Anita Clenney writes Paranormal Romantic Suspense. Her stories are full of demons and daggers, castles and crypts, and to-drool-for, kilt-clad Scottish warriors. Her debut novel, Awaken the Highland Warrior, the first in a three-book series, is scheduled for release in May 2011 by Sourcebooks Casablanca.
Anita lives in Virginia near Washington, D.C. with her hero/husband who understands that dinner isn’t usually on time, an incredibly talented son who plans to be a famous football player, and a daughter who will not only write a book one day but figure out a way to rule the world. And then there’s Lily, the white Boxer who keeps them on their toes.
When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Anita loves to read and shop. She can get quite obsessive about bargains. Mirrors and diamonds are two of her passions. She uses mirrors in place of artwork, much to her husband’s frustration since there isn’t any wall space left, and diamonds are truly one of her best friends. She scours out incredible deals and then tailors the piece to her taste. Her jeweler once asked her if she lies awake at night dreaming up modifications to torment him. The answer is yes, when her muse is sleeping and her plot line is being stubborn.
Anita has a Diet Coke or glass of iced tea in her hand constantly and says she’s addicted to sweets, pecan pie in particular. So, in her honor, there’s a cooler full of Diet Coke, pitchers of iced tea—plain, sweet, and decaf—and plenty of pecan pie. So, grab something cool to drink along with a slice of pie, sit back, and enjoy the opportunity to learn more about Anita and her journey to publication.
Anita’s Journey Begins
•I’ve often heard it said that readers make the best writers. How did your love of reading lead to your new career as a novelist?
I’ve always loved to read but stopped when I had kids, which was late in life. Then I joined a local book club for the social interaction, but while we were reading things that were interesting, they weren’t my favorite genres, which are romance and mystery.
My family went on vacation that year, and at the last minute, I took along a Carla Neggers book. I enjoyed reading it so much I couldn’t believe I’d stopped. My obsession with reading started again.
I read nonstop for two years before deciding that I not only wanted to read, I wanted to create my own story. And just in time, since my husband and I had an agreement that I would go back to work after the youngest started kindergarten…and I really didn’t want to go back to work. Silly me thought it would be a short, sweet ride to publication. I went in totally blind.
•Once you decided to write, what were some of the first steps you took, and what did you learn from them?
I really was ignorant. I didn’t know where to go so I first began by looking at Harlequin’s guidelines for writers. I didn’t know my stories would be too long and plots too complex for category romance. Still, I learned a lot, and began to realize I was in a little over my head.
Undaunted, I plodded on, enthusiastic as a child with a new toy as I pounded out my new story, and started a few more. The terrible thing was I started submitting to publishers immediately, when I had only about two chapters done, and the stories were far from polished. Like I said, I was so ignorant about everything. I got a few rejections, but they were very nice, some even detailed.
At the same time, I was doing more research on the craft of writing, and as I learned about all the rules of the game, I realized I needed some help with my first story (which is now the second in my series). I contacted a critique service run by Leigh Michaels, and she critiqued my first couple of chapters. She just happened to be an instructor and was impressed with my enthusiasm for writing, so she offered me a scholarship to one of her beginner’s romance classes. That was an eye opener and set me on the right track.
I followed up with more classes, learning as I wrote. It was during this time that I started to get overwhelmed, but my dreams were set and nothing was going to shake me. It helped a lot that my husband was very supportive and encouraged me tremendously.
•You’re represented by a highly respected literary agent. How did your offer of representation come about, and how did you react when you got The Agent Call? Did Christine take one look at your work and send it out, or did you have to tweak it a bit?
I met Christine Witthohn at a conference. We were in line at a book signing and started chatting. She gave me invaluable advice. Part of her advice was that a new writer must have her work complete and polished before submitting, because the editor or agent is looking for great writing, not good writing, and they may not want the story months later. Whoops. This is what I’d been doing.
Christine requested my full and sure enough, when I got home, I realized it wasn’t ready. I took ten months to finish. I submitted it but she was no longer accepting submissions. Talk about irony. Panicked, I reminded her of our meeting and she made an exception. Whew!
