Please help me welcome today’s guest, Cindy Procter-King. So happy to have you today, Cindy. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
- Where did you get the idea for Picture Imperfect?
The idea for PICTURE IMPERFECT kind of sprang itself on me and then took a long time to develop. The heroine, Ursula Scott, and her basic situation (she was photographing a series of men in her underwear and wasn’t happy about it) along with the opening line (If Ursula Scott had to look at one more naked man, she’d scream) popped into my mind while I was considering what sort of book I might write about a woman disgruntled with her boss? This was long ago, before ChickLit fell “out of favor,” because at first I thought Ursula’s story was a ChickLit one. But I was contracted to write something else at the time, so I put the idea germ away and would bring it out from time to time and work on it some more. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t a ChickLit story at all, but a romantic comedy/mystery with suspense elements. The title went through a few incarnations as I grew to know the characters, beginning as UNDRESSING URSULA, then moving to SEX, PIs & PACKING TAPE, and finally PICTURE IMPERFECT, which makes total sense considering Ursula is a photographer and that at the beginning of the story something indefinable in her life just isn’t right. 🙂
I call the story a “Sassy Suspense,” because the suspense and mystery elements are fully braided with the characterization, romance, the family and friends dynamics, and the secondary characters arcs, and the story includes some pretty gritty incidents in both back story and current story time but with a humorous tone. I realized that the original title, UNDRESSING URSULA, which was meant to convey the character’s self-realization as she moved through the story, getting to know what she really wanted in a sort of peeling away or “undressing,” actually applied to the unfolding mystery and suspense elements as well as to Ursula’s rapidly developing relationship with her hero, Gabe McKenzie. So the title evolved along with the story.
- Sounds intriguing. My stories often undergo title changes as well. Are there any tricks or habits you use when creating a story?
I am pretty much a linear writer. I am mainly a pantser, but I plot as I go. I can only “see” a little of the plot at a time, so I try to think of how I work my way through my books as carving a tunnel out of a mountain. I need to “see” around one curve before I realize where the next curve is. For me, each scene or chapter grows organically from the previous one, so I do tend to fast-draft one scene and then revise and edit it before moving on to the next. However, with PICTURE IMPERFECT I decided to try something else, so committed myself to writing whatever scenes I could “see,” no matter where they fell in the book, during NaNoWriMo one year. It was a lot of fun, but in the end I had a beginning, what I thought might be my ending, but not a whole lot in the middle. And it took me a looong time to develop the middle. A lot of revisions and one monstrous rewrite.
Part of this was because I don’t usually write scenes out of order, and my muse seemed to stage a revolt against the idea. It was very aggravating, LOL. Because I wrote out of order, I pretty much knew the ending and thought I knew the villain. But my muse wasn’t happy with knowing the ending already, I guess, because as I rewrote the book she kept trying to change the villain. And I went along with her, but in the end the villain was the person I had envisioned in the beginning.
That sounds more like a struggle than a trick or habit. 😉 But every book I write feels like a struggle when I’m getting down the “first write,” which some authors might call a first draft, but because I revise as I go I call it a “first write.” I have had to really teach myself to accept my process, to literally tell myself to “have faith” and trust my muse. It’s like the story is buried in my head, and I can at times “feel” that my mind is working on it—but I don’t know the resulting scene yet. Sometimes I tell myself to “just sit down and see what I can do,” trying to alleviate the pressure of producing (because of course it seems like every other writer “knows” their scenes before they write them!). I tend more to hear and feel my characters than see them, so writing for me is a little like acting. I try to “channel” the characters until I can hear what they’re saying and feel their emotions. Then I “become” them. This is how I can write a complete asshat of a character and enjoy myself immensely. He thinks he’s the hero of the story, so why wouldn’t he be fun to write?
- Yes, we all have different processes that work for us. We just have to do what we do and trust the process. 🙂 What do you love that most people don’t like and wouldn’t understand why you do?
