Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Welcome 2009 Golden Heart Finalist Rita Henuber

Hi, everyone. Today, Wednesday, my guest is 2009 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense Finalist, Rita Henuber. She's a great lady and has lots to share. So ask lots of questions. Please welcome her.

AJ: What did you do or think when the RWA office called you?

RH: I thought, I did it. I really did it! I sat there and grinned for a very long time. This was the first time I'd entered and it was my first romance manuscript.

AJ: How was your Golden Heart experience?

RH: I'd say it's like having a first class ticket on the space shuttle. One heck of a ride! Overwhelming, exciting, fun, an experience of a lifetime. Most of all I have the privilege of being in the company of a group of ladies who challenge and inspire me every day: the other finalists, my Golden Heart sisters. Thank you all, ladies.

AJ: Do you have any advice for someone thinking of entering the Golden Heart?

RH: Do it! Absolutely. Have a rockin' first line. Write a good story. Show the reader on the first page why your book is different. Write a good story. End the first page on a hook. Oh! Did I say write a good story? Make that story unique and compelling. Go for it and keep going like the Energizer Bunny. Never give up.

Here's where I get to tell my little story. In November and December last year I didn't write a thing. I almost gave up. I had promised myself I would enter the Golden Heart no matter what and reluctantly did. A group of writer friends encouraged me to get started again and to them I am forever thankful. Since the beginning of the year I queried forty-three agents. I received a bunch of rejections and was offered representation by four brilliant agents. Perseverance is everything. Do not give up. Never stop learning your craft.

AJ: How long have you been writing?

RH: Writing as in for publication? Almost three years. In a way, I've always been writing. As a child I told stories and put on plays for my extended family. My cousins never let me forget how they were forced to participate. I wrote stories for myself. I shared them with a friend's mother who seemed to love them. I just remembered that. Gosh, I would love to have those now. In high school I wrote a play for the history class to produce. I quit putting words on paper for a very long time. Told stories to my children. And of course there were/are the stories rumbling in my head waiting their turn to escape and be immortalized on paper.

AJ: Do you write every day?

RH: Almost. When I'm not writing, I think about it. I make notes, do research. There are scraps of paper all over the house. With my current story, I started with a synopsis, back cover blurb and a log line. It has really helped my writing process. I don't really consider it writing unless I'm working on a manuscript.

AJ: Why write Romantic Suspense? What do you love about the genre?

RH: Suspense and thrillers are what I like to read. Writing them is natural.

What's not to love? I like the action. I like a story you have to stop reading to catch your breath; A story you don't want to read alone, late at night. I like a story with hero's that are bigger than life and heroines we all want to be.


AJ: How do you research for a suspense novel, before you start the book or while writing the first draft?

With my current story I wrote a synopsis/plot first. For anything that will require details, I researched before starting the actual draft. I'm not in to giving a lot of details. The goal is to layer in just enough to make a scene believable, to put the reader comfortably in that scene. For my first story I have pages and pages of research on the helicopter she flies. I can quote you manufacture, height, weight, number of engines, propulsion type, sit speed. Yawn. Would the reader care? Nope, but it helps me understand my scenes. And should the occasion arise, I can slip in a line or two of that info.

Writing contemporary suspense and thriller I'm always on the lookout for some snippet I can add to a story to amp it up. I get the Washington Post and LA Times online and cruise the headlines for interesting tidbits. Sometimes I check with the BBC and the London Times online. They have a different perspective on world events then we do here. Makes you think. I also check out the US government and military web pages.

In Guardian Angel I needed a cover story for the heroine. Couldn't come up with one. A headline in the LA Times gave it to me. In my WIP the hero needed a job that was out of the ordinary, the Washington Post story came to the rescue.

AJ: What makes your book different than other romantic suspense novels?

RH: My heroines can more than take care of themselves. They don't need to be rescued by the hero. They have unique jobs. The heroine in my first book is a Coast Guard helicopter pilot. She rescues the hero. (By the way the hero does save her once.)

In my current manuscript the heroine, a Marine Corps Intelligence Officer, is a hostage negotiator and interrogator. She's smart, wealthy, beautiful and loves her job. And don't worry, she does have a lot of inner conflict.

AJ: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other writers? Ie: World building, characters.

RH: Write what you love. Be true to yourself. Write characters readers want to be. I do not think writing to a trend is a good thing.

If you are writing about the FBI and CIA get it right, call and ask if you have a question. If you write about a person knitting learn how to knit. Read everything you can in the genre you write. Emulate what's good. Use the bad as a shining example of what not to do. It's difficult to read a book any more without taking notes. Even movies teach the craft.

AJ:Is there a craft book that resonated with you and you’d suggest to others?

