Friday, August 7, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes the Prolific Rita Herron

Multi-published, award-winning author Rita Herron cut her teeth on mystery books and television shows like Alfred Hitchcock, The Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone. More recently, she’s added Medium, The Ghost Whisperer, and Dead Zone to her list of favorites.

She currently writes paranormal romantic suspense for Grand Central Publishing and category romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

With her new series THE DEMONBORN, she blends her love of dark, steamy romantic suspense stories with her other love -- the paranormal.

Set in the contemporary world, she explores the age-old battle of good versus evil, and that battle as it rages within each person. And of course, the ultimate question for the romantic – can love conquer all?

Rita, welcome to Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. Speaking of Hot Tamales, tell us about that great new release in your Demonborn Series, DARK HUNGER.

Thanks so much for having me! DARK HUNGER is the 2nd book in the demonborn trilogy and tells the story of Vincent’s brother Quinton Valtrez, a Dark Lord who must battle his own dark side as he battles the evil threatening the world. Quinton has always been alone, an island to himself, and is an assassin for a secret government unit called the Ghosts. But now he must face the fact that he has brothers, and a father Zion, the leader of the underworld, who will use anyone he cares about to trap him.

Complicating matters more, a sexy reporter named Annabelle Armstrong is out to expose Quinton’s secrets. Quinton is drawn to the sassy reporter but also knows that being with him will endanger her. And his enemies are closing in.

Zion has sent the Death Angel to destroy the world, and Quinton must use his powers to stop him.


What’s next in the Demonborn Series?

The third book in the trilogy, FORBIDDEN PASSION, comes out April 2010 and tells the story of the third long lost brother Dante. Watch for the return of Marlena Bender, the doctor researching a cure for evil I introduced in INSATIABLE DESIRE, and a surprise twist at the end!

A new reader wants me to ask you what inspired this series?

The idea of good versus evil inspired me to write this series. I think all of us have a little good and bad in us, and I wanted to explore that theme. The character of Cole Turner in Charmed intrigued me, and I wanted my heroes to be tough and sexy and torn by their evil side as he was.

I believe that love is powerful and can change a person, whether a child, a man or woman, and wanted to write a series where these strong men needed a woman to save them.


Rita, you were already so well established with suspense in your Harlequin Intrigues, what made you decide to venture into the paranormal genre?

Romantic suspense is my first love, and this series definitely follows that pattern as well as delving more into the paranormal genre. But I’ve actually been sprinkling paranormal elements in my books for a while.

My 2nd Intrigue, Her Eyewitness, was about a man who received a corneal transplant and then saw visions of the murder of the man who donated his eyes. That book triggered the idea for my Nighthawk Island series which wasn’t paranormal but had elements bordering on the paranormal. The same was true for the Falcon Ridge series I wrote, the Intrigue Up In Flames, and some of my books for HQN.


I like blending the paranormal with the real world, and do that even in my Demonborn series.

How do you manage tying the paranormal elements in with the suspense? Does it present any writing challenges that you haven’t encountered before?

Blending in the paranormal is similar to blending romance and suspense. All the elements need to be intertwined, to fit together and drive the other elements. The suspense drives the characters together, forces them to work together to solve the mystery and face their inner conflicts. The danger triggers their need for each other, and forced intimacy creates sexual tension. Blending the paranormal meant making the crimes different, the villains demons, etc.

The biggest challenge for me was creating the rules of my world. Since I blended paranormal with the real world, I had to decide how to portray the demons, what form they would have on earth, what powers they would have, etc.


We all know that great characters have great conflicts. How do you decide what conflicts a character is going to have?

The internal conflict the characters have must play off the suspense story line and are born from their backstories. For instance if a character doesn’t trust because he was hurt in the past, he must be put in a situation that forces him to trust – that is the character’s growth.

When I’m trying to decide what conflicts to give a character, I usually ask myself questions – how can I make my characters opposites so they conflict? Why is the heroine the worst person for him? Why is he the worst person for her? How can they help each other? Why do they need each other?


What do you do to get inside the head of a half-demon hero?

I treat him like a villain and think: how would a villain think? How would he react to temptations? Sometimes it’s easier to do the wrong thing than the right thing, and I try to challenge my heroes with those difficult choices. I almost let him go to the dark side, then pull him back!

What are the main issues your Demonborn series explores?

The series explores the battle of good versus evil in the world, and within ourselves. I’ve always been interested in psychology, the nature versus nurture question – what makes one person who suffers a trauma or hardship turn that into a positive thing while another person seeks revenge, becomes depressed and lets it destroy his life. Can a person overcome horrific obstacles and find success and/or love? Does love, a happy home, make a difference?

How do you keep the romance in balance with the abundant evil that is inherent in the Demonborn series?

I try to blend the two like a braided rope, each one playing off the other. The danger drives the characters into each other’s arms for comfort, and forces them to work together. As they team up, each character learns more about the other one, sees positive traits, begins to admire the other person, so the sexual attraction eventually leads to love. I also try to give the characters (reader) breaks from the suspense by giving them a few quieter moments together which allows for building the romance.

