Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interview with author Zara Keane

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Irish but I currently live in Switzerland with my family. I love coffee, chocolate, board games, and books. My professional background is third-level teaching — university and adult education. At the moment, I’m a full-time wrestler of small people and a part-time writer. I’m hoping to shift to full-time writing over the next couple of years.

Q ~ If you could go anywhere, real or imagined, where would it be and why?

Norway. I’ve planned to go three times but my plans always fell through.

Q ~ What is your favourite genre to read? To write?

My favourite genres are romance and crime fiction. I’ve written in various genres and subgenres over the years but I’m concentrating on contemporary romance and urban fantasy romance at the moment.

Q ~ Are there any new Authors that have grasped your interest recently and why?

I’m enjoying Genevieve Turner’s Californian-set historical romances. The first book is Summer Chaparral. I used to read a lot of historical romance but got burned out by all the Regency and Victorian settings. Turner’s series is fresh and different.

I binge-read Ruby Lionsdrake’s Mandrake Company science fiction romances over the holidays. The series begins with Mercenary Instinct. I loved Linnea Sinclair’s books back in the day and these are similar.

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?

Definitely a series of events. I co-wrote a truly terrible romance with a school friend when I was fifteen, complete with an anatomically incorrect sex scene. It was rejected by Mills and Boon — surprise, surprise! My dreams of becoming a writer were put on hold when I went to university. I started writing for fun while I was doing postgraduate studies and amassed an impressive collection of unfinished stories on my hard drive.

NaNoWriMo 2009 was the turning point for me. I had two children under the age of two, one of whom never slept. I’d just quit my job to stay home with them full-time and was slowly but surely losing my mind. Around the 30th or 31st of October 2009, I read a blog post by Katiebabs of Babbling About Books on National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to complete a 50,000-word first draft in November. That works out to be around 1,667 words per day. Participants aren’t allowed to go back and edit — each new day means new words. I was intrigued by the challenge. Shutting off my pesky internal editor was one of the reasons I wasn’t finishing the stories I started. Scheduling regular writing time was another. I’d spent fifteen years coming up with excuses for not finishing stories and those excuses were always legitimate: school exams, university commitments, moving countries, broken relationships, work commitments, difficult pregnancies, small babies. I realised that life was never going to present me with an ideal time to write so I might as well try writing through the chaos.

The book I wrote in November 2009 was an unsalvageable, unpublishable mess. However, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. More importantly, the challenge of NaNoWriMo got me into a writing routine. It taught me to keep writing even when I didn’t feel like it and was convinced every word I typed sucked. Since then, I’ve finished six novels and three novellas.

Q ~ Do you have a personal support system? Who are your biggest supporters in life and in your endeavours?

My husband has always supported my writing and helped me to carve out time in my weekly schedule to fit it in. I’m fortunate to have a group of writer friends with whom I can brainstorm ideas and share the ups and downs of the business. I’ve also had the same critique partner for five years. I value her support and feedback enormously.

Q ~ Do you have any writing rituals that you follow? What is your go-to snack while writing?

I end each writing session with a sentence or two describing what needs to happen next. This makes it easier for me to get back into the flow of the story when I return to my desk. I try not to snack while I’m writing but I drink too much coffee, especially when I have a deadline looming.

Q ~ When you write, do you try to reach a specific word count or simply write until you are done?

If I’m working on a first draft, I set specific word count goals. Once I start revising material, I’m less concerned with word count and prefer to track my progress by the number of scenes I’ve rewritten or revised.

Q ~ Love and Shamrocks will be out in April 2015. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Love and Shamrocks is the fifth story in the Ballybeg series. It’s a full-length novel and stands alone well — Happily Ever After guaranteed! Here’s the blurb:

Trouble in Dublin…
Clio Havelin needs a lucky break. Desperate to protect her child, Clio accepts her estranged mother’s offer of a refuge in Ballybeg. What can go wrong in a place with more cows than people? Her hope for a fresh start is smashed to smithereens when she’s blackmailed into facilitating the heist of the decade. So the last thing Clio needs is a sexy cop underfoot, especially when she’s one crime away from freedom. Too bad she’s already slept with him.

