A Quickie with A.K. Macbride

I first picked up a romance novel when I was about five or six. I found it in Nan and Pa’s shed. It smelt like sawdust and mothballs and on the cover there was a woman who I thought must have had a bad leg. She was leaning back and the only thing keeping her propped up were the toned arms of a big manly man. Instantly, I thought “woweee so this is romance!”

I’ve since learnt that writing any story with a solid romantic element requires a more sophisticated plot than someone “being saved.” When we read a modern romance, we want to read about individuals being swept off their feet, but we also want characters who are capable of standing on their own two feet. We want all of the essential elements that make a memorable love story, but we don’t want it to be formulaic. And we want a balance between emotional and physical expression. Writing a good romance is no easy task, but there is help out there! Whether your stories contain a little or a lot of romance, Romance Writers of Australia is a fantastic group to be a part of. I’m a member and the advice and support I’ve received from others has improved my writing out of sight.

sauce-01Anyway, today’s post isn’t all about me. I have a quick interview (what I like to call “A Quickie”) with the author A.K. Macbride (who I was introduced to through Romance Writers of Australia). A.K. is about to release her new novel, “An Inconvenient Marriage,” which can be pre-ordered for its May 21 release via the links at the bottom of this blog post (I’ve pre-ordered my copy!). I asked A.K. five questions—(well, there are questions within questions… I think that’s the scientist in me)—and she gave me some fantastic answers! One of the first questions I asked A.K. was whether she’d class her novel as sweet, saucy or extra spicy. She nominated saucy, so it gets the good old Saucy Love Sauce classification from me! (See cartoon.) I wish A.K. all the best with her upcoming release and look forward to following her writing journey into the future.

1. Would you describe An Inconvenient Marriage as sweet, saucy, or extra spicy? Please feel free to elaborate on why your novel fits where it does on the hotness scale ☺

It’s definitely saucy. 😉 I like to call it heart with heat, because if you remove all the sexiness there will still be a story that’s sure to tug your heartstrings. On a hotness scale of 1 – 5, I would rate it a 3.5.

2. What kick-started your story? Were you inspired by any classic romances, or fuelled by personal experiences?

I was actually inspired by a T.V programme where people meet for the first time on their wedding day. Soon after that the characters started ‘talking to me.’ I spent months outlining their story, taking notes at odd hours of the night and making voicenotes while I’m on the exercise bike.

3. Great romantic tales (as I’m sure An Inconvenient Marriage is) are often dynamic—there are all of these other elements supporting and enhancing the love story. In addition to L.O.V.E love, what else can a reader expect from An Inconvenient Marriage? (e.g. humour, a breathtaking setting …)

Great question! I love adding small touches of humour when you least expect it. You can be sure you’ll find some drama and a few OMG-moments. The first half of AIM takes is set in Spain, on a beautiful vineyard

3. What have your characters taught you about yourself? And what do you think readers can learn from them?

In this day and age people expect woman to always be strong and not afraid to go after what they want. Natalie has taught me – and hopefully readers too – that being vulnerable doesn’t mean you are weak. And from Zach I learned that loving someone can heal wounds you thought would never heal.

4. What’s been the most unexpected positive to come from your publishing journey? Any tips for aspiring writers concerning the nail-biting (and sometimes heart-breaking) process that is publishing?

For me, that first five star review was the one that said ‘Hey, maybe these stories you conjure up in your imagination isn’t so bad after all.’ For other aspiring authors I say: ‘Never give up, great things take time.’ On the front cover of my notebook these words are written, big and bold. I see them every time I jot down a note for a book and it keeps me going.

5. What do you think we, as readers, never grow tired of a good love story? What does romance offer that other genres do not?

There is no better feeling than finishing a good romance novel that leaves you swooning and sighing with content. Romance can be thrilling, full of angst and drama and oh-so-hot at the same time. As you can tell, I love romance <3.