What is the one thing you want readers to walk away with after they’ve read DARK HUNGER?

I want them to feel positive, that love can conquer all. And of course, I want them to feel entertained, to be curious about what will happen when they find the 3rd brother, if Zion will win in the end or if good will conquer all.

Tell us how readers can get in touch with you?

Readers can contact me and look for updates at http://www.ritaherron.com, http://www.the demonborn.com, as well as on Facebook, MySpace and http://www.twitter.com/ritaherron

Readers, leave a comment or question for Rita today and be entered in a contest for a copy of Rita’s first book in The Demonborn Series: Insatiable Desire. But don’t stop there! There’s a second contest for today’s readers. Visit Rita at her website http://www.ritaherron.com and sign up for her newsletter to be entered in a contest to a copy of both books in The Demonborn Series: Insatiable Desire and Dark Hunger. And, by singing up for Rita’s newsletter, you will also be automatically entered in Rita’s regular monthly contests.

26 comments:

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Rita:
Exploring why one person reacts positively and another negatively out of the same or similar pain has always been a fascination to me. I haven't read Dark Hunger yet, but look forward to seeing how this plays out through your story. Thanks for being with us today!

Sandy Elzie said...

Rita,

I haven't read your books yet, but everyone is talking about them and raving. I can't wait.

Question: Have you ever started writing a book for Harlequin...which might include elements of paranormal and realize that you want to take the book in a totally paranormal direction? Have you ever changed ...mid-stream...and changed genres?

Sandy

Marilyn Baron said...

Thank you for the great writing advice. Your new series sounds really good.

Marilyn Baron

Tammy Schubert said...

Thank you for blogging with us today.

You have had over 50 books published so far. How do you keep your stories fresh?

I'm always interested in how authors work on a day-to-day basis. What's a day in your life like?

Walt M said...

Hi Rita~

You're bringing back one of your characters in Forbidden Passion. When you're writing, do you create some of your characters with the idea that they can resurface in later books to play important roles?

Marilyn Baron said...

I did have a couple of questions about word count. What is the word count for the books in your new series?

I know it varies depending on the genre and publishing house, but what is the typical word count for women's fiction these days? Is it 80,000, 90,000 + Or is the word count shrinking because of the economy, increased publishing costs, etc. What is the lowest acceptable word count for a women's fiction or a mystery?

Is there a publisher I can target for a book that's in the 40-50,000 range (women's fiction with an element of mystery?)

Thank you.

Marilyn Baron

Linsey Lanier said...

Hi Rita,
Thanks for being with us at PF&HT today! What a great interview. A lot of inspiration and food for thought, especially the questions about conflict.

You are so prolific. How many books do you usually write a year? What is your process?

Linsey

Susan May said...

Rita,
Thanks for being here. Great books. I want to know how much input you have in getting the cover guys? They are great!

Anonymous said...

Rita,
I am very excited about your new book and looking forward to reading it! Have a great day and thank you for blogging!

Caroline Z.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Rita, is there a common mistake you see in new writers and new writers of paranormal romance? Do you have a favorite paranormal romance or author? Thanks for stopping by. You always inspire us!

Rita Herron said...

Hi, Debbie,
Thanks for having me!

Rita

Rita Herron said...

Hi, Sandy,
Wow, glad people are saying good things. You never know!
And about your question: I've actually started writing an Intrigue, then the paranormal element sort of slipped in, but I'm careful there not to go too far as the editors there have specific things they want.
That said, when thinking of new projects, (As I'm doing now), I do have a couple that I'm toying with which way to go, more paranormal or just romantic suspense with some paranormal. In fact my agent and I discussed this at RWA.

Rita

Rita Herron said...

Marilyn,
Thanks. I hope to hear good news from all the GRW writers!
Rita

Rita Herron said...

Tammy,
It is a challenge to keep the stories fresh. I think that's even harder with Harlequin because they tend to want their same hooks in the stories. But I think choosing a different setting, making the characters different, more unique helps. Also, a critique partner who has read all your work really helps, too. Sometimes I forget and write something, and she'll remind me that i've done that before. Other times, I feel like it's familiar, then I know i need to change something.

For single titles, I think it's easier because I can come up with more varied premises. Still, it was challenging to write three half demon heroes and make them unique - but that's also the fun creative part of writing.

A day for me: I'm not a morning person so need quiet time with my coffee first! Around ten, I'm usually checking email and starting to write. I write a scene before lunch, break, go to the gym or take a walk and think through the next scene, then have lunch and write the afternoon. (Oh, I do work a shower in there somewhere!) Normally I shoot for 10 pages a day when I'm on deadline, and always give myself page goals daily and weekly. I write about 6-9 hours a day. I try to work half day on Sat. and take Sunday off, depends on where I am in a project.
And in between deadlines, I'm working up new proposals, doing revisions, etc. I also try to leave off each day on a note where to start the story the next day, so I don't end up just staring at the blank screen.

