Trying to decide where to place your interview gave me a bit of a dilemma. Remind me you did have a contract for one of your works right? But even if that were not the case I’ve decided that as the 1st place winner in the Romance Slam Jam aspiring authors contest that your interview would be separate from my Readers’s Spotlight.
LaVerne: I had a contract with Shadowrose Publishing for a short story I wrote. Unfortunately, like others before her, the owner got very sick and she disappeared along with the company. I was lucky, my work was not published and I got my contract back, it’s now on another publisher’s desk.
Dyanne: So LaVerne, tell me how it feels to have won. In other words I want the entire back-story from your entering to your winning. And might I add that I don’t care that you have already written a letter for The Romance Slam Jam newsletter. You can even repeat. LOL. And you do know I’m not asking for little short answers so talk away.
LaVerne: The entire back-story goes too far back. Let’s just say, for as long as I can remember I’ve written poetry and short stories, in that I’m not very different from most writers. From the time I read the stories of King Arthur, The Lord of the Rings, and The Dragons of Pern, I knew where my heart lay. I’ve always been fascinated with magical realms and dragons, but always thought something was missing from the stories I’d read. For years, I told myself someday I’d write the type of fantasy I wanted to read.
Well I did. That’s how Dragon’s Heart-Story of the Brethren came about. I didn’t want dragons to merely have an affinity with humans; I wanted them to truly be one being that had two forms. I wanted to build a world where magic existed, and dragons could take human form. I wanted a love story surrounding the dragon. As a person of color, I also wanted my heroine to be a reflection of myself, be it in the color of her skin and/or features, and it goes without saying she had to have a strong personality. Wimps need not apply. After all, she had to tame a dragon. Not much, but out of that desire came the story of the brethren, a race of shapeshifting dragons.
This was my first writing contest, and I almost didn’t submit this particular piece. I had to be talked into it. I knew I was facing tough competition from some very talented writers. I thought it wouldn’t be what the judges were looking for, because it’s not a straight romance. It really is a fantasy involving a romance, and the story closest to my heart, in that its roots are from my childhood and crafted my hand. For a writer and someone who loves the sound of her own voice, words fail me in adequately describing what winning the Romance Slam Jam Aspiring Author Contest has meant to me. It was unexpected, and I will be forever grateful to the women who found Dragon’s Heart-Story of the Brethren as compelling as I wanted it to be, and likewise to the sisters of my heart who encouraged me to submit it.
Dyanne: Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way tell us a bit about yourself. Your life before during and after making the decision to become a writer.
LaVerne: I’m not sure there was ever a time I didn’t want to be a writer. Even my profession before I began writing in earnest required a lot of writing. I was an attorney, with fifteen years of legal writing experience. There are some though who might argue my writing was a form of fiction, usually the opposition. I retired a few years ago to take care of my family. My kids were just at that age when they needed my attention more, not less. So those of you with toddlers those are the easy years. But after that first year of carpools, mall dates, chaperoning school activities, and monitoring homework and internet usage, I pulled out notes on stories I’d written over the years. One was Dragon’s Heart, and I began to write with a vengeance. To date I’ve completed 3 full length novels, a short story, and I am currently working on several other writing projects.
Dyanne: Give the readers a little bit more personal info. Do you have kids, a hubby dogs, hobbies, a nice vacation home that I might want to visit?
LaVerne: Yep, all of the above. Hubby’s an Anglo-American of Scottish decent. I’m from Trinidad, but I’ve lived in this country since I was a child. We’ve been a couple for 21 years and married for 17. We have two beautiful daughters, a killer dog, who weighs all of 11 pounds, maybe a little more after she’s eaten, and an over weight guinea pig. Yes, we have a house in the ‘burbs, and one out in the country, at the foot hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a sort of retreat that gives us a chance to slow down from a busy day to day schedule. And yes, Dyanne, you’re welcome anytime. I’ll even give you directions. Head west towards the mountains, turn at the pass, at yellow tractor sign turn left, and follow a dirt road for approx. 4 miles until you get to another dirt road with a gate and a white no trespassing sign. I’ll unlock the gate for you.
Dyanne: Now for your reading pleasure. What types of books do you like to read?
