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Interview With Renee Bernard
Renee: Thank you so much for having me, Susana! It’s a thrill to be here. Just a year ago, I would have made it to the settee in the Parlour as a historical romance author but since I’ve recently added paranormal romantic comedy to my bookshelf with my new series, I get to see the Morning Room and leave my corset in my closet to talk about a whole new world of writing for me.
Susana: What advice would you give writers just starting out?
Renee: I think it’s easy to repeat clichés like “follow your heart” and “write the books that you want to write” but I remember all the similar lectures about “building your brand” and “sticking to one genre/note until you are established so you don’t lose traction” and that trend of advice doesn’t ring true either. Each side is a partially accurate view but when you’re starting out, I think it can feel very murky as you find your feet.
I’m about eighteen books into a career and here’s what I would share with a new writer: Brand is no longer about genre so you do get to write the stories you want to, no matter where your muse leads you. But I’m not recommending you create a cult of personality either… What I mean is that more and more, it’s about craft. You have more freedom in this market to explore, to tell new stories and stretch your wings . But that means you also have to make sure that what you’re putting out there is rock solid. Grammar, people. Structure. Style. Formatting. Editing. And Polish. All those boring things it’s easy to gloss over and forget in the heat of battle.
And it is a creative battle but you have to make sure that you are well armed with all those old-school tools first. Hitting the publishing button is easy. Taking back a nightmare impression from an amateur rough draft full of errors is really hard. Your craft is your brand. Respect yourself and your writing by taking the time you need to get it right. The rest will follow.
Susana: When was the moment you knew you had to be a writer?
Renee: I think I always dabbled, I was always writing something and was that nerdy kid no one liked because I was excited when the teacher asked us to write a paper and usually asked if it could be longer than assigned. I’d write plays instead of essays for extra credit and practically lived in the library. I knew I wanted to be a writer when two things happened. The first thing was I read a Very Badly written romance and it occurred to me that if that person could jump the barriers and be published, then I might stand a chance. The second thing was 9/11. Suddenly I knew that putting off a dream was just not the way I wanted to live my life anymore. I wasn’t going to wait to try. I took the leap and I never looked back. I would write and I would write Happily-Ever-Afters because the world needs them now more than ever.
Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Renee: What’s not in the blurb is that I didn’t just break the rules with my bad boy hero—but I broke the rules about contemporary heroines while I was at it. Personally, as a romance reader, I am a little tired of the wounded woman model. I was tired of lead female characters who had to have baggage, insecurities, previously bad relationships or some secret abuse or horror in their past that was keeping them from love. I think women are getting too used to identifying with a character’s weaknesses to tie in and see themselves in the story or the heroines are so fantastically beyond average we can’t touch them. Why can’t we tie in to our strengths and see that reflected on the page? Why can’t we celebrate the best in ourselves as women in romances and inspire readers to see happiness and true love as something well within their reach?
Why can’t the central female character be whole and healthy? If she’s quirky can it be only because she has a sense of humor and an aversion to plastic personalities? Jayne Hamilton in Devil To Pay breaks the mold because she proves that we can conquer the world without doing gymnastic ninja moves in high-heeled boots, skin-tight cat suits and wielding firearms.
Susana: Describe the “perfect hero”. What about the “perfect hero” for you?
Renee: I think it’s a hold-over from being a historical romance author but I have a soft spot for heroes who are gentlemen. Whether he is alpha-strong or beta-sweet, I think the perfect hero knows how to demonstrate respect for others with an old world approach to boundaries. The perfect hero will put others’ needs before his own, will sacrifice anything for the woman he loves and will protect anyone weaker than himself. He does what’s right whenever he’s given a choice and if he breaks the rules, he’ll win hearts. He’s flawed and three-dimensional enough to pay for his sins and never prone to the easy path.
In Devil To Pay, it turns out that the last guy you’d ever suspect of still being an Angel is the man behind the black onyx desk at Hades Enterprises, LLc and I loved the comic twist of making Lucifer the perfect hero that will make every woman start looking at Angels and Demons in a whole new way.
For me, the perfect hero stays with every reader long after the book closes.
Susana: Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who? What author or authors have most influenced your writing?
Renee: The writer I idolized first and still worship a bit is Laura Kinsale for taking romances to the next level with her story-telling, craft and language. Her writing was a revelation to me because of the depth and layers to her characters. She inspired me to think that romance could be a vehicle for pure magic and that I could express more in stories than I’d ever thought possible. She kicked open doors and probably inspired a new generation of writers to pull up to a keyboard.
Robin Schone was also a tremendous influence when I first started because she tucked me under her wing and mentored me. The courage in her writing was jaw-dropping to me but her steadfast support of friends and fellow artists introduced me to the generosity of the romance writing community and inspires me to try to do everything I can for my fellow writers (both established and aspiring).
The list of authors who’ve impacted me is actually long and I could go on and on… I feel very blessed to have met so many talented writers and I never take for granted the gift of their advice and supportive presence.
Susana: What is your work schedule like when writing?
Renee: It’s a ruthless quest. My youngest is finally in kindergarten so my writing schedule has only recently become something resembling a normal workday. I have never been a late night writer and motherhood locked that in as my brain turns to oatmeal after ten from a day of entertaining the girls and trying to keep them both happy, alive and well. School is a godsend but even so, it is still catch as catch can as I provide care for my mother-in-law, juggle domestic duties and try to keep up with my heroic husband who is in constant motion. I write whenever the opportunity exists, escape to a local coffee shop when feasible to get away from some of the noise, take notes on my phone or wherever I am, and dream of becoming a writing hermit in my own tiny house hidden in the forest somewhere…
Even so, the next book Devil May Care will be out in February 2015, then look for Devil of a Job and Devil in the Details before too long. The grass isn’t growing under my feet so I’d better find the time to write or I think I’ll be in trouble with a few readers.
