Meet the Chapter Mates: R. Ann Siracusa

pose-2-288x288R. Ann Siracusais a long time member of RWASD with a passion for Rome, suspense, and romance. You can find more about her books at www.rannsiracusa.com

 

Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?
The short dull version: My name is R. Ann Siracusa and that’s the name I use when writing. You have to guess what the R stands for. I grew up in southern California (my father was a lawyer and a State Senator), I have a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and I’m retired from a 37-year career as an architect/land use planner (which makes me older than dirt). I’ve been married to the same man for 53 years, and we have three grown children and eight grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
The more interesting version. After graduating from Berkeley, I traveled to Rome to study at the University of Rome. After I found a pensione, I went looking for an American Bar I remembered. I was dying for a hamburger after a week in England.
The café I remembered is located on a major street that intersects with Piazza Della Republica. However, there are at least five streets intersecting that piazza. I planned sit down by the fountain in the center of the piazza to figure it out.
In those pre-air-conditioner-days, the Italians, seeking relief from the summer heat, sat around the rims of the fountains in the light fountain spray. When I got there and waited for a break in the traffic to cross the street, I noticed, sitting on the rim of the fountain, a good looking man who made me think of the Italian actor, Marcello Mastroianni
I didn’t delude myself that it was the actor, but still I skipped across the street and sat next to him. After a while, he started talking to me (heh, heh, heh). He spoke a little English, I spoke a few words in Italian from one semester in college. Despite the communication problem, I learned he was a Guardia of the Pubblica Sicurezza, a state policeman, who worked in the passport office. And when he invited me to dinner, I accepted. Oh, yeah.
We found other ways to communicate, as young people usually do. Things got very friendly on the steps of the Palazzo Della Civitá, but it was dark by then—thank goodness— and we were up a million steps from street level, under the arcade.
After that, I was smitten. A couple of months later, I had to look up the word fidanzata in my Italian-English dictionary to find out I was engaged, and in December we got married in a civil ceremony.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always liked to read and write stories but, unfortunately, I never considered writing as a career because I wanted to be an architect. In my job I did a lot of non-fiction professional writing, which satisfied me for about twenty years.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t follow up on my interest in fiction writing until I was in my forties. At that point I read a romance novel that everyone was raving about and said, “Oh, man. Even I can write better than this.” So I wrote a novel. That’s when I realized writing was my calling, and I’ve considered myself a writer ever since.
P.S. My novel wasn’t better, but my feet were on the path.
What does RWASD mean to you?
Joining RWA was one of the two smartest things I did when I realized I wanted to be a writer. The other was to join a good critique group with a professional writer as our mentor.
I’ve been with RWA since the mid-eighties, almost from the beginning. After I retired in 2000, I began to write seriously with the intention of publishing and joined the San Diego Chapter. The group has been for me a never-ending and positive source of support, encouragement, and learning. Without it, I’m sure I never would have been published. RWASD is an integral part of my family whom I love very much.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer?
Finding the time while working and raising a family to write in more than 10 minute segments.
From that I learned to always have something with me to work on (so waiting time isn’t wasted) and to write anywhere, including on a train with the old standard of pencil on notebook paper.
What attracted you to the genre you write? Why does it speak to you?
My genre, until now, has been romantic suspense, and I didn’t pick the genre so much as it picked me. My choice of reading material is eclectic, but I particularly enjoy complex plots and fact moving action stories. While is enjoy a good mooshy love story, am less attracted to novels that focus primarily on the development of the romance. Romantic suspense was the perfect answer.
My latest release is a murder mystery, as is the project I’m working on. I’m now into writing mysteries What I really love, and would like to write, is science fiction.
Where is the weirdest place or what is the weirdest thing that inspired an idea?
zipling-mexicoI can’t think of anything weird that has inspired me. Everything around us can inspire ideas. I listen to people’s stories and watch “incidents” that take place, particularly when I travel. Sometimes those things bring a story to mind all at once, other times I tuck it away until the right situation and/or characters come along.
This isn’t weird, but probably the most dangerous thing I’ve done was driving by myself from Messina, Sicily, to Palermo, over the Peloritani Mountains the other side of the Sicily and back. This was in the mid-eighties, and I’d gone to Sicily to do more research on my historical Mafia novel. I needed to figure out how long it would take my heroine had to drive the distance in the novel, and I wanted to see what the countryside looked like.
In retrospect, it wasn’t a very smart thing to do. If something had gone wrong, I didn’t speak Italian well enough to explain, I couldn’t have made a call from a pay phone (if there were any in the villages), etc. It wasn’t until I returned to Messina three days later that I realized how dangerous it might have been. As my father would have said, “Better luck than sense.”
Who’s a writer you would do backflips to meet and why?
Would that I could do a backflip!
There are many writers for whom I would flip if that were possible, but it would have to be Katie MacAlister, Janet Evanovich, Don Francis, or Issac Asimov. These writers have inspired me, particularly regarding how to structure and tell the story. Unfortunately, Francis and Asimov are deceased, and I’ve already met Janet E, so I guess it would be Katie..
If you could go back 20 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
Twenty years ago? Let’s see. It would probably be “Don’t write about heroines who ann-1962-auto-correctare professionals, car racers, architects, doctors, spies, etc.”