A big thank you to A.K. Macbride for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can follow her on social media here ….

https://www.instagram.com/akmacbride/

And here …

www.facebook.com/groups/akmacbridereaders/

And you can pre-order An Inconvenient Marriage right here …

https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/an-inconvenient-marriage-7

And here …

I reached a social media milestone … HOORAH

Thank you very much to everyone who has helped me get over the 500 LIKES HUMP!! I know it’s just a tiny drop in the social media ocean, but for someone who started off with zilcho Facebook friends, it’s a big deal. I can’t say I’m having as much luck on Insta (I don’t think I’ve got the boobs or baking skills needed) but I hope to slowly seduce those users with intellect, humour and the odd dog pick. Also a big thank you to my PR team (my best friends) for going at this promo thing hammer and tongs. And thank you to my muse, Pippa (pictured). She might not be the brightest spark, but she is the light of my life. I also realise that all of my posts so far have been about yours truly, but I’m pleased to say that I’m about to get social on social media and post a quick interview with an author who has just self published her own book! Good times ahead.

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Finish your salps, please …

Today, I’m going to write a bit more about how increasing numbers of salps in the Southern Ocean might alter the diets of fish, squid, whales, seals and penguins (these are organisms usually feasting on krill). Now, whenever I think about reporting on the dietary preferences of an animal, I don’t picture David Attenborough. Instead, I picture this classic commentary …

If anyone hasn’t seen This Is Spinal Tap, life is short and PLEASE GET ONTO IT.

There’s no bread on the menu today, but two foods that are somewhat comparable to chicken (krill) and jelly (salps). If you had to choose between those two options for dinner, what would you pick? Actually, maybe humans should stay out of this. We (I) are (am) highly emotive when it comes to food choices, and some days I know we (I) would love nothing more than to crawl up into a ball, watch This Is Spinal Tap and eat jelly.

But what about a whale (or fish, squid, seabird, seal or penguin)? What would a whale choose? Now, before I go making any assumptions, I acknowledge that whales can have tough days and sometimes they might feel like a simple, soothing plate of jelly. I’m not one to judge, but, for now, I’ll say that the whale is going to make a dinner decision based on the energy they’ll have to spend finding, eating and digesting their food, and the nutritional payoff. At the end of the day, a whale wants a dinner option that is …

  1. Readily accessible, and accessible in very large amounts. (Actually, whales are definitely kind of like us, in the respect that they want something quick and easy.)
  2. Nutritious.
  3. Easy to digest.

The reason whales don’t want to spend too much energy on finding and eating food is because they would rather invest their energy into growing, looking after their young, dodging whaling vessels, and other important whale tasks.

So what can satisfy every whale’s dinner desires? ANTARCTIC KRILL, of course. Antarctic krill are high in protein and calories (no diets down here in the Southern Ocean), they are easily broken down in the stomach and gut, and their swarming nature means that a whale can go ahead and binge eat.

But …

Last time I talked about salps, I mentioned the possibility of the species moving further down south, and mixing in with krill swarms. Now is also a great time to mention that studies have found salps to contain less than half the calories and protein of krill (keep that in mind as you continue reading).

So, what if salps DO mix in with krill swarms? A whale might come and take a big bite from what it thinks is a pure krill swarm, and find itself with a mouthful of krill AND its cheap imitation (salps). Will a whale spit the salps back out? Unlikely. They are just going to have to suck it up. Or suck them up I should say.

A whale might also be faced with a different scenario, in which they are surrounded by salp blooms with NOT A KRILL IN SIGHT. What are they gonna do then, huh? Will they travel further in search of krill, or will they think, stuff it, and eat the salps? There are risks associated with either choice. If the whale stays and eats salps, it has a guaranteed, albeit less nutritious, meal. If the whale goes, it has a better chance at landing a decent feed, but, then again, it could be left empty-flippered.

