistant professors working toward tenure in the same department. They bond over their desire for promotion and make a pact to help each other advance their careers.
Driven by voracious desires -- ambition and lust -- Izzy‘s house of cards is threatened when the department chair confronts her about her transgressions. Used to getting her own way, Izzy isn't about to let her boss expose her
deceptions. When Sarah fishes her department chair out of the Florida waters on her overdue honeymoon, she insists on initiating her own investigation -- despite her husband's objections, the possibility of career suicide, and her ticking biological clock. A trail of clues leads Sarah outside her dean's door -- and inside Izzy's home. Sarah is forced to choose between her husband, her friend, her career, and her integrity -- and it seems as if no one will come out a winner.
With Isabel and Sarah chattering at me the entire time, Desire and Deception is a story that practically wrote itself. I hope readers enjoy the story--and the sex!
Here's an excerpt from Desire and Deception:
The fall Florida sunshine guaranteed the waterways would be busy on a Saturday, but Fred, their fishing captain, found them a little out-of-the way cove in Charlotte Harbor for snook hunting. Beneath a dense canopy of green leaves hiding roosting pelicans, knobby roots turned into bent knees and elbows, almost as if the bushes crouched, hiding something below the shallow water. The silver fish preferred the cooler depths, despite the fact that the mangroves’ long gray roots stretched like talons reaching down into the tea colored water to grab them. Sarah smiled at the thought of the shrubbery catching fish and realized her imagination was running wild. Being on your honeymoon at the advanced age of thirty-one must have that effect.
She sighed, twisted the platinum and diamond wedding band on her finger, and snuck a glance at Dan’s six-foot-two, athletic build. How did she get so lucky? The strong line of his jaw hinted at his fortitude--and persistence. Chased by half a dozen women at Johns Hopkins, Dan’s focus on Sarah and getting her to say “Yes” had never wavered--except that one time when Mom was at her drunken worst. She shook her head. Let the bad times stay in the past. Enjoy the moment.
Dan’s forearm corded as he cast his fishing line. Brow furrowed under his lucky Ravens fishing cap, he aimed his baited hook under the waxy leaves.
After all this time, was Dan really hers?
He turned his head, raised his sunglasses, winked at her, and blew her a kiss. Her breath caught in her throat and a host of butterflies flapped around in her stomach.
Of course he was hers. They were on their honeymoon. What could possibly go wrong?
He shook a finger at her. “You better be thinking about something other than your job.”
She laughed out loud. “I am not thinking about work.”
“No, you obsess about it.”
“And you don’t about Randallstown Community Hosptial?”
He held the fishing pole with one hand like a jousting lance and cocked his head, considering her question. “As a vascular surgeon, I have to obsess over my work. The smallest of slip-ups can kill a patient.”
“My work saves lives, too. I don’t have the instant gratification--or risk--that you do. But, if I improve one kid’s life with my work, then it makes it all worthwhile.”
He nodded. “True. But no one dies if you don’t teach a class, go to a committee meeting, or publish a paper.”
“If I don’t make the third year tenure review cut, my career at BMU will die. And I can pretty much forget about going anywhere else in Baltimore or DC. I’ll be considered damaged goods.”
He frowned and flapped his hand at her. “Pffft. Not only is Bobbi your boss, she’s your friend. She put you on her five million dollar grant. With her in your corner, your tenure and promotion are a slam dunk.”
Easy for him to say.
“If I don’t get a paper published in the Journal of Child Abuse Prevention, I’m out on the curb.”
Sarah should have gone to see Bobbi when her boss texted her at end of the Women in Science Conference on Sanibel three days ago. But Bobbi knew they planned to go across the water to Punta Gorda for their honeymoon. Sarah chewed on her lower lip. Typical Bobbi. Waiting until the very last minute of the conference to say she needed to talk in private, away from the other attendees.
Sarah patted her pants pockets and realized in her rush to get out the door, she’d left her cell at home. The sun’s glare pierced the side of her shades and she closed her eyes. What did Bobbi text? “Investigating a faculty member. Need your help. Trust no one. Tell no one.” Though the air was hot and humid, Sarah shivered with an unexpected chill and crossed her arms to battle sudden goose bumps. Dan was right. She had to stop obsessing about work.
She opened her eyes and watched as two huge turkey vultures looped in eccentric circles and dove into the dense mangroves.
"Buzzards in paradise?" Sarah asked, not realizing she’d spoken aloud.
“Bet they’re after a wild pig that got stuck in the mangroves and died,” the fishing captain said.
“Don’t be surprised if we smell it soon.”
Sarah wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Yuck. How would a pig get in there? Can you walk across the mangrove roots?”
Captain Fred made a perfect cast, removed his cap to scratch his shining scalp, and considered the question. A retired firefighter, only his balding head didn’t boast a Florida fisherman’s permanent tan.
“Nah, it’s tough going. You’d fall through. I tried it once. Didn’t get very far. Banged up my knees pretty good, but pigs don’t know that.”
Dan hooked a mangrove branch and his bait fish dangled over the water.
Sarah teased, “Hey, Bushmaster, you trying to teach the snook to jump?”
“Captain Fred told me they can leap three feet in the air.” A flash of silver popped out of the water. “See?”
She poked his arm. “That’s mullet--not snook.”
“Ahh, bickering so soon?” The captain smiled. “You guys should be making love, not fighting.”
Sarah stifled a giggle, but Dan was less successful at controlling his laughter. Captain Fred blushed up to the tips of his ears.
