Monday, July 18, 2011

Christmas in July with Annabel Aidan


Annabel Aidan writes romantic suspense with a hint of magic. She publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. She spent over twenty years working behind the scenes on Broadway, in film and television, mostly working wardrobe. Her plays are produced in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Australia. If you run towards her undoing buttons, she will tear off your clothes and flip you into something else — and then read your tarot cards.


 Annabel, could you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a full-time writer who publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction.  My plays are produced in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Australia.  I spent over twenty years working backstage on Broadway, in film, and television, mostly in the wardrobe department.


When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was six years old.  As I kid, I wrote for a lot of school publications., and in high school, wrote for the local paper.  In film school, I drifted away from writing and got more into the production end, and discovered I preferred working in theatre to working in film, although film money is much better.  I started writing again seriously in the early 90’s, mostly plays, because actress friends were having trouble finding good monologues for auditions.  I started writing monologues for them, expanded into plays, and then went back to writing short stories and novels.  A few years ago, I hit the point where I couldn’t work full time backstage and write the way I wanted to -- running two full-time careers was killing me.  I started cutting back on the backstage work.  I was also involved in a nasty tenants’ rights situation -- new owners of the building in which my mom had lived for 38 years were harassing people out of the building through physical and psychological aggression.  I’d always wanted to live on Cape Cod, so I said, “if we’ve got to make a move,  let’s live where we want.”  I cashed everything in and we’re living on the Cape and loving it.  Both the quality and quantity of my writing has improved enormously.


What genre(s) do you write and why?

I write across multiple genres.  I don’t write traditional romance, at this point, because the constrictions of the genre frustrate me, but there are definitely strong, loving relationships in most of my work.  I write a lot of urban fantasy, mystery, and paranormal.  My plays range all over the place, from dark comedy to comic noir mystery, which is one of my favorites.  I also hire out to write press releases, articles, event scripting, speeches, all kinds of stuff.


What's a typical writing day like for you? 

There’s really no typical day.  I try to keep my morning routine consistent:  up early, yoga, meditation, put on the coffee, feed the cats, deal with the yard in the summer, and then do my first 1K of the day.  Then I can eat breakfast, shower, and get started with my day.  I switch between projects all day, depending on what’s on deadline and what’s paying the most.  I like to take a break in the late morning/early afternoon to have a social or business lunch, or go do something I want to do, like go to a museum, if I’m on top of the deadlined work.  Usually I write in the mornings and edit or revise or read whatever book I’m being paid to review in the afternoons.  And, since I have a heavy teaching schedule right now, I check in with students in the mornings and again in the afternoons.  Evenings I read or study or go out, or, if I’m on deadline, I go back to the page.  It changes all the time.


Do you outline before you write?  If not, what's your initial process?

It depends on the project.  I find that the more projects I’m juggling, the more I need outlines, so I can just sit down and write the next section instead of sitting there wondering what I meant to do next.  Every once in awhile, I won’t outline, and just wing it, just to keep in practice.  I usually have an end point to aim at, and then let the story shape itself.

I start from character.  A character starts talking to me, and then I figure out the story and the other characters.  Our characters know more than we do, so if we trust them more and try not to control every detail too far in advance, most of the time, it will make a stronger story.


What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?

Marketing.  Too much of the burden is now on the writers.  Writers need to be active partners in marketing the books, but should not have to shoulder all the responsibility, especially not without being compensated for the time and the materials, which is what’s happening more and more.  Without time to write, writers have nothing to sell.  Without good written material, publishers have no reason to exist.  It’s gotten way out of balance, and it has to change.  Publishers need to start supporting the long term careers of authors, not focus on the first three months of release and then dump them.

How do I get past it?  Do my work and do it well, and speak out whenever I can.  Do what I have to do to get the book out there, enjoy the time I get to interact on the radio, in interviews, etc., which I genuinely enjoy, but not fall into the whole “use your advance for marketing.”  Um, and then live on what, exactly?  I’m good at what I do.  I have as much right to be paid a living wage as a plumber or an accountant or a doctor.

Also, I don’t stumble into career-killers like working for content mills, the vampires of the freelancing writing world.


What are your top three favorite books and why?

That’s tough, because it changes.  Let’s see:

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE -- there’s a reason why we’re still reading and performing his work!

POSSESSION by AS Byatt -- I love how she writes in the different styles and points of view of the various characters.

MAKING A LITERARY LIFE -- by Carolyn See.  Outstanding book about writing and life.


What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Yoga and meditation are my big sanity-savers.  I have a dedicated daily practice, and if I skip a day, I feel like crap.  So that’s vital to my well-being.

I have a garden, for the first time in my life, so I spend a lot of time gardening.  Well, I should say, learning how to garden.  I love it.  I’ve worked with herbs for years, so now I actually get to grow them.  I may go back to school next year to become an herbalist.  I’m working with my local garden committee, learning how to maintain the parks in the area, which is great.

I do volunteer work with the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay (www.nmlc.org), which rescues and rehabilitates injured/stranded marine life and is building a hospital to accommodate not only various types of turtles, but seals, dolphins, and even pilot whales.  I love the organization and their mission, and I’m reading and learning as much about environmental and marine science as I can to get up to speed.  We’re throwing a Mermaid Ball in August to raise funds for the hospital.  The commitment, the talent, and the energy of this organization are phenomenal, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

I do some work with Mass Audubon at the local sanctuaries, too, and am learning so much.   My friends come out from New York and tease me because I walk around identifying at least some of the plants and trees and birds instead of only being able to recognize an oak tree and a pigeon!  I love to cook, and enjoy the kitchen in the house.  Before I moved to the Cape, I started to take pottery classes and discovered I love working with clay, but haven’t been able to fit those in yet here!

