Author Snapshot: Championship Cupcakes and Cooking Up Great Plots with Ann Simas

“I won first place for my carrot cupcakes one year at the county fair. First and only time I’ve ever entered a food item. Just sayin’.” – Ann Simas

SR: What’s your new book/work in progress about? What inspired you to write it?

51yzs5m4qwl-_sy346_AS: Here and Gone started out as an entirely different book and was intended to be a romance set during the Christmas season, with a different title. As I began to write, the premise of the book changed. Mystery set it, and then suspense. My protagonist, Hannah, was running away from her life to what she thought would be a solitary existence. Instead, she discovers that the husband and son she believed had died in a sailboat accident are actually alive. She dislikes cops after being relentlessly accused of killing her family by a rogue cop in San Diego. She meets Sheriff Noah Ward quite by accident when he enters her new home in Colorado, thinking she’s a squatter. Hannah needs help tracking down her husband. She has no choice but to trust Noah and asks him to help her. The title of the book changed at that point, and the story continued as Hannah inserts herself into the search for her son.

SR: Practice pitching: tell us what your book is about in 30 words or less.

AS: Hannah discovers the husband and son she thought drowned in a sailboat accident are alive. She makes it her mission to find them.

SR:  Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

AS: There were some days in the two years leading up to her relocation that Hannah thought she would go crazy. Crazy with grief, crazy from having her community turn on her, crazy from being hounded by the police. When she discovers that her husband and son are alive, her thoughts, aside from getting her son back, turn to retribution, which could land her in prison.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

AS: Hannah’s greatest fear is that she won’t be able to find her son. Finding Jay is her new motivator, even at the risk of her own life. She discovers an inner courage she didn’t know she had, which helps propel her forward in the search, but she knows she must be careful. Her husband could very well go on the run again, this time to a place where Hannah would never find them.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

AS: Here and Gone is the first love story I’ve written where the two protagonists don’t consummate their relationship sexually. For Hannah and Noah, it’s love at first sight, though to hear them go at each other in the beginning, you wouldn’t know that. They are wildly attracted to each other, but once Hannah, a woman of strong moral character, realizes she’s still, a married woman by law, she puts the skids on any physical contact with Noah, even kissing. Noah, a former Navy SEAL, is a man of strong moral fiber. He’d rather have Hannah in his bed, but he recognizes that she wouldn’t be the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with if she caved in and broke her marriage vows, and besides, he doesn’t mess with married women. It’s a struggle for both of them, but their love is strong, which helps them endure.

SR: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?

AS: Determination and perseverance.

SR: Carpool karaoke. What would be your protagonist’s song? Yours?

AS: Hannah and I both like Rod Stewart’s American Songbook albums. We’d both be singing along to those as we tool down the highway.

SR:  Cage match between you and your protagonist. It’s a fight to the death. Which one of you will be left standing, and why.

AS: We’d both be standing, because I’d be Hannah’s friend throughout the ordeal she suffered, thinking her husband and son were dead, and the battle she undertakes when she finds out they’re alive.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

AS: I started reading when I was five. For some reason, my mom enrolled me in first grade, rather than kindergarten, and I was in love with words from the first time I ever held a book. As I grew older, some of my particular favorites were Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mysteries. I also loved historical fiction about the American Revolution, Joan of Arc, and Anne Boleyn, to name a few. I read Gone with the Wind in two days, which I thought was quite a feat, considering it’s about 800 pages. In the mid-80s, I started reading series romance and thought, I can write one of these. In retrospect, nothing is as easy as it seems, even writing fiction, but I persevered.

SR:  Did you try your hand at poetry as a teenager or use stick figures to illustrate your comic books? Tell us about your early writing efforts.

AS: Didn’t everyone write poetry as a teenager? I recently came across all my poems. Some of them aren’t bad, others make me cringe. As to stick figures, I’m a doodler, so while I never attempted to write any comic books, I have doodled my way across the decades. In high school, I started my first fiction book, which I found with the poetry. I’m happy to say, my writing skills have improved a lot since then!

SR: What do you think the hardest emotion to elicit from a reader is? Why?

AS: This is a tough question. I think sometimes it’s difficult to elicit compassion from a reader, especially if they resist putting themselves in the character’s shoes. I don’t ever intend for my readers to feel compassion for my antagonists, but I do think I write strong female characters, who discover their inner strength and find courage to do things they never thought possible. I want my readers to root for them. In order to do that, I think they need to feel compassion for their situation. Plus, with the exception of one of my mystery series, there’s always a romance element in my books and I’d like my readers pulling for the relationship between my two protagonists, too.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

AS: Everything. I love writing. I used to have a screensaver that said, “Writing is an uncontrollable obsession,” and that’s the truth.

