My guest today is on a blog tour to celebrate not one but TWO releases in the Blue Notes series: “Encore” (Blue Notes #5) on November 11, 2013, and “Symphony in Blue” (Blue Notes #4.5) on December 25, 2013 (Christmas Day). Anther cause for celebration is that “Symphony in Blue” is Shira’s 10th Dreamspinner Press release!
Shira has been kind enough to answer some interview questions and has put together a very generous giveaway! More details at the bottom of the post.
Shira: Thank you, Elin, for hosting my Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour! I appreciate your giving me a chance to answer your great questions and talk about my writing (and my love of writing).
Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?
Shira: They usually develop as I work with them. I always go into a story with an idea about who the characters are and what they are about, but often the characters grow and change in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that the plot changes because my characters don’t behave quite the way I anticipated they would!
When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Shira: I hate to say that lately I’ve been so busy writing, I haven’t had time for some of the creative outlets I used to enjoy. I love crochet, but since I can’t write and hook at the same time, the pile of yarn in my attic is looking very lonely! I do enjoy spending time on our catamaran sailboat at the North Carolina coast, but I often bring my laptop with me so I can write while we sail.
Do you have a crisp mental picture of your characters or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Shira: Definitely more of a thought/feeling than an actual image. I have a visual image of body type, hair and eye color, and I can hear the timbre of their voices, but not much more than that. The upside? I’m pretty easy when it comes to finding models I think fit them for cover art.
What makes a hero?
Shira: Complexity and layers. Most of my novels are character driven first, plot driven second. I try to write “real” men with flaws, quirks, and unresolved pain (even in my fantasy stories). The more layers, the better, in my opinion! I don’t mind if they don’t make peace with all their imperfections by the end of a book. Human beings usually don’t resolve all their outstanding issues, even when they grow and change for the better.
Snog, marry or avoid – which of your characters? OR Of all your characters who would you be most enjoy pushing downstairs, sharing a taxi cab with, or having them move in next door so you saw them every day?
Shira: I’d probably marry most of them (don’t tell my husband!), although it would definitely be after they’ve grown a bit (the end of the story!). I fall in love with my characters. Some more than others. I love to torture them and I give them major flaws, but I also see the beauty in them. One of my most irritating/frustrating secondary characters, Cameron from Aria (Blue Notes #3), will be the main character in my next Blue Notes Series book, Dissonance. Talk about flawed! But I still love him and want him to find his measure of happiness. Yes, I’m a total sap at heart. My favorite character, but one I wouldn’t touch until the end of the book? Roger Nelson, in Encore.
Short vs long – which do you prefer to read?
Shira: Medium? Is that a hedge? I guess it depends upon how well it’s done. I prefer novels, but not super long ones UNLESS they can carry me through. I tend to be a less-is-more writer (could be a product of my lawyer alter-ego), and I don’t have a lot of patience for novels that go on and on and on and… you get the idea. If a novel is long and I forget that it’s long, that’s perfect. If I feel as though it’s long, it’s TOO long. A great novel should take the reader outside him or herself. If you start wondering when it’s going to end (and NOT for the right reasons), it’s too long.
Would you say that a short story is harder to write than a long one?
Shira: Hands down, short stories are harder to write. At least they are for me. I always thought it was ironic that people encourage new writers to submit shorts for anthology calls. A great short story is a true work of art. You need better technique by a long shot to write a great short than a great novel. At least that’s my opinion.
“Had we but world enough and time” and no other commitments, is there anything you would write that you’ve been eyeing and putting off because it’s just too big a project? Anything else?
Shira: Way too many things! I have a vampire series I’ve half-written on the back burner, a young adult series I’m toying with writing, several ideas for contemporary romances… I could go on. Since I both write and work full-time (40 hours each a week, easily), I have to narrow down the options. I write 3-4 books a year, and that’s my limit. I’ll never get to all the stories in my head, but that’s okay. It’s sort of the writer’s equivalent of “the inbox is always full.” You can only do so much, so you should enjoy what you do!
What a fantastic cover that is. Do you know who made it?
Shira: My Blue Notes Series covers, with the exception of the first by Anne Cain, were all created by Catt Ford, Dreamspinner cover artist and an amazing author in her own right. The cover for my new release, Encore, is about as perfect a photo-shopped cover as I could have asked for. It completely nails the story and the emotions in the novel.
