Rebecca J. Vickery: I actually didn’t commit to writing romances until 1998. Before that I enjoyed writing but real life, my family, and obligations kept me very busy. My sister encouraged me to make the effort to put my ideas and plots on my computer and turn them into a book. The author that made me fall in love with romance stories was Gwen Bristow. I read Celia Garth when I was ten and I began daydreaming about the long looks and hand-holding. From then on I was hooked. For my psychic romances, Kay Hooper, my current favorite, was the author who inspired me to add psychic elements to some of my novels.
Phoebe: Did you know what type of romance you wanted to write about or did you experiment with different genres before you chose the one that you felt was for you?
Rebecca: When I began writing, I wasn’t concerned with genre and really didn’t think about it. I just had a story that I had to get on paper. It didn’t matter if it was a tablet, the back of an envelope, or a napkin. When I had an idea, I had to write it down. I really haven’t experimented with different genres. My muse and I are comfortable with contemporary romances and I think we’ll just settle in with them for a while.
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you?
Rebecca: My very first fiction stories got me in major trouble. I wrote them in elementary school and turned them in when I was supposed to be writing serious assignments. Can you imagine a fourth or fifth grade teacher getting a romance story instead of an assignment on how I spent my summer vacation? But if you’re talking about books, Surviving with Love is my first fiction novel and I hope to have it with me for a very long time.
Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and does it take you a long time to gather that research?
Rebecca: The amount of research depends on the location and the type of action I include in my books. For Surviving with Love, I had to do a lot of research on the Bitterroot Wilderness Area in Idaho and on the weather there as I’ve never even seen Idaho. But I do have first hand knowledge of camping, hiking, and fishing so I didn’t have to do as much research in those areas. I also had to ask lots of questions about hostage rescue and I read a lot of articles about wilderness tracking. The research for me is an ongoing process. While I’m writing I often have to stop and look up something before I can go on. I don’t outline my novel and research first as many writers do. My characters write the story. I just do the research and put the words into the computer.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your novel latest release, Surviving with Love?
Rebecca: It was the product of a bit of news I heard on the TV several years ago about the theft of some special bearer bonds. Then later the same evening we heard about a plane crash. My brain went to work with “what ifs.” What if the thieves were on the plane that crashed? What if they took hostages? What if they survived the crash and escaped into the wilderness? What if a female tracker was the only one who could find them? What if she had to work with a tough hostage rescuer? What if they didn’t get along from the start? The questions went on and on. I don’t think I slept for three or four days while I started answering all those questions. By the time I finished I had enough material for Surviving With Love.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your novel upcoming release, Looking Through the Mist?
Rebecca: I actually dreamed the idea for Looking Through The Mist. I love children and I heard about a missing child before going to bed. During the night I dreamed that a psychic called the police and told them how to find the child but no one would believe her. I began working on the book the next day.
Phoebe: How do you come up with each of your characters for your novels? How do you choose their names out of so many names out there?
Rebecca: Most of my characters seem to blossom in my mind with names attached, at least the first names. In Surviving with Love, my hero had to have a tough, short, masculine name and Cord came immediately to mind. There have only been a couple of times when a character has made it through a few chapters without a name. Then as their characteristics and mannerisms develop, the name will just be there. I don’t search out the meanings or use lists to find names for my characters, but I’m sure some writers do.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite character that you really enjoyed writing about in your novel, Surviving with Love. Did you have a character that you felt you could really relate to in your novel, Surviving with Love?
Rebecca: I think Cord was my favorite character, but Stacey was the one I could relate to. Cord was tough and distant, basically a loner, but evolved into a hero who loved kids and was desperate for love. Stacey was based on a bit of me when I was in my early twenties. I was independent, mouthy, and very confident in some of my abilities while insecure about others just like Stacey.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite character that you really enjoyed writing about in your upcoming novel, Looking Through the Mist? Did you have a character that you felt you could really relate to in your upcoming novel, Looking Through the Mist?
Rebecca: Jessie, the heroine and psychic, was my favorite character and also the one I could relate to most. I have always been interested in psychic gifts and the paranormal. Watching her character deal with seeing kidnapped children and trying to gain some control over her life really struck a chord with me. She was normal on so many levels like being addicted to coffee and junk food, needing to work for a living, and appreciating a good-looking man. But then she had to deal with the visions and the aftermath and what they had already done to her life. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book and telling her story.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels?
Rebecca: I grab a piece of paper and jot down whatever my muse gives me if I’m not near my computer. I’ve learned that if I don’t, I may not remember it later and my muse usually only tells me once so I have to be quick. (LOL) I am a “by the seat of my pants” writer. I don’t do any of the things they teach you in college. No outlines, character sketches, research notes, or schedules. I edit either when I finish the story or if I need to refresh the basic ideas in my mind. I break most of the writing rules, I know, but it works for me.
Phoebe: Have you ever considered writing a series or are writing stand alone novels your preference? How would writing each be different for you?
