Okay. Rene and I don’t write exactly the same genre. She’s sassy comic romance where I’m trying to be strictly sweet. Trying. She’s flirty with the lines–steamy in places–where I’m firmly drawing some. For a change. Bedroom doors weren’t always shut in my earlier writing ventures, but life brings many changes. Although I could be fooling myself entirely. Done that before. But good buddies, who should always be supported, are there for the reality check.
And Rene SO gets me. I hope I get her, too. I sure dig her snappy chick-lit vibe and the easy comedy that makes reading her a joy. A believing, practicing Christian, Rene lends a touch of worldly realism to her tales. But in the pursuit of happily-ever-after, her heroes and heroines always try to do the right thing. Tricky business in this maze called life. So while we’re not boxed-set-sisters, Rene and I are absolutely connected where it counts. In spirit. A spirit I’ve come to rely on and feel compelled to share if only to offer my readers encouragement, self-empowerment, and an example of how we all benefit from supporting one other even if our voices aren’t exactly the same.
What moves you to write, Rene, and what ‘all’ do you write? (Interviews are the perfect time to dig for deets! LoL!)
I write fiction, specifically romance, mainly because I love reading it. I get my kicks from writing romantic comedy. I love the humor, the snarky comebacks, and the hilarious situations and interactions. Life can be very serious and full of challenges. Writing and reading rom-com is like a great escape. (No wonder we click!)
I also dabble in screenwriting, because I enjoy writing dialogue. I co-wrote an indie web-series in 2006 and wrote another web-series in 2009. Working in another genre can be a refreshing change that re-energizes the fiction-writing process. (Absolutely true. I hope we can hear more when you come back. You ARE coming back ;^)
Are you a panster or a plotter, Rene? And why? (What does method bring to your stories?)
I’m a plotter who likes to veer off into pantser-ville. (YES! YES! YES! I’m not alone!) I don’t want to be so rigid with my outline that I ignore my characters’ instincts. With each story I plot, the characters usually lead me in a new direction as I’m writing Act 3. I follow their lead, and the new direction is a nice surprise for me.
I use the Romancing the Beats to make sure that I hit the right notes and expectations for my romance readers. And I rely on The Emotion Thesaurus to enrich my language. (Those two sources are very helpful in my creative process, too. Hmmm. Looks like we’re sharing some DNA here despite divergent spice levels.)
What’s your favorite movie/music? Do you find inspiration in film/music for your writing?
Movies are very important for me since I write romantic comedies. I want my readers to feel like they’re watching my stories unfold like a movie. So for every story, I choose a movie for inspiration.
For my book Fake It Til She Makes It, it was The Devil Wears Prada X and My Best Friend’s Wedding. For Santa Bring Me a Ryan, I was inspired by Meet the Parents.
What’s at the bottom of your craft bag? (This is often more telling than a junk drawer!)
I like to make my own jewelry, especially earrings and necklaces. And I have a small 8” x 11” multimedia notebook where I use watercolor painting, crayons, and color pencils. I’m not a good artist at all, (doubt that) but I love creating something that takes 30 – 45 minutes. A quick sense of achievement and gratification is important while working on writing projects that take months or years to complete. (I use vintage pattern crochet bookmarks for this pop of Serotonin. Accomplishment–its where its at!)
Do you find family to be a support, a distraction, or an integral element of your writer’s life?
I’m lucky that husband and parents are extremely supportive. Without my husband, I wouldn’t be able to pursue this writing journey full-time. Some people I know, I thought they wouldn’t read my work—or that they’d look down on the fact that I write romance. But they’ve been a big part of my support system, leaving reviews, spreading the word, and encouraging me to keep writing. (You’re truly blessed, Rene. Thumbs up on that score all the way!)
Do you prefer city or country living? Does this impact the settings of your stories?
I used to prefer city living, big-time. But that’s changed over the last seven or eight years. Now, I prefer the ‘burbs! But my stories are usually set in an urban environment, because that’s how I spent my 20s and early 30s. My holiday novel, Santa Bring Me a Ryan, is mostly set in Montana, because I wanted to capture that kind of cold, scenic setting. I have a personal connection with Missoula, and immediately knew this story needed to be set there.
What’s on the horizon for you? Books? Projects? Whatever?
