I first met Ann Charles in early 2011. We were co-contributors to the writers’ blog, Black Ink White Paper. Unfortunately for the blog, but very fortunate for her, Ann’s debut novel, Nearly Departed in Deadwood, had won the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense as well as the the 2011 RWA Golden Heart Award. Her career was taking off with such momentum she was forced to bid us farewell. Who could blame her? It has since turned into a five book series with the sixth book about to be started. In addition to the Deadwood Mystery Series, fans also follow her Jackrabbit Junction Mystery Series and her Dig Site Mystery Series. Not content what those successes, she has recently launched a new book that’s causing a great deal of buzz, because Look What the Wind Blew In begins a brand new series.
A member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America for many moons, Ann Charles has a B.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Washington. She is currently toiling away on her next book, wishing she was on a Mexican beach with an ice-cold Corona in one hand and her Kindle in the other. When she is not dabbling in fiction, she is arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cat. Most nights, you can find her hanging out over at www.anncharles.com, on Facebook as Ann Charles, or as AnnWCharles on Twitter–especially around midnight when her quirky fictional world comes to life.
She describes Look What the Wind Blew In like this:
Welcome to the jungle … A headstrong and determined archaeologist.
A tall, dark, and unwelcome photojournalist.
Both are trying to unearth secrets that have been long buried, but an ancient Maya curse threatens to destroy them… unless they can learn to trust each other enough to make it out of the jungle alive.
Welcome to The Write Stuff, Ann. I’m so pleased you could join us. Please tell us about your new release.
At the end of January, I released my latest book, Look What The Wind Blew In. This is the story of Quint Parker, a photojournalist, who is also the brother of the heroine in my Deadwood Mystery Series. It’s the first in an archaeological mystery/adventure series that I’ve been wanting to get rolling for years.
What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?
A long, long time ago in a college far, far away, I took a class called History of Mexico. My major was Spanish and I was fascinated with all things south of the United States border—language, art, food, and culture to name a few. Oh, and margaritas, iced or blended, I wasn’t picky. But I digress … in that history class, I learned about the Maya. I read about their famous cities, such as Tulum and Chichen Itza, and I viewed artists’ renditions of their grandeur-filled past as well as current day photographs. I soaked up stories about what their lives may have been like, the day-to-day challenges, the rituals, the architecture, and the sacrifices.
During that class I met Dr. Angélica García, the heroine in Look What the Wind Blew In. I was looking out the window at the blowing snow, wondering what it would be like to be an archaeologist at one of those amazing sites.
From the moment Angélica stepped into my daydreams, she was giving orders to her crew and searching through Maya ruins, determined to find key pieces of history. One hundred percent alpha-female, she needed someone to show her softer side—hence, her father, Dr. Juan García, joined her in my thoughts. Next came the need for a hero who’d give her a run for her money, an outsider she couldn’t control. A photojournalist maybe, working for a renowned magazine, going by the name of Wayne.
Thus, Look What the Wind Blew In was born.
I wrote the first draft while I was in my twenties. It was the second book I’d written at the start of my career. Needless to say, I was still learning how to write a good book (and still am) and it showed in that first draft. My critique partners would agree, because they hated my hero, Wayne.
It’s never good when your readers cringe at the sound of your hero’s name.
I set this story aside and wrote another book, improving my skills. Then I returned to Angélica’s story, excited to try once again to bring her story to life. When I started this second version, my critique partners made me promise to shove Wayne into a closet in my brain and throw away the key. So, Wayne went away, and Quint Parker showed up for hero auditions. He won the role hands down, and I rewrote the story. This next draft was nominated as a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart national contest, but it didn’t win with the final judges nor several of the literary agents to whom I submitted it after the contest. The time was not right for Angélica and Quint’s story … not yet.
Putting the book aside to be fine-tuned again after I’d honed my skills some more, I wrote Dance of the Winnebagos and Jackrabbit Junction Jitters. Then I returned to Angélica, took another swipe at this story, and sent it off to the agent I’d signed with in the meantime. It fell through the cracks somehow, temporarily forgotten as I wrote Nearly Departed in Deadwood and launched my publishing career with the Deadwood Mystery Series starring Violet Parker, Quint’s younger sister.
