Interview with Rowena Cherry

 

Give us the 411 on yourself. You know, the basic information minus address and phone number.

 

 

At the time of this interview, I’m just back from a long drive (from Michigan to Houston and back). When playing I Spy palled, I listened to a couple of remarkable audio books. One was Clive Cussler’s “Dragon” –which wasn’t about dragons– and the other was a novel-length essay about modern espionage.

The latter included a definition of “eavesdropping” which I’d not heard before. Very approximately it was: “people who listen under windows and behind doors, for the purpose of making mischief.”

I was interested because I’ve frequently –perhaps ignorantly– described myself as a lurker, an eavesdropper, and a fact-magpie. I don’t set out to make mischief, and I never betray my sources. I collect rare insights to make my stories more convincing and more interesting.

I’ve watched carefully as Las Vegas magicians made an elephant disappear, but had to send men with brooms and buckets to make an unplanned-for elephantine bowel movement vanish from the stage. I’ve examined Henry VIII’s armour, with particular attention to the submarine-sandwich sized capsule that protected his wedding tackle. In fact, I made a minor plot point of it in FORCED MATE.

My travels have taken me from the English Shires (Warwickshire), to the mystic and fog-wreathed Channel Islands, to Cambridge University (Cambridgeshire), to Dorset, to Andalucia in Spain for a couple of summers in a Spanish castle folly near Marbella and the Puerto Jose Banus, to Harpenden in Herfordshire (where I got married), to Koenigstein im Taunus, to Detroit… with excursions along the way to the Royal Henley Regatta in company with Olympic oarsmen, to Goodwood for the Festival of Speed and for the Revival, to the corporate pace cars at the Indy 500, to the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance, and elsewhere.

The places I’ve been, the things I’ve done, and the people I’ve met are fabulous inspiration for my alien romances about gods and royals from outer space. I get a kick out of weaving uncommon knowledge into my books … such as deviant frog mating behaviors, lion taming tips, fair-use quotes from Machiavelli, and military uses for urine on the battlefield. Not all of it survives the editing!

This may sound pretentious: I set out to write a book that is like an onion, not because it stinks or because it makes you cry (blame my stiff, Brit, upper lip — I loathe books that make me cry!), but for the layers I like to build up, so that if you were to read one of my books a second time, you might see something cool that you hadn’t noticed the first time.

As for the gross anatomy of a hero, being a minor Historian, I had qualms about endowing superhuman (or super-villain) sexual prowess and dimensions on real historical figures. I have no such reservations about Darth Vader types, whether they hide out on Earth or prowl the galaxies in very large and sinister spaceships!

My editor describes what I write as Futuristic Romance. I prefer to think of my subgenre as Science Fiction Romance (because it is not set in the “Future”).

How long have you been a word ho for publishing pimps? (Er, a writer?)

 

Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, was once pleased to call me a cow… in a kind and witty reference to where I lived at the time. I’ve been called a Hoot, a Horror, and a Joy. I dare say I have been called many things by many people, but I have never considered literary or semantic prostitution …. unless you count writing about “sexual favors” instead of “sexual favours”. I don’t “do” quickies (in the sense of writing fast-reads). I don’t write for the money.

I’m too anal…

…about finding the right simile or metaphor, the “mot juste”, about getting the research right. All that
deep thought and useful “stuff” takes time.

If I’m going to write in the point of view of an elegant, sword-fighting hero, then I want to find someone who can tell me what it feels like to stab someone (legally, of course). If I plan to throw a heroine over a saddlebow, I need to know what that feels –and smells– like. I’ll try shaving my legs with the proverbial razor shell to see if a seashell makes an acceptable accessory for the desert island beauty routine. It doesn’t, by the way. The unsightly hairs look worse when they push up under, and through, scabs.

I accepted my first publishing contract in 2003. I pleased myself (and, occasionally, contest judges) from 1992 when I started writing my first novel.

All my titles are word plays on chess terms. My first romance was FORCED MATE, but although the title was thoroughly appropriate, it was widely misunderstood. Readers who wanted a violent book were disappointed. Others were deterred by what they assumed it was about. Some call FORCED MATE an alien abduction romance with a twist. It’s a futuristic take on the myth of Persephone and the god of the underworld. A dark ruler of an interstellar superpower abducts his perfect mate, never dreaming he’ll fall in love.

Insufficient Mating Material is not about a guy with E.D. It’s a chess term for a “No-win situation.” At some point in a game, the rivals realize that no matter how many bad moves the other guy makes, it’s going to be impossible to checkmate him.

Can you give us a brief VIRGIN story? I mean, give us the nitty gritty on your first sale.

