Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Bits & Pieces: Hope Tarr
The best part of doing Bits & Pieces is that I always learn something new and interesting about whomever I profile. Did I expect anything different with Hope Tarr--author extraordinaire--who actually said to me that I inspired her by finishing NaNo? Jokes? My first RWA meeting this past January, Hope was the speaker and she told us how her days went as a writer and even though she poked fun at herself, I want to underscore that there are the twelve days of Christmas and the twelfth novel of Hope Tarr--coincidence? I think not! It was the coolest thing ever to sit opposite Hope on a dreary, rainy day in Starbuck's and have her lighten up the mood of our own conversation--and that of the table next to us (well we are writers and we need fodder!)--about writing and the most important thing of all...romance and how it consumes everything and everyone. Lots of side conversation that does not make it into this post, but here is what does: "TWELVE NIGHTS, my latest Harlequin Blaze release, is my twelfth book, a fun little factoid. I wouldn't say I'm a superstitious person but I do watch the signs. And I believe in astrology just enough. If at all possible, I will not sign a contract during Mercury retrograde. And I read my horoscopes online every day. In one of my books, STROKES OF MIDNIGHT, the heroine who just 'happens' to be a romance novelist, is a big astrology buff. And wouldn't you know it, she's also really into shoes. That's one of the many great things about the writing life--just about everything you do (or don't do) counts as research. Here I was always thinking "I am procrastinating and I should be writing and not spending 45 minutes trolling online astrology sites," and my astrology addiction ends up in a book! My process, if you can even call it that, is that I kind of write in clumps. No matter how early I start a book I end up coming down to the crunch the last two weeks. I do a detailed synopsis but it always changes, which I've come to think of as okay. I like the beginning of the writing process when the story is really just this little seedling. It's like the beginning of a relationship when everything is possible. I also like the ending, when everything is complete, cohesive (I hope!), also like a relationship when you think about it. There were the inevitable obstacles and things that went wrong, or at least off, and still, you stuck with it, worked them out, and can say, 'I think I am really proud of this project'. As to the middle, well, that just sucks. ;) I've run three marathons so far: the Marine Corp twice, lastly in 2007, and the Richmond, VA one once. I joined the New York Runners Club as soon as I moved to NYC, almost two years ago. I've done shorter runs but so far no marathons. I'd love to do the New York City Marathon. Maybe next year? I'm taking aikido again after more than twenty years. I love it so much. I still have my gui from 1989. Christmas in New York City is pretty magical but winter is not my favorite season. I don't like to be indoors. I like to be dong things outside but on my own terms. I can be outside happily running or hiking all day but once nighttime comes, I want to be in a nice hotel or inn, shower and put on pretty clothes, and end the day with a lovely dinner with yes, lovely wine. It's weird seeing my name everywhere ((she paused to finger my Starbuck's cup with 'Hope' printed on it for the holidays)). I had an elementary school teacher whose favorite word was 'hopefully'. When addressing the class, it seemed like she would start every other sentence with 'hope...fully'. Hope-fully this, hope-fully that, I was always dancing in my seat, my arm shooting up in the air, thinking she must be calling on me. It was a little intense for fourth grade. I like movies, anything from chick flicks and other romantic comedies to foreign films, though I don't go nearly enough. The last movie I saw was COCO BEFORE CHANEL, which I thought was fabulous. I'm really fascinated by strong women who are before their time, living in society and yet on the cusp of it. . . Is Virginia is for lovers? Not so much for me... ;) I am originally from Maryland, then moved to Washington, DC to go to graduate school (Catholic University), then graduated and bought a house in VA, first a townhouse in Arlington, a suburb of DC, and then a big Victorian Revival/Arts & Crafts house in the historic district in Fredericksburg, a small town between DC and Richmond. Suburbs are probably my least favorite living environment, but then I've always managed to get the most out of anywhere I've ever lived. I thought I wanted to a psychologist because I am really interested in people. You have no idea how I am eavesdropping on the next table. ((I was, too!)) I started a Tudor romance novel that I wrote when I was twelve, and I still have a copy of it. I wrote it with a typewriter and most of the pages are on erasable bond onion skin paper. It's amazing how that stuff holds up. I was always into history especially the British Isles. Victoria Holt/Phillippa Carr/Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, Nora Lofts--those writers and other like them were my rock stars. I love the romance genre for many reasons, including its inherent honesty. People, particularly men are always pointing to how overblown the fantasy element is in romance fiction but I disagree. Really, is it so Out There to believe you could meet a wonderful, available, good-looking man who is honorable and treats you decently? Ours is a genre devoted to relationships and really, beyond anything, isn't that what our human lives are about? In the conversations we hear and overhear, by and large people are not talking about pursuing degrees or career advancement but their key relationships--whether they are happy in them or not happy in them, whether their needs are being met or not. A few years ago when Romance Writers of America last had their national conference in San Francisco, I attended a PAN talk given by life coach, Gail Blanke, a New Yorker. She was promoting her book, BETWEEN TRAPEZES: FLYING INTO A NEW LIFE WITH THE GREATEST OF EASE. One point she made particularly stands out. She was recalling an episode where she was called in to counsel former refugees, people who had been through horrible, horrible events--seeing family and friends shot down in front of them, prison camps etc., and her silent thought ran something like, 'Gosh, what can someone like me, someone whose life has been comparatively so privileged and well, easy, have to offer people who have been through so much?' But it turned out that as she got into the interview process, what these folks mainly wanted to talk about was their relationships e.g., Suzie Liu met and fell in love with John Fu at Camp X, then some event or person separated them, anything from something horrible to the appearance of a cute girl acting as camp cook, and now she's not sure if he's still going to want to see her. People wonder why someone who has lost everything still cares, and care tremendously, about how Joe or Jane Smith feels about them. But then relationships, dare I say love, is the meat of everything. Speaking of love, I am totally head-over-heels besotted with this city. After not quite two years here, I really feel like a native New Yorker, but every now and again there is something that will remind me I am a transplant. For example, I will never understand why it is that when New Yorkers see a flight of Subway entrance stairs, invariably somebody will suddenly pull out their cell phone right there--and I do mean right there as in smack in the center of the top step--and start phoning it home, 'it' being a whole bunch of smack. I mean, I get that you won't have a signal down under but really, can't you step to the side, go into the Starbucks or something and take care of your business without blocking all the rest of us? But noooooo, whether it is their baby daddy who apparently needs some what-for or a twenty-year family feud, that drama is going down there and then! It's annoying and hilarious at the same time and well, it sort of segues back to my point about relationships, doesn't it?" Hope Tarr has been a RWA/NYC chapter member for longer than two years--she joined before actually moving to New York and is very glad she did. For excerpts of TWELFTH NIGHT or her other books, historical and contemporary, visit her web site and blog at www.hopetarr.com.