Lemons. When I was in Girl Guides in grade 5, I lost a game and had to suck a lemon. I was terrified because I had heard all my life how everyone hates lemons, the phrase “sour like a lemon,” etc. But, you know, it wasn’t bad! I have loved lemons ever since. I don’t eat them like fruit (except when I was pregnant with my second son, when I craved them), but I drench fish with lemon and then eat the rest (except for the skin).
- I love lemon too, especially in water. It just makes a huge difference. And Martini Drops are my current favorite Martinis. 🙂 What’s the main thing that you could get rid of in your life that would give you more writing time?
Well, right now I can’t afford it, but if I could…to hire a housecleaner and a meal planner. Someone who would not only plan all the meals but also shop for and prepare them to the point where I could just add a dab here and then and it would taste super fresh. I don’t mind housework; it’s just a matter of lack of time. But I strongly dislike cooking. I would rather someone else cook and I clean up. Sadly, neither my husband and I are cooks. I’m not a bad cook. I’m actually a pretty decent cook. I just don’t enjoy it. And I forget when I’m cooking to check on stuff. So now when I have something on my stove and get bored, I bring my iPad into the kitchen with me and sit down right in front of the stove so I won’t forget I’m cooking. Otherwise, I burn stuff. We had a cartoon on the fridge for years that said, “If there’s smoke, dinner’s ready.”
It would also be nice to be able to afford an assistant to handle promotional and bookkeeping chores. But that’s on the “someday maybe” list. I do like having a finger in every pie, keeping on top of things myself. But it cuts into my writing time, and I hate bookkeeping with a passion. It’s a constant struggle between being a control freak/what I can’t afford to farm out/the damn cooking!
- Oh gosh, wouldn’t that be fantastic! Some day… What do you want readers to come away with after they read PICTURE IMPERFECT?
First and foremost, I want to entertain my readers. I want them to smile and perhaps chuckle as they read my stories, because I smile and chuckle as I write them. But I also want my readers to feel what my characters are going through, to feel the love story developing, to know that these two people, my characters, are meant to be together. I want readers to think about the characters after they finish the story, to wish there was a sequel, to want to know more about the world or the relationships. I want them satisfied with the story, but wanting more from me as an author, whether I’m writing sassy suspense, romantic comedy, or my heartwarming hometown romances.
- What genre have you never written that you’d like to write?
So many genres, so little time! So far, under two names, I have written contemporary romance, romantic comedy and now sassy suspense as Cindy and then erotic romance and romantic erotica under a pen name. As Cindy, now that I actually know I can write mystery/suspense (which I discovered while writing PICTURE IMPERFECT), I would like to write more in that arena. The big challenge is that I’m a slow writer and if I keep writing long books (PI is over 130,000 words) I could maybe write one book a year. I don’t know if that slow pace can work in Indie publishing. For now I’m waiting it out and working on multiple series that I’ve already started.
I have a bad habit (which I am currently attempting to address) of writing one or two books in a series and then moving on even though I know the current publishing climate favors series. So I would LIKE to and I AM now working on established series until I have at least three books or stories in a series before I allow myself to get pulled somewhere else. Like…I have an idea for a cozy mystery series with a quirky heroine and her sidekick, but it would be really, really bad of me to start that cozy mystery series without continuing on with my “established” series first. Very bad.
So very bad.
- Ha, I do the same thing. I have three or more books that desperately need sequels! Your most prized material possession? Why?
My oak roll-top desk. My husband gave it to me for our first anniversary. Instead of buying me something “paper,” he got me something to “put paper on.” I love my roll-top desk! We’ve been married 31 years, so the desk is now 30 years old—and so is the chair. The chair has barely worked for years, but I won’t give it up. It wobbles as I sit on it. I have two desks in my office, a computer desk with my desktop computer and then the roll-top desk. I draft and do business stuff at the computer. The roll-top desk is for revising on paper (I can’t really get to know my characters on the computer; the magic happens on paper with a pen or pencil in hand), planning my days, and organizing my life (I am the family financier/household manager). I love all the little compartments. It’s like a reflection of my brain, both cluttered and organized at once. It reflects my writing process—messy yet organized. And it reflects my husband’s love for me and continued support of my writing endeavors, which I cherish.
