Romance that thrives in dark places
Sunday, April 06, 2008, 4:40 PM

On April 7, 2008, boot camp, aka The Mentorshop Program, begins for 30 writing mentees, compliments of Romance Divas.
I’ll be one of the mentees.

Diana Castilleja (pronounced kah-stee-yeh-ha), a multi-award winning writer of romantic suspense, contemporary suspense, fantasy and paranormal suspense, is going to be my mentor.

Since 2004, she’s written over 15 novels. That’s over three books a year. I figure if anyone can help me overcome my afraid-to-write-itous, it’s going to be this southern belle of Texas.

She also has great hair.

What follows is an interview with my mentor, whose first published romantic suspense, Ice Cream In The Snow, drove her over the ice cream counter to the dark side.

Yeah, I know. Who'da thunk?

And now, on with the show.

Romance that thrives in dark places

-> First things first. I need to know how evil you really are. Please take the How Evil Are You test.

28.8% evil.

Very funny! Although, how I can be accidentally anything is an interesting problem.

-> What, besides wanting to give back to the community that’s given so much to you, made you want to mentor a fledgling writer?
It's more than just giving back to the community. I was told a lot of wrong information in the very beginning and as I found the right people to talk to, learned the right information. I'd like to have my mentee avoid those first errors, or just learn from mine. They were pretty classic.
-> How classic?
I've stretched myself out too thin on many occasions. I've been on the inside with a publisher, more heavily involved and it was too much for me. I stopped writing. I stopped being just an author. You have to have limits. The limits change and grow as you do, but you can't press at them and expect things to not break.
-> How many drafts did you write of Ice Cream In The Snow before it was picked up?
Ice Cream had about four serious revisions to it, with mild tinkers in between. It was the first book I attacked a crit group with and they helped me get through it quite well. It didn't appeal to the agent market at the time because it was contemporary and rather short for single title. I didn't know about the category market at the time, and the lack of sex in it also created problems. But it fit really well in the e-publishing market.
-> How many months or years passed from the time you first subbed Ice Cream to the critique group before it was picked up by Forbidden Publications?
From the time the critique group was working and done on Ice Cream, to being contracted by Forbidden Publications, was no more than six months, as close as I can remember.
-> Would you say your first publication experience was a great opportunity, or a learning opportunity?
They would have to be both. I learned so much from my first publisher. Editing, training my eyes to pick up mistakes, marketing. I've also accepted that there's some work that is great for e-publishing and some that should be tried with New York first. It's a constantly evolving process.
-> Would you give an example of something that should be tried with a New York house, as opposed to an e-publisher?
Length is an issue, because shorter (less than 15,000) won't be picked up by New York. Over 15K-50K would be good for an anthology. It's not cost effective to do short. For New York, many prefer a recognizable formula: guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl back. Alpha males are preferred to beta males in New York, where in e-publishing the range is wide open for the story, not the formula.
-> You are a co-founder of Sweeter Romantic Notions, a group that promotes the non-erotic writer. Is this because you see a trend of an erotic prerequisite in the romance genre?

Sweeter Romantic Notions, or SRN, was created because when I first published I really felt like I was the Lone Ranger when it came to non-erotic writing. This was before The Wild Rose Press, and a few others that have since created a viable and lucrative market for non-erotic writing. I write from no-sex sweet to strong sensual without the graphicness that can be found in erotic writing. A lot of readers don't know that non-erotic writing, especially quality writing, can even be found. SRN has filled that need for both authors and readers.
-> What do you feel your strengths as a writer are? Weaknesses?
My strengths? I apparently have really good, three-dimensional characters. Several of my readers have pointed this out. I love good description, feeling the emotion, the environment is important to me.
-> This is wonderful news for me, as your mentee.
My weaknesses? I have to admit to that too, huh? I have a horrible internal editor. I have a wonderful muse. They don't work well together. My editor is exceedingly critical of everything I write. Too much, too little, have you used that word this chapter?

It's endless. It takes real work to push him out of the room.
-> Name the first book that redefined the world as you knew it.
I would say probably Bambi was one of the first books that meant something to me. I was probably seven or so. I still have that book. I've read a lot over the years, but it's hard to pinpoint just one that had that great of an impact on me.
-> What's the worst advice about writing that you've ever received? (Bonus: When did you realize the advice sucked?)
I wouldn't say it's been the worst advice, but very probably the worst suggestion I ever received. Do not follow the lure blindly, to make a fast track to be published in print. I've been asked to join with at least two maybe four, different publishers because it was the "thing to do". My gut told me otherwise.

With one I knew I was right when they went out of business, another when I read their contract and found things I would not accept.
-> Now offset that with the best advice you’ve received.
Read. Read the style and genre books you want to write. Read craft books to learn the basics. Read for fun, read to learn, to study, to analyze. A writer who doesn't read can grow stagnate.
-> You've won more than a couple of awards for your writing. Which one means the most to you and why?
There's nothing like being labeled a Recommended Read. Even if it's the only time for that story, or from the reviewer/reader. Someone liked it so much that they gave it their highest honor at the moment. It really means a lot to me when someone "gets" my story, or that something I've written or done has touched them. It's an incredible feeling.

Diana's vampire series novels will be published in book form by Tease Publications. Book one, The Eternal Kiss, is scheduled for release the summer of 2008.

A wee peek, because it's too charming not to share:
“Centuries? There's that word again. Just how old are you?” Her hands pushed on his hard chest, trying to keep perspective. To keep space. It was impossible to think when he was holding her so tight.

“I did the math once. I believe this year, I would be four hundred and eighty-six. Give or take a few months.”

“Oh boy,” she breathed. “You are so robbing the cradle with me.”

15 Did the Unhingey Jiggy Engage in Unhingenosity
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