Sitcom actress Amanda Monroe’s plans for domestic bliss are thrown into disarray by the arrival of two guest stars from the silver screen: one, an irresistible leading man with a seductive proposition, and the other, her best male friend, who has wedding plans of his own. Will Amanda choose the life she’s always wanted or an even brighter future?
How tempting will the allure of a life beyond the silver screen prove for Amanda? Will she be seduced to remain in the glow of the limelight? To navigate our journey through the minefield of emotions within Amanda’s heart in ‘Heart Throbs’, author Karen Tomsovic, has generously set aside a little time today to delve into this second instalment of her ‘City Lights’ series. Karen thanks for sharing the light and shadows of your literary journey. Where did the light of Amanda’s journey begin?
My books always start with the characters, and this is true of “Heart Throbs.” Amanda was originally a supporting character in her father’s romance, and then a supporting character, the “just a good friend” in Darrell’s. She was the “normal” girl in a stable relationship who wanted a stable life. Then I realized that was boring, and asked myself, “What if…?” and the story took off from there.
‘What if..?’ One of the most powerful tools for a writer boils down to such a simple question! Were any of the events that you explored from the trigger of ‘what if’ was drawn from your own life?
Nothing, my own life is much too dull — but I like it that way.
*Laughs* That’s exactly what fiction is for! You can live out the wildest of fantasies and then have a nice cup of tea and something sweet before curling up in bed! As you feel that your life is too dull to inspire your writing, you must have gone investigating to be able to create interest, correct?
Yes. I love doing research! I had to look into things like, when do sitcoms film their episodes, what kind of schedule do they follow? Also, I researched locations and neighborhoods in New York, such as Astoria for Amanda’s house, Tribeca for Willow’s loft, and Central Park West for Sukie’s penthouse. Also the Hollywood Hills for Darrell’s bachelor pad high up in the “Bird Streets.” What fun. Couldn’t have done it without Google and Bing!
Don’t you love all the access you get to amazing places like New York without even leaving home! All of your research seems to be centred on place, but earlier you mentioned that characters drive your stories. How did your characters come to life within each of these New York neighbourhoods?
Oh, they just walk into my head and start doing their thing. Sometimes they’re a composite of real or fictional personalities; sometimes they start out as one thing and end up another as they “gel” in my imagination.
As each personality becomes more gelled, do you find the personalities start to push and pull the places the plot will visit? Or is the reverse true?
The plot comes out of the characters, based on the obstacles and antagonists they face and the choices they make. Always. And to take the process further, once I have characters in conflict creating plot, out of that story comes a theme. But just as I find it contrived to impose a plot upon a character, I can’t impose a theme upon a plot, either.
Since you’re not imposing ideas on the story and instead allowing the characters and plot events to unfold as it happens, is there still a strong point that you wanted readers to leave with?
I didn’t really want to “say” too much. I wanted this story to be totally light-hearted, sweet and fun, and a spoof on show business. Let’s face it, show business is great material for satire! But my “formula” as it were, was always a twist on the cliché of the nice girl who longs for stardom. I thought, what if the nice girl was born into a famous family and had all the right breaks for stardom but only wanted a “normal” down to earth life instead?
That is a neat twist that doesn’t get explored much at all! In light that your book is all about show business, does it mean that you’ve already thought about which actors might be able to take your tale to the screen?
I have no idea. I’m so behind the times with movies. All the actors I know are either dead or too old for the parts!
*Laughs* We’ll get you some new ones then! Where did you find the most joy from this novel?
Finishing! Also, one reader told me how much she liked the character of Amanda. To me, that’s a great compliment. I think it’s difficult to please a women’s fiction audience if you don’t have a likable main character.
That is a fantastic compliment, and I agree if you can create a compelling central character in the women’s fiction market you’ve done exceedingly well. Was learning how to construct a convincing lead where you found your greatest growth, or did you find growth elsewhere?
Honing the craft of writing, particularly structure, and even more specifically, comedy. Having fun with language comes easily to me, but telling a story is more of a challenge.
What would you do differently if you could take what you’ve learnt working through the challenges on this book, and do it again?
I would write faster.
*Laughs* Sounds like you need to enroll your fingers in a finger exercise plan to get them hitting those keys quickly! That desire to be faster sounds like you’ve got some new story ideas waiting in the wings that you’re keen to get working on. What’s up next?
A follow-up! The loser in the battle for Amanda’s heart finally gets the right woman, and that’s all I’m going to say so as not to spoil it for readers who haven’t read “Heart Throbs” yet.
Awww, that’s great to hear that the loser is going to get the right woman in the end! And thanks for enticing our appetites without leaving them totally spoiled! Other than giving everyone a happy ending, what has kept you coming back to add new volumes to the City Lights series?
Because I have these characters in my imagination with stories to tell, and if I don’t get them out there, it bugs me, even to the point that I can’t sleep at night.
How do you control the characters and your imagination enough to enable you to sleep? Do you take extensive notes to keep those characters quiet?
Do I! I have notebooks, index cards, computer files and backs of envelopes stashed all over the place with ideas, notes, snippets of dialogue, etc.
