Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Wonderful Critique Partner . . .

Roseanna White!

What fun to have Roseanna with me today! She is just the super-est person in the world. And her giveaways? Right on the mark!

Roseanna's Giveaway:
  • A signed copy of A Stray Drop of Blood
  • A Companion Guide on the topics and texts referenced in the nove
  • A bookmark
  • A box of chamomile tea (the favorite drink of the heroine's mistress-calms the nerves, you know!)
  • Recipe cards for "A Taste from the Land of Milk and Honey
  • Some beeswax lip balm (this brand might be relatively new, but beeswax balms have been around for thousands of years)

What to do? Comment!

Roseanna, How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear "call?" Or have you just loved writing all your life?

I've always been a writer. I finished my first novel at 13, my second at 16, and twelve more during college. For me, it wasn't a question of if I'd write, but rather of how to find my way in the writing world, since I had no choice but to put novel to paper (or computer screen).

What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?

I write in several, but A Stray Drop of Blood is historical fiction—Biblical fiction, more specifically. This is defined as a story that takes place in the time during which the Bible was written and may or may not contain characters that appear in the Bible or other historical documents. In my story, I have peeks at historical personages—and my heroine is at the crucifixion of Jesus—but the main characters are completely fictional. (Okay, mostly. They play some historical roles too. ;-)

Where do you get ideas? Character names? Do you find your characters similar to you in any way?

Oh, my. Ideas spring out of nowhere for me nearly every day. When I'm watching TV, reading, doing dishes, talking to my husband . . . last week he told me some tidbit and then asked me what I thought about it. My reply? "I'm wondering if I can use it in a book." Then I realized he wanted a response to the fact. Oooohhhhh. Right. Terrible. Really, truly terrible. =)

Occasionally, ideas will spring from my own life. Not usually an event so much as an emotion. It seems like everything with me gets funneled back into story ideas—kinda like the fight with my best friend when I was fifteen, which inspired some bittersweet thought on a Good Friday and resulted in the idea for A Stray Drop of Blood.

Character names depend largely on the story. For historicals, I have to make sure they're appropriate for the time period, so I check other books from the era or online resources that list them. The Hebrew characters in Stray Drop all came straight from the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, but the Roman characters came from sources of the day, like Tacitus's Annals (for those who look at that title and scratch their heads, it's a Roman history detailing the time period that happens to span the life of Christ, though focusing totally on Roman politics and military movements). A little FYI—one of my characters is Caius Asinius. I took him straight from history—he really was a former consul, but one who held office in a time when nothing happened, so his mention in history is literally one line. I took that and ran with it, creating a character totally fictional based on that single mention that gave me only a name. (Let it be noted that there's nothing in the Annals to make me think he was really the lecherous jerk I make him out to be—though plenty of his cohorts were, so it seemed a safe assumption. ;-)

As for whether my characters are like me . . . ? Yikes. Bits and pieces, yes, all of them (or most of them, anyway, LOL. Let's hope I don't have a super-villain lurking anywhere inside but my imagination). But I have no desire to write a character who's totally me. Not only would it bore the socks off my readers, but then I'd take it as a personal insult if anyone didn't like said character. I've tried making sub-characters like me on occasion, and those are always the ones that earn comments like, "I found her reaction unbelievable." Roseanna is left blubbering, "B-b-b-buuuuttt, that's m-m-meeee. That's what I'd do!" So I've sworn off writing myself into books. That way I don't have to get offended by my friends' and critique partners' opinions on my characters. ;-)

Tell us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?

Hmm . . . love coffee. Hate cleaning. I have distant memories of a concept called "free time," in which I would do things like sketch and paint, bake extravagant cakes and pies and tarts, read books. I still do some of those things, but not nearly as often. Now, most of my time is consumed by my kids (aged 2 and 4) and writing. Luckily, I have a husband who doesn't mind the dust bunnies who have taken up permanent residence under our couch . . . though he wishes they'd pay rent. ;-)

If I could travel—wow. This time of year, I inevitably name someplace warm and tropical. Our most recent "Oh, look at that place!" is Bora Bora. Sooo gorgeous. But when summer is upon us and I don't just long to escape the cold, my travel wishes broaden out. I'd love, love, love to visit Italy, where my mother-in-law's family hails from. And the British Isles, where I apparently have a plethora of family in the great-great uncle category. Especially the Cotswolds of England, and some of the coastal Irish towns—and a castle in Scotland. That's a must. Are you going to foot the bill for this, Carole? (Caroline: hmm, no! LOL)Because I could come up with a few more, if so. =)

Tell us about your new book. What is the spiritual message in it? What can readers expect to get from reading it? How and where can readers buy your book?

