Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Interview with Anna Richland

Hi Anna! Welcome to Anna's Book Blog. I'm glad to have you hear. To start off can you tell the readers a little about yourself? Can I answer every question with the word “coffee”? I live in Seattle, which is often gray and damp, and I drink a lot of it. I was an Army officer back in the fun 1990s, when Uncle Sam sent me everywhere from Albania to Japan. Now I work as mother of two/writer. My husband is Canadian, so my son has decided he wants to learn the sport of curling. The crazy thing is we actually have a curling club here in Seattle, so he can. My daughter is dedicated to every sport she’s ever met, which I can’t really fathom, because I had never run a mile before I joined the army. Before I sold my first novel, I used to garden a lot. My favorite thing in my yard is my amazing hellebore collection, which is blooming now.

(Reader trivia question: which of my characters also likes hellebores? First to answer in comments can nominate three or four names for a bad-to-the-bone miniature dachshund in the current book. I need name help. Actually, anyone can nominate feisty miniature dachshund names.)

First to Burn is your debut, can you tell us a little about it and the series? Describing First to Burn’s hybrid genre takes more words than my coffee order: paranormal romantic suspense with a military angle versus a double tall nonfat latte.

So … First to Burn is the story of Wulf and Theresa, essentially, an immortal Viking meets a curious doctor. Her questions about his super-healing ability mess up his carefully constructed life as a member of a Special Operations A-team, but he rolls with it. Lots of scariness before happily ever after: corrupt military contractors smuggling Afghan heroin, bad immortal Vikings doing terrible things that I can’t reveal, Theresa’s mother trying to make her wax her eyebrows.

Not only is this my debut, First to Burn kicks off a series about the dozen immortal Vikings who traveled with Beowulf to fight the monster Grendel. A symbiotic bacteria in Grendel’s blood made all of the warriors who handled Grendel’s arm or head have super-healing abilities. This series is a quest to use science to cure themselves … but the bad Vikings are on a quest for the same treatment, only to make more immortals. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

The second in the Immortal Vikings series, still untitled, is due to my editor April 8. (Yes, today.) It’s the story of an immortal Viking thief named Stig and the California wine merchant (Christina) that he tries to scam. It’s also paranormal romantic suspense, and I had to learn both how to steal cars and how to kill someone with a corkscrew. For the record: I did not actually DO either. Stig and Christina’s book will be published in January 2015 by Carina Press. I sort of shocked myself in this book with exactly how bad things get for Wulf’s brother Ivar. So all the readers who decided to dislike him after First to Burn: I challenge you to read the next book and tell me if you don’t feel like you were mean to a kitten. I feel so bad for Ivar, even though he’s still a jerk, and I’m the one who did this to him.

In the meantime, a spin-off novella about Cruz, one of Wulf’s regular-guy teammates, will be released in October 2014. Cruz’s story isn’t paranormal - but readers will get up close and personal with his flaming skull tattoo when he finally finds the smart girl he’s been whining and moaning about in First to Burn. I don’t have titles or firm dates yet, but if readers sign up for my newsletter at www.AnnaRichland.com, I PROMISE to let them know more.

What is your writing day like? Not long enough! Before I wake my children, I check email. After I wave to the school bus, if I’m desperate to do nothing but write, I go to a coffee shop in order to avoid dishes and laundry. If what I have to do is tons of small things, then I stay at home and work on the kitchen table (and fall victim to dishes and laundry). Now that I have one book published, one book in pre-publication, and I’m finalizing a third book, there are a shocking number of business details, ranging from cover art worksheets to updating spreadsheets. At this point, I’m not experienced enough to have a regular day. Everything is still a first for me!

When you’re not writing what kind of books do you like to read? I read a lot of children’s books out loud with my children. Luckily they’re at the stage where the books are pretty interesting, by authors like Susan Cooper (Victory) and Lloyd Alexander (Chronicles of Prydain), so sometimes I lurk in the hall finishing after they’ve turned out the lights. I also read two newspapers -- the ink-on-your-hands kind -- most days. I think of it a plot research! About the only television I watch is Castle.

The very first thing I’m going to read when I’ve submitted my next Immortal Viking book (Tonight. Did I mention the book is due Today?) is a Lee Child Jack Reacher story. Any one that I haven’t read, doesn’t matter. I’ve found that Lee Child is a good writer to use to cauterize my own story out of my head so I can read other writers without comparing their books to mine. After that, I’ll hit my To Be Read pile (and it’s EPIC, as my eight year-old would say): Amy Raby’s Prince’s Fire, the third in her Hearts and Thrones series, Kira Brady’s Hearts of Chaos, third in the Deadglass series, Pamela Clare’s Striking Distance and Sharon Lynn Fisher’s The Ophelia Prophecy.

