Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interview with Viola Russell

I’m delighted to have as a guest with us today, American author Viola Russell. Viola Russell is the pseudonym of a native New Orleanian who is a true romantic. She says she is an English teacher who lives with her dog and is happiest when creating at her computer. So tell us how you sold your first book, Viola, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I've had other books rejected, but not BURIED TRUTHS, my first published ebook. My local RWA chapter, SOLA, sent out an e-mail that Sapphire Blue Publishing was looking for authors. I sent BURIED TRUTHS to Sapphire Blue Publishing, http://www.sapphirebluepublishing.com and, happily, I received an e-mail and contract shortly after. I've been writing steadily ever since. Nothing builds confidence like an acceptance notice.

Where is your favorite place to work?
I work in a room I call my study. My computer is hooked up to the internet, and if I need to do any quick research, I'm able to switch from my typing to the internet quickly. For example, when I wrote my second book, LOVE AT WAR now available through Red Rose Publishing http://www.redrosepublishing.com
I sometimes needed to verify what certain uniforms looked like or what kinds of weapons were used by the various military units. My dog sleeps at my feet while I type, and when I'm writing a particularly difficult scene, I often keep my mother's rosary at my side. It's my special talisman.

Do you have to juggle writing with your day job? What is your work schedule?
I'm an English teacher, and I nearly always have papers to grade or lessons to prepare. Consequently, I'm writing well into the night. My summers and my holidays are very important writing times.

How do you develop historical characters? And how do you keep them in period yet sympathetic to readers?
I research the history of the period a great deal before I even begin writing. I look up information and pictures on the internet to see important sites if I haven't been there. I don't think it's hard to make characters sympathetic. Situations and time periods may vary, but people have always experienced joy, sadness, or doubt. They have conflicts with others, experience hardships, and suffer turmoil. You can bring these human issues to any time period. In LOVE AT WAR, my characters are caught in the midst of WWII. They're no more than high school kids when the novel begins, but they have to grow up fast. I placed Nuala and her husband Keith in wartime, and they experience the trauma and loss of that period. Their experiences shape them, but they also share a love that any lovers from any period can understand. I loved that my family saw so much of themselves in Nuala's family while they sat at Sunday dinner. Nearly everyone I've talked to has appreciated the intense love Nuala and Keith share, and my cousin Jim paid me a great compliment. He said that my battles scenes were some of the best he'd ever read, and Jim is a Vietnam veteran.

How do you promote your books and what tips can you offer other writers?
I promote my books through Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. I offer contests, and I even took an ad in a local newspaper/magazine. I also take out RT ads promoting my covers. For the latest book, LOVE AT WAR, I also commissioned a book trailer designed by Betty Ann Harris. I use my current book cover as my Facebook profile picture. I think I'd tell new writers that they should set up these types of accounts as soon as possible. You need to make friends through these social networking sites to promote yourself. I also have a very nice website designed by a wonderful webmaster, Judah Mahay. Plus, promote yourself through book markers that have a picture of your cover as well as any other promotional tool you can afford.

What draws you to a particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I love historical literature in any genre. LOVE AT WAR is set during WWII, and I've always been fascinated by that period because my parents were adults during that area. I'm a history buff, and I love different periods of history. For example, I'm a great fan of C.S. Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr books set during the Napoleonic Wars. My dissertation was on Romanticism, and I love the era of the French Revolution. The impact of that revolution on Europe and America was profound. It influenced literature, politics, and social mores. I also enjoy contemporary literature as well, and I don't want to be defined by a particular genre. BURIED TRUTHS showed the impact of Katrina on my hometown as well as the way decisions made long ago impacted people later in life. Heather Kerry gave away her baby and the love of her life, but she never quite lived until she found them both again.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I used to be very spontaneous and fly with the wind. Consequently, I had a very loosely constructed plot. Now, I outline and take extensive notes. I plotted each scene of LOVE AT WAR, juggling human emotions and historical content.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal?
I haven't written a series yet, but I enjoy C.S. Harris' St. Cyr books. I love the period, and I'm invested in the characters. I also love James Lee Burke's mystery series featuring Dave Robicheaux. I think that's the key to a good series. You have to love the characters and want to know what happens to them.

Tell us about your latest book and how you got the idea.

My latest book is LOVE AT WAR, available through Red Rose Publishing. As I said, I'm a history buff and love that period, but this story was also very personal. After my beloved mother died, I went through her things and found letters her brothers had written during the war. LOVE AT WAR doesn't tell the story of my family specifically, but I wanted to tell the story of that period. Four of my uncles fought. One died in Germany and is buried overseas. His unit's job after the war was to collect unexploded bombs and ammo. The prison where they were stored exploded, and he was killed. My cousin Sandy never knew her father. When I wrote LOVE AT WAR, I named Nuala and Keith's daughter Sandy as a tribute to my cousin, who is also my godmother.

Can you tell us something about your work in progress?
Currently, I'm working on a novel set in Ireland during the 1500s. This is the era of the chieftains, and it also was the time of Tudor expansion into Ireland. I love the West of Ireland and have been there several times. What fascinates me about that period was how crafty the chieftains were in dealing with English officials. My protagonist is Grace O'Malley, a pirate in her own right and the wife of two powerful chieftains. She was shrewd, daring, and a match for government officials as well as for men in her own clan.

To find out more about Viola visit her website: http://www.violarussell.com/

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: mailto:freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk


Betty Ann Harris said...

I enjoyed finding out more about Viola and her books. I hope she will be writing more.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely to read about you and your writing, Viola - I'm even more impressed that you write around a teaching job! Gorgeous cover for Love at War.

Viola Russell said...

Thanks for the comments. Sometimes, the teaching does intrude upon the writing. Maybe I'll win the lottery and retire to a life of writing.