Note: This article used with permission by RWA Online, Chapter #136 from their January/February 2012 issue of LoveBytes.
Interview with Angie Derek
By Karen Jones
Angie, would you tell us a little about Mafia Secret?
Mafia Secret is a romantic suspense novel about a professional cheerleader thrust into the mob.
Lessa Noelle grew up never knowing she was the illegitimate daughter of a mafia king pin. After his murder, she finds herself a surprise heiress immersed in the dangerous world of organized crime with only the guidance of Marco Santo her father’s second in command to help her.
Marco searches for her father’s killer and tries to keep the realities of his life from touching her. An uneasy attraction blossoms between the two. An already dangerous situation turns volatile when a killer turns his attention to Lessa.
How did you come up with the idea for Mafia Secret?
The initial story idea came from a running plot line on a soap opera. The story line had ended and I was left wondering what would have happened if the girl character had made a different decision. Mafia Secret started with the question – what if the person you loved had to lie to you on a regular basis? Could you accept it? My heroine came to me first with MS and the hero evolved from the heroine’s innocence. I wrote with the idea of the heroine being the light and the hero being the dark. The hero needed her light, but could she handle his dark?
Why did you make your hero a mobster?
I think it was the challenge of the darker hero. Could I make a character who might be the villain in another book the hero of this book? The main idea of the story was the mixture and contrast of light/innocent (the heroine) with dark/not-so-innocent (the hero). Could the heroine accept the hero for who he was? Could the hero be a better man for the heroine? Plus, antiheroes can be very sexy. J
What was it about Mafia Secret that made your editor want to buy it?
You know, I’m not totally sure. The phone call is kind of a blur. I do recall her mentioning it being a fun read and being intrigued by the hero being a mobster.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing Mafia Secret?
Figuring out the family dynamic and my hero and heroine’s relationship. Toying with how dark to make the mob aspect of the plot line. How dark to make my hero while still keeping him the hero.
How much research did you conduct for Mafia Secret and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?
I tend to research as I go so am never sure how much research I do with a particular book. I did research the mob, Napa Valley, NFL cheerleading, and little odds and ends here and there. I love research and it is way too easy to research, research, research. What I like to do is have just enough little tidbits to sprinkle in for realism, but I try not to get trapped into this is the “way it is” mentality if it starts to interfere with the story. Plausibility/believability is more important than real. Some stuff you just have to make up – that’s why a novelist writes fiction.
The most interesting thing I researched, to me, was figuring out professional cheerleading. I watched Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making The Team and NFL Cheerleaders Making the Squad, googled a lot, and sent some questions off to a director of a professional cheerleading team. I was trying to make sure I got the professional cheerleading culture right even though it is more of the background of my heroine than the setting of the book.
Prior to publishing your first romance novel, you self-published a non-fiction book and then sold the second and third edition to a publisher. Would you talk a little about that?
I’ll try to make a long story short. I had the idea for the book, Horse Schools: The International Guide to Universities, Colleges, Preparatory and Secondary Schools, and Specialty Equine Programs, and submitted it to several publishers. It was uniformly rejected as being a niche within a niche. I had already pretty much written the book which took over a year to compile the information. After a lot of thought and research I decided to self-publish it. I devised a marketing campaign which included a lot of review copies. I sent press releases off to every horse magazine I had found letting them know about the book and asking if they would like to review it. The book kind of took off from there. I had a lot of direct sales from my website, but the book was also available through all major retailers as a POD (print-on-demand) order book. Due to the nature of the book, I had always intended on updating and revising it about every two years.
While I was updating for the second edition I decided to re-submit it to the publishers who did horse books. I devised a proposal which included a copy of the current edition as well as my sales numbers and the marketing efforts I had done up to that point. Out of the five publishers, I got one very nice rejection (loved the book, but niche within a niche) and two requests for more information. Out of those two requests, one resulted in a publishing contract with Trafalgar Square Books.
A lot of the marketing items I did for the 1st and subsequent editions apply more toward nonfiction and not all of it was successful as far as time and money resulting in sales. But the main items I had the most success from were: 1) Press releases targeted to niche magazines with the offer of sending a review copy of the book. 2) Writing nonfiction articles related to the subject of my book. I always saw an increase in sales when a new article or review would appear in a magazine. From what I have seen, I think the most important marketing tool in a fiction writer’s closet is to write and release the next book.
