Cecilia Robert has already had success with her young adult paranormal Soul Collector series debut, Reaper’s Novice in 2011 and then a contemporary romance, Truly, Madly, Deeply, You this past year and is getting ready to find her home in yet one more genre with Homecoming, a steampunk cum paranormal adult romance. I had an incredible opportunity to ask her a couple questions, which she then indulged me to ask a lot more. This was a great chat and I think I picked her brain to the point where I could probably write parts of her first Cloaked Devices book now. =)
Thanks so much, Cecilia!
Homecoming is an incredible prequel story. What a fantastic blend of steampunk and shifter supernatural. I like to think that this Cloaked Devices short story is an intellectual’s shifters book. What was it that inspired you to blend that intriguing world of sci-fi with the world of shifters? And were you happy with the outcome?
Thank you! 🙂 I’m a huge fan of shifter stories. I’ve read most of Nalini Singh’s books set in her intricate world of the Psy-changeling and loved every one of them. Plus I’ve always been intrigued by the steampunk world and I’ve always wanted to write in this genre. Then there is the fantasy part of the story where the humans have elemental powers. This element of the story was influenced by the Nickelodeon television series Avatar: The Last Air bender. I spent some time searching for books that contain these elements and couldn’t find any so I thought, “why not write one myself?” Stories that I’d like to read. I am extremely happy with the outcome.
The cover is fantastic. It was so eye-catching that I actually hit the request button on NetGalley before I read the synopsis. Do you feel that the cover is a good feel for the story? What were your initial feelings when you first saw the artwork?
I love the cover! The first time my designer sent the first draft I literally fell off my chair. The cover gives a good feel for the story. At first glance, a reader knows it’s a shifter story, then there are the goggles on the the model’s hat which give a steampunk-ish feel to it.
There is a great deal going on in Homecoming. You do a lot of work setting up a lot of the Cloaked Devices world and introducing us to the characters of both Sera and Levain’s families. While writing this short story were you working with a larger outline or story arc in mind? Do you already have a plan set out for Cloaked Devices as a grand scale?
Yes, I had a larger story arc in mind when I was working on this short story. I wanted Homecoming to be the introduction to Anndesia world, the Cloaked Devices journal which trigger the events in the first book. As for a plan set out for the Cloaked Devices as a grand scale, yes there is one which will involve getting into the reason why the journals are important and why The Duke Czedar says– in the story–that he should have burned them when he had the chance.
Can you divulge who will be the pairing for the first book?
Oh yes! 🙂 Sera and Levian.
What is your normal process for a series? How do you generally go about turning an idea into something like the Cloaked Devices, Soul Collector or Truly Madly?
The process that I used for each of the series was completely different. First thing I do is figure out the beginning and make sure I know how the story ends. After that, all I have to do is work out the middle which involves creating scenarios that display the character’s trials as well as strength and weakness and how she overcomes them. I’ll take Reaper’s Novice as an example. I wrote a very basic outline — basic for me is about a paragraph or two. Ana is the kind of person who would do anything for her family and friends, so all I had to do was find the trigger to knock her world off her axis. After that I divided those two paragraphs into three parts (books) each part showing the challenges she faces and how she grows as a character. By the way, the ending I had for third book during the outlining stage has altered after some drastic change of events in the second book (which is currently in the editing phase).
Hmmm… you just said, “…how SHE overcomes them.” Do you have a hard time thinking in terms of the hero’s POV?
I would say yes and no. In my case, capturing the hero’s voice depends on the tense and POV. I had a really great time writing Levian’s POV in Homecoming. Now, when I wrote the hero’s POV present tense in A Need so Insatiable, I wasn’t sure Rafael’s voice was manly enough. By the time my editor read the story and emailed back to let me know that Rafael was ‘very male’ I had gone through the fingernails biting phase, and was getting ready to start rocking back and forth.
