Meet George Monroe

the manipulative villain from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine
© Can Stock Photo/ ruivalesousa

When it comes to people to masking their real intentions, no one does it better than George Monroe. He’s the most diabolical villain I’ve created to date. In fact, he makes Craig Walker, from my romance novel, The Stalker, look like a choirboy in comparison, and Craig was so evil he even scared me.

George was born into the music business. Both of his parents were rock musicians, and his father started up Alicorn Records when he couldn’t land a recording contract. The label was a huge success in England, so when George became an adult, his father sent him to Los Angeles to start up Alicorn Records, U.S.A.

George is, in essence, the “casting couch” character I’d wanted to create with Calvin Michelson in The Scandal. However, the “Me Too” movement began when I was in the early planning stages for that particular romance novel. So, I had to change Cal from a sexual manipulator to a misunderstood man who is falsely accused of a serious wrongdoing. Mind you, I’m not complaining. It worked quite nicely.

George is a man who can never be satisfied with just one woman.  No, he doesn’t demand every female singer have sex with him to land a record contract. However, he has been known to take some aspiring women under his wing. When he does, he expects more than just a simple, “Thank you,” in return.

George just happens to be in the right place at the right time to meet Tonya Clairborne, a young music student who is working as a model to help pay for college. He sees a genuine talent in Tonya, so he offers to mentor her. Tonya eagerly accepts his offer, not realizing it will come at a very high price.

George is a completely fictional character. He’s not inspired by anyone I’ve actually known, thank goodness, although there are plenty of George’s out there.

Marina Martindale 

Aquamarine is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com, and other online booksellers.

So Why All the Artists and Photographers?

© Can Stock Photo / tomasfoto

We authors are told to write what me know, and so far nearly every lead character I’ve created is an artist of some kind. Gillian was a painter. Carrie was a photographer. Most recently, Tonya was a musician. Or they’re like Cassie and Stephanie, and they work with artists. Many of my leading men characters have creative jobs too, such as architects, writers or musicians.

I certainly know art. Some of my earliest memories are of drawing on my bedroom walls. Unfortunately, my mother wasn’t too keen on that, so she got me some coloring books and crayons. As I got older, my favorite toys were paint-by-number kits and a spirograph. Later on, I took up embroidery and sewing. By the time I started high school I was making my own clothes. Then, when I went to college, I got a degree in fine art.

Along with writing, fine art photography is my other passion. A fine art photographer approaches photography the way a painter looks at a canvas. The goal is to create an interesting composition of lights and shadows. I do photography as Gayle Martin. If you’d like to take a look you can see my work at gaylemartinfineartphotography.com.

So, with my background, I suppose it would make sense for my lead characters to have art-related occupations, or otherwise be freelancers of some kind, as I’ve spent most of my working life being self-employed. Fortunately, my editor has plenty of experience in the corporate world. She’s been a real asset in helping me with characters who work so-called, “regular” jobs. I also know retired nurses who’ve been extremely helpful with creating supporting characters who work in the medical field. However, I simply don’t have the background to have a nurse, or a corporate executive, as a lead character.

Thankfully, in my genre, contemporary romance, I really don’t need to get too technical about my character’s occupations.  The focus of the story is on the romance. I just need to know enough about their occupations to  accurately describe what they do, which for me would be an art related occupation.

Marina Marindale

So Which One is My Favorite?

Cover illustration by Wesley Lowe.

I’m often asked how many books I’ve written. Danged if I know. After a while, you kind of lose track. However, of all my contemporary romance novels, The Reunion will always be my favorite.

The Reunion was my first full-fledged novel. Prior to that, I was writing children’s books, (as Gayle Martin), and The Luke and Jenny series did quite well. My very first book was a historic, WWII era ration cookbook titled, Anna’s Kitchen, which was later updated into Rosie’s Riveting Recipes. It’s still one of my biggest sellers. However, after Luke and Jenny, I wanted to write more contemporary stories for adult readers, and romance is my favorite genre.

Unlike my later novels, The Reunion is loosely based on events which have happened in my own life. I wrote it as a, “what if” story. As in, what if I had done this instead of that? Of course, I’ll never really know, but The Reunion gave me a chance to imagine one possibility. Leading man Ian is based on someone very special who I once knew. Gillian is me. Sort of. She’s an idea of what my life might have been, had I made different choices. 

Samantha Walsh, Gillian’s best friend, is based on a real-life neighbor I once had. I also met her while I was in college. Her apartment was a few doors down from mine. However, she worked at the parimutuel windows at the dog track instead of a truck stop diner, but some of the stories she told about her job were hilarious. She moved back to Chicago a few months after we met, so I have no idea whatever become of her, but she was certainly unforgettable, to say the least.

