- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I am pleased to interview a charming Canadian author who also speaks, reads and writes in French as a resident in Québec, and in her work with French wine producers.
Welcome, Diana ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
First, I just want your audience to know that when the charming and accomplished Clancy Tucker invites you to do an interview for his blog, it’s quite an honour. You’re an award-winning author, poet, and photographer who teaches students at the university level, mentors emerging writers and puts out a daily blog that reaches 155 countries and has a massive following. You’re truly an inspiration. Thank you so much for the invitation.
So, a little about me. I’m the author of Private Reserve and Maximum Yield in the Desire & Luxury Wine series. These two books are published and available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. There are two others in the works; Master Class and Late Harvest. The titles were borrowed from the wine industry and if you suspected that they might have double meanings, you’d be right.
I’m Canadian, of Polish ancestry. I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec where I still reside. I love Montreal because of the multi-cultural vibe. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing Communications, was President of the Montreal Chapter of the Business/Professional Advertising Association and have worked in Marketing Communications on the corporate and agency side.
I began writing as a child and absolutely adored English class. I can’t say the same about math class. Writing courses were my favourite, right into university. Out in the work place, all of my job functions involved some form of writing.
Many years ago I developed a passion for fine wine and in 2004 establishing an agency specializing in the sale and promotion of upscale wines in the province of Quebec seemed like a natural thing to do. I found that my writing skills came in very handy when it came to persuading wine producers to allow me to represent them and eventually built up an impressive portfolio. It has since been streamlined to accommodate the writing. No one ever told me, you see, that a newcomer to the business wasn’t supposed to end up working with the rock stars of the wine world. It wasn’t easy. It’s just that I didn’t put certain limitations on myself; even if it was mostly out of ignorance.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I think I’ve always known I was a writer. I just hadn’t written a book. But I’ve always wanted to. I gravitated to fiction because fiction had the power to entertain and provide escapism. And anything could happen. I enjoyed getting lost in a good mystery or thriller, but what I really loved was romance. The problem was that I didn’t have a story to tell. But, of course, I did.
I had spent years attending black tie events in Bordeaux that very few wine agents were invited to. I had been staying in private châteaux owned by legendary wine producers I used to read about in Wine Spectator and in 5 star hotels. I had been drinking rare and prestigious wines paired with dishes prepared by Michelin Star chefs. As an insider I was afforded a front row seat to this glamorous world and the bigger than life individuals that pass through it. Inspiration took.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I don’t do outlines, or anything like that. I do write myself some notes that contribute to the framework or flow.
The heroine in my debut novel is a wine agent specializing in upscale wines so all of her wine industry related experiences mimic my own. I just started to write paragraphs that fleshed out her career and who she was as a woman. Certain scenarios and characters emerged along the way and the story started to take shape. I would get to the keyboard and wonder who was going to talk to me that day.
Some of the supporting characters were so interesting to me that I knew I just had to tell their stories. Besides, they wouldn’t leave me alone. So before I even finished book 1, I had written the synopsis for books 2, 3 and 4.
With book 1, I wrote scenes in no particular order and had the ending written early in the process. Then I had to figure out how to bridge the different parts of the book. With book 2, I wrote the chapters chronologically, but there are flashbacks. Like with book 1, I knew how book 2 would end mid-way through. The last thing I did was write the prologue and I found that the toughest. I am following the same process with book 3. I know what is going to happen and how the story will end, but I am writing the book chronologically. It’s not a deliberate choice. It just feels right.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Having control of the page. Living out fantasies through my characters and entertaining myself along the way. In the end though, my greatest thrill comes from sharing my favourite wines, venues and travel destinations through my books and wrapping it all up in a good love story.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Time management. When your characters are ready for you to get on with it and you leave them hanging because you have to deal with your day job or marketing for your book.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Actually, I lead a double life: Author and Wine Agent. But considering that the wine industry was the inspiration for the four books in this series, the dual careers work. I tie the two together for cross promotion quite often. I post photos of the wines I represent, which are in my books, with my books, all over social media and on my website. Sometimes with a teaser about the book and sometimes with wine tasting notes. And, I’ve started to use #wineinromancenovels in my posts.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Saying that I was going to write a book which turned into a series of books and doing it. I now have two of the four intended books out on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m writing book 3. I’m about one quarter done. And I have a few chapters done for book 4, just because the ideas were there.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Real life stories about hugely successful people who didn’t give up and achieved their dreams against all odds like authors who had their manuscripts rejected over and over and actors who slept in their cars, as well as the people who took a chance on them. Also generous people like yourself; giving of your time to mentor emerging authors.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
My books have adult content that is pertinent to the central love story; in other works the explicit scenes move the romance along and there is always a satisfying ending. That’s some of the basic criteria for erotic romance. I laughingly tell people that it’s more like erotic romance meets luxury wine & travel guide. I’ve taken to describing them as sophisticated sexy romance novels as a result.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Don’t let anyone or anything dissuade you or influence you to go in a direction that doesn’t suit you. Don’t second guess yourself, but do listen to helpful advice. Believe in yourself. Don’t be discouraged at any stage. Don’t quit. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people or use negativity or scepticism to fuel your determination … works for me.
