Friday, July 23, 2010


As promised, today is a special Freebie Friday. With RWA Nationals next week, I'd like to highlight one of this year's finalists for the RWA Golden Heart Award. She also happens to be my critique partner and very dear friend, Jen McAndrews.

The author:
I'm probably Jen's number one fan. We've been in our critique group for eight years and I've had the opportunity to read a lot of her work. She's clever and witty and a phenomenal story teller. Jen has been writing since seventh grade (and she totally refuses to divulge how many years have passed since). She served on the newspaper staff in high school, and has studied creative writing at Nassau Community College and SUNY Stonybrook. In her day job, Jen works in scientific publishing, but she's devoted to fiction in her private life. She lives in the greater New York Metro area with three dogs, three cats, two kids, one husband, and a hamster. There used to be a lizard, but one of the cats ate it.

You can learn more about Jen on her website, at Pirate Writers, on facebook, and by following her on twitter.

The Finalist Book:
Here's the official blurb for SPELLING AND GLAMOUR: When new-in-town potion maker Sarah Cooper inadvertently sells an illegal love spell to the conniving Homecoming Queen, she has to act fast to undo her mistake. For Sarah to preserve her potions license and keep her dreams of becoming a full spell caster on track, she must recover that love charm. But to do so, she'll have to infiltrate the coolest crowd on the Harding High campus. Too bad there's no Popularity Potion to help. Suddenly, solving global warming seems easy...

The Interview:
What inspired you to write Spelling and Glamour?

I was out driving. And though the forecast called for rain, not a drop had fallen. Then I turned west onto a main drag, and the sky ahead was black as soot and truly kinda scary looking. A new song started on the radio: Highway to Hell. The perfect timing made me laugh, and relaxed me enough, I guess, that I was able to think creatively. I got a sort of a vision in my head of a girl leaning inside the doorframe of the back room in a retail shop, looking out over the landscape of a new town she just moved to, watching a wicked storm roll in. And behind her, a cauldron bubbled. From that point, from that one image that I couldn’t shake, the book began.

Can you tell us what it means to be a Golden Heart finalist?

The Golden Heart is the pinnacle of writing contests for unpublished romance writers. It’s run each year by the Romance Writers of America, and competition is fierce. So not only is becoming a finalist somewhat prestigious, it’s also deeply validating. To be a finalist is to know, for one book at least, you’ve got the goods. But the most rewarding experience of being a Golden Heart finalist is becoming a part of the GH community. This year’s “class” came together in the days immediately following the finalist announcements and we’ve comforted, supported, and cheered one another – via internet – every day since. It’s been a phenomenal experience. I’m particularly thankful for the tight knit group the Young Adult finalists has become. They’re a great bunch of writers and I can’t wait to meet them face to face!

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

“Read. Write. Repeat.” I’m not sure who said that, though I suspect it was Diana Gabaldon. I’ve heard a lot of advice, but that’s the one that sticks most for me. Simple and true. Words to live by.

Can you tell us about The Trail of the Tudor Blue?
Tudor Blue is an adventure romance, the story of a young woman who travels to the south of F
rance to recover a stolen necklace and becomes entangled with a hot “recovery agent” with a killer smile and questionable motives. It releases in e-book format this winter from The Wild Rose Press, and I’m pretty sure you have to be eighteen to purchase it (it gets a little…er…steamy).

Who is Gwen Roman?

Gwen Roman is my alter ego, writer of romantic tales and mystery yarns. I needed a way to separate my teen fiction from my adult fiction, and using a pen name is the easiest method of informing a reader that the story might be different than what they’re accustomed to.

As to the name itself, I chose Gwen because my dad used to call me Gwenevere as a kindhearted tease. And Roman is an abbreviated form of a family name. I’m happy to be able to put together a pen name so reflective of family.

Do you have any special writing rituals or totems to connect with your muse?

I do keep some photographs of writer friends around and I think that helps me feel less like I’m on the journey alone. But I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have a lot of trouble connecting with my muse. That said, I am a little… um… weird… in that if I’m really struggling with forgetting my own troubles and tapping in to my characters, I’ll put on a hat or a scarf or even a pair of shoes I think my character might wear (Steve Madden inspires me!). Anything that helps me lose track of me and focus wholly on the character. No matter how ridiculous I look. Which is why sometimes I just don’t answer the door.

What songs would make the playlist for the Spelling and Glamour?
Wow. This is a really tough question! I know the main character, Sarah, is very into classic rock – but she also loves The Killers and Blue October. If I were making the playlist it would definitely include Queen’s “A Kind of Magic”, but that’s really reaching into the past. Maybe your readers could help out on this question? What kind of current music really reminds you of everyday “magic”?

What's your favorite quote?
You know, I should have a favorite quote from Rumi or Buddha or, like, John Lennon. But in truth my favorite quote is a quick line from the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Indiana Jones decides he’s going to stop the truck that’s carrying the ark of the covenant. His friend asks, in a bewildered voice, how he’s going to do that. Indy says, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.” It’s barely even a quote but I’ve always loved that line. For me it reflects a willingness to go after your goals no matter what, no matter if you’re sure of the method or not, you’re still going to go
after it. And it’s OKAY not be entirely sure of yourself, as long as you give life your best shot. So, apologies to Shakespeare and the Bible and all, but I’m going with George Lucas as the author of my favorite quote : )

What are you working on now? I’ve just completed a manuscript that tells a story of Maid Marian. She’s been a strong female character since her introduction to the Robin Hood tales, and I wanted to give her a chance to be as beloved and respected as Robin. I had a lot of fun re-visioning the story. I hope I’ve done Marian justice! (note from Linda - Yes! You've done Marian supreme justice!)

While I’m going back through Marian’s story and cleaning up things like commas and verbs, I’m outlining another story of high school magic and also starting work on a murder mystery. If only there were more hours in the day!

What is an interesting writing quirk of yours?

Gosh, I don’t know how interesting this would be, but I start all books by writing longhand. For me, to start longhand forces me to take my time with my characters and really get to know them. It’s more personal than working on a computer, I think. And I’m very particular about my notebooks and pens. (Okay, not just particular. Obsessive.) What’s nice is that in the past year or so I’ve decided that to honor my craft as a writer, I should stop writing in ten cent spiral notebooks. Now I pick up whatever pretty journal catches my eye. I’ve also been given some fabulously beautiful journals as gifts and can’t wait to find the right story to go in each. But right now I’m writing in a funky notebook given to me by one of my best writing friends, so it’s doubly special.

The Freebie: This week's freebie celebrates writers. Since special potions and soothing salts are part of SPELLING AND GLAMOUR, part one of the freebie are these bath salts from Bath and Body Works. Part two is your choice of the following writing books: BREAK INTO FICTION by Mary Buckham and Diana Love, WRITE AWAY by Elizabeth George, THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler, or THE NOVEL WRITER'S TOOLKIT by Bob Mayer.

To be entered to win, leave a comment below, answering Jen's question above. What current music reminds you of everyday magic? This drawing will remain open until Wednesday, July 28th.