Maria Romana - Fascinated by Savants
Maria Romana has always been fascinated by the existence of savants, people born with amazing natural abilities. This, along with her love for romantic suspense, sci-fi, adventure and mystery, inspired her to start writing The Gifted Ones. As our Author of the Day, Romana talks about the series, why she doesn't like cheerleaders and perfect heroines and how her own nerdy girl characteristics have helped her in life.
Please give us a short introduction to The Gifted Ones
The Gifted Ones is an episodic, romantic suspense series that combines elements of Earthly sci fi with action, adventure, mystery, and romance. The books follow the lives of a genetically gifted group of individuals (and those who love or hate them) as they seek to use their gifts for (mostly) good while maintaining the secrecy of their society.
What inspired you to write about a group of people with unusual genetic gifts?
I’ve always been fascinated by the existence of savants – people who are born with amazing natural abilities in music, art, language, etc. The science of why or how it happens is curious enough, but thinking about how these people function in society is what really drove me. I would wonder how their parents or siblings felt about them, and how much success they would have in building relationships. The desire to explore the inner world of exceptional human beings is what really led me to create my imaginary gifted society.
Your heroines are never perfect – why?
Because perfect is boring! As a child, I adored the Nancy Drew Mysteries, but the older I got, the more Nancy (and many other traditional heroines) got on my nerves. Was there nothing they couldn’t do? Was there not one imperfection, one pimple, one hair out of place, on these wonder women? Don’t these ladies ever break down and eat the whole darn bag of Oreos in one sitting? I grew hungrier and hungrier for characters that I could relate to—people like me, who had admirable qualities but also foibles and fears and fallibilities. Let’s face it, winning a marathon with a God-given athlete’s body is not nearly as interesting as crossing the finish line with a prosthetic leg!
Along with mystery, most of your stories contain romance and humor – why do you take this approach?
I write what I like to read. While I enjoy an intense tale occasionally, most of the time when I’m reading, I want to relax. Suspense is great, but I don’t want a book that gives me nightmares. One dead bad guy is fine and dandy, but a string of grisly child-murders is not my idea of a Calgon moment. And while romance is fun and makes me smile, I limit the sap and angst and detailed sexual exploits. In short, I try to sprinkle lighter, sillier moments into the juicer stew, so all the old, jaded folks like me will keep reading!
Tell us a bit more about Grace Nagle's character. Who is she, and what makes her so special?
In the context of The Gifted Ones, Grace is special, because she’s not one of them. Many of her relatives are Gifted Ones, as are her primary love interests in the series, but Grace is decidedly unGifted, as some will never cease to remind her. Grace serves to remind the reader, however, that for many of us, our superpower is just being ourselves.
Did you know right from the start that you were going to make The Gifted Ones into a series?
Yes, absolutely. I love reading series, and the more books, the better (see Nancy Drew reference above). Once I fall in love with a world and its characters, I never want to leave. My other series, Unbreakable, was intended as a closed loop trilogy, and although it’s perfect the way it is, I don’t have a finite ending planned for The Gifted Ones.
Can the books be read as standalones?
Yes, but reading in order is probably best, as the characters are constantly growing and changing in their abilities and experiences. The predominant storyline of each book is wrapped up by the end, though, leaving dangling threads to be picked up in later volumes.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Like many of my “nerdy girl” characters, I am a basic math/science geek. Yes, I was that annoying little girl in the 3rd grade with the Coke bottle glasses, chubby cheeks, and hand perpetually in the air, begging the teacher to call on me. Fortunately, nerdy girl characteristics actually come in pretty handy in the real world, and I don’t envy those cheerleader types one bit!
Was there a particular character whose voice you found it easiest to write in?
I would have to say no. In fact, the great joy that I find in writing is trying out all the different characters' voices. I love to sit and ponder what the world feels like for all these different people. I try to imagine what happened to them in their earlier lives to shape who they became and to understand the motivations that drive them today. Then I go from there, speaking and acting (on paper) as I believe that person would. It can be incredibly freeing to write a scene from the perspective of a big, strong, scary dude, or an evil genius, or a beautiful, but snotty, stuck-up cheerleader. Oops, didn’t I say I was no longer envious of those girls? :)
Tell us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write in the day or evening, pen or laptop? Do you have a favorite writing spot?
I write whenever I can, but that usually ends up being on weekends and vacations. I’m not one of those who can write for an hour here or there. I just can’t get the creative juices flowing unless I have large, uninterrupted chunks of writing time. When I do sit down to write, it’s strictly on the laptop, though. I haven’t written more than a grocery list by hand in 20 years! For the most part, I do my writing at one of two desks I have, both of which face out to our wooded property. I really can’t imagine writing fiction without beautiful outdoor scenery; it’s as though my mind cannot free itself staring at an indoor wall or a busy cityscape.
What are you working on right now?
Book Four of The Gifted Ones, and way behind schedule!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?