Write the book that you want to write, even if it’s not the hottest current trend. Perhaps it’ll start the next hot trend. In any case, because it’s your vision and your voice it’ll be a better book. And work with an editor that has experience in your genre and understands your vision.
Read about writing and editing, do your own editing and revisions and polish your manuscript as much as you can before you turn it over to your editor. Be prepared to make more revisions after that and put in the time to proof-read. It’ll pay off. Readers will take you and your book seriously.
Do in-depth research so you get your facts right; for credibility and authenticity. There’s always someone out there that will call you on a detail that isn’t accurate. Work on character development. It will explain your characters’ motivation and actions, and make readers care about them or at least feel they know them. Relationship-building between your characters is equally important. If two characters are lovers, for example, there needs to be some chemistry between them.
If you self-publish, work with professionals on cover design and setting type. The more professional your book looks, the greater the chance that you and your work will be taken seriously.
Do research about publishing and marketing. Regardless if you are published traditionally or self-published, you are going to have to spend a fair amount of time promoting your books and your brand. And, figure out who your target market is and how to promote to them. When it comes to your brand, professional goes a long way.
Network with other authors. I have found some very generous souls out there. We share our experiences and knowledge, and we even promote each other.
I’ve learned that whatever you do for someone, always comes back to you. Plus it’s nice to know you’re not alone.
Develop a thick skin and take into consideration positive criticism without dwelling on the rest. Not everybody is going to have a good opinion of you or your work.
Show your appreciation to those who have been supportive and helpful along the way. Be that for someone else.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I don’t really suffer from writer’s block, but I do get stuck a little sometimes. When I do, I’ll spend the time productively like doing research or editing and eventually it’ll shake words and ideas loose and I’m back to writing.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
With my first book, I did more writing in the afternoon, while with my second book it was in the morning. And with book 3 I tend to write in the morning as well.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I write directly on the 23 inch screen in my office. I’m a fast and usually accurate typist. I don’t normally have to look at the keys. I only use notebooks to jot down my research findings and ideas that pop into my head that need to be developed. I have a tendency to write dialogue in my head when walking the dogs for instance.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Telling a story that holds the reader’s interest, has them turning the pages and staying up late at night to find out what happens next. When what I’ve written works the way it should, I get this feeling of euphoria. I love writing scenes that evoke strong emotions or are tinged with humour. Wait, I also love writing steamy love scenes. They can be challenging, but I have received compliments on those from other authors, so I must be doing something right.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I read the classics; mostly as class assignments, and enjoyed them. I was a big fan of Shakespeare’s plays early in life. I came across Gone With The Wind and my parents didn’t see me for days. I read horror and thrillers and then found bodice rippers – maybe not in that order. Later I quite liked Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. But I loved, loved, loved the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. History was always an interest. Throw in a couple of lovers from different centuries and I couldn’t put the books down. So, yeah, Diana Gabaldon. The fact that we have the same first name, had nothing to do with it. Well very little. But it was nice to see Diana on a book cover and imagine.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
“This is not a typical erotic romance novel.”
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
“This is not a typical erotic romance novel.”
