Today we are happy to welcome to Book Lovers Inc. Charles Sheehan-Miles, who besides being a war veteran, ex-restaurant manager, nonprofit activist and IT guy is also a romance author! Join us as I got to interview Charles on how it is to be a male romance writer, and you could even win a copy of his emotional romance novel: Just Remember to Breathe!
Stella: Hi Charles, welcome to BLI! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Charles: Thanks so much for asking me to interview today! I’m a forty-ish writer, but I’ve had several careers up to this point. I spent some time as a soldier, I’ve run a restaurant, and several non profit organizations. I live in Bethesda, Maryland, with my wonderful wife and two monstrous—I mean lovely—children.
Stella: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?
Charles: I’m up at 4:30 every morning, and write until 5:30, then get ready for work, and back to it at lunchtime. I squeeze in some writing time at night, but that’s more difficult. I tend to plan very loosely for the overall book, and in much more detail for the chapter ahead. I don’t plan it on paper so much as I daydream whatever is next.
Stella: What do you think is the difference between a reader and a real Book Lover?
Charles: Yesterday, I had to tell my almost seventeen-year old son to put his book away while we were crossing a busy parking lot. I didn’t want him to get run over. That’s a book lover.
Stella: Charles, you are somewhat of a rarity: a war veteran AND male romance writer, I bet everyone is curious to know: how did you start writing romance novels? And what do you like about this genre?
Charles: To be honest, all I’ve my writing has always had a strong romantic element, just as most of my favourite reads do. My favourite author as a teenager was Pat Conroy, who writes some very tortured, thematic stuff, but when you look closely, much of his writing has a strong romantic theme running through it. What I like about romance is the element of hope, of redemption, the possibility of it all. I’ve always written stories which focus on the things I’m passionate about: real life stuff that scares me, that matters to me. And what matters more than the people we love?
Stella: Do you think the stories written by men romance authors are somewhat different from those written by women? In what way? How do men perceive romance differently?
Charles: I think when you look at it, men writing romance is less unusual than you might think. For example, Leigh Greenwood and Jennifer Wilde are men who write under pen names. Not to mention Nicholas Sparks, who writes real tear-jerkers. That said, I think most men perceive romance fiction and automatically lump it in with bodice-rippers. I had an email discussion with one of my beta readers for Just Remember to Breathe about this some time ago. He loved the book, but pointed out that categorized as a romance, he’d probably have never taken a second look at it. I think that has as much to do with how books are marketed as it does the content.
Stella: Your latest release Just Remember to Breathe sounds like a very emotional romance story, could you tell our readers what they can expect of it?
Charles: Be prepared with some tissues. It’s entirely possible that I may have cried a couple of times while writing it. Aside from the love story, it deals with some heavy issues: a soldier traumatized by war, a woman recovering from an attempted date rape. Not to mention a misunderstanding that blew apart the very real love between two young people.
Stella: How did the idea for the story come to you? Any specific moment/event that sparked the inspiration for it that you could share with us?
Charles: Alex and Dylan’s backstory; how they fell in love while on a foreign exchange program, then the difficult and painful separation afterward, is shamelessly ripped from my own life as a teenager. I simply posed the question: what if I’d come back from Iraq and ended up in the same college as her? And that’s where I started writing.
Stella: Could you introduce the hero and heroine of Just Remember to Breathe?
Dylan: Alex refused to introduce herself, or to let me introduce myself—
Alex: Not true.
Dylan: Anyway. We met on an airplane a lifetime ago. She was way out of my league, rich, the daughter of an ambassador.
Alex: When are you going to get over that?
Dylan: Plus she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. I didn’t think I had a chance. And, honestly, I nearly blew it.
Alex: He did blow it. Twice. But then made up for it, in a big way, by flying across the country and—
Dylan: You’re going to spoil it.
Alex: Whatever. I’ll tell it the way I want.
Dylan: You always do.
Alex: Anyway. When I met Dylan, he was… just very cool. Amazing. He had a rough life growing up, but rose above it. By hard work. That means more than inheriting someone else’s life and money anyway.
Dylan: I almost didn’t make it. The war screwed me up pretty bad.
Alex: (whispers something in Dylan’s ear) Sorry, time for us to go.
Dylan: (red faced) Gotta go.
