Welcome to the six hundred and forty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with romance novelist Parris Afton Bonds. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Parris. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Parris: Top of the day to you, Morgen! I am a Texas gal, who wrote her first novel at the age of five (Mom saved it, all three pages, and I still have the dog-eared manuscript tucked away somewhere.)
Morgen: Oh sweet. The oldest thing I have is a red exercise book from primary school (when I was about eight, I think) including a story about an ampersand (which my mother animated). I’ve described you as a romance novelist in the introduction, what genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Parris: Although I had sold articles and short stories while living in Mexico City, my first sold novel was an historical romance. And although I have branched out with Westerns, International Espionage, and Mystery novels, I always return to romances, because, as they say in Texas, ‘you should dance with the one who brung you.’ I am one of the cofounders of Romance Writers of America, the largest writers’ organization in the world (12,000 members in fourteen countries), which makes quite a statement about the human’s hunger for love and romance.
Morgen: Wow. I don’t write romance (the love stories I write still usually have a ‘body’ in them) but have heard great things about the RWA. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Parris: My 37th novel, INDIAN AFFAIRS, was just published this year as an ebook on Amazon ~ and I write under my own name, Parris Afton Bonds.
Morgen: And a great (Googleable) name. You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Parris: Thirty-five of my novels have been published by major publishing houses. WIND SONG and INDIAN AFFAIRS are my first attempt at Indie publishing. I believe the reading market demand will continue to expand in the ebook direction, a blessing for so many good writers out there who have not had the opportunity yet to tell their fabulous stories.
Morgen: Absolutely. Publishers are definitely being more fussy these days, with the market for traditional publishing being squeezed. Are all your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Parris: Morgen, only two of my 37 novels are ebooks ~ WIND SONG and INDIAN AFFAIRS. As much as I love to hold books in my hand, smell them even, I am nevertheless surprised by how much I enjoy reading novels on my Kindle. I really like the convenience it offers, allowing me to shop from my home at anytime.
Morgen: It’s interesting that only your self-published books are available as eBooks. I wonder if your publishers will release them, or better still give you (back) the eBook rights. 🙂 Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Parris: Well, two of my favourite are BLUE MOON, an older historical romance of mine set in Texas and Mexico that was such fun to write, and INDIAN AFFAIRS, my latest. For INDIAN AFFAIRS, I visited the Taos Indian Reservation several times and made good friends. My favourite character just has to be the mystery series DANCING WITH WILD WOMAN’s Janet Lomayestewa, Hopi Indian tracker for U.S. Border Patrol. She is so authentic and fun and wild and woolly.
As for leading actors, each novel would most definitely feature Johnny Depp, and, of course, it would be necessary for me to teach him how to kiss properly before the cameras.
Morgen: I’d be happy with Johnny Depp playing any of my characters. Like Meryl Streep (who Sieglinda Young suggested yesterday). Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Parris: Yes, I had cover approval on one of my five book contracts with Fawcett Books. Just as we are apt to judge people somewhat by first impression, I believe we do judge a book by its cover to some degree ~ so that makes book covers of vital importance in marketing.
Morgen: I agree. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Parris: Morgen, I am working on another Janet Lomayestewa tracker book (tentative title CALL ME CRAZY) and KINGDOM COME, an historical romance set in South Texas about one of the world’s largest ranches.
Morgen: Isn’t it fun to write different genres; keeps our brain fresh, I think. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Parris: Yes, I write every day ~ and, as far as getting writer’s block, heck yes! But I just keep plowing through page by page until I see the light at the end of the tunnel again, which always happens. Just don’t ever quit. That’s truly what failure is, just giving up entirely.
Morgen: It is, but then if you want something badly enough it’s not in the equation. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Parris: At times I have done both, either plotted a story or just ran with a loony idea that eventually led somewhere. A lyric from a song, a sentimental piece of jewellery, a billboard sign ~ anything might strike a spark for a story.
Morgen: Even just one word. I run weekday 15-minute writing exercises on my online writing groups and some of them are one-word prompts. It’s amazing how different the stories can come out from the same word. That’s what I love about writing; you just never know. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Parris: I often change names mid-course in a novel because the names don’t reflect what the character is about, and I have this theory that in Real Life, people do grow into their names ~ so, of course, I feel very fortunate my parents named me Parris. As far as what makes a character believable, many factors add up to bringing a character alive on the page, but the most important factor is the imperfection, the character’s foibles and flaws. Isn’t this what makes us humans so lovable ~ perfection is boring.
Morgen: It’s funny how names either suit characters or they don’t. I’ve changed them too, especially in relation to other characters, and of course they have to reflect their age; a Britney would unlikely be an 80-year-old grandmother. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Parris: I highly doubt my writing will ever be flawless, so editing is a vital necessity, but as I age my writing appears to acquire more depth (at least, in my humble opinion) 8-). Early on in my forty-year career as a professional writer, my writing was plot driven; now it seems more character driven. While writing has not necessarily become any easier for me, I find writing more enjoyable than earlier in my career.
Morgen: I think writing is like any art; the more you play the piano, the more you paint, the better you get and you’re bound to enjoy what you’re doing. It’s all about practice. Do you have to do much research?
