Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sondra Allan Carr talks about story themes (Guest Author)

My guest author today is Sondra Allan Carr. I read mostly contemporary and paranormal romances, but now and again a historical book comes along that catches my eye. Sondra's book A Bed of Thorns and Roses is one of those. Just FYI in case you're into reading reviews, out of the 11 reviews the book has at Amazon, there are 9 five star and 2 four star.

Donna: Why did you use a Beatuy and the Beast theme for your books?

Available at Amazon
Sondra: I’ve always been intrigued by the tale of Beauty and the Beast. On the surface, the story is a simple one: Beauty sees past the Beast’s hideous exterior and comes to love him for the quality of his character. Her love breaks the curse and turns the Beast back into a man. But when you dig a little deeper, the story isn’t so simple at all. It raises all sorts of profound questions about the very nature of love. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder—a phrase coined by a romance novelist, by the way—then what does one person see in another that encourages this feeling we call love? Does Beauty fall in love with the Beast because she sees a certain quality in him that is appealing? Does the Beast fall in love with her because she sees him as he hopes to be, not as he is?

I think we all want to be appreciated for our best selves, yet loved even when our worst selves are apparent. Perhaps love is not just how we feel about the other person, but how that person makes us feel about ourselves. In A Bed of Thorns and Roses, I explore the disconnect between an individual’s self-perception and the way he or she is perceived by others. The hero, Jonathan Nashe, has been horribly disfigured in a tragic fire. He considers himself a monster and hides from the world rather than suffer the disgust of others. The heroine, Isabelle Tate, is outwardly a beauty, but she, too, has something to hide, a terrible secret from her past that makes her feel every bit as much an outcast from society as Jonathan's.

A Bed of Thorns and Roses clocks in at more than 140,000 words, but I barely scratched the surface of the Beauty and the Beast theme. The tale is a veritable gold mine for romance writers. Isolation, shame, transformation, to name just a few—there’s an inexhaustible wealth of subject matter here. What’s not to like?

Donna: Why do you like to explore the darkness in your characters? This is something very obvious in your book.

Sondra: What was it Tolstoy said about happy families? They all resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. While I certainly don’t want to write a book that resembles anybody else’s, maybe a more honest answer would be that darkness is easier to write. It’s so much more difficult to make goodness entertaining!

But seriously, when I write it’s all about the characters’ psychology. It’s all about emotions, the more deeply felt, the better. That’s not to say all my stories are doom and gloom and gnashing of teeth. I do have my lighter moments (said with a grin). First and foremost, my stories are romances, which means they end with a happily ever after—no matter how much I torture my characters before they get there. One of the things I love about the romance genre is its bedrock of optimism. 

Donna: What’s next for you creatively?

Sondra: Something that may surprise my readers who are expecting another historical romance. I’m working on a series that I’ve been describing as an alternate pre-history. It’s called The World of Pangaea and is based on the premise of a world where the continents never separated. Different cultures have developed similar to those in our own history, some more advanced than others. One of the recurring themes of the series is prejudice and how ignorance leads to wrong assumptions, mistrust, and even hatred.

Book One in the series is called The Beast (yes, as in Beauty and). The hero is a young king whose father literally went over to the dark side, courting demons to gain power and going mad in the process. Book Two, The Savage, in the series picks up the story nearly twenty years later.

During the first part of 2012, I plan to publish a prequel to the series. It is a short story titled The King’s Witch which will be an introduction to The World of Pangaea series. I’ll offer it free on (Amazon will probably make me charge 99 cents for it, but if enough people complain that they can get it for free elsewhere, Amazon may come around to free as well.) In the meantime, you can read the prologue to Book One, The Beast, on my web site. You can look for The Savage to be published as an e-book by early summer. 

The King’s Witch, as well as the entire Pangaea series, is darker than A Bed of Thorns and Roses, and though I wouldn’t categorize it or any of the books in the series as erotica, the sex scenes are more graphic. Certain scenes touch on what some people might consider edgy subject matter, though I don’t dwell on such topics. The central focus in all my novels is the romance between the hero and heroine.

Sondra: Can I add just a little more? I know this is a long post.
Donna: Sure
Sondra: Thanks for inviting me to share a little bit about my work and upcoming projects. With all the changes going on in the publishing industry, it’s an exciting time to be a writer. I have to say before I go that your openness about your own experience as an indie writer has been a great help to me. In fact, you are truly an inspiration to all of us who, like yourself, have decided to go for the dream. In my case, beginning my writing adventure just a few years shy of retirement from my day job, I often think of the title of your first series and remind myself that it’s Never Too Late.

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