Q&A with romance novelists: Asa Maria Bradley, Katee Robert, and Rebecca Zanetti

Posted on January 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Erin Dodge

My inner fangirl starts jumping up and down every time I find out that an author is coming to the library to give a reading or discuss writing. So you can imagine the backflips (my inner fangirl is much more flexible than I am) when I heard that three amazing authors are coming to the library together.

During the month of February, we’re celebrating the romance genre with documentaries, Blind Date with a Book, a Valentine’s Zentangle class, and two opportunities to meet romance authors Asa Maria Bradley, Katee Robert, and Rebecca Zanetti. During our Romance Party with Novelists (see dates below), they’ll discuss how they write romance novels, and you’ll get a chance to discuss the diverse romance genres with them. I asked them a few questions as a sneak preview, and I’m really looking forward (backflips and cartwheels) to the in-person discussions in February.

Romance Party with Novelists
Thursday, Feb 9, 7–8pm

Saturday, Feb 11, 2–3pm

What authors do you love reading? What it is about their writing that keeps you coming back for more?

Asa Maria Bradley: I’m a big fan of both Rebecca and Katee, and I’ve read most of their books. For me, it’s always about the emotional connection between the characters on the page, and between me and those characters. Katee and Rebecca both do an exceptional job of that. I love the emotional roller coaster of laughing out loud at some parts and then crying at others. Some other authors I love include Ilona Andrews, Jeanine Frost, Linda Castillo, Laura Griffin, Sarah Maclean, Shana Galen, and many, many more.

Katee Robert: My all-time favorite authors are Anne Bishop, Sarah J. Maas, and Patrick Rothfuss. I’m a huge fan of complex characters who just leap off the page, and all three of these authors have that in spades, combined with amazing stories set in layered worlds. They write totally unput-downable books.

Rebecca Zanetti: I read anything I can get my hands on—including court cases. As for fiction, authors who draw you in with their characters (as opposed to just plot) keep me coming back for more. I’m a big Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb, Steve Berry, Lexi Blake, Kristen Ashley, and J.R. Ward fan.

What is it about romance that draws you to write in that genre? Do you write in other genres? And if so, do you approach them differently?

AMB: The romance genre is a master of that emotional roller coaster I talked about before. Plus, the world can be a pretty bleak place and I love escaping into a world where good people who overcome challenges and/or fight epic battles are rewarded in the end by finding true love. I hope my readers love escaping into the worlds I create as much as I love building them.

I sometimes write nonfiction essays and literary short stories. My process for those is pretty much the same as for romance. I try to connect the reader emotionally with what I’m building on the page. However, with shorter work you don’t have as much time to establish the world you’re creating, so I try to be more frugal with my sentences and make them do double work.

KR: Everything I write has some element of romance in it, from suspense to more mainstream contemporary. Romance is built on the foundation that every person, no matter their past or issues or challenges, deserves to be loved—that love conquers all. Finding the path for each individual couple is like falling in love all over again every time I write a book.

RZ: I like the guarantee of a happy ending in a book, and it’s much more satisfying to me as an author to provide that. Plus, in a romance, you’re dealing with a couple of character arcs and a definite story arc, so making those stand out is a challenge that’s enjoyable to meet. I write in different romance genres so far, but I’m playing with writing a young adult series later this year. I don’t approach the genres differently, but each genre has specific elements, of course. The voice and the writing stay consistent regardless of genre. Hopefully.

Which of your characters would you want to date? How about hang out with? Any you’d completely avoid?

AMB: As long as my husband is okay with it, I wouldn’t mind going out with Luke, the hero from my second book, Viking Warrior Rebel. It would have to be way before he met Astrid though because she would so kick my ass if she found out. I would really love to hang out with Irja, who’s the heroine in my third book—the one I’ve just finished writing. She has so many layers and so much wisdom. The only character I’d probably want to avoid is Loki. He’s evil and up to no good in all the books.

KR: I have two heroines in my Foolproof Love series that I would love to be best friends with. They’re quirky—one owns a cat café and the other is a borderline agoraphobic gamer girl—and are laugh out loud funny. There aren’t any of my characters who I’d avoid—at least not off the top of my head—and when it comes to dating, no one stacks up against James Halloran of The Wedding Pact.