Parris: I do an enormous amount of research. Apparently, that is one of the things about my writing that appeals to my audience.
Morgen: That’s great… and that they tell you that. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Parris: While I have never tried second, I have used and continue to use both first and third person. Each POV has its merits.
Morgen: It certainly does. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Parris: I still write occasional articles, but the longer five-hundred page stories whisper to my soul insistently, “Tell me!”
Morgen: 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Parris: I have some pieces of work that should NEVER see the light of day.
Morgen: <laughs> Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Parris: I cry incessantly, hysterically, for 48 hours, then dry up and go back to work.
Morgen: Oh dear. Let’s hope you don’t get too many. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Parris: I have never entered any competitions; I would recommend new writers do this and, above all, attend conferences where they can rub shoulders not only with other writers but agents and editors, as well.
Morgen: Absolutely. I love conferences. I have a couple booked this year and am looking forward to going. I also volunteer at literary festivals; it’s great to see the events from the inside, and I still go to workshops – you never stop learning. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Parris: I’ve sold books with agents and without agents, and the jury is still out on that one, especially in the upheaval of the publishing / ebook industry that is occurring now.
Morgen: That’s really interesting… and an ideal topic for a guest blog. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Parris: I find I am doing more than I used to, if for no other reason than publishers are reluctant to commit promo funds right now to any but a very few big-name authors in their stables.
Morgen: Sad but true. It’s well-known that the big-name authors keep the publishers going in many cases. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Parris: The blank page is the least favourite aspect of my writing life. The favourite? The words, THE END. And as far as surprises. I’m glad I knew nothing about the writing business and what to expect, glad it all came as a surprise when I started out forty years ago, because, had I known how difficult the road is, I might not have attempted the journey.
Morgen: I bet you’re glad you persevered though. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Parris: Joseph Campbell’s advice: Follow your bliss (but don’t give up your day job).
Morgen: Oops. I did last March, but I don’t regret it for a second. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Parris: Socrates, Johnny Depp, and any of my family. As for what I would serve: Tootsie Rolls, Fudge, Brownies and for desert Double Dip Chocolate Sundae.
Morgen: Can I be a relative please? 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Parris: The best is yet to be.
Morgen: I do think 2013 is going to be a good year. If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Parris: The day I got divorced ~ because I knew the best was yet to be!
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Parris: I volunteer to teach creative writing to grade school children and female inmates (both captive audiences).
Morgen: I love teaching people who want to be there. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Parris: Roller blading, yoga, gardening, and family and friends occupy my time when I’m not writing.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Parris: I strongly suggest Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain and The Writers’ Journey by Chris Vogler.
Morgen: I have Chris’ book. It’s great. It’s intended for screenwriters but really it’s applicable to any writer. Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Parris: I am on Facebook (Parris’s Paradise), Twitter, Linkedin, and Goodreads. Then, I also blog on my website www.parrisaftonbonds.com.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Parris: I think this is an extraordinary time to be a writer. It’s a new frontier, wide-open for those courageous enough to take risks.
Morgen: Absolutely. I think it’s really exciting. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Parris: Of course at my website (www.parrisaftonbonds.com), Google, Romance Writers of America, Amazon.com, etc.
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Parris: Yes, how do find time to do all that you do and not go crazy?
Morgen: <laughs> Sometimes I do go crazy because I’m on my computer FAR too often (from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed, with some breaks in between, but not enough really). Having a dog to walk certainly helps but I think being crazy is no bad thing for being a writer. 🙂 Thank you, Parris.
I then invited Parris to include a synopsis of her latest book…
Turning conventional wisdom on its head, Washington socialite Alessandra O’Quinn and her lover, Indian shaman Manuel Mondragon, defy time and space and politics and families to come together in the sweeping canvas of the 1920’s New Mexico outpost of Taos. Can they defy Destiny to stay together?
This tempo molto largo historical follows Alessandra O’Quinn, who has been exiled to Taos to either recover from tuberculosis or die. Manuel Mandragon, battles for her health and her love. She in turn battles the Bureau of Indian affairs for the Taos Indians’ right to their sacred Blue Lake — and battles her father and her husband for her right to autonomy. Against this historical backdrop pass Mabel Dodge Luhan, Willa Cather, Dr. Carl Jung, Georgia O’Keeffe, and D.H. Lawrence, among other prominent personages of the day.
Parris Afton Bonds is the mother of five sons and the author of thirty-five published novels. She is the co-founder of and first vice president of Romance Writers of America.
Declared by ABC’s Nightline as one of the three-best-selling authors of romantic fiction, the award winning Parris Afton Bonds has been interviewed by such luminaries as Charlie Rose and featured in major newspapers and magazines as well as published in more than a dozen languages. She donates her time to teaching creative writing to both grade school children and female inmates.
The Parris Award was established in her name by the Southwest Writers Workshop to honor a published writer who has given outstandingly of time and talent to other writers. Prestigious recipients of the Parris Award include Tony Hillerman and the Pulitzer nominee Norman Zollinger.
The photograph of Parris is courtesy of Larry Fleming.
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