I’ve learned that when I appear on various blogs as a guest, there are certain questions readers are curious about. Not just about me, but for writers in general. Why, for instance, are we writers? Here are my personal responses to some frequently asked questions.
Why do you write?
My mother was a member of the Texas Storytellers Association, and as a little girl I became fascinated with the rhythmic flow of words as I listened to her practice. I composed my first stories in school in the third grade. I remember writing very small, practicing my newly acquired skill of cursive writing on lined paper. I was hooked. At an early age I also became a voracious reader. Now you’ll find me juggling between two audio books and a print one almost every day. I feel it’s essential for writers to read, read, read, so I do it by ear, on my PC, Kindle or iPad. Does any of it rub off on me? I can only hope.
What do you write?
Although I’ve been published in non fiction and fiction, I consider myself a Romance writer. For the past eight years, I’ve concentrated on composing sexually explicit m/f and m/m romances. Time To Be King, my latest Amber Allure release, is an erotic m/m novella. My main man there is a shapeshifting knight-dragon prince. If you like stories about chivalry, knights, dragons, action, adventure, and lots of sex this is a story for you.
What advice would you give new writers?
Long before I was a winner of the 2004 Amber Heat Wave Contest and became an Amber Quill Press author, I got it in my head to write a novel. I was in a critique group of published writers, and was so ignorant about genres I didn’t even know my book was a Romance—someone in the group had to tell me. I sold it before becoming connected to AQP, but now I have the rights back and you’ll soon see it self published on Amazon under a different name.
It is incredibly tough to write a book, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing. I do not recommend it! My advice to beginners is to study the craft. University and community college classes are readily available. Had I known to do so, I would have joined Romance Writers of America—its chapters offer online classes—and Sisters in Crime long before I did. Treat yourself to a writers conference or two, sit in to be inspired by and ask questions of successful authors. Often you can pay to submit 20-50 pages of the opening of your book for critique by a published author. In the RWA chapter I attend, almost every month members can enter to win a free critique of the early pages of a book.
Do you write every day, and how do you schedule your writing time?
Even though I’m retired, there’s no structure to my writing day. I write when I can. If I have a publisher’s deadline, or have set one for myself, I take time to meet it. However, my husband and my family come first. If I’ve received edits on one manuscript, often the galleys on a previous one come into me just as I’m polishing the next manuscript to submit. It’s a stressful juggling act, so strict scheduling isn’t always possible.
Do you flesh out your characters before you write? Do you lay out your plot?
There are methods for accomplishing both of these before you begin, but Laurie R. King, of The Beekeeper’s Daughter fame, feels one of the joys of writing is watching your characters unfold as you write. I agree with her. I write novellas, which are under forty thousand words, and I don’t outline or plot.
Some authors say they hear their main characters demanding to be heard. I see and feel my characters first. I know my setting right away, but I never know all the characters or their conflicts until I set my main people in motion in that setting. Believe me, I’ve tried to flesh everything out before I start, but my characters and their story aren’t real to me until then. I’m a little like mystery author Denise Hamilton, who says inspiration for her story, plot and characters only begins when she sits down and starts to type. In contrast, the late Stephen Cannell would write a seventy-five page synopsis of a four hundred page book first. You learn to know what your process is.
How do you decide on your settings?
The setting has to fit my characters. I’ve written in many subgenres of romance, and my settings are usually California–where I’ve grown up (see yummy book cover designed by Trace Edward Zaber, below)–but they also include Italy’s Pompeii, Naples and Venice, Medieval England, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I’ve toured Great Britain–which includes southern Ireland, Wales and Scotland–but not Italy or the UAE. Obviously, my research has to be thorough to put my readers in the places I haven’t experienced. I use the library, literature from tour agents, the Internet, speaking with those in the know, and have even resorted to purchasing travel videos of a region.
Recently, I was pleased when an author who has been to Naples told me the setting to Night Train To Naples was exactly right.
My favorite coffee shop here in town is the setting for one of my earlier m/f contemporaries. Here again, I wrote a shapeshifter into the story before I knew what I was doing or the term for it. I just saw the story as having paranormal elements. Oddly, I was attending a Left Coast Crime Conference in Monterey, California, when the idea for the shifter came to me. I was in that city’s fantastic aquarium when the idea struck.
Are your characters modeled after anyone you know? Are you in your characters?
My characters are never modeled after people I know. They’re created out of bits and pieces of what I’ve learned about human nature, and knowledge obtained through science, nutrition, medicine, and love. They come from what I may have experienced through loss or physical pain, surviving earthquakes, high winds, floods and fires. But they are not me. They are purely fictional.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Writing became a part of Carolina Valdez’s life when she composed her first stories at the age of eight. She chose a career path in nursing, only realizing she was also a writer after she’d made her first sale.A member of the Published Author Network of Romance Writers of America (RWA-PAN), the award winning author is multi-published in fiction and non-fiction. Today she concentrates on sizzling, sexy tales in several Romance subgenres. Suspense crops up in some of her stories, no doubt the result of her affiliation with Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles.
Valdez has competed in over a hundred foot races, five of them marathons (26.2 miles). She lives in southern California with her husband.