Femme Stalking: Virginia Kantra

Femme Stalking {noun} The act of stalking favorite authors until they agree to stop by the blog and let us go all fan girl on them.

FemmeStalkingLOGO_Trim_FinalWhen we created the idea of Femme Stalking, I knew right away I wanted to take the opportunity to interview Virginia Kantra. I am beyond excited to have her as a guest on the Violet Femmes today. Getting to know Virginia a bit better has been a true fan girl dream come true. As a longtime fan of Virginia’s writing, I have stalked her at writing conferences, and via social media, so an official Femme Stalking now makes the experience complete. At the end of the interview, please enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a digital copy of one of Virginia’s Dare Island Novels of your choice and/or an audiobook from the same series.

RoseAnn DeFranco: Virginia, welcome and thank you for being here! I just finished reading Carolina Blues, your new release in the sexy, heartwarming Dare Island series. I have so many questions for you about the series, Dare Island itself, and your writing career, so let’s dive in!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and when did you actually start writing? Can you share a little bit with us about your path to published? How long were you writing before your first sale?

Virginia Kantra: Thank you so much! (And I never thought of it as stalking…More like catching up.)

I’ve been writing all my life. I scribbled fairytales in middle school and actually started writing YA fantasy while I was an English major in college—long, involved epics I wrote in longhand and typed on a typewriter. But it wasn’t until the youngest of our three children started kindergarten that I began writing seriously for publication. At my husband’s urging, I joined Romance Writers of America in 1995 and went to my first conference.  Wow. That was eye-opening. It took me four years and five manuscripts before I finally sold. But four of those manuscripts were Golden Heart nominees and were eventually published.

RD: Wow. FOUR GH nods? We have our own GH winner here, Joanna Shupe. Many of our followers are young writers. What is the best piece of advice given to you early in your career and by whom?

VK: Like most of life, writing is all about showing up. I actually have a quote by Calvin Coolidge, of all people, posted by my computer: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

RD: With a Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, eight RITA nominations, and two National Readers’ Choice Awards, you are a well decorated writer who has transitioned from Romantic Suspense to Paranormal Romance to Contemporary Romance throughout your career. Since I have read nearly all your books, I can say your voice remains distinctive and authentically you regardless of genre. I am currently exploring a career in Contemporary Romance and Young Adult romance, so I’m interested to know, what do you think is the key to remaining true to your voice across genres?

VK: Aw, thank you! Two things comprise voice: what you have to say and how you’re going to say it. The most important part of defining and refining your voice is to identify that core message, that experience you can deliver, that you want to deliver, again and again.  And then you choose stories and characters that let you express your central truth in the details and images that capture your imagination.

What makes your personal landscape unique?

I’m into family dynamics, the ways we struggle for intimacy and control. But I came to reading through fairy tales.  The ordinary person, the shepherd’s son or the children on the train from London, who is forced by extraordinary circumstances to do extraordinary things. That worked for my paranormal series, the children of the sea, but it’s an equally important part of my contemporary romance where the hero or heroine’s life or sense of self is overturned by circumstances: a secret baby, the loss of a parent or a job, the return of an ex-lover.

RD: Now on to Dare Island! I am in love with your island. I have enjoyed extensive trips there right from the comfort of my own sofa. What was your inspiration for this fictitious island? And, yes, I know it’s fictitious because it can’t be found on Google maps. I checked. 

VK: Well, on my map, Dare Island is located where you would find real life Portsmouth Island, a (now abandoned) fishing and shipping village in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  But you can find bits and pieces of it up and down the barrier islands.

RD: Many years ago you gave a workshop at a monthly NJRW meeting on Point of View (POV). It happened to be one of the first meetings I attended. In a way, you really motivated me to continue writing by imparting some wonderful advise and writing tools. In the workshop, you included a section on your guide to “Guy-Speak.” All your heroes are hot and REAL. I fell in love with Jack in Carolina Blues. Many romance writers are women and find writing from the Male POV difficult, yet your men are honest and grab-me-a-fan male. What is the single best piece of advice you can offer for creating an authentic Male POV?

VK: Ah, Jack…I’m not allowed to play favorites with my heroes, but I am married to my own real life Italian Guy, so Jack Rossi was wonderful to write.

The trick to writing male POV is the trick of any writing. Tell the truth. Ask yourself if any man you know would actually say whatever it is you have your hero thinking. My Guide to Guy-Speak is available on-line here if anyone wants to check it out.



