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A quick word from Bobbi Dumas, your host.
Hi everyone! Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month. You can find out more about this fun, month long event here. And check out all the great authors taking part this year on the calendar, here.
The theme this year is The Romance Of Reading, The Magic Of Books and we have an awesome assortment of writers – both romance and mainstream fiction authors – sharing about books, reading, romance & magic. I hope you’ll visit everyday.
(Also, be sure to check in to The Romance Of Reading FB page, where one of the RARM authors will be hosting the page each day in August. Today Karen Hawkins will also be on the page.)
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Abigail Drake – The Magic of Falling In Love
Can you remember the first time you had a crush on a fictional character?
For me, it was Calvin O’Keefe in Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” I must have been around ten years old, and that boy set my prepubescent heart aflutter.
Calvin was a skinny, red-headed kid with knobby knees, but as soon as he fell for the dorky Meg Murry, I fell for him. Why? Because I saw him through Meg’s myopic eyes. I saw his kindness, intelligence, and loyalty, and Calvin O’Keefe became my boyfriend, too.
Isn’t that how we all fall in love with boys in books? By putting ourselves in the place of the heroine and falling in love right along with her?
After I dated Calvin, I moved on to Laurie Laurence from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and I’m still a little irritated with Jo March about that one. I mean, I get why she chose Frederick Baehr, but how could she turn down Laurie? He stole my heart.
Then I met Ponyboy Curtis from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Ponyboy made me appreciate how a character (and a real-life human being) could have secret, hidden depths. He also made me understand why bad boys were so hot.
Later, in my college years, I fell for Mr. Darcy. Seriously, hasn’t everyone? It’s a truth, universally acknowledged, that Mr. Darcy is simply swoon-worthy.
That relationship was followed by affairs with a plethora of dastardly dukes, sexy Scots, and virile vampires (both the dark, dangerous types and the adorable, sparkly ones). I read a lot of romance novels, so I fell in love many, many times.
How does this happen? How can we fall for men who never existed except in an author’s imagination?
That’s the magic of romance novels. It’s not just reading about love; it’s about falling in love yourself. It’s about putting yourself in the heroine’s shoes (or stilettos or glass slippers) and feeling what she feels.
I’ve been obsessed with the magical power of romance novels for as long as I remember. When I started writing books, I automatically put the elements I found compelling about those books into my own. I wanted to create characters other people would fall in love with, too.
How did I know I’d accomplished my goal?
A few years after my young adult book, Starr Valentine came out, I was teaching a writing class for middle school-aged children at our local library. When I asked the children if they had any questions after class, a twelve-year-old named Eleanor raised her hand.
“I’d like to know more about Julian,” she said, referring to one of the main characters in the book. “Is he based on a real person?”
I paused a moment, wondering how she might think my young nobleman from a faraway planet could be based on an actual person, but then I saw it. The tell-tale blush. The bright sparkle in her eyes.
I had written Eleanor’s first book boyfriend.
And what could be more magical than that?
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The Kiss Quotient was funny, poignant, and amazing, and also the first romantic book I’ve ever read that told from the perspective of a main character with autism.
Maria Vale – www.MariaVale.com – @Amazon
I stumbled upon Ms. Vale’s book, The Last Wolf, by accident, and read it only grudgingly. I thought the whole werewolf thing was old and tried and boring, but I was totally wrong. Ms. Vale managed to put a fresh, new twist on this whole subgenre, and made it totally original and compelling.
I love the way Ms. Moriarty tells a story so seamlessly, and from different perspectives. Her books are all thought-provoking and page turners.
I adored Mr. Weir’s book, “The Martian,” but his book “Artemis” is a personal favorite. A sci-fi thriller with a strong, sassy female main character? What’s not to love?
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2019 RARM Questions:
Tell us about a time in your life that felt magical to you.
Some of my most magical moments have occurred while travelling and living abroad. I’ve visited many places, but I remember once climbing up a winding path on a mountain not far from Kyoto in Japan. Hydrangea bloomed on either side of the trail, puffy, snowball-like blooms in shades of pink, white, purple, and blue. A small Shinto shrine sat perched on top of the mountain, in all its beautifully bare simplicity.
As I sat in front of the shrine, enjoying my surroundings, an elderly Japanese woman sat down next to me. Her back was hunched, her hair grey, and her face showed all the wrinkles and ravages of some who’d lived a long time.
She held a cane clutched in her gnarled fingers and tapped the ground with it as she began to speak. “Once,” she said, “there was a beautiful noblewoman.”
I sat, enthralled as she told me the story of a princess married to a brave prince. When he and the other men went off to war, their village was attacked, and the women fled in panic from the invaders. They were chased to the top of a high cliff overlooking the raging sea. With nowhere else to go, and not wanting to become the slaves and concubines of the invading army, they leapt to their deaths, with their children clutched in their arms. The princess held her infant son in her arms, certain they would perish together, but the invaders managed to rescue her by using a long fishing hook and pulling her out of the water by her hair. She survived, but her son did not, and all the other people from her village died as well, including her husband.
