The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Phyllis Marie Cambell whose latest book Spanish Eyes has just been released by Bookstrand. Spanish Eyes is a historical set in 1879. It starts out in New York City and halfway through the book, the characters sail to Spain. Phyllis shared this blurb with us:
In a world when women must fight for every right, suffragette Rebecca Wakefield is determined to become a Pinkerton Detective. Her plan? Capturing the notorious thief, Anton Carerra; a man known as much for his womanizing as he is for his brilliant criminal mind.
Lady’s man, Anton Carrera is smitten with Rebecca from the very beginning. He wants nothing more than to seduce the stiff Miss Wakefield, until he learns she is investigating him for a crime he didn’t commit. She is innocent and naïve; convinced he is the villain her superiors have painted him. But her over-zealous determination places both of them in danger and he is forced to play the honorable rogue.
Sweeping her away to Padre Island off the coast of Spain seemed like a clever idea at the time. But how can he protect them both from his own uncle’s murderous games when Anton’s heart falls victim to a woman as full of independence as she is desire…
Phyllis started reading romance novels about a year after she got married and began having dreams in book form. "The whole dream wouldn’t be about a romance, but aspects in it were," she said. "After a while, I realize some of these dreams would make a great romance novel. So…one day (after having another dream), I decided to give it a try. I had a spiral notebook and pencil, curled up on the couch and began. That’s all it took before my muse kicked in. Before I finished that book, another idea came. It’s been like that ever since."
"How long have you been writing?" I asked.
"Since my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, so that would be…OH DEAR! Fourteen years!!! Although the first five of those years I wrote for fun. At first I wrote part time as I considered it a hobby. Then when I realized I loved it so much, I turned my ‘hobby’ into a budding career. Back when I first started I only worked part time. Now I work full time (10 hour days) and I also write full time. Sheesh! Personal time? What’s that?"
Because she and her husband both work most of the day, they currently don't have a dog. "Our poor little Teacup poodle died last year," she said, "and we don’t have time to train a puppy. Because I’m allergic to most animals, and there are only certain types of dogs I can be around, I have to be picky. Maybe when I’m writing full time from home and not worrying about a day job, I can get another puppy."
The first romance Phyllis read, the one that hooked her, was A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss. "I love all of her stories," Phyllis said, "but that is my favorite. It's because of Woodiwiss that I fell in love with romance novels."
Phyllis told me that a constant discussion on some of the Yahoo loops she's on concerns good writing vs. a good plot. "Why are new authors learning the 'rules' when bigger authors don't abide by them?" she said. "I try my hardest to write a clean, tight, story, yet agents overlook my work. When I pick up a new book from the store, from a new author, they break a lot of the rules that was drilled into my head by critique partners. So, are they rules or merely just ‘guidelines’? I truly believe that it’s all about the story now. Big agents / editors are more interested in the plot, I think. At least that’s the way it looks when I pick up a new book and can’t believe all the ‘telling’ phrases are in there! Nevertheless, I will try my hardest to write by the ‘rules’ I’ve learned to write a clean, tight, story."
Phyllis grinned when I asked her if she was working on something currently she'd be interested in sharing with us.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I am. I’m writing about a yummy, seductive pirate, and the heroine who doesn’t want to love him but can’t help it. I’m also writing the second book in my Regency series – The Sweetest Torment – and I still need to finish a historical paranormal about a man who is cursed by a witch to shift into a wolf whenever he has those lustful feelings for a woman… (poor tortured hero, I know)."
The hardest part of writing, for Phyllis, is writing THE END. "I get so caught up in my stories and I hate for them to end," she confessed. "Sometimes I'll throw another twist close to the ending just so I can prolong it. Although I'm relieved to have the book finished...I'm also sad because their story is done."
"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I asked.
"I first started using a saying from the book, like in my Victorian Always, My Love, that’s what the hero tells the heroine. In my historical western, Holding Out for a Hero, the theme is just that – heroes and holding out for them until they’re yours. But lately, I’ve been listening to songs, older love songs, and I can’t believe how romantic some of the titles are. So…my recent historical, Spanish Eyes, was named after the popular song from the late 60’s from Englebert Humperdinck. Also, my pirate story, After the Loving, is also from that wonderful singer. I suppose coming up with titles for my books all depends on my mood."
On a personal note, Phyllis admitted to me that she hates how she looks in pictures. "The camera puts on at least fifty pounds. Don't you know I'm a size 6 and always have been? But, noooo, the camera makes me look huge. Go figure. The only picture I have liked myself in was the one taken by a professional company. Cover Up? Some place like that; can't remember the exact name. But that's the picture I use on my website. Doesn't matter that it was taken almost ten years ago."
One time in Phyllis' life she wouldn't mind erasing from her past was six weeks about three years ago. "My youngest daughter got pregnant young, married the dope (who happened to abuse her), and then three months after my first grandson was born, they stole my car and drove from Utah to Louisiana with no air conditioner—and this was in July!" she said. "Anyway, her abusive husband wouldn't let her call home and, being a new grandmother, I worried myself sick. Even had a mental breakdown. It was the longest six weeks of torture I have ever experienced. Thankfully, she and the baby came home and left the idiot husband in Lousianna. That is definitely one time of my life I would like to have never experienced."
Finally, I asked Phyllis what advice she would give to a new writer just getting started. "Join a critique group and learn as much as you can," she said. "The more you learn, the better you’ll write. Don’t ever give up, even though days might bring you down. If writing is what you love, you need to do it! No excuses!"
You can keep up with Phyllis on her website, http://www.phyllismariecampbell.com