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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Author Interview: Beate Boeker

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Beate Boeker. Beate lives in the north of Germany and speaks her mother tongue of German, but also English, French, and Italian fluently. Her first name can be translated "happy" while "Boeker" means books in a German dialect. So, of course, she was fated to write romances.

She's always written as a way of coping with things, reorganizing her mind and feelings. "It's always been a way to escape and make things better," she said. "To write a novel was just one step further from a diary."

Her first novel was all about horses. "That should tell you it was written in my teens," she told me, "as as soon as I had finished, I thought it was embarrassing, and so I managed to lose it. Nothing as definite as burning it. I just left it lying about until it vanished in the way so many things vanish if you don't keep an eye on them. However, for Christmas 2006, it showed up, bound in a book! My sister had secretly kept it in a drawer for years, typed it, added illustrations and gave it to me as a wonderful Christmas gift."

Her second novel, a detective story placed in Indonesia, took shape some twenty years later. "That's when I first noticed that I needed help," she said. "So I bought my first books about story writing (Sol Stein and others) and studied them until the pages fell apart. I finished the novel and started to shop it around in Germany (as I'm a German and had written the novel in German which seemed a logical thing to do at the time).

"No success. (I see you’re not surprised.)

"When I finally nailed down one unfortunate editor, she said, 'Your dialog isn’t bad. But . . .' I could feel the wealth of arguments she hadn’t put into words with that single “But.” So I lost this novel too and started to look around for more help."

She started to notice a big romance writing culture in the United States, while in Germany she told me that romance writers are as numerous as watering holes in the Sahara.

"Since I had been reading English novels for years and kept having trouble pushing down the English expressions in my mind and dragging up the German translations instead, I decided to start writing in English. By doing so, I could use all the resources in the American market," she explained.

Her first romantic comedy was Wings to Fly and, while writing it in early 2005, she got hooked.

"Being a writer is wonderful," she said. "You can dream your dreams down to the last detail, rip off the people with whom you are angry leaving no one the wiser, and rewrite the whole thing if something goes wrong. Wouldn’t it be nice if normal life was like that too?"

Beate invested in a professional editing service and sent Elizabeth Lyon her manuscript. "After a few agonizing weeks, I received her full report. It was almost longer than my novella," she told me, "and it told me how to get better on virtually every point. But the funny thing was that it didn’t discourage me. It fired me on, and I couldn’t wait to re-write it."

She considers that the true start of her career.

Wings to Fly was published by Avalon Books in August 2008, and her second novel Take My Place is being published in hardcover this month, also by Avaolon. I asked her to tell us a bit about it.

"Take My Place is actually the fifth novel I've finished," she said, "but numbers two to four don't fit to the Avalon guidelines, therefore I'm still trying to find other publishers for these manuscripts.

"In Take My Place, Maren has one big goal in life. She wants to keep her independence. Her life is full to the brim with her two roles—being a single Mom and the owner of the recently founded Start-Up-Company. Men, she figures, are too exhausting to add to the mix; after all, it took her long enough to recover from her divorce.

"However, one evening a business acquaintance plants his twin brother Tony in his place and Maren falls for him . . . until she sees through the masquerade. Brimming with wrath, she decides to take her revenge, but she hasn’t counted on her daughter who has quite different plans."

I asked Beate how she developed her plot, characters, and titles.

"I usually start with an anecdote," she shared. "Some kind of story, often true, or derived from a real situation. As I write it, the character emerges . . . and then the plot takes off, many times taking totally different directions to what I first expected. After the first scene, I usually set a working title. Then, as the book develops, I often change that title to one centering on the core conflict of my heroine. Wings to Fly is all about the struggle of my heroine Cathy to become independent from her overpowering brother. Take My Place starts with twins exchanging places."

Beate is now working on her sixth book, where the heroine wakes up one night and finds a thief in her bedroom. To her dismay, she falls in love with him. Usually the one she likes best, she told me, is the one she's working on. However, there are times where she'll get stuck at a certain point in her manuscript or she'll run out of plot somewhere in the middle.

"Then I have to invent more obstacles for my heroine and I sometimes can't think of anything but the Happy End," she said.

When she hits the dry part in the middle, that's when she likes everything else better than what she's working on.

"I'm very attached to my first romantic mystery (manuscript no. 4)," she confessed, "which is set in Florence, Italy. It's called A New Life as the heroine has been accused of murder, was released due to lack of evidence, and now tries to build up a new life in Florence. I hope to find a publisher for this novel soon."

I asked Beate what she enjoys doing when she's not writing.

"To reduce stress, I bake cakes and eat them together with my family at a frightening speed. Flan is our family favorite, and we eat it in all stages of the making: Liquid, half-done, hot from the oven, cold," she said. "I also like to garden, but nothing too complicated. I love tulip bulbs because even if you drop them upside down into the ground; they are always a success. I also enjoy reading to my daughter, though she has now started to correct me when I don't read something exactly as it's printed!"

Finally, I asked Beate what stereotype she would describe herself as.

"I’m a cautious cosmopolitan," she told me.

"When you first get to know me, you’ll think that I’m energetic, enthusiastic, will shoot my mouth off and jump up and down at the slightest provocation (be it with joy or with anger). When you get to know me a little bit better, you’ll realize that I can worry about my pension a full day long, want to go out and explore the world without risking my job, and that I discuss each decision until you drop with boredom.

"Both are parts of me. But in fact, I think I can sum up my main characteristic in one short sentence: I’m curious. Anything can set me on fire.

If you work in a peanut butter factory, I want to know how they get rid of the shells, preferably with a full tour of the site.

If you have a fight with your mother, I want to know why and if possible, I would love to hear her side of the story too.

If you have lived in a foreign country, I want to know what you liked, what you hated, and why you’re back.

I have a great hunger to learn more, to understand more, to see how things work, and how people tick. Learning is the spice of life. As long as we’re honest, we can truly meet."

You can keep up with Beate on her website, http://

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