Monday, July 09, 2012

Moriah Densley, Author of "Song for Sophia"

Moriah Densley is a 2012 Golden Heart Finalist. She sold her first book “Song for Sophia” to Crimson Romance this year. She also writes Paranormal. She is sharp, amusing and writes wickedly good Heroes and Heroines. It has been my pleasure to get to know her and I had to have her on this blog.
I know you’ll like her as much as I do!
What a warm welcome, how kind. Thank you for hosting me today! I’m a big fan of Romance Magicians; it’s an honor to rub shoulders with such fun and savvy writers and readers!
I am very glad you could make it, Moriah, and I have loads of questions. I find it fascinating that you are simultaneously writing two different genres, Historical and Paranormal.
It's weird, but I do switch back and forth between manuscripts as I write and edit. I find it refreshing.
Are you writing under Moriah Densley for your paranormal? Yes, so far I plan to, unless someone with terrific marketing instincts persuades me it’s a good idea to juggle two pseudonyms.  I have heard that this can be a nightmare—you’d have to have separate twitter, facebook....I shudder at the thought, but yet it is done all the time.
Hats off to those tenacious writers . . . I am not among them. While I enjoy connecting with readers and writers via social media, I don't think I could keep up with two alter egos. The voices in my head are already close to mutiny! *laughs*
Aside from the obvious practical differences in world-building and style, writing historical and paranormal have a lot in common, in the sense that I'm creating a fantasy world. The process "feels" similar. I hope it doesn’t throw readers for a loop, but it makes sense to me. It does me as well. I for one, am looking forward to reading this Paranormal.
Let’s talk about your current book, “Song for Sophia”, You’ve had some flak about this book, especially about your (delicious) hero Wilhelm. What did they (agents/editors/others) say--and why did you fight for it?
“This story is just too unconventional.” That is frustrating to hear.
This let me know I had a choice - conform to the mainstream, or look for an unconventional audience. I was even okay with the criticism “Too much violence, too dark. In [whatever] scene the hero doesn’t come off as heroic.” I beg to differ, I thought he was awesome.—just my perception.
Thank you. That argument frustrated me, but it's valid. Some prefer light-hearted romance, which my story is not - I want DRAMA, baby! There was lots of drama, I adored this book.
What did bother me was “While this story shows promise, readers simply won’t go for it. Good luck.” Speaking as a reader-well before I was a writer—I have to say, they were wrong. But it is disheartening to hear/read this.

Yes. I'm not so indomitable that the rejections didn't affect me. I was about ready to give up when the manuscript finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart, and I sold it to a publisher. What a relief to finally find my niche! Yes! All it takes is that one person. Bravo!
So what was all the fuss about—What bothered them about the book/Hero?  On top of being a Crimean soldier suffering from severe PTSD, Wilhelm is an autistic savant. He has cool talents, like composing music, memorizing obscure historical facts, and solving calculus equations in his head. The downside? We could say he's emotionally colorblind - meaning he perceives motive and necessity in black and white, and he doesn't really do propriety or diplomacy. Think Rain Man with "X-Men" Wolverine's attitude in Jude Law's body. I adored this man. Loved him the moment he arrived on the scene in the book. I totally see him as a Jude Law…..
*wiping drool* Huh? Oh, sorry. You caught me daydreaming. Ahem. I'll post a Pinterest link at the end for anyone interested in the visual inspiration behind "Song for Sophia," including celebrity lookalikes for the characters, featuring the adorable Jude Law, among others. Oooh, I am so going to take a look.
So, Wilhelm insulting the Vicar by quoting Newton is one thing, but I had to keep an eye on his temper. I learned through my research that people with savant syndrome can also be prone to trances and rages. While Wilhelm would never hurt Sophia, the men who threaten her are fair game in his mind. He's not always heroic by twenty-first century standards, and he makes mistakes trying to deal with being in love for the first time - thus the flak - but he would do anything for Sophia--This is what I loved about him—his sense of right and wrong revolved around Sophia. My type of hero.
Yes, that's it - she is everything to him, and the rest of the world can take a flying leap. I took inspiration from Brontian heroes (Edward Rochester from "Jane Eyre" and Heathcliff from "Wuthering Heights"). Those delicious characters each have a devil-may-care attitude I find appealing in an alpha male character. You have succeeded very well. There is gothic air to the story that has an essence to those stories you mentioned.
Why did I insist on a seriously flawed protagonist? Because the character really spoke to me, and I felt his struggles were meaningful. Though Wilhelm is an extreme case, I didn’t fabricate any of his autistic tendencies – it’s all real. He felt lifelike, and I couldn’t imagine him any other way, not without undermining the entire story. That, and I’m not afraid of being a little controversial. It worked for me, and I will always consider him one of my favorite top ten heroes.
Will we see more of him as a secondary character perhaps? (Oh, was that me being hopeful? Yes)  *Laughs* Oh, yes. “Song for Sophia” is first in a series of five historicals. Remember Andrew Tilmore, the financial prodigy who helps Wilhelm? In the next book, King of Threadneedle Street, the tables have turned, and Andrew comes to Wilhelm for help. We'll see the political crusader side of Wilhelm as he advocates for an outcast, the infamous daughter of a courtesan whom Andrew wants to marry. We also see Wilhelm's oh-so-happily-ever-after. He's so happy it makes Alysia, the heroine of KTS, madly jealous. But first in “Song for Sophia” we put Wilhelm through the wringer, poor man.  I can hardly wait to read the next book.
Thank you! Fingers crossed - it's out on submission now. I’ll be shocked if it’s not picked up.
What is the hardest thing about writing? Daily writing? Revisions? First draft? What do you love about writing? The first draft is always blood-sweat-and-tears for me. I gave birth to twins. They're six years old now, so maybe my memory is fuzzy, but if I had the choice to do twins or a first draft over again, I might take the childbirth. I totally understand that feeling. Totally.
Revisions? I love editing! "Fixing" a story from big-picture surgery to word-smithing delights me. If a chapter comes back from a critique partner riddled in red ink, I think "Oh boy! Fresh meat!" Ahh! I wish I was that way. It makes me sigh heavily. Place my head on the desk for a moment. Not sure why. So I envy you this.
I give my "mean" violin teachers credit for the thick skin. The writing community has its brutal members, and we all find ourselves skewered on the sharp end of their pens at times. I feel prepared for it - though it still stings - having learned young how to filter the truth from painful criticism and learn from it . . . after having a good cry, of course! I agree, I have one CP who is totally honest with me—and it taught me well. You have to learn to take it and sift through it all.

