C.J. Redwine fears goats, loves stilettos and frequently lets her imagination run away with her. She writes edgy urban fantasy with a side of comic relief. You can learn more about her at www.cjredwine.blogspot.com and read samples of her writing, which is full of imagination and the occasional stiletto but is noticeably lacking in goats.
Prepare to laugh, cry and marvel at C.J.’s talent as this amazing woman shares about herself, her writing and her hilarious and heart-tugging life experiences.
I’d love to say that two of you who leave comments for C.J. today will win gift certificates for a pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos, but DH wouldn’t go for it. What I do have are two cotton drawstring shoe bags with embroidered stilettos on them, one zebra skin and the other leopard.
What led you to write romances?
I love everything from Tolkien to Rowling to Roberts to Koontz. My tastes vary, but the one component that consistently draws me to a story is the exploration of the relationships between the characters. I don’t need the predominant element of a novel to be romance, and indeed I usually gravitate towards books where suspense and the supernatural are the driving force, but I love rooting for two characters to rise above the mayhem and murder (or vamps, or He Who Must Not Be Named) and figure out their own chemistry. I can’t imagine writing a novel without exploring the chemistry between my own characters even though the romance is never the sole focus of my writing.
When did you begin writing your first romance?
I began work on my first manuscript when I was in high school. It was the story of a girl who falls asleep in the woods (Because you know girls do that sort of thing all the time!) and wakes up to find a bridge hovering between her and another world (Yes, yes, a truly original idea! I’m freaking brilliant!). I remember writing it by hand in a huge, three-subject yellow spiral notebook.
However, I don’t recall if there were any romantic components to that story.
My first true manuscript geared toward romance was Dying to Remember, my current Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist novel. I began work on Dying to Remember shortly after finishing a battle with cervical cancer at the age of thirty. Yes, there’s a long time span between high school and thirty, and I had a few false starts on novels (which are just as brilliantly original as the girl-who-finds-herself-magically-transported-to-another-world plot,) but in that time span I graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in English and a teaching credential; taught high school English, Writing, and U.S. History; got married; had three boys in four years (What?! I’m supposed to take this little pill at the SAME TIME each night? Good to know.); and felt every creative brain cell fizzle and die in the wake of four years of sleepless nights, diaper duty, and learning that being the mother of three young boys means constantly trying to just keep them alive (NO! You may not try to fly off the fence!), clothed (Is that MY two year old racing down the street wearing nothing but what God gave him?), and the house in one piece. (No, Mr. Fireman, I did NOT realize I should check my broiler for Hot Wheels before I turn on the oven. Why would I? Who parks Hot Wheels in an oven right next to the pilot light anyway? Oh. Boys. That’s right.)
After facing cancer, I realized that I was waiting for life to slow down so I could pursue my dream of writing a novel. Of course, we all know life doesn’t slow down until you die, and waiting for the perfect moment to appear is a waste of the gifts you’ve been given. I sat down and started writing Dying to Remember and haven’t looked back.
What’s the best advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
I’ve received some excellent advice regarding my writing but the two things that stand out the most are:
- Do everything you can to figure out your true Voice, and stick to it.
- Keep writing. Nothing fixes fear, inertia, or crap on a page like the discipline to keep writing.
Which of your stories is closest to your heart and why?
The story I’m writing now called Shadowing Fate is closest to my heart because it represents the culmination of some important events for me as a writer. For one, I’m changing genres from romantic suspense to urban fantasy, a much better fit for me because I can combine my love of edge-of-your-seat suspense with my fascination for the supernatural and the strange.
For another, this idea took five months just to conceptualize! That’s a long time for a Pantser! I really wanted to write something in the paranormal genre (I’ve since realized this idea is better suited for the urban fantasy label) that was totally different than anything else out there. No vamps, no witches, no wizards…. I went back to my education, dusted off an old, little-known Greek myth, and went from there.
And three (Heck yes, I just started that sentence with a conjunction! Want to make something of it?), I found my Voice, and it’s amazing how writing in My Voice makes all the difference.
What part of writing brings you the greatest enjoyment and why?
