Today's interview is with M. S. Spencer who writes romantic suspense.
1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
My published books are both contemporary (M/F) romantic suspense. The first, Lost in His Arms, was set in 1991, when international events were very much in upheaval. It includes spies and a taste of the world of Washington politics:
Chloe Gray meets Michael Keller, CIA troubleshooter, in a world in chaos. Michael appears unpredictably, leaving Chloe limp and lovelorn. Looking for safe harbor, she yields to a dashing Frenchman. Will she embrace the luxury and comfort of Emile and his chateau or the romance of international intrigue with Michael?
The second, Lost & Found examines the tension between loyalty to a marriage and true love. When Rose Culloden’s husband disappears, her search takes her to Maine. Loyal to her marriage despite her powerful attraction to her guide James Stewart, it takes the dramatic discovery that David is not just vicious and venal, but insane, to free her heart for true love.
My latest (due out July 27 and discussed below), as well as the next two (Triptych, due out in November and The Torpedo Factory Murders) include increasing elements of mystery.
2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?
After a typical youthful infatuation with vicarious angst and tragedy (think Wuthering Heights) I have come to relish, want, and consume only books or movies where I could be assured of a happy ending. Is this age? Or experience? At any rate, I actually thought I’d write mysteries, but it takes a more logical mind than mine to write a good stumper. Then one day, about the time chances for romance in my own life had dissipated into the ether, I thought, Hell, why not write my own? Then I’ll be in charge of the story. My hero will be as I picture him; my heroine will be younger than me; the sex will be fantastic. And there will be a happy ending. As you authors out there know only too well, I learned quickly that after the first chapter you are no longer in charge. But at least I could insist upon a happy ending (and sex). So here I am, a confirmed romance writer (with dashes of mystery thrown in to satisfy the beast).
3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
I have written several children’s stories, as yet unpublished. The adventures of Edward the Fly are Disney-like stories pitched to a late elementary/early middle school reader. Edward travels to places like the Wild West, Antarctica and Atlantis, where he uses his fly powers to rescue humans from peril. Other stories resemble parables or Aesop’s Fables—fantasies with a lesson that are wonderful for reading aloud. My favorite is called Lila’s Island, which relates the story of the dove who Noah sent to seek dry land. I would like to see them published and write more of both.
There are so many romantic stories still to be written in my genre, I see no need to try something I’m not comfortable with or wouldn’t be able to write in an authentic voice.
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?
When I’m not writing I like mysteries (especially English cozies), humor (such as Christopher Buckley’s novels) and classics (that way I know I’m not wasting my time). When I’m writing I must stick to nonfiction—politics, history and biography. Otherwise I get the plots confused!
5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,
Although I have lived or traveled to countries on five continents, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in northern Virginia as a parent, a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, policy wonk, non-profit director and (worth repeating) a parent. I worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and for the last few years at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a former munitions factory, now a warren of artists’ studios on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria. I hold an embarrassing number of academic degrees. Nowadays I divide my time among Virginia, Maine and Florida. All of this tends to insinuate itself into my books.
Most writers will tell you that they have been writing all their lives and I am no exception—poetry in the adolescent years of course, then children’s stories when my kids were young. I started writing full-length novels only a few years ago. My first attempt was a murder mystery, which sat in a drawer for years until my husband threw it out (by mistake? You be the judge). My first book, Lost in His Arms, was published in 2009 and I’ve been scribbling madly ever since.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That’s a toughie. In another interview I was asked about my least favorite character and found that pretty easy. I guess I have to like most of my main characters (except the villains) or I couldn’t let them have a happy ending, no? However, my favorite characters tend to be the minor players—Chloe’s best friend Amanda in Lost in His Arms, who has a, shall we say, mature outlook on life (i.e., cynical). Or Bill Nettleton in Losers Keepers, an ancient Chincoteague native who pops up just when the heroine needs him most and sometimes when it’s really embarrassing. Or the ornithologist in Lost and Found—a perfect caricature of avid birdwatcher (speaking as one who knows).