Gillian’s ex, Jason Matthews was, I’m sorry to say, based on my own ex-husband. He worked at an Old West Theme park called, Rawhide, which, at the time, was in Scottsdale, Arizona. Like Jason, he kind of swept me off my feet. Unfortunately, also like Jason, he turned out to be an abusive conman. Thankfully, I haven’t heard from him in many years, and so far as I know, he’s alive and well. Although I will admit that writing about Jason’s untimely end was kind of cathartic. Just saying.

I think of my first romance novel as my first child, in a way. Writing it was a life-changing event for me, because doing so was when I realized that writing novels truly is me life’s calling. It’s yet another reason why The Reunion will always be my favorite.

Marina Martindale

The Reunion is available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and other online book sellers. 

 

 

 

Holiday Table Conversations

Photo by Marina Martindale

It’s the time of year for gathering with friends and family, so I invited my good friend and fellow author, David Lee Summers, and his wife, over for dinner. No, David doesn’t write contemporary romance. He writes steampunk, science fiction, and horror, so naturally the conversation turned to fiction writing, and famous fictional characters. We got to talking about Star Wars.

I love Star Wars. I saw the first one on the big screen a few weeks after it premiered, and it was amazing. To me, it was sort of like a sci-fi version of Camelot, complete with knights, a princess, and an evil wizard. What made the story work was the characters. We talked about how well all the characters were thought out and developed. Then came the prequels. (Not bad. Not great, but not bad.) After that came Disney. Ugh! Suffice to say the rest of the conversation was about the importance of character arcs and consistency in storytelling.

So, what can I say? Some people get together and discuss sports, current events, or politics. Get storytellers together, and we’ll sit around and analyze famous, iconic characters, and talk about what makes them work. Our inspiration often comes from other storytellers.

Marina Martindale

Meet Tonya Claiborne

a lead character in the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine
© Can Stock Photo/ 2mmedia

Tonya Claiborne was first introduced in my earlier contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal.  She was the seventeen-year-old sister of Annette Claiborne, one of the antagonists, and I created her almost as an afterthought. Like her cousin, Emily, Tonya is an aspiring musician. She also has another talent; reading people’s body language.

While only a minor character in The Betrayal, Tonya nonetheless had a significant role. We’ll meet an adult Tonya in Aquamarine. A music major at The University of North Texas, Tonya looks forward to graduating the following year. She’s also in love with Evan, and they plan to marry once they graduate. However, things don’t always go as planned, and Tonya’s life is about to change in ways she could have never imagined.

Tonya is a purely fictional character. However, in my own life’s journey I’ve run across a few rare individuals who excelled at reading body language, and I was amazed at how accurately they perceived other people. It’s a skill I would have liked to have had myself.

Marina Martindale

Aquamarine is currently available for the  Amazon Kindle. A paperback edition is coming soon.

I’m Having Conversations

with my imaginary friends
© Can Stock Photo/
khunaspix

Everyone who writes fiction understands how our characters seem to come to life as we’re writing. We start out with an idea of who we want them be, but before long, they’re telling us who they really are. It’s what makes novel writing fun. For me, it usually happens with antagonists. Some, like Craig in The Stalker, come out much darker than planned. Others, like Cal in The Scandal, love their bad boy image. Deep down, however, they have good hearts. 

Now just so you know, they don’t communicate verbally. There are no voices in my head. I think the best way to describe it would be to say they take control of my fingers as I type. Especially when I’m writing dialog. The conversation just flows out of my keyboard as I watch their personalities come through. It feels almost as if I’m channeling a real person from a different dimension. Of course, that’s not literally happening. I’m tapping into the part of my psyche where imagination lies, and what fascinates me the most is how the characters evolve into people who are entirely different than what my conscience mind had envisioned.

Marina Martindale

 

 

Can I Be in Your Book?

The things you should never ask a creative writer

They say there are certain things you should never ask an author or creative writer. One of them is, “Can I be a character in your book?”

For a time, however, this was a running joke between me and one of my friends. First, he dropped me an oh so subtle hint in my birthday card. Then, whenever we’d run into one another, he’d tease me and say, “Hey, can I be a character in your book?” I’d tease him back and reply, “Sure. How do you want to die?”

Oh, if you only knew

Here’s the real butt of of the joke. Some of my friends actually are in my contemporary romance novels, as they are inspiration for some of my characters. Ian, in The Reunion, is loosely based on an old college boyfriend. Lauren in The Scandal was inspired by a family member, and the idea for Craig in The Stalker came from someone harassing a friend on Facebook.

That said, my characters are all unique individuals. Each has their own distinct personality, including their own quirks. My protagonists aren’t perfect. They make their fair share of mistakes. Some of my antagonists are downright chilling. Others are good people who’ve made bad choices. But regardless of whether the character is inspired by a real person, or someone I created from scratch, all are believable, three-dimensional people who readers can connect to. 

So, did I ever put my friend in one of my books?

Well, sort of. There is a supporting character in my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Diversion, who is somewhat similar to my real-life friend. Both are professional musicians, and both are serious about making careers in the music business. 

