Debra Salonen - Writing Romance With a Lot of Personality
Former award-winning newspaper journalist and bestselling author, Debra Salonen is back with the fun and very romantic Black Hills Rendezvous series. Married to her highschool sweetheart, Debra lives in the foothills in California and loves to explore the beauty of nature at the nearby Yosemite National Park where she finds peace and inspiration. Today she answers our questions on how she chooses names for her characters, what made her pick a sperm donor as lead character for Black Hills Baby and whether she thinks love conquers all.
Give us a short summary what Black Hills Baby is about
Hollywood celebrity Cooper Lindstrom needs money to get his late mother's homicidal bookie off his back. Black Hills postmaster Libby McGannon has a trade in mind: Cooper's sperm in return for a share in her family's gold mine. Both wind up with a lot more than they bargained for.
How on earth did you come up with the plot for Black Hills Baby? It is definitely a fun read, but what inspired you to mix Hollywood with a sperm donor and the "real Wild West"?
I love “fish out of water” stories, so introducing a hero who goes from the image-heavy glamour of Hollywood to a world made up of ordinary people living real-world lives with a bit of old west grit and independence thrown in seemed like a fun mash-up. And I did have fun with Cooper, who is one of my most broken but earnestly human characters.
How do you incorporate your personality into your books?
That’s an interesting question. I like to think I’m a positive person. I’m living my very own HEA, so writing romance is a good fit for me. But I don’t shy away from the bad, the sad, and the heartbreaking because those are part of life, too. Even mine. During the course of this series, a beloved matriarch passes away and I wrote much of that from my personal experience of losing my mother.
Do you believe that love conquers all? Why?
Define: “love”. I’ve seen people do really rotten things in the name of love. In my opinion, a committed relationship is a living, breathing entity that takes work, compromise and a certain degree of selflessness to stay vital. But, if you’re willing to work for it, love is everything romance novels make it out to be, so my answer is: of course.
You have published over 40 novels. What advice do you have for an aspiring novelist?
There’s a lot of good, inspirational advice out there. How ‘bout I share a writing tip that I picked up at a writer’s conference a year ago: listen to your book. The eye will fill in missing words no matter how carefully you read (especially after three or more revisions), but a computer narrator never will. I write on a Mac, so when I’m done with this paragraph, I will highlight it, click alt-esc, and listen as a male voice named Alex reads it back to me. (You may have to go into your settings under Speech & Dictation to set this up the first time.)
After writing so many books it must be hard to keep finding new names for your characters. How do you go about choosing your characters' names?
You have no idea. Sigh. Recently, I’ve started hanging on to playbills, programs from art shows, Sunday’s symphony performance, etc., to mine for names. This technique works particularly well for secondary characters, but my heroes and heroines can go through several incarnations until the right name sticks. Once their personality is formed, they can have strong opinions on the matter.
Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What inspired your debut?
I’ve always written, and, yes, I always wanted to be a published author. But breaking into print proved a lot tougher than I expected. So, I took a job writing feature stories for a newspaper. Lucky for me, my editor was a born teacher. She taught me the craft I’d so arrogantly assumed I knew because I was well read and had a master’s degree. While working for the newspaper, I covered a story that taught me what a real hero was. His story became my first book and it sold to Harlequin Superromance.
Recent family shot from San Simeon, CA
Cooper Lindstrom is described as a "snooty actor and bumbling guy" by some of your readers. Why do you like to use somewhat unlikely heroes in your books?
I love complex characters that are actually much deeper than you think at first glance. Being an actor was the only way Coop knew to hide his flaws (his dyslexia and inability to read well). He’s not particularly pragmatic, but his mother never encouraged him to think because it was her way of keeping control of his life and his career. I was willing to forgive him all his flaws because he genuinely loved his mother. This trait resonated with my heroine since she’d acted quite out-of-character by soliciting sperm for gold. She worried that the child they conceived might wind up hating her. Coop gave her hope in more ways than one.
You also involved the small community of Black Hills in your plot. Tell us why without revealing too much
Your setting can be as much a character as the people that populate the place. Sentinel Pass is the younger sister who was overlooked for most of her life. She did the right thing, minded her Ps and Qs, dreamed of a bigger life while real life sort of passed her by. Her hopes have turned a little shabby and frayed about the edges. Then one day, a stranger appears and he’s got a plan that might just give her that shot at fame. Change is scary and a lot of people aren’t happy about it, but others find the whole thing exciting. I think Sentinel Pass does, too. She’s waited a long time for this.
Tell us a bit more about your writing habits: do you prefer computer or pen, do you aim for a set amount of words per day?
I generally write something every day. Today, I’m writing a Q&A. When I have a deadline looming, I’m more disciplined. I compose on my computer using Scrivener. I’ve found the process that is best for my body is writing at 25-minute increments. I set the timer on my phone and dive in. When the timer goes off, I stand, step away from my chair and do some kind of physical activity: yoga, dance, weights, run up and down the stairs… But I’ve also sat for too many hours without moving and that is not good. I don’t recommend it.
Where I go for inspiration (Yosemite National Park)
What are you working on right now? What can we expect from you next?
I’ve contracted to write two books in a five-author series for Tule Publishing called Love At The Chocolate Shop. This is really exciting because I’m learning so much from my talented fellow authors: C.J. Carmichael, Melissa McClone, Roxanne Snopek and Marin Thomas. Collaborating on shared characters and an over-arching story that ties everything together is rather exhilarating. And these particular authors really know how to raise the bar. The series opens in October with C.J.Carmichael. My first book (working title: MONTANA SECRET SANTA) will be out in December.
Where can readers find more of your books?
I’m a fan of market diversity and choice, so you will find my titles at most online vendors. The best way to stay abreast of what’s coming out when is my newsletter: http://littl.ink/+mv1R . There are four more titles in my Black Hills Rendezvous series. Oh! The covers! I can’t wait to share them with you.