Gothic romances have long been among my most favorite books to read and write, and I always enjoy finding a new author with works I can enjoy. That's why I enjoyed meeting author Anna M. Taylor who writes women's fiction and gothic romances under the penname of Anna Taylor Sweringen.
She is a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister who now writes fiction. A native New Yorker, she says she currently enjoys the heat of the Southwest. She has been writing seriously since joining Romance Writers of America in 2003 and also writes inspirational romance as Anna Taylor and erotic romance as Michal Scott.
Welcome, Anna. What are some of the challenges of being a writer?
Being aware of the negative impact of imposter syndrome and internal editor critique. The weight of feeling not good enough is a burden every good writer carries. What gets me through these days is remembering E.L. Doctorow said in an interview that it’s the good writer whose wracked with thoughts of “not good enough.”
Tell us about your road to publication.
Hmmm…how to make a long story short. My road to publication started with a challenge from my mother-in-law. When she learned I wrote X-Files fan fiction she asked me why I didn’t write about my own characters? Her question revived memories of how I used to write mystery fiction and had loved writing just for the fun of it. I also recalled how after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon I had written a note to myself stating I wanted to be as thoughtful a writer as he was. Fast forward to 2003 and I’m listening to an episode of This American Life called What’s Love Got To Do With It that featured Romance Writers of America, one of the few writing organizations that accepted unpublished authors. I joined that same year, never thinking I’d write romance. I joined the romantic suspense and mystery writers chapter figuring what I learned there I could apply to mystery writing in general. This turned out to be true but I also fell in love with romance. I joined two other chapters as well, Gothic Romance Writers and Faith Hope Love, the chapter for inspirational romance. FHL sponsored an activity called Finish the Book. If you finished a book in a year one of their published authors would give you a critique on its first 25 pages. I finished my first work, Through A Glass Darkly and got a wonderful critique. FHL's Touched By Love contest for unpublished authors opened two months later so I entered and won second place in the short contemporary category. At the same time RWA was pushing general members to move toward PRO status (i.e. submitting finished work not yet accepted). One of the members of FHL had just signed on to be the editor for The Wild Rose Press’ inspirational line and put out a call for submissions. I figured I could submit Through A Glass Darkly, get my rejection and apply to RWA for PRO status. Wild Rose Press accepted my book. The rest as they say is history.
How do you come up with your characters?
I start with my plot, so to come up with my characters I ask what kind of person would react in what kind of way in this particular situation. I also use books like The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines to help me with archetypes.
How do you come up with your plots?
Usually a line of dialogue or scene I’ve read or watched plants a “What if…” seed that germinates into a story. For instance, there’s a scene in the Bourne Ultimatum where Jason Bourne steps among a group of people at a bus stop and appears to be talking to someone before he moves on. The government agency following Bourne incapacitates that innocent bystander taking him for an accomplice. I posited what if the drug they used on this person causes cardiac arrest and the person dies. What if my heroine is a peripheral part of the team responsible for this person’s death. Now what if the dead person has an uncle who is a trained assassin now bent on exacting revenge by killing everyone connected to that team no matter how slightly. That’s how my novel A Hell For The Good was born.
Tell us about your latest book. What made you write it?
My latest book is a newly revised and expanded version of a novella I wrote it back in 2009 as part of
an anthology with a few of my gothic romance writer colleagues. Haunted Serenade was inspired by a line from Billie Holiday’s rendition of Solitude. It goes “In my solitude you haunt me.” I played my “What If” writing exercise: what if a family member wasted away in solitude pining for a lost love? What if the spirit of that family member invaded a family reunion? What if that weren’t the only spirit invading the reunion? What if my heroine and her ex-lover were present? Would they be brought together or torn further apart? Haunted Serenade is now the first of a set of novellas I’m self-publishing as my Haunted Harlem series.
What advice do you have for beginning writers?
Find things outside of writing that inspire and energize you. Writing can be enervating and lonely, and as I shared in my answer to the challenges-to-writing question, demoralizing at times. Outside interests invigorate the soul and the writing muse. Remind you writing is not all you are or all you can do.
What’s your next project (or What are you working on now?)
I’m working on the second novella in my Haunted Harlem series, A Little In Love With Death, a second chance romance. My heroine returns home because her brother claims to have been brutalized by a spirit haunting their childhood home, a spirit she insisted attacked her several years earlier but no one believed her, including her now former lover. I’m trying my hand at writing this as a time slip story. I think having the reader experience the background story of the haunting in real time will make the present time haunting story more scary. I’ve set Halloween as my release date. Wish me luck.
Thank you, Anna. Let's get a blurb on Haunted Serenade:
All the women in Anora Madison's family have lived haunted by the curse of Poor Butterfly: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, she fled Harlem for Brooklyn, not only severing her ties with her mother Angela, but also ending her relationship with Winston Emerson, her lover and the father of her child. Six years later, she comes home to make peace. When an unseen evil manifests itself during the homecoming, Anora must turn to her ex-lover for help. But if she allows Winston back in her life, how will she protect her heart?
Want to find out more? Here are the buy links and social media links for Anna:
Social media links:
Anna M. Taylor Amazon Author Page:
Anna M. Taylor FB Author Page
Anna M. Taylor website:
Thank you, Anna, for being my guest and introducing us to your new book1 Any comments or questions for Anna?