 

The “Virgin” (Cherry) gets “The Call”

Prologue.
Ms Cherry doubts that she can write a brief ANYTHING. Words run away with Ms Cherry.

Writing in the best possible taste means controlling her lamentable sense of humor, especially during love scenes. Cherry has a tendency to amuse herself (and only herself). She comes to call these unnecessary, naughty bits of prose “Gorilla Testicles.”

What, you might well ask, do Gorilla Testicles have to do with overblown writing? Wide-eyed Ms Cherry once saw a wildlife program where the scientist found it necessary to measure the size of a sleeping gorilla’s testicles using a monkey wrench. No one is sure why. He must have had an odd sense of humor! The testicles were remarkably small… not worth the time and effort involved in measuring them, or in watching them being measured.

By giving a funny name to them, Cherry minds less when the naughty bits are cut.

Chapter One.
Long, long ago (in 2003) Rowena Cherry gave up on trying to be a paperback writer, and submitted (and only The Published know the full implications of “submitting” ) the book of her heart to NovelBooksInc aka NBI.

At the time Linnea Sinclair was one of NBI’s top authors and artists, and she was asked to read FORCED MATE for a second opinion. Linnea is now a RITA winning author for Bantam Books, (for Finders Keepers, I think), but she’s also written An Accidental Goddess, also Gabriel’s Ghost, and her latest book is Games Of Command.

Apparently, Linnea sat up in bed for much of the night, snorting and howling with laughter, much to the annoyance of her husband, and the next day Linnea informed the publisher that she should buy everything Rowena Cherry wrote including her shopping list… or it might have been the Cherry laundry list.

Chapter Two.
Ms Cherry was negotiating the contract that had been offered her when another of her friends, Susan Grant (who now writes for Harlequin, and My Favorite Earthling came out recently), told her that she would be an idiot not to enter the Dorchester-Romantic Times New Voice in Romance contest. That year, it was the New Voice In Paranormal Romance. Entries of previously e-published books were permitted.

Ms Cherry asked NBI’s permission, and entered.

Chapter Three.
To cut a long story short (???) the Cherry was one of the three finalists, was offered a contract by Alicia Condon, and ended up splitting the rights.

Epilogue
Meanwhile, NBI shut down for a hiatus, and later went out of business. The Cherry got her rights back, but since she had invested so much in her own cover (Cherry had personally bought the rights to the Matt Twiggs photograph for the e-book cover), and in lawyers’ fees to split the rights, and since she liked the e-book editing just as much as the mass market editing, Cherry decided to buy some ISBNs and self publish the e- version.


Moral: Linnea Sinclair (to a greater extent) and Rowena Cherry (to a lesser extent) are proofs that your published e-book can still sell to a New York print house.


Everybody’s got a fantasy. What’s your writer’s (wet?) dream?


I’m not sure that I have wet dreams. I imagine most writers’ secret ambition is to win a major award, and to place on a major best-seller list. I’d like that, of course.

 

Actors wanna be in pictures. Where do you want to be?

 

In pictures!

Not in person. I think Insufficient Mating Material would make a splendid movie, if only Peter Jackson would do it. On the other hand, I am well aware of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it!”

This saying has been the basis for a lot of fractured fairy stories, most genie tales, and not a few Faustian takes on the devil offering a deal to a human… such as in Bedazzled.

When a novel has a hero with a bioluminescent tattoo on his penis that glows in the dark when suitably excited, you can imagine the Off-Topic fun a comedian might have. Prince Djetth’s manly decoration has the potential to be his downfall if the wrong person sees it, but not in a slapstick sense. I don’t write slapstick.
I stop short at the alien prince’s dilemma when he strikes a pose and is sitting on the edge of a filling bathtub (so many romances include a scene where the hero wants to watch the heroine take a bath) and there comes a moment when he realizes that his seated bottom is going to get wet.

Get any bad advice early in your writing career?

 

Lots. However, someone once told me that everyone in the industry lives to some extent in a fishbowl, and that one should never “break someone else’s ricebowl” (don’t deliberately ruin someone else’s livelihood). That’s good advice.

 

Word, baby. Get any good directions that you’d like to pass on?

 

Persist.

Network.

If you’re unpublished, enter contests for the advice you’ll receive. Write gracious and positive thank-you notes to your anonymous judges, even if you don’t particularly agree with what well-intentioned critics tell you.

Start your future mailing list early (always with the consent of your correspondents) so that you’ll have friends when you need them…when you’re getting the word out about your forthcoming release.

Lock in your own name for your website before you become famous. You don’t want to have to be www.theofficialyourfirstnamelastname.com. You DO want to be a dot com!

Say “thank you” often and as graciously as possible.

