Night of the Cereus
The Pearl at the Gate
Awaken (also in print in the anthology Enchanted)
Rescue My Heart found in the Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance Anthology
What the Mistress Did
Bio: After living a checkered past, and despite an avowed disinterest in domesticity, multi-published author Anya Richards settled in Ontario, Canada, with husband, kids and two cats who plot world domination, one food bowl at a time. Her alter-ego, Anya Delvay, writes unabashed erotica.
How do you usually come up with a story idea? Dreams? Writer’s journal? Eavesdropping on conversations? Newpaper?
Most of my story ideas start with a tidbit of information—sometimes from a reference book, TV, an anecdote etc.—that leads to a question. For example, inspiration came one day after I watched Pride and Prejudice (the version with Colin Firth, in case you were wondering ) for the umpteenth time. While the little sister, Lydia, was what we would now classify as too silly to live, there were other examples in literature of girls who, for one reason or the other, found themselves married to rakes or libertines. What happened to them later on? Women in those times were obliged to do as their husbands decreed. Were any of them drawn, against their will, into their husband’s shadowy sexual escapades? Exploring that question led to the plot of Breaking Free.
Who or what inspires you when your creative mojo is lagging?
There are times when I think I’ll never write again—when everything seems to have dried up and I feel I’ve been kidding myself, thinking I can sustain my dream. When that happens, my husband is my biggest cheerleader, reminding me that these droughts usually come after I’ve churned out three or four stories in a row. He never pushes, but encourages me to rest and recharge and then, when I start fussing about not writing (because it really is an addiction I can’t give up) he gives me the room to start creating again.
Who is your Yoda—your seasoned mentor?
I would have to say Jennifer Haymore. When we first met, through a critique group, she was so encouraging and she’s never stopped urging me to strive to get to the next level. I can see her path and use it as inspiration, ask her any question at all and know I’ll get a straight answer, or just get her opinion if I’m going in a new direction. I love her books for their intense emotion and her ability to put her characters in situations that make you gasp in horror or in sheer delight, and I feel so proud when she asks me to Beta read for her.
What importance do you place on writing workshops? What workshops would you recommend to us?
I personally haven’t taken a lot of writing workshops, but I think every author, if they are serious about the craft, needs to be honest with themselves. When I first started, I did a lot of research into the business, and I think every new writer aspiring to making a career needs to do that. What I realized at that point was how little I knew, both about the rules of writing and also the processes that should be followed when submitting books to publishers. There were certain things that came naturally to me, and others I had no clue about, so I concentrated on the ones I felt I was weak in and found help in those areas. To me, that was the logical course to take, and I think each writer has to be honest enough with him- or herself to recognize where they may need some assistance, and find the appropriate workshop or self-help book. If writers can’t do that for themselves (and many of us can’t see our own faults) then find honest critique partners who you trust, and see where they feel you need some work.
My only caveat? Be careful. Too many people spend all their time trying to learn how to write, rather than writing. It’s an insidious trap!
What person would you like to thank for inspiring you in your writing aspirations? How did this person help you?
Without a doubt, Amy Ruttan, my friend and critique partner. I’m not sure where I’d be without her constant support and the occasional *whippah* coming through on instant message. We prop each other up, cheer each other on, commiserate when things are rough, and go to the bookstore together. Amy never seems to doubt my ability to get stuff done, and that’s gold during the times I have little faith in myself.
Have you ever used songs for inspiration?
Occasionally. Bare Naked Ladies’ Lovers in a Dangerous Time inspired the second book I ever wrote. The Goo Goo Dolls Iris is the inspiration for a book I’ve been working on for a while, but put aside to work on other things. Every time I hear that song, the hero (in particular) comes to mind and I want to get back to it.
Do you play music when you write? If so, what kind? Or, do you have to have silence or background noise to set your writing muse free?
I love all kinds of music, and when I first started writing I used it to drown out the noises of the house. I tried to stick to instrumentals, because otherwise I tended to listen to the lyrics. Then I tried music themed to the books I was writing, but I couldn’t always find appropriate songs and, since my writing time has always been severely limited, I didn’t want to spend too much time searching for music rather than writing. Then I went through a phase where I needed complete silence but, of course, that’s almost impossible when you live with others. When the aggravation of searching for silence got to me, I went back to music, and now I listen mostly to reggae, opera or classical, depending on the book.
Do you read in a different genre than you write? If yes, why? If you read in the same genre that you write, do you feel that it influences your writing in any way?