RH: Heavy sigh. There are so many good books. I suggest you talk to someone who writes your genre and has a style you like. Ask them what they would suggest. We all learn in a different ways. What resonated with me, you may hate. I also suggest if you are having a problem in a particular area (say opening hooks or creating character conflict) ask other writers what they recommend and why. I learn more by example, so I gravitate to classes with a lot of teacher feedback. There is no one way to learn this. The important thing is to challenge yourself to move forward constantly Make an effort to learn more about your craft. There are always improvements to be made. In writing no one is at the top of their game because the bar is always being raised.

Okay I have to say these are excellent. The Art of Dramatic Writing Lajos Egri. The Fire In Fiction Donald Maass and Stephen King's On Writing

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

AJ: Did you want to tell us a little about your book?

RH: GUARDIAN ANGEL follows my heroine and hero from a torrid one night stand to a fierce gun battle at sea.

Olivia has a brilliant career in the Coast Guard flying helicopters searching for terrorists and drug smugglers along the coast of Florida. She’s confident, in control and at the top of her game in a man’s world. Her twin brother, a Miami undercover detective, is executed by the drug cartel he was investigating. Justice moves too slow for Olivia and she seeks her own revenge. With the help of a hot DEA agent she penetrates the drug underworld.

AJ: Is there a next book planned?

RH: As I said, I'm currently working on one and have another plotted. I also have the first draft of a Women's Fiction that follows the same theme of extraordinary women.

AJ: What is your website url, so others can check on news from you?

This I am working on.

I am pleased to tell you the 2009 Golden Heart finalists blog will go live September 21st. During the first week, the ladies will offer their thoughts on how to final in the Golden Heart. Check back for the blog address.

Autumn, as soon as I know my website url, I'll let you know so you can pass it along to your readeers.

Thank you, Rita

60 comments:

  1. You know, Autumn, the last time you interviewed a Ruby Slippered Sister, she ended up with a 3-book deal days later--I hope this happens to you, too, Rita! GUARDIAN ANGEL sounds like an intense read.

    I've heard so many good things about Stephen King's ON WRITING. I'll put that on my TBR craft book pile, which is right next to my regular TBR mountain.

    Fab interview!

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  2. OH! Thank You. If that happens Autumn will have to interview all her Sistas
    Rita

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  3. Good luck, Rita. I had no idea that you had stopped writing for a few months. Glad to know you're back in the saddle. :)

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  4. Having read Guardian Angel, I can testify it's a fantastic book. I'm looking forward to when it comes out in print.

    Dianne

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  5. I loved reading about how you research through reading the current headlines. Also can I say I'm insanely jealous that you can start with a synopsis? Even as a plotter, the synopsis stares me at me like Monday morning and I just don't want to drag myself up to get to it.

    Let's hope the mojo continues. Thanks to both Autumn and Rita for the wonderful interview!

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  6. Blush! Thank you Dianne
    Rita

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  7. Jeannie Lin
    I had to force myself to do that synopsis. I mean force. But it made me think about the plot. The reason why the characters do what they do. Writing suspense, I think you do need that before you start. I use the synopsis for a story out line. I thought I had everything worked out so neat and I was so super kool. Then I learned nothing is written in stone. In the second chapter my heroine up and tells me something I didn't know about her. Bleck! Sure deepened the plot, but I really wish she'd told me that before I started. grin
    Rita

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  8. Great interview, ladies. I'm all for the mojo thing!

    Being a dyed-in-the-wool pantser, I like the idea of having your tag line and blurb ahead of the game (not that I can do it, mind you) to help keep you on track. Sometimes the characters bolt and getting them back into the traces can be difficult. Maybe something like this, more a gentle nudge as opposed to a rigid outline, could help. We'll see.

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  9. Gwen,
    That was me (died-in-the-wool pantser) but it created a lot of rewriting in my first book. Since I'm lazy thought I would try it this way. So far it's working.
    Rita

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  10. I've been a lifelong reader of historical romance--nothing but. Critiquing other sub-genres is usually quite a challenge for me. I was hooked from the first page of Guardian Angel and was quite frustrated getting bits and pieces of the story every now and then. I didn't realize how much research you put into writing GA. It felt so true-to-life I thought for sure you'd lived it! :)

    I can't wait for my autographed copy. I'll finally be able to read it non-stop from beginning to end and feel that adrenaline rush all over again! I'm ready for your next story, Rita. Bring it on!

    Lis'Anne Harris

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  11. Thank you for the words of praise. for that you get two autographed copies.
    Rita

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  12. Rita--great to see you online! Can't wait to see the website and read the book :) Fingers crossed!!

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  13. Rita, I am so excited for you. You got a terrific agent! And I love your enthusiasm.