Rita

Rita Herron said...

Walt,
Yes, sometimes I plan to bring characters back, especially if I know I'm going to give them a story line. Fro a series, I also keep a Bible of recurring characters (like a doctor, a judge, etc.).
Other times, I'll write a character and then think - -hmm, they're interesting. I'd like to bring them back. That happened with the voodoo priestess in Dark Hunger. Even my critique partner read it and said, "You have to use her again."

And sometimes, I'll write a secondary character and the readers will write and want their story.
Rita

Tammy Schubert said...

Thank you for taking the time to sharing with us today. You are an inspiration for us unpubs.

Rita Herron said...

Marilyn,
About word count -- I'd say typically for single title 80,000-100,000 words is good. Sometimes my word count actually seems less (according to my computer) but the page count is more important than word count. If you have a lot of dialogue, then you'll have pages but not as large a word count.

With the Intrigues, they've lowered our word count, but actually the pages they publish are the same - they're just trying to use larger fonts because readers complained of small fonts.

I don't specifically know of a women's fiction that takes 50-60,000. Straight mystery series are shorter though, more like category books.
But you could always query and ask.
Rita

Rita Herron said...

Linsey,
Glad you enjoyed the interview. Hope it helps.

I usually write 3-4 Intrigues a year and a single title.
I always have projects in various stages of development from scattered notes and files to proposals. I typically contract for 2-3 Intrigues at a time, and my paranormal series was for 3 but deadlines were drawn out. For an Intrigue I give myself around 3 months to write it (usually I can write it in 6 weeks, but like to let it sit, then go back and spend a couple of weeks tweaking and editing.)
I don't edit as I go, not much anyway, as the creative part is fun for me. I really HATE the editing and revising part but it's a necessary evil and I do want the book to be the best it can be before I turn it in.
For single titles, I give myself around 4 months to write.
With every contract, I negotiate the deadline depending on when the publisher can put them in their schedule and when they'll need it.
Rita

Rita Herron said...

Susan,
LOL about the cover guys - I WISH we had control.
But no, none.

For Harlequiin, the author fills out AFS, Art Fact sheets, with character descriptions, clothing, and suggestions of scenes for the cover. Sometimes they use them, sometimes not. And once the cover is done, they rarely redo.

With single titles, they ask me for suggestions, and we talked about a look (sexy guys, bare chests, etc.) and they came up with the concept. Sometimes authors can negotiate for cover approval, but not always. Usually the publisher shows you the cover concept and asks your thoughts. Sometimes they'll redo, sometimes not.
But we all know that covers can make a big difference so this is one time I try to speak up and fight - nicely, of course. In fact, my agent and both hated the first cover they did for Insatiable Desire, and at first they weren't going to change, but then did.
I just got really lucky with the cover for DARK HUNGER -- it's my favorite.
Rita

Rita Herron said...

Hi, Caroline,
Hope you fall in love with the demonborn!

Rita

Rita Herron said...

Hi, Nicki,
Hmm, I hate to admit it but I haven't read a lot of paranormal authors! But I love Raven Hart's vampire series and really loved Jennifer St. Giles werewolves.

Mistakes I've seen -- I think the biggest challenge in writing paranormal is in setting up the rules of your world and making the story believable. Even though it's set in a fantasy world of sorts, the main characters sill have to have characteristics, strengths, flaws and emotions that we all can relate to so that we care about them.
Sometimes the paranormal takes over whereas the author still needs that universal type conflict between the hero and heroine.

Rita

Maxine Davis said...

Rita,

I really enjoyed your interview. Wow, you write several books a year - I hope it gets easier as I go along.

I've got to read about the half-demon hero - sounds fascinating!

Thank you for stopping by!

Rita Herron said...

Hi, Maxine,
LOL. It gets easier in some ways and harder in some. I think the more you write, the more challenging it is to think of something different and unique. Although the basic art of storytelling seems to kind of kick in, and you learn from every book you write.

It does get easier to take feedback though and make changes because I don't think you get as married to your ideas or elements, and you realize that making changes makes the book better.
I'm saying that tongue in cheek as I face down the revision letter for my 3rd demon book!
Rita

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Rita,

Wonderful interview! Thanks a ton stopping by today and for answering every question. I had a couple but everyone beat me to them!!!

I do have one question and it's just curiosity. Why demons? I've actually seen two other story lines that are including demons and I ask myself where the thought process came in? Your blurbs sound awesome and I can't wait to see what you've done with them. I just never thought of a demon as hero type material. Then again, I remember saying that about vampires back when Tom Cruise was making us drool!!!

Thanks a bunch for blogging with us.

Tami

Mary Marvella said...

Rita is always a wonderful guest! I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Dianna Love said...

If I hadn't been in airports (touring) and such on Friday I would have posted then.

I've enjoyed Rita's book since first meeting her in 2001. BTW, Rita, I'm seeing your book in great position in the bookstores so the publisher is obviously excited about this series.

Congrats on launching this new paranormal series.
Dianna