I read almost anything, including the back of cereal boxes, but try not to read in the genre I’m currently writing. I’m human, and know how easy it is to absorb and regurgitate someone else’s cadence or ideas. Instead, I read outside the genre, favoring police procedurals, mysteries, women’s fiction or non-fiction. When I’m not writing is when I devour romances of every shape and form!
What is your process from idea to first draft?
I’m a pantser at heart, but I’ve learned that sometimes I have to plot—usually when I’ve hit a wall or written myself into a box—and write an outline. Recently I let myself be talked into entering a pitch contest and, when I made it into the final round, ended up having to submit the first three chapters and a synopsis of an unfinished book. It was vaguely horrifying, since I usually write the synopsis after the book is finished! It all worked out in the end though, since the editor requested the full and then acquired the story. It wouldn’t be my favorite method of writing, ever, but now I know it’s possible, and it’s another weapon in my arsenal.
Have you ever given assistance to a struggling new writer? Has another writer ever come to your aide? How?
I love critique groups, since I think that’s a great way to help new writers, and that’s where I got my first encouragement. I’ll never forget the authors who helped me recognize the rough spots in my books and offered suggestions as to how to smooth them out. It’s an art to be able to do that without crushing the person’s belief in their abilities. I’d like to think I’ve, in turn, encouraged a few newbies to persevere, but unfortunately I’ve also found some writers don’t want help. What they want is approbation—to be told their story is the absolute best, ever. Honestly? I don’t have a lot of patience for that anymore. Either a person wants honesty, so as to learn, or they don’t really need me! For those who think I can help, I’m always available. I love seeing other authors grow and succeed.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Every time I get an acceptance I think of it as a new accomplishment. I’m huge on being thankful for each mercy received and when a new editor likes something I’ve submitted enough to acquire it, that’s one more hurdle successfully navigated.
If you won the big lottery, what would you do with the money? Would give any of it to charity? If so, which one?
I’d first make sure my kids were taken care of in some way, but I’d definitely give some to charity. My eldest son has type one diabetes, and has had since he was four, so that would be my first choice. My family has also been affected in many ways by cancer, so I’d donate there too. But, if the lottery payout was big enough, I’ve often thought I’d like to set up an author trust, similar to those available to literary writers, for romance writers. Maybe with a nice retreat where aspiring authors can go for a few weeks to write in peace, with the trust providing a stipend equivalent to what they would earn at their evil day jobs, so their families don’t have to suffer financially while they try to achieve their dreams.
What is the best advice you want to give to a new writer?
Read everything. Acknowledge you have lots to learn and be willing to grow.
If you could choose an animal for a mascot, what animal would it be? What do you admire about this animal? Do you feel you have qualities similar to this animal? If so, what are they?
LOL! An elephant. I love elephants for their beautiful eyes and spirits, the way they band together and also that they are, in some cultures, considered good luck. I’d like to channel some of their strength. The only quality I can think of that I share with elephants is a long gestation period, since I was a late bloomer!
If money, education and fear factors were set aside, what three careers would you like to attempt other than writing?
Lawyer, psychologist, and Kung Fu master.
If money, talent and fear were no object, what big adventure would you like to have?
I’d take as many years as I could and travel around the world, living for a few months in all the countries that fascinate me.
What characteristics do you like to instill in your heroes? What characteristics do you feel are necessary for a good heroine?
I always seem to write protective heroes. Even when the heroine can take care of herself, my hero wants to be her rock. Heroines are more difficult because usually, often even more-so than the hero, she has to grow to become open to the relationship, so where she starts out isn’t really as important as the journey to where she ends up. So, I guess, to me the one necessary characteristic in a heroine is the potential for growth.
If you had the power to change two things in the world, what would those two things be?
I would make it mandatory for every teenager in the developed world to work for a year in either retail or food service. I would also make it mandatory for every teenager in the developed world to change places for a year with one from an under developed country. It would be a great way to instill one of our most underrated and often scoffed at characteristics—empathy. In a couple of generations (if there were no cheating) we’d have a completely different, and I think better, world.
If could have a super power for a day, what would it be? Why?
Oooo, unfair question. Just one? Hmmm…despite my fear of heights, I’d like to be able to fly. You wouldn’t be able to get me out of the air. Failing that, super strength. I’d go around popping bullies in the chops and, since I’m a pretty small person, they wouldn’t expect it!