My experience with self-publishing has been that the process is completely doable. You as an author have to set realistic goals and, most importantly, a budget. Self-publishing is a lot cheaper now than it was when I first did it ten years ago which is great. You can do some items on your own and shop around for contractors and/or trade with friends to handle the items you aren’t comfortable with. Print-on-demand technology has also become a lot more common making it easier for authors to directly contract with POD companies instead of jumping through a ton of hopes or going through an intermediary. With ebooks increasing I know a lot of self-publishers are skipping print books altogether, but I figure if I put that much effort into the book I might as well offer it in print and as an ebook.
What is your process for writing fiction?
I’m a pantzer who generally writes sequentially though I will hop around if I get a flash on a future scene or am uncertain what happens next. I almost always start with a vague idea which grows into the characters and from there into a plot. Mafia Secret is a perfect example as I had the idea – an admirable hero in a not so admirable lifestyle falling in love with a slightly innocent law-abiding girl. Could they overcome their differences? The characters emerged from that idea. The plot to thrust them together and put them to the test evolved from writing the story.
My steamy paranormal novella, The Beast’s Redemption, was a little different as I was basing it off a fairy tale. So, the theme and general plot was already set. Something I wasn’t used to doing, but even with Beast, it was the characters who guided me through the story and who told me what happened next.
Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?
A thesaurus is a writer’s best friend. When I start to flounder I might do some research to keep me working while giving my subconscious time to work out the problem.
How do you make time to write?
It’s just one of those things you do. Sometimes I’m good at setting time aside and getting the work done. Other times not so much. But I figure it all evens out. Over the summer I was getting up early to write before the kids got up as I was getting very little done during the day. Now that the kids are in school I mostly work while they are in school and in the evening while they watch TV or do homework. If I’m on a time crunch I am generally chained to my laptop all waking hours, bringing it wherever I happen to be going.
When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?
My characters. 100%. Occasionally they will let me have some input, but in the first draft it is all them all the way.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Write what you love. Let the characters take you for a ride. Be okay with a crappy first draft, second draft, etc. Do the best you can in that moment and then move on to the next book. We learn more from the act of writing not rewriting. Editing and rewriting do have their place, but it is too easy to get sucked into the trap of polishing that first, second, third, etc. book over and over and over again. You need to let your baby go whether you send it out to a publisher or self-publish.
Give yourself permission to learn. Writing is a skill just as playing the piano, riding a horse, playing soccer, knitting, etc. are skills. Everyone starts out as a beginner. And if you practice, practice, practice, you work up to intermediate and beyond. You can take classes, read writing books, study books you love, study other story-telling methods, actively write (picking one skill to work on with each book), etc. But remember when you are learning, no technique or way is the only way to write. It is that instructor/writer’s way of doing things. Go ahead and try it, but if it doesn’t work for you than toss it aside and try something new.
Consider what you want from your writing career. We’re currently in a publishing world that seems to change every night. Don’t let it scare you. Read up on what is happening – ignore all the sky is falling screamers. Research all the methods toward publication and choose what path(s) you wish to pursue. Believe in yourself and your stories.
Why did you decide to become an author?
Because the stories won’t stop. Might as well take advantage of an overactive imagination and make a career of it. :-) A steady income would be nice too.
Why did you decide to become a romance author?
I think you are compelled to write what you read. Romances are one of the genres I’ve read since I was a teen and even when I’m not writing a romance there’s always some sort of romantic relationship within the story. The last book I wrote, I actually tried not to have any romances in it, but the hero quickly nixed that idea as the story got going. So, even when I write in another genre a little bit of romance always sneaks in.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I originally wanted to be a professional horse trainer and rider, but not sure that is what I would be doing if I wasn’t writing. I honestly don’t know what else I would do.
What are you doing to promote your book?
I believe the best promotion is to write the next book. Besides that I’ve done a few guest blogs, interviews, and I tweet/facebook when I have a new release or some other info which might let my readers know one of my books is available. I’ve linked my Facebook pages to Twitter which allows it to seem I’m a lot more active on Twitter than I am J. I also keep an up-to-date website for both of my pen names. But the most important thing is working on another book.