In those days (maybe about 30 years ago) all the romance books had to be about school teachers, Nanny’s, nurses, or young women who live with their parents and do nothing. I couldn’t relate to that and wanted to use more professional heroines. Not good.
Tell us about your latest novel!
My latest novel, The Last Weekend In October, is an amateur sleuth murder mystery that takes place in Los Angeles in 2004.
Psychiatrist Mark LeBonge arrives at the group home for convicted teenage sexual abusers, where his sister has worked the night shift…and finds her murdered. When police Lieutenant Art Krantz, primary on the case, ignores Mark’s suspicions about one of the boys in the half-way house, Mark enlists his sister’s roommate, Karen Mitchell, to help him identify the murderer
 Can you share a little of your current work with us? 
I always do research before I travel, and when I was planning my trip to Antarctica, I learned a lot about the continent and the scientific research stations there. Fascinating stuff!
And I thought,What would happen if someone was murdered at one of the stations in Antarctica when winter was closing in and the station is completely isolated?
In this excerpt, Essi (the protagonist) is out on the ice shelf on a snow quad and is being stalked by someone who previously took a shot at him with a rifle. He is trying to distract the stalker so he/she won’t find the heroine who has in her possession critical evidence about the murder.

With the vehicle at full throttle, Essi kept one eye on the ice in front of him and one on his pursuer who was gaining on him from behind. Where the hell are my tracks? He’d lost sight of the marks his quad had left in the ice. He glanced around, frantically trying to find them. When he looked ahead…
A fissure!
“Shit!”
Essi flung himself off the vehicle as it sailed across the ice and plunged into the open maw of the chasm. He followed it a second or two later, heart slamming against his ribcage.
The vehicle tumbled end-over-end into the fissure and smashed into the ice. The sound of it hitting the walls and the parts shattering rang in his ears for what seemed a long time but was only seconds.
He landed hard on the ice, momentum rolling him over the edge immediately behind the vehicle disappearing into oblivion. Frantically, he dug his gloved fingers into the snow which broke away under pressure, leaving only solid ice.
Sliding downward, he found the walls of the chasm were not vertical but sloped sharply, disfigured with a web of ledges and rough projections of ice. Gasping for air, he dug in his boots trying to find purchase. His descent slowed but he couldn’t get a firm grip on anything to halt the thrust.
What a stupid way to die!

Before you go, any advice to give to the new writers out there?
In general, my advice to aspiring authors: Run away from home!
Actually, that’s the best piece of advice I can give. Since that may not be possible, here are some practical ideas which nearly every author advocates in one form or another.
▪ Start today. Never think you’re too old or too young. Don’t put it off. The “right time” never comes.
▪ Set aside the time to write, and stick with it, in spite of your family
▪ Learn the craft of writing – Know the rules; when you break them, do it on purpose.
▪ Learn to take criticism – It’s no fun, but to learn you have to hear the bad news along with the good. But learn the difference between useful and hurtful criticism.
▪ Be persistent and never get discouraged
▪ Read, Read, Read – Write, Write, Write
▪ Be cautious who you take advice from
▪ Finish the damn book and send it out.

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