AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT Virna DePaul
Sitting down with Author Virna DePaul to chat about multiple books…
Virna what is your most current work out?
I actually have two very different releases coming out close together. The first is my debut Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Dangerous To Her (August 23, 2011). The second is Book 2 in the Para-Ops novels, Chosen By Fate, by Berkley (October 4, 2011).
Tell us a little about these works and what inspired you to write them.
I wrote Dangerous To Her first, before I sold. At the time, I was focused on writing contemporary romantic suspense and wanted to try a shorter category-length book. Individually, I love stories about cops (especially undercover cops) and young lovers reunited, so I decided to write about young lovers who are separated because of the hero’s desire to be a cop in the first place.
Chosen By Fate is about one of the most interesting characters I’ve created—a “ghost” who feels pain whenever she is touched. She was a secondary character in Para-Ops Book 1, Chosen By Blood, and I was challenged and excited to create a successful romance between her and the hero.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
Before I sold, I wrote by the seat of my pants, not sure where the story was going to take me. However, once I sold and started submitting on proposals (outline of the entire story and first three chapters), I’d have a general idea where the plot was “supposed” to go. But I always allow my characters to lead the way, allowing flexibility to change things up.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I always wanted to write contemporary romantic suspense. After writing four of them and getting “close” to a sale but not quite there, I looked at the hot paranormal market and saw that no one had done the “special ops team thing” in the paranormal world. I had never thought to write paranormals even though I read my fair share and really enjoyed them. I gave myself permission to “go crazy” and was surprised at how natural writing paranormal felt. Of course, I didn’t give up on writing contemporary romantic suspense either, and now I get to write both my favorite genres.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
LOL. Same answer as above. Because Knox was so good but also so imperfect, I wanted to show and explore both his good and bad qualities. At the time I was writing him, I felt like I was exposing the dualities in myself. It’s easier to write characters who live a little less close to home.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
I generally don’t draw on real life for my characters. Once, I drew on someone I was really angry with and painted him in a less than flattering light. I wrote him as a secondary character with only minimal page time, but every time I read those words, I cringe. Not because I feel bad or guilty, but because it reminds me of that relationship and my anger, when otherwise I’d probably never think about it again. Now I consciously keep my characters confined to my imaginations.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Self-doubt, criticism/rejection from others, and self-doubt. I find it so ironic that writers are some of the most sensitive people, yet we continually put our hearts on the page and send it out for others to judge. Of course, the payoff is that we get to inspire and entertain readers, which makes it all worth it.
That I tried out for a Shakespearean monologue at a community college with absolutely no acting experience. In the same vein, I’ve auditioned for musicals even though I really can’t sing and tried out for West Side Story even though I really can’t dance. Looking back now, I cringe, but back then, I was just following my heart and my need for creative expression.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Carbs. And the only reason I feel guilty is I’m still struggling with whether I should be able to weigh what I weighed years ago. And whether it’s worth the guilt or the deprivation.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Honestly, I don’t need anything specific, but if I’m having false starts, it’s because something about the plot or characters is simply not working. A friend of mine once asked whether my story wasn’t working because the hero and heroine didn’t really belong together. My mental response was a heated, “Oh, no, they belong together all right.” I couldn’t accept it any other way, but I took her words as a challenge. Finally, I figured out how to make them belong together and the story flowed from there.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Not really. A couple of times, I’ve had a song influence a period of time during my writing journey. For the longest time, when I was trying to get published, I’d listen to She Bang by Ricky Martin and it would get me past the self-doubt and just get me moving again.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
I think my favorite character is Knox Devereaux, the half-vampire, half-human hero in Chosen by Blood. He’s also the most controversial character I’ve written. I love him because he was my “first” published hero, but also because, despite wanting so badly to do the right thing, he has many flaws and many lessons to learn.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
In the Para-Ops series, I’d have Eric Bana for Knox, Angelina Jolie for Wraith, and Sam Worthington for Dex or Caleb. For Dangerous To Her, I envision Eric Danes and Madeline Stowe.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was home and my husband had taken the day off. We were puttering around when my agent called. Initially, I thought she was calling to discuss a manuscript I’d just sent to her, and when she told me I’d sold, I screamed and hugged my husband. We jumped up and down, very much like we did after learning we’d both passed the Bar exam. That was really wonderful, having him there to share the news with me since he’d been supporting me for so long.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
I was twelve when I read Bonnie Drake’s Lover From the Sea. My old-fashioned dad hated the fact I read them and used to throw out my bags of books. You can imagine how unhappy I was with him. And he’s not quite keen on me writing the same type of books now, even though he’s proud of what I’ve accomplished in general. Romances, however, gave me a great escape from life and taught me to be empowered and to go after what I really wanted.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
I have so, so many. Most recently, I met Rhyannon Byrd at RWA in New York. We only had a couple of minutes to chat, but she is so talented and, as it turns out, a wonderfully gracious person, so I’m looking forward to talking to her again someday.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I’m fortunate to write full time now. Except for some sporadic contract work, I stopped being a lawyer about two years ago and it was the best decision I ever made.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I’m finishing up my debut romantic suspense novel, Shades Of Desire, with HQN. The book comes out June 2012 and is the first in a series about “SIG,” the California Department of Justice’s elite Special Investigations Group. These law enforcement officers are the “best of the best,” helping other departments solve crimes across the state. In Shades Of Desire, the heroine, a world-famous photographer, takes a picture she shouldn’t have just before she goes blind; in the story, she must grapple with her new disability and her attraction to the hero, a homicide detective, as well as help him stop a killer who soon puts her in his sights. The next book in the series, tentatively titled Shades Of Temptation, comes out October of 2012, and focuses on other SIG characters introduced in Book 1.
My next Harlequin Romantic Suspense comes out in May 2012, and is about a woman and her former crush, a homicide detective, who reopens the investigation of her mother’s murder; the detective is the same man who caused the heroine and her mother to fight just before her mother was murdered, obviously leaving the heroine with unresolved guilt about her feelings for the hero.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
My dream author would be Linda Howard. She’s just a natural at balancing romance and suspense, and she’s created so many of my favorite characters, including Dane Hollister from Dream Man.
How do you pick your characters names?
I simply go with what “sounds right.”
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
I prefer the pull or spark or possibility at first sight, the one that compels action and then grows and solidifies the more the couple is challenged. I do believe in soul mates, but even they have to “walk through fire” to deserve their HEA.
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 first reaction is hurt, sadness and disappointment. That might not be a PC thing to say, but I long for approval just like anyone else. I hate that I might be thought of as “less than” because of the subject I choose to write about. I also feel confused by the reaction in general. Why is writing about love and romance and sex, some of the most primal and essential emotions, unworthy?
Where can reader’s find you
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
English toffee!!! A yummy combination of sweet and crunchy. Pure heaven!
Thank you so much for spotlighting me on Joyfully Reviewed!! It’s been fun!