Monday, October 12, 2009

Meet Author Rebecca York

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

I'm very pleased to introduce award winning author, Rebecca York to our Murder By 4 readers. Ms. York is a New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-selling author. She has written over 125 books and has two Career Achievement awards from Romantic Times, her Peregrin Connection series won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense Series, and she is a two-time Rita Finalist.

MS: Please tell us a little about yourself, your books, and the journey that led you to write DRAGON MOON.

RY: I was a dyslexic kid destined for obscurity–not a writing career. But I’m nothing if not persistent, and the stories burning inside me began seeing print in the early 80's. My chief reading material when I was young was science fiction and fantasy. One book that stuck with me for years was DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson, about a man discovering his werewolf powers. It made me want to BE a werewolf.

My first published novel was a kids’ science fiction story. Then the romance field heated up, and a friend asked if I wanted to write one. When I told her I’d never read a romance, she brought me shopping bags full of paperback romances. I LIKED them. I’d always loved reading about the development of a relationship between a man and a woman, and romances were all about that relationship. I wrote a few, but I want more plot with my stories. So I was one of the early modern writers of romantic suspense, starting with the Peregrine Connection series for Dell in 1986-87. In my first books for Harlequin Intrigue (in the early 90's), I started sneaking in paranormal elements. At first I wrote what I call “stealth paranormals,” because I had to hide the weird bits until well into the story. The reader didn’t know the hero was a space alien or a clone being trained for a suicide mission until she’d already gotten to know and like him.

As paranormal became more acceptable, I got more overt about using it. And I burned to write a werewolf book. But I kept thinking, “Who would buy that from me?” Finally, I HAD TO write KILLING MOON. That was my first single-title paranormal, and I’ve been deep into the weird ever since. DRAGON MOON is the latest example.

MS: Why this book? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?

RY: To answer the last part first, I hope readers will get a satisfying, emotional read out of the story and will get involved with the relationship between my hero and heroine. Why DRAGON MOON? I got interested in dragons when I visited China. I also wrote a short story about a dragon-shifter and wanted to explore the subject more. The villain of DRAGON MOON is an evil dragon-shifter. But I’ve got a mostly “good” one too--Ramsey Gallagher, who plays a strong part in DRAGON MOON. I’m thrilled that my editor has let me tell his story in my next Berkley book.

MS: Tell us a bit about your protagonist.

RY: Talon Marshall is a member of my Marshall werewolf family. My first werewolf in KILLING MOON was Ross Marshall, a private detective who uses his wolf senses to solve crimes. Ross was unhappy that the men in his family were loners–each the alpha male in his own pack. He’s put a lot of effort into getting the Marshalls to work together. Even though Talon’s faced with a problem he can’t solve on his own, he has a hard time with the concept of werewolf cooperation. Throughout DRAGON MOON, he challenges Ross and the other Marshalls. He has a particularly hard time with Logan Marshall, who tends to be a hothead. But Talon will do anything to save the woman he loves, and that means working with the Marshall men and their lifemates, many of whom have paranormal powers.

MS: Please share with our readers a little about the plot, the characters, and the setting of your novel.

RY: The heroine of DRAGON MOON, Kenna, is a slave from my alternate universe, sent here to help Vandar, her ruthless dragon-shifter master, invade our world. She meets werewolf Talon Marshall, is drawn to him, and desperately wants to tell him the secret she’s been commanded to hide. But every time she tries to reveal her plight, excruciating pains stab into her head. Even as Kenna and Talon fall in love, he knows he can’t trust her. And she struggles to break through the barriers that control her mind. It’s classic romantic suspense, with the paranormal twists that add so much to the book for me. I love writing stories about men and women falling in love against a background of suspense and danger, so I always have a fast-paced plot with plenty of frightening incidents that my hero and heroine must deal with. But the most important thing about any plot element is how it affects the hero and heroine emotionally. Like when Talon comes home from a wilderness expedition to find Kenna attacking a man who came to Talon’s lodge to burn it down. Or when Kenna’s programming forces her to rob a nearby house, and Talon watches her in wolf form. Knowing she’s a thief sends him off on a near disastrous course.

I set many of my stories in Maryland, but it’s getting a little crowded for my werewolves here. So Talon lives in rural Pennsylvania. My Marshall men tend to live in the woods, where they can change to wolf form and run free when they feel restless or need some fresh deer meat. That brings up an important point about my werewolves. They’re always struggling with the savage impulses that are part of their genetic makeup.

MS: After 125 books, what challenges do you see ahead of you?

