Here's an excerpt from Storybook Love by Carol Ayer, a contemporary romance being released June 16th.
“He’s here, and he’s hot!”
Rebecca Charles wearily turned her attention from the computer screen to her assistant’s grinning face. Leave it to Sara to latch onto the irrelevant.
Sara yanked open the door and rushed outside before Rebecca had a chance to ask for more time. She powered down the computer, chewing on the inside of her cheek. It figured that Mr. Bigshot would be early. Did he expect her to drop everything she was doing and hurry outside the moment he arrived? Jonathan Eastman the Third, vice-president of the ThemeWorld Parks conglomerate, clearly didn’t care about anyone else. He didn’t care whom he inconvenienced on the way to getting what he wanted, which was no doubt more money and power than he already had...
So she would go out there, tell Eastman she’d changed her mind about his business proposition, and send him on his way. She would keep her beloved fairy tale park out of his clutches if she had to wrench it from his greedy hands.
When – and why – did you begin writing?
I'm one of those people who ate up books as a child. I learned to read at age 4; my favorite presents were always books. I loved going to the library. As soon as I grasped that it was possible to create these wonderful objects, I started "making" my own. I wrote a "novel" when I was ten or eleven and submitted it to a publisher my grandmother worked with (she's an artist). It was, of course, rejected. I was no prodigy. I also submitted short stories to places like "Cricket." I was rejected time after time, but was completely unfazed. I just loved to write. I wasn't published until I was well into adulthood (that's when the rejections began to bother me, too!)
Which came first, freelancing, or fiction?
I have more or less always done both. My first accepted work was an essay that the online edition of "Runner's World" published. I wasn't paid, but I did get a t-shirt! Some of my early paid acceptances included fiction in "Woman's World" and an essay in "Chicken Soup to Inspire a Woman's Soul." I still tend to go back and forth between non-fiction and fiction. I write poetry, too.
How does your fiction affect your nonfiction, and vice-versa?
I don't think there is a lot of correlation between the two, unless you count that I lean toward women's issues--whether in non-fiction or fiction. I didn't intend to write romances, but I've been successful in placing romance short stories, and now, the novella.
Tell us about your process writing Storybook Love. What inspired you, and what did you struggle with?
I think my greatest struggle in writing "Storybook Love" was moving from writing short stories to writing something longer (and I still only managed to crank out a novella!). I have a background in journalism, and the dictates of that form have stuck with me--be factual, be brief. Fiction, of course, is much different.
Your novella is set in Storytown, a theme park where classic stories, like Peter Rabbit, are made into rides, like The Peter Rabbit Vegetable Garden. That’s such an original premise. Where’d you get the idea for Storytown?
When I was little, my grandmother took me to a place called Fairyland, in Oakland, California. It's a storybook park that is still there, over fifty years after its inception. Fairyland is filled with sets and rides based on popular nursery rhymes, fairytales, and children's books. Because of my love for reading, you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover such a place! My grandmother and I went there often. In my mid-twenties, I took a summer job at Fairyland, and ending up staying over four years. I think it was always in the back of my mind that Fairyland would be a great setting for a story. I ended up writing a short story set at a fictional place called LitLand, and then, when I decided to try writing a longer work, I used that type of setting again.
What’s something I wouldn’t know about Storybook Love just by reading the blurb?
One of the themes of the book is whether or not we have to abandon our childhoods completely when we grow up--i.e., be serious all the time, act maturely, put work before pleasure, etc. I don't think we have to, not at all, and hopefully this comes through in the book.
What’s the publishing story behind Storybook Love?
Because of its short length, I did have rather a hard time placing it. I thought it might work at Avalon, because Avalon looks for rather conservative stories, and they are okay with shorter works. I sent the first few chapters and they requested the full, but in the end they rejected it. I think Wild Child was perhaps the third or fourth e-publisher I submitted to. I had heard nothing but good things about them, and I've been very pleased with my own experience. I actually had Marci Baun, the owner and publisher, as my editor. She was great. The time between acceptance and publication was six months. I think it took about three months to receive the acceptance after I submitted.
Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?
A writer can't be afraid. She can't be afraid to submit, she can't be afraid of rejection, and she can't be afraid to put all her emotions onto the page. I do okay with the first two, but I am still struggling with the third. I believe that the best writing comes from deep within the writer. Writers are at their best when they're not afraid to take the emotions they are feeling and use those emotions in their writing. This is easier said than done. A close friend of mine died a few years ago, and I was absolutely devastated. I think it will be awhile before I am able to incorporate it into my writing, but if I can, I think I can come up with something that will ring true to my readers, and hopefully speak to them--even help them. That's what writing is all about, isn't it?
You’ve been published in such notable places as Woman’s World, Flashquake, WOW – Woman On Writing, and even a few of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. How do you think you’ve grown most as a writer?
I think I've improved technically; I am more aware of making sentences as active as possible, of using strong verbs; of avoiding cliches (thanks, in great part, to Marci). I am much better with rejection. I really don't take it personally anymore. Of course, a little bit of success helps in this regard. My mom is very supportive of my writing, and I often show her a piece before I submit it. She is great with constructive criticism, and I almost always take her advice. That's an important step--to be able to accept constructive criticism.
Speaking of growing, do you see a novel anywhere in your near future?
Yes. I've participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) the last two years, and wrote 50,000 words each time. I'm not too pleased with the 2007 attempt--it's women's fiction, and I'm afraid it just isn't very compelling. My 2008 novel--a mystery--has some promise, I think. It's also set at a storybook park. It needs a lot of work, though, and again I'm dealing with the problem of making it long enough. Luckily, it's a "cozy," so it doesn't have to be much longer than 60,000 or 70,000 words.
Thank you Carol!
Carol Ayer is a freelance writer specializing in sweet romances and women's concerns. Her fiction and nonfiction has been published in such prestigious places as Flashquake, WOW – Woman on Writing, Woman’s World, and the Chicken Soup For the Soul books. Her novella, Storybook Love, will be released June 16th. You can learn more about Carol Ayer by visiting her website.