Every so often, I come across a writer whose life and work intrigue me, and then I just have to have them come pay a visit here on my blog. In the past, you’ve heard from Christy Reece and Anna Campbell. And today, I’m thrilled to bring you a brief interview with Marie Force.
I met Marie via the Internet and quickly discovered she was a journalist. Also, she and I are very close in age. We’re both moms, and we both write romantic fiction. Those are some pretty significant things to have in common.
I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her books. Just this past week, woman on the RBL Romantica board were chatting up her stories and insisting that everyone needed to read them. I take a recommendation from RBL Romantica quite seriously and am looking forward to reading Marie’s books when I’m done with Connor’s story. (I never read outside the subgenre I’m writing at the moment because it’s too confusing. Right now I’m reading Surrender and Untamed to refresh my poor tired brain on all things MacKinnon.)
Despite Marie’s busy schedule, she agreed to answer a few questions, and the ensuing chats between the two of us were a lot of fun. I felt like I’ve made a new friend. As she said, we went to different high schools together.
Without further ado, I present author Marie Force:
Pamela Clare: First, I have to say that I always feel a sense of kinship with fellow journalists. I read about your background, and I had a visceral reaction to your description of working for a small newspaper. You wrote that it was “the writing equivalent of boot camp. We worked like dogs for almost no money, but we had a lot of fun and learned so much about writing editing and life.” And I thought, “OMG!” Nothing more. Just “OMG!” My I-Team series is therapy for my work as a journalist.
How do you feel being a journalist has influenced your life as a fiction writer?
Marie Force: Thanks so much for having me today, Pamela! I am a HUGE fan of your I-Team series, and I can’t wait for the next installment. Being a journalist really opens your eyes to the larger world around you. I don’t know about you, but I notice everything. I remember everything. Unlike my husband who tells a story in which every, single detail is wrong. I just sigh and say, no, it was a Tuesday in the winter and our son was not there. LOL! He can’t help it! Of course, it drives him crazy that I remember everything with such precision, but I was trained to do that.
Those skills have come in handy as a fiction writer. Being a skilled eavesdropper led me to the plot for my book Love at First Flight. A quick interaction between an arriving pilot and a woman in an airport led me to Everyone Loves a Hero. A handsome man in a Mercedes convertible led to The Fall. It only takes a second for an idea to present itself that can turn into a book! The secret is to allow those ideas in and think about them in a way most people never would. One of my favorite questions is “What if?”
PC: I found your “path to publishing” story quite touching, particularly in that your mother was able to read some of your work before she died of pancreatic cancer. You seem to be very close to your family. How has the faith that your parents and husband have in you as writer helped you deal with the challenges of writing fiction?
MF: I was very close to my mom, and we talked almost every day, even when I moved overseas for three years with my new husband (19 years later, he still doesn’t know about the all the hideous phone bills my parents paid when we lived in Spain—shhhh, don’t tell). Losing her was a terrible blow, but I do like to think she has been my fairy godmother in making good things happen for my writing career AND my brother, and I fully believe she is responsible for the Red Sox finally winning the World Series in 2004, two months after she died without ever seeing them win. We picture her up there giving Babe Ruth the what-for about the hex he supposedly placed on the Sox.
I still talk to my dad every day. In fact, he says I am more of a nag than his wife ever was. LOL! Thank you very much! Years before I ever wrote my first book, my parents were after me to get going on it. I dedicated my debut novel, Line of Scrimmage, to my parents who always said I could, and to my husband and kids who supported me while I did. Just last night, I went with my husband and kids to “visit” Everyone Loves a Hero on the bookshelves. It’s still a thrill for all of us, even the third time around.
PC: Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up, or was the agony of those untold stories too much of a motivation for you to consider throwing in the towel?
MF: Soooooo many times! But I never seriously came close to giving up. My mantra before I was published is still my mantra today because it’s just as important “after the call” as it was before: The only thing I know for sure is that if I give up, it will never happen. No one else will ever love your book or champion it the way you will, so the minute you give up, it’s over. I was always acutely aware of that and kept my nose down and my fingers on the keys.
