February brings us the month with Valentine’s Day. Boy do I ever have an author who can steam up your Valentine’s Day! Meet Tess MacKall!
K: Welcome, Tess. It’s nice to have you here. I’ve read some of your work and what can I say but: Spicy!
TM: Thanks, Kiyara. I’m glad to be here.
K: Where did the idea for Latin Rhythm come from?
TM: The storyline basically came about as a result of drinking margaritas with a friend, and a discussion ensued with regard to hot men—of course. The conversation gravitated to a man she’d dated several years ago, who happened to be French, and how romantic he was. So we talked about ethnicity and how it relates to men and the way they treat women in general. And before I knew it, I’d decided that I had to have a Latin hero—in this case, Cuban.
TM: Cuban for several reasons, actually. All my stories are set in the South, or at least refer to Southern roots somehow. I wanted a large city for this story and chose Miami. Miami has a huge Cuban population as you well know, and I knew that would provide me with a lot of flavoring for the book. There is a scene where my hero and heroine attend the famous Calle Ocho Festival and lots of cigar talk. And there is an Old World charm to the Cuban population—a very close-knit group with strong ties to family and the past. That alone spoke to what I referred to in my earlier comment about ethnicity and how it relates to men and the way they treat women in general. Throw in the fact that when I was writing this book, Cuba had been in the news a great deal due to the retirement of Castro and the speculation with regard to opening up the borders for business with U.S. companies again—reminiscent of the fifties. It all just seemed to come together and blend to create a remarkable character in Marco and a very sexy scenario between him and Laura.
K: That is really cool, Tess. This is a very richly detailed book!
I noticed your heroine, Laura, is an older woman with grown kids. Any particular reason you made her older? I ask because most romance books cater to the twenty or thirty-something crowd.
TM: I wanted to explore a scenario with an older woman because I’m an older woman and I wanted to challenge myself. I felt that injecting my own attitudes might have the right touch of realism for the story and I think it worked. There are a lot of books out there targeted for the age group you mentioned. But the fact is the average age for a romance reader is forty-four. My heroine, Laura, is forty-three, so I think she works for the readers as someone to identify with. At least I hope so.
K: So using your perspective as an older woman aided you in writing Latin Rhythm. Did you find it difficult to do this or did you learn anything new about yourself as a person and a writer as a result?
TM: Yes, very much so. A writer should put his/herself in the shoes of the characters they write about. In this case, it was easy to slip on Laura’s shoes and reach deep inside to explore my own misgivings about such a relationship—some very real misgivings. Did I learn anything? Writing romance in general has taught me that love transcends all. As for the older woman/younger man theme? I’m not sure it’s something I’d be interested in for myself, but I’ll definitely be more open to seeing this type of relationship around me now. I don’t think I’d consider it as so unusual or taboo.
K: Also, the hero is a younger man. I find that interesting. Have you written younger-than-the-heroine heroes before?
TM: This is my first foray into the older woman/younger man genre. And I can honestly say that during the course of writing the story, some of my views about that kind of relationship changed. It’s not as farfetched as some would like to think. We always see older men and younger women, why not reverse that?
KB: How does Laura get stuck in the middle of a family rivalry? Can you tell us a bit about it without giving your entire plot away?
TM: Marco, the hero, has some old family business ties he’s trying to cut, and the people involved don’t take too kindly to it. And that’s all I can say with the exception of—well, think about IN-LAWS gone wild and out for vengeance!
K: LOL, what a wicked-cool subplot to throw into a romance! I have to say you have a lot packed into a novella. Did you find it difficult to keep all the plot elements flowing so they connected seamlessly in the end?
TM: Some stories have a way of writing themselves. This was one of those stories. The romance, the plot, the sex… all seemed to come together exactly where they needed to be.
K: The excerpt that comes with your book is perfect to grab a buyer’s attention. Did you pick that one?
TM: Presently, there are two excerpts floating around. There is one on the Pink Petals website, which my publisher chose, and one that I post to Yahoo groups that I chose. I think both get to the heart of the book and showcase it perfectly.
K: Any plans for future novellas or novels? And can you tell us a bit about what’s in progress?
TM: As a matter of fact, my publisher, Mary Winter at Pink Petal Books, has requested a spin-off story using one of Laura’s friends in Latin Rhythm. So that’s on the back burner right now, simmering just the way it should be. I’m also deep into a novel right now. And I’m putting the finishing touches on a free novella just in time for Valentine’s Day titled: Twelve Days of Love.
K: Sounds intriguing! Care to tell my readers a little about each one? Your plans and ideas to give them an idea of what to watch for on the online shelves?
TM: The Twelve Days of Love is about a florist and the guy she loved and hated in equal parts all through high school. Fifteen years later they’re thrown together again and their natural enmity resumes. So it’s not exactly reunited lovers, but close to it. It’s a quirky, fun tale, and I’m not stinting on word count either. It should top out at somewhere around 16K—maybe more.
K: Do you ever step outside of contemporary romance and write something like a romantic fantasy? If so, what genre do you prefer to dabble in?
TM: The big novel I’m working on is a historical western. I’ve also got a novel at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid that is contemporary with the paranormal twist of reincarnation. And I’m exploring paranormal a bit further in the near future with Pink Petal Books in a shared world setting. Hopefully, that will be out this fall. In the meantime, I write erotica and have four books due out in March from Alpheratz Press.
K: Do you find that you like the paranormal slant in fiction? Is it difficult for you to move from contemporary erotica and erotic romance into such genres?
TM: I do love paranormal elements. And yes, I find it a bit difficult as it’s something I’m just beginning to explore. In His Only Treasure, the novel with reincarnation as its theme, I had no trouble at all as it has a contemporary setting. However, through Pink Petal Books and the shared world setting, I’m going to be moving into another dimension and that’s already presenting a big challenge for me. But I’m constantly making notes and picturing the backdrop for my characters, and it’s going forward. We’ll see if I do it well enough to continue with the paranormal genre.
K: As a writer, what do you find is your greatest challenge and why?
TM: Managing my time. Promotions, writing, home life, all demand a hundred percent and that’s difficult. There’s only so much of me to go around and sometimes things just have to wait. I also work with authors at the Avoid Writer’s Hell Workshop group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/avoid_writers_hell and its promotional companion group, Chatters, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/avoidwritershellchatters which is pretty time consuming as well, but loads of fun too.
K: What is the most important piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?
TM: Learn your craft. Find critique partners that you trust to give you the truth and help guide you where you need to be. Don’t submit work before you’re ready.
K: Any last parting words for our readers?
TM: Grab a hot Latin guy and salsa!
K: LOL, agreed, Tess! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers, Tess. Maybe we’ll see you here again when your future WIPs are released?
TM: Thanks for having me. And I’d love to come back and discuss new releases with you. It’s been a real pleasure.
K: Would love to have you back!
And if you’d like to buy Tess MacKall’s Latin Rhythm you can find it THIS BUY LINK. Trust me, you will not be disappointed!
November’s In the Spotlight with Shiela Stewart, go here.
December’s In the Spotlight with Selene Noreen, go here.
January 2010 In the Spotlight with Jade Twilight, go here