I am thrilled to welcome Bobbi Groover to Coffee Time Romance & More’s Interview “Hot Seat” today. Hello Bobbi and thank you for stopping by to share a little about the fascinating author behind Season of the Shadow and the many other talents I have delightfully discovered about you.
What inspired you to pick the pen up one day and create this unique storyline that captures the imagination?
Actually, the idea for SEASON OF THE SHADOW grew out of a very bad day. As I sat at the dinner table one night, I found myself fading out of the conversation and wishing I could be riding my horse. Since that wasn’t possible, I put Fletcher there. It was very satisfying so I asked myself: Who was this man? Why was he so angry? Where was he coming from? Where was he going? What was his goal? An hour later, the prologue took shape and I read it to my mother over the phone. She asked from what book I was reading. I told her there was no book, just a prologue. In typical mother style she said, “Write the book!”
Are Fletcher and/or Kyndee modeled after actual people or a combination of people you have met?
I can’t really say that the hero and heroine are modeled after real, live people but many of the events that happened to both the hero and the heroine are based on actual events. I had a serious head injury many years ago and the afflictions that Fletcher suffers are the same I cope with everyday. Without spoiling the story, there is one particular event in Kyndee’s life that was prompted by the same in my own. The Seabrook Plantation is patterned after my grandmother’s glorious home where I grew up. The house was quite unique and positively grand, having windows inlaid with semi-precious stones and ceilings painted by a French artist. Unfortunately, it razed before the establishment of the National Historic Register because a bootlegger built it during Prohibition. The house had hidden walls, peep holes and arched tunnels leading to the river. The hidden places were every parent’s nightmare and every child’s fantasy. I thought it a perfect setting for the antebellum storyline and the model for the famous Seabrook Plantation. The only named characters that actually existed were the animals in the story. Fletcher’s horse, Wizard (Whiz) plays his part well as do the dogs, James the First and Second. The antics of these animals and the repercussions on their human counterparts were based directly what are now family legends.
The house sounds delightful. I’m so sorry to hear about your accident. It’s a brave trait you have in writing about it.
How close did you get to your characters? Did either the hero or heroine "tell" you to change the storyline?
I can only speak for my own writing but my characters become friends and family, and I actually miss them in my daily life when the story is finished. I was truly complimented when one reader of my other romance (reviewed by CTR), THE INN AT LITTLE BEND, wrote that she, too, actually missed the characters when she finished the story. Her comment was what I hope to achieve with all my stories.
When I start a story, I search the Internet for stock photos of what I imagine the hero and heroine to look like. I then frame their pictures and ‘talk’ to them while I am writing. By that I mean that I speak to the heroine’s picture when I am in the hero’s head and vice-versa. This technique gives my characters life and personality, makes them real to me, helps me to keep the POV flowing smoothly and seems to make the dialogue more natural. As they sit on my desk for months at a time, their faces become a part of me. They become so real that I do remember in the middle of one marathon writing night in particular, the hero and heroine started talking to one another and I became just a reporter typing what they were saying. It really creeped me out but they wanted a particular scene changed and I went with it. So, yes, there were parts changed because they ‘told’ me to do so. After all, it was their story I was telling.
When my story is finished, the pictures of the hero and heroine are hung on the walls of my studio among the other characters. I pass them, remember and smile.
Fun! Never thought of that. What type of book would Kyndee be likely to pick up and read? Would she select a book you have written? Why or why not?
Kyndee and Fletcher tease one another about Knights in shining armor and ladies fair. I think Kyndee might read stories set in 15th century England. Since she’s a strong realist but also a romantic, yes, I think she would enjoy my stories because there is romance from page one. Kyndee would also identify with the heroines in SEASON OF THE SHADOW as well as THE INN AT LITTLE BEND because the heroines in both stories are strong-willed survivors.
If Fletcher could take Kyndee out today to see a movie, what movie would he be likely to take her to?
A movie today? Then it would have to be WAR HORSE. If they went to an older movie, it would have to be NATIONAL VELVET or BLACK BEAUTY. Horses play a large part in all of my stories, SEASON, THE INN, and FUN IN THE YELLOW PAGES as well as in all aspects of my life. I have three of them and some of my best ideas develop while on horseback.
I have a particular weakness of horses myself. What books/authors were your faves as a child and what characters stand out in your memory from them today?
In truth, I don’t remember many titles or authors, only their stories. If the book had a horse in it, I read it. I spent hours in the library reading everything about horses, fiction and non-fiction and that is what stands out most in my memory. The characters didn’t always stand out—their names were often forgettable—but their personalities and their horses I remember…all of them. My mother was terrified of horses. She refused to allow me to own one so I had to invent them in my mind. I wrote many stories about my ‘horses’, which are still stuffed in the drawers of my studio, never to see the light of day.
In what order do you write? For example starting beginning to end, combining parts, in random order or in development cycle?
