MEET RHONDA DENNIS!
Q&A with Rhonda
- What inspired you to write your first novel?
A college professor inspired me to write my first novel. I was in school to be a teacher, but I took some creative writing classes. He put a note on the top of one of my assignments that said I might want to pursue a career as a writer. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, and my first novel flowed out of me.
- What books/authors have inspired your life most?
My earliest influences were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Roald Dahl, and Carolyn Keene. I wanted to be Nancy Drew so badly! Later influences include Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Jude Deveraux, Ernest Hemingway, and John Kennedy Toole. I know the list is eclectic, but when it comes to reading, I’m all over the place.
- Whom would you consider a writing mentor(s)?
I consider my high school English teacher my greatest writing mentor. She encouraged me, guided me, and helped to mold me into the writer I am today. I was fortunate enough to have her repeatedly over the course of my schooling, and I gained invaluable lessons from her. Thanks for everything, Lisa Thibodeaux!
- What book(s) are you reading now?
I’ve been working on a book, and I don’t like to read other works while I’m writing. The last book that I read was The Resurrection of Aubrey Miller by LB Simmons, and it was fantastic!
- Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Lots! Though she’s a superstar now, Colleen Hoover grabbed my attention a while back. LB Simmons, Season Vining, Marie Coulson, Karly Blakemore-Mowle… Jeez, the list could go on for a while.
- What are your current writing projects?
I’m putting the final touches on a contemporary romance tentatively titled, Yours Always. My next project is a romantic comedy that I’ve been pondering for a while.
- What would we find you doing when you're not at the keyboard?
My favorite job is being a mom. My family means the world to me, and spending time with them is what I generally do in my free time. However, I have one child, a teenage son, and my husband at home, so sometimes I need a break from the testosterone overload. That’s when I call my friends and we schedule girlie dates.
- What are your favorite setting(s) to read/write about?
My favorite settings to read and write about generally have something to do with Louisiana. All of my books have had a Louisiana setting so far. I love my heritage and culture, and anyone who has visited my home state can tell you that it’s a unique experience, especially the further south you travel.
- If you could be any character in your book(s), which would you be and why?
This might surprise my readers, because I’m sure most will assume that I’d want to be Emily Boudreaux. Actually, the character I’d like to be the most is Connie from the Green Bayou Novels, just minus the flying monkeys.
I’ve written eight novels and three short stories. The first six novels and three short stories are part of The Green Bayou Novels series. The series follows a paramedic, Emily Boudreaux, who has finally had enough of the big city drama. She moves from New Orleans to Green Bayou in search of tranquility, but she ends up in a whole heap of mess. The books offer a little something for everyone: romance, humor, suspense, heartbreak. The order to read is Going Home, Awakenings, Déjà Vu, Unforeseen, Between Four and Five: A Green Bayou Extra (short story), Deceived, Green Bayou After Five: Connie’s Wild Night (short story), Between Five and Six (short story), and Vengeance.
I’ve also released a romantic comedy about a quirky woman struggling to find her niche in the world. Well, maybe quirky isn’t quite the right term for Magnolia—deluded? Out of touch? The book is called Magnolia Blossoms, and it’s laugh out loud funny. It’s available for Kindle, Nook, and in paperback.
My latest novel, tentatively titled Yours Always, is a contemporary romance has no set release date yet.
- Tell me a little bit about your current WIP.
As mentioned above, it’s tentatively titled Yours Always. It’s the story of two broken souls who are brought together by chance, and though they crave a life together, they have to figure out if their pasts have damaged them beyond repair. This book is in the editing stages right now and has no set release date. My next project, another romantic comedy, will be underway just as soon as I wrap this one.
- What does writing preparation look like for you? Do you do full outlines and character profiles, or do you just start with a general idea and write?
I applaud writers who have neat organizational charts, boards, outlines, etc. Unfortunately, they don’t work for me. I get an idea, jot a few of the main points to help with continuity, and then I type away!
- Editing is a challenge for many writers. Give us some of your tips for editing efficiently and well.
I don’t expect to catch all of my errors. It’s just not going to happen. Aside from simply reading the manuscript over and over again, I find that I catch more errors if I read it aloud. I’m very fortunate to have an amazing editor, and we work together to get the story right. Thank you, Donette Jumonville Freeman! I would also like to mention that I came across Donette after my previous editor passed away after a battle with cancer. Pat Rhoades, helped me to become the writer that I am today, and I love her so much for that. I miss her terribly.
