Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ten Questions With Alina Adams

1) When did you first know you were a writer?

Well, according to my parents, my first words were “pencil” and “paper.” Only they were in Russian. And sounded nothing like the actual words. But, they knew what I meant.

2) What's the first thing you know for sure about a new story concept? Plot? Character? Something else?

I like to start with a concept, or a “what if?”

My 1998 AVON romance novel, Annie’s Wild Ride, began with a lyric from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George, which went, “What made it so right together/Was what made it all wrong.” I was intrigued by the idea of writing a story where what initially attracted the characters to each other is the same thing that ended up breaking them up – and getting them back together, too.

The first book in the Figure Skating Mystery series I did for Berkley Prime Crime was inspired by the 2002 Olympic judging scandal. What if the judge who awarded the medal to the “wrong” winners was then murdered?

Once I have the theme, I then build the characters. And, if I do a good job of that, the characters then create their own plot. I just write it down.

3) What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

The best piece of writing advice I ever got was from my 12th grade AP English teacher. Like all kids who have a knack for words, I tended to write flowing, run-on sentences full of great metaphors and clever asides… that never quite made it to the point. He told me, “Think about what you want to say, and say it.” Twenty-plus years later, when I’m stuck staring at a blank page (and a looming deadline), I think about what I want to say, and say it. And then I think about the next thing I want to say, and I say that. Eventually the whole page gets filled up. And I’ve actually said something, to boot.

The worst piece of writing advice I ever got was “write the book of your heart.” No, write the book that an editor wants to buy. If you write enough of those, you will eventually be able to write the book of your heart. And you will be paid for it. And people might even be willing to read it.

4) Over the course of your career, you’ve written historicals, contemporaries, mysteries, a coffee-table book, a biography, soap opera tie-in novels, as well as online soap opera continuations…so far. What would you say defines an Alina Adams book? Is there a genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to try?

I’m a plot and character girl. I respect authors who have beautiful prose and lyrical descriptions full of inner retrospections that prompt readers to reconsider long-held and cherished beliefs. But, personally, I write fast-moving stories with colorful (and hopefully) witty characters. My favorite romantic comedy of all time is His Girl Friday, where the dialogue and story points fly fast and furious… and nothing particularly (or, at least, traditionally) romantic actually happens.

I grew up watching soaps (and wrote three tie-in novels for “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” as well as the multimedia continuation of “Another World”, so to me the most important question to answer (and one I hope the reader is constantly asking) is: And then what happens?

As for a genre I would love to work in: Musical Theater. I love musical theater (see the Sondheim inspiration above). Alas, I have absolutely no talent in that regard. The closest I came to it was producing an ebook book for Dan Elish, “The Worldwide Dessert Contest: Enhanced Multimedia Edition

5) Pretend you’ve met the rare reader who has never heard of medical romance. In one sentence, what is the appeal of this subgenre?

Love against a background of life and death.

6) Can we talk about Leo for a minute? This Russian-born paramedic may be a man of few words, but his strong heroic streak, both in life and in love, will send readers’ hearts racing. How did Leo find such inner strength to press on through his many challenges?

At one point, I was a volunteer for an organization called KidSave, which brings Russian orphans to the US in an attempt to find them forever families. Also, having been born Jewish in the former Soviet Union, I grew up surrounded by people who survived World War II and the Holocaust. Both experiences taught me that people – and especially children – have a phenomenal capacity to overcome horror and deprivation and turn it into bravery and compassion for others.

7) Alyssa, as well, undergoes a true heroine’s journey, finding the strength to choose what’s right over what’s safe. I’m struck by her observation that the emergency room is the most predictable place in the hospital, despite how chaotic it may seem. Can you tell us more about that?

