Monday, August 10, 2015

Q&A with Rebecca Hunter

Rebecca is a writer, editor and translator who has always loved to read and travel. Though she has been involved in book projects for many years, she only recently branched out into writing her own fiction. Actually, writing her first novel was a birthday present to herself... her 29th birthday, in case you're wondering, though possibly not her first 29th birthday.
This first novel dissolved into a complicated mess, but out of its ashes rose a new idea, an idea for an entire series, in fact: Stockholm Diaries. The stories are born from the author's love of and longing for Stockholm as well as all the wonderful romance potential that the city holds for both visitors and long-time residents. And, as you may have guessed, it is also part of the setting for her own private Stockholm Diaries story.
Rebecca has, over the years, called many places home, including Michigan, where she grew up, New York City, San Francisco, and, of course, Stockholm, Sweden. After their most recent move from Sweden back to the San Francisco Bay Area, she and her husband assured each other they'll never move again.
Well, probably not.
1.       What inspired you to write STOCKHOLM DIARIES, CAROLINE? My husband is Swedish, and we have lived in Sweden twice. Both times, I met women from around the world with interesting, unique stories about meeting Swedish men and moving to Sweden. These stories involved chance meetings, uncertain risks and sacrifice, all in the name of love. The whole Stockholm Diaries series is a kind of tribute to all these stories.
2.       What was the development process like? I started this book with character ideas. In Caroline, I wanted someone who was completely new to Sweden and in some ways completely out of place, but I also wanted to create a character that was already intimately familiar with the aspects of belonging or not belonging. This is where her father’s history comes in: As an immigrant from Mexico, he struggled with the pull of duel loyalties, and to some extent Caroline does, too. So when Caroline contemplates her friend Veronica’s situation in Stockholm and then, in Book Two, considers the possibility of moving there herself, I wanted her to understand the complexity of that decision, both for her and for her family.
Niklas was a little more straightforward. I'm (morbidly) intrigued by the idea that many professional sports reward aggression, but the players are supposed to be able to shut that part of them down off the ice/court/field. This can’t be easy, and I wanted to explore how that might play out in an essentially good guy.
3.       Did you relate to the main character, Caroline, in any way? If so, what? There are many pieces of Caroline’s life that came from my own experiences. I myself grew up in Michigan and studied at the University of Michigan, and like Caroline, I had early tastes of the world beyond the Great Lakes and wanted to explore it. Also like Caroline, I fell in love with a Swedish man, and we have lived together in Sweden twice.
But I should probably also add that Caroline’s life is certainly not my own!
4.       Why did you choose Stockholm as the setting for Caroline? Stockholm was my own home for three years, so this is a tribute to a city I know and love. One fundamental idea behind my Stockholm Diaries series is to explore romance and love with someone who comes from a different background—both the appeals and the difficulties.
5.       What was the hardest part about writing this book? The hardest part for me was to stick closely enough to the romance plot and not travel too far down the roads of other sub-plots. In the end, I cut some of Caroline’s personal history from the story because it didn’t add to the momentum of the plot. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to stick within the boundaries of a romance plot, but it’s the genre that connects with the most readers.
6.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book? The book is romance fiction, so first and foremost I hope that readers immerse themselves in Caroline’s world and enjoy the journey. But I do believe there is a place in genre fiction for ideas. At the recent Romance Writers of American national conference, author Piper Huguley was quoted as saying, “Fiction helps see the humanity in others, regardless of culture or sexual orientation.” This is where I hope to make my mark, however small. I hope audiences of all different backgrounds will see my Latina character as interesting and relatable, as our anchor of familiar in a foreign world. In this small way, I think genre fiction has a place in influencing the way we think of “us” in the United States.
7.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer? Both the best and the worst thing about begin a writer is taking a jumble of ideas and turning them into a coherent story! Taking kernels of characters and plots and following them through to a finished product is a long project full of unexpected turns, much like juggling a dozen or so balls at the same time. The moments of realizations, the moments where the process moves along smoothly or the dialogue comes together in one, tight bundle—those are the best moments of being a writer. But for me, the worst part is the flip side of that same process, the unsuccessful struggle to figure out what isn’t working and how to fix it.
8.       Who are some of your favorite authors? Hmm… where do I start? George Orwell’s 1984 is a masterpiece I can read again and again, as is Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. I love Kurt Vonnegut, Donna Tartt, Thomas Pynchon… I guess you could say I'm a typical U.S. English major in my tastes! My favorite romance is probably Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, a book I’ve read at least ten times. The book explores romance and love without falling into cliché—a rarity!
9.       If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.) I imagine Caroline as sexy but understated, quiet and introspective. As is typical in romance, the couple is on the cover of my book, so it’s a little hard to think outside that! But if I were to cast someone, I think I’d pick Odette Annable, who seems to have the right demeanor, though she’s played a wide range of characters.
10.   Are you working on anything right now? Always! I'm usually working on at least two projects in various states. Right now, I'm making the last changes in short story #1 of 4 in the Stockholm Diaries, Alice series. It’s out on submission for an anthology, but if it’s not accepted there, I’ll release it myself later this summer on Kindle Unlimited. I'm also in the middle of the first draft of a non-fiction book called The Reading Writer: An English Teacher’s Guide to Better Romance Writing Through Reading.  And, as if that weren’t enough, I'm getting started on a short story that will fit between the two Stockholm Diaries, Caroline stories: working title is “Niklas in Italy.”
11.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature? I'm not sure I can speak about the future of Latino literature, but I do think I can speak on the future of North American literature, especially in the romance genre. I am not Latina and did not not set out to write Latino literature per se, but my starting point is based on experience: I visited my then-boyfriend’s family in Puebla years ago. My book features two Latinas with very different personalities and backgrounds. This is where I think North American literature is headed: writing complex, nuanced characters who represent all different experiences and backgrounds. My characters are the creative outcome of the ideas I wanted to explore—Caroline is a relatable romance heroine first, and her Mexican roots are one important part of her among many. I do believe literature shapes our culture and the way we relate to each other. I think North American literature is broadening the concept of “us,” and I hope to be a part of that.     
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UP NEXT: A review of Stockholm Diaries, Caroline.


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