Zee's latest release, Before The Morning, is published by Noble Romance, but check out her first book in this series, Walking The Edge, as it's currently free on the publisher's website.
What is your writing process?
A lot of plotting, a lot of thinking, a lot of daydreaming and imagining the scenes and how they happen. *grin* I’m not the kind of author who can sit down right off the bat after a character or a story idea pops into her head, and simply let my fingers fly on the keyboard and see where everything takes her. I envy writers who can do this, actually.
Most of the time, I work with an established ‘face’ for my characters (for example, in Before The Morning, Ash looked like Lost actor Josh Holloway, and Rayne like Russian singer Yulia Volkova, of the former pop band T.A.T.U).
So I visualize my characters with the face I’ve assigned them, the mannerisms, etc, and I also think of all the avenues the story can take, start to middle to end. Once I have all this prep work down, then I start actually writing.
Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
Shoe shopping? Now we’re talking *says the self-confessed shoe-holic and shoe junkie*
Funny you mention shoes, because, just like other women congratulate themselves for a job well done or attaining a milestone point with chocolate, I do that with shoes. I know I will not be able to afford the shoes I love if I’m not putting books out and earning from that process. Full stop. *grin*
Deadlines also help, because then you know there are people counting on you to come through and you would be an absolute cow to let them down. When publishers and editors are taking a bet on you and contracting your work, how on earth can you let them down by not delivering your part of the bargain when the time comes?
And the fans are also a tremendous support. It’s incredibly heartening and empowering to open that email or message that tells you, “I loved this story of yours; when’s the next book in the series coming out, and will you please let me know the minute the book is released?”
How can you let these people down, those same folks you’re writing for?
The key, at least for me, is discipline. If I don’t do it (whatever it happens to be – dinner, mending torn uniform trousers, writing that next book), no one’s gonna do it for me.
Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Oh, definitely! Not only is sitting in front of the computer a perfect way to lure the pounds to stack on, I’m also on a hormonal therapy (to prevent the recurrence of any cancer – I’ve had breast cancer twice) and this drug makes me pack the weight like never before. Plus, sitting in an office chair all day while writing is not really conducive to a well-rested back. I injured myself in a car accident about a decade ago, where one of my spinal vertebras was crushed, leaving me with lingering back pain.
Now, I’m the original couch potato – I used to whine about having to go up 2 flights of stairs. But not anymore. Exercise is a key way for me to prevent the recurrence of cancer, so I bit the bullet and looked for something that I’d enjoy doing.
I found that in Zumba, which is really dancing and having a lot of fun to upbeat music without realizing you are working out (and the results are visible practically immediately!). To give my body a break and to help with my back pain, I also do some Pilates, which I find more upbeat than yoga (puts me to sleep!). So I’m pretty sure to be exercising for 30 mins – 1 hour every weekday. The sked goes haywire on weekends when the kids are home. *grin*
Do you believe in writer's block?
I used to, but not anymore. When you have a deadline looming on your head, you have to write, writer’s block or not. It might take you a few tries, a lot of delete/cut/paste/overwrite, but ultimately, you will come up with something in the writing. It might be total cr*p, but that’s something you can always edit when you finish your first draft, as opposed to a blank page, where you can do nothing but stare.
Of course, no point beating your head against the wall when it is obvious not even cr*p will come out of your brain, so taking a break is advised then. I allow myself 1 day off when this happens, but the next day, I am back in front of my computer and will get something on that page.
Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
In Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One), my heroine, Amelia, is ‘married’ to this smarmy, manipulative guy, Peter, who always makes her believe she is paranoid and thinking things up, like the fact that he might be having an affair. Never mind that Amelia catches him red-handed calling his mistress, and confronts him. He manages to convince her she is going insane...
I took that scene, practically word for word, from what happened to me during my first marriage. That man was emotionally abusive, manipulative, a cheater, and he loved to toy with his women.
In another book I am currently penning, titled Against The Odds, the heroine, Megha, is diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Much of her journey through diagnosis, surgery, chemo, and radiotherapy, is a reflection of my own path when I was first diagnosed.
And no, no throwback to a real event has gotten me into trouble, yet. Let’s hope it keeps being this way. *smile*
In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
I always thought of the published writer like the ones we see in the movies – sitting at their desk in front of their typewriter, typing all day, finishing the ms, send to agent/publisher; rinse and repeat. Reality is far, far from that!
Promo is something that, despite knowing I would have to do it, took me completely by surprise. Having to be ‘out there’, in the public eye, is a bit weird to me because though I come across lively and bubbly and effortlessly making friends, I am a very reserved person with a secret garden in her mind, a secret garden not even those closest to me even know about. Finding that balance between Public and Private persona is a tight rope to walk on for me.
Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I have no clue if what I’m doing is bringing me new readers or not, lol, so I can only tell you what I’m doing, and not specifically ‘what I’m doing that is successful.’
