Hi Rida, and welcome. I am so glad you could join us here at RomanceJunkies.
To start, will you please tell us a little bit about your current projects?
Hi Brooke! Thanks for having me. I’m very excited about this interview as the questions are, for the most part, not ones I have answered before!
At the moment, I have two books released and one that was just accepted for publishing. The first book, GREAT LOVE, was really my entry into the publishing market and I continue to get great feedback on it from both the romance industry and the plus-size/full-figured industry. GREAT LOVE was really a book about living as a full-figured woman and I’m considering a sequel that follows my heroine into the next stages of her life. Many people have requested just such a sequel! My second book, THE LEGACY TREE, was my entry into pure contemporary romance which just happens to feature a full-figured heroine. It is also the first in a series of five connected books where characters reappear and siblings lead us along their lives. My newest release, TRUTH AND LIES, is the second in that series and I’m very excited to see it in print!
I was fascinated to learn that you write the “original” way: with pen and paper. This is so cool, especially since you are a computer guru. Is there a particular reason you choose this method over a keyboard?
I’d like to say that there is some extraordinary reason for writing with pen and paper but really it is a comfort thing. Even though I grew up surrounded by computers (my older brother, school, etc.), I just love the feel of a pen in my hand and the old-fashioned lined notebook paper under my fingers. It also makes writing very easy… I can write anywhere as long as I have pen and paper and it’s still lighter than a laptop! Another factor that has come into play is that I spend a lot of time staring at a monitor (previously for my computer career and currently for marketing, publicizing, research and editing), which is not necessarily good for your eyes, so writing with pen and paper is definitely a break on a pair of eyes that are starting to show their age.
Do you edit your manuscript as you write it, or write the entire story and then edit?
A little from column ‘A’, a little from column ‘B’… Actually, for the most part my first draft is all on paper, then as I begin typing the story into the computer, I begin my edit phase. However, my editing does not stop there… I continue to edit from a printed copy of the book, both as I’m still writing it and after I’ve completed it. Once the book has been completed and has had one solid post-completion edit, I put it away and don’t even look at it for several weeks. I know this sounds odd, but I was always taught that putting written work aside and coming back to it at a later date gives you a fresh eye. I would like to say at that point I give the book its final edit, but like many authors you hear from, I never feel like I’m done editing it. I will edit until the hour I send the book off for publishing. Most of the last minute editing may only be typographical errors I may have missed previously, and occasionally I might make a change of word choice, but it’s seldom that I change anything major at that late an hour.
Your writing trademark, so to speak, is having curvy, voluptuous heroines. Personally, I think this is wonderful. Why do you suppose, though, there is a resistance in the publishing world to feature more larger-figured heroines?
The romance writing industry, like the fashion industry, is an old one and has made its life inside a tiny box of fairly formulated plotlines and storylines. When you have the kind of continued success that the romance novel industry has, it’s difficult to break out of the box and risk losing longtime customers/readers. I think that is the major concern of the romance novel industry, though I can’t be sure. I know when I went to publish GREAT LOVE, I kept running into these submission guidelines that were extremely strict. You had to follow this formula, that most of their books had followed for years, and if you stepped outside that formula in any way, the publishing house was not interested. However, as the fashion industry is beginning to realize, there are a lot of women who don’t fit into those standards or within those guidelines… and those women are beginning to speak up. I hope I am one of those women and I’ll continue to pursue my writing career with my trademark voluptuous heroines. Having always been “curvy”, I write what I know best.
You are obviously a dog lover. How many dogs do you have, and of course, what kind are they and what are their names?
My goodness, how did you guess I was a dog lover! I mean, am I that obvious?! No, seriously, we have always had dogs in our family and I just love them. They give you unconditional love and bring you so much joy when you see them. They’re always happy to see you, they love you even when you’re cranky and they don’t snitch on you when you just have to eat that whole pint of ice cream after a bad day.
