I just love fantasy romance and am thrilled that it is getting a revival lately. Particularly through the efforts of amazing authors like Grace Draven and today’s featured author, A.F. Dery. Read on to learn more about A.F.’s thrilling work and her fascinating journey to a rising romance phenom.
RLM: Tell me a little about your life.
AFD: I’m a stay-at-home mom to five. My youngest will be turning 3 soon and my oldest is 13. I’ve been happily married for almost 15 years to my very own G.I. Joe. I know that Navy SEALs are the trend in books right now, but go Army! 🙂 My daily life looks like just about every other stay-at-home mom’s life, only with more frequent moves and occasionally going for a year at a time without my husband at home.
RLM: Describe your daily writing practice.
AFD: Butt in chair. That’s basically it. I sit down and write for a couple of hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes longer if life permits. It’s usually broken up rather than two consecutive hours, but my husband is very supportive of my writing and helps me find (or make) the full two hours even on busy days. I don’t have anything special I do or even anywhere special I go. I put on my noise-canceling headphones and some music and I’m off.
RLM: Would you describe yourself as a “pantser” writer or a “planner?”
AFD: A little bit of both. I usually outline my stories or at least have a list of plot points I want to hit, but I deviate quite a bit in the execution and the end result rarely resembles the original plan. The outlines and notes are more of a reference point if I get stuck than anything else.
RLM: Fantasy romance, by definition, blends different genres together. What one element, in your opinion, differentiates good fantasy writing from bad fantasy writing. The same with romance writing.
AFD: In my opinion, a critical element of good writing whether you’re writing romance, fantasy, or both is writing characters that people care about. It doesn’t matter how tight and intricate a writer’s plotting is or how amazing their world building is, if the reader doesn’t care about the characters living in that world and going through that plot, there’s no point. They won’t stick with it long enough to see any of those other things.
RLM: Why do you think romance is, and has always been, such a popular genre?
AFD: What’s there not to love about love? We all need it, show it, experience it. It has universal appeal.
RLM: Describe your publishing journey. What led you to make some of the choices you did?
AFD: You might say I have a ticking biological clock where my writing is concerned. My dad was diagnosed some time ago with an early-onset form of dementia. He was only in his early forties at the time. Although there can be a genetic component to his particular condition, there isn’t always and we don’t know whether this is the case with him. So I have no way of knowing whether I’ll have the same health issue or not one day. I’ve dreamed since I was a little girl of being a writer and sharing my stories with the world, and have written fiction as a hobby for the same length of time. But the closer I got to his age at diagnosis, the more aware I became that I might only have so much time left to produce my best writing, whatever that may look like, and follow that dream.
And it meant a lot to me, too, to have something of myself to leave behind for my children, as the youngest ones in particular would be unlikely to remember what I’m like “pre-dementia” if I end up having the same issues as my dad. Everything I write comes from things I’ve seen or gone through, my thoughts on life, or themes that are important to me. My books aren’t literally autobiographical, don’t get me wrong, but they’re still a piece of myself. So it’s a way of sharing that with them no matter what my health is like in the future without having to trust my stories’ survival to a memory stick somewhere. Once a book is published, it’s out there if they want to find it someday.
All of that to say, when I finally realized that if I was going to do this I needed to just go ahead and DO IT, I researched my options and realized that indie publishing looked like the best fit for my goals. Largely because it would allow me to actually see my goal of getting my books out there realized even if the worst-case scenario with my “ticking clock” took place. The process with a traditional publisher can take months or years… even assuming that my books are anything a traditional publisher would be interested in. Broken Mirrors in particular is very near to my heart, and if I published nothing else, I wanted to see that one and its sequel out in the world.
I have to say that while going indie has had its challenges and has forced me to learn skills I never expected to have to learn (ebook formatting, anyone?), I can’t imagine doing it any other way now.
RLM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? If so, what is it? If not, what subject do you think has been mishandled by other writers and how do you think you would handle it?
AFD: Infidelity between a hero & heroine. If I’m reading a book and the hero or heroine cheats on the other, that’s it, the story’s over as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care how big the misunderstanding was or how drunk the hero was at the time, I’m done. I don’t read it and I won’t write it.
RLM: Your books are “closed door” romances, which is unique in an age where sex is on display so often. Other than your own preferences, what led you to omit explicit sexual material from your stories?
AFD: For me, it’s not really a matter of omission. I don’t feel like I leave anything out of my stories that needs to be in there. My characters are given very few opportunities where sex would even be a plausible occurrence, never mind whether it’s explicit or implied. There’s just too much going on.
And oftentimes, too, we’re talking about deeply flawed and damaged characters who are not likely to make themselves vulnerable in that way before other kinds of intimacy and a certain level of trust are achieved. Getting to that point can be a novel’s worth of a journey in its own right.
RLM: If you could no longer write (fiction OR nonfiction) what would you do for a living?
AFD: I love children so I would probably put my experience with them to good use if I could, though I have to wonder whether I’d be competent to do so after whatever horrific calamity befell me that I couldn’t even write a grocery list anymore. 😉
RLM: What can we look forward to next from you?
AFD: The fourth book in my Conquest of Kelemir series, Bound in Blood, is coming out July 27th. I have a new book coming out every other month through the end of the year, so the whole series will be out in time to celebrate my one-year-published anniversary in December.