Taking pity on her, the invaders allowed her to live out the rest of her days as a nun in a remote Shinto shrine high upon a mountaintop. She planted bright flowers on the hillside in memory of those who she lost, and it is said, even to this day, that you can sometimes still hear her weeping for her lost baby.
The woman paused, cocking her head as if listening for that ghostly wailing. Then she smiled at me and bowed once before slowly getting slowly to her feet and shuffling away. I sat there a long time, listening to the breeze softly flow through the trees and wondered if I could, ever so faintly, hear the sobs of a broken woman who died long, long ago.
Tell us about a book that was magical for you.
Every book I’ve read has been magical in its own way. The idea that the author took a bunch of words and arranged them in such a way to create worlds and people and relationships is stunning. But the books we read as children have the biggest effect on us. They shape us and mold us into who we eventually become as adults.
The books I read when I was small made me believe in magic. But the magical book that influenced and inspired me most as an adult was “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” The title is a little different from the American version because our copy of the book came from a close family friend England. It arrived in the mail, an unexpected surprise. I’d never heard of the book before and had no preconceived idea about what it would be like. I decided to read a chapter a night to my then six-year-old before he fell asleep. I read the first chapter, he fell promptly asleep, and I stay up all night finishing it. I adored it. Later, when I found out about J.K. Rowling’s struggles, and how hard she worked to complete the book and find a publisher, I loved it even more. Both the book and the author are an inspiration.
Tell us about a “magical moment” in your writing or your career?
In the earliest days of my writing journey, someone told me it would help me find an agent if I was already published in a newspaper or through some sort of writing contest. They recommended a now defunct magazine called Writers’ Journal, so I entered a contest called “Write to Win,” and then completely forgot about it.
A few months later, after spending the day at the pool with my three boys, I grabbed the mail from our mailbox and headed back to the house. I remember that day so clearly. We were standing in our kitchen, still in our wet bathing suits, and as the boys asked what was for dinner, I glanced through the mail. When I saw a copy of Writers’ Journal in the pile, I paused, because I couldn’t recall subscribing to it.
I leafed through the magazine, and then I saw it. My name in print. I’d won the contest and my story was featured in the magazine. I screamed so loudly I scared the children. I may have scared the neighbors as well. Then I began hopping up and down in my wet bathing suit, clutching the magazine in my hands and dripping all over the kitchen floor.
After the boys got over their initial shock, they danced around the kitchen with me. It was the most amazing feeling, and even more exciting because I hadn’t been expecting it at all. It gave me the confidence I needed to keep going, because that was the moment I knew I was a writer.
For writers who use magical aspects in their books, what attracts you to those elements? For those of you who don’t, are there specific themes or elements you’re attracted to and find yourself going back to? Why do these resonate with you?
I love characters who aren’t quite what they seem. A cheerleader from outer space. A debutante with a ghost infestation. A southern belle who fights monsters.
Haven’t we all imagined at some point that we had a special, secret power? Since I cannot move things with my mind, read another person’s thoughts, or cause anything to spontaneously combust, I have to give those sorts of gifts to the people who live in my books instead.
I like magical realism, because that means employing just the hint of something supernatural. There is always the question of whether it is something truly magical, or just a special talent or ability. It’s a beautiful balance between reality and fantasy.
Creativity is a kind of magical experience. What inspires you, keeps you going, helps you when you lose focus, etc.?
Reading! When I lose focus and am tired or am stuck on a story line, I log off my computer, tuck a book under my arm, and head to a coffee shop to relax and read. Sometimes I’ll just go an hour, but I always take a book and I always let my mind take a break from my life and struggles and just waft away on a good story. Then, when I come back to write, I’m ready to face whatever problem I may have made for myself in my work.
Having fun with it is the key for me. There are times when a writer tries to force an idea to work. I’ve done it – we’ve all done it – but the result is often something flat and miserable. I’ve found it’s better just to toss that idea, start again, and write what makes your heart happy.
The magical part of creativity is listening to that voice inside you, the story that’s screaming to come out. Where does that come from? Why do some of us have it, and others don’t?
It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it can be both exhausting and demoralizing. But I keep going because I love every part of it. From when the first whisper of an idea starts swishing around in my head, to the completion of the first draft, to the moment I send my manuscript to my editor and get back the first round of revisions – the whole process brings me such joy. And the best part of all? The first time someone reads my book, and something I’ve written brings them joy as well. That’s truly magical.
Abigail is hosting The Romance of Reading FB page and her drawings will be held there. Hope you can visit!
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Award-winning author Abigail Drake has spent her life traveling the world and collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and Economics in college, and is a book hoarder, a coffee drinker, a linguistics geek, and an eternal optimist. She writes women’s fiction and young adult fiction with smart, sassy, funny heroines, and she also enjoys blogging about the adventures of her mischievous Labrador retriever, Capone.
Abigail is the winner of the prestigious 2017 Prism Award for her book Traveller, and the International Digital Award for her young adult novel, Tiger Lily. In addition, she was named a finalist in the Golden Pen, the Golden Leaf, the Dante Rossetti Book Award, and the Cygnus Award for Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction.
Discover all of Abigail’s books:
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