I wrote seven books before I sold one. I’ve had major ups and downs, thanks in large part to the economy tanking just as I “arrived” and due to the fact that I don’t write about vampires or wolves or shape-shifters. I hear contemporary is “making a comeback,” and that pleases me greatly! At the end of the day, we can let “the business” defeat us or we can choose to persevere and keep writing and hoping that someday it will all click.
Ironically, the click for me seems to have happened just this month when one of my books hit No. 11 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list and four of my books are in the Top 100 for contemporary romance (one of them at No. 2). It only took seven years! And boy am I glad now that I never gave up!
PC: Some writing experiences are universal for novelists. Your anecdote about discovering novel notes you’d made long ago and laughing until you cried because they were so awful probably resonates with anyone who’s attempted to write books. I filled a notebook up with love scenes when I was in junior high, and if you were to read them you’d think they were written by helper monkeys who’d never actually had sex. Yes, celibate helper monkeys.
So tell us about your first idea for a novel. And then tell us about the idea that became your first novel. What was the difference between them?
MF: That’s a great question, and LOL on the helper monkeys! My first idea for a novel actually became my first book, Treading Water. The very first character who presented himself to me as a living, breathing person was a handsome architect named Jack Harrington. His book, Treading Water, the book of my heart, was finished in 2005—after many stops and starts that were, truly, AWFUL.
This was the book my mom got to read the beginning of before she passed away. She said it made her cry, which gave me the fortitude to keep going. For a number of reasons, mostly involving timing, that book has never been shopped. My ONLY writing goal for 2011 is to sell Treading Water. It’s with my agent now, and she’s enjoying it. So fingers crossed for TW and the two sequels I wrote before I knew you weren’t supposed to write sequels before you sold the initial book.
Thank GOD I didn’t know that! LOL! Those three books are my absolute favorites of all my books, and I so hope to get them out to readers before too much longer. With contemporary making that big comeback, the time feels right now for Treading Water. I wrote about “The House That Jack Built,” the metaphor for my writing career, on my website at www.mariesullivanforce.com/writing.php. It’s really quite a story that I sometimes can’t believe actually happened to me!
PC: You’ve had a very modern path to publishing. Some of your titles you published yourself through Amazon. Your Fatal series is published by Harlequin’s Carina Press. How does your experience of working with Harlequin compare to self-publishing?
MF: I love everything about working with Carina and Harlequin. It’s been so great to be a part of Carina from the debut month and to learn from the forward-thinking women who are running the show there. I couldn’t be more excited to see a series that was once “on the shelf” heading into a fourth book with hopefully many more to come. The books I published myself to Amazon were sitting on my computer collecting dust. I like to say that no one was interested in them except my readers. And wow, were they ever interested! They are selling in staggering numbers, which is so very exciting since all I did to promote them was stick them on my Amazon author page. It’s a great time to be an author with some extra books sitting on the computer and readers asking for more (as well as asking for more of particular characters they’ve met in earlier books). I plan to post several more books to Amazon/B&N this year, but I do hope to continue to work with publishers, too.
PC: Tell us about your Fatal series. Rumor is there’s a wedding on tap that might blow Will and Kate’s nuptials out of the water.
MF: Will and Kate have nothing on my Sam and Nick! LOL! Theirs will be the Wedding of the Year in Washington, D.C. I’m actually just finishing up Fatal Destiny, the novella featuring the wedding of the main characters in the Fatal Series: Sam Holland, a D.C. homicide detective, and her U.S. Senator Nick Cappuano. Readers planned the wedding on my blog, right down to the rings, cake, dresses, honeymoon destination, etc. That was really fun for all of us! I am having the TIME OF MY LIFE writing their story.
The series mixes romance with politics and murder and includes a rich cast of secondary characters who are prominently featured. I was once told you absolutely cannot write a romance series featuring the same couple in every book. Well, um, yes I can! And yes, I did! The readers seem to be really embracing Sam and Nick, which is absolutely thrilling. (Read more about the series, including my “Oh Yes I Can” post/rant at www.mariesullivanforce.com/TheFatalSeries.php.)