Rebecca: It’s funny you should ask that because for the first time I have two secondary characters screaming for their own story and I haven’t finished the original one yet. Up until now I have only written stand-alone stories and was satisfied with that. When I finish a book I want the questions answered, the hero and heroine to get their happy ever after, and move on to the next story. Not sure how different writing a sequel or even a series is going to be. I’ll have to let you know after I write that one.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Rebecca: It felt like a very long time. I wrote my first query/submission letter back in 1998. I acquired an agent almost two years later after a folder full of rejections. (This was by snail mail so things took quite a bit longer to go back and forth.) My agent had just worked up the proposal, my bio, and all the things agents do when his health failed. He kept trying for a bit but then had to retire. I had to start over with trying to get an agent. And received more rejections. Then a friend recommended e-publishing as a way to break into the industry and I didn’t need an agent for that. I made lists of e-pubs, did some research, and began sending out electronic queries. I was accepted by a publisher and was about to sign a contract when it came up that they were going to re-write my love scenes. They needed “spicing up” and they knew just the person to do it. I said no and refused to sign. My sister died suddenly and I took a two year hiatus from writing. It just wasn’t the same without her encouragement and support. When I finally couldn’t stay away from it any longer an e-publisher accepted my book and we signed a contract. But then she put my novel in the back of the computer file and left it for over a year. I began seriously bugging her and she finally took it out, but by then it needed updating. We went back and forth and when she failed to send it to an artist by deadline and the release would have had to be postponed for six more months, I pulled the book. It was accepted immediately by Class Act Books and they very graciously met my advertised release date of May 1. That book was Surviving With Love.
Phoebe: Do you ever get writers block? What do you do to get rid of it so you can get back to writing your novels?
Rebecca: I believe all writers go through periods where the words just don’t come very easily. My first effort to work around that is to edit some of the chapters and get back into the bones of the story. If that doesn’t work I take a break and do something physical. Playing with my grandchildren or my poodle, Dixie, will often jog the block loose. My favorite way to work it off is long walks on the beach. Something about the sound of the waves and the salt air blows away all the cobwebs and stirs my muse. But we live a few hundred miles away so that’s not always possible.
Phoebe: What is your biggest reader pet peeve, if you have any? (stock characters, unresolved endings, predictability, everything wrapped up hurriedly in the end, etc.)
Rebecca: I absolutely detest unanswered questions unless I know it’s a series or has a sequel. I think that’s why I tend to read and to write longer stories. And I love happy ever afters so it really irks me when the main players die. But I don’t want the books I read to always follow the same formula to get to the HEA.
Phoebe: Which aspects of writing do you enjoy the most and why? And what is your biggest writing pet peeve? (overuse of exclamation points, adverbs, bad guys named Wayne, etc.), if you have any?
Rebecca: I truly enjoy developing my characters and watching them take on a life of their own. They gain certain mannerisms and traits that I am truly amazed by sometimes. When I’m editing I often ask myself if I really wrote that about a character. I think my biggest pet peeve is dry, totally correct speech in a written conversation. How many people do you know use perfect grammar when they talk to others? It just isn’t realistic to me in a book either. I’m a firm believer that we should write conversation like we speak. Much more enjoyable and I feel it’s more interesting.
Phoebe: What is the one writing tool can you not live without?
Rebecca: Definitely my laptop computer. It is my constant companion. It contains my dictionary, thesaurus, notes, research sites, pictures…basically it has taken the place of a large part of my brain. (LOL)
Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane?
Rebecca: What personal life??? Seriously, I do the majority of my writing at night while everyone else sleeps. During my breaks I put in a load of laundry or toss some food in the crock-pot or the oven for the next day’s meal. Then I nap in the mornings while my hubby and my mom watch after our two year old granddaughter, Taylor, who is currently staying with us. After lunch, I edit or do my promos with the help of Taylor. I also prepare taxes from January through April 15th and accept some contract research jobs that totally mess with the schedule. But my hubby (who is disabled and home all the time) is very patient and flexible with my wacky schedule and very understanding of my deadlines. We just take it a day at a time.
Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long while writing? Do you have any hobbies?
Rebecca: I enjoy reading, sketching, and painting. I absolutely love to fish and camp. But usually I unwind by chasing the grandkids, chatting online with friends, or playing video games. Occasionally I watch a movie or a favorite TV program. Medium, Ghost Whisperer, The Mentalist, Numbers, and House are my current can’t miss shows.
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Rebecca: When you are considering a publisher, do your homework. Find some of their authors and e-mail them (in confidence of course) and ask lots of questions. Read the contract from one end to the other and if you don’t understand it, ask for legal advice. In other words, make sure exactly what you are committing to and for how long before signing on the dotted line.
Phoebe: Is there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Rebecca: Make your presence known even before you have a book contracted. Join writer and reader groups and participate so people will recognize your name later. Build a network of friends and contacts who are positive, constructive, and supportive. Avoid those who aren’t, they’ll only drag you down. Continue to learn and grow in your craft. Don’t ever get to the point where you think you know it all or have learned everything. Thankfully I learn something everyday and hope to continue to do so.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)?
Rebecca: Kay Hooper is my absolute favorite author and I love her psychic romance series about The Special Crimes Unit. I have the prints and I re-read them whenever I can, which sadly hasn’t been at all lately. Contemporary paranormal romance with some mystery or suspense added is still my favorite genre, though I do read others.
Phoebe: What are you reading now? And what do you plan to read after that?
Rebecca: I am writing now, but I just finished Said The Spider To The Fly, a very good whodunnit romance by Miss Mae. I’m usually very good at figuring those out, but she truly stumped me in this one. I’m going to read The Privateer by Danielle Thorne next and then I think Kay Hooper has a new one coming out. I’ll definitely have to sneak that one in somewhere. But I have another release coming out in October and I’ll be into edits with it soon. I also have one work in progress that has to be finished yesterday (LOL) and two more that have already been accepted for early 2010, provided I get them done. So all that won’t leave me much time for reading.