Tawna Fenske e-interviewed by Martina Bexte (Aug 2011)
Athird-generation Oregonian, Tawna Fenske has been writing from a tender age. That love for writing carried over into adulthood when she earned an English literature degree, that took her from reporter to teaching English in South America, to technical writing, and then into marketing for various industries. The urge to write fiction, however, was always there. After a couple of tries, she sold her first book to Harlequin's Bombshell line of action-adventure novels in May 2005. Unfortunately, the line was cancelled only a month before her scheduled debut.
Tawna says that that particular day 'was also my birthday. And the day my cat died. Oh, and the same morning, my employer at the time informed me that they would terminate me the following week if I continued to disobey the company's hosiery requirement (I did. They didn't.)' As always, she found humour in the situation, and goes on to say that she's 'learned to channel that into my own brand of quirky romantic comedy.'
This month Tawna's first romantic comedy, Making Waves, hits the shelves. It introduces readers to Juli Flynn, in the Caribbean to spread her beloved uncle's ashes. She accidentally stumbles onto a boat captained by a quartet of corporate cast-offs. They're determined to recover what's rightfully theirs - even if that means committing high seas piracy. But once Juli throws her lot in with them things get more than a little wacky.
Q: Making Waves reminds me of those screwball comedies that Doris Day and Rock Hudson made famous back in the 60's - would that be a fair assessment or were there other influences that led you to the concept?
A: I suck at questions related to movies or TV because I really don't watch much of either. Sorry! I grew up in a family of total goofballs, so humour has always been a part of my life even if humorous movies weren't a major element. I will say my family is obsessed with Airplane and the National Lampoons Vacation movies, so that may be the closest thing I have to cinematic influences.
Q: Juli Flynn is a bit off the wall - she's got an off-the-charts IQ and breezes from job to job due to a short attention span, among others things. Did you base her character on anyone you know or is she a complete fabrication?
A: She's mostly a figment of my imagination, though I'll confess that the job-hopping element comes from my own life. I worked a lot of different jobs to fund my college education, and at one point I held five positions simultaneously – working in a bakery, washing dogs for a groomer, selling ads for a newspaper, delivering phone books, and selling fireworks at a roadside stand. You'll notice Juli from Making Waves lists a few of those positions on her résumé as well, in addition to marketing (which is what I've made my living doing for the better part of a decade now).
Q: Alex Bradshaw on the other hand, seems the only normal character on the boat - although now that I'm thinking about it, planning a modern day high seas heist isn't even close to normal, is it?
A: Nope, and that's what I love about Alex! He played by the rules his whole career, and did all the things he thought he was supposed to do to guarantee himself a good life and a successful retirement. When someone snatches that away from him, he goes a little nutty in a quest to regain his life, dignity, and financial security.
Q: Alex and Juli really steam up the pages - but it's mostly via their smart and sexy banter and their gift for innuendo and double entendres. Was this drawn out and very effective sexual tension something you planned or did Juli and Alex set that particular course all on their own?
A: I absolutely love innuendo and double entendres in my day-to-day life, and have to bite my tongue in board meetings or serious conversations when someone says something unintentionally filthy. Writing romantic comedy gives me the chance to let my mind go wild with that. I really enjoy reading and writing love scenes, but I've found they're a whole lot more titillating when things are drawn out as long as humanly possible (Um, male readers? Take note!)
Q: Juli puts an interesting twist on an ordinary game of Battleship - did you personally rehearse this scene before incorporating it into the plot?
A: A lady never tells! (So yes, of course.) The copy editor actually made a note on the manuscript that she had no way of checking the moves in that scene to know if it was representative of actual game play. Trust me, the scene has been well researched and documented.
Q: A couple of your secondary characters display a substantial quirk factor too: Take Cody for example, who almost steals the show. He's a 270-pound former NFL cross dresser who's also a gourmand chef. Where did he come from and more to the point, what's with his love affair with his spatula?
A: I love gourmet cooking myself, so Cody/Cookie was a lot of fun to write. I enjoy creating characters who don't fit the stereotype of what people think they should be like, and Cookie was certainly an example of that. He's big and brawny and not always the sharpest meatball in the pot, but has surprising moments where it seems he might be a lot more clever than you realize. He loves cooking and needlepoint and women's clothing, but you'll notice I never once made a reference to his sexual orientation. Several reviewers have referred to him as gay, but for the record, that's not how I pictured him in my mind. Cody's just different, which is something that can be said of almost every character in this book. I enjoy odd ducks, and this book has plenty of them!
Q: Your plate is already pretty full with your work in public relations and keeping up your long running blog, Don't Pet Me - I'm Writing. Now that you're also a romantic comedy novelist do you actually have time to sleep?
A: I've been very lucky to have such a strong readership at my own daily blog and over at The Debutante Ball, where I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of five authors to have her debut year chronicled through this popular group blog. I also do a lot of blogging for my day job doing marketing and public relations for my city's tourism bureau, so I've definitely spent more time blogging in recent months than I have writing anything that will eventually be sandwiched into a book. At the same time, those experiences have been invaluable. It was so rewarding having people tell me how much they looked forward to Making Waves after reading my blog for a year or more. It's also good for my mental health that I'm able to get out of the house three days a week and channel my mental energy into the day job – something that's not solely focused on my life as an author. It's all about balance, and I work hard every day to achieve that!
Q: Travelling also rates high on your to do list - what was your most memorable destination?
A: Every place I've been is memorable for one reason or another. I loved the caves of Slovenia, the crazy bus drivers in Mexico, the gorgeous snorkelling in Fiji, the scrumptious cuisine in Greece. I suppose you could say Australia was most memorable since it played a role in inspiring Making Waves, though portions of the book were also inspired by time I spent in Barbados and Jamaica. I'm always itching to travel, and welcome the donation of frequent flyer miles from anyone who might care to offer them up! Hey, it's worth a try.
Q: Suppose you could travel back in time - would you sign on as a member of a pirate crew? And no, you can't pick Captain Jack Sparrow!
A: Would I get to use phrases like poop deck, dinghy, coxswain, ditty bag, and come abreast on a regular basis? If so, sign me up!To learn more about Tawna Fenske and her romantic comedies, go to TawnaFenske.com, or check out her blog at TawnaFenske.blogspot.com.
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