Adventure into Romance with Shelley Munro
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Once Upon a Romance Interview with Shelley Munro

What a pleasure it is to bring to you our interview with Shelley Munro. As with many authors, Shelley is multi-genre talented. She took time out of her schedule to visit with us and answer our many questions on writing and her life.

Connie and Tina: Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to visit with us, Shelley. We’re glad for the opportunity to ask you questions about your writing and to get to know you. Before we start though, would you tell us a bit about yourself, what you’re working on now?

Shelley: Hi, Connie and Tina. Thanks for interviewing me! My name is Shelley Munro, I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my husband and a bossy wee dog, and I’m a writer—a romance writer because I adore happy endings. I’ve always loved to read and thought that maybe I could write too. One day… On an autumn morning five years ago, I woke up and decided now was the time. If I kept putting my attempt at writing off, I’d never get started, so I sat down and wrote. I wrote about eight or nine books, I think, constantly learning by doing and growing into my voice, and finally last year, I sold my first book.

I’m currently working on several projects. I have a “reality show” story set in the future that’s almost ready to go to my editor at Ellora’s Cave. I’m also in the planning stages of a shape shifter story that I’m targeting to Medallion Press. The third thing that I’m thinking about is finishing a young adult story that I started a few years ago. After writing lots of sex scenes for my EC book, I’m ready to do a sexless book! I have several releases due out in the next few months including my first paperback, The Second Seduction, from Medallion Press.

Connie: You just mentioned them, so let’s talk a few minutes about the various genres of romance you write…Do you ever have difficulty maintaining the tone of the story? I mean you write in at least four romance genres. Have you ever found that the tone of say a historical will find its way into a contemporary? Or are you able to keep them totally separate?

Shelley: As a reader, I’ve always read lots of different genres of romance and also mysteries. I’m afraid I get bored reading the same thing all the time—it’s my Sagittarius nature! I’ve instinctively done the same thing with my writing. I find that writing different genres keeps stretching me as a writer. I’m constantly trying new things, techniques, different writing styles although my voice stays pretty much the same. At least I think it does. A lot of writers are challenging the genre boundaries these days, straddling several genres in one book so it’s not always necessary to keep the genres separate. Sort of a “crossbred mongrel dog” kind of thing that makes books much harder to classify. For example, Talking Dogs, Aliens, And Purple People Eaters is a comedy/paranormal/sci-fi/romantica set in contemporary New Zealand. I’ve developed a humorous writing voice, which is a bit of a mystery really, since I’m very shy and my humor doesn’t pop out until I know someone really well. I think my husband is still in shock! But the writing voice tends to straddle all my stories no matter what the genre classification.

Writing a historical is more difficult since you need to stick to the mores of the time setting but other than that, a writer can put their personal stamp on a story and develop it in their own way. I don’t tend to think about the different genres but concentrate more on the characters and their story.

Connie: I’m very shy, too. When writing someone the shyness doesn’t show, but when I meet face to face, boy does it kick in! Maybe that’s why you’re so versatile in writing, the shyness disappears when writing.

Tina: What was it about each of the romance genres you write (historical romance, contemporary romance, paranormal, and romantica) that appealed to you enough to make you want to write in each genre?

Shelley: Once again, my personal reading habits have bled into my writing. With historical, I’ve always adored reading Regency stories, but then I discovered Jo Beverley and her Georgian set historicals. I enjoy the eighteenth century time period more than the stricter Regency times. My husband and I spent six years in England on a working holiday and spent many hours exploring castles and historical houses so it seemed logical that I’d use some of this “research” in my writing. Having said all that, I have written up notes for a New Zealand set historical and will get to work on that one day soon. With the contemporary, paranormal and romantica, I’ve tended to blend them together. I’ve always enjoyed reading paranormal with its magical overtones so of course I needed to write that. With the romantica, it was an experiment. I didn’t believe I could write a hot book even though I enjoyed reading them. You’re talking to the world’s biggest blusher here :-) In fact, I was so convinced I was going to get a rejection, I hadn’t finished writing my story. It was a mad scramble to finish when I received a request for a full. I’ve never written so fast in all my life!

Connie: I’m smiling here…”biggest blusher”, I certainly would have a hard time writing in that genre, too. But it seems with your EC books, you’ve gotten over it, or do you blush while writing??
Shelley, with the writing and selling books in these genres the ideas for characters and plots must mount up. How do you choose which project to work on, or do you work on all of them at the same time in different stages?

Shelley: Yes, the ideas are mounting up. Believe me, it’s a comforting thought for a writer to have ideas mounting up! I’ve set up an ideas file and jot brief notes (sometimes very brief) if an idea occurs to me. I usually pick an idea at random from my file. Lately, I’ve been in a paranormal shape shifter mood, so that’s one of the projects I’m working on at the moment. And as I mentioned, writing loads of sex scenes is tough so the idea of a young adult book is attractive too!

