I’d like to welcome back author Andrea Downing. Thanks so much, Alex, for having me back; I’m delighted to be here once again.
1) Please recap briefly about your books: My first three books were all historical western romances—Loveland and the two novellas, Lawless Love and Dearest Darling. Now, on February 4th, I have a contemporary women’s fiction, albeit with strong elements of romance, coming out: Dances of the Heart. Quite a departure for me. It does take place predominantly in Texas so I haven’t left the west, but it’s very different from anything I’ve written before, especially as it also has military themes.
2) What has changed since you last visited? Tell us your news! Well, both Loveland and Lawless Love were finalists in the RONE Contest so that was quite exciting; it’s a bit early for Dearest Darling to have garnered anything as that only came out Oct. 10, 2014, but I remain hopeful! Lawless Love also placed in the International Digital Awards. Dances took quite a long time to get to publication for various reasons, and I even had to postpone the publication date once, so I’m very excited it’s finally making an appearance. I guess moving away very slightly from traditional romance is the biggest change; the book I’m working on at the moment is also not an historical western though, have no fear, there are plots in the back of my mind so I will return to that genre.
3) Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) I’m reviewing in my mind some books I’ve read recently and think I’m for solid plot, great characters, great world-building and technically perfect. First of all, I’ve read some books where the characters were believable but there was no real plot, no complexity or sub-plot or conflict and so, for me, the book just died. So that is my Numero Uno. But pretty much hand-in-hand goes great characters; if your characters are flat or one-dimensional, the book will die. They must have inner conflicts to keep the plot moving along. The importance of world-building, to me, depends on the plot and the genre. Even with a contemporary it can be very important if you’re creating a situation dependent on the world—say, a child goes missing at a summer camp in the Adirondacks. But the importance, I think, varies with the book. And technically perfect I put last because if it’s a great story and you love it, you’ll probably overlook just about anything technical I believe. That’s not to say it doesn’t have to be perfect technically, just that it’s the easiest thing in my humble opinion to overlook.
4) Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I don’t self-edit, unless you include rewriting and so on, but those are the normal things an author does. I do believe you need a professional editor because as good as an editor as you may be yourself, nothing compares to having that set of professional eyes scan over the project. If you’ve created something and it’s your baby, it’s difficult to let go even when you know you should be changing, deleting or whatever. Your editor is the voice in the back of your mind that you MUST listen to.
5) Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I think some years ago that was the case but I do believe it’s totally changed now and they’re considered the same as any author. When self-publishing first came out, it was viewed as a type of vanity publishing, which had a very bad reputation: if you had enough money, you could get yourself published. Now we know that, while there is a lot of dross out there, there is also a load of excellent stuff. Many authors just feel that the rewards are great enough to compensate for the hassles of self-publishing. For me, I need the validation that being published by someone else brings—if they liked my work enough to publish it, readers might like it too.
6) Do you read work by self-published authors? A few years ago I bought a book on Amazon without noticing it was self-published. It was terrible; it was so bad, in fact, I was going to use it as a text for a creative-writing course in what not to do. It was literally the worst book I’d ever read, and I bought it because the storyline seemed interesting to me, an historical novel. I swore then I would always check to see if a book was self-published and not buy it if it was. Well, times have changed. I’ve read some really excellent self-published books and I now believe that it is as much a toss-up as to whether you enjoy a book whether it is self-published or published by the Big Six. There are no guarantees…
7) When buying a book do you read the reviews? Yes, I do read some of the reviews but that doesn’t necessarily mean they sway me one way or the other. If it’s for an author I’ve previously read and I like the storyline, I’ll probably read the book whatever the reviews say. For instance, I recently finished Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch; I’ve read her previous two books and loved them, so, although the readers’ reviews were mixed, nothing was going to stop me from taking on this behemoth work. If it’s for an author I’ve never read, then the reviews hold far more sway no matter what the plot line is. I feel, why waste my time? And if it’s for an author I’m slightly iffy about, then I consider the reviews and weigh it against how much the blurb appeals to me.
8) How have you progressed as a writer since you started? Gracious, I certainly hope I’ve progressed! I’d love to re-write my first book, Loveland, although a lot of people told me they loved that book but I do think I could do better with it now. I’m actually afraid to say much more because Dances of the Heart, which is just coming out, was written before Dearest Darling and it’s contemporary, which I am tackling for the first time, so who knows what readers will think. But to ask me specifically “how” I think I’ve progressed is difficult to answer; I guess I’d just say my writing has matured!
9) Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I’m just finishing up Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China by Pearl S. Buck. I guess just about everyone has read Buck’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Good Earth; I certainly did, in school. So when this came up as a deal on Amazon, I decided to give it a try, but I have to say it isn’t exactly a page-turner, though, as an historical novel, it’s quite interesting. I’m looking forward to balancing this by reading a load of romance next.
10) Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? It’s difficult to name my favourite traditionally published author, there are so many of them in so many different genres. For literary fiction, I’d count in Isabel Allende, Donna Tartt, and British author Maggie O’Farrell. For historical novels, I loved the Poldark novels of Winston Graham and the Sharpe novels of Bernard Cornwell. And, finally, for romance I love Nora Roberts, of course, and Julie Garwood, but Maggie Osborne wins the prize. My favourite self-published author is Karen Casey Fitzjerrell; she writes literary books that take place in Texas and has won several awards for her work. I recommend them highly.
11) What are your views on authors offering free books? I just wrote to someone in an email about this. My editor-in-chief is, apparently, against this and I begin to see why. I’ve given away a number of free books and I don’t think a single one has resulted in a review. The purpose of the giveaway is to try to get a larger audience by giving away a book that may then be recommended to others. Well, in my view, the best way to recommend a book is to review it, but even fellow authors who have won my books have not reviewed them. I understand we are all terribly busy and have very little time, but a couple of sentences is all it takes to put a review on Amazon. Even those who have promised to review have not done so; maybe they don’t like them and don’t want to review them for that reason, but if they then return to the next giveaway, it doesn’t seem so. So, to answer your question and stop griping, I don’t think giveaways do very much more than bring in more comments to blog posts—everyone wants something for free.
12) Give us a bit of information about your primary character(s). Dances of the Heart is a four-hander; that is, there are basically 2 couples in this story, the parents and their twenty-something offspring. Carrie Bennett is a highly successful romance writer; think Nora Roberts but more on the social scene of NYC and the Hamptons. She’s a workaholic who doesn’t face up to the fact she’s been unable to have a lasting relationship with a man since her divorce many years ago. On top of that, she has a daughter Paige who tragically lost her fiancé to leukaemia while they were at law school and now can’t seem to get herself back on track. While on a research trip down in Texas, these two come across the Ryders. Ray, the father, is a heavy drinker who finds it difficult to deal with the loss of his older son in Afghanistan, though his sense of humour eases him over the rough spots with the help of booze. His younger son, Jake, returns to the family ranch from his stint in Iraq knowing several secrets about his older brother. So that’s the basic background to the primary characters, Alex, and I’ll leave it at that with my sincere thanks for having me here today. It’s been a great interview for me; many thanks again!
Author: Andrea Downing
Genre: contemporary women’s fiction/romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Blurb: Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancé.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.
Excerpt: “You know how to Texas Two-Step?” he asked.
“No,” she said, laughter just below the surface.
“Well, sweetheart, you have come to the right place. Or at least got yourself the right man. By the time I finish with you, you’ll be the best dang stepper on the floor.”
Carrie looked around. “There isn’t anyone else on the floor at the moment, Ray.”
“Well, heck, I know that. That’s perfect for learning.”
As soon as his hand closed around hers, the leather of his palm a strange glove over her own fingers, a sudden frisson of connection ran through her she hadn’t known in a very long while. He moved her to face him squarely on, a small smile tipping the edges of his mouth, the dark, impenetrable eyes shining with his captured prize.
“Just follow me,” he said as his right hand went to her back. A cover of a Vince Gill ballad started, the mournful tune setting a moderate tempo. “Perfect.” He held her right hand high and applied slight pressure to move her backwards. “Fast fast slow slow, fast fast slow slow.”
Carrie felt a light bulb go on. She got it. It was good. It was fun. And she relaxed in his embrace. He was an excellent teacher, a fabulous leader on the dance floor. Would wonders never cease?
“You’re doing well. You’re doing fine,” he assured her. “We’re gonna try a little promenade now, and then a twirl, so get ready.”
Carrie couldn’t stop herself from smiling, anticipation bubbling for just a second. And then out of the corner of her eye she caught Ty watching them, beer half-raised in salute and a smirk plastered on his face. A moment’s hesitation and she missed the step.
“What happened there?” asked Ray, oblivious to the effect the on-looker had on her.
Other couples were finally joining them on the dance floor, but despite the company, Carrie’s discomfort increased. “That boy, that Ty,” she told him. “He was watching us. It made me feel…uneasy.”
Ray scanned the sidelines, but Ty had gone, nowhere to be seen. “Oh, don’t pay him any mind. He’s harmless enough.”
Bio: Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born, instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK. She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit. Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC. She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Family vacations are often out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to some 20 ranches throughout the west. Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards. Lawless Love, a short story, part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards and placed in the 2014 International Digital Awards Historical Short contest. Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and came out Oct. 8th, 2014, and Dances of the Heart, her first contemporary novel, comes out in February, 2015.
Links to Social Media: WEBSITE AND BLOG: http://andreadowning.com
Twitter: @andidowning https://twitter.com/AndiDowning
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Downing/e/B008MQ0NXS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Reviews: This book has not been released as yet and there are therefore no reviews
Tags: Andrea Downing, Texas, New York City, East Hampton, Hill Country, writers, ranchers, military, loss