7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?
Oh, yes. Wonderful question. The villains take many and varied forms in the books—from evil spies (Lost in His Arms), to a venal and deadly husband (Lost and Found), to a sex-crazed greenpeace/luddite/fruitcake. In fact, in my latest, Losers Keepers, the hero starts out as the villain (hey, a guy can evolve, can’t he?). The villains often develop later than the hero and heroine. He (yes, it’s almost always a he) keeps pestering the story until he gets a bigger part. Expect really smashing denouements full of thrills and chills from my finales.
8. What are you working on now?
I am about to embark on the editing process for Triptych, which will come out in November from Secret Cravings. As I wait for an editor I am heading into the third draft of the Torpedo Factory Murders, a novel set in Old Town Alexandria at the famous Torpedo Factory Art Center. It takes advantage of my alter ego as executive director of the Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
Here’s the draft blurb:
Waiting out the rain, Georgia Delaney takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar. Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.
Hugh Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center, and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms.
Little do either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, will be decided.
9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?
Losers Keepers will be released July 27 from Secret Cravings Publishing. Set on the island of Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, it runs 72,000 words and is rated 3 flames. In it we meet Dagne Lonegan, aka Dear Philomena, advice dispenser extraordinaire, who hoped that spending a year on Chincoteague to write her novel would clear her sinuses, if not her heart, of any feelings for Jack Andrews, erstwhile lover and long-time jerk. It’s just her luck that her first week on the island she’s in the right place at the right time to be involved with a murder. Only she doesn’t know it. Unfortunately, the murderer doesn’t know she doesn’t know. Strange and dangerous things begin happening to her, interfering with her new romance with Tom Ellis, the handsome manager of the National Wildlife Refuge. Complications ensue when her Jack arrives to take charge of the murder investigation.
My family & I have been visiting Chincoteague for many years and love it—for both the wildlife refuge and the beach. It’s a wonderful, quiet place—rich in dramatic weather, history, and flora and fauna (including the people). I still look for any excuse to go back and hike and kayak and ogle birds and ponies. I wanted to set a story there that would bring its pleasures alive for my readers.
10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about.
Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.
My latest, which will be released in November from Secret Cravings, is entitled Triptych. It’s a tale of three sisters and their lovers, of the famed Three Sisters Rocks in the Potomac River (the stuff of legend), and lost masterworks of art (the stuff of intrigue). Since it’s not yet edited I can’t provide an excerpt, but to give you a taste, here is the blurb:
Miranda Cabot lost all interest in love after her husband Edward crashed into the rocky islets called the Three Sisters in the Potomac River. Her sister Honor likewise prefers her tower and her writing to romance. Not so their sister Sybil, who longs for a dashing Frenchman to sweep her off her feet. Being a modern woman, she advertises for him on Craig’s List and is rewarded with the Chevalier du Bon Arnaque, who comes to Washington from Alsace on mysterious business.
Believing the Chevalier is a crook, Miranda and Honor ask their neighbors Dieter Heiliger and his grandson Corey to act as chaperones. Three beautiful, strong-willed women living in a house with three handsome, virile men results inevitably in an intricate web of jealousy, sex, and intrigue. Add to that long-lost master artworks and stolen prototypes. Who will end up with whom, and will the Three Sisters take another life as the legend calls for?
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/mssellsworth#!/pages/M-S-Spencer/132571588515?ref=ts
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Book Information and Purchase Links:
Lost in His Arms, by M. S. Spencer
Published 2009 by Red Rose Publishing
eBook, 61,000 words, ISBN 978-1-60435-375-0
Contemporary Romance, Action/Adventure; M/F; 3 flames
Buy link: www.redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=282&products_id=17
Losers Keepers, by M. S. Spencer
eBook, 72,000 words, M/F (3 flames), contemporary romantic suspense
Buy from: www.secretcravingspublishing.com