Can I ask you a few questions about A Need So Insatiable?
oh yes, please go ahead. 🙂
This is the upcoming new adult release you have been working on. I have only read the synopsis but if I were playing word association the ones coming to mind are: intense, desperate, emotional, consuming… This novel seems to have an edgy-ness to it that the other novels were missing. Is the synopsis misleading or is this book a divergence from the others and a little more driven by provocation and captivation?
Yes, A Need So Insatiable is driven by those actions/feelings as well as survival and a desperate need for redemption. The bit about survival comes about while Sophie tries to wade through life, reconciling her father’s debts, and also tries to keep her younger sister from heading down a dangerous road. On the other hand, Rafael is captivated by Sophie and has been for a long time. He believes she is the only one who can offer him redemption–his personal Jesus, as he puts it–for some things he did in the past that also tangle with her past. The whole story is surrounded by an overwhelming “need” for something, whether it’s to protect their loved ones, or love someone, rescue or being rescued, forgive or be forgiven.
When you are writing a novel do you work on one book straight through until it is finished? Do you have a schedule that you work during the week or the days? What is a good days work?
Sometimes I work on two projects at the same time, especially if they are in the same genre. I don’t really have a strict writing schedule because my day job is quite demanding, and sometimes I’m too exhausted to spend even a second in front of my laptop. But If I really sit to write on my off day from work, I write up to 4000 words per day.
You have a job outside of being an author; do you feel that writing is also a “job”?
Oh yeah. I consider writing as a job. Actually it’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done, as well as the most fun. It’s also one of those things I hope to hold on to for as long as I live.
The connection between Sera and Levain seems pretty damn fiery. I was wondering if you could explain a little bit better how your mate-pairing works. In the flashback in the book it talked about a claiming when Tegue should have spoken up and claimed Sera but when he didn’t Levain claimed her. In the Cloaked Devices world would Levian have been able to let his brother claim his mate? Levain seems very in touch with his animal even while controlling that side, but I would think his panther would demand the blood of the man who would have tried to claim his mate in the first place. Am I overthinking this?
Oh no, you are not overthinking. Levian is more intouch with his panther side. He is very loyal to the ones he loves, and when he loves there are no limits, which also makes him extremely dangerous if that emotion were flipped around. He wouldn’t have let Sera go without a fight because he could feel the connection between them, even though Sera had blocked that part of herself, choosing to focus wholeheartedly at Teggue.
In the Anndesia shifter world, sometimes the two souls can sense each other quite early and create a strong unbreakable bond. Usually shifters are very intouch with their animal side and in matters of the heart, both man and beast make that decision together. In Sera’s case, she’d ignored that part of her, and used the same part of her body that rejected being the Clan’s Alpha: Her mind. But when she was vulnerable and hurting, that block crumbled, letting that side of her peek through. Tegue who isn’t that much in touch with his animal side and chooses to let his eyes decided for him, never really had the connection with her and both confused their childhood friendship and love to something more. This will change as the story continues and eventually readers will get to see that part of him that lays hidden from everyone else.
Is it somewhat frustrating when you write to know all of the back story and inner psychology of the Anndesia and of the Cloaked Devices world and not to fill the pages with exposition?
Oh yes..LOL it’s quite difficult trying to decide how much back story I should include in a story and what to leave out and probably show it through dialogue. I’m a very visual and descriptive person (probably as a result of watching too much TV) so the details/images about the world I’m currently building comes at a very fast pace. In Homecoming, my imagination ran a bit rampant. This was a completely new world, unlike anything I’ve ever written before so the images kept popping up in my head while I was writing which meant stopping every few minutes to scribble the details in my notebook because I didn’t want to lose that first ‘feel’ about this world.
Uriel is pretty captivating. He’s one of those wingman that you want to get to know better. You want him to have his story–but not too soon so you can have him around long enough to charm and irritate everyone he comes in contact with. One of those guys that you like to see cause chaos and drive others to wits end. When you were writing your supporting characters for Homecoming was he one of the ones you knew of early on or did he come to you as you were writing? Of your characters who did you enjoy writing the most? Who did you feel needed more work?
