Hello Patricia! As an interviewer for Coffee Time Romance and More I have to take a moment to say how very much I enjoyed reading Marilyn. I literally couldn't put it down. I knew I was in trouble when I looked up and realized the room had gone dark and I needed to turn on some lights.
Congratulations on a captivating read and now I would like to thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Marilyn is such a unique storyline and I’m curious, what is your favorite movie and why?
Thank you for mentioning the uniqueness to the book. The last thing I wanted to do was write a low rent version of Stephen King’s Christine. I went to great lengths to make sure Marilyn was as unique—and fun-- a story as possible.
I can’t really think of just one movie that I loved above all others. I’m really fond of any good film. I love the old movies. TCM is my favorite movie channel. But I do enjoy contemporary films as well.
My favorites are Ever After, Practical Magic, Casa Blanca, Now Voyager, Key Largo and of course the Harry Potter films and Lord of the Rings was astounding.
Can you introduce us to your hero and heroine in Marilyn? What makes them tick?
Bobby Chandler is a middle class guy from Austin Texas. He works in an office downtown, probably into real estate or sales or something like that. He’s into vintage cars, and he adores low riders. He’s a pretty happy go lucky fellow, who often does things on a whim, like going to California to look at a vintage low rider after chatting with a guy on a muscle car web forum. Of course, he didn’t tell Carol Anne his fiancée where he was going, he just left. Not out of malice, mind you, it just never occurred to him that she’d be worried about him. He’s an adorable guy, but I can see why Carol Ann would want to go upside his head sometimes.
Carol Anne is Bobby’s fiancée. She’s lovely, smart and is much more cautious than Bobby. Where Bobby will do pretty much anything on a dare, Carol Anne will not hear of it. She doesn’t have an adventurous bone in her body, not even in bed. She is very intense and ambitious, but does have a fun whimsical side too. She wanted her wedding to be in a Midsummer Night’s Dream theme. She does have a spark of daring, though, especially when she thinks someone she loves is in danger. Like the time she drove Marilyn into a supermarket parking lot hoping to abandon the car, for instance. One thing is certain about Carol Anne. She loves Bobby fiercely.
What do you look for in a good novel? Which genre are you personally drawn to?
I look for great character driven plots. I look for a good command of language, believable characters and really great story telling. I’m not drawn to one genre per se. I read everything from JK Rowling to Stephen King. The most important thing is for the story to grab my attention and keep it there. I’m even willing to forgive grammatical foibles if the story is good. If I’m not turned on by a book within the first three chapters I’m done with it. That may seem harsh but at my age time is too short to read a mediocre novel.
What do you do when the characters "tell" you to change the storyline?
Over the years I’ve learned to let go and let the characters change the storyline. In fact, I love it when that happens, because every time it does, the story turns out much, much better than if I followed an outline.
What books/authors were your faves as a child and what characters stand out in your memory from them today?
I was a voracious reader ever since I was a kid. And I went through various genres much like I do now. When I was nine or so, I went through an animal literature phase where I devoured the Black Stallion books, then there was Red and Outlaw Red and several other dog books. When I was in middle school I started reading formulaic gothic romance novels. You know the ones. Heroine meets Hero in spooky castle type stories that were popular back in the 70’s. Then there were all the nurse romances I adored. That’s a genre I hated to see die out. I really loved those stories. Perhaps I’ll start writing those sometime in the future.
And then I moved on to suspense and horror. Stephen King became a favorite. And when I was in Grad school I got hooked on the classics. Shakespeare, The Bronte sisters, Dickens, and so forth.
The two books I remember most during my high school years that were my all time favorites were Paint Box Summer and My Darling, My Hamburger. Paint box Summer By Betty Cavanna, which is still in print btw, is a classic. It’s YA, of course, but I’d encourage anyone out there to give it a read if they haven’t already.. The second book was called My Darling My Hamburger by Paul Zindel. It was a pretty controversial book when I read it back in the early 70’s. I’m delighted to see it’s been re released. In retrospect I’m shocked it was in our school library at all, considering the subject mater. Our librarian was ultra conservative and would spend her time marking out lingerie pictures in ladies magazines. If she had any idea what that book was about she would have burned it publically; which is probably why it was the most popular book in the library at that time. I remember having to be put on a waiting list before I could get my hands on a copy.
Of course, my all time favorite book in the world is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I read it in High School, fell in love with it and have made a habit of reading it once a year. Another book I’ve fallen in love with is Hearts in Atlantis, by Stephen King. It’s another book I read every year. I think it’s his best work to date.
What character in Marilyn do you relate to the most and why?
I think I relate more to Carol Anne. Bobby is one of those free spirited kind of guys who seems to have good fortune fall into his lap (pun intended) whereas Carol Anne has had to struggle for everything she’s ever accomplished. She’s a workaholic whereas Bobby just goes to the office, does his thing and comes home without ever worrying about anything. It’s made her—not bitter, certainly—but more ambitious, I think. And more serious, as well. She seems to be the pragmatist of the two.
I can see the two of us sitting at a café and me being the sympathetic friend while she gripes about Bobby and Marilyn. And yeah, I can see her point of view. I think most women would.
In what order do you write? For example starting beginning to end, combining parts, in random order or in development cycle?
I start at the beginning and work my way to the end. Occasionally I’ll come up with a scene I like and I’ll put it in my notepad for safe keeping. Sometimes it works well into the story and sometimes it gets ditched. Since the characters tell their story I’m pretty much just their stenographer. I told that to my niece once and she thought I was nuts.
Where do you come up with their story ideas?
I used to joke about having a haunted well in my back yard where I’d go out at midnight and haul up a bucket of really foul water and divine from it. But someone took me seriously so I don’t tell people that any more. (although I still think it’s funny) In reality I just have an active and somewhat twisted imagination.
When the idea for Marilyn was conceived, I was at a cookout with friends. When another friend arrived in a vintage Mustang convertible, (red, of course) all the guys ran out to adore it. I can’t recall which one of us said it…but I do remember the statement, “They’d screw that car if they could.” So, at that instant, Marilyn became every guy’s dream car. Heh Heh.
How far are you willing to go for research? Would you for instance, cook certain foods, go on police ride alongs, view autopsies or surgeries, try BDSM, or even, certain drugs to make your books more realistic?
I’d go to Paris for research if I could afford it. I’ve got an adventurous side so I’d love to cook something or go on a police stake out. Yeah I’d even attend an autopsy. I was a nursing student back in the 80’s and have witnessed surgeries so sure I’d do it. I’d just not have dinner before I went. It’s not the sight so much, you see, but the smell.
But I digress. I wouldn’t do drugs though, or try BDSM. My only drug of choice is chocolate. And as far as BDSM goes: I have nothing against it personally, whatever float’s one’s boat. It’s just not for me.
I do request interviews. And I do travel when I can. When I was doing research for my novel Glorious, for example, I contacted nursing personnel and asked about what it was like to work as an African American nurse in the 1960’s. I got some great responses to that.
If you could be any animal what would you be?
Something soft, warm and cuddly, and thrives on chocolate cheesecake.
What a fascinating guest you have been and I heartily congratulate you on writing such an entertaining book such as Marilyn. We at Coffee Time Romance appreciate you being here and value the opportunity to present your interview.