Sarah still found it hard to believe their small wedding was a scant two months ago. A Labor Day perfect ceremony. They were lucky in so many ways. Perfect weather. And there were no drunken brawls, thanks to Bobbi sponsoring her Mom at AA.
“We don’t fight,” Dan said. “We have discussions.”
“Yeah. Loud ones.” Sarah laughed. “Followed by great make up--umm--sessions.” She began to reel in her line. Dan leaned over and gave her a salty kiss. Momentarily distracted by the touch of his tongue on her bottom lip, she was startled by a sudden heavy tug. She laughed and called out, “Here fishy, fishy, fishy.” She pulled hard on unyielding weight. “I think I caught a mangrove root.”
“Could be a nurse shark or a big manta ray. Keep the tip of your pole up,” Captain Fred yelled from the front of the twenty-two foot Ranger. “Slow down. Dip and reel.”
Twenty minutes later, her shoulders and arms ached, cork and metal rod slipped in her hands, and sun block-soaked sweat stung her eyes. She stopped for a moment, wiped her brow, and looked over her shoulder at Dan. “Want to reel for a while?”
“It’s not your fish if you don’t get it to the boat,” the Captain warned.
Right about then not a huge selling point in Sarah’s mind.
Grunting at the effort, she pulled back on the pole as hard as she could. Finally, her catch broke the surface of the water. Eyes still burning, she stepped back to pull it closer to the boat--and saw a bloated corpse in a neon orange bikini.
What is the appeal of writing romantic suspense? I blame Nancy Drew for my fascination with mystery and suspense. When I was a kid, I used to pretend to be Nancy Drew and led up my own investigations. For instance, in the “Case of the Chickens Who Didn’t Cross the Road,” our neighbors claimed their chickens remained on their side of the street. But, if that was true, then why was there a large nest with eggs in our empty dog house? After a week of intense dog house surveillance, I was able to say with absolute certainty that those chickens did, indeed, cross the road. And, to this day, the town of Windsor Locks, Connecticut is still stunned by the revelation that cows do eat clothes hanging on the line, jump fences and stand in the middle of the road. Again, it was my investigative work that cracked the “Case of the Wild Cow.” At age thirteen, I wanted to join the FBI, but they weren’t hiring women in those days.
What kind of writings turns you off? What stops you from writing? There is very little that turns me off, except dull, dry-as sand, passive voice writing. Having been trained to write this way in academia, it was an epiphany when I realized that I could infuse my textbooks with active voice and story-telling techniques to engage student readers.
Most of the time, I have writer’s logorrhea--too many ideas and not enough time. On occasion, I’ve had to stop working on a story to hit deadlines for other projects. That can be a good respite, as when I go back to review the story, I find issues with it and begin the revisions right away. On the rare occasion when I am stuck with where I should go next with a character or a plot, I will write the key questions down before I go to bed and let my dreaming self work on it. That’s been a very helpful technique.
How have you shocked your readers? It’s not uncommon for a reviewer to write: “I was surprised by this book. It was a complex story that kept me interested the whole way through.” Or, “I was pleasantly surprised to discover this story was a breakout from the others. The story keeps you on the edge of your seat and reading long into the night to finish the story.” I think what shocks some readers about my writing is that my stories are complex and layered, alternating some very dark material with hysterically funny moments. Isn’t that life, though? Up, down, laughing, crying--we’ve all been there. Life is not one flavor, just ask Forrest Gump.
How do you get your ideas? What is your writing day like? Regardless of sub-genre, readers will find that most of my stories revolve around journeys of discovery of one’s true self and how family and love fits into one’s identity. Real life incidents often form the core of my stories, around which I wrap a highly fictionalized beginning, middle and end. Other stories have popped into my mind when I’m exercising, doing housework or sleeping. With my frantic monkey brain turned off, my creative self bubbles to the surface.
I find my peak productive times for writing fiction right now are between the hours of 4 pm and 7 pm. My exercise is done, I’ve run my necessary errands, the dog and cats are fed and the house is quiet. And when it’s not quiet, I put in my ear buds and use my playlist for Desire and Obsession to move me into the writing space.
Can you share three writing tips?
1. Never grow up. Be curious about the world around you and wonder, “What if?” Grownups (i.e., anyone who is done growing) are boring. Childlike curiosity is not childish. It enables you to see the world with fresh eyes and to bring a new perspective to a story.
2. Seize the moment. Where ever you go, have a notepad or phone and jot or text your ideas to yourself. I used the notepad app in my phone and made a list of story ideas. When I looked at it 3 years later, I had written all those stories. Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe wheneverem.
3. Get rejected. Yes, get rejected. You will learn from those rejections what works and what doesn’t. I was rejected by 82 (no, that is not a typo) agents. That experience taught me to look at other avenues to publication. Paper your office with your rejections. Be persistent.
Fill in this blank: Your ideal fictional hero would think you gorgeous if I could lose 20 pounds. (They follow me like a faithful dog. LOL!)
How much do you love cake? I love cake so much that when I went on my honeymoon in 1976 (and I was 20 pounds lighter!), we went on a four day cruise of the Greek Islands. After our first dinner on the cruise, the waiter appeared with the dessert tray covered in different kinds of cake. I whispered to my husband, “I could eat two of those!” Apparently, it was a stage whisper, because after that everyone started giving me desserts in twos and threes! It became the joke of the cruise ship. Even the captain handed me a piece of cake!
Thanks, Sharon! Now bring on the Q and A.