What are 3 things that are "must haves" for you when you sit down to write a book?
Coffee. When I’m writing one of the Immortal Viking series, I rely upon my totally falling apart Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition. It’s the full text of the epic, translated by the late Irish poet Seamus Heaney into gut-grabbing language (edited by John D. Niles). The left-hand page of every spread is a photo of Viking relics, weapons or landscapes. I feel so lucky to have stumbled on this version instead of a plain text. I also like office supplies. I use nifty colored index cards to try to plan the scenes in order, and I also need 6 colors of highlighter and 3 colors of pen when I edit, plus sharpies and lots of sticky notes.

If you could give your lead characters one piece of advice, what would it be?
Stay home with a book. Seriously, every time any of them go somewhere, they get in a lot of trouble. Stay home.

Since becoming published, what has been your favorite part of the process? Reading reviews! Especially the ones where readers pull out and highlight their favorite quotes. I dance in front of my laptop grinning and thinking “I wrote that sentence and she liked it! No, she loved it! Wow!” I still can’t believe so many complete strangers read my book! What craziness is that? People who are not friends and family are reading my books! I’m happy for any reviews, because even the ones that have said they didn’t like some part of the book were generally interesting and thoughtful reviews that did like something else, and I have so enjoyed the range of opinions. But hands down my favorite is readers who quote lines.

What inspired you most while writing First to Burn? Tons of things inspired me, because First to Burn is a full-on 118,000 words. Personal experiences in the army (yes, I saw a suitcase full of cash open on a table once and I dropped a Beretta down my pants, but luckily those were not at the same time). The Illustrated Beowulf edition by Seamus Heaney I mentioned above. Several songs: “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” by Warren Zevon, lays out the essence of the Wulf’s backstory. “Over the Hills (and Far Away)”, a song about Canadian troops in Afghanistan, by Canadian Celtic rock/folk group Great Big Sea, is true for soldiers everywhere. And Portland band Pink Martini’s “Dosvedanya, Mio Bombino” encapsulates the cool Scandinavian/hot Italian essence of both the settings and the Wulf/Theresa relationship. I love all that music, so I hope readers give it a try!

If you could cast your lead characters, which actor would you pick? Wulf is definitely Chris Hemsworth. I came out of the first Thor movie thinking it was a great romance with an hour of action that could have been cut. Theresa is a combination of people I know: tall and athletic like a good friend (one of the doctors who helped me, in fact), but with the hair and appearance of a woman who used to work out with me years ago, packaged with a smidge of the babbling and argumentative characteristics of yours truly. So she’s just regular folks.

What's next for you? Coffee. Stig-the-thief’s story is due. And after I turn around edits, I haven’t decided if I’m going to write another novella for Cruz, or start the next immortal Viking. Not Ivar’s story yet - it’s Jurik, an immortal Viking Doctors Without Borders type, and Laura, a war correspondent who knows more than she wants to about the Vikings. (Yes, Laura from First to Burn). She’s trying to quit smoking, so what do they have to do? Find the last real dragon.

First to Burn
Immortal Vikings #1
By Anna Richland

Captain Theresa Chiesa, a by-the-book Army doctor fulfilling her final tour in Afghanistan, can’t believe the perfect soldier in the chow line is her disappearing patient, Sergeant Wulf Wardsen. Working together to save a pregnant Afghan girl makes her regret the difference in their ranks, but if she breaks the rule forbidding a relationship with an enlisted man, she’ll lose more than a career. She’ll lose the self-respect she earned by succeeding without her family’s interference.

Since the monster Grendel infected all of Beowulf’s Viking crew with immortality, Wulf has honed his battle skills. He trusts the mortal men on his elite A-team to conceal his secret, but he hides how much he envies their chances to grow old with the love of a wife and children. For fifteen hundred years, he’s lost everyone he loved.

Theresa’s passionate engagement with the world gives Wulf hope for a future together, but a supernatural lover doesn’t fit the plan Theresa’s followed since childhood. When corrupt military contractors suck them into the world of Afghan heroin smuggling, Theresa stops chasing her carefully mapped future. Instead she’s running for her life.

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  1. I jumped out of revising my next-to-last scene to come over and say thanks for interviewing me!



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