Carolina BluesRD: The first three Dare Island books focus on the Fletcher family offspring starting with Matt in Carolina Man. They are very family centric stories. I feared when you ran out of single Fletchers, the series could come to an end. The introduction of the delicious Jack Rossi, a former Philadelphia Police Officer, in Carolina Man left me with hope. In Carolina Blues, you focused on Jack and Lauren Patterson, a woman who famously became knows as Survivor Girl for having intervened during a bank robbery. Both have tortured pasts. I was transfixed watching them lower their walls and fall in love. Both are newcomers to the island. What inspired you to write this story?

VK: The appeal of writing a series is creating a place you want to return to again and again. I originally planned to conclude Dare Island after Taylor’s (Luke Fletcher’s daughter) storyline was resolved. But I simply wasn’t ready to leave this world behind.

Focusing on island newcomers gives me a chance to play in the same sandbox but allows new readers, who may just be discovering the series, a chance to get to know the island along with the characters.

Plus…Jack. He’s pretty much the reason I wrote this book.

RD: I discovered the same thing when I wrote my Brothers of Audubon Springs series. I didn’t want to leave the town. I’m so happy you decided to stay on Dare Island. I love your previous work, but there is something very special about this island.

The writing process varies writer to writer. Every time I think I’ve got my process nailed down, it changes. Could you share a bit about your process? How much has it changed over time? What type of prep work do you do before getting down to the business of writing? From there, do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser?

VK: You have to go with what works. And what works for you can definitely change from story to story or over time. I’m very organic. After I’ve got two characters in mind and a chapter or so written, I wander around the house for months mumbling and making notes. I do try to think up plot points that will force the characters to change and grow, events that will challenge them or their relationship.

Sooner or later—usually later—the story starts to snowball as the characters make choices that force the action in one direction. And then there’s this avalanche fueled by panic and caffeine at the end of every book. That makes me a pantser, right?

RD: Thank you! I am  forever going to carry the image of you on caffeine, careening to the end, when my own panic sets in on a book!

As someone who writes Contemporary Romance in addition to Young Adult romance, it has not escaped my notice that you have a teen love story evolving in the background of the first four Dare Island novels between Josh Fletcher and Thalia. Do you have plans to ever write their story, and if so, would you try your hand at a Young Adult Novel, or keep your readers waiting until they are well into their twenties and ready to settle down?

VK: I love Josh and Thalia, and I’ve really enjoyed their relationship as teens. But they’ll have to be all grown up before they can really be together and find their Happily Ever After.

RD: I’ll be looking for their book when they do! One more reader question. What is the story with Meg and Sam? I expected them to have married, or at least be in the throes of planning a wedding by now, but two books later following their story, Carolina Girl, and they are still engaged, and not much was mentioned regarding their future in Carolina Blues. Will Meg walk down the aisle soon?

VK: Oh, you noticed! I wondered if anyone had picked up on that. I can’t say much right now, but I’ve got some ideas for Carolina Dreaming. 🙂

RD: An online presence in this social media era is a must for authors. So many of us struggle with this, but you seem to handle the balance between professional and personal on Face Book with ease. Did this evolve naturally over time, and how do Italian Guy, Boy Wonder, and the others feel about being part of your presence?

VK: I asked Italian Guy this question, and he laughed and said he was resigned to my stealing all his best lines. Which is so not true. I always feel as if he gets the punch line in our little on-line dialogues. Because, you know, they’re taken from life.

I do think it’s important to be authentic in what you write, even Facebook posts. So I’m pretty honest. But of course you have to protect privacy as well. This was a bigger issue when our kids (Only Daughter, Grad School Guy, and Boy Wonder) were younger. Now that they’re adults, they do sometimes comment on or share my posts, which is lovely. But I think how much they share should be under their control.

RD: I loved the sneak peak of Carolina Dreaming at the end of Carolina Blues. How long do we have to wait to read the next Dare Island novel?

VK: That makes me happy. Thank you! I think this one has the potential to be really good. Carolina Dreaming is scheduled for early 2016. But next July, I do have a nice long Dare Island novella coming out in the Ask Me Why anthology from Berkley. It’s the story of waitress and single mom Cynthie Lodge and sexy scientist Max Lewis. (My first nerd hero! Hooray!)

RD: Oh! I can’t wait to read your nerd hero! This is something I’m exploring a bit in my new contemporary series. 

I had such a great time talking with Virginia this week. You can learn more about Virginia and her stories by going to http://www.virginiakantra.com

Writers…when you see Virginia’s name listed as a speaker at a conference, I highly recommend any of her workshops. Readers…you really don’t want to miss this Dare Island series! Take a moment to enter the RaffleCopter drawing below. Because I think everyone should read this series I’m giving away one digital copy of a Dare Island book of your choice. Virginia has graciously offered to sweeten the pot with an audiobook as well! Winners will be announced next week.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a great day!

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