I’d like to welcome our guest today, Dara Girard. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.
I understand you have a new release out called ROUND THE CLOCK. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?
ROUND THE CLOCK is the fourth and final book in The Black Stockings Society series. It’s about Anna Marie Williams, a people pleaser who gets a new lease on life when she receives a large inheritance and an invitation into the society. She uses this opportunity to capture the heart of Desmond Rockwell a former bad boy who was her high school crush.
ROUND THE CLOCK is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?
When I first proposed the idea I had the blurb ‘By day Anna Marie is a quiet unassuming woman, but by night she’s something else…’ from that premise I came up with the title.
What made you decide to write in this genre?
I like to describe myself as a happy feminist and once I read a book that eradicated my prejudices about the romance genre—wimpy women and controlling men—I was a convert. I like that in romantic fiction the female is the ‘hero’ not the sidekick, love interest or the victim to be rescued. She is the one who fights to attain what she wants and she succeeds. I also love the fact that the genre is so broad that other elements (i.e. mystery or fantasy) can be incorporated. And of course, I like happy endings. I read enough about women killing themselves or being killed by family, lovers or disease in ‘literary’ novels that I knew that wasn’t for me.
Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did it affect the writing of this book?
I’m a strange mixture of both. I don’t outline, but I don’t jump in either. You could say I approach writing like a visual artist does a painting or sculpture. First I sketch out the idea, the same way an artist does when she is beginning a major piece. Then I decide what media I’ll use, oils vs watercolor, in my case will it be a straight romance or a romantic suspense? Once this is decided, I then begin to ‘paint’ the story and complete the details as I go along. Sometimes I’ll create a collage as a visual reference or at times I’ll go back to my theater roots and jot everything down as a stage play and just give characters dialogue and stage directions, which is how I approached this book. My first draft looked something like this:
‘Stage left Anna Marie. In the office. She says…
Sandy at the desk. She says…’
It’s not pretty, but it was a start.
Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?
Yes I did. As most of my readers have found, I love including a ‘pet’ or animal in my stories, and in ROUND THE CLOCK, I had to do some research on the turtle Anna Marie finds. What does it eat? Where does it like to sleep? What are its needs? The best place for me has always been the Internet and the Children’s section in my local public library. That’s where I’ve found excellent books on many subjects not just caring for pets, but settings, history etc... I also have an enormous library of books from Understanding Forensics to discovering Different forms of Love, to understanding ‘empaths’ (which I used for the heroine in my novel, ILLUSIVE FLAME).
Where did you get your idea for this particular book?
To me ideas are like dust--they’re everywhere. So I have no problem finding them—dare I say they just land on me? Anna Marie appeared on the page as a fully formed character with a story to tell. Fortunately, her story fit into the series framework and I went from there. She was a woman in search of real love and finds the perfect opportunity to attain it.
Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?
Both Anna Marie and Desmond were fun to write because they both escaped painful pasts and yet have a sense of humor about it. But I must admit I had the most fun writing about Anna Marie’s awful boss ‘The Cobra’ because she’s so dreadful and the kind of individual many, if not most of us, have come in contact with sometime during our working career.
Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?
Again I think of myself as Michelangelo when he said David came out of the marble. I approach writing in a visual way. I sketch a character on the page with words or sometimes through dialogue like a play. And once I have a bare bones character down I flesh him or her out from there. I’m also influenced by music I’ll think of a character as a rock or country song and his/her movements and rhythms will emerge from that.
As I write I can tell whether a character would respond this way or that way and as the story progresses more often than not they surprise me. For example, I might be writing a scene and a character will whisper in my mind “This reminds me of when I stole my grandmother’s earrings and blamed it on my sister” and I’ll run with that thought. Another trick I sometimes use to get to know a character is to imagine what’s in their pockets or purse? That tells me a lot. For example, in my novel THE SAPPHIRE PENDANT, the hero always carried nuts in his pockets to feed the squirrels and as the story progressed you understood why.
In terms of research there are no hard rules for me. Sometimes it will affect the plot and how the character responds to it or sometimes my research will define what a character does.
Do you have any authors that inspired you?
When I was a child I remember one day standing in the library and watching all the people with books and seeing the joy on their faces and thinking to myself ‘I want to give that kind of pleasure one day’. As a child I was a voracious reader and I still am. I believe every author I’ve read has inspired me in some form. Stories feed my spirit and I thank all the storytellers out there who have filled my days with pleasure from Ray Bradbury to Langston Hughes to Jayne Ann Krentz, Jennifer Crusie and Mark Twain. Playwrights, poets, songwriters, essayists--the lot has shown me the power of ‘voice’. That’s where true originality emerges. So all those aspiring authors out there don’t worry about a story plot being taken, use your voice to tell a story and it will be uniquely your own. That’s my mini-lesson for the day.
What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?
I honestly, can’t put my finger on just one, it’s a cumulative effort. My marketing efforts are three dimensional and includes utilizing numerous opportunities over the internet, my website and offline efforts. However, I must admit that opportunities like this interview are also a key way to get the word out—thanks! (No. Thank you KW)
What do we have to look forward next?
I’m presently working on a new series about three novelists who learn that passion goes beyond the page. The first book, WORDS OF SEDUCTION will be released March 2010 and it’s about a former housewife turned hot-shot novelist who returns to her small town and stirs up trouble with a former bad boy who has an agenda of his own.
To celebrate her book release, Dara is offering a free copy of ROUND THE CLOCK, the fourth book in her Black Stockings Society series, to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...
Bio. Dara Girard is an award-winning author of twelve novels that feature strong heroines, sexy heroes, family dramas and romance. Her writing has been praised for its deft plot twists, witty dialogue and humor.
Dara is also the author of an award-winning non-fiction book for writers, The Writer Behind the Words (Ilori Press, 2007). Dara lives in Maryland.
Check out author’s website at www.daragirard.com