Rae Lori: Hi Phoebe! Thanks for having me. I guess romance is something I sort of fell into. Growing up I read a lot of sci-fi, fantasy and suspense and the teen reads (like Sweet Valley High) were my romance. Recently I got into it because I loved reading IR (interracial) romance and it spiraled from there especially during the rise of paranormal romance. I LOVED Anne Rice growing up and seeing the return of vampires as heroes really brought some ideas in my head that I wanted to put onto paper. If anyone, I would probably attribute my desire to start writing romance with her and Sandra Kitt.
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?
Rae: Oh yes. I knew I wanted to write IR romance but after a few tries at contemporary I wanted to explore with more genres. So I went back to writing sci-fi and fantasy again, then suspense and eventually paranormals because I love the external conflicts placed in the way of the hero and heroine. Makes the stories that much more exciting!
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you?
Rae: Hmm. You know the very first fan fiction I ever wrote was a short story fan fiction story I started when I was pretty young. I think it was a Selina Kyle/Catwoman story. My late grandfather bought me my very first computer which was an apple, green text and everything and I love that thing because it was where I got my first start at writing. I remember saving the story in progress on a big ole floppy, but I have no idea where that thing is now *laughs*. I’d love to find it to see how I wrote back then starting out.
Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and did it take you a long time to gather that research?
Rae: I had to do a pretty good amount to make sure everything was correct and as real as I could get it. I went back and forth during the writing and after to make sure I got the village descriptions, time period setting and costumes correct as well as the events. Sometimes I would watch a movie to immerse myself in one perspective of the time period, like say Dahomey Africa in the 1600s or the Highland Scotland’s in the 14th century, but I would mostly buy books on history and learn the myths of the culture and the history. It was fascinating learning so much about the people, their beliefs and the world they lived in.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your upcoming novel, A Kiss of Ashen Twilight, which is the first in your new series?Rae: I hadn’t come across a story between a fairy and a vampire as romantic interests before. Now I can name a few but at the time I started writing I thought it would be interesting to combine the two. I was curious to see if there were any fairies in African myths and I came upon the Aziza which is apart of the Dahomey people’s mythology. They were a benign group of fairies believed to exist in order to assist hunters. I thought that was perfect and offered so many possibilities in the lifestyle of a female Aziza.
Phoebe: How many novels are you planning to write for this your new series called Ashen Twilight?
Rae: So far I have three books planned to finish out this continuing arc. The first deals with how the members of the Ashen Twilight House live under mortal eyes. Once they are discovered, how will humans treat them as outsiders? And how have they treated them in the past? Then I wanted to explore how exactly they would get to the point where they desire to live with one another at peace? What kind of laws would be in place for the immortals? Those questions offered a bunch of possibilities for storylines for the opening three books.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels?
Rae: Usually if it’s in the process of a series I start the next book right after the other so I record my thoughts where I’d like to start the next time I get ready to write. If it’s the start of something completely new I usually let it swim around in my head for awhile until it needs to be written down. Sometimes I usually think of the world around me and wonder “what if such and such happened” or “what if I throw this type of character with this one” and then stories come to me that I write down right away.
Phoebe: Which do you like best, writing a series or writing stand alone novels? How is writing each different for you?
Rae: Hmm. That’s a good question! I’d say series are a little harder because you have to sort of keep the momentum of each book at the same rate or raise the stakes much higher the next go ‘round. I had to do this with my Cimmerian Series as well but I do love revisiting the characters once again and seeing what other kinds of trouble they can get into. With standalones you have that one shot to do a story and then it’s over. But the characters still kind of stay in my mind and I’m a bit bummed that that’s it with their story. Beginning to end. I don’t think I like writing one better than the other but they both offer their advantages and disadvantages.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Rae: I was a strange case. My business partner and I had our own publishing company at the time. It was a micro press where we published some of our own work as well some great authors we got to know. My first book was Cimmerian City which is very close to my heart simply because it taught me a lot about how the industry works and it basically gave me my start. It was my longest book at the time (which I was very proud of back then!) and along with my illustrated novella it was the first works I released.
After a while we decided to close and I entered e-publishing where my longest book after that was Before Dawn Breaks. It came after Uthiel’s Embrace (a short fantasy novella) and both were acquired by Freya’s Bower. I had shopped ‘Dawn’ around by a certain big romance publisher before then and it took a few months. I found the rejection feedback invaluable and applied what I thought was necessary to the rewrite then submitted it again and it was picked up. It doesn’t sound like it took long but it did take awhile!
Phoebe: How did you feel when you finally saw your first published book came out and how do you feel about your other novels being published?
Rae: With Cimmerian City I was immensely proud because it was truly a book I had put together myself. I did the cover art, the print layout, the promos, basically everything but the printing and editing which I had asked my editor at the time to proof before I sent it out to the public. After that I like to celebrate each novel published because I worked so hard on each of them before showing them to editors. Sometimes I forget and dive right back into the next project but I have to remind myself how far I’ve come with each step I make. Sometimes I can’t even believe it myself.
Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane?
Rae: I’m still trying to figure out that one! Usually when I’m working on a novel it’s all I’m focused on and I have to cut outside things off for awhile until it’s done. My office looks a mess after each project so I have to take time to clean up everything, return phone calls and take breaks so friends and family still know I’m alive and well!
Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long while writing?
Rae: I either play Tomb Raider or Silent Hill video games since I want to rest my mind and just focus on something else entirely. Maybe watch a movie and try not to think about writing or promoting. But it’s a hard button to switch off! Usually I finally can catch up to my TBR pile so I’ll dive into a few books one after the other which keeps me pretty busy in between projects. Or I do art projects for myself or for fellow authors who are looking for graphic design work.
Phoebe: Do you have any hobbies?
Rae: Oh yes. I’m still trying to teach myself how to play the guitar (it’s crazy). I love watching movies and losing myself in a great tale. Strangely enough, although I went to school to study art it’s sort of become my hobby when not freelancing and it helps to balance out the writing bug when I’m taking a break and need to flip my mind off for a bit.
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Rae: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If there’s something you don’t understand by all means keep searching until you find out the answer. Know what steps you have to take to learn all you can about the business you’re entering. But at the same time don’t learn too much that you push out your creativity. Keep an open mind about everything and learn to forge your own path, make goals and try your best to attain them.
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?
Rae: Probably that nothing or no one is too small to give your attention. Readers out there come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds and you should treat each and every one of them as you would want to be treated if you were in their place. Don’t forget what it’s like to be a reader in this industry. Promote to them as you would like to be promoted to. A lot of times readers are thought of as merely consumers but they are so much more than that. They are book lovers and adventurers as well.
Phoebe: Now for a question that I have been meaning to ask an author. Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)?