Q & A With Rebecca Winters

A few years back I got to meet and a wonderful lady named Rebecca and I quickly struck up a friendship with her. Lo and behold I came to find out she was an author; published one at that. We talked about writing and she gave me a wonderful insight into this craft. She also kindly agreed to do a Q & A for me, and I had fun coming up with the questions for her to answer. I hope that her words will help not only me, but you as my readers to follow your dream of writing, or if it’s not as of yet, may have planted that tiny seed that will one day grow into an idea, then into a book.

Rebecca Winters, an American writer and mother of four, lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. When she was 17, she went to boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she learned to speak French and met girls from all over the world. Upon returning to the U.S., Rebecca developed her love of languages when she earned her B.A. in secondary education, history, French, and Spanish from the University of Utah and did postgraduate work in Arabic.

Because of her studies overseas, Rebecca decided to become a teacher and studied French and history at her alma mater in Utah. For the past 15 years, she’s taught junior-high and high-school French and history, and says she got into serious writing almost by accident.

Rebecca recalls her mother giving back the letters she wrote to her while in boarding school and told Rebecca how she wanted Rebecca to turn them into a memories for posterity and from there the seeds were sown. Rebecca turned her teenage thoughts, opinions and those tiny seeds began to form and the story began to blossom. Which indeed blossomed into her first published book in 1979; called The Loving Season, published under the name Rebecca Burton and it naturally takes place in Switzerland & France; two places that have fond memories for Rebecca.

No sooner as she had finished that novel, she found herself starting another novel, in-titled By Love Divided, a World War II romance and a few years later Harlequin Books bought her novel Blind to love..and lets say the rest is history or more like HER-story:)

Rebecca continues to write today and her talents have not gone unrecognized. She has won the National Readers’ Choice Award, The Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and has been named Utah Writer of the Year. Right now, Rebecca is working her way toward her next novel for Harlequin. She welcomes visitors to her web site.

How do you come up with your characters names? And do their names play an important part to their characters’ personalities? –

Perhaps to the reader, the name of a character doesn’t really matter, but to the author it means everything! Not only from the standpoint of personal preference, but a sense of rightness depending on the period of time since the history of the world and locality on the earth.

I’m a romance writer, so I’ll be referring to the hero and heroine throughout this blog.

As you choose your time and location, you zero in to pick the perfect names. Since I write many contemporary stories taking place in Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean area, I want the names to reflect a certain country and if possible, a name that is a place name or an ancient name from that country. 

 

Since I write for Harlequin American, my characters and story take place in the West. I also

write for Harlequin Romance and those mostly take place in Europe.

Let’s start with the heroine first. When I choose a European setting, I would say that 90 percent of my heroines are American who happen to go to Europe for a reason and meet the hero. Because I’m from the West, I tend to use names that are familiar to me (whether in a western or in Europe). Some I’ve used are Kellie, Stefanie, Kit, Olivia, Catherine, Laura, Lindsey. Usually my heroines come from California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, or they’re from the East Coast like New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania.

 

My heroes for Harlequin American usually have western names like Jake, Ross, Buck, Flynn.

My heroes for Harlequin Romance tend to live in France, Italy, Spain, Greece. At the moment I’m finishing up a two book royalty series, one taking place in a fictitious country on the Riviera between Italy and France, and the other on a fictitious island off the coast of Catania, Sicily. In the latter book, this crown prince has been named for an actual Sicilian warrior from history named Valentino. His language is Italian. He asks the heroine to call him Val. His whole name is Valentino Agostino Cellini. All three names have historical significance in that culture. By using those names, this hero comes to life for me and fits him in a way that the author can bead in information about his family tree that provides richness and new information for the reader.