At the moment, my husband and I have only one dog, but as soon as we’re able, we’re going to adopt more. Our current sweetheart is a mixed Bernese Mountain Dog and Collie… she has lovely long black fur interspersed with white and brown on her face, around her neck, legs and feet. She looks like a skinnier version of a Bernese. She’s almost four years old and we adopted her about six months ago. Her favorite playmate is my parents’ Yellow Lab, Brandi, who still thinks she is more a person than she is a dog. My brother and sister-in-law have two dogs and if we could talk her into it, so would my 89-year-old grandmother! One of my uncles is a vet, his family has several dogs as does my other uncle’s family. I think it might be genetic!
Are any of your dogs portrayed as Peanut and Jasmine, the two dogs in THE LEGACY TREE?
Peanut is loosely based on my parents’ Yellow Labrador Retriever. She is incredibly ball-obsessed and would play until someone passed out, most likely you. She fetches anything but loves the tennis ball and will play soccer with a full-size soccer ball for as long as you let her. She uses her nose and her front legs to move the ball around… she even rears up on her back legs to catch the ball in the air with her front legs! It’s amazing. Jasmine is not based on any individual dog. I just love Labrador puppies and find them to be almost irresistible.
You have a real life romance story going with your husband. Can you tell us a bit about how you met him over the ‘net? Did you know pretty early on that he was “the one”?
Uh oh, the last time I talked about my husband, the reporter for a local paper called him my real life hero and he has yet to hear the end of it! But I did meet my husband online, though at the time it was before the internet was really popular with the public. We were using what was called BBS systems… bulletin board systems… run out of an individual’s home on a PC connected to a modem. You would dial a telephone number through a software program, connect to this computer and then leave messages for other people. For the most part, you had an online ‘persona’, and you could be whomever you wanted, which was why I liked the message boards. No one ever saw you, they only knew you by your words, your wit and your humor… or lack thereof. You became an online family as some people became the parental figures and others became sibling-like. On some occasions, you ended up meeting people, through these message boards, who set you off for one reason or another. With my husband, we formed an immediately hate-hate relationship. I picked on him because he was an easy mark… he was a young, angry man and he tried desperately to ignore my aggressive flirting (my persona was the aggressive flirt/bitch). I continued to pursue him verbally and the other people on the message board were sure that we were either really married (in real life) or we were eternal enemies because we fought like an old married couple. Well, now we’re an old married couple. But we ended up branching out from that message board to an online service called Prodigy (for you old-timers) that was similar to what America Online is now. I’m not going to go into the long details of our story, but maybe someday I’ll post it on my website. It’s a fun story and I even saved a lot of the messages we sent back and forth. I didn’t know at the time that he was “the one”, but I knew I looked forward to each and every message. It wasn’t until after we’d met in person (several months after we’d ‘met’ online), that I realized what a truly wonderful person he was. I won’t say any more because I wouldn’t want to embarrass my sweetie… (he he he)
Since both you and your husband are writers, what is a typical workday like? Do you share your current works with each other; bounce ideas off each other for new projects?
My husband is still in the computer industry but he writes in his off-time. We work on very different kinds of projects and I try very hard to be a sounding board for him, but I don’t always grasp what he writes about. He writes for the gaming industry which is not really my area of expertise. I think he has a similar feeling about my writing… he tries to be available but he doesn’t quite grasp the romance novel industry.
As for a typical workday for me, it varies depending on whether I’m knee-deep in a book or whether I’m marketing and publicizing a new release. If I’m writing, which would constitute a fun workday for me, it goes something like this:
Wake up around 10 or 11am (you’ll see why).
Shower, get dressed, take care of/or play with doggie, check email and websites I frequent.
Take care of and/or play with doggie. (tough day, eh?)
Check email again, research. (i.e. waste time on the computer)
Around 2 or 3pm, creative juices start flowing so I sit down somewhere with my pen and paper and start writing.
Around 4ish hubby comes home and depending on how much of a writing groove I’m in, we might talk or we might not.
Stop for dinner around 6ish.
Go back to writing.
Around 10 or 11ish, say good night to hubby (as he gets up early for work).
Go back to writing.
Check email, maybe, if I need a break to rest my writing hand.
