SARA Café Welcomes Willa Blair!
by Mary Brand
SC: What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?
WB: I’m one of those people – yes, one of those people, who isn’t happy in just one genre. My published books cross several, actually. Scottish historical paranormal romance. How’s that for a mouthful? It makes choosing keywords and categories interesting. Should my books be listed as historical? Or paranormal? For me, the historical research takes the most time and effort – and it’s fun – so I think of them as historical romances, but I’m pleased as punch if fans of paranormal romance, especially those who enjoy stories about psi talents, can find them in the paranormal section, too.
And… I’ve got a couple of contemporary/romantic suspense romances on the back burner. One is paranormal, one – so far – is not. Add to the mix a science fiction romance series that I’m plotting, and you can easily see that I enjoy all sorts of stories. I spent my childhood eyeball-deep in science fiction and (some) fantasy. I loved anything where psi talents played a role. Still do!
SC: What are your ultimate goals as a writer?
WB: We all need goals in life, right? Whether they’re attainable or not? I’m an oldest child, and like so many of those, I’m achievement obsess…uh, oriented. My goals are less about making money and more about accomplishments. Some of my big dreams include getting on the NYTimes and USAToday Bestseller lists, winning a Rita® – or several. Getting a movie or TV deal.
Um, excuse me. I’ve got to get back to writing that next book…!
Seriously, writers have different goals at different stages of their careers – finish a first draft, enter a contest, win a contest, get an agent, collect rejections, sell a book, etc., etc., but the ultimate goal of almost every writer I know is to build a loyal and happy following of readers who clamor for the next story, novella or novel. To me, that’s the most worthwhile goal of all.
SC: If you could have any actor/actress cast as the hero/heroine of your latest work, who would you choose and why?
I kept a picture of Philip Winchester in the corner of my screen the whole time I was writing Highland Seer. Not his current look on Strikeback, but as Crusoe, with the longer hair, intense stare, and beautiful, rare flashes of a grin. To me, that look is Donal MacNabb.
Donal is the only character for whom I’ve adopted a ‘real world’ person’s face. There is just something about Philip Winchester’s picture that captured Donal’s essence for me. I’ve combed through imagery sites, Pintrest boards, etc., looking for the perfect analog for Toran, Aileana, Ellie, as well as for the characters in my upcoming novella and third book in the series. Nothing has quite clicked. Hmmm…I see a contest for my readers in my future!
SC: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hidden talents?
WB: Besides cleaning out junk drawers? (Seriously, do they reproduce at night? I have at least one in every room of the house.) Spending time with my husband, reading, feeding hummingbirds, taking pictures, playing with my cat, cooking – all very normal stuff. Before we moved to Texas, I used to garden, but now we live on limestone in the hill country. Rock. Xeriscaped. Pulling weeds is about all I want to do out there. Digging holes is out of the question. (So no, no bodies buried here, either.) And if I ever get my studio set up (which involves cleaning out junk drawers, closets and rearranging furniture – a trifecta of stuff I don’t want to do), I plan to resume painting and making stained glass lamps and panels.
SC: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
WB: It’s a tossup between typing “The End” and signing contracts. In between is a lot of hard work, sheer terror, joy and anticipation. But that first moment when you put your name on that piece of paper is magical, I don’t care if it’s your first book or your fiftieth. Finishing the book comes a close second after all the blood, sweat and tears are over.
SC: What would happen if you didn’t write?
WB: I’d go to the gym. And shopping. Okay, maybe not the gym, but there would be shopping.
SC: How do you know when your research is done?
WB: When I’m comfortable that I have enough information to build the background for the book, set the historical stage for the events that will take place, and add enough detail that the reader feels immersed in the time and place. I’m not a historian, so I’m not trying for perfect historical accuracy. If I find something interesting, I like to confirm it with more than one source. That’s not always possible. And I am writing fiction, after all. But all those details have to work within the context of the book. Tom Clancy said it, as did Mark Twain – the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.
SC: Name one of the challenges you had writing or as an author and how you met that challenge.
WB: I’m not a detail-oriented person by nature, but I’ve had to learn to fake it. The upside of that is being able to manage all the details that go into writing, editing, and promoting a novel. The downside is that I can get too close to the story to see the big picture. My solution is to leave it alone for a few days, weeks, or months – whatever it takes to regain perspective. Then I can read my book as if for the first time and spot problems I would have missed while I was down in the weeds.
SC: Thanks, Willa!