Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Welcome Caridad Piñeiro!

This week, The Lady Novelist welcomes RWA NYC's Golden Apple Author of the Year Caridad Piñeiro, author of the popular The Calling vampire series from Silhouette Nocturne and The South Beach Chicas Catch Their Man out now from Pocket Books to rave reviews.

Four single girls + Four sexy men = Trouble for one confirmed bachelorette who just wants to hang with her amigas!
Reporter Sylvia Amenabar loves her vida loca. Just months ago, she and her three best friends—Adriana, Juli, and Tori—were happily single, hoisting mojitos at their weekly get-together. Now, everything’s changed. All four women have sexy men in their lives—and Sylvia’s not sure she likes it that way.

Ever since handsome cop Carlos Ramirez took a bullet for Sylvia after an investigative report went south, she’s been fighting their intensifying attraction. Sure, he’s gorgeous and great in bed—and nearly died for her—but Sylvia has sworn never to let a man be in a position to break her heart that way her father did by abandoning her and her mother.

Besides, who has time for the whole the relationship dance? Sylvia’s got a reputation to maintain as Miami’s hottest new journalist. But when her latest assignment threatens to smear Adriana’s boyfriend, Riley, and too-good-to-be-true Carlos, and her mother is hell-bent on reuniting with her father, Sylvia finds that life and love and family aren’t things you can control!

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and how long have you been writing before you were published.

I wrote my first book in the fifth grade when the teacher assigned a class project – to write a book that would be included in a class lending library. I went home and started writing and my poor mom had to type 120 pages. It was no surprise that the book was a romance since even at that age, most of what I had been reading had strong romance elements. I kept writing through junior high and high school by becoming involved in the school literary magazines, but after my graduation from high school, I set out to write my first novel. I kept at it through college and law school and thanks to Fern Michaels, a version of that novel went to Kensington. Unfortunately it wasn’t acquired, but a few years after that I sold Kensington my first contemporary romance, NOW AND ALWAYS.

Q: What made you choose romance?

I’d been an avid reader and one summer, after reading SHANNA, I realized that what I was reading was romance. I began devouring every romance I could find on the bookshelves and it occurred to me that what I was writing was also romance. There was never any doubt in my mind that the stories I wanted to write were within the romance genre.

Q: What you do love about writing vampire romances?

I love the dark and turbulent emotions of not just the vampires, but the humans in THE CALLING novels. Writing my vampire romances lets me explore those dangerous elements of human nature that I might not be able to do in one of my women’s fiction books. It lets me play off the danger of the humans against that of the vampires. What that ultimately shows is that there is good and evil in all kinds of mortals and immortals. The vampire novels also let me push the envelope sexually at times, since the vampires have sometimes had centuries of experience and what they need to please them may differ greatly from what a human needs. Or then again, it may not, which is why there are so many aspects that I can explore in THE CALLING vampire novels.

Q: What do you like least about it?

I don’t think that it’s a question of not liking it, but rather that after a number of books dealing with the greater levels of violence and emotional pull in THE CALLING series, it demands a break to doing something different. That’s why I love writing the Chicas books and romantic suspense stories. With sexy settings and totally different themes, I can rejuvenate from dealing with the darkness of THE CALLING and the Manhattan local for the series. Nevertheless, there is something about THE CALLING that always pulls me back and has me thinking of ways to continue to build that world and explore the many characters within it.

Q. What sparked THE CALLING Series? Was it a character? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

I was a Buffy and X-Files fan and thought, “What would happen if I combined the basic elements of both of these shows?” THE CALLING was born – a blend of the vampire world, supernatural and real-life suspense together with the mortal demands of being a kick-ass FBI Agent and having a non-human lover. What could be better? Once the initial germ of the idea came to me, Diana Reyes was the first character to pop into my head. Actually, she had been popping into my head for quite some time while I was trying to finish up a series of baseball books for Kensington. No matter how hard I tried to shove her aside, Diana always returned and I knew then that I had to write her story, which was released as DARKNESS CALLS in March 2004.

Q: What did you do that made your vampires different from what we know of about vampires in fiction?