OH wow, what a perfect answer to the final question. LOVE this! And, speaking of perfect, er, well, imperfect, tell us about your latest release…
Just when she thought she had her life on autofocus…
Photographer Ursula Scott is six short months from buying her boss’s studio and helping her family knock down a massive debt. She can put up with his hairball antics for that long, right?
But, oh, he makes life difficult. She can barely restrain herself when he hogs credit for her assignments, and now half-naked weirdos are responding to his ad for her first magazine photo spread. On top of that, someone is sabotaging the studio. Worse, she discovers her sexy apprentice is a former cop practicing his newbie PI skills on the case—and she’s a suspect!
Suddenly, Ursula’s dreams and hard work seem about to go up in smoke. In more ways than one.
Well, not on her watch.
When Gabe McKenzie moves home following the shooting that kyboshed his career, he doesn’t expect to get sucked into finding the culprit wreaking havoc at his uncle’s photography studio. He certainly doesn’t expect to fall for Ursula Scott, a long-legged brunette with a definite motive and a desire to play Nancy Drew. Even as he clears her, the sabotage escalates into a bizarre stalking, placing Ursula…and Gabe’s hopes for their future…in danger.
If only he can convince her to stop snooping around and let him do his job as a PI, before an unknown menace threatens not only her dreams—but her life.
Ursula placed an order with the food vendor. As the man set down two steaming cups of apple cider with cinnamon sticks for stirring, she caught sight of Gabe wandering toward the cart, tucking his phone into his coat.
He picked up the cups. “Smells good. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. I hope you like hot cider. It’s locally made.”
“Any warm beverage on a fall day is ideal.”
Nodding, Ursula gazed at the gray clouds obliterating the earlier patches of blue sky. “Looks like rain’s coming.”
Gabe pointed to the hood hanging down the back of his jacket. “I have an instant umbrella this time.”
“I noticed. See, you can learn.”
“You’re a good role model.”
Another compliment. A girl could grow accustomed to his gallantry.
She collected the bag of warm, soft pretzels and, side by side, they strolled in companionable silence to the slatted bench. Gabe’s limp had improved since he’d walloped Lance, thank goodness.
They sat, Gabe on her right, his hurt leg extended in front of him, heel balanced on the grass. Preschoolers played on a jungle gym while moms and nannies chatted and supervised. A couple of seagulls squawked at the base of a trashcan.
“Here you go.” Gabe passed her a hot cup of cider.
She set down the drink with a quick thanks before opening the vendor bag. She’d ordered two varieties of homemade pretzels, and the contrasting scents of cinnamon-sugared dough and spicy mustard glaze drifted from the sack. Her mouth watered.
“What did your physical therapist say?” she asked Gabe.
“Like I figured, I’m to ice the muscle tonight and take ibuprofen. I just saw her yesterday. Because I was so touched by your concern, she’s also fitting me in late this afternoon.”
He was only teasing, but butterflies scattered inside her tummy. “That’s a relief. I’m glad you checked.”
His shoulder bumped hers. “Anything for you, boss.”
Tingles shot everywhere. He was so sexy. So incredibly tempting.
Cindy Procter-King writes sassy suspense, rollicking romantic comedy, and heart-tugging small-town romance. To sum it up, feel-good fiction! A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart finalist, Cindy’s mission in life is to see her surname spelled properly—with an E. That’s P-r-o-c-t-E-r. Never, under any circumstances, should you spell it with two O’s (shudder).
Cindy’s novels and short fiction are available as eBooks from retailers all over the world, as well as in trade paperback, library hardcover and large print, some foreign editions, and audiobooks.
Cindy lives in beautiful British Columbia with her family, a cat obsessed with dripping tap water, and Allie McBeagle.
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