Connie: Putting you on the spot, of the genres you write do you have a favorite? Is there a particular time period or plot that comes to you more easily than the others? Or are they all, in their own way, favorites?

Shelley: My favorite genre is paranormal followed closely by historical, then romantic suspense. If I can do something that combines them all so much the better.

Tina: Sounds a lot like homework to me…I’m glad there are authors like you who are happy to do it for readers like me who couldn’t.

On to other questions now. How many MS did you write before having one accepted? Any words of encouragement to aspiring authors regarding the sale of a book?

Shelley: I wrote about eight full manuscripts over five years before making my first sale. I think it’s very important to finish writing what you start. Know that you can write a full manuscript. Lots of writers write a perfect partial but never finish their manuscript. I belong to Romance Writers of New Zealand, and we have a full manuscript contest each year – the Clendon Award. It’s also known as “Finish the Damn Book”. This contest has produced several great authors who have gone on to be published. The other thing I’d stress is to write what you enjoy reading. Don’t try to write for the market or whatever the latest fad is if it isn’t something you enjoy reading. At first, I tried to write for Harlequin. It wasn’t a good fit for me or my muse, and I believe I wasted time trying to be something I wasn’t. Harlequin produces some excellent books, but my muse found the line guidelines constricting. And finally, take the time to exercise. Sitting and writing for a long period of time encourages backsides to spread!

Tina: “Finish the Damn Book” sounds like someone I know, don’t you Connie?
How did you celebrate your first sale?

Shelley: My first sale news arrived by email on the 2 January 2004. I screeched for my husband, then started shaking like a leaf. I had to keep reading that email throughout the day to reassure myself that I hadn’t been seeing things. We drove to the Botanic Gardens and took the dog for a long walk and had a bottle of bubbles with dinner.

Connie: Seems as if you had a wonderful day!
It seems you had a lot of adventures on your overseas experience. Dealing with ghosts in an English pub sounds like a good premise for a plot. Any of your adventures find their way one way or another into your books?

Shelley: I think it’s difficult for a writer not to put part of themselves and life experiences into their writing. I’ve used lots of my experiences in England in my historical (1720 England), facts and things I’ve seen or touched while touring castles and historic properties. I’ve written a novella set in Egypt called Lynx To The Pharaoh after visiting Egypt and the magnificent tombs. I have a contemporary story (The Shadow) about a female cat burglar that I’ve set in London and sold to Medallion Press. I’m itching to set a story in Africa but haven’t come up with the right idea yet.

Tina: Sounds like there’s lots of ideas from your travels waiting to be written into stories!
Is it important to you for your characters to have a good or at least some semblance of a sense of humor? Does this depend on the story?

Shelley: I do have a lot of humor in my books. I don’t necessarily start out to write a humorous book – the humor comes from the characters themselves or often the secondary characters and does depend on the type of story I’m writing. I think laughter is a wonderful thing. There’s nothing better than sharing a joke with friends or reading a funny book to lift the cares of the day away.

Connie: Sometimes those characters can throw you a curve can’t they?

When you first began writing, what was the hardest thing for you to learn, what did you struggle with? Point of view? Dialogue? Secondary characters? And what clicked, causing you to understand how you needed to work through it?

Shelley: I was very arrogant when I first started and convinced my first book was brilliant. It would be snapped up in a bidding war. I was crushed when this didn’t happen, and looking back, I can see why. My first attempt wasn’t very good. Because I’ve always read a lot, I think I picked up a lot of knowledge instinctively. The hardest thing was to put the character’s emotions down on the page so that the reader came to care for my characters.

I found a wonderful critique partner who was very nitpicky with me. She’d write “how does he/she feel about this?” over and over throughout my work, forcing me to delve deeper into my character’s emotions. I don’t think she’s realized how much she helped me, even though I’ve said thank you!

Tina: Which book or character has generated the most reader response? Did this surprise you?

Shelley: I’ve had a lot of response in relation to my Talking Dogs books, Talking Dogs, Aliens, And Purple People Eaters and Never Send A Dog To Do A Woman’s Job from Ellora’s Cave. People love the titles, which are my editor’s brainchild, and without fail, they comment about Killer, the talking dog. Killer is a secondary character in both books and everyone adores her. (She’s based on our own bossy wee dog). Since Killer is one of my favorite characters too, I wasn’t really surprised at all.

Connie: E-publishing houses are ever growing, not to mention becoming popular and recognizable by name. How has your experience been with each of the publishing houses you’ve sold to?

