1. What do you wish men understood about women?
Men are interesting creatures. Without the little quirks that make men interesting, what would romance writers do for plot twists? Entertaining as they are, I frequently wish men didn’t think they had to jump in and solve a problem for a gal who is just venting or testing possible directions. Most of the men I know want to take a direction and ‘just get on with it’, while the woman is still weighing the options. Thinking aloud, possibly.
2. Do you only work on one book at a time?
Usually I only work on one book at a time—that is actually writing pages. At the same time, I’m usually making notes, doing research, or testing characters for another story. I’ve done some short stories and a novella recently and discovered I could bounce between drafting a shorter work and finishing a novel. At the moment I’m in the discovery phase of a series that involves three generations of women in the same family. I often run across material that works for one of the later stories while I’m still developing the first one. So I have a file of notes for future reference, to be incorporated later on. Long way around to say, usually one at a time, but right now, three plots are in the pot.
3. Who is your favorite fictional couple?
Let me think. Are we talking books, theater, or movies? Favorite couple of all books has to be Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. Gone with the Wind is the ultimate romance for me. I really enjoy Nick and Nora Charles from the “Thin Man” movie series released in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. The two characters made passion, marriage, and mystery a frothy combination. In the theater, the most enduring love story has to be Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street, but they aren’t fictional are they? I can watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers again and again for the pleasure of seeing Adam and Milly, who marry as total strangers, fall in love. Or read Dorothy Sayers to savor the wonderful relationship between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane as it develops. We have so many delightful couples, I’d have a hard time choosing one favorite. Maybe, of all the possibilities, Rick and Ilsa from Casablanca, are a little ahead of the rest. Paris, mysterious Morocco, lost love recovered, and noble sacrifice for something bigger than “the petty problems of three people...in a mixed-up world”—can any plot get better than that?
4. Favorite TV show?
I actually don’t watch much television. I’m a die-hard baseball fan, but don’t follow other sports. When it’s on, I watch every minute of “Dancing with the Stars”. I’m furious if someone who is not a reasonable competitor stays too long, or if my favorite is eliminated too early. And lately, during a long convalescence from a broken foot while I was confined to the sofa, I’ve watched a lot of “Castle” reruns. I’d never watched the program during the season, but I was quickly hooked on the idea of a handsome male novelist teaming with a gorgeous female detective. I like the chemistry between the two characters and the dialogue is fun. I particularly enjoyed two episodes, one a flashback to the forties, and one a send-up of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
5. Do you set daily writing goals? Word count? Number of chapters? Do you get a chance to write every day?
I do set up writing goals. My intent is to finish a scene in one time period. I find that I’m better able to make a scene work in the plot if I can write the entire thing at one time. A long scene may take me far into the night, a short one might leave me time for lunch with friends, but if I can complete it in one shot, it has better energy, it accomplishes its purpose, and I feel better about it. That doesn’t always happen. I’ll get halfway into the action and discover I haven’t prepped it enough in earlier pages or the scene just doesn’t work. Then I’m going back to earlier chapters to find where things don’t fit. I don’t set word-count goals. Scene sequences work better for me as I see the story in my head like a play. I write every day, unless I find I’ve run into a plot knot. That’s usually an indication I didn’t do enough research or preparation. If I find that I need to know more about the way a car handles or a gun fires or café looks to make the action flow, I put in a bracket, highlight it in red, and pick up the story just after that block. That way, I can finish out the scene without losing my mental image, then come back after I’ve checked out the question. My short-term goals are pretty loose, but I generally have a time-frame for finishing the first draft of the project. After that, it’s a daily six to eight hour grind to work out the creaks and groans.
6. Who was the last person you hugged?
My significant other, Herbie, the most patient man in the world. And my magnificent Abbey, the princess cat, who supervises me with unrelenting attention.
7. What are you working on now?
The current W-I-P is the series about three women of one family. It was inspired by my late mother-in-law who, at four-feet-seven inches, was indomitable, courageous, and often incomprehensible to her family. It is in no way biographical. I inherited a collection of her letters and they suggested a story I felt should be told.
8. Tell us about your latest release and where we can find it
All of my work can be ordered from the Wild Rose Press, Amazon, or my website. I have three publications that are just out. The novel, Bal Masque, tells the adventures of a proper young lady of New Orleans, circa 1835, who is determined not to marry the tedious man her father has chosen. Instead she plots to run away with the roguish fellow who has captured her fancy, dashes headlong into the wild on her wedding night, meets up with river pirates, dodges a hurricane in an isolated cabin in the swamp, and finally discovers, no matter how hard she tries, she can’t escape Destiny. And, perhaps, she didn’t really want to, after all.
I also have two sweet little short stories out. The first, Close Encounter with a Crumpet, is set in contemporary London. A quiet librarian from Boston finds herself on a coach tour of the UK with a group of much older women who sabotage every fantasy she had about her trip. After an endless tour of cold cathedrals and dreary tea rooms, she finds herself in the company of her dashing coach driver who shows her the romantic side of London and how love can come from unexpected encounters.
The other short story, Help Wanted: WIFE, takes place on a small ranch in Central Texas just after World War II. A lonely cowboy takes a chance on a mail order bride and finds that he can learn a lot from a quiet schoolteacher with a big red Maine Coon cat.
Excerpt from Help Wanted: WIFE
“Cat? In the house? Never had a cat living in the house. Nor dog, either. Don’t think I’d want to keep animals in the house with me. Better turn her loose in the barn with the rest of the mousers.”
Cherilyn set the carrier down. “Now listen here, Cole Witherspoon. I came clear across Texas in August, spent eleven hours in a bus hot enough to bake cookies, stayed here half the night in the dark and the rain waiting for you, wondering if you were coming at all…
“I didn’t make this trip just to go back, but Arabella isn’t living in the barn unless that’s where I am. She’d get sick or die, and I couldn’t bear it.” Cherilyn softened her tone. “Look, sunsets don’t have any practical use, but life would be poorer without them. Laughter never made anybody five dollars better off, but it certainly eases a hard day. That’s what Arabella does for me, makes a hard day better or a bad time easier. If it comes down to her not being with me or taking that next bus back, I guess I’ll just go back.”
Rachel, thank you so much for the opportunity to visit again. I get to come to Bath in October. It’s a special trip and I can’t tell you how much this I am anticipating the time we’ll be there.
Guest blogging with you is a rare treat and I feel as if I’m in outstanding company. Come to Texas and we’ll take you to a rodeo, offer bar-be-cue and teach you the Texas Two-Step. Or just trade tall tales.
Include personal links. Bio and up to 3 accompanying pics J
My website is www.fleetacunningham.com
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I blog at www.authorsbymoonlight.com
A fifth-generation Texan, Fleeta Cunningham has lived in a number of small Texas towns. Drawing on all of them, she created the vintage 1950’s town that is the setting for her Santa Rita series and its inhabitants. After the five book Santa Rita series, Fleeta followed a long-time dream and wrote the historical romance, Bal Masque, the first book in the Confronting Destiny series. She’s also released several short stories and is contributing a vintage story to the Wild Rose Press Christmas box set, The Twelve Brides of Christmas. A novella, Double Wedding, Single Dad, will be featured in the Dearly Beloved series later this year.
After a career as a law librarian for a major Texas law firm, writing a monthly column for a professional newsletter and other legal publications, she returned to her home in Central Texas to write full time. Fleeta has been writing in one form or another since the age of eight. When she isn’t writing, Fleeta teaches creative writing classes, speaks to civic groups, serves as the wedding coordinator for her church, and keeps house for her feline roommates.