Coffee Time Readers I have had the distinct pleasure of not only reading Sleeping With the Lights on but also getting to provide you with a little more insight into the mind of the wonderful author, Brenda Whiteside.
Good Evening Brenda. Welcome to Coffee Time Romance and More. How are you this evening?
I’m great, Delane. I’ve been looking forward to talking with you. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some question about your release, Sleeping With the Lights On. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little about the novel?
Sleeping with the Lights On is a contemporary romance with a heavy dose of humor and a large dollop of suspense. My heroine, Sandra, is fifty which makes her different than conventional romance heroines. She’s twice divorced and without a career. Hmm…that doesn’t sound very humorous does it? Well, Sandra manages to approach her life with humor. This is actually a story of discovery. Her sexy ex-husband, a quirky millionaire, and a red-headed stalker join her on that path.
I loved how you brought a man out of the shadows of Sandra's past and make him the one person she can turn to and trust. How did you discover your characters and did their quirky personalities evolve or were they your vision from the beginning? Do you use the people you meet as a character basis for your stories?
Yes and yes. Everyone I come in contact with has potential to become a character in one of my stories. But none of my characters are real. The way someone smiles, one incident, the dynamics between two people, any little tidbit of someone’s personality can grow into a fictional character. And once in a while they waltz into a story from where I don’t know – like the redhead in Sleeping with the Lights On. Some characters I know from day one. Sandra falls into that category. She had been muddling along, letting love take her this way and that, but couldn’t hang on to love or career. I knew she had it in her to take charge of her life – to discover where and what she should be doing and with whom. Her journey sparked the story. Carson, the ex that two-stepped into her present from her past didn’t reveal his true personality to me any sooner than he did to Sandra. We knew he was sexy and hard to resist, but we didn’t know his depth.
I love the initial impressions of Wesley wherever did you get the idea to make him so childlike?
I’m not sure. Cop out! But really, it fit him. If I can quote from the book:
“A self-made, twenty-first century millionaire should be polished and have attitude. Quite the opposite with Wesley.” With all his money, he’s like a little boy with an unending supply of toys. Sandra likes that what you see is what you get with Wesley. That would be refreshing after years of dead-end romances and dating, don’t you think?
There is a lot of pressure and competition in becoming an author. What made you decide to become a romance writer?
I didn’t choose the genre, the genre chose me. I chose to write. My first love, short stories were more character studies than anything else – glimpses into mostly women’s lives. The stories were always written with humor and discovery. I’ve had quite a few published but not in traditional romance publications. They couldn’t actually be classified as romance because they didn’t necessarily end up with girl getting guy. With the longer form, I carried the stories out on a longer arc and voila! Happy ending.
After reading the BIO on your website I have to wonder if your travels with the Army life have helped in your writing and do you use any of your experiences in your stories?
Traveling in general is good for a writer in my opinion. The more we see, the more cultures we come in contact with, all add fuel to the imagination. And every experience I’ve had in life is material to draw from for a story.
Every author has some way they are most comfortable when writing; do you have a method by which your write? Surrounded by music, dim lighting, snuggled on the couch, time of day, etc.
I’m most creative with Nathan Fillion giving me a shoulder message, while whiffs of Nag Champa incense swirl around my head, and Brandi Carlile sings softly on the CD player. The rest of the time, I can write as long as I have a computer handy. Actually, I use to be very picky – had to be at MY computer, in MY special space at home, and NO noise of any kind. Well, that limited my writing time! Now, I can write virtually anywhere, blocking out almost any noise. I say almost because a football game on television is the one noise I have trouble ignoring. We now have headphones for the hubby.
Sleeping With the Lights On is a mystery/thriller with romance woven throughout. Do you enjoy this theme the most or do you write with different voices and/or varied themes?
I’m writing an historical romance right now set in 1945 Arizona. And having a lot of fun with it. But I’ll be back to contemporary romance with suspense on the next three. I have a 3 book series percolating in my head; my favorite thread of a woman with a few years of experience embarking on a new path of discovery.
Outstanding, I look forward to the three book series and will keep an eye out for their release.
It would seem that the hottest growing story line is the cougar/cub theme. The main characters of this story are in the same age range and I must commend you on not falling onto the cougar/cub bandwagon. Is this age difficult to keep realistic? I find that some author's make even 50 year old life glamorous but less realistic. In your writing do you find it difficult to strike a balance between being a mature individual and still being a sexual being?
Not in the least. My heroines have been having a great time in life, racking up experiences, staying vital. In some cases, they haven’t found “the one” or the career like Sandra in Sleeping. In other stories, they’ve had what they thought was the perfect life for them when suddenly circumstances change and they journey out on round two, which will be the direction of my 3 book series. Because of age and life experiences, the story can be so much richer than about someone who’s not had their heart broken several times over. And since you alluded to the sex quotient, I’m reminded of a saying – At twenty, I needed plenty of sex. At thirty, the amount didn’t matter but it had to be quality sex. At forty, I needed both quality and plenty of it. See?
Wow, that is so true and I do see what you are saying and I agree.
I think that a good book should move me in some way. What do you look for in a good novel? Which genre are you personally drawn to?
My reading tastes are all over the genre map. I have to say, I don’t read category romance. I love romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, and an occasional romance with paranormal overtones. I like fantasy like The Lord of the Rings. But I also love the classics, straight mysteries, and standard suspense.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there who are looking to break into the romance genre and battle with all the competition?
My advice probably sounds like everyone else’s. Like – write what you know, don’t write trends, never give up. The romance genre is tough in the sense that there are many, many authors but the flip side of that is romance sells more than any other genre. I think the three most important things are:
Write, write, write – even if it is in 15 minute segments at 5:00 am before your day job (personal experience). Join a critique group or find a critique partner who will be perfectly honest with you. Join professional organizations like Romance Writers of America and your local organization, which for me is the Midwest Fiction Writers.
Do you have anything to add or say to our readers?
Thank you for signing on and reading my interview! I’m a social author so feel free to contact me with questions or comments. I’ll answer and would love to hear from you. You can email me or come join me on Face Book.
Delane and Coffee Time, thanks for having me. I’ve enjoyed it.
Brenda, thank you for spending time with me today and giving some wonderful and insightful responses. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
Where you can find Brenda Whiteside: MySpace | Facebook