I was wrong in saying there aren’t any diets down in the Southern Ocean. The Salp Diet could be the next weight-loss regime to sweep Antarctica. And that’s not good. Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are extreme environments and obviously very, very cold. Whales need to maintain their lipid stores by eating lots of hearty krill. Based on calorie and protein content, salps just don’t cut it and it’s possible that prolonged feeding on this gelatinous organism could compromise the condition of species that typically feed on krill.

I’m going to leave it there for now, as next time I’ll be talking about what methods I’m using to investigate the above questions. I’m also going to be diving into a concept called ecosystem energy flow, and I’ll be using this concept to discuss how changes in small organisms like krill and salps can change AN ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM.

If only whales could talk, hey? Although, if whales could talk, I reckon they’d have some heavy questions to ask us about human behaviours …

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Is being a humourous writer all it’s cracked up to be?

I want to make you laugh. I really do. Every day. Forever. But while I’m doing this, I also want you to take me (or at least my writing) seriously. Very seriously.

I realise it’s quite the request, but, as an author who incorporates humour into her work, it’s a favour I must ask.  After finishing my big, long fiction piece, I’ve been in contact with editors and potential agents and every time I’ve written an email to anyone in the publishing industry, I’ve thought to myself, “Am I coming across as professional? Am I coming across as a serious writer? Do I need to reign it in?… tone it back?… water it down, maybe?”

When I send off my stuff, I want to be myself and for the person on the other end to see how who I am links in with what I’ve written. I want to show some of my personality with the hope that they’ll see how passionate I am about my writing, and how personal the themes are. In essence, what I’m trying to do is use a bit of humour to convey how much of a serious writer I am. I’m not sure if this train of thought is going to stay on the tracks, but it’s what I’m going with at the moment.

All of these little insecurities that niggle away at me while I draft an email have led me to this question …

Where is the sweet spot, where one comes across as genuine, but remains professional?

I’ve never tried to slip anything too outrageous into an email. I just like to give the bone-dry “thank you for your time” format a light spritz of humility. For example, when I was given a quote for a copy-edit of my manuscript (a decent, but fair sum), I said to the head of the agency (who was already a little bit familiar with how I express myself) that I had certainly spent money on worse things. That was me trying to show my personality. What I didn’t do was reel off a lifelong list of irresponsible monetary expenditure—because that would have been unprofessional …

I really hope I’ve got the mix right. For other writers out there, who love making others laugh and want to show a bit of their personality whenever they’re communicating, I’d say definitely be friendly and … you know … be alive (provided you are those things). Being professional doesn’t mean you strip yourself back to something stone-cold; it means you say please and thank you and you respect timelines, deadlines and the fact that an agent/editor/publisher’s universe doesn’t revolve around you (always a rude shock). In general, you avoid being a smart-arse, peanut, dickhead, basket-case and arsehole. And you avoid being a creep (don’t use winky faces). Publishing is a very slow industry. Literary agents, editors and publishers are somewhat limited in Australia. They all have a backlog and you must simply wait your turn. So, if you’re a writer waiting to hear back from editors, agents or publishers, I would recommend you do something far more constructive than analyse your personality through old emails. You should write new stuff. I’ve done a bit of that, too. While I play the waiting game, I’ve sent some poetry to Australian journals. I’ve had a few rounds of feedback that have read along the lines of “although funny, it’s not for us.” That sort of feedback is so bittersweet. The reader found it funny-exactly my intention-but at the same time, it just wasn’t serious enough for them. I’m currently searching for an Aussie publishing home for my shorter pieces (as well as the Big Kahuna). In terms of poetry or quips, I found a very promising mag called “Funny Ha Ha.” I jumped on their Facebook and Twitter, only to see that their last post was May 2017. After that, gone without a trace. Clearly, something terrible happened. Something awful like running out of money, perhaps. Now I realise that my writing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (I don’t even drink tea. I can’t even adhere to a basic idiom, so who am I to be dirty on editors that don’t like my stuff?), but if humorous platforms are struggling to maintain longevity and more traditional journals are turning away pieces with humorous undertones, does that mean there’s a bit of snobbery when it comes to writing that brings about a few LOLs? I dunno. I certainly don’t think I’m qualified enough to make such a bold statement, even if the answer is yes. But sometimes, I can’t help but feel as though there are a few misconceptions that surround funny writing. And when I say funny writing, I’m not just talking about a novel lightly dusted with a few ha has. I’m talking about humour being like another language that runs through the dialogue and the narrative. I’m talking about the harder stuff.