Do you have a book coming out anytime soon? If you do, can you give us a taste of what it’s about? –

The book I was referring to taking place off the coast of Sicily will be out next year. So far the working title is ON FIRE FOR THE PRINCE. You already know he’s a prince. One aspect you might find interesting is that he’s a volcanologist. Mount Etna, a smoking volcano, rises ten thousand feet above the city of Catania. In the 1600’s it erupted and killed 29,000 people. Prince Valentino wants to protect the people of his country in case an emergency arises again, and prepares the island against such a disaster by having mock drills for evacuation with gas masks, ect. In this book the heroine happens to be from the other fictional country, but she also speaks Italian. Her name is Carolena. When the prince takes her in the Institute’s helicopter to view Etna from the air, they not only see the activity below, but seismic activity of a different kind erupts between them and the sparks fly. This is an earthshaking moment for Valentino who is engaged to be married to a princess in eight weeks at which time he’ll become king.

Of all the books you have written, which of your characters is your favorite and why? –

They’re all my favorites, but I know what you’re asking. Probably because it was my first novel and closest to my heart after having lived in France and Switzerand, I have to say THE LOVING SEASON. Since that time it has come out on Amazon as SCENT OF BETRAYAL. (Both titles are available there) I fell in love with Maxim Tricornot Ferrier, the legendary French perfumer from Grasse in the South of France. I traveled there, smelled the heavenly jasmine in the air there and drew his character from the people living there with their gorgeous black hair, black eyes and olive skin. The woman I lived with in Paris told me stories about WWII when the Nazis took over her father’s chateau near Grasse. Those stories took root inside me and I knew I had to write a novel about this fabulous man, this genius widower worth millions, who falls madly in love with an American student from Idaho. My neighbor across the street in Salt Lake had a daughter named Megan. I loved her name and gave the heroine that name.

Where and when do you like to write? –

I’ve always written at home in either the dining room or my bedroom. I start early in the morning, my creative time. By late afternoon the juices don’t flow.

How have your personal experiences affected your writing? –

Being alive means having personal experiences every day and somehow those things creep into a novel whether you’re aware of it or not. For me it isn’t something I consciously do, but when I’ve finished a novel and read it, I often can see where an idea for a scene came from. It just naturally happens.

What advice do you have for someone just starting out? –

It’s the same advice I was given when I asked an editor years ago before I ever had anything published. He said, READ READ READ. READ WHAT YOU LOVE, READ WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE AND WHEN YOU’VE DONE A LOT OF READING, START TO WRITE. It’s the best advice there is. I’ll add a few more things. KNOW THE AUDIENCE YOU ARE WRITING FOR, go to the bookstore and see what is being written in the genre you want to write for. Do your homework.

What was the hardest part of writing for you & which book was the hardest (or easiest) for you to write? –

Those are interesting questions, but to be honest, the only part that’s really hard for me is to receive a revision letter from an editor after the book is finished and wants me to dig deeper into my characters’ emotions. I’ve already written the book, so I have to get back into the mode again and try to feel what I was feeling. That’s hard.

Were you always good at writing? –

If you mean, could I always write a decent sentence, then yes, that came easily. But to create a world and people it is another challenge altogether. If more of my books are sold over the years, it might tell me I’m not failing in that area.

What question would you most like to have someone ask you? –

Interesting. How about, has it been worth it? The answer to that would be an emphatic yes! The fun of getting into someone else’s head, of building a life for them that is uniquely theirs is a challenge I love to do over and over again.

What genre of books do you like to read? –

love historicals, mysteries, the classics like LES MISERABLES, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, but I always love a great romance!

Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?-

have to limit myself to that because I make my living writing women’s romantic fiction. I have other stories in mind that aren’t romances, but I need the time and luxury to write those when I’m not worrying about income.

How do you get started with writing a story (as in, how do you start developing the story, how do you get inspired for it) –

Research is everything! I generally look at a map first. Where do I want my story to take place? When I’ve decided which country, I read about the different provinces, their history, their economy. Something always leaps out at me. Suddenly I can see a hero living there. From that point on I start to build his life. Then I think of the heroine. Where and how would she fit into this scenario? How would they meet? Why? As I ask those questions, the answers come and before long, I’m plotting their emotional journey, their triumphs and failures, their needs, their problems. I like the two to meet at a crossroads in both their lives that throws them for a loop. With the right chemistry a love story emerges.