A good friend of mine, author Margie Church, told me that the best promo is to be where the readers are and being yourself with them. So that’s basically what I do – especially the ‘being myself’ part. I blog about aspects of my personal life, like how my kids are driving me crazy, in between the book news and tidbits; I tweet about my day and what’s happening in my life and career. Facebook is a bit more private, since my profile is for Friends only, so I talk more about my personal life there. I do my best to interact and cheer and support people in places like Goodreads discussion boards and Facebook groups. I take part in blog hops.
I dunno, really – I never leave a comment on my blog, or an email, unreplied. I really believe I am in this for the long haul, which means, strong relationships with readers and potential readers that I am slowly but surely building.
What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Don’t be a cow! If people comment on your blog, or go out of their way to get in touch with you, do not ignore them. If someone helps you (word of mouth, a retweet, a beta read, a critique, anything!), help back when you can. Nobody wants to recommend or say wonderful, gushing things about a total cow – so don’t be one!
What did you learn while writing this book?
Beyond the technical stuff to put this espionage story together – the slew of guns, biological warfare methods and how to counter them, espionage tradecraft and secrets, clandestine operation management, clandestine lifestyle techniques, combat methods, various languages, details about all the locations presented in the book – the whole book was a voyage of discovery. Before The Morning is a book that really showed me how much I can push myself as a writer, how far I can take a character and make her memorable and sympathetic, despite being the darkest character I have ever imagined.
Rayne, the heroine, is a cold assassin in this story, but the hidden side of her is that she is nothing more than a woman yearning for love and the possibility of a future, of a family, of creating a unit with the one man she has always loved. She is a complex character, full of facets and secrets, ultimately dark and twisted as much as she is desirous of finally belonging somewhere beyond any pretence.
I learned that it is possible to write deep and dark, almost sinister characters, and redeem them, too.
What was the most fun part of writing this book?
Rayne’s family. She comes from a big family. Her father is of Russian origin (her great-grandmother fled the Bolshevik Revolution and married the Polish Hussar who had helped her escape), and Rayne still has her Russian grandmother, an eccentric ninety-something lady intent on ways of the Old World, and who absolutely abhors her daughter-in-law. Rayne’s mother is Irish, from a rambunctious family with hot tempers and fiery red hair. Then there are her siblings – her brother and two younger sisters. One of the girls is getting married to Ash’s brother, so that wedding is a big part of the proceedings during the book. Rayne and Ash go home for the wedding, and in the process, drop the bomb that they, too, just got married in Vegas. Their combined families’ reactions to this news, and the craziness of putting together a Russian-Irish wedding were real fun, for the wedding traditions alone. I also loved putting stiff and composed Rayne back into this chaotic mayhem – at one point, she wonders that her agency had taught her how to cope with any situation... but she’d never imagined having to face her mother and the rest of the family when her folks were intent on an idea and wanted to reel Rayne and Ash in. Her biggest mission starts now – dealing with her family without killing anyone in the process!
And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Lol, since they do get married in the book, they actually go on honeymoon in the French Provence. But, as readers will find out, Rayne has an ulterior motive for choosing that destination.
If it were up to Ash, he’d whisk them to a secluded villa with its private beach on a sunny tropical island. A place like Mauritius *wink*
Before The Morning (Corpus Brides: Book Two)
Before The Morning
. . . is a time of great darkness. . .
A trained killer with borderline sociopathic tendencies:
Rayne Cheltham traced out her life's path when she was twelve: she would marry her best friend and bear his children, and in the process, stifle the restless edge in her. When he vows never to marry, she gives in to the darkness and becomes a clandestine agent—until the day he walks into her world again, and her carefully fabricated façade crumbles.
A former cop burned by life and his personal demons:
When Ash Gilfoy meets a woman who reminds him of his childhood best friend, he starts upon a path that leads him down into an abyss once again. The day Rayne waltzes back into his life, he knows she is his second chance, and the one who will save him.
Each thinks the other is their redemption . . . until they discover how deep the other's edge of darkness goes
No one knows Rayne used to be a spy and an assassin, and no one knows why Ash left the police force. The secrets between them make them sit on a keg of gunpowder with a lit fuse in their hands. Neither knows what 'normal' means now, especially Rayne, whose whole life is built on a lie. Truth is threatening to explode in their faces, and that is not the only menace they have to face. Someone is out to get Rayne, and she must disclose her past before it is too late.
Can Rayne and Ash survive all that's thrown in their path? Can they hang on to the last thread of their relationship, and can they emerge, still together and still alive, in the morning after the deepest darkness?
Watch the trailer here and buy the book here. Before the Monring is also available from Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble.
And please note that Book 1 of the Corpus Brides series is currently FREE on the Noble Romance website!
WALKING THE EDGE (Corpus Brides: Book 1): A romantic suspense novel, wherein an amnesiac woman is on the quest for her forgotten memory... Escape from London all the way to Marseille, France, and discover the secrets, deceit, danger, & the powerful love, she uncovers during her search!
You can find Zee online at her blog, and she's on Twitter and Goodreads.