R. Ann Siracusa
1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
My current series is humorous romantic suspense, but I write in several genres and prefer mysteries and action/adventure. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t write category romance where the romance drives the story. My work tends to be 40% character/relationships driven and 60% external action. Also, I don’t have much success writing to guidelines. I tell the story that’s inside me to tell, so my work never quite fits the genre guidelines.
2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?
I think it picked me, at least for this series. The first book was an experiment to see if I could write humor in first person. I’d never tried either, but the voice felt comfortable. I ever expected to write a series – it just happened.
Writing in the same genre all the time gets boring, so I like to switch, which didn’t help getting a writing career established. Readers like to know what kind of book they’re getting when they pick up something by a particular author, so the publishers pressure authors to stick with one genre. There are many, however, who write cross-genre with no problems. I’ll follow the authors I love anywhere, no matter what genre they choose to write in.
3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
I’ve always been a huge Science Fiction fan, long before there was any “Sci Fi Romance.” Arthur C. Clark, Asimov, Herbert, Heinlein, C.J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, etc. In those days, anything that was fantasy, vampires, werewolves, went into the Sci-Fi genre. And I loved and read it all. I still do, but I’ve never had the courage to write Sci-Fi. I’d really love to try, but I don’t believe I could build a convincing world.
I don’t have any desire to write erotica and so far I haven’t been engaged by the idea of werewolves and vampires. I like many of the works in that genre, but have no desire to write it. Again, perhaps I believe I don’t have the imagination it takes.
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?
I’m an avid reader, and very eclectic, but at any given time I’m usually reading in the same genre that I’m writing so I know what’s selling and what ideas have already been beaten to death. I particularly like mysteries, science fiction, thrillers, action/adventure, and books that make me laugh out loud.
Some of my more-or-less contemporary favorites include: P.D.James, Janet Evanovich, Katie MacAlister, Sue Grafton, Ken Follet, Dick Francis, Bob Mayer, Helen MacInnes, Linda Howard, J.D.Robb, Daphne DuMaurier, S.L.Stebel, Thomas Harris, Rosamunde Pilcher. I like the classics, too, and favor Dante, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain. And I am always finding new authors that I love to read.
5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.
First, here’s the short, rather boring version of who I am. R. Ann Siracusa is my real name, but you’ll have to guess what the initial R stands for. I’m retired from a 37-year career as an architect and urban planner, which makes me older than dirt.
I’ve been married to the same man for more than 47 years (an Italian policeman from Sicily whom I met on my first day in Rome after I graduated from UC Berkeley). We lived in Rome for a number of years, then in various locations around California. Now, we reside in San Diego, with no children or pets in residence, but we do have a wild rabbit that lives under the workbench in the garage. We also have three grown children and eight grandchildren (ages 18 months to 23 years) and one great-grandson, all living in normal houses (their own, not mine, thank goodness) and not under anyone’s workbench.
Quilting, reading, and riding quads in the desert are my hobbies. (I used to play classical piano, but can’t do that anymore.) Writing novels and foreign travel are my passions, which I combine into novels that transport readers to foreign lands, immerse them in intrigue and suspense, and make them laugh. While I did a great deal of non-fiction, professional writing during my career, my debut novel (a mafia thriller set in Sicily after WWII) was published in 2008. Since then, Sapphire Blue Publishing has published nine additional works.
Second, I believe intuitively I always wanted to write, but I got sidetracked. A wonderful English teacher in high school encouraged me to write, but I never considered it as a profession. I decided at age 13 that I wanted to be an architect and went on to earn a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley. I worked in Rome and got married there, then was caught up with family and profession.
I didn’t follow up on my interest in fiction writing until I was in my forties, when I read a novel everyone was raving about and thought, “Oh, man. Even I can write better than this.” So I sat myself down and wrote a novel. It wasn’t until I retired that I really got into fiction writing as a second career.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Will Talbot is definitely the hottest hero and my favorite character to write. I am so-oo in love with Will. He’s everything perfect on the outside (strong, handsome, successful, patient, does what’s right, great sense of humor―definitely bigger than life) and vulnerable on the inside. He has a dark past, a calling to rescue innocent victims, huge issues with trust and guilt, and because of post-traumatic memory loss, doesn’t know why. He’s a gorgeous hunk who has it all, who needs to be “saved.” Everything a woman loves.