What advice would you give to people who “run out of creativity” when writing? –

We all have emotional drains on us, sometimes very heavy ones. But in normal circumstances, I would advise writers to discover when they get their best ideas? When are they freshest? Morning, night, middle of the night? Give the writing a rest for a few days, then come back to it. It always comes back, but forcing it doesn’t help. I’ve discovered it’s a business. I get up at the same time every day and start in writing. Habit plays a great part in my ability to get words down on a consistent basis. Sometimes the muse seems to be lacking, but it’s not permanent.

How do you conceive your plot ideas? –

From life. The news. Family events. I wrote an amnesia story because of a family that lived across the street. The man’s wife was a nurse at the hospital. She fell on the steps one day and hit her head. Until she died, she never remembered her former life. It gave me some ideas and became the novel UNDERCOVER BABY.

How long did it take you to publish your first book, after you started trying? –

Six months.

How did you go about getting an agent and publisher? –

found an agent from the New York City telephone directory. They put my book out and found me my first publishing house, Leisure Books.

Do you use real-life facts based on true stories? –

Yes, at times.

Did you ever think you’d ever become an author? –

Never.

Who is your target reader? –

male or female, young or old, who wants to read a contemporary, clean romance.

What are the major themes of your work? –

Love, honor, integrity, commitment to marriage, love of children.

Are there any recent works that you admire? –

loved the novel, THE HELP

 

Who is your favorite Author? –

That’s a toss up between Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.

What do you think people search for in a book? –

Escape, fun, diversion, excitement, travel, a philosophical voyage, the chance to be someone else.

Once again a huge thank you to Rebecca Winters. You are a fabulous Lady and I am honored to have you as a friend. 

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First blog post

Well, where should I start?

A long time ago my mother said I could write a book! All I can say was there was a fair share of eye-rolling and plenty of huffing. Me! Write a book! Now that was laughable. However, my mother continued to ask me from time to time if I had started to write. Did she forget I wasn’t the best speller at school? (She had kept plenty of my little notes I would write her – enough to blackmail me) Or had she forgotten I really wasn’t one for reading a book (I slugged through book reports with a scowl on my face) Yet, she kept asking.

Skip forward many years, 7 children later and a new found love for holding a book in one’s hands and devouring the words written upon it and yes, even having crushes on a male character or two:) I finally decided I’d give this writing lark a try. It has taken me a while to get to the point, where I feel that I can even begin a blog and share my stories. Yes, it has been quite the ride. From having a brain that wouldn’t shut off, with too many ideas and characters pushing their way forward to voice their story. Then there were the nights when I tried to sleep, yet until I wrote my ideas that pestered me on my little notebook on my bedside table, sleep evaded me. I people watched and character explored, flesh-out and molded them into my, beloved characters that are with me constantly. (I should add, that even though I have voices in my head, I’m not crazy 😉 That is what comes from going down that creative, writing path.

Then came the actual fingers on keys and filling that blank, white screen with words. It has not been easy.  At times, I have felt like I was on a roller coaster; screaming, laughing and even crying! (Spoiler — I’m those ones who cry at the drop of a hat) However, I can smile and say YES, I have finished my first book and currently working on book two. I must say I’m thankful for my hubby for letting me use him as my sounding board an awful lot. He has taken our darling daughters out on a Saturday ( and continues too) giving me time to allow the words to flow from me and then a good friend, who I came across on a creative writing course — creative writing now. A course that I enrolled in eight of their offered courses. To which, I gained so much confidence and support. My friend has a wonderful fictionisfood  blog and he has  continued to nudge me, read my work, give guidance and yes even red strike marks when he’s proofed for me lol

We all need those supportive branches because when we look at the screen and nothing happens; they say keep going. Then there is my mother; mam, thank you for always asking and I wish you were still here so you could read my book. (maybe a roll of your eyes when you realize it’s a Vampire book) I know that you’re smiling down on me from heaven, saying, “See, Helen I told you, you could do it.”

Thank you mam. I love and miss you every day. Now use your guiding hand and help me publish 😉