*Laughs* Oh, my gosh that sounds like a mountain of notes and information! I hope that you’ve got the best filing system in the world going on so that you can find the notes again! Am I correct to guess that with all of those notes kicking around you have a fairly good idea where the lives of those characters are going to go, before you start each new novel?
Oh, yes, got to have a goal! I always build toward the climax and the happy ending.
What writing practices do you use to bring each of those goals to life?
Most days I try to “work on the book” as I call it. Early in the morning before I go to work and late in the evening after I’ve had a chance to wind down and recharge are my most productive times. I need solitude to write, so, home. Can’t do the “coffee house” thing– I like to get up and pace! And talk to myself. I talk to myself a lot. Also, I don’t do word count since I work piecemeal, part of a scene here, part of a scene there, part of a scene somewhere else. Or I might have certain parts of a scene done, but not others. I might add description, details, and transitions later. Or I might have different versions of the same conversation and am not sure which one to use. I work until my mind gets worn out or I have to go do something else–usually an hour and a half to two hours at a stretch.
So, when you get blocked you do something else?
Yes, I file the problem in the back of my mind and then go work on something else. My subconscious always manages to work through the problem. Always. To me, blocks are growing pains. In my experience the size of a block is in direct proportion to the size of the breakthrough that follows it.
When you’ve worked through all of your blocks, had the breakthroughs and are sitting there with a complete draft, how do you go about editing?
I’m an editor at heart. I’m one of those people who will polish a simple e-mail or social media post until it hits the right notes. However, I strongly recommend that every author have at least one other person go over their work because you always miss something. And as mortifying as it can be to have someone point out flaws in your manuscript, it’s even more mortifying to publish something that isn’t the best you can possibly make it.
Have you also used that drive to remove flaws towards polishing up your own author brand?
Oh, sure. I’m still trying to find my readers, but one of the first decisions I made was to publish under my real name rather than a pen name. Another thing I’ve had to do is take a good, hard look at the marketplace and figure out where my stories fit in, meaning genre. Romance, comedy and family relationships are common themes running through my stories, so I’ve decided to focus on women’s fiction. Another thing I did recently was get new covers for the two full-length novels I have out to reflect that genre focus. This is the garden I see myself cultivating. I’m aiming not just for consistency in the books, but a consistent release schedule of two per year.
I love that you’ve sat down to clarify where you wanted to place your writing and in turn have made adjustments like updating covers to match your decision. I’m sure that your clarity of direction and consistent releases will mean that you will be a highly successful author. Those decisions around your author brand alone are fantastic advice, but have you also learned any other tips to share?
I’m still a newbie myself, so I don’t know how good my advice is. But I would say, invest in as much editing as your budget allows. Invest in a professional cover that communicates the genre you’re writing in. Beware of book marketers and their courses. First get as much advice as you can for free and test it out. Join the writers cafe at Kboards, they know their stuff over there. And never, ever, ever give up. They say it takes a few books to get any traction in the marketplace, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have instant success. If you do have instant success, congratulations!
Yes, generally it does take a few books to get some traction going, but if you can hang in there you’ve got a great future. You’ve done a fantastic job as a new author to look at what’s going to and position yourself well. Have you found some of these skills have transferred from your day job?
I work in the restaurant business, and it’s great for observing human behavior. Also helps with the sales and marketing side of publishing. As in any business, you have to know your customer and keep them satisfied, under promise and over deliver, etc.
Yep, there’s definitively some skill transfer I see going on there! If you did work in restaurants or weren’t a writer, where else would you like to transfer those skills to?
Editing other writers’ work.
There is a wonderful satisfaction that comes with editing isn’t there? You always do feel like you’ve made progress when you done a good day’s editing. We’ve taken lots of first-rate edits from all aspects of your writing career so far, but now I’d like to spin the interview around a little and take some edits from your life behind the pen from our quirky quick fire round. Let’s kick it off with: Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Honesty is the best policy. Be yourself–and its corollary, Don’t try to be something you’re not.
Who decides what morality is?
What is your zodiac sign?
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
That sounds like a science question, and science was one of my worst subjects in high school.
It does feel very science-y doesn’t it? I accept both scientific and silly ideas for all of the questions I pose so don’t worry about flunking the quiz! On the topic of slightly silly actions, have you tangoed in the snow?
What happens if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?
He dances the Batusi.
*Laughs* Of course he does! When else would you dance the Batusi? Are you left or right handed?
What is your favourite Jellybean flavour/ colour?
I don’t like jellybeans, but if I had to eat one, it would be liquorice.
Jellybeans aren’t my favourite way to eat through my daily sugar allowance either, but I have to agree that those liquorice ones aren’t too bad. What happens when you get scared half to death twice?
Well, hopefully your first half has had a chance to recover before you get scared again.
*Laughs* That is a good point. If you recover fast enough, there’s probably no need to worry! What is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?
What is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
“Life is too short not to sleep naked, pork chop.”
*Laughs* That totally depends on the weather! Karen thanks for shedding a little from the life and limelight from within ‘Heart Throb’, with us today and I hope you continue your journey within the author and writing community.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Heart Throbs ( ASIN: B01HCFLI9W )‘.
Want to find out more about Karen Tomsovic? Connect here!