Mystique Books Interview with Rowena Beaumont Cherry

Why did you start writing romances? How long did it take for your first book to reach the shelves, from first draft to publication?

I started in around 1992 or 1993, and it took eleven years for my first book, which was FORCED MATE, to reach bookshelves.

Who, if anyone, has influenced your writing?

When I was thirteen my mother shared a Georgette Heyer Regency romance with me: These Old Shades. I still love well-written, well-researched Regencies. The Heyer heroes influence me (or my idea of what is romantic) on many levels.

Of today’s period romance authors, I especially like Jo Beverly and Mary Jo Putney. I think I’ll limit my list to the two authors whose novels I buy on the strength of her name without checking out the blurb…. Or the title.

I should read the titles and blurb. Then I wouldn’t buy the same story every time their publishers reissue a book with a different cover.

Which is a great segué to point out to this audience that FORCED MATE comes in two covers. Please check them out at my website: www.rowenacherry.com

Of the moderns, George Orwell influenced my writing on a less obvious level... About writing responsibly, the ethics of authorship, the importance of hands-on research.

My favorite Romance poets are Tennyson and Browning. I particularly liked the dark monologues, such as Browning's MY LAST DUCHESS.

I was very influenced by that monologue when I wrote the scene in MATING NET where the god-Emperor Djohn-Kronos asks the heroine’s guardian to vouch for whether or not the heroine is a virgin.

At Cambridge University, I read English and Education, and took the impossibly long suggested reading lists seriously. Nevertheless, I made time to read JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.

Do we limit “authors” to people who have written books? I'd like to include singer-songwriters, or musician-poets too... especially the mystical rock musicians such as Jim Morrison of the Doors and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac.

The late sixties and seventies were a time of Metaphysical Rock, I’d call a lot of it Sci-Fi-romance rock.

If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?

Maybe inventing.

How much research do you conduct for your books?

That varies, and sometimes I’ll pay a researcher to look into specific topics for me.

I like to fill my novels with a lot of uncommon knowledge, some of which is probably urban legend, but I try to avoid inserting interesting “stuff” just because I’ve researched it, whether it “fits” or not. I am probably not always successful.

For FORCED MATE, for instance, if a man who seems to know tells me that English mercenaries drive London taxi cabs when there is nothing more exciting to do, and which publications they read for the situations vacant columns, I've no idea how I'd safely verify whether my source was accurate or pulling my leg.

I got an amateur pilot to work out all the details of how to fly undetected from Cambridge (England) to Las Vegas in plane big enough to carry a limousine. In the end, I did not use this in FORCED MATE. It made no sense for Tarrant-Arragon to take Djinni-vera to Las Vegas –just because I had been there recently— when the obvious thing would be to take her back to his spacecraft as soon as the launch window opened.

However, it did make sense to date FORCED MATE a year later than 1993, which was a stand out year at the Indianapolis 500 ball, because the beauty queen was led out in a dance, by Fabio, and I was at the 500 with people who were at that Ball. I used the information they gave me to develop a rationale for how His Mightiness Tarrant-Arragon might chance to see a photograph that included the heroine of FORCED MATE.

For the sequel, INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, the worlds, the dating, and the Djinn Family Tree was already in place. Nevertheless there was plenty to research, including survival techniques, plane crashes, weapons, various methods of card fortune telling, and psychic detective work.

By the way, the Djinn Family tree is now up on my website, and it is interactive. Go to www.rowenacherry.com/familytree/

Click on the title of one of my books, and the major characters’ names will enlarge and highlight.

In your opinion, what are the elements of a great romance?
 
I haven’t analysed it, and I’m pretty sure what I write isn’t really Great Romance, so I will attack the question as if I were talking theoretically about why I love certain books.

The Hero, the hero, and the hero. I hope realtors will forgive me for borrowing their motto about Location.

For me, the most important element is the hero. He has to be magnetic, and complicated, strong, powerful and sophisticated. If he fascinates me, the book is a keeper and I’ll read it again and again.

Georgette Heyer’s Georgian and Regency heroes have always been my ideals…. The macho ones, at least.

For me, the heroine is not so important. I want to imagine myself in her place, anyway. She simply has to avoid being annoying, intrusive, or stupid.

I feel I ought to mention Plot, but honestly, I’m interested in characters. I don’t really care if they save a world, one tree, or a reputation.

Please tell us about your writing schedule.
 
I don’t have a schedule. If I did, I’d get up at three am and write until about nine. However, when I turn on the computer, it says something very loud and treacherous…. Such as You’ve Got Mail! And shortly after that one of my light-sleeping family members comes to keep me company, which means I have to provide food, drink and conversation.

Have you experienced writer's block? If so, how did you work through it?

