Interview with Erin O'Brien:
Hi Erin. We are pleased and honoured to have you with us. Thank you for doing this interview. I would like to welcome you to the Romance at Heart Interview and Author Grilling session. *bg* We are interested to find out as much about you as we possibly can, so lets get started...
- Please tell us about your latest book.
Harvey and Eck takes an unusual look at pregnancy through the eyes of Harvey, a 33-year-old woman who is unexpectedly expecting. She's not quite ready to trade in her motorcycle and tool belt for bottles and booties. She befriends Eck, who, even at 56, still has quite an education in front of him.
- How do we find out about you and your books?
Visit my website www.erinobrien.us.
- Do your fans' comments and letters influence you in any way?
I got my first fan letter very early on. It was from a young woman who was the slush reader at a New York agency I had queried. She read my manuscript and loved it. Although her boss gave it the thumbs down, she wrote me a long wonderful letter. As I trudged on trying to find a home for my funny little book, I always kept that letter in mind. If one reader loved the book, surely there had to be an audience for it.
I've gotten much positive feedback on the book. Many readers tell me they read it in a sitting, that they couldn't put it down. When I hear that, my heart sings.
- What truly motivates you in general? In your writing?
I'm terminally curious. I notice everything. An otherwise stern matronly woman wears a slinky ankle bracelet. What does this small detail reveal about her? I am fascinated with people and what they do--whether it's professional wrestling or thoracic surgery.
I write endlessly about sexual situations and the relationships between men and women, but I try to give the material a new twist, a flawed character who finds capacity for love, a fresh, wonderful voice or an unusual element--a pregnant lady on a motorcycle.
- Do you feel humour is important in women's fiction and why?
The plenum that separates the part of the brain that makes us cry from the part that makes us laugh is very thin. To successfully showcase the human experience, you must have contrast of emotion and you must cross that plenum frequently. You must make it look easy when in reality, it's not.
People flock around those who are funny and animated. The same goes for books. The humor has to be top-notch, intelligent and based in truth. Humor completes a piece of writing.
If all that isn't a compelling enough case for humor. Imagine sitting next to someone on a bus. She's reading a book and all of a sudden, she starts laughing out loud, really laughing. Who wouldn't want to take a peek and jot down the title for an Amazon search later on?
- What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?
When a writer is lucky enough to have that rare situation when a sex scene is inherent to the fabric of his or her novel, it must be written without a blink. If it's just sex for the sake of sex, the scene should be excised. If the scene reveals something about the characters or story, then it must be written and written well. That's often difficult because of the language of sex, which can easily end up sounding either clinical, pornographic or cartoonish. A fellow writer and friend of mine, Maureen McHugh, tells me my sex scenes are always about something bigger than the sex, and I take that as a huge compliment.
Sex on the page is hard. I'll leave it at that.
- What kind of research do you do?
I am maniacal about research. There's the obvious, traditional sources that one finds online and at at the library. I take it much further. I once drove from Cleveland, Ohio to Vega, Texas to see what an itty bitty town off of Interstate 40 was like. I then created a fictional town based on Vega and put it in a novel, which I finished, wrote again, then shelved.
- Are you a member of any author groups - RWA, critique groups, etc.?
I've been in the same group for eight years. It's terrific. We're all serious writers, novelists, editors and teachers. The reason the group works so well is the deep respect we have for one another. What we do once a month when we meet is intense. There have been fights and tears as well as words of congratulations. In the end, each of us knows that the tough critiques are just as important as the great ones. And it's the tough ones that make us better writers.
- Are you in control of your characters or do they control you?
Great question. I am constantly repeating the mantra, "You must control the device, don't let the device control you!" But with characters, it's different. Because when a character crosses the threshold between two and three dimensions, something wonderful happens. All of a sudden, the prose begins to write itself. The character is real and will behave under his or her own volition. This change evolves during the long rewriting process. Characters flesh out and eventually, the moments spent staring at a blinking cursor thinking, "Now what is she going to do?" become fewer and fewer.
At that point, the writer is watching someone in action and reporting it. That's when a writer should let their fingers fly and enjoy the ride.
- If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
Marveling over the competence of my straight jacket.
Thank you very much, for taking the time with us and answering our questions Erin. I really appreciate this interruption to your busy and most demanding schedule. Good Luck, and we will be looking forward to the next delightful creation from your talented imagination!
Yours in good reading,