 

And three things that I want to clear up are ….

  1. Humour doesn’t have to cheapen the story.

In my novel, I write about death and grief. I wouldn’t say I use humour to lighten the mood, instead, I use it to soften the blow and to give some reassurance that everything is going to be okay. I also want to write a story that strangers can feel really close to, and I think humour is perfect for forging a strong connection between a reader and a story.

  1. Humour isn’t a single-use consumable.

It’s easy to view humour in the same light as happiness. Fleeting. I think we think humour has much shorter shelf-life than sadness and I don’t think that’s fair. Humour can go the distance. The first time you read a funny passage, you might laugh purely because of the words in front of you. In the future, you might read that passage again and laugh because it reminds you of how much it made your mum laugh when you first read it to her. Humour can be flexible. It can be rediscovered and it can find adopt new meanings.

  1. Humour doesn’t have to make other people feel shit about themselves.

I was going to say that humour doesn’t have to be at the expense of others, or yourself, but it kind of does, doesn’t it? However, having said that, the payoff can greatly exceed the price you pay (often, the price you pay is simply letting go of a teeny bit of pretentiousness). Humour doesn’t have to be spiteful, it doesn’t have to be malicious and it doesn’t have to carry some underlying unpleasant message. In fact, humour can be continuously present, but not all that obvious. No need for page after page of super satirical, blow-your-head-off Monty Python stuff.

I am also fully aware that humour and political correctness don’t exactly go hand in hand. I’m not keeping a firm grip on the pinky of Mr/Ms/Miss/Mrs/Sir/Madam/Mx Political Correctness Holiness myself. But I want to stress, that, in my novel, I certainly don’t aim to offend or isolate anyone. It’s just a book about adults and the things that adults do. On second thoughts, there is a little bit of colourful language. That awful, anatomical word that starts with “p” also rears its head a few times. So if you can’t handle the word “penis,” don’t read my book. By all means, still purchase it. Just don’t read it.

Anyway, during my writing journey, I’ve asked myself even more questions (so much self-reflection, my goodness). Like …

Is my writing just not meaningful enough? Do I really belong in the writing world, or should I give this doodling thing a red-hot go?

Actually, I don’t even have to write to get that inadequate feeling. I still feel that way every time I walk into a bookstore. My favourite bookstore has books so high that even I struggle to reach them (I’m 6 ft 1”) and there’s a café out the back, so it’s always a bit hot. I sweat and I feel extremely uncomfortable whenever I walk in. It’s all just so overwhelming. Before entry, I always know what I want, but I also do that terrible thing and start browsing through books. And I’m not looking for a decent read. I’m looking for validation. I never find it, either. I, somehow, always pick up a rather serious book with “better” writing than my own and either side of me there are perfectly normal people that I’m certain are “better” and more serious readers than myself. I really must stop that stupid shit. Regardless of that nonsense, sometimes, I do truly feel as though I don’t belong in the writing world. BUT … at the same time, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And that’s why I’m staying. And I’ll only move to take a step towards my publishing home.

Let’s make a deal. Promise me you’ll take me seriously, and I promise to never lose my sense of humour? Virtual handshake. Done. Dusted. Excellent.

 

xx

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Also, many thanks to Vintage Wallpapers.com for providing prints that I’m sure an interior designer’s nightmares are made of (and for having the balls to run a business on selling 70s wallpaper).