A Stray Drop of Blood is about Abigail, who at eight years old, was sold into slavery to Cleopas Visibullis, the prefect of the Tenth Legion. Raised as more a daughter than a servant, Abigail blooms into a beautiful, well-spoken young woman, and she adores her Roman master as well as his Hebrew wife, her mistress. But then their son, Jason, returns to Jerusalem as a centurion—and her world shifts on its axis.

Jason is in the mindset of the Romans, so he sees her as nothing but a slave, to be taken and discarded at will. His parents disapprove, but he is determined not to sacrifice a future career in Rome over their demands concerning a mere slave. Yet the more he knows of Abigail, the more he begins to see that she cannot be defined so simply.

An uprising led by Barabbas tears about the Visibullis household. Torn by bitterness and hatred, Abigail ventures to the trial . . . only to see that instead of the criminal, they're trying the teacher Cleopas and Jason had begun to take interest in. Though she cries out against it, she is swallowed up by the crowd and propelled with the masses to Golgotha. She's standing on the road when a stray drop of Jesus's blood lands on her when he's dragged by . . . and her soul is seared by the power of forgiveness—a force that changes her forever.
And that's only half the book. =)
You can also get it from bookstores like Borders and B&N, though it would probably have to be ordered.
Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through? Who’s inspired you the most?

I've never seriously considered giving up—writing is my sanity-keeper, so to stop doing it just isn't an option. I've stopped submitting for sweeps of time, when I'm tired of rejections (lol), though that ceased to be an option once I'd signed with an agent. There are many, many times when I just stop whatever I'm doing and go, "When, Lord? When?" But I've found that whenever I'm at my lowest, that's when He sends encouragement, whether it be a glowing review, a request from an editor, or just a note from a reader that buoys me up.

This is the path God put me on. I can wonder how many twists there'll be before I reach the next gorgeous vista, but I can never wonder if maybe I should jump onto that other road over there. I love the journey—even if I could do without some of the potholes. ;-)

Would you explain how you "chose" (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go "inny, minny, miny, moe?" Grin. Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?

Unlike a lot of people, I actually did choose WhiteFire. It's my husband's company, and he wanted to launch it with one of my titles. I fought him tooth and nail on that idea, having no desire to resign one of my babies to the doldrums of a small press. But after praying about it, I knew that this was the way I needed to go with A Stray Drop of Blood. So we produced it in hardback in 2005, and over the last four years we've figured out all the ways we messed up on it (ha ha), so did a complete rewrite and re-release in December of 2009.
But relax? No way. Small press publication means tons of footwork, promotions, networking, and the usual blood-sweat-and-tears. Not to mention that my other manuscripts are making the rounds at major publishers, so I'm in pretty constant prayer over those too.
Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?

My Cover Story

When my husband and I decided to re-release A Stray Drop of Blood, it was largely him saying, "Yes, okay. I'll dedicate some revenue to that" and me saying, "I want to do this. And that. And take out this. And add this over here." Topping the list was a new cover. I'd designed the first one myself, and while I liked its symbolism—a field of black with a red drop of blood that left a pure white streak behind it—I wanted something different this time.

One of my writer friends recently had a book release from Abingdon that has a gorgeous oil painting for a cover—literally, a local artist painted it. So I thought, "Ha! We can do that!" Both my sister and brother-in-law are art teachers, so I figured it would be a breeze. I gave them some ideas . . . and then school started. Which means their spare time went out the window. Still, my sister promised to squeeze out some time.

A few weeks later I headed to Denver for the 2009 ACFW conference. In the airport I noticed a young woman across from me with her laptop, waiting at the same gate. I thought, "I wonder if she's . . . nah. What are the chances of another ACFWer sitting there?" So silly me said nothing. Got on the plane. Got off the plane. Ran to the SuperShuttle with two seconds to spare, drove to the hotel.

It wasn't until I stepped out at the Marriott that I saw this same young woman again. We looked at each other and went, "Hey!" It only took a few minutes to realize that we also had the same flight back to Baltimore on Sunday, so we deemed ourselves Airplane Buddies and promised to sit together.