…True Love in Ballybeg.
Seán Mackey wants his life back. The former police detective is now stuck apprehending errant sheep in Ballybeg — population 3968, pubs 35. After months of frustration, he’s finally on the scent of a real case. When he's sidelined into playing bodyguard for his nemesis, talk show hostess Helen Havelin, he’s pissed. And when his gorgeous one-night stand turns out to be Helen’s daughter, Clio, pissed turns to horrified.

Q ~ Have you written an outline for the Ballybeg series or do you make it up as you go?

I have an outline for each book and a series bible with notes on each character and location in the town. However, I leave myself plenty of wriggle room to come up with new ideas and locations in the town to include in later stories. Similarly, I have a timeline with events from previous books. I don’t want a pregnancy lasting thirteen months, for example!

Q ~ What prompted or inspired you to write these stories? Are any of them rooted in some sort of truth?

When I started writing contemporary romance, I tried setting my stories in a generic no-name town in America. The result was a dull story with unconvincing dialogue. My very wise critique partner suggested that I write what I knew. Once I shifted the setting to Ireland, the stories flowed.

Yes, there’s an element of truth in every story I write, even if it’s not my truth. I get story ideas everywhere: from books, TV, films, magazine articles, friends, family members, and personal experience. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, let alone gotten married there, but I know someone who has and she read and commented on an early draft of Love and Shenanigans. I have a child on the autistic spectrum and I drew from this experience to create the Luca storyline in Love and Leprechauns. I’ve never run a pub in a small Irish town but one of my cousins does and I was able to hit him up with questions when I was writing Love and Blarney. I grew up as the only child of a single mother and this helped me to write the mother-daughter dynamic in Love and Shamrocks.

Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?

Character names come to me the moment I start brainstorming their personality. I only wish coming up with book titles came as easily!

Q ~ What characters did you find yourself especially drawn to and why?

I have a soft spot for Olivia from Love and Leprechauns. She’s been through a lot yet she still retains her sense of humour. I’m also having a blast writing Sean Mackey’s story in Love and Shamrocks. He’s the most alpha of the heroes I’ve written so far and he has an intriguing backstory.

Q ~ If you were stranded on a desert island with one of your characters (from any novel you’ve written) who would you choose and why?

A secondary character from Love and Shamrocks named Lar Delaney because he’s smoking hot. :D I’m going to have to give the guy his own story! He appeared on page in an early draft of Love and Leprechauns but those scenes didn’t make the final cut. His role in that story was reduced to what it needed to be: a reference to a guy on a motorcycle. He plays a larger role in Love and Shamrocks. Hmm…yeah, he needs his own book.

Q ~ Of the works you’ve written, which is your favourite? Is there also a character that holds a special place in your heart?

So far, I don’t have a favourite. There are elements in each story that I particularly like. I feel I’m honing my craft with each story I write.

Q ~ Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Care to give us a hint about it?

I’m working on two separate projects. The first is an urban fantasy serial featuring Celtic symbolism, a dragon, and a sexy hero. I have no release date for this yet but it will probably be out in the second half of 2015. I want to stockpile episodes until I have the final one written. The second project is a spin-off featuring some of the settings and/or characters from the Ballybeg series. I’m referring to the spin-off as the Ballybeg Bad Boys series. The first story is a novella called ‘Her Treasure Hunter Ex’. It will be released it in July as part of a multi-author boxed set. The second story is a full-length novel called ‘The Rock Star Next Door’. I’m hoping for a Fall release date.

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you’re struggling to finish a story, a group challenge like NaNoWriMo might help to give you the push you need to get to ‘The End’. Whatever you do, don’t give up! You can’t polish words you haven’t written.

Thank you for having me on your blog!

About the author:

Zara Keane grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but spent her summers in a small town very similar to the fictitious Ballybeg.

She currently lives in Switzerland with her family. When she’s not writing or wrestling small people, she drinks far too much coffee, and tries – with occasional success – to resist the siren call of Swiss chocolate.

And in honor of St. Patrick's Day...
Be sure to enter our giveaway for 2 X 2 book sets of the 1st 2 Ballybeg stories: Love & Shenanigans and Love and Blarney.

Contest is open internationally, where applicable by law.
Entries close at 11:59pm March 27/15.
Winners will be drawn March 28/15.
Winners will be notified via email to the email provided to the giveaway and will have 72h to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn.

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