Alexandra Benedict burst onto the writing scene with a voice and writing style that has been praised by just about every reviewer in the romance community. Soon, she’s releasing a family series that I have no doubt will rival the best of them. She’s graciously agreed to not only interview, but give away one of her newest releases!
Welcome Alexandra to the blog!
Tell us your background in writing, how did you get started? Did you always want to be a writer?
I always enjoyed writing as a child, but I never wanted to grow up and be a writer. It was actually a creative writing course in my senior year of high school that inspired me to pick up my pen again and write.
On your website, you mention you’re a second generation author. Tell us more about that and how your family influenced your career.
Yes, my father’s a published author and my mother used to write poetry, so literature was a big thing in our household. My parents encouraged me to read, and I started writing my own fictional tales as a young child (I still have those stories tucked away somewhere). It was a good foundation for a budding writer, I think.
How long were you writing before you sold?
About seven years. I was learning a lot during that time, too, so I wasn’t actively searching for representation during that entire time frame. I took about two years off where I didn’t solicit agents/editors. Instead, I concentrated on writing the book that would eventually become my debut, A FORBIDDEN LOVE (Avon Books, January 2006).
Tell us about your first sale, “the call” and the first book you sold? Was it a slow, torturous process or relatively quick and surprising?
I signed with an agent January 2005 and I received “the call” February 28, 2005, so the process (once I had the right agent) was quick. I was standing at the top of the stairs with the cordless phone when my agent called to tell me she had sold the manuscript in a two-book deal with Avon. I dropped down and sat on the first step, shaking. I think I skipped around the house for a few months after that.
So far you’ve written historicals. Why that time period and have you any desire to write another time period or sub genre?
I enjoy writing historical romance because everything was “forbidden” once upon a time. Society dictated fashion and manners and even who was appropriate marriage material. It’s fascinating to revisit that social dynamic, to see what happens when a character break the rules and falls in love with someone “not up to snuff.” I’m always opened to other genres, but I’ve no definite plans to write in other fields just yet.
Was there something in particular that spurred the idea for your first book or any others?
My debut A FORBIDDEN LOVE was inspired by a photograph. An anecdote and even a dream inspired my other works. For me, ideas come from all sorts of places.
You work in an academic area, how do you deal with the negative stereotypes that people place on romance?
My boss has a friend who writes for Harlequin and some of my co-workers read romance, so I don’t confront negativity at work. However, I always cringe whenever I hear romance fiction referred to as “trash” or “smut.” I hope, through dialogue, to change points of view.
You’ve gotten amazing reviews and accolades for your books, but how do you deal with reviewers or readers who might not be so thrilled with your work?
It’s important to write a book that you’re really excited about. I always make sure I love the finished result. In this way, I’m never disappointed. A reader might not appreciate the work, but so long as I’m proud of it, I can get past any negative remarks.
Do you have a favorite book you’ve written, or a favorite hero/heroine?
I think that’s a tough question for any writer, but I’m really excited about the first book in The Hawkins Brothers series: THE INFAMOUS ROGUE (Avon Books, August 2009). The hero (Captain James Hawkins) and heroine (Sophia Dawson) really captured my imagination, so much so, I had to write two books about their stormy love affair. MISTRESS OF PARADISE, an e-book novella, will be timed with the mass market release.
You have a great website devoted to your newest series, The Hawkins Brothers. On this site, you have a few fun surprises, including a quiz which matches the reader with a Hawkins brother (www.thehawkinsbrothers.ca/funstuff.php). So, which Hawkins brother do you match with?
I was matched with Captain James Hawkins from THE INFMAOUS ROGUE. Who was your “hero”?
What made you decide to have two separate websites?
I realized The Hawkins Brothers series had the potential to evolve beyond my original four-book vision. I had already created an original novella to serve as the prequel to the series. And other ideas continued popping into my head. I wanted to create a community where readers could go to learn about the series in depth. It would have been too confusing, I think, to create endless links on my author website, so I figured a separate website was more appropriate.
What’s your writing schedule like? Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person?
I’ve recently altered my writing schedule. I used to be a “panster.” I’d sit at my computer in the afternoon and stare at a blank page, typing whatever entered my head. The method proved too time consuming, though. I’d either write rubbish or (sometimes) nothing at all (eek!). I realized I needed to do something different. Now I plan each chapter/scene ahead of time. I record the dialogue/events by hand in a notebook. The next day I type it up. I’ve reduced my daily writing time in half and I complete the book much sooner.
Who are your favorite authors/favorite books?
That would have to be WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte.
What advice can you give aspiring writers?
In terms of writing, the most important aspect to the story is the conflict (both the internal and the external conflict). If you want readers to anxiously turn the page, keep the conflict at the heart of the tale.
In terms of landing an agent/editor, research. If you send out a bunch of query letters to random agents/editors, you might not meet with a lot of success. I researched my agent before submitting a proposal, and I crafted a query letter that not only introduced myself and my work, but also informed the agent that I had selected her for three important reasons.
Give us your first line (or a favorite line) from your current work in progress and/or a blurb?
Hmm … my current WIP is still in the editing stage, so how about a sneak peek at the first paragraph from my upcoming release, THE INFAMOUS ROGUE?
Captain James Hawkins struggled with the cravat, slipping a finger between the stiff linen and his throat. The infernal noose! What he wouldn’t give to be rid of it. But if he ripped the knotted material in public, it would only confirm the haute ton’s suspicion of him: he was a barbarian.
Where can we find you on the web (websites, blog, facebook)?
Readers can visit me online at: http://www.alexandrabenedict.ca/ and http://www.thehawkinsbrothers.ca/
Thanks for having me, Lori!
Alexandra is giving away a signed copy of her latest release, Too Dangerous to Desire, to one lucky reader! Leave a comment and email addy for your chance. Winner will be announced Tuesday!