Today I am truly excited to have author Teresa Blue here at Return to Rio. Teresa has intriguing answers to questions I asked, named a heroine after me (well, okay, maybe that part is coincidental) and offers her mini-lesson on creating tension. Enjoy the summer sizzle here along the Rio Grande, and let’s get Teresa to jump right in by telling us a little background information. Biographical, how long you’ve been writing—anything to know you better.
Well, I have a pretty boring life actually and probably that’s why I stated writing somewhere right after my last child was born…cough, cough, some 20 years ago. At first it was children’s stories. I enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature and completed several children’s books. I took a few more writing classes at our local college and broadened my scope to include short stories- even sold a few to various women’s magazines. Since then, I’ve changed genres, but haven’t stopped writing. Although I don’t get nearly as much writing done as I did before the internet.
I hit a slippery patch early on after having just joined RWA in 1999 – went to a writers retreat and came home to find my house a pile of ash. Fire! Every file…every manuscript, my computer was gone! I no longer had a computer, floppy disk or hard drive. I didn’t even have a house! For eight months we lived in an RV in the yard while our new place was being built.
I didn’t dawdle though; I bought a used laptop and started writing something new and totally different than anything I’d written before. Between going to work and purchasing the necessities required to make a house a home, I still had a son in middle school, I poured out my frustration through my writing. Although I’m not skittish, maybe the experience of living so close with nature and things that go bump in the night rattled loose the idea because Letters From Inside- a romantic suspense– was finished by the time we moved in.
We’re here to talk about your new release, Man of Her Dreams, and your upcoming release, Letters from Inside, but the blurb for your novella, Nightbird, really caught my attention. I love the idea of love that carries on even after death, through time and place. A fortune teller reads your heroine’s tarot cards in Man of Her Dreams—really a good piece of writing, by the way. How much does an other-worldly or spiritual interest affect your writing?
Thank you! I’m glad you like the excerpt. I grew up living within walking distance to my favorite aunt and ten cousins. She and my mom were sisters and nearly every Sunday they’d get together for dinner and the talk always turned to the ‘passing on’ or poor ‘Mrs. whoever rolling over in her grave…and the final ‘here after.” There was never a dull conversation between the two which naturally started my imagination spinning.
The real clincher came years later, at my father’s funeral after everyone had gone outside for that long ride to the cemetery. It hit me that I would never really see him again. Panicked, I rushed back inside for one more moment alone with him. As I hurried up to where he lay, he smiled. No words…just a smile as if to say he knew I’d be the one running in for one last goodbye. I never told anyone about what I’d seen, just figured it was my way of dealing with the loss. So later that week when my little girl- who was five at the time- said “Don’t be sad, Mama. Grandpa’s okay now. He smiled at you.” I was flabbergasted! Turns out she’d been in the foyer and saw the same thing. I’m totally convinced that death is not the end but rather the beginning of whole new journey!
I used that belief in the novella Night Bird. An untimely death, a traitorous business partner and havoc certain to follow unless steps are taken. My sea captain only has a few hours to make things right…
Okay, who else just got cold to the bone and looked around the room a little? Be honest. I actually agree, though, Teresa, because there are so many reports of incidents like that. I just found yours especially unsettling.
Before we talk in depth about Man of Her Dreams, I have to tell you that your heroine’s name is inspired. There just aren’t enough heroic Leslies out there—maybe just me and Leslie Stone. If we were on line and not talking face to face (winking), I’d probably say ‘lol.” Anyway, betrayal and a sense of self-determination seem to me to be a part of Man of Her Dreams. Where do your best ideas for stories come from, and what do you want readers to take away from your writing?
Leslie is a beautiful name and fit my spunky heroine perfectly. I agree, there aren’t nearly enough Leslies in the world! My character is one of three very strong, determined women you’ll meet in Man of Her Dreams. A double betrayal from her fiancé’ and bridesmaid sends Leslie on the road to self-discovery where she’ll learn there isn’t any ‘one’ particular person whose job is to make you happy– that happiness must come from within. ‘We make ourselves happy’ says Madame Luella- a pistol packing mama, who for all her tarot card knowledge, faces a few uncertainties of her own as she gathers the courage to return home to the son she abandoned at a carnival fifteen years prior. And there’s Sally, who can drink shooters like Kool-aid and still walk a straight line to make it home in time to watch Leno with her eighty-year old mother-in-law. Sally’s motto, ‘You gotta have a bloodline you can grab in a tight spot.’ Oops…I almost forgot to mention Mr. Jingles, the rag-doll who has a knack of making a sad situation better.