PC: How is it different writing about the same couple from book to book as compared to having a different couple for each book? Do you ever worry that you’ll grow bored with the characters or that the story will grow stale?
MF: Another great question! Are you a reporter or something? ;-) I’ve written three books in this series and the wedding novella, and have yet to be even sort of bored by these characters. Knowing I was hoping for a long-running series with them, I made sure to set them up with interesting jobs in a fascinating city with tons of conflict built into their relationship from the get-go. They both have complex back stories with lots of issues and challenges that will be ever-present in their life together.
In addition, I’m featuring at least one secondary character prominently in every book. Sam’s Bible-thumping, virginal partner Freddie Cruz has on ongoing story that I have big plans for in Book 4. Sam’s colleague Detective Tommy “Gonzo” Gonzales is dating Nick’s chief of staff Christina Billings, which is an interesting thing to write from Sam’s point of view. She hates having her personal and professional lives bumping up against each other, so at first she is furious about Gonzo dating Nick’s top staffer.
There’s also an overarching storyline that features Sam’s quest to find the person who shot her father and left him a quadriplegic. And even though Skip Holland is confined to a wheelchair, he still finds romance, too. I have a blockbuster story in mind for him in an upcoming book that I can’t wait to write. So no, boredom is not an issue—at least not yet.
I give Nora Roberts credit for sharing the secret to writing a long-running series that features the same couple. When I was first contemplating this series, I worked up the nerve to ask her how she keeps Eve and Roarke’s romance hot after so many books when I attended her chat at RWA National. Her answer was simple and has stayed with me ever since: “They’re young, they’re hot, they’re hot for each other.” In other words, keep it hot and you’ll keep it going. Words to live by!
PC: As I mentioned above, your books have been catching some buzz on RBL Romantica, where readers love hot stories. How would you rate the sensuality of your own books?
MF: My books are pretty hot. They’re not as hot as some, but there’s plenty of sexy scenes in every book. In fact, when I was reading the galleys for Everyone Loves a Hero, I wondered what I’d been smoking when I wrote that book because it is, well, smoking! LOL! I write under my REAL name, so sometimes I worry about that, but whatever. People have sex. Big whoop, right? I’m just glad readers are enjoying them. I do have an erotica that’s out on submission right now that I’d probably write under a pen name if it sells. We’ll see!
PC: What do you have planned after the conclusion of the Fatal series?
MF: I’m not much of a planner, so I have no idea. I do hope to write the Fatal books for some time to come—at least for as long as they’re still fun for me to write and readers still enjoy them. My other plans include some sequels to my earlier contemporaries, Line of Scrimmage and Love at First Flight, which readers have repeatedly requested. I’m all about giving the people what they want!
Thanks so much for the great questions, Pamela! I really enjoyed answering them.
PC: And I enjoyed getting to know you. I love it when readers bring writers together, which is more or less what happened here. I know you’re on deadline now, so happy writing, and thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to chat with us!
And now let’s open it up to a discussion—and prizes! Marie will be giving away one copy of Everyone Loves a Hero and one copy of Fatal Affair to two people who post comments.
I apologize to Marie for any typos. My celibate helper monkeys have the day off...
Coming up soon:
I-Team Reading Challenge: Unlawful Contact discussion
I-Team trivia (and it’s going to be brutal this time)
And there are four I-Team heroes who might be persuaded to make a visit...
As I said on Facebook, Zach is tied up right now, so he won’t be able to join us, but Reece, Julian, Marc and Gabe might.
EXTRA: For Julian fans and those who love Hard Evidence, here’s a link to an old interview that I did when the book was released. I dredged it up because a reader on Facebook asked about the Darcangelo mentioned in the acknowledgments. Well, the namesake for Julian is the man who did the interview. There’s a bit of deep trivia for you... Click here to read that interview. The interview is rated R for strong language, feminist deconstruction of sexuality and cynicism.