Annette, let's start things out by talking about how your writing career began.
It started in 8th grade when I wrote a short story about a young girl’s suicide. The newspaper adviser liked it and published it. For half a day, I was a celebrity writer! That was a good half day.
When I tromped off to college, I found myself involved with the school newspaper and transitioned into journalism. My dream was to write for the Washington Post before I turned 30. That goal was not met.
I think my journalism roots are still evident because to write a 60-word sentence about the sunset is not something I’m capable of doing. Just the facts, ma’am. That’s what my favorite editor at a newspaper in Sedalia, Missouri, taught me. That lesson stuck.Publishers have told me my descriptions are thin sometimes, so I’m working on being more generous with adjectives. I think part of the problem is I can see what I’m describing so vividly in my own mind, it doesn’t occur to me that the reader doesn’t see it too.
Wow, so you've been a professional writer for a long time. With your background in journalism, do you write in the romance genre or across lines?
My current WIP, A Year with Geno, is complete romance. I am so looking forward to typing THE END because I want to start writing my first cozy mystery, “Death Comes to the Ogallala County Fair.” Isn’t that a fun title? I intend to write across lines.Yes, that sounds like a great title! Let's talk a little about heat level so your readers will know what to expect. Is that bedroom door open or closed?
You know, I struggle with this. I might guess that all new romance writers do. I know I will never write erotica. I don’t want to write a book that I wouldn’t want my children to read. I wanted to turn up the heat in A Year with Geno and include an intimacy scene, but I don’t know. I’m still mulling.
Gotcha. What about your characters. Do you have a favorite one you've created? And if so, why?I probably have a favorite character for every novel I’ve written. For Celebration House, it’s the character of Violet. I also worry most about Violet because she’s a former slave who chooses to stay after emancipation. The reason I love Violet is because she’s so supportive of my main character, Carrie. When everyone else is putting up obstacles or tearing Carrie down, there’s Violet, encouraging her. I gave Carrie way more than she could do, so to have that person, that voice, to tell Carrie that yes, she can finish the restorations. Yes, the house is going to be beautiful when it’s done. That’s powerful stuff.
Wonderful! You're writing sounds very emotionally charged. What about self-publication? Have you ever considered going that route with your stories?Yes. I’ve considered self-publication for my middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, because I haven’t found a traditional publisher for it yet. But I think self-publishing takes money – to have the book edited, design the cover, format the manuscript. To do it right takes money. Alas, I have shallow pockets these days. And if I can’t do it right, I don’t want to do it at all.
Yep. I hear ya! Now that Celebration House has been released, what project are you working on?My contemporary romance, A Year with Geno is kind of along the lines of the Brady Bunch, for those who remember that sitcom from the 1970s. My main character finds herself evicted and she can’t find a rental, so through a string of events, she moves in with Geno, a handsome dad of two teenagers. The book takes place in Eagle River, Alaska, a suburb of Anchorage, and is set over the course of a year. I want to incorporate setting in this novel, as well as pay homage to the amazing women who nurtured and supported me during the most difficult chapter of my life. I hope to have it finished by the end of the year and go looking for a home for it.
That sounds like a GREAT story. I remember the Brady Bunch!! LOL What about after finishing a manuscript? Do you take some time off or dive right in to the next story?I dive into the next story. I don’t wait.
I'm usually anxious to get started on the next project, as well. What about your reading preferences? What’s on your nightstand (or downloaded onto your Kindle) right now?I’ve just discovered Kristan Higgins, and as romance is my genre, I’m reading every book of hers. She’s a gifted writer. On my Kindle, I’m reading Deb Stover’s books because she has been so supportive of my work and I wanted to reciprocate. She writes time-travel romance, and I’ve long been a fan of that genre. Yes, I also want to write time-travel romance. See? This is why I need to quit my day job. I’ve got too many books I want to write.
LOL! Never enough hours in the day, right? Who is your favorite author and why?Though I’ve not written a manuscript in his genre, I’m a huge Ray Bradbury fan. I wanted to name my youngest son after him, but my husband said no. So we named our child J.K. Rowling. I’m kidding. His name is Jack.
LOLOL! Oh my gosh, you're hilarious. My son's name is Jack too! Now for some fun stuff. Which Superhero would you most love to date and why?Okay, normally, I don’t find Superheroes all that and more, but I have to say, Thor, as portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, is a beautiful sight.
Yes. Yes he is. LOL Does your husband read your work? And, if so, what's his reaction?
Yep. He does. Pretty much every word. Even better, when I say things like “Do you think I’ll ever find a publisher for Bone Girl?” he assures me I will.Okay, I now see why you don't need a superhero. It's because you're married to one! :-) Give me the five top words your best friends would use to describe you.
I’ve thought about this a lot. Perhaps too much. Here they are:
Impatient – A college professor once told me I’m the most impatient person he had ever met. This is not a good quality for a writer.
Compassionate. Though I don’t always feel this way.