Oh wow. I have to pick just one? I’m really bad at questions like these because I’m such an I’ll Have Cake AND Ice Cream sort of girl…but okay, I’ll give it a shot. I absolutely love getting a reaction from my readers. I love making people laugh in the middle of a scene while they are on pins and needles and then leaving them with a rush of adrenaline as the plot twists and they have to read “just one more” chapter. I know exactly who I am as a writer. I’m not out to change the world or open anyone’s eyes or land myself on Oprah’s much-abused couch. I want to deliver a powerful one-two punch of suspenseful, laugh-out-loud entertainment to my readers, and when I do it, I’m totally satisfied.
What has been the high point of your writing experience so far?
That’s another “What? Just one?” and since I already followed your rules on the previous question, I’m having my cake AND my ice cream on this one. ☺ I have to say finishing my first novel was definitely a high point. Never mind that it was 130k and needed some serious pruning. I’d done it. I’d taken the germ of an idea and turned it into a story that delivered on suspense, humor, and romance.
My second high point is finaling in the Golden Heart. For me, that was confirmation that I’m not crazy when I read my stuff and think, “Hey! This belongs on someone’s bookshelf!” (preferably Barnes & Nobles.)
How do you deal with the hills and valleys of a writer’s life?
I muster all of my considerable fortitude and resist the powerful allure of a box of Hot Tamales (which are of the devil) and instead, do one of the following:
- Keep writing. The words will come back, they will get better, I will understand the character/plot/conflict, and the magic will return.
- Call my CP and brainstorm until I see my way out of the corner I’ve written myself into or until the ideas are flowing so fast I just can’t wait to hit the keyboard again.
- Take a few days away from the issue and let it sit in the back of my mind until either I find a solution or the issue becomes less a lion and more of an annoying mosquito, easily swatted away.
- Eat the stupid box of Hot Tamales (which are of the devil) and then figure out the solution/talk myself past the doubts on my Walk of Penance the next morning.
How do you fuel your creativity?
I fuel my creativity in many ways but I would like to point out that none of those include the consumption of chocolate. I realize this flies in the face of every pre-conceived notion you’ve ever had about romance writers, but I think we’ve already established that I’m more of a fringe romance writer anyway, so I’m allowed to flaunt the rules.
And no, I don’t fuel it with Hot Tamales (which are of the devil). Those are for digging myself out of a pit of despair.
Music is huge for me. My iPod has almost 7,000 songs on it, plenty of which are soundtracks that I find instantly put me into the mood to write. I generally choose two or three albums to listen to per writing project because after the first few chapters, just hearing that music instantly transports me into the world of that novel. (Like Pavlov’s dogs, only with music – which, you have to admit, beats the living daylights out of dry “made with real lamb” chunks of hardened, smelly nutrition any day of the week.)
What encouragement would you offer others on the road to publication?
Don’t quit. Failure in this business is nothing more than an invitation to try something new. The beauty of being a writer is that the only one who can crush your dreams is you. You can query a different agent, try a new publisher, switch genres, find your Voice, revise, push your boundaries, write the thing you think might just be too big for you, join a critique group, network with others who understand the strange mix of art and business that is publishing, but for heaven’s sake, don’t quit. Keep writing.
Leave a comment for C.J.
Have a question for C.J.? Want to know more about her writing process, her manuscripts or her fear of goats? Leave a comment. She’ll be dropping by throughout the day to chat with you.
Please note. On Word Press blogs, the comment link is at the top by the post title.
I’ll randomly select the names of two people posting comments today who will each receive the aforementioned poor substitute for a pair of MB stilettos, an embroidered shoe bag in leopard or zebra variety. (If you’d prefer not to be included in the drawing, please note that, and your request will be honored.)
The winner of the first drawing is Emily Dennis, who snagged the leopard bag. Avery Beck won the second drawing and gets the zebra one. Congrats to both of you!
Learn more about C.J.
Visit her blog, The Last Word: http://cjredwine.blogspot.com/
View her free Amazon short: Dying to Remember
Friend her at Facebook: CJ Redwine/Facebook
Friend her at My Space: CJ Redwine/My Space