Somewhere between 1am and 3am, I check email one more time, close the computer and turn out the lights. Often I will spend another hour or so working out some difficult scene in my head, then I’ll fall into dreamland.
I have been known to have just turned off the lights as hubby is getting up to go to work at 5:30am!
I had a very similar schedule when I wrote my first book, which happened to be before hubby and I were married, though we were a couple then, too. However, at that time, I was working full-time as well! I’d be up writing until 2 or 3 in the morning, then I would catch a nap and get up to go to work at 6am. I was definitely bleary-eyed and my hand had a permanent cramp from writing so much.
What do you like to read?
I love to read contemporary series or category romances! In more recent times, I’ve been reading as many romance novels with full-figured heroines as I can find. I also read a little horror, a little mystery and Janet Evanovich books (which are supposed to be mystery but I just categorize them as screamingly funny).
All hopeful writers dream about “the call”. Do you remember what you were doing when “the call” came for your first novel?
Actually, for me, it was “the email”. I received an email stating that the publisher had accepted my book and that they were very excited to be involved in the project. I was stunned, I know, but I don’t honestly remember the moment. What I do remember is the moment I received an electronic copy of my first cover. I cried.
How do people describe Rida Allen? How does Rida Allen’s husband describe her?
When confronted with this question (and I do mean confronted), my husband’s response was:
“My wife is: beautiful, smart, funny, strong-willed, not always easy to live with but impossible to live without, and is absolutely not paying me to say this.”
When you asked how “people” describe me, I immediately went to Heather, my best friend of over 23 years. I can’t say this is an impartial answer, but I didn’t think I had enough time to start surveying strangers on the street as to how they might describe me.
“Having known Rida for 23 years, I'd have to say she's a caring person with great integrity and immense creativity and talent. Rida is a great communicator who has the ability to see and understand things from another person’s perspective. She is a trustworthy, loyal, compassionate and supportive individual. I'm honored to have her as a friend and confidante for so many years.”
If you could just drop everything right now, no repercussions, and beam yourself away on a vacation, where would you love to go?
My first answer would be to go back to Alaska during the summer months and take my husband along. We were not married when my family went on the trip so he missed out. He stayed behind and dog-sat for my family’s dog, Crystal (who has since passed away). My second choice would be to go back to the beach (Ocean City or Dewey Beach would work well) with my husband (and dog) during the fall and/or winter months as we just love the beach at that time.
Being from Maryland, do you still like Maryland crab cakes?
Ah, interesting question. People L O V E Maryland crabs because we have this lovely spice called ‘Old Bay’, which comes from the Chesapeake Bay (I believe) and is only available locally. Additionally, Maryland crabs are supposed to be some of the finest crabs available, I’m told. However, I don’t eat crabs! I’ve never actually tasted Maryland crabs, though my husband adores crabs and crab cakes and he assures me they are de-licious. Believe it or not I’m not a big seafood fan and I don’t actually like Old Bay seasoning!
What is your favorite way to spend a lazy, summer afternoon?
Any lazy day is best spent at home with my hubby… we both know how to laze!
If you could have any car, old or new, what would you love to see parked in your space?
Sadly, I think I would love to have my Mustang back again, when it was brand-spanking new. It was a 1986 V6 Mustang Convertible, white with blue interior and blue top. I loved that car, it was entirely too much fun to drive in the summer with the top down. I was sad to see it go.
And lastly, no interview of a writer would be complete without this question: what is your favorite comfort food?
I can only have one comfort food? Ack! I refuse to answer this question so as not to offend any food that I might want to enjoy sometime soon.
Different foods bring me different memories and they are all special for different reasons… I can’t pick just one ‘comfort food’ as food was (and is) a big part of my family and to pull out just one food and one memory just wouldn’t work for me.
Rida, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy day to “chat” with us! Your responses are thoroughly delightful! As is THE LEGACY TREE. Best of luck with it, and all your projects.
Be sure to check out the review of Rida Allen’s THE LEGACY TREE. It is a wonderful book to read on a hot, lazy summer afternoon.