Book Binge: Can you tell us about your first book sale?
Farrah Rochon: Hmm…how much time do you have? 🙂 My first sale story is a perfect example of the rollercoaster ride that is the publishing business. After the 2005 RWA conference, I spent a great deal of time revising another manuscript for another publishing house. It was my second set of revisions, and I just knew they were going to buy the book. They didn’t. I was devastated when I received a rejection letter from the editor apologizing for not buying the book “even though she really loved the story and appreciated all the work I put into revising it”.
The next day, I received news from my agent that Dorchester wanted Deliver Me. I remember reading the email at work and just staring at the computer, completely stunned. Then, of course, I started crying. During those twenty-four hours, I experienced two very different ends of the emotion spectrum.
BB: What is your writing process like? Do you outline or just let your characters take you where they will?
FR: My writing process changes from one day to the next. My first few books, I wrote by the seat of my pants. These were category length novels that I absolutely adore, but am not sure will ever sell. When I started writing longer, single-title books, I discovered I needed some structure. I’ve use different methods to try to create that structure, but every book starts out with a loose idea of what the book will be about, what the main characters goals and motivations are, and a brainstorm of possible situations and scenes. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t, but it all works to get me thinking about the story.
BB: What is your typical writing day like?
FR: Until recently, I worked part-time in the morning and wrote for about 2 – 3 hours in the afternoon in my favorite writing venue, local coffee houses. I’ve taken the summer off to write full-time for a bit and work on promo for my latest release, Release Me. On a good day, I write from about 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at one of the local libraries in my area, rewarding myself with minutes on the internet after reaching certain page goals.
BB: What kind of research do you do when writing a book?
FR: As little as humanly possibly, lol. If I enjoyed research, I would write a historical romance. I’ve had one in mind, but can’t bring myself to write it. Fact is, I’m lazy. I usually write my entire first draft and make little notations that I need to research this or that during the rewrite. I’ve been lucky to have access to different resources that have come in handy during the writing of my novels. With Deliver Me, I was able to question the husband of a friend who happens to be an Ob-Gyn, like my hero, and through RWA, I met a bi-polar writer who happened to go through fertility treatments, like one of my major secondary characters. Researching on the internet is great, but nothing beats talking to someone who has experienced what you’re trying to convey through your characters.
BB: Your debut novel, Deliver Me, begins the story of the Holmes’ brothers. Did you intend to write a trilogy when you first started writing Deliver Me?
FR: Yes, I did. When the idea for Deliver Me popped into my head, so did Eli, Toby, and Alex. At first, they were just friends, but after about five minutes, I decided to make them brothers. The rest took off from there. I’ve had a blast getting to know these characters.
BB: As a writer, what is easier…writing a series or writing a stand alone?
FR: I’ve only written one stand alone novel, the very first book I wrote back in college. I love reading connected books, and love writing them, as well. Although, I must admit by the end of the final Holmes Brothers book I was happy to say goodbye to that family. It’s not easy keeping track of all of that information. I bow down to authors like Suzanne Brockmann, Brenda Jackson, and others who have long-running series that are tightly connected.
BB: What does it take to make a series work? How do you make a reader want more, more, more?
FR: In my opinion, in order to make a series work, you have to make readers feel invested in the lives of your characters. The characters have to be interesting enough to demand that their stories be told. I started setting up the last book in my Holmes Brothers series early on in book #1, when I introduced the fact that the eldest brother was raising his young daughter after his wife was killed in a car accident, along with her lover. I’ve had so many readers tell me that they are already in love with Alex because they sympathize with his situation. He is, by far, my favorite of the brothers, and I think it’s because I’ve had enough time to develop his character into the perfect man…umm…with a few issues, of course. 🙂
BB: Let’s talk cover art…do authors have any say in what their cover will be?
FR: Just a few days ago, I would have answered no to this question, but I was recently asked to give input for the cover of my upcoming novel, RESCUE ME, the third and final installment in the Holmes Brothers series. It’s funny because they asked for physical descriptions (i.e., height, build, age, eye color), and I had the hardest time remembering what my characters look like. I’m one of those readers who tend to gloss over the author’s descriptions, and figure readers would just do the same with my books. Sometimes, they don’t! I can’t wait to see what my publisher comes up with based on my description of the delectable Alexander Holmes.
BB: Did you choose the titles “Deliver Me” and “Release Me”?
FR: I chose neither. I have the hardest time coming up with names for my stories. I leave that to family members and friends. The one exception is my younger brother. When I was looking for a title for Deliver Me, his suggestion was Love in the ER – Stat! Yeah, that would have just flown off the shelves, lol.
BB: Deliver Me took place in a post-Katrina New Orleans. As a native to that area, what was it like to write about something that directly affected you and your family?
FR: Actually, Deliver Me was written and already being considered for publication before Katrina, but after the storm, my editor suggested I either change the book to post-Katrina times, or include an author’s note. I decided to change the book because I knew I would have to address Katrina in the subsequent Holmes stories. Katrina and its affects have become a part of the landscape of New Orleans. It’s great to remember the city as it was before the storm, but you can’t ignore that it did happen and our lives are forever changed by it. It’s something I live with everyday, so naturally, with books set in New Orleans, I must address it. I’ve made sure, however, not to harp on Katrina. It is very subtle in my books.
BB: As a new author, can you tell our readers why they should give your books a try?
FR: That’s about the hardest question ever. Of course, my initial answer is because they are the most fabulous books to grace the shelves of Barnes & Noble. After letting the air out of my over-inflated head, I’d have to say that readers should give my books a try if they’re in the mood for a good, old-fashioned boy meets girl story. Don’t get me wrong, I adore romantic suspense, paranormals, and all those other subgenres, but sometimes I’m just in the mood for a good straight contemporary romance. Those are the types of books I write.
