Alexandra Vonn Interview conducted by Lucille Perkins Robinson
LPR: Thank you, Ms. Vonn, for agreeing to this interview. Will you tell us a little about yourself. What made you decide to become a writer?
AV: First, let me say, this is my absolute pleasure. Thanks for thinking of me!
Now onto your question…I’ve always loved to write, ever since I was a kid writing elementary school poems. I remember sending one to “Highlight” magazine for kids, and was rejected. It was a standard rejection letter, but some smart-aleck wrote on the back, “Take my advice, give up writing.” I was only eight years old! I cried and cried, but I also determined then and there that I would never give up writing!
LPR: What writings or stories have you had published? Where could the readers get copies of these?
AV: In 1997, which seems so long ago, I was fortunate enough to have a novel published by Scribner; it’s called “Caught in a Rundown.” It’s a light-hearted mystery romp about two baseball wives who go on a wacky adventure. You can still buy copies of it through Amazon.com. I think I saw someone selling it for $1.61. So it’s a bargain! And I should add that “Caught” was written under my real name Lisa Saxton.
LPR: Let’s talk about your book Something Better. Tell us a little of the story.
AV: Something Better is what I would call a very simple, old-school romance along the lines of your standard Harlequin. It’s a story about Kendra Hunter, a young woman who was accustomed to drifting through life in a very disconnected, irresponsible manner. However, she comes to a crossroads when she loses guardianship of her deceased sister’s children—thanks to the ruthless tactics of attorney Vaughn Hill. Kendra is not only forced to take a hard look at her life but also, against all odds, the seemingly hard-hearted lawyer himself. Then, when everything seems its most bleak, Kendra’s luck begins to change due to a kindly judge and her sister’s last, mysterious message to her, which may point to hidden riches.
LPR: I like Kendra Hunter, the heroine. She’s a more today type of woman and more realistic than the mega-executive types we’ve been constantly inundated with. Describe Kendra and tell us a little about her and how you created her.
AV: I like to write realistic characters. Sometimes their situations may be a bit of a stretch, but I find it easier to write from a place of comfort—in other words, I prefer to portray everyday people like myself. Some of my heroines might have more money than me, some less, but I find it hard to write the extremes. Being a longtime fan of romance, I am always drawn to Cinderella-type stories. I see Kendra in that role. She is down on her luck and is aided by what appears to be a fairy godmother and a prince charming. When I think about it, it sounds corny, but, to me, it’s very romantic.
As I was writing Kendra, my heart went out to her; she struggles with a sometimes debilitating disease, but she tries hard to not let it stop her. She’s just a little off center, but a very kind and loving person. And she’s got a lot of spunk. I like heroines with spunk! LPR: I find your portrayal of each child in Something Better to be so realistic when compared to reading stories where the child is ready for grade school at age four. Were Michael and/or Maya copies of people you know? How did you decide to use two children just like these for your story?
AV: I love writing youthful characters. I don’t have any children of my own, but I’ve been around them enough to know what they think, how they talk and when they’re being a tad precocious. I wanted to make Michael Jr. and Maya lovable and loving, because I didn’t want Kendra to have to deal with brats as well as the rest of her struggles. But, generally, I write about likeable children.LPR: Your hero, Vaughn Hill, is a lawyer. His description defies what people have been led to believe lawyers are really like. For instance, he’s kind and generous whereas we’ve been led to believe that lawyers are just out for what they can get out of their clients. Describe what makes up this man.
AV: Vaughn is an interesting character to me. I don’t think his story has been completely told. He’s highly intelligent, secretly compassionate and very complicated. He is driven to success, not to be the best or most ruthless lawyer, but to win his parents’ approval. He’s not comfortable with people getting too close to him emotionally, which is why he found himself trying to push Kendra away, when he really was completely falling for her. I’ve toyed with the idea of a sequel to Something Better to explore Vaughn Hill and his relationship with his family and how that family would react to Kendra and the children.
LPR: We’ve heard a brief description of Something Better and how you came to choose your characters. Consider the novice writer and tell us a little about your writing processes. Do you follow a set schedule? How do you make writing mix with your daily living?
AV: Usually, my stories come to me in a burst of inspiration. There can be long dry spells, but when it comes, it feels like I have to tell this story. I have to write! And, generally, once I start a book, I don’t stop until it’s complete. So it’s a very focused, continuous process with little or no breaks until the story is finished. Of course, I have a full-time real job, so I have to write in the evenings, weekends…and now that I’m getting older and needing far less sleep…sometimes early in the morning. When I’m working on a story, it’s rare for me to go even two days without writing at least something. I try to write or edit at least once a day.
LPR: Do you outline or just write as it comes to you? About how many times do you rewrite a story before deciding it’s ready to go to the publisher? Do you have people who will read your story and help find the problems involving spelling, grammar, and so forth?
AV: I definitely have to work with an outline, because I can write faster if I know where the story is going. I edit and edit, until I think it’s as good as it’s going to get. And, generally, I have my mom and friends who love to read, preview and critique my books…I’m not sure this is such a good idea, however, because they always love everything! (smile). I’ll send my stories to agents and editors when I feel it’s at least a little better than the worst bestseller on the shelf (smile).
LPR: Do you ever face writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it? Do you ever indulge in those little, timed 10 minute writings that are called warm up exercises?
AV: I do indeed suffer from writer’s block. That’s why when an idea comes to me I run with it! Usually, I break out of “the block” by brainstorming other story ideas. Eventually, I will come up with something that motivates me.
LPR: Do you write ‘to the market’ or write the story you want to hoping to find a market after the work is done?
AV: A little of both. I definitely write stories that I want to read. Now whether anyone else is interested always remains to be seen. Earlier you mentioned how my romance differs from what’s currently out there. That’s because the romances I write are what I would want to read. I’m not crazy about all the perfect people romances. Finding true romance with a handsome, kind and generally affluent man is fantasy enough for me. But the bottom line is I’m definitely trying to write a commercially successful novel. And I often fantasize about making a living as a novelist.
LPR: What made you decide to self-publish Something Better?
AV: I had two stories with Harlequin editors for almost a year. They kept stringing me a long…until they finally sent me a rejection letter. But, from what they said about the two books (it was one sentence for each book), I could tell they never read a word of them and were just trying to clear off their desks. So I got mad and said, “I’ll do it myself!” I saw that an eBook was nothing more than a PDF file. I had the software….I had the books…and I had the nerve!LPR: Do you have another book on the way? If so, will you give us a hint as to what the story is about?
AV: Actually, I have four other romances on my website www.alexandravonn.com. I have a very funny comedic mystery about a young woman who gets involved with three mischievous elderly sisters and I’m just beginning to formulate what I hope will be that commercial bestseller (smile). All I can tell you is that it’ll be a comedy/action/mystery about a wealthy old man who recruits “new grown children,” when his own prove to be a disappointment. Of course, the new recruits are not exactly the cream of the crop either.LPR: Suppose you taught a writing class. How about giving our newbie writers a couple of story starters? Don’t have to be much.
AV: Embarrassing doesn’t begin to describe how Jackie felt being fingerprinted and booked wearing her old high school cheerleading outfit—which, by the way, was at least three sizes too small and three decades out of style.
LPR: Thank you so much, Alexandra Vonn, for talking with us and we wish you success with your writing.