What's daily writing? Huh? I'm boom-and-bust about projects. I research for weeks and months, letting the idea brew in my mind, then I write it all at once, night and day, as though the zombie apocalypse is coming tomorrow. Then I burn out and look at funny cat pictures on the internet and refinish my dining table until I don't hate my manuscript anymore and can look at it with fresh eyes. I suppose I have an "artist's temperament." I envy those smug, serene plotters. Total pantser here. That is very interesting—I really like how you described that. I’m a marathoner…
I suppose it's important to remember the tortoise and the hare both finished the race. *smiles* Yes they do. I’m a tort-hare. Is that even possible *laughing*
What do I love about writing? Ever had a really good dream, but wished it lasted longer, and you imagine details which would have made it even better, and you hang on to that half-conscious state, developing the idea while the moment lasts? I live in that dream! Ooh, that’s why your writing is so compelling. I’m ALL about that.
Let’s talk to your Characters from “Song For Sophia”,  Introduce them to others so they can get a taste of them. The Hero: Wilhelm, and the Heroine: Sophia.
Wilhelm: What draws you to Sophia?
*Imagine sand-rubbed velvet tenor in a sarcastic tone*
Other than her naughty French underwear? *laughs* You are a wicked man! J
I do not admit fascination with a woman capable of trouncing me academically. But she does match you. Hmm.? She spends a great deal of effort trying not to seem unfashionably intelligent but can be provoked into revealing all. I find it highly stimulating. *smirks*  This is why I like you.
I hardly care that her physical proportions measure 1.63, a mere hundredth of a percentage point deviation from the golden ratio – virtual aesthetic symmetry, as you know. It's the steel in her spine and the fire in her eyes which calls to me. Soldier to warrior, I recognized the strength of another who has been to hell and back. She understands me. True love! Now that I understand.
Sophia: What draws you to Wilhelm? No other man could make Fibonacci ratios sound salacious. Ahh, I see your point.
Despite his efforts to make himself a curmudgeon, beneath that I see the soul of artist. It calls to me. That, and he is the first man to ignore my appearance and engage me intellectually. Wilhelm is truly one of a kind. A fit that is hard to find. It suits you.
Thank you, but too long I lacked such vision. Perhaps it is on account of Wilhelm being a prankish, secretive, impossible man. *sigh*
Wilhelm, What frustrates you about Sophia?
How many dragons must a man slay before the damsel says "yes?"
That is all. *laughing* Way too many, but worth it? J
As many as it takes. *trying not to smile*
Sophia, what frustrates you about Wilhelm?
He looks me in the eye and stares - far longer than is polite - and then he reads my thoughts. He says he is interpreting minute facial expressions, but either way, I can keep no secret from him. What is a woman without her mystery? It must be hard to surprise him for his birthday. J
Ha! Impossible, yes. I once ordered him a team of Arabian stallions from Sir Walther Mandley. I swear Wilhelm knew about it even before the colts were born. Maddening!
Wilhelm, what happens if there is too much chaos around you?
I might become surly.
The social disaster I fear - aside from deflating the ego of some idiot who has it coming - is being ensnared into a trance at an inopportune time. A tessellated pattern, an obsidian and ivory chess set, even the glyphs on an ancient parchment might grip me with a concentration I can't control. Not long ago, a human caused this phenomenon - a woman. I think I should marry her. Excellent idea, in my humble opinion.
Sophia, what happens if there is too much chaos (or control) around you? (I put in control, because I know Wilhelm likes order)  Chaos I can manage. Too often I am the source of the chaos. But control? I am acquainted with a particular man *brow arched* who craves order to a maniacal degree. A fault as simple as a crease in a sheet or a picture frame hanging not precisely at a ninety-degree angle can make him unreasonable. At times I might tease him by nudging one pencil out of line, but typically it is in my best interest to keep this particular man's grousing to a dull roar. That makes sense. But I know that can be frustrating. You handle it well.
Wilhelm, What is your favorite food? (Why I ask this? Just for fun!) Not soggy, bland English cuisine. That is why I hired a French chef. So long as he avoids dishes made with rum, I am satisfied.  Lovely! *wondering how I can get an invite…hmm*
Sophia, what is your favorite food? (I'm thinking fruit in chocolate...yummm--just guessing)
How did you guess? Chocolate-dipped peaches are particularly pleasing when paired with a book and a shady garden. Lately chocolate-dipped strawberries have taken on a new purpose for me . . . Oh dear, am I blushing? Now, I’m dying to try that combo—especially the peaches and chocolate.
Thank you Wilhelm and Sophia!
Oh dear, Mary - it seems Wilhelm and Sophia are presently *ahem* indisposed. Must have been the mention of chocolate and fruit. Oh my.
Ah, thank you for hosting us. It's been a pleasure.
And I had great fun, I appreciate your stopping by Moriah and I know I will get you back here soon. I believe there will be more books to talk about….and for one person who comments on this blog, Moriah is giving away a free eBook of “Song For Sophia”—I love this book. I will post the winner tomorrow afternoon. July 10th. Congratulations! Teresa is the winner! :)