Now, many MANY moons after I sat in that classroom looking out at the snow, Quint’s story is finally ready to share. I spent several months working on it, revising yet again to make it the story I have always dreamed about, full of mystery, adventure, humor, suspense, and romance with just a sprinkle of paranormal.
So, to answer your question about how I overcame the challenges with publishing this book, I guess the answer is I just kept hitting my head against the brick wall until I broke through it.
Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?
I write mixed genre stories. I tried the traditional publisher route for many years, but in the end, after making it all of the way up the ladder to the “final acquisitions” meeting at a very large publisher out of New York (with my double-award winning book Nearly Departed In Deadwood), I was rejected by their marketing department because they did not feel I could find an large enough audience for the type of story I’d written. I decided not to let their opinion on potential readers stop me and pushed forward, publishing without them. I am so glad I did because they were wrong, and I feel very lucky every day to have found so many wonderfully, supportive readers who do like mixed genre stories.
What other novels have you written?
Currently, I have several fiction books published from multiple series:
Deadwood Mystery Series (in order)
- Nearly Departed In Deadwood (multiple award-winning book for both mystery and romance/mystery)
- Optical Delusions In Deadwood
- Dead Case In Deadwood (selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s BEST OF 2012 books)
- Better Off Dead In Deadwood
- An Ex To Grind In Deadwood
Jackrabbit Junction Mystery Series (in order)
- Dance Of The Winnebagos
- Jackrabbit Junction Jitters
- The Great Jackalope Stampede
Dig Site Mystery Series:
- Look What The Wind Blew In
- Deadwood Shorts: Seeing Trouble (short story from my Deadwood Mystery Series)
- Deadwood Shorts: Boot Points (short story from my Deadwood Mystery Series)
- The Old Man’s Back In Town (a short story from an upcoming Goldwash Mystery Series).
Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
I often joke with my husband that when we are old and senile, I’m going to think that all of these characters I’ve created are real people who we’ve known over the years. He thinks it’s going to make for an entertaining time at the breakfast table every morning over grapefruit, turkey bacon, and fiber-filled cereal.
Hah! I should have known that a writer who calls her children Chicken Noodle and Beaker wouldn’t keep her answers entirely serious. OK. Back on track. What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?
I have trouble carving out the time I need every day to write. I have two young kids who I want to play with before they grow up, a wonderful husband with whom I love to spend time, and a writing business to run (the “business” part of which takes up 50% of my free time most days). Finding blocks of hours to write usually has to come at the cost of sleep for me, and there is only so much caffeine I can inject into my system before I keel over into a sleep-starved coma.
Got me grinning again. Please tell us about you “other” life. Do you have another job outside of writing?
Not anymore. For the first fifteen years while getting my writing career rolling, I was also a Technical Writer for a banking software company. Two years ago, I was able to quit that job and focus on writing full-time thanks to the awesome readers who have offered so much support and help by letting others know about my books.
Would you care to share something about your home life?
I have several addictions—frozen Coke Slurpees, fun throw rugs, and all sizes and shapes of tote bags to name a few. On top of that, I’m a slave to my sassy cat and I relax by putting together jigsaw puzzles.
I know life is never entirely smooth, so how do you rise above adversity?
I’d like to tell you that I do something wise like meditate to find my zen, but the truth is that I get frustrated, go through my cupboards and fridge in search of something that will make me feel better, and then paw the ground a few times before pushing through whatever is giving me grief. If that doesn’t work, I throw my computer out the window and go stare at the clouds
What has been your greatest success in life?
Doing well enough in the writing world to quit my 40 hour a week job as a technical writer so that I can focus on my 80+ hour a week job as a full-time author.
Before I give our visitors a taste of your new book, let’s try a quick Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please fill in the blanks.
My best friend would tell you this about me…
“turtle”—I don’t like to rush into things, I like to ponder things for a bit first.
The one thing I cannot do without is…
This one thing I would change about my life is…
I’d try to laugh more and worry less.
The thing I’m most satisfied with is…
Where I live—in the mountains in Arizona. I’ve wanted to live here in the Old West since I was a kid watching John Wayne riding a horse through Monument Valley, Old Tucson, and Saguaro National Park on the television screen.