Stella: Lol, enjoy yourselves! *waves after them* Charles, can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read Just Remember to Breathe?
• It’s all about hope and possibility
• Sherman and Carrie: Dylan’s friend from the Army and Alex’s sister
• Index cards.
Stella: Can you summarize Just Remember to Breathe for us Twitter-style (140 characters or less)?
Charles: A wounded soldier returns home from war and the girl who broke his heart.
Stella: Can you share with us some little secret trivia connected to the writing of Just Remember to Breathe (a scene/character that did not end up in the final version, a real person inspiring a character, scene, etc.)?
Charles: For about three years I ran a restaurant in Atlanta, until fairly recently. Anyway, the day before I wrote the last two chapters, I was standing out back of the restaurant taking a brief break, when a guy gets out of a cab and comes up to me in a sailor’s uniform. He says, “Hey man… I just got back from overseas, and my girl’s in there having breakfast with her mother. Any chance you can sneak me in the back?”
How could I say no? So I led him in the back, through the prep area and out to the front of the restaurant. She was at the opposite end of the restaurant, with her back to us, so he quickly and quietly snuck up behind her. Her mother’s eyes went as wide as saucers. And then he just slid into the booth next to her, and she let out a scream that caused every customer in the restaurant to jump in the air. All my waitresses were crying. I may have been just a little bit too.
The next morning I was off, and wrote the conclusion to the book. While nothing about that scene made it into the story, the emotion did.
Stella: Aww that story just gave me goosebumps! And imagine witnessing that in person, talk about an inspiring scene! :-D What is next on your schedule? Any future plans you’d like to share with us?
Charles: In Just Remember to Breathe I introduced a number of secondary characters, including Alex’s older sister Julia and her husband, Crank (yes, really). Crank is an alt-rock musician, and Julia manages the band. I’m writing their story now.
Stella: What kind of romance novels do YOU read? Can you share a few of your favourite authors/series?
Charles: Remember the 1970 movie Love Story? I’ve always been partial to tearjerkers.
I’d say some of my favourite authors right now are Tiffany King, Colleen Hoover, Steph Campbell, Liz Reinhardt, Tammara Webber. Plenty of others, but I’ve been very partial to college-age settings, probably because I’m in the middle of a mid-life crisis. I’m tied right now between two books for the best I’ve read this year: Slammed (Colleen Hoover) and Sea of Tranquility (Katja Millay).
Alex Thompson’s life is following the script. A pre-law student at Columbia University, she’s focused on her grades, her life and her future. The last thing she needs is to reconnect with the boy who broke her heart.
Dylan Paris comes home from Afghanistan severely injured and knows that the one thing he cannot do is drag Alex into the mess he’s made of his life.
When Dylan and Alex are assigned to the same work study program and are forced to work side by side, they have to make new ground rules to keep from killing each other.
Only problem is, they keep breaking the rules.
The first rule is to never, ever talk about how they fell in love.
I’m a forty-ish writer of several novels including Republic, Insurgent, Prayer at Rumayla and Just Remember to Breathe. I’ve got a few short stories and non-fiction books out there as well.
My background: I spent some time traveling the Middle East on my own in the late nineteen eighties, then went back courtesy of the United States Army as a tank crewman during the 1991 Gulf War. After that I spent most of the next two decades pursuing dual careers: nonprofit activist and information technology professional. Eventually the two combined: from 2003 until 2009 I was completely in the nonprofit sector, served as executive director of two nonprofits and director of IT of a third.
Unfortunately, when the 2008 economic crash hit, it took my career with it. For several years I had to retool, and managed restaurants in the Atlanta area. Recently I found my way back into my chosen career: I work in veterans outreach and public affairs for a law firm which represents disabled veterans. In my free time I write books, my blog, play with the kids, and generally try to make it through life doing as much good as possible.
Charles has generously offered a paperback copy of Just Remember to Breathe to a lucky commenter!
All you have to do is leave a comment/question for Charles OR tell us what was the last emotional/romantic novel or movie that made you tear up?
(You can read our full giveaway policy here)
Please be sure to include a valid email address in the comment form (need not be in the actual body of the comment).
This giveaway is open to all!
Giveaway ends on Saturday, 17 November 2012; we will announce the winner on Sunday.