AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT Josee Renard
Josee Renard brings us a story about how let latest book ties in with the famous Tom Jones….
Josee Renard’s latest work is What’s New, Pussycat? Available at Cobblestone Press.
Tell us a little about What’s New, Pussycat?, what inspired you to write What’s New, Pussycat?
Versa really isn’t interested in men because she’s convinced that once sex is involved, that’s all it’s about for them, so she’s given it up. The trouble is that she loves sex. But this summer the house next door to her has been taken over by RenoGuy and she’s rethinking her interest in men. And sex. Theo’s spent the summer singing to Versa and trying to figure out a way to get Versa over to his side of the fence. When the story begins, they both realize they’ve got to figure out a way to get over the fence soon because the renovation is almost finished.
Two things inspired me to write about Versa and Theo. The first is that I live in Vancouver and we’ve been stuck in a perpetual rainy spring. It doesn’t look like summer will ever arrive. I wanted to write a summer fantasy so I could enjoy the heat. The other thing is pretty obvious – Tom Jones and the song What’s New, Pussycat? Many years ago I worked with the executive producer of The Tom Jones Show and spent a lot of time at the studio, out to dinner, in the office with Tom Jones. He was a real gentleman under every circumstance and I admired that about him. So I tend to sing his songs pretty regularly and What’s New, Pussycat? just stuck in my head when I was contemplating a new story.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
When I start writing I have one thing, either a phrase or a title. That’s it. I don’t even have characters or settings or themes or anything. I sit down and I start writing with the title or phrase on the page. Because I’ve written for magazines and newspapers and a whole lot of essays, I’m pretty good about writing exactly the right length so my subconscious somehow manages to craft the story to the right length. It takes a lot of faith to sit down at the computer every day and have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what is going to happen but I’ve been doing it long enough that I’m pretty confident it’s going to work out in the end.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
My friend and fellow writer Anna Leigh Keaton (who also writes for Cobblestone press) inspired me to try and write erotica with a happy ending. When I met her and read a couple of her books I fell in love with the sensuality of them, but I also appreciated the happy endings (or happy for now endings).
I actually started out writing women’s fiction with a dash of magic realism and I still write that under my real name, Kate Austin. But I don’t think of writing erotica as a switch but rather (and thanks for the idea) as a morphing of what I was already writing. Sensuality (not sex, for sensual details) were always important parts of my writing, so really all I’ve done is upped the heat quotient. I’m still writing the same kinds of stories, just way hotter!
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
I’d give you a different answer to this question on a different day, but right now I’ll say that one of my favorite characters is Morteza. He shows up in two stories – The Pleasure Club: The Demon and The Demon Next Door: Morteza. I love Morteza because he’s so courageous. He never fit in the Underworld, so he came to River City to see if he could learn to be human. He figured out the best way to do it – obviously he’s a geek! – was to spend time in an internet café. But there are some things you can’t learn on the internet and you have to experience them in person. So he goes to The Pleasure Club and his fantasy comes true. For a single night. In the novella The Demon Next Door: Morteza he has to figure out a way to get back to together with the loves of his life without harming them. It isn’t easy, but he’s smart and, even more than that, he knows what he needs and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Boy, these are tough questions. You’re really making me think about this interview. Hmmm. The toughest character I’ve ever written? Joseph, Mercedes’ love interest in The Gossip Queens. He had a tough life, plus he was pretty much a genius, and he squatted in an old cabin on the beach. I had to make him interesting and attractive enough for Mercedes, but I also had to make sure that his complications made sense to the reader. It was tough but I think I got him right because Mercedes definitely fell for him!
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
I think we all do though I’m not conscious most of the time that I’m doing it. But there is one time…
I’ve had the same hairdresser for many many years, following her all around town as she moved from shop to shop. When I was writing The Sunshine Coast News I realized that the heroine, Josie Harris, was living with a string of incredibly bad luck and it all began with her hairdresser moving to Mexico to get married and have babies. Once I figured out what was going on, I named the hairdresser about mine – Gabriella aka Gabe – and added in some details that anyone who knows Gabe would catch. I think I wrote this story because I was – still am, for that matter – scared to death of Gabe moving somewhere where I can’t still see her and get her to cut my hair!