Susana: What is the one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?
Renee: The secret about never wearing open-toed shoes is already out there but they might be surprised to know that I’m the world’s worst singer of karaoke, ghost comedy clubs at amateur open mike nights to make sure I stay brave and have a fear of fireworks.
Susana: What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?
Renee: I would love to have more romantic comedy and paranormal romance readers find the new series and earn a place on their bookshelves. I’d love to gain new readers and make sure I’m staying connected to all my friends. In addition to The Eternity Gambit series that Devil To Pay leads off, I have a new historical romance series coming out set in Victorian London, The Duchess Club; a new dystopian series, The Imbalance; and the goal of one or two stand alone novels. I’m determined to write and publish at a better pace so that I can afford to attend more conferences and travel for research and for fun.
It’s a lot to take on but as always, I prefer to reach for the stars if I can and then even if I don’t make it, I know I’m still further along than I was at the start of my journey!
I want to say one thing more about writing romance. In the hierarchy of respected genres, it surprises me to find that romance is so often on the bottom. Authors of children’s books have more street cred. The college I graduated from celebrates graduates turned authors of murder mysteries and dark fiction with tortured characters and invites them to hold conferences about literature and art. But I will never get that invitation, no matter how many times I might hit the NYT bestseller’s list or even the silver screen one day. If I once felt like pouting about that, I’m over it now. Writing takes courage. The only approval you need is a reader’s and at the end of the day, they are your only care.
Some authors claim that they stand alone and don’t care what anyone thinks. That courage escapes me. But in the new year and in every year to come, my only resolution is to never apologize for writing good stories that entertain, characters that linger and following the path ahead wherever it leads into a brave, new world. I love writing romances and I love romance readers. They are the most loyal, intelligent and fun fans a person could pray for and I feel very blessed to be anywhere on their bookshelves!
About Devil To Pay
Workplace comedy is always fun but when the company in question in H.E.LLc (Hades Enterprises LLc) and your job is being Lucifer, let’s just say, there are some unique challenges beyond Casual Fridays and who keeps taking your lunch out of the break room. Even if Hell really is just a place where evil is tracked and analyzed in endless cubicles-no brimstone and not a human soul in sight-there’s no room for error. This Lucifer (who is the seventh unlucky archangel to get the position behind the black onyx desk) is about to have his entire world rattled when a very sweet and likable mortal woman crosses his path.
After all, angels can’t lie. And when Jayne Hamilton wants to know what he does for a living, all bets are off. Because “dating” isn’t exactly in the cosmic scheme of the Eternity Gambit, but Love… Well, Love is never really off the table.
Now, if Lucifer can just figure out how to win the girl and get himself fired, he’ll be one very very happy angel.
“Filled with sparkling wit and devilish charm, DEVIL TO PAY is a delightful visit to the Shangri-La of Hell!” — Erin Quinn, The Three Fates of Ryan Love, NYT Bestselling Author
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“You’re mental, right?”
“I think if we were having this conversation in a basement decorated with torn out newspaper articles, black-light posters and me drooling about how I have conversations with dogs and wear tinfoil underwear, you might have a case.” Luke deliberately glanced around the room, silently pointing out the lack of “mental” revealed by his beautifully appointed modern office and furnishings. If it weren’t for the black onyx desk, it would be easy to mistake it for an extraordinary executive’s digs. “I think we can rule out insanity—on both sides of this argument.”
“Right, since I’m not the one proclaiming to be the Prince of Darkness,” she said with a touch of sarcasm she couldn’t prevent. After all, even pretending to take him seriously made her consider that she might not be firing on all cylinders. Her hands were shaking, so she pressed them together as firmly as she could. Were crazy people like bees? Could they smell fear? “Is it possible you’re just a very wealthy man in need of medication?”
“Sure. Anything is possible,” he conceded, his open smile disarming her as he was obviously beginning to genuinely enjoy the debate. “Jayne, I could be an eccentric billionaire intent on impressing you by pretending to be Lucifer. Stranger things have happened.”
“Name one thing stranger than this.”
“Besides the fashion of the 80’s and people who resemble their dogs?”
“Only Renee Bernard could make dating Satan sexy as sin! Funny, fresh, irreverent and utterly adorable!” – Dakota Cassidy, National Bestselling Author
First book in the new Eternity Gambit series from USA Today bestselling author Renee Bernard. This is a romantic comedy series with an original paranormal twist that defies categorization and turns every notion of Heaven and Hell on its ear.
About the Author
What in the world is a retired Navy chaplain’s daughter doing writing scorching hot historical romances and paranormal romantic comedies and even comic books? Renee Bernard is applying a great education from traveling all over the world to story telling and doing her best to keep her father proud. Truthfully, her father is her number one fan, even though he has sworn never to read a single word of her books (a vow he has kept to this day!) Nothing stops him from telling everyone he knows that his daughter is now a USA Today Bestselling author or from handing out bookmarks on the golf course. Love can make even a minister do strange things!
Renee Bernard is a freelance writer and host of “The Romance Bookmark” on Readers Entertainment, as well as a contributor to Romantic Times BookReviews magazine. Renee currently lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. (Note an interesting proximity to great wineries!)
Devil To Pay is available now online wherever books are sold and is coming soon to Audio! The Eternity Gambit series is a fun departure from her well-known Victorian set historical romances and creates a new world for readers unlike any other. Devil To Pay is the first book in this new series and is gathering up 5-Star reviews and momentum as more readers discover that office politics can hit a whole new level of crazy when you work at Hades Enterprises, LLc (or H.E.LLc).
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