It’s always a pleasure to meet new authors and discover their books and when that author lives in another country, it makes blogdom that much more appealing. With that in mind, I’d delighted to welcome author Carmen Stefanescu here today as she makes a stop on her virtual blog tour for her latest release, Shadows of the Past.
You see, Carmen was born in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble - the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.
Carmen write paranormal romance. Here’s a brief synopsis of Shadows of the Past:
Genevieve, a young nun at the St. Mary’s Abbey, is torn between her sacred vows to God and her guilty love for Andrew, the nuns’ priest. She hopes that one day people will forgive and forget their sins and accept them into society. If only the scorned and bitter Abbess will allow her to leave the clerical life.
Anne, a well-to-do young English businesswoman, leaves on a holiday, hoping to reconcile with her fiancé Neil, after their bitter separation. Still hurting from his betrayal, Anne suspects that Gillian, her former business partner and friend played a major part in it.
Has destiny other plans for Anne? Why, then, do the two lovers lose their way and have to spend the night in an odd forest? Whose is the human skeleton they find and why does the bejeweled cross laying under the bones trigger a strong feeling of apprehension in Anne? Is there a connection between the strange women who haunt Anne’s dreams and the ruins of a large building the two lovers come upon, deep in the forest? What is it that these ghostly apparitions want from her?
Shadows of the Past - revenge, witchcraft, desire and betrayal, clash and intertwine over the centuries in a passionate edge of your seat read weave themselves together into a quest to rekindle love.
Carmen has graciously answered some questions for me about her writing.
Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?
Carmen - I love writing. For me, being a writer is a state of mind. I’ve been writing since I was a student as reading and writing have been an intricate part of my life. Satirical poems and short stories at that time, in my native tongue, Romanian. They remained only drawer projects. After the fall of the Ceausescu's regime, after 1989, I was able to tackle my dream and tried to go public with poems in English. Not love poems, but more, let's say, philosophical thoughts on life and pastels. I was awarded the Silver Cup for poetry in 2004 for my English poems.
Then I continued with short-stories that also remained drawer projects up to now. However, those were my toddler steps taken to get me to the stage of walking in the world of writing. At last I continued with longer fiction. As about the event that made me write Shadows of the Past, it was something on the spot, after reading a small article in a newspaper about a mountain in England haunted by the restless souls of a nun and a priest. It simply sparkled my imagination.
Mason - What was the hardest part of creating the supernatural realm where Genevieve resides?
Carmen - Genevieve lives in real world, England. Not being a supernatural realm, I had to study as much info as I could find on Medieval England, especially life in monasteries. As about the supernatural apparitions. . . Well, I've always been fascinated by paranormal phenomena and I read everything either fiction, or articles in magazines, or biographies of mediums, clairvoyants, etc. on this subject.
Mason - In what order do your characters come to life - name, physical description, personality?
Carmen - When I write, I can literally visualize the scenes playing out in my mind as I start writing under the direct charge of my characters. Names come at the same time with physical description and personality. In my humble opinion there's a direct thread linking these. I can't imagine a character named Cruela as a sweet young girl or Bull as prince charming, can you? The two main characters in Shadows of the Past, Genevieve and Andrew, simply 'appeared before me', name, appearance, all.
Mason - Does your Romanian background have an influence on your writing?
Carmen - I can't say for sure. Anyway, there's a saying around here, "All Romanians are born poets." And if we think that I started with poetry first, it gives substance to this saying. For a direct answer, yes. Especially in my next project based mostly on Romania's history.
Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?
Carmen - I’ve recently finished my second novel. Another paranormal. A historical one. It’s something linked to Vlad the Imapaler’s life. So again, the Middle Ages, as I have always found this time period fascinating. This time the setting is Walachia, present-day Romania.
There are so many books on Vlad, written by foreigners who focus on the “vampire” idea, and I think it’s time for one of his country people to show what historical, political and social circumstances led to his being nicknamed Dracula. Dracula’s Mistress goes “against the grain”; it's the first novel to present the prince as a real human being - with his good parts and his faults - not as the infamous vampire. My submission was accepted by the publisher I'd sent it to and I already signed the contract.
Mason - Explain the process you took to have your book published from the time the idea for the plot came to you until it was published.
Carmen - Writing isn't easy work. It starts before you put your fingers to the keyboard and it doesn't end the moment you finish the manuscript. No. The real labor only now begins: getting your story published. The road to publication may be long and hard and it was a troublesome, sinuous one for me. After finishing the novel in 2002, longhand, I started looking for an agent and transferring.
I sometime imagine what a face must those literary agents have made at reading my emails. At that time I had no idea what a query, pitch or blurb was and simply wrote how I felt it. Little by little, while rejections kept piling in my inbox, I learned things about publishing I had no idea about, until then. Swallowing the lump of bitter tears, I kept writing queries and thanked those editors who took the time to send me not just an automated rejection reply but wrote an explanation of why they thought Shadows of the Past was not fit for them and expressed their regrets for rejecting it.
I always behave civil and good-mannered. Why throw tantrums and rebukes and not ask yourself "What am I doing wrong?" or "What do I have to change in my query/ summary or even in the story itself to make it appealing?" It's, after all, a matter of marketing your merchandise, i.e. your story. Between endless cups of coffee and Googling the publishers, I polished my query style; I self-educated myself in this field.
I understood that for me, living in Europe, would have meant a huge sum of money to send paper manuscripts by traditional post to be examined by agents or editors living in USA. The only thing left was e-publishing. I was reluctant at first. I still like to read a printed book, to hold it in my hands and smell the ink and pages, and I said to myself "Who is going to read e-books, except young people who are fond of everything computer related?"
Later, I realized e-books are the future in publishing and I started sending queries again. To e-publishers this time. It wasn't easy here, either. Searching through dozens and dozens of publishing houses, checking their names through Beware, to avoid being deceived by dishonest "publishers", then checking if they publish my genre of story, or length and what their other requirements are.
I passed the story through several beta readers who helped me with issues of language usage and even details regarding actual life realities in the places I described in my books. My kudos to Ella, Mia, Bill and Kathleen, all living in English speaking countries. At last, in 2010 I signed the contract with Wild Child Publishing. The editing process followed and, at last, Shadows of the Past was released last December. I’ve learned so much in these last few years about the craft of writing--and I hope to keep improving.
It may sound easy but, take my word it brought me to despair sometimes. Once, on the verge of quitting, the words told to me by an editor and beta rang in my ears. I state them for all aspiring authors: "Follow your dream. Roll with the punch of rejection, be open with constructive criticism, yet stay true to your style of writing and go on. You'll finally succeed!" It's what happened to me.
Carmen, thanks for joining us today and sharing your experience with the publishing industry. I love the encouragement you received to keep going. Very inspiring.
To let you know a bit more about Carmen, she is a teacher of English and German in her native country and mother of two daughters. Carmen survived the grim years of oppression by escaping in a parallel world, that of the books.
Carmen has dreamt all her life to become a writer, but many of the things she wrote during those years remained just drawer projects. The fall of the Ceausescu’s regime in 1989 and the opening of the country to the world meant a new beginning for her. She started publishing. Poems first, and then prose. Both in English.
For more on Carmen and her writing, visit her website and find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Ask David. Shadows of the Past can be purchased on Amazon, Wild Child Publishing, and B&N.
Here’s a book trailer for Shadows of the Past for your enjoyment.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Are you a fan of paranormal romance? What words of encouragement would you give someone attempting to have a book published?