Blog Interview #3 with Michele Riccio

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BLOG INTERVIEW # 3 — With Michele Riccio

I’ve known Michele for three years, thanks to the Internet Writers Workshop (IWW), and she’s one of the most personable, dependable, opinionated friends I know. She’s an unabashed Boston Bruins fan, doesn’t take life too serious, and will out-snark you any chance she gets. Her personality shines in every one of her main characters and the witty dialogue in her books are the best I’ve come across. Without further ado, here’s her interview. You’ll enjoy it. I guarantee.

 

Your first book – Sex Lives and Dental Chairs – is a mystery mixed with comedy, a healthy dose of suspense, and throws in a deep-seated fear most people have – visiting the dentist. Describe how you came up with the concept of Sex Lives, and are you afraid of the dental drill?

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Right, let’s start off with fear and loathing.   As a child (around age 7) I had a traumatic dental experience involving: a baby tooth, a root canal, and not enough Novacaine. As you might imagine, given a sufficiently twisted mind (because I’m not offering details), the sound of a dentist’s drill does not evoke pleasant memories. Flash-forward some decades. Now (technically) an adult, and in my own apartment, I find the new neighbor rather… loud, in all aspects of life (seriously, this guy made jack hammers and smoke alarms seem as quiet as lullabies). While complaining about him to my cousin Karen, I broke a tooth on a nacho chip (and no, I’m never letting her forget – she picked the restaurant).   The following months of dental torture by day and aural torture at night made me rather cranky. Fine, crankier than usual. I realized I’d lose what few friends I still had if all I did was complain, so I took the angst and poured it into a novel. Then I layered on the snark. I felt much better having written it all out, complete with polished snappy comebacks for all occasions. Eventually I even managed to stuff a plot in there.  Since publication I’ve moved to a much quieter apartment and I avoid a specific restaurant known for its brutal nachos.

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The second book in your library – I Do-Over – deals with a woman being forced to serve as a bridesmaid twice for a second wedding when the first is cursed by a psychic. How many times have you been a bridesmaid and tell us about the worst dress you had to wear?

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I have thrice been a bridesmaid. And, in order to safeguard my life, because I’m still in contact with all three of the brides, I will plead the fifth with regards to “worse dress.”    I will say, long dresses and I don’t mix. I have a tendency to trip on the hem, in a way that – were I the star in a romantic-comedy – would be cute and acrobatic, but in reality is just scary-klutzy. And in one case close to indecent exposure.    I won’t even get into the shoe aspect.

I’m not fond of dressing up even when I get to chose the outfit. Being constrained to wear clothes picked by someone else, to fit into a group of similarly dressed women, ranks pretty high on my list of: Things I’d Prefer to Avoid But Feel Duty-Bound to Perform. However, I now share a bond with millions of other women who have something pastel and awkwardly fitting crammed into a corner of the closet.  NOTE: The dresses in the novel were wholly fictional. Any resemblance to actual dresses is purely coincidental.

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How close are the heroines in your books (Grace Douglas – I Do-Over, JaneTynan – Sex Lives and Dental Chairs, and Ursula of your WIP) related to the Michele Riccio I’ve grown to know over the last three years?

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In a sense they are me – they have to be. They came out of my head, colored by my experience and my viewpoint. The characters can’t be anything BUT me. In another sense, they aren’t like me at all. I’ve never pined for a man without telling anyone. I’ve never abandoned/been abandoned by my family. I’ve never had an illegitimate child. I suppose they are possible me’s – who I would have become if put in those situations.   Or, they’re complete fiction.    I suppose creating these people is a way to try on a lifestyle or explore the path you didn’t take. What would I be like if…?   Which means no matter the path, I’d still be a wise-ass.

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What’s the worst part of being a perfectionist author?

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HAHAHAHAHA! According to some reviews I’m hardly a perfectionist.   I do feel a need to get the story right. I have an idea of this intricate layered tale. Something beautiful and unexpected. A story to get lost in.   When ends up on the page usually has jagged edges and the paint doesn’t quite match and the stitching shows… but patchwork quilts can be nice too, right?

Perfection is something to strive for, certainly. I want to tell the sort of story I like to read. The sort that stays with you, a place you want to inhabit. What I’ve actually written are fluffy funny stories. It may be all I can write is fluff. If so, I want to write the best fluff I’m capable of. Making someone laugh is nothing to sneer at, after all.

