Hi Shira:) Welcome to Top2Bottom Reviews and More!
Thank you for taking some down time and spending it with us. Let’s start this off with a beverage. We have coffee, tea, some sort of juice (I think it’s been in here a few weeks) and soda. What would you like?
Diet Coke would be great. I’m a bit of a caffeine addict. Thanks!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a former opera singer and violinist. I grew up in a family of musicians—my mom’s a harpsichordist and my sister’s a former cellist. I sang professionally for about 14 years, then decided it was just too hard to balance that career and a family, so I went to law school. I started writing original fiction about five years ago and I’m hoping to quit my day job and write full time in a few years.
When you received news that your manuscript had been accepted what were the first words that fell from your mouth?
For my first contract with a publisher? “Holy shit!” Although I think I bounced around for a few minutes before my brain kicked in and something came out of my mouth.
What forces brought you over to the MM Genre and what made you want to write it?
My good friend and fellow Dreamspinner Press author, Venona Keyes, asked me if I’d write a story about two musicians with her. Both male. I’d read some yaoi manga, but I’d never written a gay romance before. Of course, I knew plenty of gay musicians (most of the men I knew when I was singing were gay), so it made total sense to me. And once I wrote that story with her, I never looked back! That short story became the basis for my new book, Prelude, the fourth book in the Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances from Dreamspinner.
Would you care for some cookies? We have chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal with or without raisins and a package of mystery ones. We have cake too. Your choice.
Chocolate chip are my favorite. Dang. Now I wished I’d asked for milk instead of Coke!
How many hours a day do you spending writing?
During the week, at least four hours a day. On the weekend, I can go for 10-12 hours when I’m on a roll. Basically, if I’m not working at my RL job, I’m writing. I’ve stopped watching TV, and I only read in between books to clear my fuzzy brain. I’m waiting for someone to figure out how to get 48 hours out of a day. That’d make my life a lot easier!
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
I tend to revise as I go along, although sometimes I’ll skip ahead in a story to write a scene that is really clear in my head. Of course I’ll go back and revise after I’ve finished a story, as well, and after my beta readers give me their comments. And I’ll revise even after I’ve gotten a contract on a story. Stories for me are constantly evolving—I often have the best ideas long after the story is in draft form.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I do a little of both. For my Blue Notes Series books, which are heavily character driven, I have a beginning, middle, and end point where I know I want to take the character. Then I write through and fill in the bones of the story. For my new merman/shifter series, Mermen of Ea, I do much more planning and plotting. Those are more plot driven stories with adventure and mystery built in. It’s too difficult to write those freely—I needed to build in elements for future books, so I needed a road map!
Of your characters do you have a favorite and why?
I have a few, but hands down one of the two main characters in my brand new release, Prelude, is my absolute favorite. David Somers is the fictional conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He’s the heir to a Wall Street investment company and is fabulously rich. On the surface, he’s sophisticated and poised. A world-class musician. Underneath it all, though, he’s a total mess. He’s insecure and afraid to take a chance at a relationship even when he knows violinist Alex Bishop is a “keeper.” It was so much fun writing David’s slightly stilted way of speaking and the way he navigates fancy donors’ parties, and then showing the reader what he’s really like underneath the polished veneer. Fortunately, Alex is sharp enough to figure David out.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I’ve had some short bouts of writer’s block over the years. I’ve come to see them as my muse giving me a heads up that I need to recharge a bit. For me, that usually means reading a book or streaming TV. Sometimes I just need to step back from a story and move on to something else. Book three in my Blue Notes Series, Aria, was really supposed to be book two. I needed to put it away for a few months. I started writing another book in the series, The Melody Thief, which got finished very quickly. Then I went back to Aria.
Do you have a particular spot in your house that you call your comfy zone? (The place where you write.)
I have a home office now where I write. But my favorite places to write are on the front porch (when the weather is good) and on our sailboat. There’s just something about being outdoors that gets me going and relaxes me at the same time.
When you’re in the mindset to write, do you put a sign up that warns others not to disturb you while at work?
I really should. Usually I just close the door to my study and my family will leave me alone. Sometimes, though, I wish I could put that sign up! But really, my husband and kids are pretty good about giving me peace and quiet, so when they know, I know it’s probably something important!
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I guess I have a pretty dry sense of humor—I blame my father for that! I love Monty Python and other classic British comedy, and I’m not really into the slapstick, potty humor that you see in a lot of Hollywood movies these days. Geek humor’s good, too, like John Stewart and Steven Colbert.
What is the most frequently asked Shira Anthony question?
