Gabriella Hewitt is the pen name of creative writing talents Sasha Tomaszycki and Patrizia M.J. Hayashi, who write romantic suspense and paranormal romance. Their first book, Dark Waters, started them on the journey of published author. After a hiatus they sold their Shadow Warrior series to Samhain Publishing and landed agent Saritza Hernandez of the L.Perkins Agency.
Patrizia lives on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan with her husband and three sons. Their Italian/American-Japanese household makes for some interesting cultural bumps. Patrizia’s addiction to mystery and romance novels ranks up there with chocolate, and she is ever grateful to Amazon for opening a Japan branch, which means she no longer has to wait for that once-yearly visit to the U.S. to stock up on books. The sale of Dark Waters represented her first step in her dream of being successfully published, and she looks forward to a long and successful writing partnership with Sasha, whose imagination takes Patrizia’s ideas for murder, mayhem, and alternate realities to new levels. Though she was born and raised in NY State, she’s spent most of her adult life overseas. She has a B.A. in Spanish from Grinnell College and an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley.
Sasha has been making up stories about vampires, werewolves, fairies, and other-worldly creatures since she could hold a pencil. Her imagination is as wild as her background: a crazy mix of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Trinidadian, Carib, Indian, English, and Chinese. (Unlike Patrizia, who speaks Japanese, Sasha can’t speak a lick of any of those languages—English included). A born and bred New Yorker, Sasha resides with her Polish-turned-U.S.-citizen husband and three children in North Carolina. She’s a repeat offender of maxing out her library card and can often be found with her nose in a book. A graduate of Baruch College, she holds a B.B.A. in Marketing and an MS in Elementary Education from Hofstra University.
How did the two of you meet and begin collaborating?
(Note: I’ve asked Sasha to put an S in front of her answers and Patrizia to use a P for hers when both answer. Yeah, I know. Real creative, huh? J)
We first met on eHarlequin.com’s Intrigue thread where we talked about writing, romantic suspense and life in general. Each of us pursued our writing careers individually. At one point we collaborated on a reader-generated online story for eHarlequin.com that turned into a popular series and developed quite an audience. We went on to win a Golden Noodle Award for our efforts. We still didn’t join forces at that point.
In February 2005, both of us were frustrated with the rejections and lack of progress in our writing. We brainstormed an idea to work on. Patrizia thought it an exercise in writing and craft, but she forgot Sasha thinks BIG! Sasha pitched that concept to a Harlequin editor she met at a workshop and received a request for a full. We only had three chapters written. LOL! We raced to complete the story and sent it in. The editor rejected it, but told us she like our writing style. So, we got to work on another story.
Your first book, Dark Waters, released several years ago. What is the story behind that story?
That second project we worked on was Dark Waters. We wanted to set it in Puerto Rico and bounced back and forth the idea of a New Yorker receiving an inheritance that wasn’t everything the heroine expected. We then came up with an ICE angle, still intending it to be a category romance for Harlequin. We sent it in to the same editor and again though she really liked our writing, she didn’t feel it quite fit the line.
We didn’t let the rejection get us down. We sent the manuscript to Samhain Publishing and they snapped it up. Lesson learned: Do not assume that if one editor does not contract your work that another won’t.
After years without another contract, you sold your novella, Out of the Shadows, which seems apropos since this story brought you back into the limelight. What transpired during your “shadowy” years, and how did things come together to bring this project to fruition?
S: We never stopped writing, but life got in the way. Both of us held full time jobs as teachers and have three children. It was tough making time to write, but eventually we found our rhythm again.
P: For a while, writing wasn’t a priority and it has to be. One day we woke up and realized that the publishing industry was going through major change as digital books became more mainstream and we wanted to be part of that process.
You came back in a big way, selling a series. Where did you get the idea for your Aztec Warriors series? Did the characters start chatting, did you visualize a certain scene, or did an entire story play out in one of your head’s movie style?
The roots for this concept started in our shadowy years. Samhain had put a call out for stories with dragons. We tried to use the ICE angle again, but threw in an Aztec dragon. The story didn’t make that cut but the idea of using Aztec mythology stuck with us. We actually made a few attempts before we hit the right story to get this series off the ground.
For both of us, plot tends to come first and we have to go back and really work on building characters. We’ll see scenes in the story and then think of how to connect them together.
I’m sure you’re asked this repeatedly, but how does your collaborative process work? What strengths do each of you bring to the writing partnership? How do you divvy the duties?
P: We’ve been getting this question a lot lately and I’ve also been seeing more and more writing teams out there. I think every team is different. Sasha and I don’t divvy up the work. One of us starts and the other will pick up from where the first one left off. We might go back and completely rewrite what the other did. We definitely go back and layer. We write over each other so much that it’s completely one voice in the end.
S: We’re constantly chatting and batting ideas back and forth. I’m always throwing new story ideas to Patrizia. I’ve got so many crazy characters running around my head. LOL! When we started we were more pansters, in that we simply ran with an idea but then we ran into dead ends. Now, we write out chapter outlines and that keeps us on track.
What challenges do you face co-authoring a novel. How do you overcome them?
If you’re writing with another person, ego has to be checked at the door. Neither of us owns the writing. We go in and do what has to be done to make the story the best it can be.
World building plays a big role in writing a paranormal. How did you go about developing the world for your series?
Once we hit on our shadow warriors concept we knew that we had to build the Aztec aspects of the story. We’ve done a lot of research into Aztec mythology and even language. It’s a fascinating civilization and it’s been a lot of fun figuring out how to fit the mythology into our stories. Since there is much still not known about the Aztecs, it gives us leeway to adapt the gods and goddesses to our storyline.
Gabriella’s Latest Release
Please tell us about Out of the Shadows.
When the last shadow warrior falls, so will all humanity.
With each demon he vanquishes in service to the Aztec sun god, Tomás fulfills his duty to defend humankind—and surrenders another piece of his humanity to his wolf spirit. All hope seems lost until a mission leads him to the door of the one thing he thought he’d never find…his spirit mate. The only woman who can save him from oblivion.
When Carolina hears the wolf’s howl, it pierces the very core of her lonely heart. Yet she dare not answer. As the last guardian of her land and the secret it contains, she is haunted by the mistake that cost the lives of her family. Never will she repeat that mistake, especially with a warrior who is more beast than man.
Chasing away the demon is easier than breaching the barriers around the heart of the young woman who possesses a strange power over water—and his very soul. But if they are to survive the night, he must convince her they are destined to stand together.
Five Fun Facts About Sasha
~ She loves chocolate so much that she named her hairless Yorkie, Coco. (And yes, she said hairless, he is a rare breed. There is only 1 in every 10,000 born.)
~ All her children are named after saints. (Wishful thinking on her part.)
~ She likes to refer to herself as a Caribbean Cocktail. Her heritage is a mixture of English, Trinidadian, African, Indian, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Greek.
~ She drives a minivan but don’t mistake her as a slow poke. She tends to have a lead foot and has pushed the speedometer up to 180 mls p/h! (And yes, she is notorious for getting speeding tickets. She finds it a great way to meet cute cops. LOL)
~ She doesn’t care much for weeds in her garden and can be OCD about pulling them, spraying them and outright going Banzai on them.
Five Fun Facts About Patrizia
~ Pasta, bread, chocolate and coffee are her weaknesses. She can be bribed!
~ She loves the water and has always lived close to it. Even in Tokyo, she lives near the bay.
~ She hasn’t owned a dishwasher or dryer in over ten years. This is sooo not a fun fact! LOL!
~ She doesn’t own a car and walks everywhere. It’s a great way to keep down her weight from all that pasta, bread and chocolate. 😉
~ She adores cozy mysteries and is always on the lookout for a new series to get hooked on.
Gabriella’s Question for You
Recently, we did a post on our blog titled, Find Your Passion.
Writing is our passion, what’s yours?
Learn More About Gabriella
Visit her website ~ www.GabriellaHewitt.com