Ann, I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am you joined us. I wish you continued success in an already successful career.
As for our visitors, here is a sample of Look What the Wind Blew In:
Mal Viento: An evil wind that can cause sickness or death.
“It’s a curse.”
Angélica García frowned at her father over the beam of her flashlight, wondering if the heat had fried his brain. “It’s not a curse, Dad.”
“Go over it again, gatita. And this time, use plain, old English.” Juan García reached out and gently tweaked the tip of her nose. “Not all of us speak Mayan in our sleep.”
Angélica wiped away the sweat trailing down her cheek. She tilted the flashlight beam slightly away from the temple wall, grazing the surface so the shadows added depth to the blocks of Maya glyphs.
She pointed at the first set. “This shows Yum Cimil, the Lord of Death. It says he rode in on the wind with a traveler.” She moved to the next. “Here, the king is performing a sacrificial ceremony, offering his blood for the lives of his people. And in this one, Yum Cimil has turned his back on the king’s sacrifice and is devouring the village.”
“What about that last set?” Juan asked.
“It shows the Lord of Death crouching inside a temple. It says he ‘waits.’”
“Waits for what?”
“It doesn’t show.”
“Sounds like a curse to me.”
Angélica aimed the flashlight at her father.
He stared back at her, all traces of his usual grin absent. His silver-haired sideburns glistened with sweat.
She shook her head. He couldn’t be serious. “You’re losing it.” She pointed the beam back at the first glyph set. “Look here. The Lord of Death rode in on the wind with the traveler. That means the proof we need is at this site. I just have to find it.” She skimmed her fingers over the warm chiseled stone and smiled at him. “I knew Mom was right.”
“I still think it’s a curse,” he said, mopping his brow with a handkerchief. “You shouldn’t have read it aloud.”
She growled in her throat. After almost four decades of digging in tombs and temples throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, northern Guatemala, and Belize, how could he still believe in curses? “Be serious, Dad. That Lord of Death Waiting glyph is just the Maya equivalent of a ghost story.”
He lifted his eyebrows. “What makes you so certain it’s not a curse?”
Angélica scrubbed her hand down her face. She couldn’t believe they were even having this discussion.
“Listen, child,” Juan started.
“I’m almost thirty-five now, Dad.”
“Maybe so, but I’ve been on this earth—in temples just like this one—a lot longer than you have. It’s time you …”
She crossed her arms over her chest, bracing herself for the usual I’m-your-father speech.
He paused, glancing down at her arms then back up into her face. “And now you’re giving me that look,” he snorted. “I don’t know why I try to tell you anything. You never listen anyway. One of these days you’re going to learn that I’m almost always right.”
“Almost being the key word there.” Her grin took the sting out of her words.
Juan chuckled, patting her on the head. “You’re getting more and more like your mother every day.”
Tilting her head, she batted her eyelashes several times. “You mean intelligent and beautiful?”
“Mouthy and obstinate.” He pointed at the carvings on the wall. “Whether you like it or not, this curse could mean trouble.”
Angélica heard a nervous-sounding groan from the shadows behind her father. She shined the flashlight over Juan’s shoulder into the wide eyes of Esteban, a nineteen-year-old Maya boy from a nearby village who had worked for her off and on over the last few years. He must have finished recording the artifacts in the other chamber and slipped into the room without her hearing him.
“Shit,” she said under her breath. The last thing she needed right now were rumors spreading through camp that an ancient curse had come back to life. She turned back to Juan. “Dad, it’s not a curse.” Clearing her throat, she glanced pointedly toward her Maya crewmember. “It’s merely an artist showing a grim vision of the future.”
“Call it what it is, gatita. It’s a curse warning whoever sees it that death is waiting for its next meal,” Juan argued.
For those of you who want to read more of Ann’s writing, here are a few links to help you:
Buy links on her website: http://www.anncharles.com/?page_id=1744
Facebook (Personal Page): http://www.facebook.com/ann.charles.author
Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ann-Charles/37302789804?ref=share
Twitter (as Ann W. Charles): http://twitter.com/AnnWCharles
Ann Charles Website: http://www.anncharles.com