Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Turning Lemons into Sweet Ice Cold Lemonade!

I should be writing about April Fools Day, but since I've never been much for carrying out jokes let alone telling them ... I figured it'd be best to write about something else. How 'bout turning something not too thrilling into something amazing?

Today is the release date of my second NASCAR story. This was the most fun I've ever had writing a book, and that's saying a lot because I love writing, but it didn't start out that way.

FROM THE OUTSIDE is a timeless bad boy meets good girl story, and I never would've written this story on my own. But since the Harlequin NASCAR books are continuities, like soap operas for lack of a better description, I didn't have much of a choice. They have what's called a "bible" and parts of the plots and characters are outlined for the authors ahead of time. We don't have much of a choice about what story we write.

So I was given an an Argentinean driver hero - ex-Formula One playboy guy coming over to NASCAR and, of all things, a soap opera actress heroine.

This picture on the left is the guy I visualized as I wrote my hero, Roberto Castillo. His name's Adolfo Cambiaso and he's a famous Argentinian polo player. Cute, huh? Looks like a playboy, yes? You should hear him talk. That accent. Oh, baby! He's some lemonade!

So back to playboy and actress ... Like I said. Never would've written this story. I've not much for playboys. Hard to motivate. Too cliche. And an actress heroine? Too glitzy. Too self-involved.

But they gave me a lot of leeway with the characterization and plot, so I was really able to make the characters and the story my own. I added a couple fun twists on the bad boy/good girl thang. Can't tell you what the twists are 'cause that'd ruin it, and if you're not into racing, don't less that backdrop throw you. There's just enough racing detail to make it feel authentic. And the heroine's not the slightest bit high maintenance. I swear. Even got to travel which is one of my favorite things to do in my books. I was able to take my characters to two places I've never been, Mexico City and Argentina.

Best of all, I got to find out about a profession I knew nothing about when I had the opportunity to interview a real life actress. A few years back Roberta Leighton was in General Hospital and The Young and The Restless, and it just so happens she's an old high school friend of my SILs. She lives in Beverly Hills, is a lot of fun, and gave me the perspective I needed to do this story right. We spoke on the phone, I asked questions and she answered them, and she helped give me what I hope is a sense of realism about acting that I wouldn't have had without her input.

The actress I visualized as I was writing the heroine, Mallory Dalton, was Eva Longoria. Can't you just see Adolfo and Eva arm in arm? Cute couple, yes?

Anyway, something I had huge reservations about turned into a wonderful experience and a great book. Lemons into tasty lemonade.

Every dreaded something you had to do, say, learn, teach that ended up being just what the doctor ordered? Ever dreaded something that turned out worse than you expected?

I'm giving away copies of FROM THE OUTSIDE to two of our commentors today, so knock yourselves out!!

Have an excellent day,
Helen

23 comments:

Kylie said...

Helen, the book looks and sounds great! I can't wait to read it!

Betina Krahn said...

Congratulations, Helen, you Energizer Bunny of the writing world! No wonder we haven't seen you around the blog as much!

This sounds like a wonderful book--I love your enthusiasm about it. I bet it will be a fun read and sell like hotcakes. And how cool that you interviewed an actress for your heroine's POV. Can you give us an example of an insight she shared that you incorporated? I'm so curious. . .

Maureen said...

Congratulations on your new release! I like the sound of your book and I do enjoy a playboy realizing that his life is missing something important. The only answer to your question I can think of is some family events that sounded like they would be torture but ended up being fun in the end.

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks Kylie!

Energizer Bunny ... cute image Betina!

Part of the plotline in the book is that my hero is contracted to do several cameo appearances on a soap opera as a promotional kind of thing. So I really needed to nail the whole Hollywood set thing.

Berta gave me all kinds of technical details about how filming a soap opera is different from filming a movie. It really helped me visualize a set, what it would look like and who would be there, generating ideas for scenes.

And that's all I'm going to tell you, Betina dear! You'll just have to read it!

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks Maureen! And that's a good one! Family events. Those can go either way, can't they? More fun that you expected, or worse!! lol

Arkansas Cyndi said...

Congrats on the release. Very hunky hero and gorgeous heroine.

This is the first blog I visited today that isn't an April 1 joke... oh wait...tell me the chance to win your book isn't a joke. NOOOOOOOO

Helen Brenna said...

Hey, Cyndi! Nope, no joke. I swear!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Energizer Helen--perfect image!

