AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: ANNE TENINO
We have finally managed to corner Anne Tenino for an interview; it has taken a while for our schedules to mesh…
Tell us a little about Too Stupid to Live and what inspired you to write it?
I was inspired by readers’ reaction to Sam, a character from my free novella, Whitetail Rock. Sam’s a total geek, and you don’t see serious geeks getting their man in many romance novels. At first I wasn’t sure how I’d do it, but at some point the idea of him getting the totally hot guy—a “calendar guy” type—became really appealing, and that’s when Ian was born.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
A little of both, actually. I usually have an idea of where things are going, but I often don’t know for sure how they’ll get there. And then the characters tend to decide to do something different all together and I descend into a mild panic for a while. Eventually a story results, and I’m left dazed and confused, wondering how I wrote it.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
Therapy inspired me to do it. I’m not exactly sure how, but at some point I decided there was a guy inside of me trying to get out, so I gave him a story. Then they just started lining up . . .
I toyed with writing romance (of the hetero variety) for years, but I never got serious about it. I always figured I would get serious someday, but up until Matt from 18% Gray showed up in my therapy session, I never really got around to it.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
My favorite character changes over time, and it’s usually one of the two guys in the book I’m currently writing or I’ve just completed. Right at the moment, my favorite character is Collin, who’s a main character in Sweet Young Thang, the third book in my Theta Alpha Gamma series. I just finished writing SYT and I’m still sort of in Collin’s (and Eric’s, the other MC’s) head. I lurve him. *sigh*
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Actually, it was probably Collin again. I had a lot of preconceived ideas about who he was, since he had a relatively important role in a previous book, Frat Boy and Toppy. In FB&T, Collin is Brad’s friend (Brad is one of the two MCs, of course). I had an idea of how Collin should be based on his behavior in that book, but it kept warring in my mind with the way the character of Collin kept telling me he was. As I probably should have done in the beginning, I let him have his way, and of course he turned out right.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
I do draw inspiration from real life, but never quite the way I expect. I rarely see someone and think “Oh! There’s [insert character name here]!” Actually, I don’t recall ever doing that. Instead what happens is I’ll be writing along and suddenly something that’s happened to me or to someone I know in real life happens to one of my characters. I pretty much never plan it out, and if I do plan it out it almost always changes.
An actual real life event that made it in? Well, in Too Stupid to Live, Ian was in an accident at work where he’s hit by a sixty-eight Volkswagen bus on fire (this all happens before the story begins, so it’s not really a spoiler). Volkswagen engines of that era were made largely of magnesium, and magnesium burns underwater—when the fire department shows up and sprays water on it, it actually causes a sort of reaction (that seems explosive), and that causes the bus—on fire and seemingly incapable of rolling—to start rolling toward Ian. This actually happened in real life. The firefighter who was injured in the real event wasn’t injured as severely as Ian, but he literally tried to stop the bus with his hands. It’s weird what we do in emergencies, even with training.
Actually, most of the fire and emergency scenes in any of my books are taken from real life, although I’ve tweaked many of them.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Besides the writing itself? The finishing. I’m really adept at starting projects and abandoning them once it begins to look like I will have a finished product. I’m not as good at completion, in general.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Dude, I was raised Catholic. All pleasures are guilt-inducing for me.
What TV Show are you addicted to?
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Not really, honestly. A wide variety of things and situations work for me. I do like to have something to drink, but that’s not a must-have.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Not really. I do have stories with theme songs, but it’s pretty rare. Whitetail Rock’s theme song is “Black Girls” by the Violent Femmes. The next in the Romancelandia series (Too Stupid to Live is the first in the series), is a book with the working title Billionaire with Benefits that’s been pretty heavily influenced by “One More Night” by Maroon 5. Other than that, not so much.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
If TSTL was optioned for a movie, I’d want DJ Qualls for Sam and Daniel Craig for Ian. But Daniel has to stop the manscaping post haste.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I got my first contract offer the night before we took a family trip to China. I took a break from packing to check my email, and ta-dah! Contract offer from Dreamspinner. I remember running into the kitchen and sliding to a stop on my socks, babbling about it to my husband.
I got my second contract from Dreamspinner a couple weeks later, just before we came back home.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
I think I was about 12? I found a total old-school Harlequin somewhere—it had the sex scene with the virgin heroine who only did it with the hero (a fabulously wealthy tycoon of undetermined exotic nationality) because she felt obligated. And then of course she was all “Oh my God! That was magical!” about it. Blech.
It’s amazing I kept reading them, actually…
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
I get pretty freaking excited when L. B. Gregg has a new one out, and Josh Lanyon.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I have no such job, bite your tongue!
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and/or an all time favorite?
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. In the (paraphrased) words of Harold (speaking about Sixteen Candles) “It’s a classic.”
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I just finished Sweet Young Thang the third book in the Theta Alpha Gamma series. It features Collin (college student and member of the TAG fraternity) and Eric (a much older firefighter). I’m immediately going to begin writing the fourth and last book in the TAG series, Poster Boy, which will be about Toby (grad student at Calapooya College) and Jock (a new member of TAG and Tank’s little brother). Sweet Young Thang will be out July 22 (tentatively) and Poster Boy should be out in early October.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
I might be able to handle writing with Edmond Manning—the thought has crossed my mind. But honestly the idea of co-writing gives me hives.
How do you pick your characters names?
Through a very complicated process where I try to “feel” their names. I’ll go through this long period where I’m sure it starts with a certain letter, and I search through all the baby name sites and etc, looking for just the right name that begins with that letter, and then one day some completely random name that doesn’t start with that letter comes along, and I’m, like, “Oh, that works.” Sometimes it changes as I write, too—like Jock, in Poster Boy, appears in SYT, so I spent most of the book writing his name and being convinced it should be Gavin, so I eventually changed it. Then I went back through afterward, and every time I read “Gavin” it seemed wrong, so I ended up changing it back to Jock (a nickname for Jacques, BTW).
Probably by the time the book comes out it will be something completely different. Or I’ll go back to Gavin. Or I’ll keep it as Jock/Jacques. IDK.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
I prefer love at first sight, but I rarely believe it when I’m reading or writing it, so I tend to write steady growth. Actually I’d say I write it so it is love at first sight, but the characters have to figure that out. In Too Stupid to Live, Sam knew right away, but he had other things to figure out first. Ian was just clueless. In Whitetail Rock, Jurgen knew immediately, but we don’t get his POV. In Sweet Young Thang, Eric knows pretty much right away, is aware of it and is pretty up front about it. You’ll have to read it to see how that turns out.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
“And what do you write?” It’s almost 100% effective. If they actually write something else, I ask them about their sales. The thing is, my father and my aunt are both published—my father wrote a couple of pretty technical photography books in the sixties, and my aunt has published some scholarly articles and a lot of poetry. I’m just not that impressed by the more academic or literary publishing world. I’m getting a much better deal in the genre world, and I know I work just as hard as they do/did to create their works. Most notably, they both recognize that as well.
Okay, to be honest, I’ve almost never had a snobbish reaction. Most people get excited when I tell them I’m published, they don’t seem to care what I write.
In the case of my mom, I just tell her to shut up.
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?