Monday, March 24, 2014

A visit with Anna Stewart

Welcome to Mary’s Garden! Today we have a two in one! Anna Stewart is visiting and I’m sure you’ll catch on to what I mean without me explaining. The weather had been a bit warm, now we’re back to cold so grab a blanket, food, and a chair. I’ve turned up the heaters so everyone will be comfortable. And here we go!

Mary: Before we talk author stuff, let’s find out about Anna, the person. What are you favorite things to do, places to visit, where did you grow up, things like that. Things, not on your web site bio. However, if anyone is curious you can check out her bio here http://authorannastewart.com/about/

Anna: And I worked so hard on that bio! Okay, I grew up in San Francisco (Sunset District near the beach) in a lovely neighborhood filled with shops and diners and a fabulous used bookstore. I attended 12 years of Catholic school (K-12) and then moved north just after graduating from high school. I was a dancer from the age of 3 until about sixteen: tap, ballet, acrobatics, and jazz. I dabbled in gymnastics, but I really loved dance. My main talent was walking on my hands or standing on my elbows--I've got pictures somewhere, I swear!

I'm definitely a geek at heart and I think my TV and movie viewing has shaped what I write. I love attending fan conventions for my favorite shows--I've been to the Las Vegas Supernatural con as well as a couple in Los Angeles. Star Trek Conventions are a hoot and I recently ventured into my first Comic Con which was held in my town. SO much fun--although the crowds take some getting used to. Being up close and personal with the actors is a rush. Finding out you're not the only crazy one on the planet is a bonus. :)

I love to travel (despite hating to fly) and I've been pretty fortunate to have visited Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and Israel. My best friend (and con buddy) Mary and I do a big trip every couple of years (when we don't do Disneyland). We've done a 3 week bus tour through England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales and while I've been to Hawaii numerous times, she never has, so that's where we are headed next. Top of my "someday" list is Australia and New Zealand. Other than that, I'm pretty much a homebody. I used to do a lot of dollhouse miniature projects, but just don't have the time anymore. But I really miss it.

Mary: Now, why did I say two in one? Because, Anna is a split personality! Not really she has two genres she writes in. Two web sites, etc. Please tell us a bit about each.

Anna: Funny how the universe likes to play tricks on you. My first love is writing paranormal romance. That's not to say I don't love contemporary, but when I think about writing, my mind goes to the magical. I was convinced THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS, my GH finaling book from 2012 was going to be THE book, so I put my branding efforts into a penname (AJ Stewart), developing a website, creating a logo (okay, I had lots of help with the last two), and putting everything I had into that series of books.

And then the book went nowhere. New York didn't know what to do with them (I received some lovely rejections). I wasn't in a position to self-publish, nor did that direction appeal to me. Don't get me wrong, I think self-pubbing is great for some people, but it was not the right choice for me. New York was still the dream...it had been for years and I wasn't ready to abandon that hope just yet. So to get my foot in the door (hopefully), I switched genres and dug out my very first book, which was a contemporary romance.

Around this same time, two of my critique partners and I came up with a Christmas anthology idea for Harlequin Heartwarming (their sweet romance line) and just as I got word the anthology was being bought, I received an offer from Berkley's INTERMIX line that they wanted to buy the contemporary, along with the two sequels I have planned. So I'm now balancing between the two names and two genres. While my focus right now is on the contemporaries, the paranormals are never far from my thoughts. Those will get out there, too. Just a matter of time (I hope!)

Mary: Congratulations on your Novella that will be coming out in December 2014, how did that happen? And gives us a tease, please!

Anna: Skype can work all kinds of magic, LOL. Because my critique partners are all over the country, we meet online once a week to critique, or brainstorm plots, or to get each other out of writing corners we've gotten stuck in. This particular evening was just after RWA National 2013 and my one friend mentioned that she'd talked to her editor about an anthology idea and presented the idea to us. Within a couple of hours, we had a solid idea inspired by LOVE, ACTUALLY (one of my favorite movies) and we're tentatively calling this collection CHRISTMAS, ACTUALLY. My favorite part of the movie is how everyone turns out to be connected and comes together at the end scenes. So we ran with it and yay! Harlequin bought it.