A few days later she offered to represent me. We both knew I needed to do more editing on the manuscript, and as I edited, I found I wanted to add more layers and new twists. Christine advised me to take my time and make it shine. I took that advice to heart, and she let me sit on the back burner while I revised the manuscript for about a year and a half, making the story better and also improving my writing skills. When we were both happy with it, she submitted the manuscript and it sold in just a few weeks.
•Some writers have a hunch The Call is coming their way. Others are stunned. Which were you? How did you react to the news?
Christine is great. She’d promised to call me if she heard ANYTHING. She has a good relationship with the editor and knew it wouldn’t take months for the editor to get back to us, but I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
She called me on a Friday night and said she’d gotten an email from an editor who was interested but had some questions. We assumed that was a good sign, but in this business, you never know. Later that night, Christine called again and told me she’d talked to the editor who was quite interested and would get back with her soon.
The next day she called with the offer. A three book deal with an option on the fourth. Three years, eleven months and twenty two days after I sat down at my typewriter with a dream on my fingertips. I didn’t scream or shout. It was a surreal moment. I was very calm. It was like, okay, I’m here. Now what?
I think it still hasn’t fully hit me. But then I live for the chase. It will probably sink in somewhere down the road and I’ll start screaming.
Anita’s Sources of Inspiration
•Who or what nourishes your creative spirit?
First of all, there’s God, who in my opinion is the author of the creative spirit. And my family. They make me feel creative. Their confidence in me gives me this great sense of accomplishment and the confidence to keep going with my writing.
On a more personal basis, I love driving in the car with the sunroof open, feeling the wind in my hair as I watch the trees and hills go by. It instantly puts me in writing mode. So many times I start out to run errands and halfway there I want to turn around and go home because I feel so inspired to write. But I drag out the digital voice recorder instead and make notes.
I love ghostly moonlit nights with a soft breeze rustling the leaves. It stirs my creative side. I think I’m obsessed with trees. Some nights I’ll write on the back deck with only candles lit. Did I mention I love candles? Of course I have a flashlight to make sure the noises I hear aren’t from a black bear creeping up on me. We did have a black bear try to steal our trash can one night. Just don’t eat my laptop please.
Anita’s Writing Process
•Where do you craft your stories? Do you hole up in an office, hang out at a coffee house, or sit on a chair in your front yard gazing at the lake?
I write on my computer which is in the laundry room at the moment. If I didn’t love diamonds so much we might have a house large enough so I could have an office. But it works out well. I can shut the door if I want. I’m near the kitchen and my Diet Coke, and if I feel like throwing in a load of laundry, I can do it without moving.
I use my laptop if I go outside or to my son’s football practices. I tend to do more editing there.
For actual creating, I need quiet. On occasion I’ll use music, usually Loreena McKennitt, Evanescence or Nickleback.
•With a three-book contract, you’ve had to deal with writing deadlines from the moment you sold. How do you do it? Do you have a streamlined writing process?
I don’t have a streamlined process at the moment. I’m very spontaneous, not as disciplined as I should be. It’s worked for me, writing wise, but I’m determined to become more disciplined, since I do have deadlines now. Especially after coming back from RWA’s national conference. Listening to some of the speakers and attending workshops really made me enthusiastic for writing and for doing it more effectively. I’ll never be a completely structured person, but I want to be more disciplined so I don’t get down to the last minute and have to write all night.
•How do you begin a story? Do you just sit down with an idea in mind and start writing, or are you a person who wouldn’t dream of starting without a detailed outline, character sketches, and pages of research data?
When I first started writing, I was more of a pantser but I realized I was getting my best ideas at the end of the story, which meant a lot of rewriting. I decided if I did more brainstorming first, I could get those ideas in the beginning. So I’ve become a little more of a plotter, although I don’t outline. I just have lots of notes on everything that happens, including backstory.