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Totally. I have so many rich experiences to draw on from the upscale wine business. When I started writing book 1, people and events and experiences I hadn’t thought about that much for a while, started to emerge, and my wine agent heroine was leading the charge. It’s amazing what the brain stores and with the right prompting, fascinating memories come to the surface and you can use them to create a character or storyline. Having a little experience under my belt as the author of steamy romance novels, my heroine in book 2 had to be the author of erotic romance novels. Anything you can fish out of your own experiences adds that desirable element of authenticity.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise when I say: to indulge in fine wine and fine dining. Travel is right up there. All in the name of research, of course.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I did my research and found an editor who had the kind of experience I was looking for. We clicked. She really got me and pushed me to do better. We really worked well together … once I stopped fighting her.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
After a nutritious breakfast and my second cappuccino, I go through my emails and there is nothing pressing to take me away from writing. By 7:15 I’m reading what I had previously written and the ideas just keep flowing from my mind through my fingertips until I see words, then sentences and paragraphs on the screen. I feel in my bones that it’s good stuff. When I’m interrupted, it’s good news. Something that bolsters my enthusiasm … like an invitation to do an interview for Clancy Tucker’s Blog. I voluntarily take a break to have lunch and take the dogs for a walk, meeting up with neighbours and shamelessly promoting my books. I return to the keyboard and fresh ideas emerge and I’m assembling them on the page. I don’t see the time go by, but the word count is up quite a bit. I finish at the end of a chapter. I read and edit what I have written this day and I jot down ideas for next time. It’s been a good day. I deserve a glass of wine.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Funny you should ask that because that is just what happens in my first book. The scene is very romantic and pivotal, so it would have to be Torsten Lucas Furst, the hero in that book. I am a romance writer after all.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
The truth is stranger than fiction. I’m seriously worried.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
My immediate plans are to complete book 3 and 4 in the series and to promote the heck out of all of them. I also need to team up with a dynamic forward thinking literary agent for foreign market deals. That’s a top goal.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I don’t have any experience with book trailers as an author.
As a reader, I could be influenced to buy. I’d like to give it shot one day soon. I think.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Ela Zalewski, the wine agent in book 1 and I are very much alike. We’re both Montrealers of Polish ancestry with the same education and work ethic. We like the same things and dislike the same things. We’re both headstrong and think we’re always right. We believe in destiny, but hedge our bets by doing our part. I even poke fun at myself, by giving the poor woman all of my quirky traits. A lot of it is self-indulgent, but it would be more so if she was perfect. She’s far from perfect. But I think that makes her more relatable. She surpassed all of my expectations in the end and these days she’s my role model. I find myself asking what Ela would do in this situation. Isla Duncan, author of erotic romance novels, Montrealer, Ela’s best friend and my heroine in book 2 is a treasure. I see some of me in her, but I was braver this time around and able to venture into other territory. And I’m pushing in other directions with Isabel Vega, in book 3 and Brenna Ryan in book 4. Still, I am writing them from a place of familiarity to some degree.
And when it comes to the men, Torsten Lucas Furst, in book 1, and Jonas Koertig in book 2, they mysterious Xander in book 3 and Emile Delacroix in book 4, well they embody my values at the end of the day, but just have a little trouble getting there. But they are quite irresistible at every stage of their journey, so I don’t hold it against them.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Agents and publishers preach about a fresh or original voice, but go for the same books over and over. I also wish that more agents would be willing to take on self-published books for foreign rights deals. This is a big problem I grapple with.
