WATCH OUT: Vicki Essex
SC: I want to welcome you all to another edition of Watch Out. This week I’m pleased to bring you author Vicki Essex .Welcome to Watch Out, Vicki; it is so great to have you here.
V: Thanks. It’s awesome to be here.
SC: For the readers out there who might not know about you or your work, can you please tell them a little about yourself.
V: I started writing romance after I got a job working at Harlequin Enterprises as a proofreader. I’d never even read what I considered to be romance books up until that point, and I naively thought, “If they can do it, so can I!” It took me about 3 years and a lot of bad books to sell Her Son’s Hero to Superromance.
SC: What has working at Harlequin as a proofreader taught you?
V: I’ve learned that details matter, and readers are smart. You can never have a too-clean manuscript, and no matter how many editors, copy editors and proofreaders you have backing you, as an author, the book is ultimately yours. People notice things like changes in eye color, ages jumping around, timeline problems, etc. As a writer, knowing about common mistakes like that and keeping those details straight has saved me a few gray hairs.
SC: Can you tell us a little about your current release?
V: Her Son’s Hero (Harlequin Superromance, July 2011) is about a professional mixed martial arts fighter who is trying to regain his confidence after putting an opponent into a coma. While training with his old karate master, he meets a single mom and her bullied son. The hero wants to show the boy how to defend himself, but the mom, who has been in an abusive relationship, doesn’t want her son learning how to fight. Of course, she’s not sure she can say no in the face of all those gorgeous muscles….
SC: Which do you prefer, eBooks or paperback?
V: Early on, I wasn’t too keen on some of the bugs ebook formats were still encountering, but it was the only way I could buy and read some out-of-print books I wanted. I was reading stuff on an old Palm Pilot before EPUB started becoming an industry standard—it was a pain to deal with the formats. Now things are way easier. I just got a Kobo Touch for my birthday. I’m loving its portability. When it comes to owning books in volume, I’d go with ebooks. I just don’t have that much room in my library.
SC: What influences the topics and genres that you pick to write a story in?
V: They say you gotta write what you love, so my projects tend to evolve around things I enjoy or know something about. I was a casual fan of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), and the story idea for Her Son’s Hero came when I was watching a fight with my sister and her friend. They suggested I write a romance based on mixed martial arts (MMA), the fastest growing sport in the world. By the time I’d sent in my query to Harlequin, the UFC and MMA were making headlines all over the place. Fights were finally sanctioned in Ontario in August 2010, about a month before I got The Call. I got really lucky there.
I’m also influenced by whatever I’m reading or watching or playing—yes, video games have storylines, too! I’ve been working on a YA Western fantasy, which came about after playing a video game called Red Dead Redemption. I’ve been on a Western kick ever since.
SC: Your favourite part about being an author?
V: Playing God with my characters! Mwahaha!
I enjoy learning things about my characters as I write. I’m a pantser for the most part, so I’m frequently surprised when they reveal things to me I wasn’t aware of.
And then I get to throw them into situations to torture them. *cackles evilly*
SC: One thing readers might be surprised to know about you?
V: I’ll give you three things that shock people:
1. I’ve never read anything by Nora Roberts.
2. I’ve tried reading Pride and Prejudice four times in my life, but can’t get past the first four chapters. I had to watch the BBC miniseries instead.
3. I’ve never watched Dirty Dancing. People react to that the same way I react when they tell me they’ve never seen Star Wars. I was just never really into Patrick Swayze or dancing movies. It’s polarizing, I tell you.
SC: What are you currently reading?
V: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Because I read for a living, I’m actually a pretty slow reader when it comes to pleasure reading. In fact, I’ve been halfway through Gone with the Wind for two years now. I think I’ll take another crack at it now that I have an ereader. That book is a cube of paper, and it’s heavy and hard to crack open in the middle of the spine!
SC: Your bio says you are a big fan of comic books? What is your favourite comic book?
V: My absolute favourite graphic novel of all time is Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and illustrated by Alex Ross. It’s a story about a future in which an aging Superman has turned his back on a world flooded with a new generation of vigilante superheroes. The artist is well-known for his lifelike watercolour portraits of superheroes, and it’s beautifully written.
I’m also a huge fan of Jeff Smith’s Bone, which I recommend to readers of all ages. It’s a saga about three “Bone” creatures exiled to an idyllic mountain valley where monstrous rat creatures are threatening to take over. If you want something you can share with your kids, it’s one of the best reads out there.
SC: Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can give us a taste of?
V: I’m working on a YA Western fantasy that takes place in the late days of the Wild West. I hope to have a first draft done by the end of the year and start pitching to agents soon. I also have a handful of other category romance projects percolating, some of them based on the world of MMA.
SC: What is the best advice you ever got with regards to writing?
SC: What is one pet peeve you have when it comes to publishing?
V: You can’t predict what an editor or agent will like. The industry is fickle, too. The most important thing is writing what you want to write. You have to love what you’re writing, even if it means it’s not going to sell…otherwise, why are you doing this?
SC: Any advice for new writers out there?
V: The only way you’re going to get a book finished is to write, write, WRITE. Write. Submit. Learn from rejections. Keep writing.
SC: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?