    I'm not sure I've mentioned this, but my brother-in-law just retired from the Coast Guard as a commander. He was a helicopter pilot. Now he's using his skills to put out forest fires. He's currently in California.

    I find all of that stuff so fascinating.

    Here's to di's mojo!!! We'll be expecting news soon. :)

    Hugs you!
    ~D~

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  14. Darynda,
    My daddy was in the Coast Guard a very long time ago. The CG seems to be a forgotten military service. Few know that since after 9/11 they are a part of Homeland Security. CG helo pilots are a special breed. They put themselves in danger to save others. Seems like you BIL has gone on doing the same fighting fires. Helicopters are susceptible to wind currents and gusts which there are plenty of in and near fires. He must have a gift a real talent for flying. I have family in California and I know they are grateful for men like him.
    Rita

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  15. Toni,
    How are you? thanks for the crossed fingers.
    Rita

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  16. Kelly,
    Thanks. Autumn asks good questions.
    Rita

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  17. Rita, your book sounds like a winner in more ways than one!

    Autumn, you interview like a pro!

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  18. Wow! Work has me going in circles. I just popped in and saw all the comments. Thank you everyone for stopping by. Rita gave me some really great answers. Tell your friends to check her out.

    ((SIGH)) Back to work...

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  19. Rita,
    I can't wait to read that book once it hits the shelves!

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  20. Thanks Mary. Now if I could just convince those pesky editors.
    Rita

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  21. Valerie, you won't need to wait till it hits the shelves. I'll have a copy saved back for you if you promise to do the same with yours for me.
    Rita

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  22. Rita, as a classmate and long distance friend, I have been part of your writers journey and I'm so proud of what you have achieved.
    Wonderful interview. Congratulations for "keeping on keeping on" and being an inspiration and a help to me both in my writing and my life's challenges. Great book, suspenseful plot, strong heroine! I have every confidence your book will make the NY Times best seller list!

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  23. Thanks Barbara, you are so sweat.
    Everyone, Barbara is one of my writer friends that encouraged me to keep writing. So are Dianne, Mary, Melissa and Valerie. With friends like them anyone can succeed
    Thanks ladies
    Rita

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  24. Yeah, Rita has said she'll answer questions through Friday. So please, if you're just stopping by, ask or comment away.

    Rita, Thank you so much for being my guest. I really enjoyed having you here. AJ

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  25. Hey, Rita! Sorry I'm so late to the party. What a great interview! And as someone already said, you interview well!!!!

    I also can't wait to grab my own copy of your book. It sounds terrific.

    I smiled when I read you start with a synopsis. Although I normally don't write mine until I'm at least through the third chapter, I know I can because I have an outline. Outlines and working from a synopsis tend to scare so many people so I'm always thrilled to see another person like this :)

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  26. Totally cool interview, Rita! I love hearing about all the research.

    Hey, as a committed plotter, I still dread the awful synopsis. And yes, those characters can sometimes throw us for a loop, but the book is that much better for it.

    Good luck!

    Danniele

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  27. Kim.
    Ten months ago I hated synopsis. Flat out. Now I think they are an excellent writing tool.
    I've been working at converting other writers to the dark side so we can have company.
    Rita

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  28. Danielle
    Guardian Angel. Playground Angel? Hmmm. Good name for my next book.
    BTW I love your Writing Playground.
    Rita

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  29. WOW GREAT INTERVIEW, FROM SOMEONE WHO'S HEARD ALL YOUR STORIES IT'S AMAZING THAT YOU FINALLY PUT SOMETHING ON PAPER. YOU REALLY MAKE THIS SON OF YOURS PROUD. SEMPER FI MOM

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  30. ERik. You're Rita's son? You have a great lady for a mom. You should be proud of her accomplishment. Being a GH is a big deal.

    While your here, I want to thank you for your service to our country. I greatly appreciated your sacrifice for myself and my family.

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  31. Autumn,
    I'm proud of Erik. He was in the first group of Marines into Bagdad (Very scary time for us) and is a veteran police officer. Yet I have to say he is the gentlest of my children, the slowest to anger and the quickest to the rescue. Sounds like hero material to me
    Rita

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  32. Erik
    Thank you Dalink. The check is in the mail.
    Mommy Dearest

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  33. Definitely! As a junior in HS, my youngest was thinking, Marines. Big Time. I was so proud and so scared. He chose Penn State but now is reconsidering. I can only imagine your fears, and how proud you are.

    Thank you, again Erik.

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  34. Reminder. Mw new quarterly newsletter will be released on Sept. 1, 2009. I trying to make it a great one. If you'd like to subscribe, go to my website. Front page. I'm giving away a few prizes.

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  35. Erik,

    I'm thrilled to see you take an interest in your Mom's writing career! She's the hottest!

