Friday, May 15, 2009

Author Rona Sharon ~ Interviewed

Rona Sharon is the author of critically acclaimed historical novels of intrigue, passion, and danger. Her latest, ROYAL BLOOD, is a tale of lust and violence in the treacherous Tudor Court. From her home on the Mediterranean Coast in Tel Aviv, surrounded by thousands of years of history, Rona brings her passion for culture and travel to her writing and never fails to deliver a story that carries a punch… and a d
agger. For more information, please visit here. Or watch the trailer.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

Hello Novel Journey readers! Thanks for inviting me over.

My current project is about the notorious icons of the Italian Renaissance: Cesare Borgia, the legendary Valentino, bastard son of Pope Alexander VI, who put off the cardinal hat to pursue his dangerous ambition; and Fiammetta Michaelis, t
he lowborn enchantress, who used her courage and wits to become Rome’s grandest courtesan and Valentino’s lover and confidante.

They were brilliant and terrifying meteorites, the greatest dissemblers Rome had ever seen – coldblooded chess-players, creatures of intense passions, baffling in their inner contradictions, and driven by all-consuming desires to which all else was subordinate.

Their formidable exploits, conquests, ribald banquets, and light-fast acts of brutality inspired Machiavelli’s treatise THE PRINCE, considered to this day the cornerstone of political science.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

My path was more of a climb than a winding path. I was very serious about becoming a published author. I read everything I could about the historical fiction genre and the publishing industry while working on my first manuscript. The lowlights were the rejection letters I got for submitting a manuscript that wasn’t “ready.” I channeled my frustration into tightening the plot and improving my technique. My highlight came at a writers’ conference, where I found a savvy agent who got me a two-book contract within weeks. I see my tough journey to publication as a necessary, educational experience that gave me the tools to succeed as an author.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

I do experience self-doubts, blocks, angst, and head-banging against (in my case) the keyboard. I think all writers do. Those who don’t may lose their edge. The trick is to harness all of that intense torment into creating something that is bigger than life and better than your last work.

Fiction is all about emotions. Who wants to read about happy-go-lucky people who live rosy lives, untouched by misery? I suffer, my characters suffer; I’m close to the end, my characters prevail and triumph. As for writers block, I have the perfect remedy: I read, mostly research material but also fiction (preferably something relevant to my work) to stir the creative juices.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

A wise person told me that one learns nothing from success and everything from mistakes. I made mistakes (my first query letters were awful), but I learned from them. Some processes you can’t cut short. It takes tons of hard work, some talent, and a tiny spark of luck to get there.

The one thing I wish I had acted upon was an advice given to me by an editor who rejected my manuscript. She told me to put it aside and write another, that the second could sell the first.

The really hard part begins when an unpublished writer becomes a working novelist. Writing under pressure with a deadline hanging over your head is no fun. Knowing what I do now, I wish I had a couple of put aside manuscripts I could dust off, edit, and send to my editor.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

Books, movies, traveling, anything may spark an idea. Stories pop in my head all the time. Regrettably I can only commit to one story at a time, and it takes months to write a book.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

The only awkward moment I can think of happened to my brother. When my first book MY WICKED PIRATE (a pure romance with a hot guy on the cover) came out, I sent him to take a picture of the book displayed on a shelf in Barnes & Noble. I was outside the US or I would have run to the bookstore myself. My brother, a serious young man, felt a little embarrassed asking the sales person where he might find the romance book, so he said, “It’s not for me. My sister wrote the book.” And the sales person smirked and said, “Yeah, right. I get that all the time.”

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

I would tell her to worry less about what people say and follow her gut instincts—because they are always on the spot. But more importantly, I wish the “ten-years-ahead more experienced me” would offer me advice. Could this be arranged maybe? I have a list of questions to ask her.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

This may sound odd, but the thing that changed me the most – and continues to change me – as a writer is the last book I write. I begin a book with a certain set of writing skills and wanting to explore a certain idea. While writing the book, my writing skills improve, and when I’m done, the conflicts of the characters are resolved, and new conflicts start to plague me.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

The piece of writing I am most proud of is ROYAL BLOOD, which was released this month and is currently available at bookstores. It was an enormous challenge due to the tremendous amount of research involved. I love the Tudor era and wanted to recapture it the best I could. In doing so, I passed a lot of STOP signs, broke out of the mold of historical romance, inserted ferocious and very Tudor-ish vampires, and strayed deeply into the historical fiction genre.

My heroine, Renée de Valois, would get voted off the island of pure romance books. She is edgy, shrewd, determined, and doesn’t apologize for it. The hero, Michael, is the villain who is not a villain. His character amazed me as I wrote him. Then there is the colorful cast of historical characters such as King Henry, Cardinal Wolsey, the dukes of Buckingham and Norfolk, Queen Katherine’s ladies, each with his or her own voice and agenda. As for scenes, I took a gamble and ventured deep into male territory, with bloody tournaments, backstabbing moments in the Privy Council, midnight escapades in the bawdy stews, the prison chambers in the Tower of London. Every detail – the people, the practices, the places, the speech, the descriptions – was meticulously researched. I really think readers will appreciate and enjoy the book.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

1. I hate writing synopses. I have become adept at writing them, and I admit the synopsis is a helpful tool, but I still hate it.