Shelley: My experience has been very positive. E-publishing is a great way for a writer to learn the business from editing to promotion. My Medallion Press books will be mass paperback so I get the best of both worlds. I’m counting the days until The Second Seduction hits the bookshops in July.

Connie: I’m sure aspiring author’s who are submitting are glad to know of your positive experience with the E-publishing houses.

Tina: Has there ever been any writing advice you wish you hadn’t taken, Shelley?

Shelley: I wish I’d tried submitting to e-publishers earlier than I did, and I should have listened to my gut instinct about trying to write category books. There are a lot of excellent category writers out there, but I’m not one of them!

Connie: When the creation of the characters begins, do you shape them according to the time and place of the plot (i.e. paranormal, historical, romantica) or do you let them create themselves regardless?

Shelley: My publishers are all very receptive to “different” so I tend to let my characters form on their own. I do a little loose plotting, much more now than I ever used to, then I start writing, following where my characters lead me. The only exception to this would be in the writing of a historical since the characters must conform to the behavior of the times in which the book is set.

Connie: To get to know you now, would you give us a peek into some of your favorite things like: Pizza, dessert, movie, musical artist/group?

Shelley: I’m not a big pizza eater but since I’m a vegetarian I always go for a vegetarian variety.
Dessert – Anything containing chocolate.
Movie – Bridget Jones’ Diary
Musical artist/group – Maroon Five

Tina: Another chocolate lover!! Us, too.
Would you tell us how you met your husband? How did he propose?

Shelley: I met my husband through my first job. I was a bank teller and he was a customer. Um…thinking hard…I don’t remember the proposal. In truth, I’m not sure it ever happened. It was more of a mutual agreement that we would get married.

Tina: And what’s the most romantic thing he’s ever done for you?

Shelley: My husband is a real romantic who is always doing really nice things for me. He’s arranged a surprise romantic weekend at a nice hotel and often brings home chocolate or a nice bottle of wine. Occasionally, I’ll get flowers. I’m very spoiled.

Connie: Being spoiled is nice.
What is something pampering you like to do for yourself?

Shelley: I’m a horror for taking extra long showers with soaps and body shampoos purchased from Lush.

Tina: We’ll have to check that out…
One of the things you say you like to do is curl up with a good book. What books would we find on your bookshelf right now?

Shelley: I’m currently reading ALL KEYED UP by Mary Stella, and I have THE CORSET DIARIES by Katie MacAlister, BLUE MOON by Lori Handeland, THE BLIGHTED CLIFFS by Edwin Thomas and DRAGONOLOGY, the complete book of dragons, edited by Dugald A. Steer on my pile to read next. I also have a few e-books on my hard drive ready to read when I have a spare moment. They’re mostly romantica titles.

Connie: Shelley, what one appliance you couldn’t live without? What food? What particular article(s) of clothing?

Shelley: That’s easy – a dish washer! We never had a dish washer until two years ago, and we’d never have purchased one, but a dishwasher came with the house we purchased. It seemed silly not to use it! Now we both love it – such a nifty gadget. I couldn’t do without pasta because it’s such a versatile and quick meal. You just chuck in whatever ingredients you have in the fridge and hey, presto, you have a meal. I love T-shirts and have lots of them. I usually buy a souvenir T-shirt whenever we visit a new place.

Tina: You didn’t have a dishwasher? Wow. I’m sure you do love it now that you have one.
On a final note, serious or fun…It’s your lucky day. You’ve thrown a coin into a wishing well and are granted not one, not two, but three wishes! What would they be?

Shelley: Okay, the first thing I’d do is rub the coin and then my eyes. I’d be in total disbelief because my husband has lots of luck, but I don’t seem to attract it!

I’d wish for a maid to do my housework since I loathe it and it cuts into my writing time. I’d wish that I could earn enough money from my writing to write full time (I need the challenge so I’m not going to wish for the money straight out), and I’d wish for good health for my husband and myself. My husband gets gout, which although I tease him about it, I know is very painful. Gout doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age.

Connie and Tina: Thanks again for being here with us, Shelley. Before we say good-bye, is there anything we forgot to ask that you’d like the readers and fans to know?

Shelley: Readers can visit me at Adventure into Romance to find out about my upcoming releases. I have a monthly newsletter that readers can join from my website or by visiting Newsletter members automatically go into the draw to win a monthly prize that can be anything from a book to chocolate to something special from New Zealand. I also have an online journal that can be accessed from my website. Readers can read about my writing, things that are happening in my life, or news of my latest release, and they’re welcome to comment or leave a tag.

Thanks, for having me to visit. I’ve had a lot of fun answering your questions.

Connie and Tina: It was fun for us, too, Shelley! Thanks!