RZ: I’d probably date any of the heroes if I was still single, and hanging out with the heroines would be fun. The heroine of Shadow Falling is a former psychologist who contracted the infection and now is probably schizophrenic. She’s brilliant and funny and crazy. I’d like to hang out with her for sure. The bad guy in the Scorpius Syndrome series is a sociopath and a serial killer, and I’d avoid him.

How has publishing your first (second, third…twentieth…) book changed your writing process?

AMB: The first book in my Viking Warriors series was written when I was offered a three-book contract. It took years to write that book and it underwent many rewrites. Once I’d signed a publishing deal though, I had concrete deadlines and had to learn to write a lot faster. I do more prep work up front now before I start a book or even a scene. And I tend to map out the turning points of the novel before I sit down to write.

KR: I have my twenty-fifth book coming out this year, and I’ve had to become a lot more organized. I used to write novels solely by the seat of my pants (pantsing), but now I need an outline or I get stuck about 60% of the way through. I also write a lot cleaner as a result—these days, it usually takes one solid pass after a first draft before it’s ready to turn in to my editor, rather than four or more.

RZ: I think your process as an author develops during those first few books, and you figure out what works best for you in the terms of plotting (or not), character development, and realistic deadlines. The process for each book might be a little different as well. I’ve also found that the more successful you become in the business, the more pressure you feel to keep hitting those bestseller lists or sales numbers… and to meet quicker deadlines. The ‘noise’ gets louder and more insistent (social media, reviews, demands), and you have to learn to shut it out so you can write. It’s definitely an adventure.

If you could go back in time, what might you do differently in your childhood or teenage years to help prepare for your adult writing life?

AMB: I’m not sure there is anything I would do differently. I was a classic book nerd who devoured every book I could get my hands on. And I wrote stories, tons and tons of stories. That’s what a writer of any age should do: read a lot and write a lot.

I think maybe the only thing I would tell my teenage self is to trust that my love for the creative arts could translate into making a living. I loved science and I loved writing as a kid. Somehow I decided that concentrating on science in college would be a much better career choice. I lucked out in that I love my day job as a physics college instructor, but I also spent some years, prior to teaching, working in technical positions that I wasn’t that thrilled about. Although, I was right about the paycheck being generous those jobs, so maybe it all worked out in the end.

KR: I think the main thing I wish I’d known when I was a teenager (and into my early twenties) is that you can be a dreamer and a creative person and still be organized and have a head for business. It’s not an all or nothing kind of situation.

RZ: I wouldn’t change much except to incorporate some type of health management into whatever career I’m in. It’s easy to become too sedentary with a job like being an author, and getting up and moving is crucial to health. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

What’s the best way for fans to reach you (Facebook, Goodreads author page, blog)?

AMB: I spend more time online than I should, so it’s always easy to get a hold of me in the various corners of cyberspace. There are links to all my social media on my website, and here are the direct links: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.

KR: The best way is my reader group on Facebook, The Rabble.

RZ: My website, public email, or Facebook are the best avenues to reach me.

Asa Maria BradleyAsa Maria Bradley grew up in Sweden surrounded by archaeology and history steeped in Norse mythology, which inspired the immortal Vikings in her paranormal romances. She came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student and quickly fell in love with ranch dressing. Booklist has attributed her writing with “nonstop action, satisfying romantic encounters, and intriguing world building.” Her debut book, Viking Warrior Rising, was a 2016 double RITA finalist, and her most recent release, Viking Warrior Rebel, received ‘Top Pick!’ status by Romantic Times Magazine, which described the book as filled with action and passion from the first page until the last.” Find Asa at AsaMariaBradley.com.

Katee RobertNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it “a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension.” When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Visit Katee on Twitter.

Rebecca ZanettiRebecca Zanetti is the author of over thirty novels, and her books have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, iTunes, B&N, and Amazon bestseller lists. She has received a Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review for Wicked Edge, Romantic Times Reviewer Choice Nominations, and RT Top Picks. The Washington Post calls her work, “sexy and emotional.” She thinks one of the best things about being an author, unlike the lawyer she used to be, is that she can let the crazy out. Find Rebecca at rebeccazanetti.com.

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