Interesting that you should ask that because I do believe every writer has a different style. I do not write from beginning to end. I have a basic plot and a basic timeline. I also have an outline of where I’m starting and where I want to go. Nothing, however, is written in stone. I love the antebellum period, Virginia, so a scene might strike me while on horseback, and I will write it and put it aside. If I know I want a scene in which some particular event happens, I might write it and also put it aside. Sometimes the hero and heroine write their own scene, and I record it and put it aside. Then somehow all the scenes merge and fit together like a perfect deck of cards. Just as one might rearrange the cards in their hand, I shuffle and rearrange the sequence of the scenes to make sure the story flows and the plot moves forward. Occasionally I might ask my riding buddy to read through the manuscript and I will ask her pointed questions to assure myself that what’s in my head actually comes through in the words of the page. Depending on her answers, I may have to add or subtract scenes in the final edits.
To answer your question, parts of the story are written in random order, parts are combined and some chapters are written from beginning to end. As I ride in the field when the sun is just rising over the horizon, I’m transported back to the nineteenth century. I can see my characters and hear them talking. I listen, head home and write.
You are called upon, at a school, to tell those interested in becoming an author, all the ins and outs of good writing skills and getting published. Name three important elements in writing, publishing and promoting that you would give them.
An aspiring author can write a wonderful and interesting story but if their grammatical skills are lacking, it will be very difficult for the reader to appreciate the fabulous story through the grammatical mistakes. Writers push the envelope to be sure, but a good story won’t make it past the first paragraph if the grammar hurts the eyes of the editor. In addition, familiarize yourself with some basic rules. For instance, point of view (POV) can shock and confuse a reader if it is not consistent. POV can be very subtle but very important. The reader wants to know whose head they are in. Next would be ‘show, don’t tell.’ If you want the reader to really become involved with and care about the characters, don’t ‘tell’ them what to think and feel, ‘show’ them. You can do that by using strong verbs and active voice. Don’t ‘tell’ the reader the hero is angry, ‘show’ the reader by the hero’s violent actions, by the harshness in his voice, by the bulging of the veins in his neck as he storms across the room. Then the reader is involved. He/she is there in the room with the hero, partaking in the action.
As to getting published, the biggest tip is: don’t give up. I doubt there is one author out there who couldn’t paper a room with rejection letters. Take the critique of the rejection letters and use it to make your story better and send it out again—always looking forward, never looking back.
Lastly, if you believe in your story, then promote it. Join writer’s groups and associations whose help is invaluable with ways to promote. Do book signings and book tours. Many review sites have promo packages. I truly have enjoyed and am complimented to do interviews such as this one for CRT.
How far are you willing to go for research? Would you for instance, cook certain foods, go on police ride alongs, view autopsies or surgeries, try BDSM, or even, certain drugs to make your books more realistic?
Actually I do much research for my time period so that the storylines feel realistic. I drove through many of the battlefields of the Civil War and walked the land. I did my own family genealogy back to 1640 so I could use realistic events and situations in my scenes. For Fletcher, in SEASON, I didn’t have to research his affliction; I merely had to describe my own. But on the whole, yes, I would do what was needed in order to have truth in my scenes. I suppose that is why I love the antebellum time period for the setting of my stories. I enjoy my horses, foxhunting, riding in old wagons and carriages. I grew up in the country and could handle weapons with ease, hitting nineteen out of twenty clay pigeons with a shotgun. I know how to milk a cow and churn butter. The neighboring farm had no indoor plumbing and they cooked on a cast iron stove. The nineteenth century is familiar and comfortable for me. If you do the research, then write about what you know, what you are passionate about. The result comes through in the pages and holds the reader to the last page.
Fascinating research technique! If you could be any animal what would you be?
That answer is easy—I would have to say a horse because they are beautiful, strong and majestic. But I would have to be one of MY horses, because I take very good care of them and they are dearly loved. Many horses today are abused and neglected as are many other animals.
Of course, LOL.I kinda saw that one coming. Finally, can you tell us about your first novel, Fun in the Yellow Pages? I understand it was utilized in several school district curriculums in their Language Arts Programs. As a writer, I can only imagine how that touched you. How exciting and rewarding. Were you nervous at all? Can you tell us a little about the experience?
I had a wonderful childhood in the country and since my sons were being raised in the suburbs, I would tell them stories of country living. I wrote FUN IN THE YELLOW PAGES to recapture many of my experiences and would read it to them at night. When it was published and utilized in the schools, I was surprised and thrilled. I was often invited to speak as ‘visiting author’ to read chapters and tell the class what inspired me as a writer. The first time I faced a class, yes, I was nervous but the students were inquisitive and talented young writers themselves. They asked all kinds of questions about the writing process and requested ‘secret’ info on each of the characters in the story. I was impressed by their questions and very touched by the letters I received afterwards. The letters are tucked away in my studio.
One consistent request of the classes was to write a sequel to FUN which I might do one day. At the moment, however, I’m deep into my new antebellum romance, INTO THE GREY, a continuation of (not a sequel to) SEASON OF THE SHADOW. I make that distinction because even though several of my characters are utilized in both SEASON and THE INN, each story stands on its own and need not be read in any certain order.
Thanks so much for having me. It’s been great fun being here!
Oh Bobbi! The pleasure was all mine. You are delightful and fresh. Your responses fascinated me and I loved hearing about the techniques you use as well as those little quirks that make each writer unique. Highly entertaining and I know your readers will thoroughly enjoy your style as well as the real-life stories you bring to life.