We’ll put up the blurb and an excerpt from Man of Her Dreams, and those will speak for themselves, so let me ask you, besides writing, what other creative outlets attract you?
Some might argue cleaning isn’t creative, but for me, there’s nothing more challenging than a stubborn rust ring in the bathroom or ketchup stain on a tee-shirt. And I love the smell of lemony-fresh mopped floor. I find the sparkle of clean glass on the porch windows very satisfying. It’s a terrible distraction when I’m writing along and suddenly get the urge to scrub the tile grout. Seriously! But I also love gardening and preserving the food…listening for the ‘ping’ of a successful sealed jar. I love collecting antiques, too and have a blog http://tereasa-thingfinder.blogspot.com/ to showcase a collection of ‘things’ from days gone by. My writer’s mind gets caught up wondering who was the first person to own this particular item? How was it used? Where are they now? Why did they part with it? And so on. It can be like plotting a novel…you just need to ask yourself ‘what if?’
You know, Teresa, my house could use a good dose of your creativity. Your welcome any time. Could you share a few of your favorite lines from Man of Her Dreams? And my first graders know there’s a second part to every question-why?
This is from a secondary character named Sally whose comments always make me laugh! Being around Sally is like hanging out with a best friend. Definitely shakes things up.
When asked if she’d like to go for a tarot card reading, Sally responds: “Honey, I’d go to the moon with that rich Russian if he had an extra ticket. Anything beats staying in this hot-ass trailer with Loose-wheel.”
“Oh, and I should warn you…my family’s here.”
“Of course they are. Family…they’re like roaches, crawling out from all over when you least expect them and embarrassing as hell.”
What I like best about those passages is that both women are dealing with common issues- family. Leslie, because she expected to have the cabin to herself for a few days until her mom, dad and brother show up. And Sally, who, despite being dumped by a cheating husband, continues to stay in the tiny house trailer on the edge of town and care for his elderly mother. What’s typical of any household is that life comes at you with things you can’t choose. All you can do is grab a rope and hang on.
You have an upcoming release, Letters from Inside—romantic suspense, I believe? I know Burroughs is the publisher. Is there a definite date yet?
Not yet. I’ve been told we’ll start the editing on it in the fall so I hope it will be available early next year. I love this story and am thrilled to have contracted it. Early on I got lots of requests from many of the traditional publishers but because it’s not the typical romance it was harder to find a slot for it. Boroughs Publishing Group encourages creative freedom that delivers an emotional punch readers crave. Letters From Inside is told not only from the hero and heroine’s perspective, but the villain is up front quite often revealing his character and how he came to be the way he is. Because people aren’t born bad…life happens and its how we deal with it that shapes us.
What snared me is the sense of understated malice that ends the excerpt I read. As a reader, I often find subtle tension affects me more than the in-your-face dead body kind of stuff, and the final line in the excerpt had me rubbing my arms. Are there any specific ideas you have on how to build tension? That some of us could stea—I mean borrow?
I love to be creeped out, biting fingernails during a movie, waiting for the girl to turn around and see the danger behind her. I think it’s neat to take a regular hum-drum situation and let the reader fill in the blanks. Because what theyfind most disturbing is certain to have a more lasting effect than anything I could dream up. I may give a character a scar that runs across his brow, but the reader might see him with zits and a thick wrinkled forehead; his mouth may have a cigarette hanging from the corner, one eye squinting against the smoke.
A simple everyday occurrence has so many possibilities.
Example: A young girl pulls up alongside a man on a deserted street and asks for directions.
“It’s a just a few blocks,” he says. “Kind of hard to explain but real easy if I show’d you.” Without warning, the man hops into her car.
You can see how this is a bad situation waiting to happen. Immediately our imagination kicks into overdrive.
Or… Bad marriage, battered wife pushed to the limit. “Honey…do you think this needs more sugar?”
Gulp!! I don’t even have to tell you about the box of rat poison sitting on the window ledge because you know it’s there! Your reader’s imagination can see it clearly.
Two more questions, Teresa. I just have so much I find I want to know, and I know Rio visitors are enjoying your visit as much as I am!
Writers work for readers. What do you want your readers to look for first in any Teresa Blue story?