On the return flight, Ashley and I chatted about our conference, our stories, our projects, and she shared that her husband's a graphics designer. My internal radar started going, "This is important! This is important!" so I got their business cards.

Upon getting home, my sister said, "Hire the digital guy. I can't do this." So I sent an email to Tekeme Studios, the company owned by Ashley's husband.

Having never had a hand in a professional book design, I had no clue what to expect. But I filled out the survey they sent with gusto, answering the questions about my story and my characters. Tekeme's owner and designer extraordinaire, George, called me the next week to talk about it and spoke words that sent a shiver down my spine. "When I read your description, I got an instant image. Abigail in the foreground, the mob behind, hazy. Sepia tones. Some ancient architecture in the background."

This was exactly what I wanted, so I was thrilled. Still, I was nervous. I wanted a "Wow!" when people looked at the cover. I wanted a punch to the gut. I wanted something to really capture the dynamics, the power. I liked knowing I had veto power, but I also knew that my hubby/publisher was footing the bill, so I didn't want to demand a whole new design if this one flopped. So I prayed. A lot.

We ran into a snag with a model. Namely, hiring one would cost more money that we didn't have. George asked if I knew anyone who could do it, and I replied, "Uh . . . Ashley?" (Read the silent "Please, please, please???")

Thankfully, Ashley agreed. Photos were taken on a Friday by a professional who's a good friend of George and Ashley, and that mob in the background? That's Ashley, George, David the Photographer, and even Ashley and George's toddler, somewhere. On Monday, I got the cover back, pretty much as you see it. We changed some text, but the design needed nothing. It was a punch, it was a "Wow!" It was perfect.

I love the detail, the texture, the fact that the back is as gorgeous as the front. And I love that people have said things like, "Every time I see that cover, I get excited all over again." That, if you ask me, is the marker of a good design. So from here on out, WhiteFire and I are singing the praises of Tekeme Studios at the top of our lungs. Thanks, George and Ashley! (

(I also keep getting question of "Is the model really pregnant?" Funny answer: "Yes, actually. But she was only about 8 weeks when the photo was taken, so that's padding.")

Thank you so much, Roseanna, for this wonderful interview. I've loved having you here. Folks, run and get your copy--that is, if YOU don't win that copy. Whether you win it or buy it, you'll love the book!



Roseanna M. White said...

Thanks for having me, Carole! I really enjoyed putting this together with you. =)

Debra E Marvin said...

Thanks Carole and Roseanna for this interview and a chance to win the book.
In response to one of your points--those moments when we doubt ourselves and our writing ability--I have to say that after all the reviews and accolades A Stray Drop of Blood garnered, I was surprised one day to read Roseanna's email post on a loop, where she seemed to be having one of those 'bad' writer days.

I appreciated it so much. Because it reminded me that we are all going to be subject to those doubts at times regardless of our successes.

Roseanna, I can't wait to read this book!
debraemarvin (at) yahoo

Karin said...

Thanks for the great interview - I love meeting new people!


Rose McCauley said...

Thanks, carole and roseanna. this sounds like a lovely book that I'd love to win! Also I was wondering if Roseanna is a member of our Ohio ACFWers?

Roseanna M. White said...

Hi Debra! I knew you'd be gunning for another chance to win. ;-) And yeah, we all go through that sort of thing, no matter how many glowing reviews we get.

Nice to meet you too, Karin! (Sort of, LOL. Nice to see a new name, anyway.)

And Rose, no, I'm not an Ohio member--live in MD. Carole and I met at conference in '07. =)

Thanks for stopping by, ladies!

Caroline said...

Loved your comments, girls! And don't forget it's not JUST a book; she's giving away lots of goodies!

Jackie Smith said...

Please enter me for the book and goodies! What a nice giveaway!

Carman said...

Hey! Please enter me in this giveaway. I'd love to read this book!

Amanda said...

Please enter me for this wonderful giveaway. I would really like to read this book!

Casey said...

I would really like to read this book, please enter me!


kristen said...

How awesome to have a husband who believes in your writing so much!!
Great interview. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I love this giveaway. Thanks for the interview and chance to win--I'd be thrilled ~
june_spirit2628 at hotmail dot com

Donna Alice said...

Sounds like a great book. Put my name in the hat for the drawing.

Roseanna M. White said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!! It's so great to see your interest.

Jaime said...

would love to read
copperllama at yahoo dot com

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