Probably whether I’ll “sing something,” although I’ve had some folks ask whether there really are that many gay men in music! I wrote a silly passage in Aria where the main character, opera singer Aiden Lind, and his best friend Cary Redding (cellist from The Melody Thief) talk about things not to ask someone to do at a cocktail party, mostly because I felt Aiden’s pain about always being asked to sing out of the blue like that. I’d usually beg out nicely and say that I’m too loud for a small room (probably true!). And yes, there really are that many gay men in classical music.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on finishing up the manuscript to Encore, Book 5 in the Blue Notes Series. It’s a beast! It takes place over about 40 years, from when the main characters meet in high school in the early 1970s until present day. It features conductor John Fuchs and violin teacher Roger Nelson, who appear briefly in my current release, Prelude. All the Blue Notes books are standalone stories, but secondary characters in one book often get their story told in another. I’ve promised my publisher the manuscript by June 1st, so it’s just about ready to go!
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
I try to keep a good balance of family, work, and play. It’s why I love our sailboat so much—it’s a way for me to escape to a beautiful place and relax. I won’t lie and say that it’s a struggle to keep what are essentially two full-time jobs, but I do take time off for fun to recharge. I also love to travel, so I take advantage of conventions for my writing. It’s a bit like a 2-fer, going to GayRomLit, Yaoicon, and book fairs.
What kind of books do you like to read outside of the MM Genre?
I don’t read much other than MM, honestly. When I’m not writing, I beta read for other Dreamspinner Press authors who beta read for me. I also try to read books in my genre to support the authors, since I know how hard getting the word out about books can be! The last non-fiction book I read was a manual on scuba diving.
Pick one: Scientist, Astronaut, Retail, or Horse Trainer-
Astronaut, definitely! I dreamed about being an astronaut when I was a kid (probably from watching too much Star Trek!).
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I mentioned that I read a manual on scuba diving… My husband and I got our open water certification last year. We’re hoping to quit our day jobs in a few years and sail our boat to the Caribbean and Bahamas, and we want to dive as much as possible.
Otherwise, I love reading Japanese manga (“yaoi” – MM manga) and going for a run at a nearby lake. Sometimes I’ll actually cook something involved, but only when I’m not working on a book!
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
My next release is an “and now for something completely different” kind of story! Stealing the Wind, the first book in the Mermen of Ea series (also from Dreamspinner Press), will be released in August or September of this year. Unlike the Blue Notes Series, the Mermen series is a sequel series, meant to be read in order. The books in the series are more plot-driven/adventure stories than my Blue Notes romances. Fantasy/supernatural genre and set in the Age of Sail in an Earthlike place.
Stealing the Wind is the story of Taren Laxley, an orphan who is sold into indentured servitude when he’s a baby. He grows up learning to rig the great sailing ships that sail into the harbor and dreams of going to sea. When he’s kidnapped by pirates, he finally realizes his dream. Later, he is taken captive aboard the Phantom and meets its captain, Ian Dunaidh. Taren is surprised to discover that Ian and his crew are not human—they are Ea, mermen shifters who can transform and live beneath the waves. More surprising is that Taren learns he, too, is Ea.
Stealing the Wind is a bit sexier than my contemporary romances. It features a ménage (MMM) sexual initiation and a bit of dubcon at the beginning, although it is strictly a MM pairing. It also gave me the chance to imagine what merman sex might be like. But that’s a story for another day! You can read an excerpt on my website (scroll down to the book, then click the excerpt tab).
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
It was a pleasure having you here with us today. Please come by and let us know how you’re doing from time to time. OH! And before you leave, can I get your help here in the kitchen? Thanks!!
I’m pretty good at doing dishes. *winks* Thanks for having me!
Here is the blurb and cover art for Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keys. It is available through Dreamspinner Press.
A Blue Notes Novel
World-renowned conductor David Somers never wanted the investment firm he inherited from his domineering grandfather. He only wanted to be a composer. But no matter how he struggles, David can’t translate the music in his head into notes on paper.
When a guest violinist at the Chicago Symphony falls ill, David meets Alex Bishop, a last-minute substitute. Alex’s fame and outrageous tattoos fail to move David. Then Alex puts bow to string, and David hears the brilliance of Alex’s soul.
David has sworn off relationships, believing he will eventually drive away those he loves, or that he’ll lose them as he lost his wife and parents. But Alex is outgoing, relaxed, and congenial—everything David is not—and soon makes dents in the armor around David’s heart. David begins to dream of Alex, wonderful dreams full of music. Becoming a composer suddenly feels attainable.
David’s fragile ego, worn away by years of his grandfather’s disdain, makes losing control difficult. When David’s structured world comes crashing down, his fledgling relationship with Alex is the first casualty. Still, David hears Alex’s music, haunting and beautiful. David wants to love Alex, but first he must find the strength to acknowledge himself.