Welcome Anna Zabo to our Author of the Week spot. I’d love to start things off with a little intro from you for readers who may not be familiar with you, yet. Tell us about yourself, how did you get started on this writing journey?
I kind of got started because of fanfic, though we didn’t call it that at the time (because it was the 80s and while the Internet existed, it didn’t in the form we now know). As a kid, I always made up tales in my head based on whatever I was reading or the cartoons I watched. As I got older, those turned into stories like the ones I read, but withy my own characters and plots. But it never occurred to me to actually write any of them down, because who’d want to read my stuff?
It wasn’t until high school that I actually wrote, and only because a friend lent me a notebook where she and another friend of ours had been writing fantasy stories that featured the guys from their favorite rock group. They were neat and fun and I said something like “I have all these stories in my head. I should write some down.” And she said, “Well, why don’t you?”
And I didn’t really have a good excuse for not writing them down, especially after she’d shared her stories with me—so I went home and wrote.
And discovered that people did actually want to read what I wrote—and decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an author?
“You can’t edit a blank page.” It’s one of those pithy pieces of advice you see everywhere, but it’s really true. There have been times I’m not sure how to start a scene or where to go with something and I’ll stare and stare at the blinking line on a blank screen—but that blank screen isn’t going to get the book written. In most cases, I’ll just start typing what I do know happens, and then backtrack, or I’ll skip a scene entirely and fill it in later. The main point is that the words need to be on the page. There’s no wasted writing, even if you end up deleting a ton later, because the words you delete allowed the words you kept (or added) to be there in the first place.
In your experience, which part of storytelling is the most difficult, the beginning, the twists in the middle or the ending? I suppose this could be considered the illustrious pantser/planner question!
Generally, the middle is the hardest for me—it’s the part where I have all the threads for the plot lines in my hands and I have to lay down all the hints for the dark moment (which tends to come close to the end). Sometimes I feel like I’m going to drop something or the book is never going to end or it won’t make sense. Or worse…that I’m boring people. It’s gotten a heck of a lot better since I started outlining my novels. Even when things go off outline (and they always do) I have a pretty good idea of the shape of the novel. Still, the middle is when everything has to happen, make sense, and not drag—or go too fast—and that’s the hardest bit for me to get right. I think I’m getting there, though.
In Daily Grind (Takeover #4 release date Feb 21, 2017) our main character, Brian has broken up with a woman and finds himself drawn to a new man who walks into his coffee shop, sexy British tech whiz, Robert. Until this relationship, Brian had never explored this side of his sexuality – how difficult was it to pen this awakening? The very raw emotions surrounding the hard conversations are equal parts uplifting and exhausting, how were you able to balance that?
This was actually one of the easier parts of the book to write, since a lot of Brian’s feelings and thoughts and reactions were based on my own experiences with bisexuality and exploring that part of my sexuality for the first time. With Brian coming out, I wanted to go a different direction than the more typical familial freakout, though. My own experience there is that when you have a loving and close relationship with your family, that remains even after coming out—and they often aren’t a surprised as you think they might be, but the fear of rejection is still very much there. There’s a tremendous amount of relief when it’s all said and done.
You write M/M, paranormal and urban fantasy, do you have a favorite genre to write? Do any come easier than others? Tell us more about Close Quarter please and thank you.
Fantasy and paranormal is my first love, but I’ve come to really enjoy writing and reading contemporary romance. It’s different, but I can’t say it’s easier. In fact, when I first started writing contemporary, it was harder. With paranormal, when you need to add tension to the book, you can always throw a monster at the characters. With contemporary, so much of the tension between the characters has to come from the characters themselves—and that was a lot harder to write at first.
Close Quarter came about because I wanted to write a paranormal with evil vampires who really wanted to be vampires—so I stuck Silas, a fae vampire hunter and, Rhys, an unsuspecting human who ends up being crucial to everyone’s survival on a trans-Atlantic cruise with a boat full of vampires.
I loved writing that book. It’s currently out of print while I work on the sequel. (which has been in the works for SO long. I really will publish it! I promise!)
Of the characters you’ve written, and you have an extensive back log of books so I realize the difficulty of this question, but, which one did you find easiest to write? The most challenging? Do you see more of yourself in one over the other? Did someone pull any major surprises with you as you were writing them? How do you get inside your character’s head?
The easiest to write was probably Eli from Just Business, since he pretty much parked himself in my brain and told me exactly who he was and how things were going to go.
The most challenging was actually Rob from Daily Grind because he was the opposite of Eli in that regard—he wouldn’t tell me anything about himself and I pretty much had to tease every single detail out while I was writing.
All of my characters have touches of me in them, from likes to dislikes to quirks, but I’m probably most like Brian, simply because of how much I tapped into my own experiences while writing him.
The most recent major surprise in a book I’ve had happen is in the one I’m wrapping up writing now. The original outline has the two MCs having a ton of sexual tension, but no actual sex for quite some time…and they decided to get it on much much earlier. Which worked, but also caused me to pretty much rewrite the outline for the book. However, the book is stronger now and the plot is tighter, so I’ll take that over the original outline any day. When the characters do something, I usually let them win!
Getting inside a character’s head happens one of two ways: either the characters get inside my head (like Eli) or I get into their heads while writing or plotting the story. I do a lot of what I call head-writing—I think through scenes over and over and over again to gauge reactions and situations until I figure out the best way to write something. This is often where I get a real sense of the characters, because I see how the react to different things—even if those scenes never end up in the book.
Down and Dirties
Last movie you saw at a theater?
Favorite play you’ve seen on Broadway?
Favorite comfort food?
This is going to be the weirdest answer, but my mom used to make this tuna cream sauce that was served over waffles and it was just the best dinner ever. Tuna waffles. That’s my comfort food. The only person in the world who understands this answer is my brother.
Three items you can’t leave the house without?
There are really only two: phone and house keys
Craziest thing you’ve ever done on a dare?
Ride a camel (which isn’t that crazy, but I’m kind of boring in that regard).
Thank you so much for stopping by. Tell us what we can expect from you next. Also, will you be at any events of conventions this year so fans can meet you?
I’ll have a polyamorous romance out in October with Riptide Publishing. It’s currently called Outside the Lines (but that’s a tentative title) and will be part of their Bluewater Bay series. It’s the story of Ian, a miniature set designer, who falls for Simon, who owns the local comic and games store—with his wife Lydia.
It’s not a ménage, as Ian’s gay, but it is very much a romance between all three.
I have some other things in the works, but nothing nailed down at this point.
I’ll be at several conventions this year, including RT in Atlanta, RWA in Orlando, and GayRomLit in Denver. I love meeting readers, so please feel free to find me and say hello.
Thanks so much for having me on Scandalicious Book Reviews!
Smooches,Tags: Anna Zabo, Author of the Week, Daily Grind, LGBTQ romance