The anthology is about the Banning siblings who live in the fictional town of Christmas Town, Maine, and find love during the holiday season. My story, THE CHRISTMAS WISH, is about second-grade teacher Callie Banning, who is faced with a new student who has declared war on Christmas. The precocious little girl is being raised by her widowed (and Irish) father Dean Galloway and it's up to Callie and Dean to prove to his daughter just how magical Christmas can be. Anna Adams will kick off the anthology with THE CHRISTMAS DATE (Callie's oldest brother) and Melinda Curtis will wrap all three stories up in THE CHRISTMAS DATE (brother number 2). I think this anthology will appeal to a wide range of readers as each of us brings a different tone and voice to sweet romance. This project is definitely different from the series Berkley bought.

Mary: One of my favorite movies is Love, Actually. In fact, I told one of my critique partners just the other day she had to watch it.

Berkley series? WOW I’m so excited for you. Where were you when you got the call? Of was it dramatic as that sounds?

Anna: I never do anything in a predictable way, so my call came via Internet. My agent and I communicate primarily through Facebook, which I find so funny. She messaged me that we had an offer. I am proof not all time spent on Facebook is wasted! My hands were shaking so bad I could barely type. I can tell you no matter how the news comes, it's an adrenaline rush. Followed quickly by panic as you realize you're now writing for other people (and a paycheck). It just got real! It was also a validation--that the gamble I took by going back to my first book was worth the risk and got me where I wanted to be. Berkley has always been one of my dream houses and I'm really excited to be working with their team.

Mary: Tell us a bit about RWA’s Golden Heart.

Anna: Well, there's "the call", LOL. That morning is so crystal clear in my mind, I can see it playing out like a movie. I had the date marked on my calendar--this was the third time I'd entered, the second time with this particular manuscript. And then seven a.m. came and went, seven-thirty. Eight. Eight fifteen. And I figured yet again, nothing would come of it . So I was boiling water for a self-pity cup of hot chocolate (my writer buddies and I have a rule that you get 24 hours to sulk over bad news) while my mom was trying to cheer me up. Just as she went into the garage to throw the trash out, the phone rang. I think any GH finalist will agree that there's a certain magic that hits with this final. It's another step up the rung and doors open, whether you're welcomed inside or not. Those six months after finaling, you're soaring as a writer and for me, it was the sign I needed that I hadn't wasted the umpteen years I'd spent learning the craft. I wouldn't have signed with my first agent without that final, which led me to my current agent and my subsequent sales. The stars aligned that morning of the GH call and I'm still riding the after effect.

Mary: Please share with us, something that you always want and interviewer to ask, but never does. And what your answer would be.

Anna: How about if I were a tree what kind of tree would I be? ALDER! I'm joking (and probably showing my age with that one). I think it would be who's been your biggest writing influence to which I'd say (and wouldn't be surprise anyone who knows me) Nora Roberts followed by Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Sherrilyn Kenyon. That should give you some insights on my style of writing. But I'd be totally remiss not to mention the incredible friends I've made since becoming a writer and who have inspired me personally. Brenda Novak, who gave me a job and who constantly encourages me to follow my dreams. Melinda Curtis who became my mentor whether she wanted to or not. My critique partners Cari Gunsallus, Judy Ashley, Sarah Palmero, Janina Henderson and Anna Adams. They've all been so supportive and have each provided shoulders to cry on or popped the champagne with me. And the incredible members of my local chapter. They all inspire me...and make me keep doing what I'm doing. But most of all, my mom, who was the one to tell me to join RWA, then SVR, and has always, always believed in me.

Mary: I love Nora, Stephen, and Sherrilyn. Not much of a Dean Koontz fan, but that's only because I only have time to read so much! LOL Last but not least, your links… Social media, blogs, etc. etc. etc.

Anna: I pretty much stick to Facebook and Twitter @ajstewartwriter although I was immediately welcomed to the Harlequin Heartwarming Blog and I contribute one Friday a month. My websites are www.authorannastewart.com and www.ajstewart.net (the latter has a page showcasing some miniature projects I've completed if anyone's interested). I would love for people to stop by, drop me a line, and join my "news only" mailing list. Thank you so much for hosting me today, Mary. This has been a real blast and lovely trip down memory lane. Oh, and if those of you visiting haven't already, pop over to www.brendanovak.com and register to shop for her 10th Anniversary Online Auction! Can't forget the day job. :)

Thank you, Anna, for visiting us today! I've had a blast getting to know you better! And finding out how much we have in common. I hope you can drop by for a visit another time.

2 comments:

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

CONGRATS, Anna!
I'm so glad you hung in there all those years and are now getting the pay off!

I'm sure the paranormal books will find their audience one of these days, and probably not in the way anyone has expected. ;-) Writing is funny like that.

HUGS!

stanalei said...

Wonderful interview, ladies. I loved reading about "the call". Congrats on the books, Anna!