What support are you receiving from your publisher?
Mafia Secret is still in the pipeline for publication with a tentative release date set somewhere in the spring of 2012. I know from watching what they have done with their other authors that it looks like they create a book trailer, set up a blog tour, and some audio interviews to promote the release of their new titles.
I’m excited to say I have several books recently released.
The Beast’s Redemption is a paranormal novella about a shape shifter and a witch who have to trust in each other to break a hundred year old curse. Just out is Whitelighter, a paranormal novella, where a young witch whose special powers make her a target to any vampire who catches sight of her.
Under my other pen name, Angelia Almos: Horse Charmer, a young adult fantasy, about a sheltered princess who discovers her remarkable gifts with horses on a dangerous quest to find her father’s murderer. And my new adult space opera, Spectors, about a pirate who almost loses everything she cares about when she’s blackmailed into running a dangerous mission for the military.
How has your experience in the horse industry helped you with your two books, Horse Schools and Horse Charmer?
It’s probably helped me the most with promotion and authenticity. Having grown up involved with horses, it was relatively easy for me to market toward the horse industry when I self-published Horse Schools. I knew where to research marketing opportunities and came up with my plan to target market the horse magazines pretty early on.
For my fiction, I write with more confidence. I don’t have to do a lot of research if a horse is a character in a book (unless I’m focusing on an industry within horses which I don’t have hands-on experience). Plus, I love writing about horses, it feels natural to describe them and their behavior. I’ve had a passion for horses since I was five years old and gobbled up every horse book I could as a teen. This helps a lot in writing my young adult fantasies. I write the books I would have loved to read when I was a teen.
Angie Derek writes steamy paranormal and romantic suspense. She lives in the Sierra Nevada mountains with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, two cats, and one pony (she needs another pony to up the number to two J ).
Books (writing as Angie Derek)
Mafia Secret (romantic suspense), Tell-Tale Publishing, May 2012, ISBN unknown
The Beast’s Redemption (paranormal romance), The Wild Rose Press, 2011, ISBN 9781102083177
Whitelighter (paranormal romance novella), Thoroughweb Press, 2011, ISBN 9781465751010
Books (writing as Angelia Almos)
Horse Schools: The International Guide to Universities, Colleges, Preparatory and Secondary Schools, and Specialty Equine Programs (non-fiction), third edition, Trafalgar Square Books, 2007, ISBN 9781570763489 (The online version can be found at www.HorseSchoolsOnline.com.)
Horse Charmer (YA fantasy), Thoroughweb Press, 2011, Print ISBN 9781466228788, ebook ISBN 9781458148384
Spectors (space opera), Thoroughweb Press, 2011, ISBN 9781465771704
To learn more about Angie/Angelia and her books visit her at www.angiederek.com and at www.angeliaalmos.com.
About RWA® Online
RWA® Online is proud to have been the first electronic chapter of Romance Writers of America®. We know that the writer’s life can be a lonely one and it doesn’t help when the closest chapter meeting is a hundred miles and two weeks away. Our chapter was created in 1995 specifically to take advantage of the emerging capabilities of the world wide web to bring romance writers together through virtual instead of only physical meetings. We are now over 250 members strong and growing every day.
Our chapter resources are available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! All you need is an internet connection. We offer critique groups, plotting sessions, and lots of support and advice on your writing career. We understand the need to vent over a rejection letter and we celebrate your contest wins and manuscript requests and contracts right with you.
- 24 hour access
- Bulletin Board Discussion Forums (no email loops!)
- Monthly Discussion Topics
- Workshops - FREE for chapter members!
- Plotting and Critique Groups or Partners
- Private Chat Area and regular chat sessions
- January Jump Start Jam and KIA Marathon
- Love Bytes - Chapter Newsletter
- Published Author Only Forums
- Published-author blogging at The HEA Café, which is open to the public
- Publishing Spotlight with visiting editors/publishers
- And much, much more!
Membership is open to members of RWA. To learn more, visit us at http://www.rwaonlinechapter.org/