 I’d say writers have much in common with musicians, artists, actors.... Doesn’t everyone have days or runs of days when either life gets in the way, or for one reason or another they are not inspired?

Do you feel that your books are based more upon the characters or the plot? How do you balance the two?
 
More upon Characters, especially the hero. As for HOW I balance the two, I am not sure that I do. Anything the hero does… the choices he makes, and the consequences of his choices determine where the plot goes.

What is the hardest part of writing? The easiest?

The easiest part--for me-- is characterization. That might be because I don’t generally start writing until the hero has come to life in my dreams.

The hardest part: the sex scenes. In fact, there isn’t a live action sex scene in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, at least, not at the moment, but then, it hasn’t sold yet, either.

I expect some wag will comment about how appropriate the title is.

Why are sex scenes hard for you? you might ask me. Firstly, there's the vocabulary. There are certain words one sees all the time in romance novels. I like to try and avoid as many of those words as possible.

I don’t avoid them so much in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, because Prince Djetthro-Jason was educated on Earth. So it might be natural for him to use the F--- word. It didn’t seem reasonable that Prince Tarrant-Arragon, who had never visited Earth until he decided to abduct Djinni-vera would use Anglo-American terminology.

So far, I haven’t had my Imperial male aliens give their genitalia “Christian” names, or poultry names, either. Djinn is prounced Jinn with the D silent. So, that rules out “Dick” for a start.
I’m off topic, here.

Secondly, it’s quite a challenge to find the *right* mix of
having the plot advanced, having something else going on at the same time, having realistic dialogue, keeping on topic.

Writing in the best of good taste means controlling my lamentable sense of humor, especially during love scenes. I have a terrible tendency to amuse myself (and only myself).

I call this sort of writing Gorilla Testicles… and already in this interview you will have noticed a few possible examples. Too often, I need an editor’s help to identify and remove them.

I once saw a wildlife program where the scientist found it necessary to measure the size of a sleeping gorilla's testicles using a monkey wrench.

I'm not sure why. He must have had an odd sense of humor, like me! The testicles, by the way, were remarkably small. Not worth the time and effort involved in measuring them, or in watching them being measured.

For good measure, I’ll tell you what’s the most fun.

I love weaving in uncommon knowledge...such as deviant frog mating behaviors, lion taming tips, fair-use quotes from Machiavelli, military uses for urine on the battlefield. (You won't find such unromantic and tasteless stuff in the Lovespell edition of FORCED MATE.)

Do you allow anyone to read your manuscripts before they're sent to the publisher?

Yes.
 
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

I have three:
Persist
Network
Read.
 
How much support do you receive from your publisher in promoting your book?
NO COMMENT
 
ROMANCE GENRE:

How do you envision the future of the romance genre?

I’m too busy to envision the future of the genre. If it amuses me, I might write mysteries, if suddenly there was no market for romance, or if a romance had to be steamier than my comfort level. My mother always said I had a criminal mind, though I cannot imagine why she thought so. I was an officious prig of a child.
 
How has the Internet affected you as an author? How has it affected the romance genre?
What a distraction! What an incredible resource!
 
What is your response to the critics of the romance genre - those who deem it trashy, too sentimental or without literary value?
 
I don’t try to be a spokesperson for any genre.

Now, if someone purchased FORCED MATE or MATING NET and feels that their expectations have not been met, I am very sorry for their disappointment. No doubt, they will not buy another book by me, once they know what to expect.

I write to please myself, so I am not going to take out the trash, or adopt a “literary” voice to please anyone else… except maybe a great editor.

I try to be careful not to misrepresent my books in my own advertising, but with any purchase it should be a case of buyer beware. I’d encourage anyone to check out excerpts on my website – www.rowenacherry.com – or ask around.

I don’t think anyone is going to find FORCED MATE, MATING NET, or INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL too sentimental.

BOOKS:
Please tell us about MATING NET

MATING NET—do you know, I’ve started wanting to type MATING NET! There’s a LOTR thought to make the mind boggle. MATING NET is a short story, of about 10,000 words. That is about 50 pages, in a nice font, double spaced, but only 23 for closely typed review copies.

MATING NET is set seventy years before FORCED MATE begins. It deals with how the hated Tigron god-Emperor Djohn-Kronos tricked Helispeta –who is Djinni-vera’s forbidding Grandmama in FORCED MATE—into marrying himself instead of his younger twin.

Who chooses the titles for your books?

So far, I do. My titles are all taken from chess moves or positions, and so far my editors have agreed with me that the title is appropriate.
 

Are you in control of your characters, or do they control you?

As a rule, they don’t. But if they did, the males would say,
“Don’t be in such a hurry to make me the bad guy. I want to be a hero. Tell my story. Find me somebody to love me.”

The females would probably say, “Don’t you dare describe me as feisty. Do you know the etymology of that word?”

 

 

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