VK Powell interviews Missouri Vaun:
One of my favorite things is talking with authors and readers about writing. Today it’s my pleasure to ask my friend and BSB sister author Missouri Vaun a few questions about her books and writing process, and other burning issues. Before I start firing away, Vaun, congratulations on the February release of Love at Cooper’s Creek, book number nine with Bold Strokes. I understand it’s a bit of a new direction for you, which leads me to the first question.
I’ve really enjoyed your historical romances and your earlier science fiction works, which also have strong romantic elements, but Love at Cooper’s Creek is a contemporary romance. How did that transition happen?
To be honest, the switch was fairly organic and painless. Certain things became clear as I worked on my fourth book, Whiskey Sunrise. When I turned in the manuscript for that book, my editor, Cindy Cresap, pointed out that I’d found my wheelhouse. I think that’s how she put it.
She said the traditional genre romance with a rural setting might just be my sweet spot. And I think she was right. Many of the best elements of my first three novels (all set on a future post-industrial Earth) are in the scenes and the moments about rural, small-town existence. I mean, those are the places I grew up. Those are the details I know intimately. Stories, people, and settings from the Deep South have a special place in my heart.
So I suppose I credit a few things with the transition—feedback from my editor, whose opinion I respect; experiences from my youth in the Deep South; and a need to share more personally. I put a lot of myself in Whiskey Sunrise about coming out as gay in a religious family in rural Georgia. And I also put a lot of myself in Love at Cooper’s Creek.
Tell us about the premise of Love at Cooper’s Creek and introduce us to the main characters.
Shaw Daily lives in California, has a high-pressure corporate job that involves a lot of travel, and she wakes up one morning realizing she’s not happy. She decides to take some time off and retreat to a property in North Carolina that she inherited from her grandparents. She’s only been in Cooper’s Creek for a day when she has an accidental encounter with Kate Elkins in the Cooper’s Creek General Store. Kate has spent almost her entire life in Cooper’s Creek. For Kate, the bonds of small town-life are a source of strength and comfort. Kate has just taken a leave from teaching to care for her aging mother. Romance is the last thing on her mind when she bumps into her unrequited teen crush, Shaw Dailey.
Long-buried feelings resurface for Kate, but all Shaw sees is a beautiful woman saddled with the responsibilities she is finally free from.
I really love these characters. They have great chemistry.
How is writing contemporary romance different from writing the other genres?
The first thing I noticed is that the world building is already in place. When you write science fiction, assuming the setting is elsewhere, the world building takes a lot of time and research. For contemporary romance you can assume that most of your readers will share at least some of the touch points with your characters, whether that’s setting, jobs, family, or whatever. Not having to do quite as much world building allows more time to focus on the characters and their unique backstories and journeys.
What was the inspiration for your first novel and how did it come to fruition?
The idea for my first book All Things Rise came from my interests in the environment and our dependency on fossil fuels for energy. I’m also bothered by the ever-increasing wealth gap in the world. All Things Rise is sort of my personal what-if scenario. What would the world look like if the rich left the rest of us behind to fend for ourselves, after peak oil, in a post-industrial landscape? I would call this book sci-fi light because a lot of the book feels as if it’s set in the 1800s. I actually credit the research I did for this book with the urge to write proper historical fiction.
One of the main characters in the book, Cole, might be my favorite. It could simply be that she’s one of my favorites because she’s my first, but I think it might be because of who she is in the world.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
I struggle with villains. All books need conflict and some of my adventure stories, like Birthright for example, have actual villains. It’s difficult for me to write scenes where characters are cruel to one another. (But satisfying in the end when good triumphs.)
Readers are curious about an author’s process. Tell us about yours and how it’s different for you, or not, from writing short stories.
I like to describe my writing process as chaos. I keep several notebooks in various spots at home and at work and I’m always scribbling some fact or detail that I don’t want to forget. When I finally sit down to write, I have to synthesize all those bits into something cohesive. Rarely do I know how everything in a manuscript will work out until I’m about 75 percent through. Then I go back and do a rewrite of the first half of the book. I usually have a working document that I call a story map. I think this is something that storyboarders do for movies and animation. This probably comes from my background in graphic novels. A story map illustrates the pulse points of a story: low points, high points, pivotal moments, etc.
How does your day job affect your writing, if it does?
Well, it makes it tough sometimes. Time to write is a luxury that I sometimes only get in small doses. I have a very busy day job so it means I write a lot at night and on weekends. My wife is very tolerant of my writing obsession.
If you’ll pardon some shameless self-promotion, talk a bit about the trilogy that you, D. Jackson Leigh, and I are working on.
I’m so glad you brought this up. Yes, I was honored to work on a series with two of my favorite authors. The Pine Cone Romances focus on three best friends in a small town in south Georgia. It’s hard to remember now exactly how the concept was born, but I’m pretty sure bourbon was involved and maybe a long weekend in California.
D. Jackson Leigh blogged about our threesome here. Watch for the books in June, July, and August 2018!
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working on that project with the two of you, which included a road trip and a tree house…but I won’t spoil everything. We’ll talk more closer to release. J
What’s next for Missouri Vaun?
The trilogy is next, and then I have one more science fiction novel titled Proxima Five. Then I’m returning to contemporary romance with Spencer’s Cove. I’m pretty excited about these upcoming releases.
Sounds like we have many more hours of reading enjoyment ahead from Missouri Vaun. Now a few questions just for fun.
Your foodie Achilles’ heel?
Pizza! Always pizza.
Plotter or pantser?
Complete and utter pantser.
Are you a collector of anything besides your amazing body of work? Spill.
Watches…I love watches. Oh, and I think I have a pretty good collection of fountain pens.