I’m excited to have as my guest today, Maria Hammarblad. Maria can you share with us some of the trials of working on your new book, Undercover?
Thank you Melissa for welcoming me to your blog!
Working on my new novel Undercover was something of a rollercoaster ride. Writing it was easy; many of the settings are based on places I’ve been, Jenny’s job is based on one of my own, and several of the side characters are inspired by real people. Jenny and Alexei are made up, of course, and everything that happens to them are figments of my imagination. The rollercoaster ride was in editing, and technology sure didn’t help.
My publisher works with many Christian authors writing sweet romances. Undercover, well, it’s nothing like that. I was assigned a content editor and we started on the first few chapters. I sent my changes back and heard nothing. I sent a couple of e-mails asking if everything was okay, and got silence. That’s sort of worrying when you have a deadline to meet. Was the book THAT bad? Did she die or something? She gave me really great input, and I wanted to work on the rest of the book.
The last time I e-mailed to check in, the Editor in Chief answered. Turns out my editor only likes sweet (and I suspect Christian) books. I thought, “Ouch, poor woman. I hope I didn’t give her nightmares.”
My Editor in Chief promised she’d take my book on personally, and I did a happy dance. It’s not every day you get a chance to work with the best of the best! She sent me a list of suggestions, and I made a complete rewrite of the book.
By now, we were well over a month behind schedule, and the release date that used to sparkle with promised loomed over me. I thought I heard it say, “Haha, you’ll never make it.” In a situation like this, Murphy’s law applies. If something can go wrong, it will.
Technology played a prank on us. The first editor sent in the files we’d been working on, and I sent in the new re-write. All of a sudden, we had a plethora of files with the same name, and Gail and I worked on different versions. I can imagine her frustration; she must have thought I ignored everything she said and did nothing. I, on the other hand, thought she was overly picky, and groaned, “But we already DID all this. Going through it again will take forever.”
Believe it or not, an exclamation mark solved our problems. Who would have thought! The conversation went along the lines of, “Maria, you really have to do something about all these adverbs and exclamation marks. They’re everywhere.” “Oh c’mon, I’ve deleted most of them. The ones left are mostly for the kids, and children yell all the time.”
A couple of increasingly frustrated e-mails later, she said, “There are 185 exclamation marks, that’s at least 100 too many.” I grumbled, “Seriously?” and opened the file. When I answered (overly cheekily, I know, but it was a bad day) “No I don’t, I have 19 and I think that’s quite reasonable,” I finally realized what was wrong. Looking back, it’s kind of comical.
We made a fresh start, with the same file this time, and I think we were equally relieved. We cut out some parts that were too long and winding, most of the bedroom scenes, and most of the murders. Putting all this in the book seemed like a great idea when I was typing away in my office, but seen through another pair of eyes it wasn’t really needed. The remains turned into an appealing, normal-length novel. Once we worked on the same file, editing took about three days, and we were ready with time to spare.
When Jenny Moore meets Alexei Roshenko, it’s love at first sight. The tall, dark and handsome stranger appears to be the answer to every romantic fantasy any woman ever had. There is however more to him than meets the eye, and a dark and violent past is catching up with him. When Jenny decides to follow him back to Russia, she gets entangled in a web of deceit and secrets beyond her wildest imagination.
When the wheels finally touched American soil, Jenny was both relieved and nervous. She was so happy to be home she could cry, at the same time as she fretted over his papers. They looked good but could hardly be real. Alex didn’t seem worried at all; he was the epitome of calm as they stood in the long line to the passport checkpoint.
Her own passport had been unused before this trip, and she opened it to look at the stamps. Alex bent over to kiss her on the cheek. He knew her well enough already to know what was on her mind. “Don’t worry, I do this all the time.”
The comment distracted her, and she thought he probably did it on purpose. She wanted to ask a million or so questions, but didn’t even lift an eyebrow. “I can’t wait to be home.”
Once they reached the counter, the woman sitting there hardly even looked at the photos. She threw one glance at their documents, gave them back, and yelled, “Next!”
They waited for the luggage for an eternity, and Jenny was nervous all the way through customs. She relaxed a little once they were well into the large airport, surrounded by Americans hurrying in all directions. The protection of being in the country was more imagined than real, but she was still happier. They walked slowly hand in hand with the suitcases rolling behind them like obedient dogs, and just seeing the crowds made her heart lighter.
She wondered if her lover would miss seeing and hearing his own language, and if he would miss his own people. He was stranded in a foreign country and culture with nothing but her, with an axe hovering over his head, and all this after knowing her for just a couple of months. Thinking about it made her feel incredibly guilty, and telling herself she couldn’t have done anything about it didn’t help at all.
Eventually, Alex stopped and pulled their bags up next to a wall. “Are you up for the drive home, or do you want to stay in a hotel tonight?”
She kept going because he did, but now when he said it, she was very tired. “I don’t know. It would be good to be home, but it seems so far away. What do you think?”
“Oh, I want to go somewhere and take all your clothes off, but what I want is not important. Your wish is my command, my sweet.”
It made her laugh. “So, a hotel it is.”
When they walked towards the exit, past one of the cafés, she saw a familiar face turn towards them. A smile played on the man’s lips. She had seen him not all that long ago, on the other side of the world, in Alex’s apartment. He met her eyes, and she said, “Ignore him.”
They walked right past the old man. “They’ve been with us all the way. One would think people would have something better to do.”
She hadn’t seen anyone else, but if he said they had been there, they were there.
About the Author:
Born in Sweden in the early 1970’s, Maria showed a large interest for books at an early age. Even before she was able to read or write, she made her mom staple papers together into booklets she filled with drawings of suns and planets. She proudly declared them, “The Sun Book.” They were all about the sun. She also claimed, to her mother’s horror, that her being on Earth was a big mistake and that her alien family would come and bring her home at any moment. This never happened, but both the interest in space and the passion for bookmaking stayed with her.
As an adult Maria’s creativity got an outlet through playing bass in a number of rock bands, and through writing technical manuals and making web pages for various companies and organizations. She did write drafts for a few novels, but the storytelling muse was mostly satisfied through role playing online on Myspace. It was here, while writing stories together with people from around the globe, she stumbled onto Mike. They started talking out of character, and she moved over to Florida to him late 2008. Today the two are married and live in the Tampa Bay area with three rescue dogs.
Besides writing and playing bass, Maria enjoys driving off-road, archery, and Tameshigiri.
Flashback, to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing June 2013
Operation Earth, to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing August 2013
Borealis XII, to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing November 2013
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite food: Chicken with cashew nuts
Doesn’t eat: Mammals
Favorite TV Show: Star Trek TNG and Leverage
Favorite animal: Border Collie
Quotes: “Full Speed Ahead” and “Caffeine is good for you”