Harriet Ruby is the character I’d like to trade places with if that were possible. I’d love to be her. When I thought about which was the most challenging to write, I decided they all were, but for different reasons. What’s challenging is getting inside the mind of someone else and “being” that person.
7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?
Yes, there are villains in my novel-length books (but not in the novella and short stories). In my novels, the antagonists are true evil villains—bad guys—so I have to be careful not to let them become too stereotypical. That’s hard. In the romantic suspense novels, which feature a spy hero, the bad guys are critical to the story line. Without them, Will Talbot wouldn’t have anyone to chase and not much else to do (except have sex with the heroine), so their creation is part of the basic story outline. Who the villains are, their personalities, what they do, and their motivations usually come during the writing of the novel.
My best villain is the Mafia boss in Family Secrets: A Vengeance of Tears.
8. What are you working on now?
I’m working on the fifth and last book in the humorous romantic suspense series Tour Director Extraordinaire, featuring Harriet Ruby, tour director extraordinaire, and Will Talbot, Europol spy and covert operative for the US government. Each of the five novel-length books in the series takes place in a different country, with a complete and independent spy story, and each book moves the romantic relationship up a notch.
All For A Blast Of Hot Air (working title) takes place in southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe) and involves a pre-nuptial honeymoon, a hot air balloon safari and a plot to kill the US president.
I’m also editing for submission a contemporary murder mystery (no romance) and a Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction Romance.
9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?
In October, Sapphire Blue Publishing released the fourth novel-length book in the Tour Director Extraordinaire series, All For Spilled Blood. After the third book, Destruction of the Great Wall, I felt the romance between the hero and heroine hadn’t matured completely, so I looked for a spy adventure and circumstances that would move along the personal evolution the characters needed. Based on a number of current events, I got the idea for the intrigue storyline and that got me started.
10. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.
We waited without speaking.
I crossed and uncrossed my legs a dozen times and pulled nervously at the hem of my skirt, still unsure whether I wanted to be a spy.
I could get killed doing that.
While I stared out the large window overlooking the pink carpet of cherry blossoms arching over the streets of Washington, DC, the woman we waited for breezed into the office and took her place behind the desk in front of us.
“Good morning, Ms. Ruby.” Eleanor Morrison nodded formally, speaking as if the Department of Homeland Security required the use of surnames, then added, “Harriet.” She turned her smile to my fiancé. “Agent Talbot…Will.”
The formalities dispensed with, Eleanor settled into her leather chair, rested her elbows on the surface of the teakwood desk, and leaned forward. Her intense grey eyes studied me and then flicked to Will.
“Thank you for coming.” She spoke as though we happened to be in the neighborhood and dropped in for a visit on the spur of the moment.
I returned her smile with a broad grin. “Our pleasure.”
Will and I liked Eleanor. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have traveled all the way from Rome, and Will from Spain, to be there.
Of course, Eleanor Morrison was not her real name, only the cover name we knew and used. One of the rules of spydom.
“I wasn’t sure if you would still be interested in doing work for me.” She peaked and unpeaked her fingers. “I thought you two would be married by now and have other things on your minds.”
Will and I exchanged a glance that, of course, Eleanor didn’t miss. Being the definitive perfectionist, her nature didn’t permit her to overlook even the slightest innuendo or gesture. Her attention to detail defied reproach, particularly when it came to her official responsibilities.
Fortunately for the US, she worked for our side.
“We’re still engaged,” Will replied, his tone curious. “Does it make any difference whether we’re married or not?”
She pursed her lips. “Married might be better for this mission, but we can make it work…” Her sentence ended in a shrug. She picked up a sheaf of papers and tapped them on the surface of the desk until the edges aligned perfectly, then set them in front of her.
I shifted in my seat and clasped my hands together in my lap to keep from waving them around or picking at the arm of the chair. At best, patience and I maintained an uneasy alliance, although I’d learned a lot during the past two and a half years with Will…some of it too personal to even think about without getting hot.