My next book is called The Celebrity Look-Alike. It’s about a small-town girl who gets the role of her life to become a movie star girlfriend’s look-alike. My goal is to publish it in February/March. (Insider’s tip: This is a fabulous project. An absolute must read when it hits the cyber-shelves.)
Do you indie-publish or traditionally publish?
I indie-publish, and it has been challenging and gratifying. I like being able to make all of the decisions and having carte blanche on the creative process. But it’s hard when you’re a one-woman show. There are a lot of balls to keep in the air, and I feel like I can’t always juggle them. A virtual assistant is an option that I may consider in the future.
What challenges have you faced?
Ads are a hard nut to crack: How many to run? How often? And for how long? And staying on top of social media is tough, too. It’s hard to balance hey-this-thing-I-saw-was-cool posts with me-me-me posts and buy-my-book posts. I’m still working on the right formula. On my to do list: looking into a social marketing tool like Buffer or HootSuite so I can schedule posts. (Later is also good. I’m trying to get to that–but later seems to be all I can manage. LoL!!)
Now for some soul searching. How should a writer define his or her success, Rene?
I think the measure for success varies for each writer. For some, success may be the act of publishing a book on Amazon–of simply getting a book written and “out there”–and the amount of sales may not be a concern. For others, finding an agent and getting traditionally published is the measure for success. And for indie authors, success may be getting on a bestsellers list like Amazon or generating a certain amount of sales or revenue per month. For each writer, establishing a definition for success is key, especially one that is measurable. It provides a goal, which turns into a game plan, and keeps you moving forward. We just can’t be discouraged if we miss our mark. Being flexible and gentle on ourselves is important–we can’t forget that writing is supposed to be fun! (And if you wonder why I’m keen on passing on the wisdom and wit of Rene Penn, there you have it. THE answer!)
Now for grins and giggles. What’s your favorite animal?
I love dogs, but I’m allergic to most. As a child, I was scared of them. Now, I try to pet all of the dogs in the neighborhood! (I try petting the squirrels. LoL. But getting to know the furry ones is fun, no? I hope your allergies go away.)
What would you do if you won the lotto?
I’d be selfish at first. (Three cheers for honesty!) I’d want to buy a house—my husband and I are house-hunting now since our big move to southern California recently. (Prayers for Rene here. House-hunting–especially after a cross country move is daunting. We need some prayer warriors to engage God’s grace and plead mercy for this darling couple.) I’d also want to help family members with mortgages. Then, it would be nice to start creative writing scholarships at colleges and make large donations to writing centers, YMCAs, rescue animal centers, and cancer treatment centers. (YES! YES! YES!!)
Well, we’re at the end of this interview, people, but the yesses absolutely have it. Thank you Renee. You’re the bomb. A shot of joy and humor fans of rom-com and down-to-earth realists can’t afford to miss. (I’m missing you already since you moved to California. Sniff, sniff.) If you’d like to learn more about my soul sister, here goes:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Rene-Penn/e/B07V3P7J61/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Feel free to follow us both. Write us. Comment. Tell us WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO READ. We’d be tickled if you did whether you’re a reader, writer, or both. Interested parties of any persuasion are always welcome as information and a communicated exchange of ideas is where its at.
4 thoughts on “Sit-down with Rene Penn; dear friend, soul sister, and a hilariously good writer!”
Ann, I love your blog. You’ve done an excellent job and I’m so tempted to copy your format. (just kidding.) Thanks for letting us get to know Rene. Happy new year.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Oh, June, you make me blush. I’m glad you like the blog. I’m a real study in OJT (On the Job Training.) Although I’m glad my parents didn’t toss me into the pool to teach me to swim. We would not be having this convo. Please, pass the word on about Rene. She’s a great gal and SO talented much like another author friend I know ;^)
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ann, my soul sister and dear friend, thanks for interviewing me for your blog! It’s an honor!
LikeLiked by 1 person
The pleasure is mine, Sis. Truly. I MISS YOU!
But, hey, you being on the opposite coast means we’ll have to meet up here online. And maybe on a video blog??? Lunch with friends could take on a whole new meaning.
What say you readers? Comic puns? Witty repartee? The potential for live-action bloopers? 2020 is going to be the BEST!
LikeLiked by 1 person