Tina Gerow Discusses Fighting Genre Labels

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I grew up reading paranormal, fantasy and sci fi and loved them.  I was on vacation with a friend and ran out of books, and she loaned me the first book in Nora Robert’s Born In series.  I had never been a big romance reader.  I had filched a few of my Mom’s when I was much younger and thought the wimpy heroines, the schlocky love scenes and the guys guilting or even outright forcing them into sex.  So I didn’t have a great view of romance at that time.  Yes, the books I was reading had romances in them, but when I thought of what I wanted tow rite, I didn’t really want the word “romance” anywhere near it.  But when I started writing the book that had taken shape inside my mind, my wonderful critique partner, Judi Thoman (aka Brit Blaise) told me that what I was writing was called paranormal romance in the market and on the bookshelves.  So I accepted the scarlet “R” and now wear it proudly 🙂

Where do you get your ideas?

I know every writer says ‘everywhere’and it probably sounds overused by now.  But it’s really true. I’ve always had an overactive imagination – ask any of my teachers or even my friends and family!  And I guess I never stopped playing “What If” from when I was little.  It kept me sane, and now gives me story ideas!  I also have to admit, that I’ve dreamed about several of my story ideas.  I’ve scrambled up out of bed at 4am to fumble for my phone or notepad and scribble down enough of it so I don’t forget.  I also send myself emails when I’m out somewhere and see something that sparks an idea.  I keep all of them in a folder in my email In Box so I can find them when I need them again.  No matter how off the wall or weird, if it strikes me at the time, I keep it just in case.  You never know when you’ll need that snippet again, and I’ve used ideas inside other ideas or combined and twisted them to come to an end result.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Not really block, as in I can’t think of anything to write.  I can always sit and do a stream of consciousness thing and something weird and usually off the wall will spill out of my fingers.  But there are definitely times where I’m stuck on the thing I’m actually SUPPOSED to be writing at that moment.  That’s when I call or email my wonderful critique partners for brainstorming.  We can do it over email, on a phone call, or, our favorite is to meet up at a local restaurant and brainstorm while we eat and drink our signature Butterscotch Martinis – yum! 🙂

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

God no!!  No outline for me…ugh!  It makes me cringe to even think about that.  I have to write a synopsis of the entire story to submit to my agent and editor before the book is bought.  And lately I’ve started trying to do a few bullet points for each chapter to help me keep things flowing – especially since the brain blowout because I can no longer keep all the details in my brain.  I make a heroic effort to do those damn bullet points at the start of each book – or at least I have for the last two books, but I still suck at it.  It gives me a headache and stresses me out and I end up brainstorming and pantsing in the end anyway…  Oh well.  As long as I end up writing a good book in the end, I’ll deal with the occasional pain that my current process causes me.  I’m sure I’ll keep trying to use those bullet points, but not sure if my brain will ever decide to cooperate.  It’s just so foreign to my process that I think it just doesn’t mesh with the way I process and create.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

I think the first one I remember being REALLY influenced by from an author perspective was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.  She was a teenager when she published so it really made me think that I could possibly do this one day.  After all, if she could do it at that young age, why couldn’t I?  After that, my next big influencer would be Piers Anthony.  I fell in love with his books – especially his Incarnations of Immortality series, although I’ve read everything he’s ever written except his most recent Xanth books that have come out in the last 10 years or so.  Beyond those, the authors I read once I joined Romance writers of America REALLY influenced me.  They were people I could meet, talk to, get to know, ask questions of, and then read their books.  It was amazing to me – and a total fan girl moment.  In fact I’m so excited to still have those fan girl moments.  One of my critique partners is Cheyenne McCray, and I LOVE her books.  It’s such a total geek fangirl moment for me to get to read and give input on her books before the rest of the girls get to see it, AND get to be her friend.  It’s like being a book groupie.  So when I also get to see her advice back on my books, it’s a really cool feeling 🙂  I’m so blessed!!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?  

0py6e-ghost-stories2Paranormal romance was extremely popular when Ifinished Into a Dangerous Mind so Iwas excited to start submitting.  However, after submitting, and submitting and submitting some more, I had garnered some great feedback (and rewritten it a few dozen more times), placed in a few contests and garnered 69 rejections.  Yep – 69.  Can’t make this crap up…LOL!  I think I still have all of them in a notebook somewhere around here.  But NO offers of publication.  Then an editor from Triskelion Publishing, a local small press publisher, came to speak at my local romance writer’s of America chapter.  Another author in our group had published several books with them, so I figured, “What the Hell” and submitted.  Within a week I got “the email”  True, it wasn’t “the call” that we had all dreamed about, but the email was offering me a book contract, so it turned out the same!  The fact that Triskelion ended up imploding a few years later tying up the rights to 5 of my books and owing me four thousand dollars that I would never see is another story entirely.  They did at least get me to a published state.  And going through edits, copyedits, negotiating a contract, working with a cover artist, promoting, selling etc – which all helped me be prepared for when Audrey LaFehr from Kensington fished my partial erotic romance out of her slush pile and actually gave me my first coveted “call” 🙂

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