It starts with an idea. It might be from a dream or something that hit me when I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep. I mull it over, make some notes on the computer or in a notebook. Mull some more, jot down some more. Sometimes I start writing when I just know the basic story line, other times I’ll have a full synopsis before I start writing. I rely heavily on my notes and I also have a digital voice recorder that I carry with me for those moments when a brilliant idea strikes.
I flesh out the plot when I’m resting, driving my kids back and forth to football practice, and then there are the weekly breakfasts or lunches with my critique partner. We chow down, and can we ever plot. We do some awesome brainstorming over a plate of food and a tall glass of diet soda or iced tea. She’s more obsessed with Diet Coke than I am. Maybe…that would be almost impossible.
Partners on Anita’s Journey
•We writers spend countless hours in front of a computer with no one for company but a faithful pet perhaps, or, in my case, some tenacious dust bunnies. However, we don’t travel this path alone. Who have been your staunchest supporters?
Hey, I have dust bunnies too! Maybe they’re related to yours.
First and foremost, my family. My hero/husband and kids who are so proud and supportive of me and understanding of my obsession with writing. Also my parents, brother, sister-in-law and nephew who keep me grounded. My husband’s family has been incredibly supportive, as well. In fact, the book is dedicated to his grandmother, one of the strongest, most energetic women I’ve ever met. She was so excited for me and couldn’t wait for her autographed copy, but she died a few weeks after she found out I’d sold.
On the writing end of things, I’m thrilled to have Deb Werksman, my new editor at Sourcebooks, who has given me some great ideas, and of course my agent, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. I can’t say enough about her. She’s like a mother hen, cheerleader, pit bull and all around Wonder Woman.
My critique partner, Dana Rodgers, is simply amazing. She was an acquaintance at my daughter’s preschool. It was a fluke that we connected over writing after we’d both moved on from the preschool. She’s writing now as well.
Leigh Michaels, my first writing instructor, was instrumental in helping me learn the basics, and ironically, she now shares the same agent and publisher. And I have to credit Margie Lawson and a myriad of other instructors for helping me take my writing to new levels.
And there’s Google. Where would I be without Google?
Anita’s Debut Novel
•Please tell us about Awaken the Highland Warrior.
Since the beginning of time, a clan of warriors has walked the earth, appointed by Michael the Archangel, their quest is to seek and destroy the demons that live disguised among us. These Scottish protectors rely on secrecy, as do the demons they battle. Only vague references in obscure long-ago writings give mention to these mysterious beings.
Following what she believes is a map, spunky historian Bree Kirkland discovers a Scottish warrior buried in a crypt behind her house. But the warrior isn’t dead. Bree soon realizes that there was no treasure, and she’s thrown into a world fraught with danger. Demons and castles, daggers and talismans, and friends who aren’t what they appear.
When this chauvinistic Scottish Warrior awakes, he has no choice but accept the help of this modern-day woman who’s rescued him, but she’s more fearsome than the demon trying to kill him. If he’s not careful, she’ll uncover every secret his clan has bled and died to protect.
Anita’s Journey Continues
•Your first book is in your editor’s hands. What are you working on now?
I’m doing some last minute edits on the first book for my editor and working on the second book in the series. The rough draft is almost finished.
Five Things That Make Anita a Unique Character
~ I talk to myself…and I enjoy it.
~ For a short while, I traveled with a group of Aztec Fire Dancers. No. I didn’t dance.
~ I get things accomplished by obsession rather than discipline.
~ I love diamonds and mirrors and trees.
~ I see both sides of every issue, sometimes more. It’s a blessing…and a curse. 🙂
Anita’s Question for You
Books have opened up new worlds and created wonderful characters who feel as if they’re alive. Who is your favorite character in a book? Or if you can’t narrow it down to one, list several.
Anita has generously offered to give away a $30 Borders gift card.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Anita by midnight August 31 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)
On September 1, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)
Congratulations to Cynthia Chow, winner of the Borders gift card.
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Anita
Visit her website ~ www.anitaclenney.com
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