I read everything I can, across genres, and consider myself fortunate that the Cape supports so many independent bookstores and has so many vital libraries.

I teach a lot, too, which I consider a vital part of my writing life.  All of it feeds in.  If you keep your writing separate from your life, it’s much harder to write.  When you integrate it, and it’s all part of a flow, and everything you do supports everything else.  The more compartmentalized and fragmented you are in your life, the harder it is to be happy.


If you could have coffee with anyone (living or dead, real or fictional), who would it be and why?

Shakespeare.  Because he understood the human condition so well, and we still revere him.  He made the personal universal and the universal personal.  I have so many questions for him!

I’d also love to chat with Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who were two of my earliest influences in my writing life.


Do you set daily, weekly, or yearly goals for yourself?  If so, what are some of your goals?

I don’t write up daily “To Do” lists.  That’s too restrictive for me.  I do have monthly and yearly goals.  In fact, I have a site where people can share their goals and we can encourage each other, called “Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions” (http://goalsdreamsresolutions.wordpress.com).  We post monthly to-do lists and wrap ups, and every fall, I ask a set of questions to prepare us for next year’s goals.  We take time to assess what we got done, what we didn’t, why, and how what we thought we wanted and what we really want differ.  You have to let go of what doesn’t work.

My goals this year were just to recover from the move and the previous four years of psychological abuse at the hands of the landlords, and start building my writing life here on the Cape.  Moving here was the best thing I ever did.  This fall, I’ll be able to put up more specific questions and make more specific personal assessments.


Do you have any unique ways to market your book that's different from how other authors are marketing their books?

I just try all kinds of things to see what works!  I love doing interviews and guest blogs and radio spots, and I try to make each appearance unique, instead of parroting the same stuff over and over again. 

Because I worked in production, I LOATHE book trailers.  There’s no need for them.  If the book is going on screen, it needs a good adaptation, good actors, and a good director.  Book trailers do more to turn me off a book than anything else, so I don’t use them.

And, while I don’t post excerpts of a WIP (why blow first rights and put up unedited writing?), I do talk about the process of writing a book on Ink in My Coffee (http://devonellington.wordpress.com), so people can follow the process and then read the final book, which I’ve discovered a lot of people enjoy.

I just kind of make it up as I go along!


What are you currently working on that readers will have to look forward to in the future?

I’m working on the second romantic suspense novel under the Annabel Aidan name, the name under which ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT is published.  It features Bonnie, a peripheral character in the first book, as the primary protagonist.  I’ve got notes on the third book, too, which features Amanda as the primary protagonist.  She’s a strong supporting character in the first two books.

The Jain Lazarus Adventures are in negotiations for a new publisher, since the last one went out of business.  Depending on where we land, either the first three books in the series will come out together, or pretty quickly after each other.

There are more Merry’s Dalliance pirate fantasies in the works (under the Cerridwen Iris Shea) name, and a couple of novels under consideration that I don’t want to jinx by mentioning them before the contracts are signed! 


Do you have any final thoughts to share?

If you want to write, or have any dream, stop making excuses.  Start doing, not just wishing.

Thank you!


Assumption of Right
by Annabel Aidan

Published by Champagne Books, June 2011


BLURB
Witch and theatre professional Morag D’Anneville is annoyed when she’s assigned to dress the conservative Vice President as he makes a surprise appearance in his favorite Broadway show. Even more irritating, she has to teach Agent Simon Keane, part of the security detail, the backstage ropes in preparation. A strong attraction flares between them which they both recognize is doomed, and Simon must also fight his superior’s prejudice that Morag’s beliefs make her a threat to the Vice President. When Morag is attacked, Simon’s loyalties are torn between protecting the man he’s sworn to protect, and protecting the woman he loves.

Champagne Books Site:

Annabel Aidan Webpage:





Today's daily giveaway is a 10-page fiction critique from Devon Ellington. 

This will be available as U.S., Canada, and International






*** Interview Questions were answered by Devon Ellington writing as Annabel Aidan ***


10 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susanne and Annabel/Devon .. I've been following Devon for a while - and am so pleased her move has been so therapeutic -

These books and plays will ring so true as they're based on her work behind the scenes in Broadway and elsewhere ..

Loved the behind the scenes look at how Devon works etc .. and we can see how she absorbs and learns as she goes ..

Thanks so much for the interview and posting .. have good weeks - Hilary

Laura Ann Dunks said...

Glad everything is working out well. I have had two lovely workshops with Devon. I would love to enter to win the critique!

Best of luck for the future!

Laura
~X~

Colene Murphy said...

What a wonderful interview!! Very interesting! Thanks for it!

BarbaraB said...

Susaanne, thanks for featuring this interesting writer and her book.
Annabel, it's interesting that experienced writers as well as newbies find marketing hard. Thanks for sharing.

Joylene Butler said...

Wonderful interview, Susanne and Annabel. Best of luck with your books and your dreams.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great interview. So nice to learn about you and your writing, Devon/Annabel.

Marlena Cassidy said...

Hi Susanne! Thanks for hosting Annabel!

Annabel, you seem to be involved in so many activities! It's amazing you find time to write, but then again, you must have so much inspiration to use in your writing!

I like the blurb of Assumption of Right. It makes me want to go find the book and read it.

Jackee said...

Such great insight. I love that Annabel is flexible with her schedule and blends in her writing with the rest of her life. Thanks for sharing, ladies!

Susanne Drazic said...

I want to thank everyone for stopping by to check out the blog post! Thanks for your comments.

Annabel/Devon, thanks for participating in Christmas in July!

Colin Galbraith said...

Wonderful interview. Assumption of Right is a fabulous book - I enjoyed it immensely as part of my poolside reading while I was on holiday. Everyone should buy a copy! :-)

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