Author Bio: Moriah Densley sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car.  They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course.  She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night.  By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher.  Moriah lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children.


teresa said...

Hi Moriah~
I'm so glad you didn't listen to those people who assume to speak for everyone. Bravo! for following your heart. And I adore your cover. Beautiful!
Best of luck!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Hi there Moriah! Your ever-loving, plotting, dual-website-madwoman crit partner here!

I've had the pleasure of watching "Song for Sophia" develop and it is one awesome story. *Gloats* And I'm getting to beta-read King of Threadneedle Street. Folks, I'm not normally a historical reader but Moriah's books are AWESOME. You need to read them.

M.V.Freeman said...

If you need a Beta Reader...I'm all here...
(That doesn't sound too needy does it?)
I adore your writing! ;)

Marian L said...

I can't wait to read the book. Glad you stay true to yourself. Beautiful cover.

Moriah Densley said...

Hello, Teresa. Thank you for the warm welcome, and for your kind words. Lovely to meet you!

Moriah Densley said...

Behold! The embodiment of such serene plotting and dual alter-ego wielding which I so sorely envy! (See what kind of crap Suzanne puts up with? Quick - someone give her wings.)I honestly don't know how you do it all. Thanks for stopping by, and for making my day by saying all those nice things.

Moriah Densley said...

M.V. - Yay! Another beta reader captured, hog-tied and coerced! (No that's not the plot of my next novel.) :D

Moriah Densley said...

Hi, Marian. Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. Much appreciated!

Lexi said...

Welcome, Moriah! Good for you for sticking to your creative guns and being true to yourself. I think those who told you that readers wouldn't like your hero are full of it! He sounds absolutely wonderful, my kind of hero!

Denyse Cohen said...

"Song for Sophia" is truly a wonderful book. Moriah has all it takes to become one of the best (as in most popular, because she's already great) authors out there.

Moriah Densley said...

Thanks, Lexi! Glad to hear you like outside-the-box characters too. Thanks for commenting today - nice to meet you.

Moriah Densley said...

Yay! The cavalry is here! Everyone, Meet Denyse Cohen, a fellow Crimson Romance writer and author of "One Hit Wonder." You can see how supportive our group is, lucky me! Thanks so much for the kind words, and for stopping by, Denyse.

Sharon Clare said...

I loved this interview! Well done. You both made the characters come alive.

I love unconventional. So glad you persevered, Moriah!

Song for Sophia is a must read for me.

M.V.Freeman said...

Thanks Sharon!
I had a blast doing this, and I love Moriah's characters. I am glad you liked it.

Pam B. Morris said...

Great interview, Moriah. As always, I gobble up everything you write and have to say, especially about Wilhelm who is the most interesting character I've ever read in a romance. Song for Sophia is great and I can't wait to read your next book! Love standing with you outside the box!

Rionna Morgan said...

Beautiful, wonderful, amazing...

I can't say enough of about Moriah! I am so pleased to know you. Your book is just wonderful and I can't wait for your next one!!

All the Best to you! You deserve it.