And thank you to everyone who commented and so generously supported Beth-Anne's debut—you've been a "Super" team, as always!
See you all again next month!
When I joined the Supernatural Underground, I thought it could be fun to do interviews with other writers from time to time, and today I am delighted to bring you the very first one—and to welcome my friend Beth Anne Miller, whose debut Romance novel, Into the Scottish Mist, is officially launching with The Wild Rose Press on February 4 in electronic and print-on-demand print editions. (Unofficially, I understand the print editions are already available …) I'll start with a brief introduction for Beth Anne, but I'll also let you know first up that there is a grand giveaway prize to celebrate the interview and the launch—details after the interview!
Introducing Beth Anne Miller:
A lifelong New Yorker, Beth Anne has been an avid reader since a ridiculously young age (rumor has it she was reading street signs at around 2, but this could be an urban legend), and is often in the middle of several books at once. A road trip through the eerie moors and misty Highlands of Scotland provided the inspiration for Into The Scottish Mist. A keen scuba diver and lover of all things Scottish, she currently works in the publishing industry in New York City and is planning her next road trip. Into The Scottish Mist is Beth Anne's first novel—so welcome Beth Anne!
Helen: Beth Anne, tell us about Into the Scottish Mist? Why Scotland?
Beth Anne: I have always had this inexplicable fascination with Scotland. I’m not from there and I have no Scottish heritage at all, but I’m just totally enamored with it. I love to go there, I love the music, the whisky, and of course, the accents and kilts! The novel was originally inspired by the Scottish actor Gerard Butler. At the time I started writing, he was not very well known, but had this small yet passionate group of devoted fans. There was a stunning photo of him from the movie “Attila,” in which he had long, dark, wild hair and intensely burning blue-green eyes, and I knew right then and there that this was what my hero needed to look like. In the earliest incarnation of the novel, the hero, Ian Mackenzie, is an up-and-coming actor, with a small but hugely devoted fan-base, and Abby, the heroine, meets him on an airplane and actually doesn’t know who he is. They hit it off and then meet up later in Scotland. That part is completely gone from the current version, in which they already have a past together before the start of the novel. But staring at that photo while I was writing definitely kept me inspired (and drooling).
Helen: What sparked you to write a time-travel Romance?
Beth Anne: I’d always enjoyed time-travel romances. In all the ones I’ve read, there’s one character from the present and one from the past, and one has to do some quick adapting. I wondered what it would be like if both were from the present and both ended up in the past. It grew from there, with the brainstorming help of some dear friends and helpful feedback from publishing professionals.
Helen: So how long did it take you to write the book, from that first idea, to the point when you felt satisfied it was "done"? Were there many revisions, or just a few "takes"?
Beth Anne: I first started it in January, 2006. I put it down for a few months and then re-read it that summer and started working on it again. I finished the first draft in September, 2006, and naively thought I was good to go and started querying it. But it was 172,600 words, which I didn’t realize was wayyyyyy too long for a romance novel. I joined a writing group, and got advice from fellow writers that I needed to cut it down. A lot. So I started working on it again. And again. I got some more feedback along the way, and kept cutting and re-writing. The Wild Rose Press offered me a contract in December, 2010, at which point it went through their professional editing process. It’s now a much stronger book because the story is tighter. In its original incarnation, one friend told me the first 50 pages read like an essay on “What I did on my Scottish vacation,” and he was right. There was too much roaming around scenic Scotland, and though it was fun to incorporate that part, it was totally unnecessary to moving the plot along. All writers think of their manuscripts as their children, and we hate to cut out anything. But once you step back and take a break, and then look at it with fresh eyes, you can often find a lot that needs to go. And then the editor, who has much less of a personal connection to the story, can come in with the unbiased eye and help smooth out the story, focusing on what’s important (character growth, action, narrative arc), and help axe the stuff that is just not needed.
Helen: I think a lot of writers follow a very similar path with their first novel—and there is so much as a writers that we have to learn by osmosis. Where's the manual?! But one of the truisms aspiring writers are told is that we have to read as well, particularly in our own genre. So as a Romance writer, I imagine you’re a big Romance reader yourself—what are some of your favorite books and/or authors?
Beth Anne: For romance, my favorites are Lynn Kurland, Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Suzanne Brockmann, and Karen Marie Moning. These authors all share a talent for creating heroes who are big and strong and tough—they could probably crush you with their bare hands—but they also have that vulnerability that we can’t resist, the uncertainty that they’re not good enough for the women they love. For fantasy, I love The Lord of the Rings (of course!), C.L. Wilson, Juliet Marillier, Anne Bishop, who all create beautiful, magical, and believable worlds. My favourite thriller writer is Vince Flynn, who writes amazing and timely political/military thrillers. I also adore YA (Matched, Across the Universe, The Chronicles of Pellinor are favourites), and the Harry Potter & Percy Jackson series. And too many more to name here!
Helen: I think we get a sense of the elements that make a great Romance read for you from what you've just said about the books you love, but is there more you'd like to add? And did you find it hard to weave those important elements into your own writing?
Beth Anne: I want the heroine to be strong and I have to relate to her, even if we’re nothing alike. Again, I want the hero to be strong as well, and I especially love it when they have that vulnerability that would seem at odds with their strength, yet adds so much depth. I also want the escapism of a great romance novel, whether it’s historical or contemporary, paranormal or suspenseful. The most difficult part, in incorporating all those element into Mist, was writing the love scenes. I read a lot of romance, from the very sweet to the extremely steamy. I enjoy them all across the board, but I wanted my story to be passionate and sexy without being over the top erotic and graphically detailed. I remember trying to write the first kiss in the first draft. I had to get my coworker/brainstorming partner to practically hold my hand while I wrote it—which seems ridiculous now, with a completed manuscript and the whole revision process behind me! But I didn’t have many edits on the love scenes, so I guess they get the job done!