I have to be dragged into new technologies. My first computer was a Kaypro, featuring Stone Age word processing. I hung on as long as I could because I didn't want to learn a new program, even though wiser heads kept telling me that if I could do--anybody remember the name of that dinosaur?--I could do the new stuff with eyes wide shut. But I was sure it would be a nightmare. Needless to say, it turned out fine.

Internet. E-mail. Blogging. I wear shoes with steel heels, guys. I believe in change except when I'm the one who has to do it.

Go, Helen! You're way ahead of the pack, lady.

Debra Dixon said...

I agree with Betina and we're now going to call you EB for Energizer Bunny. :)

I don't like change because I don't have time for change. That's why technology is irritating to me. Sometimes the changes in software just drive me around the bend. The changes cost my clients money, me time and too often don't offer great improvements!

Then sometimes the improvements are brilliant and I don't know how I lived without them.

Liza said...

Helen, congrats on the new release. It sounds like a really fun story.

We have recently changed the software we use for property management. I really didn't expect to like it, but I'm loving how easy the software is to use. I also love that I can look at all of our different properties from my computer at any time.

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, Kathy. You hit the nail on the head for me with that one. I'm with you and Deb, hate change, technology changes in particular.

My computer is 8 years old (we've gotten a new hard drive, fan and other stuff, but my dh has been after me for years to replace this baby before it blows. Finally doing it these next couple of weeks now that I'm out from under deadlines!

As for Energizer Bunnies - Cindy, Kylie, Lois and Michele have me beat!!!

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks Liza - sounds like you bought a big screen? I think I'm going to look into that this time around.

Liza said...

I don't have a big screen, I can just log into the site to view their info now. I would like to have a bigger screen, but it will be a little bit before that happens.

Keri Ford said...

Congrats on the release!

I was once asked to teach dance/gymnastics to little girls. Did you catch that? dance/gymnastics.

Sure I said. I get there, all the little girls are dressed in pink tights, ballet shoes and tutus. And guess what they want to learn? And guess what I've never taken one day of? Had I been their parents, I would have been so angry, but all the girls loved the gymnastics. I taught by the skin of my rear-end for that 6 or so months and then I was out of there!

flchen1 said...

Wow, Helen, that sounds like a terrific story--and yum on the lemonade!

As for dreading stuff, I volunteered as a camp counselor for church camp--junior high was one week, high school the next. Usually I did just one, and the preparations plus the actual week of being one of the ones in charge was enough to do me in. Then one year they really were in a bind because they didn't have enough counselors so yes, I said I'd do both weeks. Aiyiyiyi! That said, it worked out beautifully, but oy... never again ;)

And the only instance I recall something dreaded being just as bad as I feared was a piano recital where I stopped partway through, drew a horrible blank as I felt the audience stare for what felt an eternity, and finally plunged in somewhere random, plinking to a dreadful end. And worst of all, I had to do it again the following week to "get back on the horse," so to speak. I don't remember that one, so I must have managed not to repeat the unintentional pause. ;)

Jane said...

Happy Release Day, Helen. Equipment and computer programs are always evolving and updated frequently and even though I grumble that the old one worked fine I eventually realize that the new addition are more efficient.

Raven99 said...

Congrats on the new release, Helen! FROM THE OUTSIDE sounds like a great read. It's wonderful that you were able to turn lemons into lemonade and that you enjoyed writing Roberto and Mallory's story. They sound like a fun pair.

Estella said...

Happy release day! The book sounds great.

Helen Brenna said...

Keri, Keri, Keri. You are one brave woman. Is there anything you won't volunteer for?

flchen - camp counselor? Yikes. I did a weekend deal with my daughters six grade class and even that was too much for me.

Helen Brenna said...

Jane, sounds like you take those tech changes far to easily in stride. I'm jealous.

Thanks Raven and Estella!

catslady said...

I dread having to deal with talking to any techies or customer relatiosn - phone companies, computer problems, medical or insurance etc. Getting through to a real person after hitting a million buttons and then finding out you can't understand them is such an ordeal. I've had it take 3 days talking about a computer problem and then having to give up and pay a fortune. I paid dearly to update my Norton and extra for the quick jump (took 7 hours) arghhhh.

Keri Ford said...

Helen, I was paid for it. And I had 6 years of cheerleading, so had the woman who hired me not lied, it would have been right up my allyway.

And after I got there, I was hit with the, "if you don't do it, then they won't have dance this year." that coupled with 12 little girls with hopeful faces made it impossible to back out.

But no, it doesn't take much to get me to do something...which is how I ended up coordinating my chapter's contest in the fall!

verification word: flogydog (that's a new breed on me!)

Helen Brenna said...

I hear ya Catslady.

Keri, that is making lemonade out of lemons!