- Research is another challenge writers face, but is an important part of the writing process. What are some of your research tips?
My favorite kind of research is going out and conversing with others about their experiences and knowledge. I’ll happily stick my nose in a book, or browse the web for answers, but good old fashioned interviews are the best.
- If you have been published (self or traditionally), what type of marketing did you find worked the best for you? What was the least helpful?
Ugh! I’m still trying to figure that one out. The bad thing about self-publishing marketing is that it’s very trendy, and by that I mean that someone comes up with a cutting edge idea for marketing, and then everyone’s doing it in no time flat. Once that happens, it’s no longer noteworthy and it’s difficult to make your work stand out.
- What genre do you write in? What are some of the challenges to writing this particular genre well?
I’m spreading my wings when it comes to dabbling in different genres. Green Bayou is suspense. Magnolia Blossoms is comedy. My current work in progress is contemporary romance that delves more onto the dramatic side of things. My next work will be another comedy. Who knows what will be next? Maybe I’ll give horror a go. The biggest challenge with writing any genre is presenting your material in a way that isn’t cookie cutter. It needs to be fresh, and you want it to be something that the reader will still be thinking about after they close the book.
- What advice would you give to a writer who is starting out?
Be patient, do your research, reach out for help, and don’t give up
- What are your writing, editing, marketing, and research goals for 2014?
I hope to have another novel finished by the end of the year or early next year. My goal is to keep moving forward and to take one day at a time as far as it all goes. The market is constantly evolving and changing, so I like to remain flexible.
- Pretend I am from a publishing house and you are looking for me to take on one of your books. Pitch it to me in 1-2 paragraphs.
Cool! I’ll pitch Magnolia Blossoms.
Imagine living in a lonely, clandestine world above your parents’ garage for the first thirty-two years of your life. Further imagine that your interpretation of reality is based upon things you learned by reading erotica, watching romantic comedies, and the occasional porn video. Let me also add that your name is Magnolia Picasso Berrybush, homely is probably a generous description of your appearance, and your parents have personalities that are known throughout all of South Louisiana. (Mom gives nude art lessons to the elderly; dad’s famous for his melodramatic court antics while dressed like a rotund Colonel Sanders.) Living in such a way is bound to eventually make you snap, and that’s exactly what happens to Magnolia. Unfortunately, her quest for normalcy is marred by bad decisions, rotten luck, and an abundance of trips to the emergency room.
These events, instead of deterring her, encourage her to continue her quest for acceptance. Interesting characters are put in her path, probably the most noteworthy of which is a washed up hooker named Honey LeReaux. Honey is rough and gruff, but she develops a soft spot for Magnolia, and in a way that only an embittered lady of the night can, Honey helps Magnolia to face reality. Though they are an unlikely pair, Honey turns out to be just what the unfortunate woman needs, and Magnolia begins to blossom. In the meantime, compliments of being so accident prone and ignorant, Magnolia catches the eye of two prospective male companions, EMT Jace Taylor and Sergeant Nick “The Dick” Ferrera. This story is a modern ugly duckling, coming-of-age story that promises big laughs and plenty of feel good moments.
- Finally, is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
You are what makes all of this worthwhile! Never underestimate how much your words of encouragement, your support, and even your constructive criticism means to the authors you love. My fans mean the world to me, and I hope that those who read my stories will reach out to let me know how they liked them, and to give me the opportunity to thank them for reading.
- I’m a potential new fan. Sell me your book in ten words or less.
Lose yourself in Rhonda’s wonderful imagination. Read her books now!
Top five favorite titles (these do not have to be favorite books)
A Confederacy of Dunces (Purely a genius title.)
The Fault in Our Stars (The title captivated me before I had a clue what the book was about.)
Magnolia Blossoms (It might be cheesy for me to say this because it’s a book I wrote, but the title fits the story so perfectly that it ranks as one of my all time favorites.)
The Sun Also Rises
Gone With the Wind (These are two other titles that have always intrigued me.)
Top ten books turned to movies
Bridget Jones’ Diary
Gone With the Wind
Under the Tuscan Sun
Gone Girl (I have high hopes for the movie.)
The Harry Potter Series
One for the Money
The Shawshank Redemption