Keep control of your newsletter and your contests. If your name is on it, you are legally liable if someone sues you for whatever grievance.

Dream within reason, especially when it comes to money. Here are two great links which explain advances and what it costs to publish a book:

http://sfwa.org/bulletin/articles/profit-motive.html http://alg.livejournal.com/84032.html#cutid1

It’s better to have a smallish print run, and sell most of it, than to have a huge run and end up owing money to your publisher!

Carla Arpin (publicist for Linnea Sinclair) and sexy, paranormal author Sahara Kelly, and witty Dorchester author Marianne Mancusi all report that having a site on MySpace.com has been amazing—and cheap— promo for them. I haven’t seen the benefits, but that could be because I have confined my friendships to brother- and sister- authors, booksellers and librarians, and I have not been aggressive about self-promotion (mostly because I –being a techno-dinosaur– found it a pain to set up a site, and am super cautious about running the risk of having my site deleted).

I like what The Romance Studio does for me. Email: holly@theromancestudio.com. Membership for an author is around $2.50 a month. For that, you get a profile page, a link, and the opportunity to run contests and add to your mailing list.

Other sites I really like are Romance Junkies www.romancejunkies.com because they have over a million hits, and Cat Brown is so wonderful to work with. Fallen Angel Reviews is another site with great presence, and a fabulous reviewing staff in my opinion: check out http://www.fallenangelreviews.com ; And then there’s MyShelf, http://www.myshelf.com which is also highly trafficked and easy to work with.

I shouldn’t really mention so few sites. I know I have forgotten some wonderful ones. Oh, and if you have $200 to spend, everyone I know swears by a print ad in RWA’s Romance Sells.

For free, chose a good signature file, that says something about you or your book, and how to find it (your own website url). Do not quote homespun philosophy from great thinkers of the past. Most lists allow 4 lines or so of tag line and moderate promotion of other types.

For 25 tips on free ways to promote yourself or your favorite author, check out my “25 Ways” article on my website (under Research workshops). Go to www.rowenacherry.com and poke around. You’ll probably also find links to all the handouts put out by the EPIC organization for the entire RT convention.

Join chat lists—and I have to thank outgoing EPIC president and promo genius Brenna Lyons for some of these tips, because I’m not a great chatter—look into: ebookChatters ; enchantersloop; FallenAngelReviewChatters; karenfindoutaboutnewbooks (Karen Simpson runs Coffeetime, which is a great site with some very innovative promo services and ideas) ; Novelspotters ; RomanceJunkiesReaders ; paranormalromance.com.

Other great new places (suggested to me by Jacquie Rogers of Fairy Good Advice) to network are Bebo.com; theyack.com; wordpress.com; LibraryThing.com.

Wherever you go — and this is my best and most delicate marketing advice– remember that you never know who is watching you and reading your posts. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

We need the 420 on where to find you and your stuff. Cough ‘em up!

In sci-fi speak, my heavy-duty mothership in cyber space is http://www.rowenacherry.com

If you dock there, you’ll find exerpts from my books, an interactive family tree to assist readers to keep all my characters and their complicated relationships straight in their minds, my bi-monthly newsletter, jigsaw puzzles of bare-chested hunks, links and research tips, podcasts of my radio shows, my promo video for Insufficient Mating Material, and lots more.

I blog about non-human lovers and other matters of vital interest with other award winning science fiction authors (Linnea Sinclair, Colby Hodge, Susan Kearney, Margaret L Carter, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Susan Sizemore, and guests) at http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com

Animal lovers might enjoy my new cross-genre blog with authors who specialize in adding furry characters to their romances (Deborah MacGillivray, Jade Lee, and others).
http://males-and-other-animals.blogspot.com

I’ve two sites on MySpace. The Rowena Cherry space is where I befriend and am befriended by other authors, cover models, industry professionals– http://www.myspace.com/aliendjinnromance_rowena ;

The “Insufficient” site is more fun for me– http://www.myspace.com/insufficientmm ;

If a book could talk, this might be what he’d say. “He” overcompensates for his unstudly name (Insufficient) by chatting up librarians (“Will you have me between your stacks, dear Library Lady?”), booksellers (“My greatest dread, dear Book Lady, is that you will strip me in public,”), book lovers, and boldly asking all comers to take him to bed. “He” is territorial, so will not tolerate glitter, sissy images (rabbits, bling, flowers, fairies, other naked men) on his profile page, nor will he befriend anyone with children on their avatars… because he has adult interests, and he does talk dirty.

And last, but not least, there is Amazon-Connect.

Hope to see you there.

Rowena Cherry

Rowena Cherry
http:// www.rowenacherry.com

INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL

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