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

AS: The worst thing used to be writing on a typewriter and trying to maintain that flippin’ one-inch margin on the bottom of the page. As far as I’m concerned, writing is the one thing that makes owning a computer worth it.

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

AS: I’d have to say research. I absolutely, positively have to have my facts straight and true. If I don’t, what if a reader knows otherwise? If I can’t be believed on one fact, how am I supposed to expect to be believed on all my facts?

SR: What was your journey to publication like? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

AS: My journey to publication is papered with rejection letters. Most of them said, in a nutshell, “too much mystery, not enough romance.” I was submitting to romance publishers, you see, and at the time, they wanted only romance. When Harlequin/Worldwide bought my first book, they told me they loved it, but it had a mystery element, so they didn’t know if they should buy it or not. In the end, they did, and it was reprinted in ten languages. Finally, I gave up writing romance and tried my hand at mystery (that would be book one in my Grace Gabbiano series, Dressed to Die). Since then, I’ve stuck to writing my way, as a cross-genre author. That means my books are mystery/suspense/thrillers, with a love story (except for the Grace books), and usually a paranormal or supernatural twist.

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

AS: I don’t like trends. They come and go, right? I mean, whoever thought bell-bottom pants would come back, or Melamine? Better to stay away from trends and stick with tried-and-true. In my writing, I mix genres. Even though traditional publishers pooh-pooh that, I know readers like it. However, I do try to stick with modern elements, such as technology and vernacular, but I never, ever, get into politics, and I’m not always politically correct.

SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?

AS: Sherlock Holmes, of course. I like figuring things out. I would be a nicer to Watson, though.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

AS: Something my dad used to say: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

SR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.

AS: I’ve been doing needlework as long as I’ve been reading, but longer than I’ve been writing.

SR:  Is there something you’ve experienced that’s affected your view of life? Tell us about it and how it changed you.

AS: I don’t think any single experience has affected the way I view life, but rather, it’s a culmination of all my experiences that affects how I see things. Together, those bits are called wisdom, and I’m still adding to my wisdom pot. I also tend to view obstacles with my “glass-half-full,” and I tend not to only see things in black-and-white, because I do believe there could be a grey area in between. I worked at probation department, and that was eye-opening, as was my stint with a district attorney’s office. You can’t imagine what horrible or ridiculous crimes some people will commit unless you’re on the law enforcement/prosecution side of things.

SR:  If you have to live in a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your protagonist as a weather system, what would they be?

AS: I have actually lived in natural disaster zones—blizzards, floods, and tornadoes in Colorado, earthquakes in California, and the potential for volcanic eruptions in Oregon’s Cascades (we even got ash from the Mount St. Helen’s eruption in Colorado). Truthfully, I’d pick NO natural disasters, if I had a choice, but we live on Earth, so there’s no escaping them, is there? If I had to label Hannah with a natural disaster, I’d call her a hurricane, because she plows through her search with such determination.

SR: It’s the zombie apocalypse. You have to pick a weapon from what’s currently within 10 feet of your present location. What will you defend yourself with?

AS: I hate zombies. I don’t watch zombie movies or talk about them or think about them. If they come after me, I’ll be s**t out of luck, because the only weapon I have within ten feet of me is my mechanical pencil.

SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?

AS: I love doing counted cross stitch. Some projects, I finish pretty quickly, others take years because they’re so involved. I also like photography and gardening. It also goes without saying that I love spending time with my family.

SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?

AS: I have two upcoming events this summer. One is an interview on Air Global Radio Network on June 26 at noon (PDT), and the other is the Coburg Quilt Show, where I’ll be introducing the fourth book in my Grace Gabbiano mystery series, Quilted to Die, which takes place, in part, at the Coburg Quilt Show. What a coincidence, right? That will be July 20-21.

SR: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

AS: Never give up, and to paraphrase author Cynthia Freeman, “Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from the thrill of trying.”

 

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to tell you about Here and Gone, and a little about myself. To learn more about my books, visit me at https://annsimas.com, or at Ann Simas, Author (https://bit.ly/2yxRotW) on Facebook.

Plus: Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Here and Gone! Details here.

Ann Simas served on the Romance Writers of America Board of Directors for two years and is a member of International Thriller Writers, Italian American Writers Association, Sisters in Crime. and Northwest Independent Writers Association. She writes two mystery series, a Christmas romance series, and standalone books that are a mix of thriller-suspense-mystery, with romance and paranormal or supernatural elements. She currently has 22 books in print, which are available worldwide on Amazon and also through her website, annsimas.com. She can be found on Facebook at Ann Simas, Author. In addition to writing, she is an award-winning watercolorist and loves needlework and photography.

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