Since I wanted my vampires to play a real role in the suspense elements in the stories, they had to be able to venture out during the day and also, there had to be a risk factor for their participation, namely death. When I researched existing vampire lore, I realized I would not be the first to allow vampires to venture out into the sun, but I was careful to explain the why of how they did it. When it came to the death part, I wanted more than just the traditional stake through the heart/beheading kinds of deaths. Because of that, I made them more physically vulnerable. They could survive traumas that a human could not, but immense trauma would still begin a cycle that could kill them if they didn’t feed. I also dropped a secret into DANGER CALLS about vampire blood. That secret has blossomed into an ongoing story arc with Diana Reyes beginning in DEATH CALLS. I won’t spill more about it, but let’s say that the vampire blood secret will result in major changes in this character over the course of the next THE CALLING novels in 2008 and 2009. Plus, there’s another little secret that will emerge in HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE which includes FATE CALLS, another novella in the series. HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE will be released in December 2007.

Q: Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

I did have to take into account the existing vampire mythologies and not deviate from them too greatly. When I did my own spin on things or did a change from something accepted, I made of point of explaining it carefully so that vampire purists would not be upset by the changes I had made and incorporated into the mythology of THE CALLING.

Q: Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

I’m always doing research for THE CALLING. Some of it was scientific so that I could realistically create that vampire blood secret I mentioned. Sometimes it relates to other vampire mythologies. For example, DEVOTION CALLS featured a spin on a Latin vampire legend – a chupacabra or goat sucker. In an upcoming 2008 release, FURY CALLS, you’ll meet an Asian vampire and see the differences between them and our mostly European concept of vampires. I try to do these things so that each book in THE CALLING series is fresh and different for the readers. HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE features Hadrian, a vampire from Ancient Rome. There are flashbacks to Ancient Rome as well as information about the pagan celebrations and beliefs that have been incorporated into some of our Christmas holiday traditions. I enjoyed researching those aspects of the story since I love history.

Q: Vampire romances in recent years have exploded. Do you think the market is becoming saturated?

I am asked this question often. I think that surviving in a crowded marketplace is a matter of not only good writing, but getting the word out there about your work. The existence of many other similar books makes it harder for a writer in that genre. They need to find a way to rise up out of the crowd. If you’ve established a following, it is sometimes easier to survive when there’s a glut of similar books, but you’ve still got to deliver a good book. As for the market becoming saturated, there are certainly quite a number of vampire romances out there now.

Q: As well as writing for Silhouette Nocturne, you also write romantic suspense. How do you balance writing paranormal, chick-lit and romantic suspense?

I adore the change of pace and locale that writing in multiple genres provides. It lets me try something different with each book and also helps to keep me from using “writing crutches” when I find myself in a bit of writer’s block. I also find that tackling the specific elements of the various genres sometimes helps me look at the elements in the other genres in a unique way. Hopefully that keeps the books fresh and possibly brings new ideas into the other genres.

Q. You’ve also branched out into writing women’s fiction for Pocket Books with the South Beach Chicas series. How has that been different for you than writing category?

Writing a longer book is quite different because you have the time to add secondary plots and characters as well as explore the complexities in the characters’ personalities with greater depth. That has provided me with the opportunity to build the basic world of the South Beach Chicas with just one book. In comparison, to build the basic world in THE CALLING, with all the secondary characters that visit in the various books, took several novels. I love writing about the South Beach Chicas because much like Diana Reyes, they are all strong and successful women who know what they want out of life and are determined to get it. What I also love about the Chicas is the humor and lightness that comes with setting the books in South Beach. It lets me create an entirely different world and provide my readers a glimpse of another side of my writing and also, my Miami culture which is worlds away from my Manhattan culture.

Q. You have a full time job, a family and you publish several books a year. How do you balance your time?

It is a juggling act to balance all these things and occasionally there is a bobble. What I do try to do is to always prioritize, although I must stress that for me, family always comes first. They are the reason for everything else that I do. As for the full-time job (attorney) and the writing, they are both careers that are mentally and physically intensive. I know it sounds weird to say physically intensive about jobs that involve a lot of sitting, but anyone who has spent four or more hours in a chair while concentrating on their computer will know what I mean. It does drain you. For that reason, I try to keep my weekday writing to the train commute to and from Manhattan. On the weekends I will schedule to do three or four hours of writing. However, if there’s a deadline or a change in publishing schedules, I will work at night to finish a manuscript. I guess the key to finishing all those books is – I write as often as I can and nearly every day. By doing that I am able to write a few books each year and prepare proposals for future books.