Tardy – I’m always late for things. It drives my family crazy.
I've learned (or at leat I like to tell myself I've learned) a vast amount of patience since I became a writer. LOL Favorite cocktail?I don’t drink alcohol due to some health concerns and the fact that it puts me right to sleep. I drink far too much coffee and diet Coke.
Caffeine addicts UNITE! LOL Any pets?I’m privileged enough to be the owner of a basset hound, Eeyore, and a cat, Ruby. To complete the set, I rescued a lame horse about two years ago. Lacy is my therapist. I tell her all my worries and fears; she tells me to bring more apples and fewer carrots on my next visit.
Oh, I love that! Here's a picture of Lacy with Annette!! Thank you for submitting to my interrogation! And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for, a sneak peek inside Celebration House! Whoo Hoo!
Carrie Hansen spent her life caring for cardiac patients. Little did she know she would become a patient herself. After recovering from her own heart surgery, she realizes she has a special gift: the ability to see and talk with the dead.
Now, with her new heart failing, she leaves the bustle of Seattle behind and returns to Lexington, Missouri, the small town where she spent her childhood. Here, she sets out to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion and open it as a venue for celebrations.Carrie’s work is cut out for her. The 150-year-old Greek revival house is in need of serious repair. Her sister, Melanie, tries to bully Carrie into returning to Seattle, predicting “her little project” is doomed to fail. Finally, Carrie’s health gives out on her, requiring emergency surgery.
But she will not give up. Carrie’s unique gift allows her to build relationships with the mansion’s original occupants, especially Maj. Tom Stewart, the handsome Civil War soldier who died a hundred years before Carrie was born. He encourages and comforts her, though not in the physical way they both desire.Then there’s the builder of the house, Col. Bartholomew Stratton. If there’s one thing this 19th century horse trader cannot abide, it’s the living trespassing on his estate. He delights in scaring these intruders away, even if they are paying guests.
Will Carrie finish restoring Celebration House or will it finish her? And how can she plan a future with a man who has only a past?
~ * ~
Driving up to the house, Carrie smiled. She loved the long driveway, the poplar trees on both sides. Behind the trees, the fences had fallen into disrepair. Just one more thing she’d have to fix. She parked her car alongside the house and stacked her groceries and camping gear on the front porch. Seeing a small barn behind the main building, she decided to explore and see if there was room to park her car inside.
Carrie opened the door and stepped inside. Sunlight streamed in through the dirty windows. Even though the barn had been vacant for years, she smelled hay and horses.
Looking to her left, she saw a man shaving. He was bare from the waist up, his chest finely proportioned, lean, and muscular. His arms were powerfully built, and his right hand remained steady as he scraped the white soap from his angular jaw. His dark blue uniform pants were tucked into black leather knee-high riding boots. He stood at least six foot tall, and though Carrie hadn’t made her living in the carnival, she guessed he was probably younger than her, likely in his mid 20s. He peered intently at a small mirror tacked up on one of the barn walls. She waited to speak until after he’d finished the last swipe with the ivory-handled straight blade and had dipped it into the basin of soapy water.
He turned towards her suddenly, his expression an equal mix of surprise and annoyance. He dropped the razor and grabbed his shirt off a nearby nail. He turned his back to Carrie and pulled it on.
“Yes. Do you see me?”
“Yes, but I believe I have the advantage. I am dead. You are not.”
“I’m sorry to intrude on you. I’m Carrie Hansen,” she said, stepping toward him and extending her hand.
Without even thinking, he reached to shake her hand but his passed through hers. They both jerked back.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude,” she said.
“You surprised me. That’s all. We don’t get many visitors out here, especially living ones who can see us,” he said, putting his blue uniform coat over his shirt and buttoning the long row of brass buttons. “I’m Maj. Thomas Stewart, at your service,” he said, bowing formally at the waist.
“I am sorry I startled you. I sometimes forget that ghosts aren’t accustomed to being seen.”
“How may I be of service to you, Miss Hansen?”
“Where can I find Col. Stratton? I need to speak with him.”
His dark blue eyes showed his puzzlement. “The living do not go looking for Col. Stratton. What business do you have with him?”
“I bought this house, and I intend to live here.”
~ * ~
Annette Drake’s work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences. Her debut novel, Celebration House, debuted on August 1st in e-book format for readers everywhere from Tirgearr Publishing.
Annette left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. There she earned a degree in journalism before working as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas. She earned a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994 from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a registered nurse in hospitals throughout Missouri, Alaska and Washington for 18 years before returning her focus to writing.
Annette recently completed her middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, and is hard at work revising her steamy contemporary romance, A Year with Geno.
She is the mother of four children. The oldest just graduated from the University of Washington; the youngest just graduated from kindergarten. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp.
You can follow her writing at www.Annettedrake.com She welcomes correspondence at: Write2me@annettedrake.com.
Find Celebration House on the web at: