|Rickey Mallory: Prescription for Romantic Success|
Feeling under the weather and in need of a hunky hero who can't remember his name -- or who he used to love? A little light-headed because the current crop of heroines just doesn't seem plucky enough? Want a different kind of book cover that'll be sure to get the ol' pulse racing? Fear not, former assistant chief Pharmacist -- current digital artist and author Rickey mallory can deliver the right literary and artistic medicine for you.
Taking time from her busy writing and graphics design schedule, Mallory, who also writes as Mallory Kane, gives Crescent Blues readers the lowdown on writing for electronic books, small presses and the "big guy" of romance publishing, Harlequin Books. She also expounds on plucking up heroines, putting together award-winning book covers -- and muslin cakes.
Crescent Blues: Jay Wellcome, the hero of Heir to Secret Memories is attacked and left for dead. Danny White in Heart of the Hero is terribly injured in a space station accident. Why do you think "wounded" heroes appeal so much to readers?
Rickey Mallory: My opinion? I think romance readers, including readers of paranormal and futuristic romances, want to be the one woman in the universe who can "fix" the hero. He can be the baddest bad boy of all time, yet knowing the heroine makes him want to change his ways. He can refuse to open his heart to love and hurt, but the heroine knows how to break through his armor. For the hero, this can entail a lot of pain, but in the end he is healed, physically and emotionally, only because of the heroine.
I love this journey the hero and heroine take together, to wholeness and love, and I think that's what romance readers want to experience.
Rickey Mallory: Hmmm…. This is an interesting question. Thank you for the compliment on my heroines. See, I know I have a heroine problem. [Smiles.] Generally when I start writing I don't have as good a handle on my heroines as I do on my heroes. While my heroes are usually standing there waiting for me to catch up with them, my heroines sometimes need more molding and sculpting. Maybe I've had to learn to create strong heroines so they can keep up with and stand up to their men.
My mother is a voracious reader and she introduced me to Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt from the time I could read. These women who invented romantic suspense always had strong heroines. Perhaps this was an influence.
Crescent Blues: You write both romantic suspense and futuristic romance. How does the writing process differ between the two sub-genres?
Rickey Mallory: I have a little bit different take on this subject than some people do. I believe that no matter what story you are telling, it still has the same elements. You must grab your reader from the first page. You must keep the story moving. You must give the reader what he or she wants without making the story boring, and you must wrap up the story into a wonderful, heart-wrenching, beautiful payoff for the reader at the end of the book. In my opinion, it doesn't matter what the setting or time period, this is still true. Of course if you look at my science fiction/fantasy-based stories, you'll see that they too have romance and suspense.
Crescent Blues: What do you like about writing romantic suspense best? What do you like least?
Rickey Mallory: A critique partner of mine who was trying to "teach" me how to write romance, complained that I always tried to throw in the plot to kill the president. I couldn't just write romance. I had to have something else going on. That's what I love about romantic suspense. There are actually two intertwined stories. I picture it like a strand of DNA, two chains wrapping around and around and weaving in and out and connected by threads to each other. One chain is romance, the other is suspense, and the threads connecting the two are the hero and heroine.
What do I like least about it? Having to make sure all the loose ends of the plot are tied up neatly at the end. Sometimes I just want to take my head and turn it over like a piggy bank and shake out all the last little bits of plot. I have a wonderful critique partner who helps me keep everything neat and tidy. Critique partners are essential to writing, in my opinion.
Crescent Blues: What kind of reaction do you get from science fiction and fantasy fans regarding your futuristic romances?Rickey Mallory: Heart of the Hero was reviewed by two great SF reviewers, Tom Easton of Analog (boy was I lucky to get that review!), and John Hamilton of Millennium SF/F. Both of them gave me good reviews for my story. But I have to say, both of them had to throw in a little comment about the romance. Men! What are you going to do?
Crescent Blues: You've written for large publishers (Harlequin) and one of your novels, Heart of the Hero, was published first by an electronic publishers (New Concepts Publishing) and later by a Romance Writers of America-recognized small press (ImaJinn). What are the pros and cons of writing for each type of publisher?
Rickey Mallory: Writing for Harlequin is an experience. When people talk about Harlequin as "the big guy," they aren't joking. The art department, the editor, the line editor, the senior editor, are all kind of separate from each other. Very strange and interesting. I called my editor to thank her for my great cover for my first book, The Lawman Who Loved Her, and she hadn't seen it yet! On the other hand, a little bitty author like myself has a team of Harlequin employees working on my book. It can be awesome.
Electronic publishers are as far from Harlequin as one could get. They are generally mom and pop type businesses. One person or a few people do everything, and the authors are personally known to everyone from the artist to the publisher herself (or himself). I wouldn't take anything for my experience with electronic publishing, and I plan to continue to publish electronically as well as in print.
Small press publishers like ImaJinn, are yet another experience. ImaJinn is small enough that I know the publisher and can talk to her about anything. I've had the great good fortune of being able to create my own covers for my ImaJinn books. However, ImaJinn is growing, and will one day (in my humble opinion) be an important force in the field of paranormal romance.
Crescent Blues: It's a long way from assistant chief pharmacist to artist and author. What was the impetus that moved you from prescriptions to paintings and prose?
Rickey Mallory: I have always been creative. I play the piano, I have always drawn and painted, and I've always written. It may actually be the career in pharmacy that is the anomaly, rather than the arts.
Crescent Blues: Which came first -- art or writing?
Rickey Mallory: Art, I think. Because I had an older cousin who drew fashion art, and my grandfather drew -- on a lined notepad with a stubby pencil. For as long as I can remember, I have memories of being fascinated by watching them sketch.
However, I do remember
writing a poem when I was in first grade. Let's see . . .
Muslin cakes? Don't ask me. I was seven.
Crescent Blues: How do you balance your art and your writing time?
Rickey Mallory: I'm doing less art now. For a number of different reasons, I'm no longer doing art for electronic publishers. I work for ImaJinn and for Fiction Works, and I do my own web page. I'm concentrating on my writing.
Crescent Blues: What is the best and worst thing about doing art and writing at the same time?
Rickey Mallory: What you said above. Balancing the time.
Crescent Blues: When did you first begin doing art on the computer?
Rickey Mallory: The first thing I did was a mock cover for Heart of the Hero, because I wanted to see the cover I envisioned. Then, while I was looking around to see what was happening with electronic publishers, I noticed that the few that were out there either had clip art for artwork or had nothing at all. So I "cold-emailed" some publishers suggesting that a "cover" on the computer would help sell their book, and voila, started my business as a cover artist.
Crescent Blues: How do you go about designing a cover?
Rickey Mallory: I try to get a concept of the book first, then, unless the publisher or the author has a specific request, I let it stew for a few days while I surf around on the Internet and look at magazines, hoping some concept will jump out and grab me. Most of the time the title or the blurb gives me an idea. Sometimes the ideas are obvious. Message in a Bottle is a bottle floating in a dark blue sea. Other times, it's not so easy. My cover for Time Rider took me a while. But I kept coming back to the idea of a vortex. Rider, the hero, spends the book being sucked into a vortex -- a real vortex of reversed time, a vortex of lies, a vortex of confusion because of his TAINCC conditioning. See what I mean?
Crescent Blues: Do you have a graphic art or design background?
Rickey Mallory: Not really. I took a few art classes, but I believe my ability to draw and paint and conceptualize is hereditary. I credit my father's side of the family… my Poppy and my cousin as well as my father all sketched and drew.
Crescent Blues: What computer applications do you use in your work?
Rickey Mallory: Mostly [Adobe] Photoshop. Some Corel Draw. What a great piece of software Photoshop is! It has so many possibilities. And it's amazing how many people have created free and inexpensive plug-ins and filters that do lots of the work for you. That's the wonderful thing about kids and computers. They have so much energy and so much talent, and they're so proud of what they've created that often they share it for free. I spend time surfing the web looking for tutorials on how to…well for example, create a vortex, or how to create buttons or frames or flaming text or a man-shaped piece of clear ice. There's a lot out there.
Rickey Mallory: Yes. Photoshop works in layers, and layering is the second greatest invention in the world. If you're working on a project and something happens and you don't like the skyline you've created to go in front of the sunset, you can delete the skyline layer and create a new skyline. Meanwhile your sunset (on a different layer) is not disturbed.
Crescent Blues: Do you belong to any of the online art communities like Renderosity?
Rickey Mallory: No. But now I'll have to go look for them.
Crescent Blues: Do you use any special equipment -- beyond your PC and mouse?
Rickey Mallory: I bought a Wacom tablet and stylus. I got to the point where I needed more control than a mouse could give me, plus I like the feel of the "pad and pencil."
Crescent Blues: Where would you like to go with your art?
Rickey Mallory: To the Met! Ha! [Smiles.] I am so happy to be doing what I'm doing now. I love creating covers for books. I suppose my dream would be to have Harlequin actually accept a cover of mine. It would be nice to have a cover win the Artemis.
Crescent Blues: What is your favorite cover?
Rickey Mallory: That I've done? Probably for sheer visual impact Paybacks are Hell published by Fiction Works. Just because it's mine, the new trade paperback cover for Heart of the Hero.
Crescent Blues: If you could go back to when you first started doing art, what advice would you give yourself? If you could go back to when you started writing?
Rickey Mallory: Art: Get a bigger computer and get a tablet. NOW!
Writing: Get over yourself. The publishing world is not going to change to suit you, so get your butt in gear and figure out how you can write what you want and give the publishers what they want at the same time.
Crescent Blues: Is there anything else you'd like to talk about? Soapbox and white space provided free of charge.
Rickey Mallory: Thanks. I tend to be verbose, so I've probably said it all above. And if I may be so crass, Heir to Secret Memories from Harlequin Intrigue (w/a Mallory Kane) is on store shelves now (February 2003) and will be available through ordering from online or brick and mortar bookstores for a while. Heart of the Hero from ImaJinn will be available in March of 2003 from ImaJinn Books. You can request it at your bookstore or order it online from either bookstores or direct from ImaJinn.
And please, invite your readers visit my pretentious web page www.mallorykane.com and enter my contests for a box of New Orleans goodies and some giveaway books. Sign the Guestbook to enter the contests.