Dark Hearts and Chocolate – Interview with Thea Devine

Happy last Thursday of 2011, Scribe fans.  Suze here.  I’m absolutely thrilled to bring you a special guest today.  THEA DEVINE, author of THE DARKEST HEART, is with us.  If you haven’t read THE DARKEST HEART, get it!  It’s hot and it’s scary in the best tradition of a Gothic thriller — but I don’t recommend reading it alone at night!  Welcome, Thea.

Irresistible!
Your name, Thea, is beautiful and unusual.  Is there are a story behind it, or did your mother just choose really well?  (FYI, the mother of one of the Scribes is named Thea!)

Thea is my real full name, not short for anything, and I have no idea why my mom and dad chose it for me.  Devine is my married name, so in reality, I owe everything to the amazing John Devine.

You have a long-established (the fan girl in me wants to say “legendary”) career as a writer.  Do you still battle the Doubt Monster–the nagging feeling that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid, and no one would read your drivel, let alone buy it?  What are your secrets for conquering Doubty, or have you ground him to dust under your stiletto?

I definitely have my moments — ask my husband.  I love starting the story.  It feels like flying.  And when things are going right, or unexpected things are happening that grow organically out of the story and take me by surprise, it’s biggest high.  When the plot isn’t moving, it feels like slogging through molasses.   I bullet-train my way through.  The point is to finish the book.  Everything else can come later.

Have you thought about writing something that is completely different for you?  Perhaps writing in a new genre or just taking a story someplace that you haven’t done before?

I would love to write hearth and home novels.  I love a good cathartic novel, one that gives good cry — like Luanne Rice’s books for example.

What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your writing career?

That I even have a writing career.  Back when I was writing as a hobby, I never dreamt in a million years that anything I wrote would be published.   My cousin Anita ,  who remembers way too much about our childhood, will tell you that I was always at the typewriter and I didn’t want to do much else.  A slight exaggeration, but I still have things I wrote in high school and college where when I reread them, I can see vestiges of the way I write now.  And that has changed dramatically over the years as well.

They say that every author has a partially completed, quite-possibly-terrible half a story shoved in a drawer somewhere.  What is yours?  What is it about?  What makes it terrible?  Would you ever consider picking it up and finishing it?

I actually do.  I started a sprawling civil war historical back in … well, I won’t tell you the year but it was when I was working in advertising in the “Mad Men” days where everyone in house was writing a novel, by the way. The problem was I didn’t know how to write it back then even though I have reams of manuscript on it.  But I DO know how to write it now, and I’m slowly excavating and reconfiguring it, and I’m enjoying the process a lot.

Countess Lazlaric in THE DARKEST HEART is so deliciously bad.  How much fun was she to write?  Was there a real life inspiration?

Countess Lazlaric was the first character actually that came to me for The Darkest Heart.  She’s an amalgam of several types, among them, the patronizing aristocrat, the secretive monster and the uber-mother.

Plotter or Pantser?  When you are working on a new novel, how aware are you of character and plot archetypes (i.e, chief hero + waif heroine = woman in jeopardy plot)?  Do you plan this out ahead of time, or does it happen organically as you go along?

I am a pure pantser.  I do do an outline, about 5-10 pp.  I know, from working as a manuscript reader for many years, that the dreaded feared outline is not the deal breaker in a proposal — it’s a guide to show the editor you know how you will get from here to there.  It doesn’t have to be super detailed — mine are not — I just want give an overview of what will happen and how it will end.  For me, after that, all bets are off.  Things happen.  I love the process of discovery as I write.  I’m a big fan of “what if-ing” the problems.   I do know the main motivations, weaknesses and strengths of the hero and heroine before I begin, but I don’t chart that out according to types or archetypes.  I make lists and notes as I go along, and I believe things will happen.

THE DARKEST HEART is your latest release.  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

My husband actually gave me the idea that motivates The Darkest Heart.  I couldn’t see a vampire as a hero, really — even though I can list all those things that are on the surface so attractive about him as a character.  I asked my husband why he thought vampires were so alluring, and he said, they’re victims.  They had no choice. That observation gave me the whole key to the story.  And you see that theme echoes throughout The Darkest Heart, which begins with the return of Dominick, who having been turned into a vampire to save him from dying, has come to wreak revenge on his Maker, only to find his plans disrupted by a flim-flam artist who has taken up residence in his mother’s home pretending to be an indigent relative, unaware of the teeming danger that surrounds her.