Q. What/Who do you like to read?

I love urban fantasies and romantic suspense. My favorites right now are Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong and J.D. Robb. I also make it a point to read my fellow authors at Silhouette Nocturne, Silhouette Romantic Suspense and an assortment of Latina writers, like Tracey Montoya, Lara Rios and Berta Platas.

Q. What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to “fly in the mist?” Has your process changed over time? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

I write every day usually. When I begin a book, it’s always the characters that come to my head first. I then create a story around what will allow me to challenge them with their greatest fears. For example, in BLOOD CALLS, the hero is a vampire who was once a Spanish Lord who had been betrayed by his wife and recently lost a lover. What would be the perfect foil for a vampire like that? A terminally ill woman with secrets.

After I decide on the characters, I lay out the start, middle and end of the book. I fill in everything else while I’m writing the novel. Lately, I have been forced to do the dreaded synopsis first, but I really prefer going with a looser idea for the book and letting the story and characters to dictate what happens.

Q: What are some of the changes in the romance genre since you’ve started writing?

For starters, romances are definitely sexier and the heroines seem to be more alpha. When it comes to the sexiness factor in modern romances, I love a book that has good sex scenes, but I think that it’s important that those scenes don’t overwhelm the romance in the story. As for stronger women taking charge in romance novels, I think this is absolutely wonderful. I’m glad that I’m able to show women like that because I think it reflects the changing roles of women in today’s world.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

I would advise them to learn about the craft and the business either before or while they write their first book. I didn’t do that and found that the revisions I had to make and the many awkward steps I took toward getting published were as a result of my not knowing about either the craft or the business. Another piece of advice would be to not take rejections too seriously. Every writer, even one who is multi-published, deals with rejection since not every story sells. If you can take something positive from the rejection do so and most importantly, NEVER GIVE UP! If you love to write, keep on writing.

Q. There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels," Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?

I have no doubt that reading romance novels empowers women in many ways. Many romances show women in positive roles and taking charge of their lives. That’s definitely a good thing. Reading romances helps take women away from the stress and issues of their every day lives and we all know that reducing stress is also a good thing. Sharing books with friends or discussions about the novels or online at the various romance websites likewise helps to build a sense of community and hopefully, enlighten women as well.

As for those that think that women can’t discern the fiction in romance novels from real life – they are chauvinists and that term is not limited to men. There are many women that I’ve met who have adopted chauvinistic opinions about romance. Would these individuals ask the same question about a man who reads James Bond? Do they worry that men who read such spy novels will believe that they, too, are sexy spies? Do people ask non-romance male authors if their readers cannot discern the fiction in their novels from the reality of their lives? I think not.

Q: Romance has garnered the biggest market share in genre fiction, yet it gets the least respect in popular and literary culture. Do you have any thoughts on why that is? Do you find this prejudice changing?

I truly believe the prejudice against romance is based on a general societal denigration of things that are important to women. Look at how women are treated differently in virtually every aspect of our culture, from salaries to health care to basic car repairs. I remember going to buy my car and the salesman wanted to explain about the wood in the dash and the stereo system while I wanted to know if the car had a standard H shifting pattern and the availability of a six cylinder model. Presumably the latter were “guy things” that he thought me incapable of understanding.

While there are many romance writers and publishing professionals struggling to change the perception of romance, in my opinion it is still an uphill battle. Despite that, I am hopeful that the prejudice will change as more and more people take notice of the number of people reading romance, including men, the popularity of the genre, and the varied and accomplished backgrounds of so many romance writers.

Q. What are you planning to work on next?

I am at work on the next three novels in THE CALLING vampire series. I am also considering the next SOUTH BEACH CHICAS story, namely, Adriana’s story. I think that so many women have male best friends who could or do become lovers that Adriana’s story will resonate with many women and I hope that I will be able to write that story. Beyond that, I’m developing some other romantic suspense stories as well as two paranormal single titles.

Thanks Caridad for stopping by! SOUTH BEACH CHICAS CATCH THEIR MAN is out now today, and you can still order her Silhouette Romantic Suspense SECRET AGENT REUNION (4 Stars from RT) from Eharlequin or

Stay tuned for more interviews with our RWA NYC authors in the future as well as our Lifetime Achievement winner Wendy Corsi Staub.

Thanks for reading!


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