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You’re a part-time photographer and a full-time lover of the Boston Bruins. Would you ever consider writing a Romantic Drama or a naughty Erotica about a woman who finds her true love on the team?

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And how would photography fit in…? Aside from the obvious, which would likely land me a lengthy stay in prison for “photographing without consent.”   Erotica isn’t where my muse lives. Apparently my muse prefers more comfortable undies, who knew? So, no, never had an urge to go there with or without hockey.   As for drama – maybe someday. I don’t know. I’ve given Ursula (in my WIP) a love of the Bruins in particular and hockey in general. Perhaps my muse will supply me with a character who falls for a hockey player. Stranger things have happened in my novels.

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When you start a novel, describe what you do to prepare for it. Are you a writer who outlines or writes by the seat of your pants?

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Prrreee-paaarre? Sorry, that isn’t a word I’m familiar with.    Total seat-of-the-pants writer. I get an idea, usually a short scene, and go from there. With Sex Lives it was the scene where Jane stops to look at the decaying farmhouse – and I thought it was going to be a fantasy story where she escapes her problems by traveling to fairy-land. I’m not sure I could have been more wrong about the plot.

This is the joy of pantsing, Like jumping into a void, you have no idea where you’ll end up.    For the last seven Novembers I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in which you, as a writer, pledge to write a first draft of a novel in 30 days. With one exception I’ve woken up on November 1st with a vague kernel of an idea and ended the month somewhere between 50-75 thousands words (one year I had an actual idea. An honest-to-goodness PLOT. Worst NaNo ever. I struggled for 30 days barely made the word count and hated every word I wrote). NaNo works for me. There is structure (getting the minimum words per day) and lack of boundaries – the perfect conditions for getting a draft on the page. For me at least.

Post-draft I do a lot of re-writing, re-thinking the plot, re-working bits to make them fit. The novel evolves. I eventually create a sort of outline using a calendar so I know when things happen and can make sure events adhere to the space-time continuum. Around this time I realize some major event happens effect before cause. I pout, rant, complain to other writers, bang my head on literary walls. Re-write some more, buy a really nice bar of chocolate to sooth my inner turmoil or possibly bribe my muse into helping me out (in addition to comfortable clothes, my muse is fond of dark chocolate).

Then, feeling like I’ve pogo-sticked to the top of Everest, I submit chapters to my critique group. And find out just how many glaring errors I’ve missed.    Nothing like a bunch of writers to point out problems, right? (Seriously, I could not have done as much as I have without my writer’s group. They are a great bunch at Internet Writer’s Workshop)

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You’re asked to pick a Hollywood actress to play Grace Douglas. Who would it be and why?

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Ugh. I don’t know – who’s a good actress? I’d be better off guessing an actor for Jon. I had early Farscape-ear Ben Browder in mind for him (he rocked those leather pants). I’m very shallow when it comes to movies, I’m all about the eye-candy – male eye-candy, that is.  Shallow and one-dimensional. I’m a thin layer of vanilla ice cream when it comes to the visual media.

The problem with actresses is – they all seem so comfortable dressed-up and in the spotlight. Grace is neither of those things. She hates all the fuss. So, I’ll say the best actress to play Grace would be someone completely unknown who lacks any preconceived poise. Which, of course, means I don’t know her name. (Editors note—- Kristin Stewart sounds about right. 🙂 Am I wrong?? )

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Last question – What part of writing gives you the most tension?

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Last answer.: Jumping into that void of panster writing can be tense. I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m getting there. When I arrive, I’ve left behind plot holes big enough to drive a tractor trailer through. Re-writing sometimes feels like carving a design into a massive brick wall mortared with a plotless collection of words which have failed to become a novel.

But I can eat snacks while I work. So, that makes things better.    Unless I’m working at the library, which I do in summer because they have AC and comfortable chairs.   That’s tension, right? The character wants something (snacks) but can’t have it because of a barrier (library rules).

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MICHELE RICCIO’S LIBRARY

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I DO-OVER

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SYNOPSIS

Grace Douglas has a secret crush on Jon, the boy next door. The problem is: at thirty-six she’s well past the age of secret crushes, her father insists Jon is her brother (by dint of his marriage to Jon’s mother), and Jon is nothing more than brotherly when he spends the night in her hotel room.