RY: Well, one good thing about being a writer is that you don’t get pushed out just because you’ve been around for a while. I’ve got plenty of ideas churning in my head, books I want to write. I’m always trying to improve my writing and make my books better. The story I’m writing now is a sequel to DRAGON MOON. The hero is Ramsey Gallagher, a powerful dragon-shifter, whom the reader meets in DRAGON MOON. But in his battle with Vandar, he loses many of his powers. Now he’s on a quest to get them back–and to find out who he is.

MS: How much and/or what kind of research went into writing DRAGON MOON?

RY: The good thing about writing fantasy is that you can make a lot of it up. But I did considerable research on dragons for DRAGON MOON. There’s also a sequence where Talon takes a group of men on a wilderness expedition. I had to research his route and also the wildlife they’d see on the trip. I also had to research the area of Colorado where Ramsey lives.

MS: DRAGON MOON is the 9th book in your Moon Series. What sparked your interest to write this series?

RY: As I explained earlier, it all started years ago when I read DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson. I was fifteen and an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. But that book really spoke to me. Maybe it was that universal teen angst. There were aspects of my life that I hated, and I wanted to be somewhere else. Imagining myself a werewolf sure beat my high school feelings of inferiority–in and out of the classroom.

Years later, I saw a review of THE WOLF’S HOUR, by Robert McCammon, in the Washington Post. I wanted to read that book, so I ran out to Waldenbooks and bought it. Another peak reading experience for me. I LOVED the werewolf hero. By that time I was already writing romantic suspense, but few publishers were buying paranormal. Still, I kept thinking about a werewolf hero. At the same time, I kept thinking, “who would buy that kind of book from me?” For four or five years, I talked about a book with a werewolf PI who used his wolf senses to solve crimes. Finally a friend said, “Either stop talking about that story or write it.”

Although I came up with an outline, I knew I could never sell the book on a proposal, so I wrote KILLING MOON while I was writing Harlequin Intrigues. In the middle of the book, my agent retired, and I had to find a new agent. I told myself it had to be someone who would love my werewolf story. Luckily for me, I found him.

Berkley was just starting a “dark paranormal line.” My new agent sold KILLING MOON to Berkley, who promptly closed all their “lines.” But they made my story a launch book for their new Sensation imprint. I didn’t actually know I was going to be writing a series. But Berkley wanted more books, and I was happy to give them more.

The first books were fairly conventional, except for the werewolf heroes. But lately they’ve acquired more “out there” elements, like my alternate universe that runs parallel to this one. I’ve had a hero who was a ghost (GHOST MOON) and a heroine who’s the reincarnation of an ancient goddess (ETERNAL MOON.)

MS: You also have a series of paranormal suspense and romantic thrillers. What defines each series and what inspired you to develop them?

RY: In addition to Berkley, I write for Harlequin Intrigue, where I have a long-running 43 Light Street series. I love the idea of developing a cast of characters. Each hero and heroine get their own story. Then they come back in later books. Readers can find out what they’ve been doing, and these characters add to the richness of the stories. I do something similar with the werewolf books. Once a hero and heroine have appeared, they come back in later books. In the Moon books, the werewolves define the series. In the Intrigues, I started with a group of people who all worked at 43 Light Street (a made-up street number) near the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. Many of the characters had offices there. Now, many of them work for the Light Street Detective Agency or for Randolph Security, which is their brother organization. (Cam Randolph and Jo O’Malley, who owns the detective agency, are married. Cam’s an inventor and runs a research facility in Western Maryland.)

MS: What do you find the most difficult part of writing and what do you do to overcome it?

RY: The hardest part for me is facing a blank screen. I force myself to get the text down so I can start editing it. I love going back over what I’ve written and improving it.

MS: You’ve been writing for over 20 years. How do you balance your time between writing and doing the other things in life you enjoy?

RY: When I’m writing, I try to write ten pages a day. This is a pretty good pace and allows me some free time. My husband loves to travel, so we often go off to interesting locations. For example, we’re just back from a fabulous trip to Peru, much of it for research for Ramsey’s book. I also love going to a luxury hotel and being pampered for a week. I get my ten pages done in the morning. Then we go out and play. At home, we try to see my daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids at least once a week. And we do lots of things like go to the opera, the symphony and plays (some put on by local companies and others with national casts of Broadway plays and musicals that come to the Kennedy Center or the Hippodrome in Baltimore. We also go out to dinner a lot with friends.

