I’m happy to have Hebby Roman, writer of historical and contemporary romance, on Writer’s Write, here on my virtual overstuffed sofa. Welcome and thanks for joining me today. Before we get down to brass tacks, tell the readers three things they should know about you.
The three things about me that directly affect what I write are:
1) I’ve always been an avid reader and by middle school I had read most of the classics from Mark Twain to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to such romantic classics as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And when I was ten years old I wrote a 100 page “book” about a young girl taming a wild mustang.
2) I’ve always been a history buff—any period of history from ancient history through twentieth century history. When I began writing historicals, I targeted the nineteenth century as that was what was popular at the time, and it was a century rich in historical events to use as backdrops for my stories. During the past few years, I’ve become enamored of medieval history, and my Wild Rose Press title, THE PRINCESS AND THE TEMPLAR, is set in the high medieval period in 1307. (An aside, I conceived this book and started writing about a Templar Knight hero BEFORE Dan Brown’s blockbuster, THE DAVINCI CODE brought Templars into the limelight. Heck, I wrote a shape shifter/jaguar shaman heroine set in Mexico in the early 1990’s and none of the print publishers would touch it. My, how times have changed!)
3) I was born on the Texas-Mexico border and grew up there. My husband of twenty-seven years was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Given these circumstances, I’ve chosen to write Latino romance with Latino characters and backgrounds. As far as I know, my first published book, BETRAYED, set in Puerto Rico during their revolt from Spain was the first Latino romance ever published.
I know authors cross genres all the time, but the mix of historical and contemporary books in your resume intrigued me. Do you have a preference for one over the other? Is one story type more complicated to write over the other?
As I mentioned above, I’m a history buff so I started out writing historicals. I crossed over to contemporary romance when my print publisher, Kensington, started a new line of contemporary Latino romances, Encanto, and I was offered the launch title. Beyond the obvious opportunity and honor, I wanted to try my hand at a contemporary romance to stretch and grow as a writer, especially learning the faster pacing of contemporaries.
With regard to which genre I like best, I’ll always love historicals, but I also love the free and easy style you’re able to employ when you write contemporary love stories, as you draw directly on the world around you today. So, I like to write both, but my first love is historicals.
Which is more complicated to write—I would have to definitely say historicals. There’s always the research, of course, that you must do to get each historical detail correct. And when Wild Rose edited my medieval, I learned through my editor that I had to be even more careful than usual about when certain words entered the English language. So, historicals are more difficult.
Over the years, in speaking with fellow writers I’ve discovered we all have our madcap ways of approaching the blank page. What sorts of process, if any, do you follow/use when you are starting a new project?
The process I follow when approaching a new project has changed over the years for me and some things have stayed the same. (As an aside, I should mention that I gave up writing for twelve years and have returned to it in the past two years). Back to the original question, I always research first—that hasn’t changed—even for my contemporary romances, although, obviously, not as in depth as I need to do for my historicals.
Then I write out an extensive backstory and characterization for each of my main characters and this hasn’t changed. When I first started writing, I then did an extensive outline of the book, scene by scene. But I tried to get away from this method after my first few books because I believe it was stifling my creativity and strait-jacketing my characters. This is another reason why I wanted to write the shorter and faster-paced contemporary romances, to wean myself from a set outline and let my characters lead me through their stories.
Last, I do have an idea of how the first three chapters are going to unfold—probably an old habit of doing a proposal for print publishers. I know what needs to be told versus shown, how to set up my characters, how to set up the backdrop, how I want to reveal characterization—through dialogue or action or thoughts, what secrets need to be hinted at—all those things.
Tried and true tip for an aspiring writer is simple—begin your story at all costs, scene by scene. Quit researching, outlining, etc. and sit down and put your characters together and experiment and write. Even if you think it’s awful, get something on paper, you can always edit it. I was so afraid of dialogue when I first started writing that I refused to write scenes, spent my first six months just outlining what I wanted to write about. LOL
Most writers have an Achilles heel. For me, it’s self-doubting. Hate this. Want to have it surgically removed, but since this isn’t an option all I can do is keep at it. What would you say your biggest fault is a writer? And how do you push past it?
My Achilles heel is where to start my book. I dither and dither about it, and my beginnings always seem awkward and forced to me. I wish I had more inspirations on how to start like other writers do, but I have to really work for my beginnings and edit, edit, edit. My endings, on the other hand, always come easy for me, go figure. And how do I push past my shaky beginnings is exactly the tip I gave to aspiring writers, sit down and do it. Fill that blank page. If you hate it, you can always delete it and start over.
You’ve logged a few years as a writer/author, are married with a family. How did you manage the demands of both?
Yes, I started writing around 1991 and was first contracted in 1994, published in 1996. I wrote ten contracted books between 1991 and 2001 and two complete throwaway books. When I was working full time as a financial analyst, and with a growing family, it was very, very difficult to find the time to write, usually late at night. One of the reasons I quit around 2001 was my high school-aged son confronted me with the fact that he wanted to spend time with me, and I couldn’t take off one full afternoon for him—I was so consumed by writing and deadlines. His confrontation made me re-think my life priorities. Now that I’m retired early from my corporate career and my family is grown, I wanted to take up writing again as I had the time. But now I’ve a new granddaughter and am finding that writing is creeping up on the time I can spend with her, so I’m constantly re-prioritizing my life. Writing is very, very time consuming and it will always be a balancing act.
