**AUTHOR PEEK** Interview with EILEEN DREYER
Before we get started talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living (if you’re not a full time writer) what hobbies you have, etc. Whatever you’d like to share.
Well, my story is kind of simple. I was born and raised in St. Louis. If you know anything about St. Louis, you know that you either leave right away, or you never go. I kind of never went. Well, I go, but I always come back. My entire extended family is all here, which means Thanksgiving has a bit of a mosh pit atmosphere, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m a full-time writer now, but I spent about twenty years working in hospitals, going from phlebotomists (although way back then we weren’t so fancy. We called ourselves blood drawers) and Pee Queen (urinalysis tech) (I even had a crown) to trauma nurse. I did that for sixteen years, the last nine while I was writing to get published (and published the last four years). For the last twenty-something years, writing has been my sole occupation. That and motherhood (and now grandmotherhood). I have two children and have had numerous pets of a variety of species.
Now, in addition to my writing, I love to travel whenever I can, usually with my husband and sometimes my family. Lately we’ve been to Italy, Ireland, England and the Tetons in Wyoming. Besides travel, I love to garden, read, walk, be grandma, attend theater, opera, music of all kinds (after a drink or two I sing traditional Irish music, and research (well, salve my curiosity). My mom had a motto in life she took from the movie Auntie Mame. “Life’s a banquet, and most poor bastards are starving to death.” I agree with her. I fill up as often as possible.
1. How did you get started writing?
I actually started writing when I was 10. I was addicted to Nancy Drew books. Then one day I found out that I’d read every Nancy Drew in our local library. I also learned my first lesson in publishing.
“When will the next one be out?” I asked Mrs. Madras (of course I remember her name. I think I still owe her money).
“A year, dear.”
A year. When you’re ten, a year is an eternity. I can still remember that moment of sick realization. And then, almost immediately, the feeling of epiphany.
“Wait,” I thought. “I don’t have to wait. I can write my own. Even better…I can make them turn out the way I want them to.”
I think that is the most primal realization every author comes to. I want to write the story I want to read. Because in the end, that is exactly what we do. When in my career I’ve forgotten that I’m my first audience, my writing suffers.
2. What genre(s) do you write in and why?
I have written twenty-five books for Harlequin/Silhouette, ranging from contemporary romance to romantic suspense to paranormal romance. I wrote quite a few ‘issue books’ on everything from suicide to PTSD to illiteracy to handicapped children. Then, when I retired from nursing, I wrote eight medical-forensic suspenses, starring, amazingly enough, trauma nurses. Now I’m writing what I call historical romantic adventure set in the Regency era. In between all that, I wrote ten short stories over a wide range.
Why those genres? Jayne Krentz speaks of genre fiction as the retelling of our old mythologies, reinforcing values we believe in. I really like that. And especially after working busy trauma centers as long as I did, the two values I need to reinforce the most are hope and justice, the values of the two main genres I write. Romance and suspense. Why the subgenres? Well, I think everybody writes what they read, and I read everything. Also, as a trauma nurse, I also bore easily. I love a new challenge. So I tend to wander around. I have to admit that I’m loving writing historicals. The research is fascinating, the challenges large, the fantasy compelling. And I don’t have to keep up on quickly changing forensic research (I’m re-publishing my suspense novels, and I quickly gave up on trying to update the technology. They take place in the year I wrote them)
3. What is your favorite part of writing?
Whatever I’m not doing at this particular moment. Actually, there is always a moment writers call the “Aha!”, when all the disparate information you’ve been collecting, from research to characters to conflict to themes all suddenly gel into a cohesive whole. It happens at different times in each book. It isn’t necessarily what readers think it is; sometimes it is a tiny moment, what I call a ‘sign from God’ that tells me that this is the book I need to write, that I’m on the right track. That these characters are the ones who deserve my attention.