MS: What impact would you say completing DRAGON MOON has had on you personally and on your writing?

RY: With each book, I strive to strike out into new territory, and DRAGON MOON continues that. But it’s also given me Ramsey Gallagher, a character I find fascinating. I’m having a great time writing more about him now. His book is called DAY OF THE DRAGON, although that title might change.

MS: Who has been the greatest influence on you with respect to encouraging you to write and become a published author?

RY: My husband has given me the greatest encouragement. He’s always believed that I could be a writer, even when the odds seemed so stacked against me. He’s always there to proofread what I write. And he talks me down when I get discouraged.

MS: With respect to your writing, please give us some insight into your writing process. In other words, did you outline the chapters? Did you think about the plot for a while before writing it? What steps did you take before you wrote the first sentence?

RY: I’ve learned my craft from reading authors I admire , by studying movie techniques, and by figuring out what works or falls flat. Then I go back to my own stories. Every book I write begins with what I’d call a “cool idea.”

For DRAGON MOON, the germ of the book comes from the idea: What if a frightening dragon- shifter monster from my parallel universe planned to invade our world? What if he sent a spy here–and she had to figure out how to free herself from his hold on her?

I always get as much of the story down in outline form as I can before I start to write. And I try to develop plot and character together–because they are so intertwined. The characters must fit into the plot, and the plot must keep the reader interested and illuminate the characters.

I always plan to start with a gripping first scene that will plunge the reader into the action. In DRAGON MOON, Vandar, my dragon-shifter monster, flies over his domain, lands and gathers his slaves so he can execute one of them by drinking his blood. Then he thinks about his current project–invading our world and how he’s going to accomplish it.

When I write the first few chapters of my book, I get to know my characters. Although I have an outline, I’m free to abandon any part of it if I think of something better. As I said, I try to write ten pages a day. I always start the next day by editing what I wrote the day before, which gets me back into the story. I try to write fast. Then I spend a lot of time editing my manuscript. Each book I write gets edited on the screen at least once. Then I edit two to four times on paper. I also try to write fast to give myself time to put the book away for a few weeks or months. When I get it out again, it’s like someone else wrote it, and I can be very objective about what works and what doesn’t.

MS: What's next for Rebecca York?

I’m currently writing Ramsey Gallagher’s story. And I’ve finished a proposal for another Harlequin Intrigue.

MS: Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?

RY: Don’t think that because you’ve written something, it’s set in stone. Be prepared to revise and improve your work. Shoot for the best markets first. Don’t try “easier” publishers until you’ve struck out with the bigger ones.

About the author:

Ms. York is a New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-selling and award-winning author, Rebecca has written over 115 books. Her KILLING MOON was a launch title for Berkley’s Sensation imprint in June 2003. Five more books in the series have followed.

Rebecca has authored or co-authored over 65 romantic thrillers, many for Harlequin Intrigue's very popular 43 Light Street series, set in Baltimore, and many with paranormal elements. Her next Intrigue is SOLDIER CAGED, July 2008. Her many awards include two Rita finalist books. She has two Career Achievement awards from Romantic Times: for Series Romantic Suspense and for Series Romantic Mystery. And her Peregrine Connection series won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense Series.
She and her husband live in Columbia, Maryland. They have two grown children, Elissa (a librarian)
and Ethan (a Foreign Service Officer), and two grandsons, Jesse and Leo. Rebecca holds a B. A. in American Thought and Civilization from The George Washington University and an M. A. in American Studies from The University of Maryland. She heads the Columbia Writers Workshop. She is profiled in Who's Who in America, Contemporary Authors, and Who's Who of American Women.


s.w. vaughn said...

Congrats on so many successes! Your Moon Series sounds really intriguing. Dragons and werewolves - an exciting combination!

Rebecca York said...

Thanks. Yes, I keep some pretty weird company.

Kim Smith said...

Hey Rebecca! Nice to have you on MB4 today. I loved our chat on Introducing WRITERS! radio show so much, I feel as if I have known you forever.

I want to encourage our readers to go out and have a listen to the archived podcast and see what great info Rebecca gives us as writers in her radio segment as well.

Looking forward to getting all your books, Rebecca, I am a huge fan!

Marta Stephens said...

Rebecca, I love this quote, "... one good thing about being a writer is that you don’t get pushed out just because you’ve been around for a while."

Makes this writer hopeful of the future! Many thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Rebecca York said...

I love talking about writing. Any time!

Stacey Smith said...

I love your Moon Series and I just got Dragon moon a few days ago.can't wait to get to it.