Yes. Uriel was among the first characters I created right after Sera, Levian and Tegue. Levian needed someone, other than Sera, who wouldn’t be afraid to stand up for him someone to ground him and not let him wallow in his own pity at the same time irritate the hell out of him. Oh my gosh! I can’t really point out which character I enjoyed writing the most. All of characters contribute something unique to the story. I don’t feel like any of them needed any more work. 😀
You have written young adult, new adult and I am going to call this an adult romance. What do you enjoy about writing each genre? If you were only allowed to write in one of them from this point forward which would you choose and why?
Young adult gives me the freedom to explore that phase in life where teens around that age see everything in huge proportions. The angst, the rebelliousness, testing their borders along with other people’s. (I was one of these teens. The rebellious kind).
In New Adult, I enjoy the first times the characters have to face, from leaving home to attend school to getting married and starting a new life/family. Adult romance, on the other hand allows me to explore adult-ish issues. I hope I’ll get a chance to finish one of my adult contemporary romances about a woman in her mid thirties who starts worrying about the scary 40. She goes through a series of hilarious mishaps before she realises being thirty-something isn’t so bad after all.
I see you clearly separating each of these phases of life. Are you at all interested in the idea of throwing together two people of differing ages within one book? Or are you committed to keeping your focus on one main character in metamorphosis per novel? In reading your books I’d love to see how you would handle bridging a generation gap with two characters lost in their own transition. What are my chances of getting to see that?
Oh what a great idea! I’ve never really thought of writing a story about two characters of different ages. Now I have all these ideas floating around in my head and I can’t wait to start..LOL. Yes, you’ll definitely be seeing something along those lines in the near future.
I bought your Reaper’s Novice novel. I noticed that in both Homecoming and Reaper’s Novice you rely heavily on family dynamics. Namely on the dynamic of hidden things and information withheld within a family. Why is that such a pivotal issue in your writing?
I come from a big family, and when I say big, I mean HUGE. I have three sisters and one brother, over fifteen cousins from my mother and father’s side, plus lots of aunties and uncles. That’s where the family dynamics comes from. Growing up, it was so much fun to sneak in while the grownups discussed matters that were meant to be ‘highly secretive’ and I thrived on the ‘knowing’. Knowing what kind of secrets were being whispered behind closed doors. I just got more curious when no one wanted to divulge the information brushed aside as “grownup matters’ and that I/we as the children didn’t have a right to know. My imagination was such a wild thing, and still is. Once I mix in the family along with secrets–then make the secret larger than life. There is something quite exciting about hidden secrets.
In both books Sera and Ana face a family that is on the brink or over the edge of ruin. Yet both girls undertake the fate of those families and do something drastic to alter their futures. Sera leaves with her secret and Ana sacrifices her future for that of her family. In both cases they find that life is not so simple as they may have thought it would be when they made those choices. If there is a life lesson to be had from these heroine’s what would that moral be?
There are lots of morals to be found in the story, but the one I really love is, strength isn’t measured by the ability to lift a car or anything like that, but by our actions. Sacrifices we are willing to make in order to save the ones we love.
I have read a great deal about how writers, editors and publishers work. When you are writing and something feels right to you but your editor or publisher tells you to change it, how do you feel? Have you ever had an instance when you encountered a criticism that you felt changed the element or atmosphere of a conversation or plot so much that you lost confidence in your story or your own writing? How do you feel editing and publishing changes writing freedom?
Not really. All suggestions and changes I’ve received for my work until now have been positive. I feel lucky because the feedback made my stories better. Usually I read through the feedback the first time, then put it aside for about a day or two so when I get back to the story, I’m in a frame of mind to examine the changes with some detachment.
If you woke up tomorrow and you could no longer write what would you do?
That would hurt like hell. One thing though, I’ll thank the Guy up there for giving me a chance to write stories and pray that my stories made an impact in someone’s life.
Cecilia Robert has a couple books coming out in the next few months: Her second book in her Truly, Madly series, Holding on Forever will be out in December. A Need So Insatiable will be out in February 2014. Please take a look at the review I did for Homecoming for this weeks Tongue Wagger.