BB: What do you have in the works currently?
FR: I’m working on an entire new series. This one surrounds a fiction football team, the New York Sabers. Anyone who knows me knows that I love sports, and am fanatical about football (seriously, I’m counting the days to football season).
The first book, PLAYING WITH FIRE, is the story of all-star wide receiver, and new restaurant owner and author, Torrian Smallwood. He clashes with popular book reviewer, Paige Turner, after she rips his new cookbook/autobiography to shreds. The two battle it out on a local morning news program in an Iron Chef-like cooking competition, where things heat up in more ways than one.
A secondary storyline featuring Torrian’s full-figured sister and another member of the New York Sabers football team is a nice change of pace for the readers out there who know that women with a little extra on the hips deserve love too. 🙂 I’m having a great time writing this book.
BB: When can we expect the third and final installment of the Holmes’ trilogy?
FR: The release date for RESCUE ME is February 2009.. I love Alex, and can’t wait for readers to see him get his happily ever after. With everything his ex-wife put him through, he deserves to find love.
BB: What made you want to be a writer?
FR: It’s something that has always come naturally to me. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and the writing grew from that. I wasn’t always sure I wanted to be a published author, but during my last year of graduate school, the writing bug bit me once again, and its teeth have yet to let me go.
BB: You work a full time job in addition to writing (I think you do, anyway). Will you be able to write full time in the future?
FR: I don’t work a full-time job at the moment, but I hope to return to full-time work in the fall. After over two years of working part-time, it’ll be interesting to balance a full-time job with my writing. Of course, the ultimate goal is to write full-time, but I know that doesn’t happen for everyone.
BB: What advice would you give aspiring authors?
FR: If you think writing the book is the hard part, think again. Writing the book is the most joyous part of this process, and if you’re not having fun doing that, this isn’t the business for you. I had been a member of RWA for nearly five years before I sold my first novel, and thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but I had no idea how promotion, revisions, and all the other stuff that happens after the sale would really affect me. It’s been an eye-opening experience, and not all of it has been fun. That’s why I think you must enjoy the writing part. Even when the story has me pulling my hair out, there’s that anticipation of knowing that I’ll eventually break through whatever wall that has me blocked and experience that writing high when everything just starts to flow. Gosh, there’s nothing like being in the zone. I love it!
BB: Are there any other genres that you intend to write in?
FR: Inspired by my 15-year-old sister who actually became a reader after devouring the first novel in Harlequin’s Kimani TRU line, I’ve decided to try my hand at writing Young Adult. It’s been fun, but the one thing it’s showed me is how old I am! None of the things that were cool when I was a teenager is cool anymore (including using the word “cool”!)
BB: Racism in romance is a hot topic throughout blog land. What are your thoughts on that?
FR: Gosh, talk about a vast topic. I can’t even begin to narrow down my feelings on this subject. For one thing, I believe it goes a lot deeper than where books are shelved in stores (for the record, I am very much against shelving by race instead of genre). I personally believe it stems from the deeply rooted racial issues that have plagued this country for generations. It’s heartbreaking that after years of struggling to get published, I will probably never experience the success other authors who sold around the time that I did see, simply because of my skin color. Wow, just writing that makes me think I’m writing about a time before I was even born, not 2008. It’s amazing how blatant the racial divide issue is in publishing.
I’ve heard readers give different reasons as to why they haven’t tried African American romances; some of them I buy, some of them I don’t. Let’s face it, for years I attended the free book giveaways at RWA and saw African American authors like Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson, who have been in the business for years, sitting with books stacked up on their tables, while new, white authors–many I had never heard of–ran out of books. You can’t say that was a shelving issue. Often, I just wanted to scream “Just go and get the book!” It was extremely uncomfortable, and telling, to see all the authors who look like me being ignored.
I would love to have a serious, academic discussion about the racism in romance topic, but all too often I’ve seen it disintegrate into name-calling and the blame game, so I tend to stay out of it. I’m just happy the issue has come to the forefront again. Let’s just hope something comes out of it this time.
BB: Who is your favorite romance author?
FR: Judith McNaught
BB: What is your favorite romance novel to re-read?
FR: Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
BB: Pepsi or Coke?
BB: What’s your biggest weakness (shoes, books, chocolate, etc)?
FR: I cannot pick between chocolate and books. Sorry. Just can’t do it.
BB: Chocolate or Vanilla?
FR: Vanilla? What’s that?
BB: Coffee or Tea?
FR: Coffee. Lots of it. Every. Single. Day.
BB: Favorite movie?
FR: Seriously? You want me to pick? Wow, I’d have to say The Color Purple, followed closely by A Few Good Men and The Shawshank Redemption (oh, and Pretty Woman, and Ever After, and…) you get the picture.
BB: Favorite T.V. show?
FR: For each day of the week, right? No? Well, I guess I could say Survivor. It’s the ultimate psychology experiment. Although I do love Grey’s Anatomy, and about a half-dozen others.
BB: If you watch Dancing with the Stars, who should win this season (Casee: Yes, I’m obsessed)?
FR: Jason Taylor. Is he still on there? I don’t watch the show, but I loooove football and cute guys, and he’s both!
BB: Favorite color?
FR: Green. Don’t ask me why my website it purple. I’m still trying to figure that one out.
BB: Mexico or Hawaii?
BB: Fly or Drive?
FR: I would fly to my mailbox if I could. I hate driving.
BB: Beach or Mountains?