LaVerne: That’s a tall order. I go through phases, from Cervantes to Grisham from Michener to Langston Hughes, Wolfe and Falkner, then Tolkien, Robert Jordan. If I’m in a strictly romance phase that would be: Julie Garland, Julia Quinn, Deborah Smith. Right now I’m reading more fantasy mixed with romance so: Stobie Piel, Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Shannon Drake, Kresley Cole, Anne Bishop; my new favs, Nalini Singh, Psy series, J.R. Ward, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, Jacquelyn Frank ,The Nightwalkers, Sharon Cullars, Again. For a really scary vamp C.S. Friedman’s The Coldfire Trilogy. For more contemporary: Dyanne Davis, Crystal Hubbard, Savannah Frierson, Christine Dodd, Karen Langhorne, Lisa Riley, Amanda Quick, Susan Johnson, Susan Wiggs. I’ve got to stop cause this list can go on and on. These books are extremely varied, but the writers have the same thing in common, excellent storytellers all. And they hold my interest.
Ah, did I mention I’m a prolific reader? I have begun my daughters on that road. They already have an appreciation for the art of storytelling, and what good writing truly is all about. As they get older, I want them to be able to distinguish the good, bad and just down right ugly. No matter the genre.
Right now I’ll pretty much read anything with a strong romantic element and HEA. I’ll actually finish those books that have good character development and interesting plots. The thing is some of the best stories I’ve read recently are by unpublished authors.
Dyanne: Tell me some of your favorite authors and why. I’m not fishing so you can’t name me.
LaVerne: Well you are one of my favs, so I will say that, or else Adam Omega might pay me a visit. You think outside the box, and I’ve always found those types of stories to be more compelling than stories showcasing the more mundane. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I too write what I know. We all need stories that speak to our experiences with the bonus of a HEA. But it’s the stories that go beyond the everyday that really speak to me.
For fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings series, no I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I enjoy the movies and understand the appeal but I want to read about adults not kids. But I also cut my teeth on Tolkien and other high fantasy works. Like the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Series, Anne McCaffrey Dragons of Pern, The Sunrunner Series by Melanie Rawn, Morgan Llewelyn, and the late great Octavia Butler. Nobody builds worlds like these authors. From them I learned that fantasy worlds could be visited through their writings.
For romance, the classics, my all time favorite Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, a romance in its purest form, for something darker Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and Rebecca by Daphane du Maurier; historicals, give me a highlander any day or night, love those alpha heroes, my fav historical author is Julie Garland and my favorite book by her is Honor’s Splendor. Excellent story telling and most compelling hero and heroine. For more contemporary, I’ve got to go with Deborah Smith, the woman can write a sentence that takes on a life of its own. But Suzanne Brockmann’s Gone Too Far and the entire storyline involving Sam and Alyssa is my all time contemporary favorite. She writes about an alpha male not afraid to cry over the woman he loves, and gets the reader to feel his pain. The bonus is it’s an IR. But the one I’m keeping an eye on is Crystal Hubbard, Crush got my attention, and Blame It On Paradise guarantees she’ll keep it.
Dyanne: Have you ever written any on line reviews for the book that you love? How about the books that you hate? What do you think about the reviews on Amazon? Do they influence your purchases or just the opposite? Now that you will soon joining the published ranks do you think your reviews will change if you are or have written any?
LaVerne: Yes, I have for both, but I will say it was before I started really writing myself and had a chance to think about it. If I had to do it over again I’d couch what I had to say in a less flippant manner, but remember I was an attorney and trained to go for the jugular. I won’t change any ratings, but in some instances I would change the way I expressed my reasons for the rating. Anyway, I haven’t done a review in years, with the exception of Being Plumbville by Savannah Frierson it is an excellent piece of self published work. I’ve learned to pay no attention to reviews. I make up my own mind.
Dyanne: Do you belong to any critique groups either on-line or in person that you are a part of? Are there any groups you would recommend and why?
LaVerne: Yes, IMRR, Interracial Multicultural Romance Readers a forum for both readers and writers interested in promoting and discussing romance in all of its many colorful forms. This group provides a safe forum for writers to open a dialog with a reader base and for the reader base to get a chance to know authors, and it provides a great way to share information. But it’s also so much more, as well as being a lot of fun. There is also a sister critique group, RICH, Romance in Creative Hues, which provides a nurturing, and supportive learning environment for some absolutely fabulous unpublished authors, Viola Stephens writing as Mimi Tremont, Stephanie Williams, Naomi James to name a few, as well as some published ones, Savannah Frierson, Laura Majors, Shiree McCarver, Ailyah Burke these are just a few. I don’t have enough space to name everyone. I’m an assistant manager for both groups.
I also belong to a few other online readers groups, and RWA along with my local chapter, WRW. I’ve made a few friends there and we also critique each others works. Keep an eye out for these gals, Angela Hughes and Venus Campbell, both excellent writers who have taught me much.
Dyanne: LaVerne, I think this will be a standard question I will ask of readers because it’s important for the writers to know this. I know you already know that not everyone like the same things and what one man finds wonderful the next one finds distasteful. What things in books really set your teeth on edge? This will like most of the questions be at least a two part question and No, I’m not cutting your answers. LOL. Since I know you will soon be published, will you be writing the books you like to read or will you follow the market?