Marina Martindale

 

The Reunion, The Stalker, and The Scandal are available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com.

Can Men and Women Be Friends?

© Can Stock Photo/boggy

Can a man and a woman just be platonic friends? It’s a discussion I’ve had with people over the years. Some say yes. Others say no.

My only siblings were two older brothers, so I grew up around boys. As an adult I’ve had many wonderful non-romantic friendships with men, some of which lasted for years. Even today I have male friends who are single and heterosexual, just like me, but we’ve never taken the friendship to the next level. I simply don’t feel the romantic attraction, even though I genuinely like them as people and enjoy their company. Of course I have had some friendships which, over time, grew to something more, but they were the rare exception.

I’m including a male/female platonic relationship in my next contemporary romance novel, The Diversion. Those of you who are familiar with my other contemporary romance novels may have noticed that my female leads all have a close female friend and confidant. However, I like a little variety, so this time around my female lead’s close friend and confidant will be a heterosexaul man. She thinks of him as the brother she never had, and he thinks of her as his other sister. No, they won’t be taking their relationship to the next level, although I may do this scenario in a future contemporary romance novel. For the moment, however, I’m still trying to decide which man she’ll end up with, but it definitely won’t be her platonic male friend.  

Marina Martindale

My Favorite Passages to Write

© Can Stock Photo / mrdoomits

Writing contemporary romance novels is incredibly fun. I get to create interesting characters, put them in all kinds of precarious situations, and write action-packed scenes. I suppose it’s the adult version of playing make believe. And while those action-packed scenes are fun to write, there’s another kind of scene I also love writing. It’s the quiet, intimate moments when the character is in a time of personal reflection. It’s when I go inside the character’s head and make the emotional connection which, in turn, creates the magic moment when the character becomes more than just words on paper. He or she essentially becomes a living, breathing human being who seems so real that we can almost reach out and touch them.

The following example  is from my contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. Ian believes he’s just lost Gillian, the love of his life, to his son, Jeremy. Ian takes a long walk to try to sort things out, and reflect on what has happened. 

Marina Martindale

a sample read from The Reunion

Ian spent the next few hours walking, but he was in such a state of shock he became completely unaware of his surroundings. At sundown he was sitting on a bench at an empty playground in a small neighborhood park. Gazing at the playground equipment in the twilight, he saw ghostly images of Jeremy as a small child, laughing and playing. How could such an innocent little boy have grown into the man who betrayed him? Darkness was soon upon him, but he had no desire to leave. His mind was filled with images of Gillian and Jeremy, laughing and smiling, while they enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Las Vegas strip. Then he saw the two of them together in their bed. Jeremy was making love to her. Would she respond to Jeremy’s touch the way she’d responded to his?

“Oh, stop torturing yourself, Ian,” he said aloud. “It’s over and done with and you allowed it to happen. Now you can’t undo it.”

 He couldn’t bring himself to leave. His mind was filled with the memory of a long-ago night in his college apartment. Gillian was on the leather sofa, wearing his old yellow bathrobe, and he was making love to her for the first time. It was the moment he knew he had found his one true love, and twice he had foolishly pushed her away. Tonight, she was somewhere faraway, in her marriage bed, with Jeremy for her bridegroom. She had entered a place from where he could never get her back.

The breeze stirred and he heard the leaves rustling on the ground. The cool October night air seeped through his jacket. It was time for him to return home, to his own empty bed. Finally, he stood and walked out to the street. Nothing looked familiar. Walking to the nearest corner, he didn’t recognize the names of either street. He looked at his watch. It was after ten o’clock. No doubt Larry would be frantic. Reaching for his phone, he called Larry, who answered on the first ring.

 The Reunion is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

I’m Going Back to Hollywood

© Can Stock Photo / PerseoMedusa

I’m going back to Hollywood for my next contemporary romance novel. This time my lead character is a musician whose dream is to become a recording star.

The Harvey Weinstein story broke while I was in the early planning stages for my last contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, which also takes place in Hollywood. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the real-life scandal really threw a wrench into my plans. My original intention was for my lead antagonist, studio head Calvin Michaelson, to be a sexual manipulator, but with the Weinstein scandal came the #Me Too movement. I keep politics out of my novels, and the last thing I wanted was for my book to become politicized. So, after many, many revisions and rewrites, Cal ended up becoming a redeemable character, and I had to place many of his negative traits into another antagonist, tabloid journalist Randy Hall

This time around things are different. Weinstein is now serving twenty-three years in the pen, as well he should be, and the #MeToo movement seems to have run its course. Now I can finally create the villain I wanted to create in The Scandal. His name is George Monroe. He’s a high-level executive with a record company, and he’s going to be like the devil incarnate. Charming, compassionate and caring on the outside, but underneath the mask is a manipulative control freak who micromanages the lives of those around him for his own narcissistic pleasure. The working title is, The Diversion, although it may be subject to change. What I can tell you for certain is this is going to be fun write.

Marina Martindale