2. I hate deadlines. I accomplish my best work under pressure but I hate the stress involved.

This is why I said that the hard part in becoming a published author is to actually work as a fulltime novelist with back-to-back contracts for future books.

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

My biggest dream as a writer is to create a classic story, like THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO or THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas, père. Dumas was a genius. To this day novelists and screenwriters are doing spin-offs of his original, brilliant plotlines.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

When a super difficult scene suddenly happens, and everything falls into place like magic – the dialogue, the action, and the period details working together seamlessly. This is what the professionals in the industry call “a moment.” The hardest scenes usually become my favorite.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

I have traveled extensively around the world and seen lots of places, different cultures, and this opened my mind to possibilities. I served in the army during Desert Storm, had close friends who were combat soldiers, and knew what it meant to be at war. I’ve lost family members, people whom I loved most in the world, and knew the deepest grief. I have suffered for love and rejoiced in love, and had thrilling adventures in the most unexpected places. And I’m constantly evolving, as life presents me with new challenges, sorrows, and beautiful gifts.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Brevity. The first draft of my first manuscript had 820 pages, when the average book in this genre is 420. I had to cut the book in half and didn’t want to lose important twists in the story. So I had to step up the pace of the narration. Ultimately I reduced the page count to 430 and managed to keep the story intact. Since then, I write fast-paced plots. I have no patience for s-l-o-w stories. Ironically, my editor keeps raising the page count with every contract.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I think about it a lot. I play the “what if…” game with scenes and characters inside my head. I only sit down to actually type the words when I have complete scenes playing before my eyes.

Sometimes, thinking about a story gives birth to a completely different tale. For example, years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a story set in Paris, about Napoleon’s spirited hussars. At some point, the story spiraled elsewhere, and I began to think, “Phantom of the Opera meets Jane Austen.” The result was ONCE A RAKE, my second novel, a Regency love story.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

My writing day begins with a coffee mug at my desk. I’m still not fully awake yet (it takes me hours to jump start my brain.) I collect the “sudden ideas” sticky-pads scattered around my house and copy them into my notebook. I pass the morning editing last night’s chapter and am always rolling my eyes at my outlandish late-night writing. However, it is not until dark that the magic starts to happen. Basically, there are two Ronas writing each book – the cool-headed one who carefully edits in the morning, and the wild artist who paints fantastic new scenes at night.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

A combination: I plot the skeleton but the sinew is seat of pants, which sometimes changes the outcome of what I had planned. For instance, in ROYAL BLOOD, I had a firm idea of the Earl of Tyrone’s character at the beginning, but then he surprised me and changed the book’s ending.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

The research! Historical fiction writers are certifiable masochists. I can’t plot a story before I devote months (or years) to studying the period. I can’t begin a scene before I know everything about the setting. I can’t write a single word before I triple-check it. And there is no way around it. I have to do the homework or nothing will happen.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

I have never entered my books in a contest or submitted them to a panel, but I have received the most heart-warming letters from readers from all over the world who wrote to say that my book inspired them to become writers, or brightened their lives during a difficult patch, or took them to places they could never physically visit. This is why I write. This my sweetest reward.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

Book trailers are an awesome promotional tool. A picture is worth a thousand words, and action is worth much more. Check out my video for ROYAL BLOOD on my website and tell me what you think.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

I would like to thank you for inviting me over. I had a great time. I am in awe over the amount of interesting articles you offer readers on the Novel Journey. Also, I would like to invite you to visit my brand new and improved website. There are exciting features, including videos, excerpts, and a contest that offers a fantastic box of goodies to the winner.


Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Rona. I love your writing nook!

Sheila Deeth said...

Great interview. Thanks. I loved the story about your brother. And Royal Blood sounds fascinating.

Ane Mulligan said...

Kelly, you find the most interesting people to interview! Thanks for sharing, Rona. And what a fascinating character to write about! I laughed about your poor brother. Too funny. :D

Rona said...

Hi Kelly, Sheila, Ane,

You are very kind. It is a pleasure to e-meet you.

I'm excited to be featured on the Novel Journey. I'm working my way through the articles and am amazed at the wealth of interviews posted here. I'm very proud to join this group.

This is a wonderful database for new authors. The information offered here can really cut corners.

As for my brother... that episode with the sales person was just the beginning. As soon as his male colleagues at the office found out that his sister wrote romance novels, they got all the books and read the steamy parts aloud! My poor brother. They got a blush or two out of him... and sent the girls at the office rushing to the bookstore to get the books!

Don't think that my brother doesn't read my books. He is a proud fan. How lucky am I?! :-)

Thanks for having me over.

hugs & blessings,


Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for the compliments, Rona. Your additional comments about your brother are hilarious. I hope you give him great Christmas and birthday gifts. : )