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Finding the consistent time to do it. My partner works odd hours, as do I, and both of our schedules change so often I never know what my schedule is going to be – I call it the non-schedule schedule.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I’m a huge sports fan of almost every kind of sports. Top of my list? Soccer (go Chelsea! hurray Holland!), tennis (how can you not like Rafa?), the New Orleans Saints, the summer Olympics. I’ll watch almost anything except darts, poker, pool (I’ll play any of them but not watch them), golf. And I don’t get cricket.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Yep. Reading. My idea of the perfect weekend? My partner’s away, I have plenty of my favorite junk food and wine in the house. No one needs me for anything. And I have 30 or 40 new books to read. I’ll only read 7 or 8 of them, but I love having the choice. This hasn’t happened in a while, but it’s what keeps me going.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
At the beginning all I need is that phrase or title. After that? I need momentum. If I take a few days off, it’s a painful process to get back into the writing. When things are working well, I light the candle on my desk and pour myself my favorite tea – Bengal Spice, although I call it tiger tea. When things are going badly? It’s just slogging it out.
What are your favorite/least favorite plot devices?
I actually don’t have them – I mean, of course I must have them, but they’re buried so deep in my subconscious that I can’t tell you what they are. What is a plot device?
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Yes, though not in the way most people would think of it. I love music, love song titles and lyrics and I often use them to get me started on a story. Lately I’ve used What’s New, Pussycat?, Part Time Lovers, That’s What Friends are For, Signed, Sealed Delivered. Those last three all go together in the serial – 10 linked stories – that will be released in 10 consecutive weeks starting sometime in September.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
Funny, this isn’t something I think about, though I’m a huge movie fan. I’ll just pick my two favorite actors. Javier Bardem and Ellen Barkin. Or maybe George Clooney and Jeanne Moreau.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was at work, oddly enough, seeing as I don’t work all that many hours in a week. My agent called me and told me it was a go and so the first people I told were the people I worked with. Then I phoned everybody else I could think of, my writing friends, my family, all my friends. It was great.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Probably somewhere around 11 or 12 when I started reading adult books. I can still remember being somewhere around that age when I read Mandingo and Drum and spent a big part of my allowance on Harlequin Presents (didn’t we all?) at the secondhand bookstore around the corner.
If you still have one of those pesky day jobs what is it?
I sort of have a pesky day job. I work freelance as a paralegal for two different law firms (somewhere between 2 days and fulltime a week). I also teach litigation to paralegals, but only half a dozen days a year. This generally leaves me plenty of writing time, though right now I’m having trouble settling into a schedule. It’s aggravating the heck out of me.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I’m working on two things although they’re actually 11 things.
I’m working on Part Time Lovers, a 10 story serial with Cobblestone Press that’ll be released on ten consecutive weeks starting sometime in September. It’s a lot of fun because I have Jules and Mercy who own the website, Part Time Lovers, and they’re in all 10 stories, and then I have all the people who go to the website looking for a date.
I’m also working on some serious revisions for a complicated women’s fiction book. This is very tough but the revision notes I have are terrific and I just have to get my head around them.
Do you have an all time favorite book you have read?
I’ve read literally thousands of books so it’s hard to pick a favorite but I do have books I read over and over again. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of my favorite mysteries and favorite romances. Lord of the Rings, which I read for the romance as much as the adventure. Anything by Gene Stratton-Porter, but especially The Keeper of the Bees. In all of these books, I love the characters and feel like I know them as well (maybe better) than I know my family and friends.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
I’m not sure I could co-write because, given my lack of planning, I’d probably drive any other writer crazy. But if I could co-write, I’d like to do it with Gene Stratton-Porter.
How do you pick your characters names?
Like the way I (don’t) plot, I don’t usually pick character names, they just come to me, along with the character him or herself. I do occasionally look for something specific if I have a character who is much older and needs a name that’s not popular right now but was in the 1920s. Sometimes I’ll check the two or three baby name books I have or I’ll just turn my head to my bookshelves and read author names. The trick for me is that if the name isn’t right, I can’t write the character, so the ones that just come to me are usually the best.
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”.
My reaction is mostly that they haven’t read them, don’t understand the complexity and variety of romance books out there. Most people who say this haven’t read a romance in years, if ever. Now I usually add that somebody must be reading – and loving – them because Nora Roberts makes somewhere around $10 million a year. Just ask The New Yorker.
Where can readers find you?
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Not so silly at all. I love Purdy’s. It’s a local chocolate company and they have the very best chocolate covered ginger and coconut haystacks in the world. I like a little chocolate, but if it’s covering the right thing like coconut or ginger? I’m in heaven.