Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Heidi and Violetta.
Heidi: No problemo! Thanks for having us.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Heidi: I was born in New Brunswick, Canada. I’m half-English (on my dad’s side) and half French-Canadian (on my mother’s). As a preteen I moved to rural Northern BC with my family, where I still live to this day, except now with a family of my own! I have a degree in History.
Violetta: I was raised by wandering hippies. My mother eventually settled down in Florida, and I still live in the Southeast today, although I’ve done a lot of travelling on my own as well. I’m Japanese-American, and I speak Spanish, but not Japanese.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
Heidi: Our first book as co-authors is called “The Druid Stone”. We first discussed the possibility of co-writing in April 2011, and finished the novel (including rigorous edits thanks to the brilliant April L’Orange) in mid-August. Two days after submitting it, I had my baby, and just before Christmas we heard from Carina that they’d decided to publish it! To bring it all full circle, Carina is releasing it in August of this year and we couldn’t be happier.
Violetta: The first book we wrote has had the longest route to publication! You definitely need a lot of patience in this business.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
Heidi: A little of both, I think. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. It’s a constant fixture in my life and I get anxious when I’m not doing it. (Just ask Violetta what it’s like when our schedules get hectic and we go a week without writing!) So I’d say writing chose me, but I chose to be a writer. I chose to research a genre and publishers and I chose to read reviews and network with authors, editors, and publishers. I chose to make time for writing and make a concrete business plan for being consistent and productive at it. So I’d say it’s part natural inclination/talent, and part decision, planning, and action.
Violetta: I wanted to be a writer for a very long time. I’d studied literature, I’d written poetry and essays, but I’d talked myself out of believing I could write fiction. About three years ago, I successfully unconvinced myself, and I’ve been writing ever since.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Heidi: I have a newborn who is attached to me 24/7, so I don’t really have “writing days”. I have “normal days where I fit writing in between diapers”. So I don’t really know how to answer this! Basically I sneak writing into all kinds of little spaces. I may or may not be incredibly behind on my housework (cough–laundry–cough) because of that.
Violetta: I used to have a corporate job, but now I’m at home, homeschooling my oldest son. The demands on my time aren’t any less, unfortunately. I get most of my writing done early in the morning and late at night and with an afternoon hour or two in between. Sometimes Heidi and I schedule time formally for writing, but more often we just try to get a certain amount of progress every day or every week, and keep our schedules really flexible.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
Heidi: We try to have a clean first draft, and because we work together in real time, we’re constantly editing or changing each others’ writing. But we do try to reserve major edits or rewrites for after we’ve had a third set of eyes and some time to let the MS breathe.
Violetta: I love reading different perspectives on this. Robert E. Heinlein famously said, “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” Other writers approach the first draft as a trial run and revise almost everything on the next pass. I think we’re more on the revise-as-you-go end of the spectrum. I don’t like wasted passages. I’d rather spend an extra ten minutes deleting and retyping a sentence to make it perfect before moving on than type out a few paragraphs just to keep moving and then have to go back and delete it all the next day. We really do our best to get it right the first time. We’re very open to beta and editorial feedback, and most of our revision is done at that stage. That’s when we have to be absolutely merciless and delete the stuff we can’t justify.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Heidi: We are planners. We are very very very thorough planners. At the very least, we have a beginning, middle, and end sketched out, as well as detailed character bios, when we start a first draft. However, depending on the complexity of the narrative, we often have more than that. Way more. Like, complicated pacing and arc spreadsheets more. It borders on obsessive in the most awesome way.
Violetta: Planning all the way. I really, really hate wasted passages. I want to know what a scene is supposed to do before I’m in the middle of it. I think it’s also very hard to create meaningful suspense without thorough planning, and suspense is always something we’re aiming for, so that we can give the reader something exciting and unexpected.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
Violetta: Tons of research. Our research has research. That’s one of the best parts of being a writer: you’re always learning something new (and the reader gets to learn that stuff along with you!). “Cruce de Caminos” has paranormal elements based on Santería—this is a syncretic religion combining Catholic Christianity and West African Yoruba religion—and while that was something I was familiar with on a surface level just from having lived in Miami, we needed a lot of research as well. We don’t just come up with the details out of thin air; the fantasy is more compelling if the details are grounded.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
Heidi: Neil Gaiman has some advice on “writer’s block” that I subscribe to whole-heartedly. You can read it here.
Violetta: Co-writing is fantastic for defeating writer’s block. If one of us is feeling uninspired, the other one can pick up the pace for a bit.
What are you working on now?