I would love for readers to pick up my stories in hopes of meeting interesting characters. I’m a people person and even those made up become real when we give them a history. And back story almost always involves family. Issues from the past that helped to create the character. I hope the reader will identify with the common theme- family- that runs through all my writing.
Finally, my one always-asked question: Tell us something I should have asked and didn’t. Anything strange, important, funny, gripping—anything you just think we should know and don’t.
Years ago I entered a contest given by country singer Laurie Morgan, looking for poetic verse. I didn’t realize at the time it was a way to stimulate songwriters. I won an autographed copy of her book, Forever Yours…Faithfully and cd. I signed the rights to my poem over and forgot about it until the following year when her voice came over the radio and I heard the familiar lyrics of verse I’d penned.
If my heart had windows,
You could see,
The love that’s still inside of me.
Or something along those lines. I only heard it once, don’t know the title and sometimes wonder if I imagined it. It’s possible, I guess…after all, that’s what writers do.
Wow! If you knew how much I love country music–I have her “Good as I Was to You” on my all-woman “Leaving” playlist! I’ll have to go look up yours and brag about knowing one of her songwriting partners! Teresa, you’ve been a wonderful guest, and I wish you the very best going down This Writer’s Road. And remember–if the muse ever deserts you, my house is probably holding it captive!
Thanks so much, Leslie, for having me on your blog. It’s been so much fun!
Man of her Dreams Blurb:
Jay grabbed the new alternator and ducked his head back under the hood. “Harvey asked me to get it running. Sold it to some retiree planning a road trip.”
With Jay’s face buried beneath the hood, she felt bolder and decided to badger him some more. “You know you never answered me the other night.”
“About?” his head still hidden beneath the hood of her car.
“How you came to be here? What made you pick this sleepy little town?” He didn’t answer so she continued. “You said so yourself, there are not many ‘hot’ girls around.” She paused, and then continued, babbling non-stop. “So why do you stay? People… talk, you know?” She felt her face flush at the delicate topic. “I mean… doesn’t it bother you to be subject of such rumors?”
“How do you know it’s only a rumor?” he said, peeking at her from beneath the hood. His gaze pinned her as pulled a grease rag from his pocket and began to wipe off the wrench.
Her throat clogged and she stammered. How did she know? Did he even have to ask? She could feel it, that’s how. Deep down when he kissed her, damn it. His refusal to acknowledge the small moment of intimacy they’d shared irritated her and she started rocking in place as she sat hunched on the crate. Jay’s kisses had been so hot her breath practically steamed, warping all reasoning from her mind. Granted, nothing actually happened stretched out across his bed, thank-you Ben, but Jay’s heated response convinced her of one thing… he was attracted to her.
“I can tell, okay? But you go out of your way not to avoid people. Why is that? Don’t you ever get… lonesome?”
A flicker of emotions crossed his face before a mask of indifference fell into place. His eyes hardened with the same coldness he’d demonstrated at the bar with Spike. The one he used to keep people like her at a disadvantage.
Her breath caught awkwardly. She’d touched a nerve and her conscience crawled. She was no different than the rest of the people in town. Prying and judgmental. A knot formed in her chest like a wad of bread wedged, unable to go down.
He didn’t answer, just plunged beneath the hood of the car. A lengthy silence followed an occasional muttered curse lost beneath the hood. When Jay finally stepped back, his cheek had a black smudge below the eye and as he lifted his hand to wipe his forehead, another smear appeared.
He leaned against the fender. “You want to know why I came here? Easy. I’ve been up and down the road for years. This town is as good as any I’ve seen. And… despite what you may believe, I have friends here.”
Jay slid the wrench he’d been holding into the hip pocket of his lanky coveralls and walked over to stand dangerously close to her. She squirmed beneath his cutting gaze.
“Do I ever get lonely?” He fingered a stray curl beside her cheek then notched her chin up to look at him. “Let’s just say I haven’t gone without in that department either.”
If you’re looking for a bigger sample or to purchase Man of her Dreams: http://www.amazon.com/Man-Dreams-Daydream-Believers-Book-ebook/dp/B00LBKD5U0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404268020&sr=1-1&keywords=Teresa+Blue
Follow Teresa on Twitter@teab123Blue
Or like her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/looking4heros?ref_type=bookmark
Visit my website: www.teresablue.com/
And my collectible blog-site http://tereasa-thingfinder.blogspot.com/
I’m also on LinkedIn and Goodreads. I’d love to connect with you!