I confess, I’m someone who loves predictability and knowing what’s coming up (so, of course, I became a freelance writer and TV producer because, really, what’s more steady, predictable and secure than writing and production as a career? An editor friend once told me that if I wrote myself as a character, she would send the manuscript back because it was inconsistent). But predictability comes in a variety of packages. In an emergency room, you never know what’s going to come rolling through the doors next, but you do know what you’re going to have to do to get the patient stabilized and passed on to the next specialist in line. The chaos in itself is predictable and, most importantly, if you feel confident in your skills to handle it – it’s controllable. For someone like Alyssa, having gotten her medical training in a war zone, she is more comfortable and familiar with the rhythms of an emergency room than she is around “normal” people and situations.

8) Besides the medical romance angle, “To Look For You” is a touching older woman/younger man romance, yet it’s Leo who brings a deep maturity to the relationship. Do you think Alyssa’s and Leo’s different backgrounds brought them to the same level of maturity?

Absolutely. As I said above, it’s amazing what children who’ve survived trauma can overcome and turn into a positive. Not that I advocate making life particularly difficult for your own children, but, the fact is, people who’ve never faced any sort of adversity are hardly interesting, either in fiction or real life. My number one turn on in a man is someone you can count on to keep it together in an emergency, and that, as a rule, comes from life experience.

9) Name five reasons why the romance genre needs more Russian, Jewish or Russian Jewish characters.

1) Diversity: I live in New York City and am a Russian Jew married to an African-American. Diversity is a huge buzzword in NYC and everyone claims to subscribe to it in theory. But, what my husband and I have found in practice is diversity means people of vaguely different colors who all think the same way. True diversity comes from people of different backgrounds who then come to different conclusions based on those backgrounds. Whenever I hear people decrying those who disagree with them as either “dumb” or “evil,” I always wonder if they’ve considered the possibility that those they’re vilifying have just lived different lives from them. Most characters in romance novels tend to be rather cookie cutter in backgrounds and outlooks and only superficially outside the mainstream. I think it’s fun to shake that up.
2) Education: It’s a chance to learn history outside of a textbook. “To Look for You” opens in Kosovo in 1999, during NATO’s self-proclaimed humanitarian bombing campaign in what was then Yugoslavia. It’s a tiny part of the overall story, but if readers pick up a bit of history along the way, I’m all for it!
3) Foreign Sales
4) It gets you off work for the Jewish holidays!
5) Everybody needs more borscht in their lives.

10) Surprise! We hid a parrot in your office during the writing of “To Look For You.” What three words or phrases did he learn while he was with you?

First of all, I would like to say this is the greatest question I have ever been asked in my life. I plan to open all conversations with it from now on.

Secondly… 1) This story is trying to kill me!
2) The best part of being a romance novelist is getting an email from your boss that says: Squelchy vaginas and hard, throbbing cocks make me very nervous
3) Shhh… Mommy is WORKING.


Cynthia D'Alba said...

Super interview! And I agree with you about writing the "book of you heart." I write as a JOB. I have to write something that readers want to pay money to read. :)

Sue MacKay said...

I love your best and worst writing advise. Couldn't agree more. Especially today when my usual "go for a walk" technique when the words dry up hadn't worked.
Glad to be a part of the Mammoth Book of ER Romance with you and all those other wonderful writers.

Anna Bowling said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sue. I agree, Alina gives wonderful advice. Here's hoping the Mammoth Book of ER Romance is exactly what the doctor ordered for romance readers everywhere.

Roberta said...

What a wonderful interview.
Informative, helpful and entertaining all at the same time
And, I discovered a new author.

Anna Bowling said...

Glad you liked the interview, Roberta. Alina gave some wonderful answers, and yay for finding new authors to read. Hope you like "To Look For You" as much as I did. Wonderful story.

Michael said...

Many thanks for the 10 Questions With Alina Adams. Having been an avid reader (an avid devourer would be more accurate) of AWToday, this was an excellent opportunity to know more about the person and author behind it. I appreciate the question (and answer) about diversity, and love the Parrot scenario. Thank You!

Anna Bowling said...

Michael, thanks for stopping by. One never knows where that parrot will show up next.