You’ve also been an active member of Romance Writers of America, and a past President. I struggle balancing a family, a full-time career, and writing. In awe here. What was the experience like and do you think it help your publishing network?
Being the President of a local RWA chapter was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and that was about the time my son complained. I took over the chapter when the previous Board had absconded with our records and treasury and was afraid one of the oldest local chapters was about to go under. And it was a huge, huge challenge to keep it going and make it solvent again.
Being a chapter President did afford me some additional exposure to other print publishers and when they asked, I submitted to them. But because I write Latino romances, the other publishers just weren’t ready for my books, kind of like the shape shifter one and the one about the 2012 Mayan prophecy that I wrote in late 1990’s and no one would publish, etc. I even won the Harlequin Chick Lit National contest and they paid me $1,000 but didn’t offer me a contract. LOL
That was when, along with my son’s confrontation, I decided to take a vacation from writing because it seemed like I only wanted to write unique stories that most print publishers wouldn’t take a chance on. Now with e-pubbing, of course, all that has changed, which is one of the reasons I decided to start writing again. Now I can write what I want to. Yay!!!
I see that you are in the process of re-writing your print books and getting ready to e-publish. Difficult? Maddening?
I’ve already put up four of my previously print published works, three contemporary romances and one historical. I have lots of author friends, so I’ve had lots of help and advice so the process hasn’t been too bad. And then, I had the great good luck to submit my unpublished manuscript to The Wild Rose Press, a wonderful publisher. The worst thing has been my 8.0 Microsoft has crashed my new computer twice and wiped out some of my re-writes, but my hubby, who is a 30+ year IT professional, has given me lots of help.
Hardest thing today is self-promotion and social media, not the actual writing or formatting, etc.
We writers can’t help but improve and/or become more critical of our own work so I wondered, what are you finding as your re-wrote your stories? And are you changing anything as you go through the process?
Yes, I’ve completely updated, refreshed, rewritten huge segments, added scenes, taken out scenes, etc. on all my re-published books. My historical, MIDNIGHT PROMISE, is over 100K words and took me six or seven months to re-write, as I changed the actual scene-by-scene timeline on that one. I also hire a professional editor and have a beta reader, as well as doing three or four edits myself to catch any and all errors. My hubby, the techie, uploads a sample for my Kindle of the formatted work, and it’s amazing how many errors pop out when the re-done book is on a back-lit Kindle, even though, I’ve been over it three times on paper. I also had to learn to get rid of “purple prose.” That has been an interesting exercise in my historical sex scenes, not such a problem in my contemporary ones.
Any insight in how you come up with your stories?
My stories tend to come from all over, wish I could remember how I got the idea for a shape-shifter way before everyone else. LOL Sometimes, real people I know and their struggles inspire me to write a story that is loosely based on them. Other times, a concept will catch my fancy that I want to explore. Like for BETRAYED, I wanted a Puerto Rican “Gone With the Wind,” and for THE PRINCESS AND THE TEMPLAR, I wanted a medieval “Thornbirds.” Thus, the Templar hero is a warrior-monk, with a vow of celibacy, set in a romance, which is definitely a recipe for instant conflict!
I see you and I share a heritage and that you showcase Latinas as the heroine. My first novella stars a fiery Latina. Great minds… Tell us about the type of women you write about?
I usually write about women that are strong, courageous, smart, and single-minded (read between the lines as stubborn). Some are very passionate in nature, others more demure. Characterization springs from back story. And I will definitely have to get your novella and read it, especially with a Latina heroine. J
I’ve read on blogs and the various writer groups I belong to on Facebook that many writers struggle with writer’s block. I mostly suffer from lack of time and thankfully haven’t experienced it. What about you? What are your thoughts on coping with writer’s block?
When I have writer’s block, I start making hand-written notes about my characters to open me up to possibilities for new scenes. Or I do more research because research has always been a catalyst for me—makes me think of new perspectives and helps me push past my writer’s block.
What are your reading now?
I’m reading a rather unique historical fiction/romance, DUEL FOR CONSUELO, set in eighteenth century Mexico. There are so few historicals set in Mexico, like one of my print-pubbed books I plan to re-release, LOVE ME ONLY that I couldn’t pass up this one. I think I learned about it on Bookbub, not sure, but am thoroughly enjoying it, as the book is well-researched and well-written and unique in perspective. I highly recommend it, and I think it’s written by a newbie author, Claudia Long.
Thanks for joining me today. Now tells us what’s next for Hebby and where the readers can find you?
I’m working on re-writing two contemporary romances with older couples who are taking a second chance at love after experiencing widowhood or divorce. These were contracted romances that were never published because Kensington discontinued the Encanto line. I wanted to update, rewrite and refresh these romances because I believe that older heroes/heroines and their romance stories are a sadly neglected niche.
You can find me here: http://www.hebbyroman.com/
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And thank you, Brenda, for an in-depth and interesting interview. I wish you all the luck and no writer’s block ever!
My pleasure. Please stop by and visit with Hebby.