What’s next for you?  Can you give us a hint about your next novel?  The Scribes love secrets!

I’m doing a sequel to The Darkest Heart, because there are things unresolved at the end of The Darkest Heart, and I’m working on several other projects just because I love them, including my bottom of the drawer Civil War historical.

You also read and evaluate manuscripts.  Do you have a word or grammar-related pet peeve?

Oh, do I.   In brief, my three (among many) top peeves were (and are):  using “may” for “might” — which almost seems like common usage now and is still jarring to the ear;  “drug” for “dragged” (also coming into common usage);  and “that’s why” when, how, what — instead of “that was why” — again using present tense inappropriately.

How many books do you read in a year, other than the manuscripts?

Well, I’m not reading manuscripts now, and I read lots — during the summer outages, I devoured all of Karen Rose’s books, even by a teeny reading light late at night.  I periodically revisit old favorites like Emilie Loring and Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg novels.   I read some Nancy Drews last winter — the ones I remember with the frocks and roadsters — great fun.  I love the old girls’ series books — this summer I got one called “The Red Cross Girls at the Russian Front.”  Honestly, could you have passed that up?  I love romantic suspense, and “object of desire” thrillers, cathartic women’s novels, cozy mysteries. Right now, I’m reading Carla Neggers’ The Whisper, and the Mysteries of Udolpho, one of the first gothics, and the House at Riverton, by Kate Morton.  (Suze here.  I loved the title so much I had to see if I could find The Red Cross Girls — it’s available for free  at Project Gutenberg: click here.  You can find The Mysteries of Udolpho (I read this recently, and loved it!) at Project Gutenberg as well)

How long does it take you to write a first draft?  How do you handle revisions?  Do you revise as you go along, or do you save them for after you type “The End?”

It takes about five or six months to write the book — I revise as I go along, make changes, reroute things, gut other ideas that I think will work in my current book.   There was one time I was hemming and hawing about using an idea that I wanted to save for a different proposal, and my husband said to me, but there’s always another idea.  That was so brilliant.  Always another idea.  That really frees you up as a writer when you embrace that thought.

What is your junk food of choice?

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done?

Can’t think of a thing.

What is your guilty pleasure? {Remember: this is a PG-rated blog! }

This is going to really disappoint you — I love curling up on the couch on a weekend and watching Hallmark Channel movies.

You can get THE DARKEST HEART here.  Wanna see a hot book trailer?  Click here.  And be sure to check out Thea’s website, which has more information about Thea and links to all of her books currently in print.  Thea is here to answer your questions, so ask away!

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15 thoughts on “Dark Hearts and Chocolate – Interview with Thea Devine”

  1. Hi Thea! It’s awesome to have you here with us Scribes! And The Darket Heart has a fabulous cover! You mentioned how your writing has changed since you first started. Aside from learning the craft of writing, how else has your writing changed? And what advice would you give us newer writers to last in this business long term?

  2. Thanks for the wonderful interview! I have put THE DARKEST HEART on my reading list–it sounds delicious! Best wishes to you, Thea!

  3. Great post Suze! Thanks for the links to project Gutenberg! Thea, I really liked Darkest Heart. Can’t wait for the sequel!! — Jamie :D

  4. Thea is one of the nicest people I know. I just put The Darkest Heart on my list too. Thanks for sharing with us today. Love, love, love the trailer.

  5. Oh, it’s so funny to see people commenting, “Oh, Thea…” My mom is a Thea, as was my great grandmother. It’s such an unusual name that I can’t help but automatically picture my mom every time I see it! And of course, I’m a “Jen” because my mom hated having an unusual name growing up. She could never find anything with her name on it because they didn’t make them and I could never find anything with my name on it ’cause they were out of stock! :)

  6. Hi, Thea! I loved the idea of the vampire as a victim, rather than a superior. Well done, madame! And I have to give you props for going back to your first idea…I think that’s very cool.

  7. Hi Thea! (Waving madly from Michigan). Great post from an always entertaining author. BTW, I have one of those rambling Civil War books in my drawer, too. Someday . . . Thumbs way up for Darkest Heart! Get busy on the sequel!

  8. Hi to everyone who posted. I’m sorry I wasn’t dipping in yesterday — my beloved mini-doxie passed away — she was twelve and a half — and I just couldn’t think of anything else. I would like to address some of the questions you asked in my next post for 7 scribes, if that would be all right. I appreciate all your kind words and look forward to posting more with the 7 Scribes.

    thea

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