Describe for me your perfect weekend?
Shira: A gorgeous long weekend on the water with my husband, sailing and writing. Fabulous sunsets, dolphins chasing our boat… that’s perfect.
Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Shira: I’m a public sector lawyer when I’m not writing (child advocacy). I spend about the same amount of time writing as I do working. I like my day job, but I still dream about quitting and just spending my days writing!
Can you name any author/authors, past or present, who have been a great influence on your work?
Shira: Marion Zimmer Bradley (sword/sorcery Darkover Series) had a huge influence on my writing style and the kinds of stories I write. She wrote the first gay male love relationship I ever read in Heritage of Hastur. Her writing is intensely romantic—her descriptions are so real, I can imagine myself in the universes she creates. I want to live in them!
Does your book feel more ‘real’ now you can hold a physical paper copy in your hands?
Shira: Encore is my ninth Dreamspinner Press book and eighth novel, and yet every time I receive my author copies and hold them in my hands, it’s a transformative experience. It may sound corny, but writing a book is a bit like giving birth and getting that physical book is like the first time you hold your child. My books are my children. I love writing them. I want readers to love them and I want readers to love my characters as much as I do.
When you have been writing a scene, have you ever scared yourself/upset yourself so much that you decided to tone it down a bit?
Shira: No, but I’ve written books that have affected me enough that I’ve gotten very emotional reading them. Some of my books (Encore is one) are very personal, and the characters in them are based upon my own life and some of the people I’ve known in my life. There is so much of my own experiences in the Blue Notes Series, in particular (I’m a former professional opera singer/musician) that I sometimes get too invested in them. I’ve killed off a few secondary characters that I’ve felt incredibly guilty about, because I’d come to love them too.
Of all your characters, who have you enjoyed writing most – least – whose voice was the most troublesome to catch?
Shira: Of all the characters I’ve written, I’ve enjoyed writing David Somers (conductor who appears in all the Blue Notes books and has his story told in Prelude) the most. He’s so controlled on the outside and so incredibly vulnerable on the inside. His voice is a bit stiff, but his heart is so vulnerable underneath the mask he wears. The hardest voice to catch? Cary Redding in The Melody Thief. He’s snarky and I’m not. He uses the snark to protect himself from being hurt. Getting the right balance for him so that he was a sympathetic character was a challenge. My least favorite character to write? I don’t really have one, because even the difficult characters (sometimes especially the difficult ones!) are challenging to write, and I like a good challenge!
Blurb: Cool kid violinist Roger Nelson doesn’t give a damn about anything. Wannabe conductor John Fuchs is awkward, effeminate, and just figuring out he’s gay. Despite their differences, they become friends—then lovers—and after college, they try to make it work. But it’s the 1970s, and Roger can’t bring himself to admit he’s gay. Worse, after his brother is killed in Vietnam, Roger tries to live up to his memory and be the perfect son. Then after suffering one tragedy too many, he makes the biggest mistake of his life: Roger pushes John away.
Through the years, they dance around the truth and in and out of each other’s lives, never quite able to let go. Twenty years later, Roger still carries the pain of losing his dream of a brilliant career with him, while John is a superstar conductor with a wild reputation. John’s off-stage antics get him plenty of attention, good and bad, though deep down, he wants only Roger. Finally determined to hold on to what really matters, Roger asks John for another chance, and when John panics and runs, Roger has to convince him to listen to his heart.
Note: Blue Notes Series novels are standalone stories and can be read in any order. “Encore” is chronologically the first in the series.
Shira’s Bio: Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Shira can be found on:
Shira has organised a Rafflecopter giveaway
with some amazing prizes so don’t forget to visit to following Blog Stops
November 22nd: Aisling Mancy’s blog
November 26th: Andrew Q. Gordon’s blog
December 6th: Oscar’s Bruised Petals (Sandra Garcia’s blog)
December 10th: Brilliant Disguise (Tali Spencer’s blog)
December 16th: Rebecca Cohen’s blog
December 20th: Purple Rose Teahouse (Charlie Cochet’s blog)
December 23rd: Mrs. Condits and Friends
December 27th: Helen Pattskyn’s blog