LaVerne: I have always danced to the rhythm of my own beat, even if I was the only one in step. So I will probably not follow the market. I’m not going to write anything that I wouldn’t enjoy reading. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve spent good money on and never got past the first few pages, for whatever reason. So while I can’t guarantee my books will appeal to everyone I can only guarantee that I write the kind of books I enjoy reading.
I guess I addressed the last part of the question first, so I’ll go back. The thing that sets my teeth on edge is when there really is no story to tell, and the book is really porn masquerading as a romance. There is a difference. One that should be acknowledged and purchasing can be made accordingly.
Dyanne: What words of advice do you have for writers that are staying in the game? What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?
LaVerne: I need advice, so help. But seriously, help. To aspiring writer: No is not the right answer.
Dyanne: What are your least favorite type of books and why?
LaVerne: Books where other than the hot sex scenes there is no substance to the stories, no plot and no character development beyond the obvious. I never make it past the first or second chapter. I’m more interested in a great story to go with the great sex. Frankly, I’m more interested in a compelling story that has nothing to do with what’s happening between the sheets.
Dyanne: If a writer disappoints you in one book will you give that writer another chance?
LaVerne: Oh yes. I’ve read authors a few times who don’t always hit the mark with me. If I begin to see the same negative pattern with the work I do stop. Sometimes moving to a new publisher will get me to try again.
Dyanne: LaVerne I have to ask this question. When you like a writer and they stop writing the kinds of books that you started reading them for are you disappointed or do you understand that the writer is just growing?
LaVerne: So far, that really hasn’t happened with me. I guess because my reading background in general is so varied, it maybe easier for me to appreciate the changes. I’m assuming the change is a positive as opposed to a negative, strong characters just different plot lines, as opposed to weaker writing. I’ve got to use you as an example here Dyanne, sorry. I’ve read some of your contemporaries and enjoyed them. But you’ve ventured into the world of the paranormal with some of your more recent work. Your writing is growing and improving, in my humble opinion, with your Adam Omega series. I’m partial to fantasy/paranormal work and I just think this is a fantastic new direction your writing is taking. So no disappointment here, just anticipation to see where this takes you.
Dyanne: I find that more and more discussion on the internet has to do with the amount of sex in books, and I’m not talking romance or love scenes but sex. There is a difference. Do you find the amount of graphic sex in books to be offensive? Do you think writers have crossed the line? How do you think they can rein it back in while still keeping their audience? Why do you think women are demanding more and more books with more and more graphic sex? LaVerne, you’ve met me so you know I talk a lot. There is another question I have to ask considering the internet debate now going on. What do you think writers should do if they don’t like that some sites may not promote them?
LaVerne: You ask lots of questions. But I agree with you, there is a difference. Hot sex doesn’t equal love, nor does it equal a good story. I want to read a romance where people are making love, it can start out as sex, but for me, at some point the relationship must go beyond the here and now. The problem is most books written today never make it past the lust and dress it up as love. I think there is a lot of confusion out there. Yes women should be free to explore their individual sexuality, but that being said a lot of readers seem to confuse hot sex scenes with romance. One has nothing to do with the other. Exploring ones sexuality doesn’t mean you have to talk yourself into being in love.
We are a society where 6 minute marriages are more common place, an exaggeration but not by much, it’s okay to sleep with your best friend’s wife/husband, sisters boyfriend or girlfriend, divorce is high as is multiple partners of any sex, even any age, all very common place. We’re even talking about twincest, I pretty much draw the line there. I think some members of society look at sex differently. Hook ups are casual, meaningless and fleeting, and some of what is being written today seems to reflect that sentiment.
I’m a firm believer in freedom of choice, in that I will not force my lifestyle or what I choose to write about on anyone. All I ask is for the same curtsey from others. And that’s all I’m gonna say.
Dyanne: LaVerne, once again I’ve asked you a bunch of questions in one. I value your opinion and I want to give you a chance to have your voice heard. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you would like to say?
LaVerne: I think you pretty much covered the gauntlet and thank you for giving me this opportunity, in spite of myself. Your faith and support have been truly appreciated. And unlike others I do understand that you work hard for your money.
Dyanne: Thank you, LaVerne. Again may I say congratulations on your win. You’ve prepared for this moment now tell the readers where they can reach you.
I can usually be found at IMRR under the user name Isis http://groups.msn.com/InterracialMulticulturalRomanceReaders/ and to read unedited excerpts of my writing, you can visit me at isisindcblog.blogspot.com or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.