We first met at a Calgary Association of Romance Writers of America (CaRWA) information evening, held at the Memorial Park Library in Calgary. Both of us had attended in the hopes of finding out more about the craft and business of writing romance. It was shortly before CaRWA hosted its first conference, Crossing the Publishing Threshold, in November 2004. Much has flowed beneath the bridge since then and, as well as I thought I knew Astrid, some of her answers surprised me!
1. When and why did you start writing? What is it about writing that satisfies you the most?
Unlike a lot of authors, I never had a burning desire to write. I was quite happy to be a reader and I read one or two books a week. I discovered historical romance and I devoured every one I could get my hands on. The genre was popular at the time and publishers were pumping them out as fast as they could which meant the quality got diluted and some of them were so bad, I couldn’t even finish them. In fact, some of them were so bad, it occurred to me I could do better! But life was busy and I never pursued it any further.
Then in the early nineties, my husband and I started an engineering company which meant I was in the office with time on my hands as we didn’t have a lot of work in those early days. That was when I started to write. Our company became successful so I put that book aside and didn’t pick it up again until 2001, when we sold the company and retired. I did sub that book to a couple of editors but it didn’t sell and it’s my proverbial “manuscript under the bed.”
The thing that satisfies me the most is creating a new world and bringing new characters to life. If I do my job properly, they take over the story and what happens depends on them.
2. What is one subject or genre you would never write about and why?
Erotica. Quite honestly, I don’t see the appeal. That’s not to say I don’t write sex scenes, I do, but I would consider my work as sexy historical romance and you could skip the scenes and not lose the thread of the story.
3. Have you had a defining moment in your writing life that changed everything for you?
I had the opportunity to work one on one with author and writing instructor Mary Buckham (www.marybuckham.com) on my third manuscript. I learned so much from her about the craft of writing and she pointed out mistakes in my own work that I never noticed. ie: passive voice, raising story questions and who knew my characters actually needed goals?! My work improved leaps and bounds after that and this exercise turned into The Countess’ Lucky Charm.
4. How did you feel when you held your first book in your hands?
A feeling of disbelief, as in, is this really happening to me?! Also pride in what I had accomplished.
5. Do you read your reviews? If so, how do you celebrate the good and get over the bad?
I absolutely read my reviews and I’ll tweet or FB about it if I get a good one. I use the comments as learning tools, even the poor ones. Bad reviews don’t bother me at all because I don’t like everything I read either. As Jo Beverley said in one of the first workshops I ever attended, “not everyone will get my magic.”
6. Have you ever judged any writing competitions? If you have, what about the process surprised you the most?
I judged the Emerald City Openers for a few years. What surprised me the most is how much I enjoyed the opportunity to provide helpful (I hope!) feedback and encouragement on what I had read. I could tell some of the entries came from beginning authors and I liked the feeling of being a mentor.
1. What keys on a keyboard do you not use?
The Function keys.
2. Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person? Or is the glass just malformed?
Definitely the glass is half full. Life is an adventure - try something new, follow your dream, smile at a stranger, make time for friends and family. Yes, I have my down days but every dark cloud has a silver lining. J
3. Which of the four seasons do you like/dislike the most and why?
I love spring. I love the feeling of renewal and the soft green of new growth. I love spending time out in the garden and getting dirt under my nails after a long Canadian winter. I love planning what I’m going to plant this year and deciding what little yard project to tackle. Besides, summer follows it and then I can enjoy the fruits of my labour!
4. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Camping with my sweetie. Anywhere, but particularly in northern British Columbia.
SPEED QUESTIONS: Straight YES/NO answers, unless you want to add a few words to qualify the answer. Have you ever:
1. Lied about your age? No
2. Won a contest? Yes. Earlier this year I won sideline passes for a Calgary Stampeders home game in the upcoming season.
3. Ridden a motorcycle? Yes, as a passenger. Scared me silly, especially going around the corners!
4. Watched the stars at night? Definitely yes! J See my above answer re: camping.
Please join me tomorrow, May 16th, to check out some of Astrid's title. I promise you won't be disappointed!