Canada is going to be the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2020 and it is rumoured that France and Germany are the big markets of interest. I’m Canadian, I have written Canadian heroines and German heroes against the backdrop of glamourous venues in Montreal, Bordeaux, Rome and Bavaria, featuring fine wines and fine dining. It is my understanding that romance is still a billion dollar a year industry and erotic romance made inroads at the Frankfurt Book Fair after the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, especially if there was a trilogy or series. I can’t help but see the irony. I think that there will be many missed opportunities.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Never. It’s not in my vocabulary. Working to establish myself as an author is much the same as when I was working to establish myself as an entrepreneur wine agent. Having survived the first experience and having achieved those goals, taught me to persevere in whatever I take on, and I’m optimistic by nature anyway. Nothing good ever came out of a defeatist attitude.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
It’s like being asked to choose between your children, I imagine, had I any. I’m going to have to go with my first born. My debut novel has so many humorous scenes and so much humour-filled dialogue. I was literally laughing out loud as I was writing. Ela Zalewski, the heroine was so quirky sometimes, that she just invited humour, but the hero’s best friend Jonas Koertig really cracked me up. He loves to hog the page and he is so unexpected. He would do whatever I wanted, no matter how outrageous. He wasn’t held back by convention. There’s actually a term for the type of personality that Jonas exemplifies: highly creative, eccentric and very successful. It’s Cognitive Dishibition. If there was a whole planet of these individuals, Jonas would be their leader.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
In stages. Writing and publishing. Positive reviews. Awards. Bestseller status. Published in several languages. Name and brand recognition. Volume sales. Financial independence and financial security, and the means to help support charities I feel strongly about. To be able continue doing what I love. Being in the position to remember everyone that helped me in some meaningful way. Never taking my readers for granted by continuing to giving them what they have come to expect. Having the knowledge and experience to help other writers reach their potential.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
That my characters were well-developed, interesting and memorable, and though they lead extraordinary lives, were still believable. That the steamy love scenes were not gratuitous, but fit the story. That story was intriguing and had a satisfying ending. That they want to keep reading my books and recommending them to family and friends. That they want to reach out to let me know.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I’d be doing back flips if that happened. I’ve never written a screen play and it’s not a pressing interest. I see myself more as a consultant working in tandem with an award-winning screen play writer. Notice, how I said award-winning? If you’re going to dream, why not dream big?
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A book cover has to have shelf-appeal even where’s there’s no physical shelf. And it has to look good in a thumbnail version because that’s what readers see online. The cover sets expectations, so it should represent the content. And a professionally designed book cover will make a big difference in the book being perceived as quality work. These days, there are many self-published books with covers that are equal to or even surpass the covers of traditionally published books. Self-published authors are learning that covers that look home-made don’t cut it in a highly competitive market.
The communications specialist and designer I worked with, and I, decided that the covers for my Desire & Luxury Wine series had to be upbeat, have unifying elements that communicated that each book was part of the series and had to have a classy sexy European feel rather than a provocative look, so that someone reading the paperback on a bus wouldn’t feel self-conscious. The feedback has been very favourable.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To be published in other languages; starting with French and German when it comes to the Desire & Luxury Wine series and beyond, and sell well by industry standards in each market book after book.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
With promotional activity a big part of what I do for my wine producers and in my background, my mind works that way to start with. But, with the ever changing world of social media, it takes work to stay on top of all of the opportunities out there. And in book marketing even more so. Actually, maybe not so much opportunity as necessity. I had to get marketing savvy in a new age, really fast. And I’m still learning. That’s never going to stop. I can’t afford to let it when book marketing is evolving every day. And I’m not sure I would ever want to put it entirely in someone else’s hands.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
After living with a manuscript for so long, the idea of submitting it to agents and publishers and having to wait for months just to get a refusal, which happens most of the time, made me cringe. I wanted to see my book for sale, hold a paperback in my hands and have a copy on my e-reader. That’s what made it real to me. I just didn’t have the patience to sit around waiting and hoping, when I could be using the time to market the book. And I liked having the control.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Marketing-oriented wine-loving romantic.
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Books with adult content are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but to assume arbitrarily that books with adult content can’t possibly have any substance is just wrong. Why can’t a novel categorized as erotic romance have well-researched material and introduce well-developed characters and intriguing story lines? Oh, and be well-written and well-edited? As I said, the heroine in book 2 is the author of erotic romance novels and she has to deal with that kind of thinking. In a way, I think that was my “push back”.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
I read two books back to back by the same author. They were The Fourth Reich and War Merchant by Patrick Parker. It’s been a while since I read a good suspense-thriller. They certainly measured up. I found the author on social media and was intrigued enough to look into his background.
With his knowledge and experience, he is well qualified to write action-filled stories that crisscross the globe and have you wondering what is fiction, what is reality?
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
In one of my books, it would be something to motivate readers to read the next book, without it being a cliffhanger in the traditional sense.
For my life, it would read: The best is yet to come.
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
I already have so much to be thankful for in my personal life. In my professional life as an author, I’d like to be instrumental in changing attitudes about erotic romance and as for the rest, I’m going back to some of what I mentioned earlier: Bestseller status. Published in several languages. Name and brand recognition. Volume sales. Financial independence and financial security.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about my experiences and express my point of view on the popular Clancy Tucker’s Blog. And I would like to thank your audience for the privilege as well.
Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Diana, especially for your kind words. Have a glass for me. In fact, have two, and give my best wishes to Canada.