Violetta: We’re in the revision stages of a free short story. It’s a romance, a very unusual one, because one of the characters is invisible, and the other one is practically asexual. And it’s set during the war between Finland and the Soviet Union that took place during WWII. We’re also working on an ancient Roman gladiator novel, also a nonstandard romance. Like our other books, this does have a fair amount of hot sex, but it has no paranormal elements at all: it’s a straight-up, very rigorous historical. If you’re into shows like Rome and I, Claudius, that’s the feel we’re going for.
Heidi: But with the sexy bits from Spartacus.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
Violetta: We try to be active and engaged in social media, and also locate our books in a community of other books and stories that readers enjoy. For example, most of our books are interracial and multicultural, and I’m always happy to read and talk about other great IR/MC m/m books. I hate getting spammy messages and would never do that for promotion.
Heidi: “What lengths have you gone to” sounds so seedy, like taking people hostage or something. I just try to network, be available on social media to readers and peers, blog regularly, that sort of thing. Writing freebie stories has been a great way to expose people to our writing style and the quality of what we put out. Our story “Harm Reduction” (free for download from Storm Moon Press) was brilliant on that front.
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
Violetta: For “Cruce de Caminos,” the story grew out of a larger story. We wrote a long novel called The Druid Stone, coming from Carina this summer, that tells the story of a young man named Sean O’Hara who travels to Ireland to get rid of a curse. It’s also the story of Cormac Kelly, the modern-day druid who comes to his aid. Sean has a very sad, complicated past—although he’s much more than a bundle of trauma, because he put himself back together on his own—and part of that includes a trip to New Orleans just before Katrina and then a traumatic event afterwards, in Florida.
We wanted to go back and tell the story of what happened in New Orleans. It’s pretty intense.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
HeidiBelleau.com | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Tumblr
ViolettaVane.com | Facebook | G+ | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Amazon | Pinterest
New Release Mailing List for Heidi and Violetta (new releases only)
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
Of course! Here’s a scene from Cruce de Caminos:
Sean knew he wasn’t going to like the client the minute they walked into his suite. Actually, he’d had a hunch from the moment the cab had pulled up outside of the hotel, and he’d been struck stupid by the sheer expensive opulence of it. The ceilings of the lobby glistened gold and white and dripped with huge crystal chandeliers. Monster-sized ornate furniture crowded the floor.
“Do not look around,” Ángel had hissed as they’d passed through the huge front entry under the watchful gaze of the doorman, so Sean kept his eyes forward. He didn’t need to look around to know how excessive this place was, how exclusive. He was a trespasser in another world and the other world was watching.
Any person rich enough to afford this place had to have stepped on a lot of necks to get their money; any person vain enough to want to stay here had to have some serious pretensions. He’d been talked down to a lot in his life—by his father, by his teachers, by charity workers, by the various people he’d encountered while panhandling— but he had a feeling that was just the small leagues.
Having successfully navigated the lobby, Ángel led them to the so-called “European Palace Suite.” Oh, a definite ego. Maybe Sean would call him “Your Highness.” Fucker.
Want to win some “Cruce de Caminos” swag, as well as a few other surprise New Orleans goodies? Leave us a comment on this or any of our other Riptide Rentboys blog tour posts with your email (or other contact info), and we’ll enter you into our week-long draw!
How about a copy of “The Druid Stone”, which picks up Sean’s story five years later? Click here to try your hand at our Cruce de Caminos quiz!
About Heidi and Violetta:
Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane are two unlikely friends and co-writers from different sides of the same continent. Heidi, from Northern Canada, is a history geek with a soft spot for Highlanders and Victorian pornography. Violetta is a Yank (and a Southerner, and a Japanese-American) with a cinematic imagination and a faintly checkered past. Together, they write strange and soulful interracial and multicultural m/m with a global sensibility and the occasional paranormal twist.
About “Cruce de Caminos”, out now from Riptide Publishing:
Addiction drives Sean O’Hara to a critical crossroads. Will he make the right decision, or will the floodwaters bound for New Orleans sweep him away?
Street kid Sean O’Hara never had it easy, but New Orleans has driven him to his knees. His girlfriend’s broken up with him for a sugar daddy, a gun-toting pimp has robbed him of everything but the clothes on his back, and he’s down to his last two OxyContin. Sean’s no seasoned streetwalker, but he’s not above it either, not when he’s already itching for his next fix.
A familiar-seeming stranger named Ángel may be his ticket to some quick cash, but only if Sean’s willing to help him indulge a high-class john’s weird fetish for the night. As Ángel tells him, in this city and this business, you have to get a little weird to survive.
When night falls on the French Quarter, Sean realizes Ángel and the john want more from him than he was expecting to give. What once seemed merely strange soon crosses the line into supernatural and sinister. And Ángel, the man Sean had viewed as a partner and protector, might also be his otherworldly judge and executioner.