4. What is your least favorite part of writing?
Linear plotting. I’m so right brained that wind whistles through the left side of my head. And, of course, that’s where linear logic lies. Well, sometime around the middle of each book, there is a linear progression of events, one impacting another, whether clues and solutions or behavior and motivation that simply makes me want to bang my head against a wall. I always spend those chapters certain that I’ll never have enough to fill a whole book, that nobody will want to read it anyway, that it’s all crap. Usually right after the center of the book, everything shifts to, “Holy cow, how am I ever going to fit everything in?” I can’t begin to tell you what a relief it is to reach that moment.
5. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
I always want to say that there’s an Idea Story on 46th Street in New York. There isn’t, of course. Ideas come from everywhere. The real skill is being open to input, kind of like being radio receivers, and then making something out of them. I think of that skill like a water wheel. At first, it’s really hard to turn an overheard conversation into a plot. But after a few years, we all reach that point my friends call “Stop Me Before I Plot Again.” The difficulty then is to filter out what you don’t need, because you can’t listen to a news story, see a TV show, or accidentally eavesdrop in an airport without going, “But, what if?” and spinning what you heard into a story.
For instance, in ONCE A RAKE, my new book, I knew my hero began bobbing around in the English Channel, shot and accused of treason. But I didn’t know where he landed or why. I knew nothing about his heroine. And there were two other books in this trilogy I still hadn’t plotted. One of my friends gave me a copy of Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier about a young paleontologist who lived in the area at the time of my book. Suddenly I had not only the setting for this book, but the backgrounds of two of my characters in another book. Not paleontologists, but astronomers, because with the story in Remarkable Creatures, I discovered that the time was a golden age for amateur scientists. And to tell you the truth, I have the definite suspicion that I’ll find more scientists in future books.
6. What is it that makes your writing different from all the others in your genre?
Really interesting question. I do know that while I don’t spend a lot of time on historical events or research in my books, I am obsessive about making sure that my books are historically absolutely accurate. I also admit that I don’t write drawing room comedies or costume dramas that belong in a kind of floating time with Regency costume but no real date. I love suspense. So I add adventure. And my adventure revolves around actual historical events. (I further and freely admit that I always suspect that if I wrote a straight romance I’d bore the socks off of people. But if you put a bullet through the window, you can keep the action moving for at least two chapters) (I know this because I just set a house on fire. Trust me. Everybody’s busy.)
7. Are you an avid reader? When you do read someone else’s writing, what is your favorite genre?
I am an avid reader. I always have been. I read every genre, from suspense to romance to paranormal to fantasy to historical fiction. When I’m actively writing, though, I tend to read traditional Regency romance. Not only do I love the period, but I’ve read most of them and it’s like revisiting friends. Not only that, but as I told a friend once when he asked why I read them, “Well, everyone is intelligent, they’re witty, they bathe—very important to me in a romance—and in the end, the worst thing that can happen is that the heroine marries the vicar instead of the duke. Life goes on. As intense as my own work sometimes is, that is a refreshing break.
8. Tell us about your next book & when is it being published?
My newest book just out is ONCE A RAKE, the story of Colonel Ian Ferguson, who ended another book shot, accused of treason and bobbing around in the English Channel. Accused of trying to assassinate Wellington, he needs to avoid not only the army, but the real assassins so he can warn Wellington and stop the plot. The only person available to help him is Sarah, Lady Clarke, an outsider herself, who is desperately trying to hold onto her husband’s estate on the south coast. As you can imagine, they have to overcome not only very real physical danger, but the emotional peril of a growing love to survive.
Links to Eileen’s website, blog, books, etc.
Buy Links for Once A Rake:
BE SURE TO COME BACK to read more about Eileen and her release, ONCE A RAKE, on Wednesday’s Karen’s Killer Book Bench!! Happy Reading!
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Eileen will give away an autographed copy of ONCE A RAKE to one of her lucky readers who comments on her Monday Interview or Wednesday Book Bench blogs!! Don’t miss this chance to read this story!! Thanks, Eileen, for sharing your stories with us!