Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Author Interview: CJ Anaya

CJ Anaya
author, Marry Your Billionaire

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

I'm thinking a little of both. I enjoy exploring the possibilities of "what if". Getting the idea of some interesting story line and then asking myself the right questions to give that story substance is such a fun journey of discovery. My characters tend to surprise and delight me. On the other hand, when I do get those ideas in my head I can rarely think of anything else until I've plotted and outlined to my satisfaction. Then I'm always fleshing out scenes in my head, and I have a truly difficult time focusing on housework or remembering activities and commitments. I essentially turn into the absent minded professor. It's not pretty. When that happens, Joe takes the kids to visit his side of the family for the weekend so I can actually get some writing done. Blocking out time to write with four kids under the age of seven just doesn't happen without a little help from hubby.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Plot is sometimes a tricky thing for me because I have an outline, but I rarely follow it. Other ideas come into play and sometimes I can go off on some writing tangent and then realize that things have taken an ugly turn. I derail myself quite a bit, and that can be good or bad depending upon where the story ends up.

Now, I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Marry Your Billionaire ?  What would you do differently the next time?

I had to learn my own writing process and realize that it was okay and necessary to write a crappy rough draft. That was three books ago. The important thing is to get it out there so you can go back and edit everything. Flesh out the scenes, the characters, and the plot and structure once you’ve knocked out that first rough draft. Don’t edit yourself in the creation process. Wait to edit later.

What do your fans mean to you?

In a word: everything! They're my support and my strength. I'm not just writing for me, I'm writing for them. Becoming an author has been a great creative outlet for me, but I know how wonderful it feels to curl up to a good book that can turn the worst break-up, the worst test exam, the most horrendous first date, or the saddest of experiences into something you can escape from and eventually work through because you took a break and enjoyed yourself for a while. Reading is all about personal time and recharging those batteries. I've benefited from so many other author's creative writing skills and now I'm hoping that all of my readers will be able to feel confident in the knowledge that when they read one of my books they're going to have the same fun and uplifting experience. Honestly, nothing would make me happier than to know that my writing has brightened someone's day.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love and adore Cassandra Clare. The woman can do no wrong. The way she weaves so many plot lines together and then has it all blend together in the end as if it all came about effortlessly...? I want her to teach a class on her writing process. I would pay good money to attend it. I also love Richelle Mead. She's another girl who handles several different plots and subplots with amazing clarity and efficiency. Lauren Kate is a favorite of mine. When I consider just straight romance my "go to" is Marcia Lynn Mcclure. Of course there is J. K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer. I also love Dan Brown, Chris Heimerdinger, and Dean Koontz. He wrote a book called The Husband that I think is total genius. He wrote a lot of other great books too, but that was the first book of his I ever read and I was hooked.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

My husband and my children. In a day and age where divorce tends to be a common ending to so many love stories it is wonderful to have the kind of marriage that epitomizes what love truly is. Joe married me when I was sick and not sure if I would ever recover. The beginnings of our relationship would make a pretty amazing love story, especially if Nicholas Sparks wrote it for me, whom I also love as an author by the way. My children are four little miracles in and of themselves simply because we weren't sure I would ever be able to have any. We still plan on adopting, but we're happy that we were able to have some of our own first.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

The first real full length novel I read by myself was a Nancy Drew book called The Haunted Bridge. Oh my word I was in heaven. I devoured every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on after that, and then moved on to other genres, but my first love was the Mystery Genre. I was convinced for years that I would grow up to become a detective or an investigative reporter. I even got a degree in criminal justice. Those books got me through some of the worst phases of elementary school and middle school. Bullies you know. Kids can be so cruel. High school wasn't much better. Depressing. Let's talk about something else.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I'm a bit of a control freak. I don't have a problem with people tearing up my work and telling me how to fix it because the goal here is to write something that people enjoy reading. I do have a problem with waiting on other people to get things done. I am not the most patient of people. I want things done on my timetable, and I enjoy having creative control over that process. I like being my own boss, especially when it concerns something I've put my heart and soul into.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

Yes. I was thirteen and my friend Leeanna Congdon came to visit me. We hung out playing pool and listening to Queen..random, I know. Then we got this brilliant idea that we would write each other these awesome short stories about the guys we were into. I think she liked Devon Sawa and I was into Andrew Keegan from the movie Camp Nowhere. He was also in Ten Things I Hate About You. I thought our stories were the writings of true professionals. We spent the whole day writing side by side and when we finished we read them to each other. I have no idea where those stories are, but I'm almost positive they were New York Times Best Seller material.

How did you come up with the idea for Marry Your Billionaire?

The idea for this book can be blamed on our foreign exchange student from Switzerland, Alyssia Keller, who came to live with us during the school year of 2014-2015. She’d been a fan of The Bachelor for quite some time, while I had done an admirable job of avoiding that show like I would a sugar-free diet. I couldn’t think of anything more ridiculous than watching desperate women fighting over a knuckle head who probably joined the show just so he could get laid. What were these women thinking? Why in the world put yourself through all of that drama? No guy could be worth such heartache.

Right? I knew you’d understand.

These were all of the arguments—valid arguments—I posed to Alyssia when she insisted I sit down and start the new season of The Bachelor with her. The bachelor in question? Chris Soules. Because I’m a good sport…and also because she promised me an endless supply of Swiss chocolate, I agreed and sat down to watch the show.

Holy crap! I was hooked within the first ten minutes. Dang it.

It was like watching a train wreck and waiting for the inevitable carnage to follow. You know you should probably shield your eyes, but you simply can’t tear yourself away. So entertaining.

As I watched Chris begin his first round of make-out sessions, I thought about how no one in the world could have paid me nearly enough money to put myself in that situation. Then I wondered what might happen if someone didn’t want to be on the show, but was forced into it. What would motivate a woman to agree to something like that? What if the bachelor in question decided she was the one for him and refused to let her leave?

How delicious!

So I got to work on it right away. Of course, I had to continue watching the show. Purely for the sake of research, mind you, lest you think I couldn’t pull myself away from the TV to go make dinner…or do laundry…or wash the dishes. And then it was absolutely imperative that I continue my research by watching The Bachelorette.

Right? I knew you’d understand.

For the record, I still think the idea of a dating reality TV series is ridonculous, but that’s what makes it so entertaining. Needless to say, my foreign exchange student and I spent many evenings planted in front of the TV with an unhealthy amount of popcorn and Swiss chocolate in front of us, arguing the finer points of life married to Whitney versus life married to Becca or even Kaitlyn. And who can dispute Kaitlyn’s extreme likability? And how awesome was it to witness every single emotional melt down, including the fake panic attack from Kelsey and her tactless claim that the death of her husband was the best backstory on the entire show?

Classic.

I do so love research.

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