Then a meddling fortuneteller convinces Grace’s half-sister, Kitty she needs to re-stage her recent wedding – and get it right this time – or suffer the consequences. Dodging the bullets of a mysterious, if incompetent, stalker and fending off Heraldo, co-worker without a work ethic are a piece of wedding cake for Grace – compared to being Kitty’s maid of honor.

Grace has to find a way out. Or be seen by the man she loves – wearing a bridesmaid gown.

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MY REVIEW

This Review is for: I Do-Over: Confessions of a Recalcitrant Bridesmaid (Kindle Edition)
For every nine women who love to wear the traditionally horrible bridesmaids gowns, there’s always one who hates every uncomfortable second of it – Grace Douglas is that woman. She’s knocking on the big ‘4-oh,’ lives alone with her dog, and has a longtime, unrequited crush on Jon Taylor. The bad thing about her naughty thoughts is the fact he’s her step-brother – kinda sorta. Read the novel – like real life relationships – it’s complicated.Grace’s newly married/high maintenance step-sister Kitty is warned by a psychic to re-do her marriage ceremony to include Grace as her maid-of-honor instead of just having her photograph the event – as in the first wedding. That development starts to spiral Grace’s personal life into a tragic comedy of events, realizations, and groan-inducing trials that will make you laugh, cry, and say ‘Oh no she didn’t.” Only adding to Grace’s distress, her persnickety boss has a carnal yen for Jon while her clueless, lover assistant Heraldo has an intense hatred of the stressed-out protagonist.The action mounts when an unknown assailant starts trying to kill Grace and the terror ensues when she has to come face to face with the worst thing imaginable – her dress for the Do-Over wedding.Ms. Riccio combines fine writing with snarky overtones to make a romantic dramedy that would be a perfect chick-flick movie in the future…and a sensational chic-lit novel you can read right now. I give it Five unabashed stars. I Loved it.

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SEX LIVES AND DENTAL CHAIRS
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Jane Tynan wants to be happy. Her needs are simple: a satisfying job, a quiet home, and the man she loves. But since she testified against her ex-husband, what she has is: an assumed name, a crap job, an apartment upstairs from the world’s loudest sex addict, and no man at all. Unless you count the cute-but-suspicious deputy investigating her neighbor’s disappearance, the Ski-Mask Wearing man camping in her yard, and the dentist she “accidentally” assaulted before her root canal. Faced with dental bills rivaling the national debt, the revelation of her past to the police, and zits Jane figures she’s hit bottom. Then her ex-husband turns up looking for payback. Jane must decide between running away and calling in a favor from the man she loves, but can’t have.
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MY REVIEW
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Funny, Snarky, and totally Brutal.,August 21, 2013

***ARC*** All Jane Tynan wants to do is live a quiet existance as a librarian and stay as far under the radar as possible. After going into hiding to escape the clutches of her ex-husband, a series of unfortunate incidents turns her life in a living hell. Her neighbor in the apartment below her keeps Jane awake all night with his loud sexual encounters. A mysterious man in a ski-cap is stalking her. A hunky policeman seems to run into her every time she commits a misdemeanor, and the root canal she’s put off for the last few months is either keeping her in pain, or drugged enough to make her a walking disaster. The final part of the book’s twisted puzzle comes when Jane discovers her ex is out of jail and is snooping around her job. Knowing her life may be in danger by two stalkers and the never-ending toothache from hell, Jane frantically tries to find out what the two men want…and when her dentist can make her pain go away.

This novel is fast paced, features a lovably sarcastic main character, boasts unusual plot twists, and is a page turner you’ll devour without putting it down. Ms. Riccio has created a damsel-in-distress for the new millenium, and this is a book you’ll have to read again and again to catch the subtle nuances she loads it with. Five Stars.

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(EDITORS NOTE — Sex Lives and Dental Chairs is now available as an e-book and a print copy is on it’s way.  Be sure to leave a review if your get a copy!!! )
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Thanks for a great Interview, Michele. It’s a distinct pleasure to know you.

 

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9 thoughts on “Blog Interview #3 with Michele Riccio

  1. Michele Riccio

    John: With regards to your Editor’s note – Kristen Stewart is too young. My protagonists tend to be more 30-40’s kind of women.

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