Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Author Interview: Romy Sommer

This morning it's my pleasure to welcome Romy Sommer to my blog for a chat.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
In my own head I’m 30, fit and still naturally blonde. In real life, I’m a little older, single mom to two little girls, with a day job making TV commercials. And I probably look like I haven’t slept in weeks (because I haven’t!) I love stories in all shapes and forms – books, movies, TV shows and the stories in all the fascinating people I meet every day.

I’ve read that you work in the film industry and also have a young family, how do you manage to fit in your writing on top of your already busy schedule? 
See above – who needs sleep?

I try to do quality time rather than quantity time. When I’m on a film shoot, writing has to take a back seat, and when I’ve neglected my kids because I’ve been working on a book (or film shoot), then I make up for it afterwards by doing something special with them (without a laptop in sight). But the biggest time suck, which I’m only slowly learning to manage, is social media.

So far your books have taken readers to Las Vegas and the Caribbean, where are you taking readers to next? 
Book 3 of the Westerwald series is mostly set in the fictional town of Neustadt, the grand Baroque capital city of the equally fictional tiny European nation of Westerwald. I wish this country really existed because I’d love to visit!

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 
My mother recently answered this question for me at a dinner party. She told a bunch of complete strangers about finding a box of papers under my bed that I’d hidden – filled with stories I’d written about a school I’d made up, complete with maps and pictures. I can’t tell you how embarrassed I was. I never knew anyone else saw those stories! For me, they were more than just fiction. They were my ‘other life’ and there were times the people made up were more real to me than the people in my real life.

That’s a long answer to a short question, I know!

The short answer is: I always wrote, I just didn’t realise I was a writer until much later on.

How long did it take you to get your first book published? 
In one way, years, and in another very quick.

I first wrote Phoenix and Max’s story back in 2009 during Nanowrimo. I’d only just finished the book when I received a rejection from the first chapter contest I’d entered it into. So I set the book aside.

Then during Nanowrimo 2012 I dusted off the characters and completely re-wrote their story from scratch. I edited it, sent it off to my two wishlist publishers – and received pretty prompt rejections back. Then I saw a tweet calling for submissions for a brand new imprint called Harper Impulse.

Everything that happened after that was a whirlwind. Within 2 months I received The Call, signed a contract, had a gorgeous cover and the book went on sale as Waking up in Vegas!

So in one way, the book took three and a half years to get published, and in another it only took a matter of months.

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
If my work schedule allows, I try to write for half an hour before going to the day job in the morning – starting the day with writing really lifts my mood for the day. If I’m under pressure, I write at night, but it’s not as easy because I need more caffeine than usual to stay awake. But my really good writing days are Sundays. I ship the kids off for quality time with their dad and I don’t leave the house. It’s just me, my laptop and a steady supply of tea or coffee (and chocolate biscuits, but those go without saying!)

What do you love most about writing? And on the flip side is there anything you hate?
I love when the words are flowing and I know the story’s coming together and I’m feeling excited about the book. Usually that’s at the beginning and very near the end!

There are two flip sides. One is when the words and ideas are flowing but the day job is keeping me from writing and I can’t get to a laptop to write those words down. The other is when the words flow like treacle and I can feel that what I’m writing just isn’t working.

The love scene in Book 3 was like that. It felt dead and lifeless and I spent a week working on it but still seemed to have fewer words than I had at the start of the week! Then suddenly something clicked and I had a fresh idea on how to approach it. I deleted the entire scene and started over. This time the words flowed. Voila!

Have you ever had writer’s block? 
I’ve had what I thought was writer’s block, but usually the issues were in my own head. I just didn’t want to write, for one reason or another. Either because I was tired or upset or lacking motivation – or because a scene wasn’t working. But really those are all just excuses. For me, the best cure for writer’s block is to sit down and write. Like exercise (which I know very little about!) you have to push through the pain to come out the other side.

Where do you get the inspiration from for your stories? 
Inspiration is everywhere! Magazine articles, funny gifs on social media, movies, other books, newspaper headlines, songs on the radio. Waking up in Vegas only came together when I was listening to the Katy Perry song (yes, shake the glitter of your clothes!) and I thought “that would make a great story”. And then I realised I had two characters who would fit that story perfectly.

Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
So far Kenzie Cole in The Trouble with Mojitos is the most like me. We’ve lived very different lives and had very different experiences, but she works in the movie business and the way she reacts to things is perhaps how I might react.

Phoenix in Waking up in Vegas is who I would love to be – spunky, independent, and she doesn’t really care what people think about her. She’s selfish and puts herself first – it’s taken me a lifetime to learn to say ‘no’ and to sometimes put myself first, but I’m getting there!

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I’ve already written historical romances (set in the 1920s) under the name Rae Summers, so I think the next challenge I’d like to try is paranormal. Perhaps light paranormals, with not too much blood and gore. I loved the humour in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, and really enjoyed Deanna Chase’s Bourbon Street books.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Never give up! 

Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hindrance?
Social media is lovely and very addictive, but it is a terrible hindrance to productivity. Even more so than television because at least with television you can learn something, or be moved to feel something, while you’re watching. 

But saying that, I don’t feel that being a writer is lonely at all these days. I’ve met so many amazing people online, and have such incredible support networks – the Harper Impulse authors are friendly and supportive, my friends at ROSA (Romance writers Organisation of South Africa) motivate me, and then there are the Minxes… there are no words for how incredible these ladies are. The Minxes of Romance started as a critique group and now they are my sisters and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
I still love physical books but for pure convenience I’m going to go with reading on my Kindle. It fits in my handbag, contains books for every mood, gratifies my every whim instantaneously and I can even highlight passages without feeling like I’m defiling a sacred object.

Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written? 
LOTS! Especially every one of Kelly Hunter’s books. She is so amazing, and she just gets better with every book. Emma Chase’s Tangled was also so seriously good it gave me a major case of writer envy. Though of course I realise I could never have written those books. I can only write Romy Sommer books, so I’ll stick to those!

What’s the last book you’ve read that has made you cry?
I cry easily when reading (I even cry when reading moving articles on Facebook!) but the book that springs to mind simply because it was a memorable moment was The Hunger Games. 

I was in an hour long queue at the motor licensing department to renew my driver’s license, sitting in this hallway surrounded by strangers, and I hadn’t even got to the end of chapter one and I started snivelling. I’m trying to surreptitiously dab my eyes and blow my nose without everyone around me thinking I’d gone crazy. I don’t think I succeeded!

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Not really, unless you count catching up on sleep as a reward! I do reward myself as I’m going – my books are fuelled by wine and chocolate. And I highly recommend readers read my books with wine and chocolate!

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
This is so hard! I’d definitely take Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy – that’s a given. It’s my go to book whenever I’m feeling down. Then I’d probably take Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth because I’m only half way through and I really want to finish it. And finally either The Secret or The Power by Rhonda Byrne or The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, because if I’m stuck on a desert island I’m going to need all the positive thinking I can get!

You can follow Romy on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or on her blog.

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