Helen: I think you did do well with those love scenes and the erotic elements! :) So now I have to ask this question—if cast away on a desert island, or cast back in time through those Scottish mists themselves, why would our readers want Ian, the hero of Into the Scottish Mist, to be cast away with them?
Beth Anne: Well, he’s strong and resourceful, easy on the eyes, and knows the words to a lot of songs to keep you entertained on that desert island …But seriously, I tried to make Ian Mackenzie everything that I love in a romance novel hero, and make sure he was believable and human at the same time. He’s big and strong and gorgeous and sexy—all required elements, of course. He’s devoted to the people he loves, and even though he’s a successful actor, he returns home to the family horse farm in the Highlands at every opportunity. He thinks his acting skills have prepared him for any situation, but when he’s faced with a real battle, with real weapons, he’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t know everything, and he isn’t always able to handle any situation. He’s also got a great sense of humor!
Helen: Are there other characters in Mist who are particularly significant to you? Why?
Beth Anne: Well, Abby, the heroine, is of course close to my heart. In the earliest draft of this story, she was living my dream of going on a road trip in Scotland and meeting this sexy, fantastic Scotsman. In this version, she’s a completely different character. She’s been very affected by heartbreak and tragedy, and barely a day after her arrival in Scotland, she finds herself trapped in the past, not knowing how to communicate and what to say that won’t get her burned as a witch. At first she’s frozen with fear, but she’s able to find the strength necessary to survive. Alannah, whom we meet in 17th century Scotland, is also close to my heart. She leads a very lonely existence, outcast from her village, only called upon if her healing skills are required. She has no one but her animals for company, and no one to talk to. When Abby appears on her doorstep, she’s thrilled to finally have someone to talk to, even though she is suspicious of who Abby really is and how she came to be there. I think we’re all terrified of being alone, and Alannah is (I hope) a reflection of that fear.
Helen: Family is an important secondary theme to the romance in Into the Scottish Mist, both in the contemporary and past settings. Was that a deliberate focus for you, or did it evolve as the story developed?
Beth Anne: It was always a big part of the story. I feel very strongly that family is so important, in real life and in fiction as well. So many of us are shaped by our parents—in good ways and in bad ways too, and I wanted to give my characters strong familial connections. Abby is drawn back to Scotland, and ultimately back to Ian, by a family tragedy. Although she’s been apart from Ian for years, his family welcomes her back with open arms, which is a huge source of comfort to her. Ian is extremely close to his parents and his brother Robbie, who had a much bigger role in an earlier version of the story, but I had to trim it way down in the interest of keeping the focus in the right place. And Alannah, whom we meet when Abby travels back in time, has had to get by without much family, and this has caused her to be very much alone.
Helen: Do you think any of those other characters might have stories of their own waiting in the wings to be told?
Beth Anne: It’s a definite possibility! Alannah really wants to find her happily ever after, so I’d like to accommodate her. And I also really love Robbie, Ian’s brother. He’s a little grouchy with me right now, because he lost out on a lot of face time in the final version of this story, but maybe we can find him a story of his own.
Helen: Into the Scottish Mist is being published in just a few days—a tremendously exciting moment for every debut author. How do you plan to celebrate?
Beth Anne: I think a gathering at the local Scottish pub is part of the plan. Kilted bartenders, whisky, and friends. Since I can’t get to the Scottish Highlands just now, that’s the next best thing! If anyone knows the cover model, please let him know! I know some people who want to meet him…
Helen: And is there a next book waiting in the wings? Or do you have other plans?
Beth Anne: I have some other things in the works that I’m hoping to spend more time with in the coming months. I have a few YA projects in the works—a nautical adventure and a gothic-ish romance, as well as a fantasy romance which focuses around an ancient warrior under a mysterious spell.
Helen: I always love that feeling of more stories waiting in the wings and wondering where they may take you! All part of the fun of being an author. Beth Anne, I am thrilled to have been able to have you as my guest here on the Supernatural Underground today. A first novel debut is always a very special moment and I know that we all wish you the very best for the success of Into the Scottish Mist.
And Supe readers, if you have questions for Beth Anne please feel free to post them here—I know she will do her best to answer them!
This Month's Giveaway: [Open to all Supe followers, US or international.]
To celebrate Beth Anne's author debut and the launch of Mist, we have a Grand Romantic Giveaway Package of signed author copies for you today, which comprises – drum roll! –
- 1 x copy of Into the Scottish Mist;
- 1 x copy of Nalini Singh's Play of Passion; and
- 1 each of Tracey O'Hara's Night Cold's Kiss and her hot-off-the-press, next-in-series Death's Sweet Embrace.
To enter the draw just post a question or a comment here for Beth Anne. As always, you can earn points (i.e. the number of times your name goes into the draw) by:
+1 Posting in the comments section
+1 Linking to this post on Twitter
+1 Linking to this post on Facebook
+1 Linking to the Supernatural Underground or my Helen Lowe on Anything Really blog on your own blog/website.
Just post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment. The contest will close at midnight EST today, Tuesday 1 February and the winner will be drawn by Random Number Generator.
Please don’t forget to check back after the closing date to see if you’ve won, or leave an email address where I can get in contact with you. If the prize has not been claimed by midnight EST on February 4, I will re-draw.
Thank you all for supporting Beth Anne's debut and participating on the Supernatural Underground today.