    Lis'Anne

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  36. Erik, Military and cop? That's incredible.

    You are so lucky to have a cool person like Rita for a mom.

    Dianne

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  37. Hi Erik,

    It’s great to see Rita’s family supporting her.

    You were in the Marines? Care to share little information about the life of a service member?

    Thanks,
    Mary

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  38. Hi Erik,
    How wonderful to have a Mom like her and to have grown up with her stories and sense of humor. Have you gotten to read her book yet? If not you are in for a real treat, believe me.
    Thanks for serving our country. Like father, like son, right?
    Good job!

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  39. Autumn,
    Maybe you should interview Erik. Grin
    Rita

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  40. Believe me I've thought of it. If he's willing. My wip has a Marine home on leave. And I need a cop too. LOL.

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  41. Autumn,
    I'll ask. He's on the west coast. works late it would be tomorrow before we can talk.
    Rita

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  42. Hi, Rita!
    I met you in the pitch coral at Nationals where you were volunteering to shepherd us nervous wrecks out onto the floor. I've enjoyed hearing more about your book. Great Interview. Thanks for the tips.
    Laurel

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  43. Laurel,
    How did your pitch go? What do you write?

    Rita

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  44. Rita, I'd like to ask a couple of questions. First why did you decide your heroine should be a Coast Guard Helo pilot? Also you said you liked one of Donald Maas's books. Did you use his workbook? I know of a couple of online classes you took because I was in them with you, but are were any more and what teacher did you learn the most from?

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  45. Anon
    I was in a beginner's online romance writing class (Lori Wilde's) she highly suggested it would be a good idea if I had a romance story to work on. Ya think? So I had to come up with something fast. I like suspense so that was the way I was going. Okay, I was watching The Guardian on TV. I live a couple of blocks from the beach and a CG helicopter was flying over. That was it! Female CG pilot
    I took Lori's class twice. I'm slow to learn. I really clicked with her. I have to say she really set me on the right path. She gives direct feedback in her classes which is how I learn best. She used to teach several classes. I believe she only has beginners classes now since she is so busy getting books out to Avon. I can also recommend Margie Lawson. I love her Body Language and Dialogue Cues lecture packet.
    Thanks for asking
    Rita

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  46. Hello first let me say that I'm sorry about the caps, its a cop thing. I have not read the whole book but with what a have read its great. It's hard for me to sit down in front of computer for any long period of time(kids work and the usual things in life). I tell my mom all the time what every happens she can tell people she wrote a book. Not to many people can say that. Keep it up Mom.

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  47. Erik
    LOL I don't think anyone minded the caps. THey think you are a hot hero hunk.

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  48. Erik, just wait until you read the shoot-out near the end! I don't know how your mom does it! I'm a lifelong historical writer/reader, but GA really sucked me in. The story was so real and action-packed--at least to me. :)

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  49. Fantastic interview Autumn. If being interviewd by you get a three-book deal, I will beg you for an interview,

    Rita, You are a writer according to my heart because I often hear writers say they are pantsers. I was wondering if I was the only one starting with an outline, a blurb and a hook.

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  50. Mona,
    The blub and hook are the guide to your first five pages or first chapter. A potential reader looks at the back cover blurb opens the book and reads the first page. if the first page has nothing in common with the blurb they put it down. IMHO anyway. The outline keeps me on story target I don't wander all over the place. I think there are more people coming over to the dark side BTW.
    Rita

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  51. Oh, Rita. I love Margie's classes. They're a workout, but so worth the time, $$$ and engery.

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  52. Mona, Good to see you here. The RSS made the mojo thing up. It only happened once. LOL.

    I love Rita's answer to you question. Very good.

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  53. Rita and Autumn, thanks for a great interview. It's always interesting to compare what you're doing to what someone else is doing.

    Erik, thanks for stopping by, too. I DIDN'T MIND THE ALL CAPS. I'm sure you're a great inspiration for hero material!

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  54. Gayle,

    Meeting Rita in D.C. was a pleasure. She is a special lady. I'm so hoping a publisher snaps her up ASAP, because I do want to read her book. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview and i hope you stop back to see me again. SO far people tell me I've been enteraining. LOL.

    Stay well, AJ

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  55. Good morning Gayle.
    Yes it's interesting to see how many different ways there are to achieve the same goal-get those words on paper. The problem for new writers is finding what works for them. It was very frustrating for me. I wanted to TELL me what worked best for me. Heavy sigh-just foesn't work that way.
    Rita

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  56. AJ,
    Thanks for having me. And thanks to everyone who visited.
    Rita

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  57. You were a wonderful guest. Thank you. I hope to hear good news from you soon. (((HUGS))) AJ

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