My latest guest is Andrea Sommers, author of When It’s Love I’ll Let You Know, recently published by Gilded Dragonfly Books.
First, tell a little about yourself.
AS: I’ve lived in Georgia for over 20 years, but I still think of myself as a Southern Californian (because people from California always think they’re just a little bit cooler than everyone else, despite all evidence to the contrary). I’ve got two kids, two cats, but only one husband. I love reading good books and complaining about bad ones, I love grammar, I love television, I love theater, and yes, I love Facebook. It is unlikely I will ever train myself not to double space after a period when I type. According to those who supposedly know, I have really, really terrible taste in music. I lose my reading glasses a dozen times a day.
2. How would you characterize yourself as a writer? What sorts of stories draw you to them?
AS: Unfortunately, as far as process, I’m a “write a bit…oh, look, shiny!…check email…play Candy Crush” kind of writer. I’m working on my focus. In the story sense, I’m far more interested in my characters and the way they talk and relate to each other than I am in creating complicated plots. That may be why I’m interested in romance- the relationship IS the plot.
I am most drawn to stories with some degree of romance, and even when it’s straight fiction, fantasy, or science-fiction, it’s the romantic relationships that I focus on. (I maintain that Dave Duncan’s A Man of His Word quartet is the most romantic series I’ve ever read.) I’m drawn to books that are well-written and bubble right along with a nearly casual tone. I like my books funny and smart. And I should probably hang my head in shame to admit that if a book has a lot of technical or descriptive passages, I’ll likely skim right over them.
3. Describe When It’s Love I’ll Let You Know. What are your favorite things about it? What do you hope readers come away with, after reading the novel?
AS: When It’s Love I’ll Let You Know is about two people so afraid of falling in love that they don’t realize they did it a long time ago. They’ve both got a lot of self-created barriers to forming a relationship, and that’s one of the things that I like about it. It’s not a series of misunderstandings or about outside events affecting their relationship, it’s about real people and real fears. That said, it’s still fun. Kate and Peter have great dialogue, I find them both quick and funny (Peter cracks me up when he’s deadpan), and they’re people I’d like to hang out with.
I also like the friendship between Kate and Jen. Sometimes friendship is hard. Sometimes people fight and it gets messy. But there’s still a lot of love there and I think their relationship is honest and one that I’d envy.
As for what I’d like readers to come away with? There’s a quote from Kathleen Gilles Seidel (one of my favorite authors for her insights, realistic characters, and because she never writes a sentence that deserves a grammar side-eye). I’ll paraphrase her: She knew her romance novels wouldn’t change someone’s life, but they might change someone’s afternoon. And that’s where I am. I want my reader to really enjoy the experience and to be involved with the characters, to laugh with them and to hurt with them. At the end of the book, I’d like someone to sigh happily and wish my characters well.
Hearing “I’d only planned to read a little bit, but I stayed up half the night” from multiple readers is very sweet.
4. What’s your favorite thing about being a writer?
AS: Imagining how entertaining I’ll be as an old, old lady when I start talking out loud to my imaginary characters instead of keeping it in my head.
Days like today are amazing, too. I had a really good writing day where it flowed and I easily hit the (fairly unambitious) word count I’d set without it feeling like a slog. I’ve had too many days lately that aren’t that way. I’m happier now that I’ve switched to a new project that’s really inspired me, and one that I’m not heaping any self-inflicted expectations on.
5. What books and authors have influenced you most?
AS: I think Anne McCaffrey needs a shout-out. She inspired me to fan fiction before I knew it was a thing. Predictably, I gave her characters romantic relationships, completely ignoring the author’s own pairings because I didn’t agree with them. Because of her, I really started writing.
I’ll also shout out to my ninth grade English teacher, John Kohlmeier, who was the first person who told me I could write well. I’m not sure I’d be doing this without that encouragement.
The early Harlequins of Nora Roberts, Diana Palmer, and Catherine Coulter put me on the road to reading romance.
Now Susan Elizabeth Phillips is who I’d like to be when I grow up. I find it encouraging that she doesn’t pump out a book every six months, and that she produces fun, readable romances that are allowed to take their time developing. She writes books that are long and are allowed to relax and breathe, and there are often secondary romantic relationships included, too. All in all, her books are happy.
6. As a reader, what would you like to see more of?
AS: Heroes that I would enjoy spending time with! Heroes with a sense of humor about themselves, smart guys who don’t have to be dominating or overbearing. I like a *little* bit of alpha in a hero, in that he’s a strong, confident guy, but I don’t have a lot of patience with a man who has to call all the shots. I can’t identify with a heroine who puts up with that nonsense on a day to day basis.
7. As a reader, what would you like to see less of?
AS: Churned out, under-edited books. (As a writer, I have the same opinion, in a more self-serving light. The overabundance of crap makes it harder for a reader to find my books, and makes it easier to dismiss the entire romance genre. Romance gets enough disrespect with bad books feeding that fire.) A lot of people say to me, “I might like to write a book.” My response is always the same. “Great! Write the whole thing, and then find an editor who is smarter than you are.” Very few people can put out a wonderful book from a solitary bubble, and I think too many people are trying to do it without authentic or experienced input.