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  • Melisa Ruscsak

Interview with TINA MAURINE



Lynn: What difference do you see between a writer and an author?

Tina: A writer is merely someone who writes for themselves or for industrial purposes, for example in a diary, for a blog, or essays for school. Even when I turned in the thesis for my master’s degree–I could say I authored it—but in no way did I see myself as an author.

I believe a writer becomes an author when they produce something without necessity, without an industrial-backed purpose. When an author writes with the intent for others to share in the world that they’ve created, or to follow along another’s journey—like a biography—then they can be viewed as authors.

Lynn: Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

Tina: I write under a pseudonym. It is not cut and dry—my life from my author, life—but unless you are following my personal life closely, or that of my author life, you wouldn’t see the two lives entwined.

I created the pseudonym for two reasons. I did not want to bring any backlash or shame to my kids or family because I choose to write racy novels. Secondly, if I ever am propelled into the public arena, I wanted there to be some ambiguity about who I am in my real life.

Lynn: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Tina: The characters come first for me, then as I get a better idea about who they are, what they look like, their likes and dislikes, does the plot finally begin to take shape. And, by take shape, I don’t mean that I map out my stories from beginning to end. I have a start and a vague idea about where I am headed.

Once the characters are formed in my head, then they begin to create the story. I merely write and they dictate where the story goes. I know it sounds like some sort of crazy person or split personality, but it isn’t. It is a lot more common for authors that I have spoken with than I originally knew. Many successful writers hear the characters in their heads and that is often why there are sequels—the characters want the rest of their stories told.

Lynn: How about we talk about your book? How many books have you written, and which is your favorite?

Tina: How many have I written, or how many have been published? I have probably close to fifteen stories partially written, written, or in edits currently, in addition to what has been published.

I have been in five published anthologies and have published four novels, have two in edits, and am about 90K words into the sequel to Volition—Veneration.

This is such a hard question. I write the stories that I do, because I love the characters and the stories they tell. If I had to choose, I would say probably my first book, Volition. It is not my best story and every time I read it, I see more edits that I need to do, but it is my passion project and the first book that I wrote for me. After I wrote Volition, I finally considered myself an author and knew that I could write more stories worth telling.

Lynn: Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

Tina: I certainly relate to the characters in my Uniform & Lace Romances. They are about military characters and from personal experiences, I feel I can understand these characters and write them authentically.

I know that I have been likened to Tessa, the redhead in my first novels—Volition, Vexed, and Veneration—but she is not me. She is just a young, spunky gal who serves in the United States military, and having seen a lot, been around a lot, and heard a lot while I served… I know many of the struggles that she has to deal with are realistic.

Lynn: How did you come up with the title for your book?

Tina: I wanted my title to be simple to say and pack a punch. I also didn’t want for there to be hundreds of the same title to sort through on Amazon. After I found some words, I looked up their meanings and Volition—the faculty or power of using one’s will—fit the journey that Tessa is on throughout the series. Vexed, describes how Noah feels about the situation he is in throughout that book, and Veneration—deep love, respect, adoration, reverence—they all mean the same thing and it is how I knew I wanted the series to end… whether Noah and Tessa both feel this way or not, and whether it is about each other or someone else.

Lynn: Would you and your main character get along?

Tina: ABSOLUTELY. Although we aren’t the same, we are cut from similar cloths. Our experiences and how we’ve dealt with them are how many women in the service do—with determination, perseverance, bravery and sheer grit.

Lynn: Ok, now for some Fun Questions. What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?

Tina: Pantser I guess! Is that even a word? LOL. I create a vague plot of where I am headed, and then fly by the seat of my pants. I have had ideas of where I was going with several stories and the characters had other ideas. Crazy I know but writing whatever comes to my head is my process… and so far, it has turned out well.

Lynn: If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

Tina: This is easy. I LOVE Adrian Rogue from Impasse. I feel like his and Vette’s back-story is one that needs to be explored. He is special ops turned mercenary, and as hard-edged as he is, he has it bad for the woman he works under in the story, Impasse. She brings out the softer side of him and there’s a good romance in there.

Lynn: Have you ever traveled as research for your book?

Tina: I haven’t traveled specifically as research for a book; however, having been to and lived in several of the twenty-two countries (not counting the U.S.), I feel that I have some knowledge of the rest of the world.

Of course, traveling is my passion, and I would love to be able to travel the world and use that first-hand knowledge in future stories.

Lynn: What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?

Tina: I have really pushed boundaries with the types of stories I have written, especially in various anthologies. I feel that having been able to write multiple genres and from different POVs (Points of View), I have grown as a writer.

Lynn: What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

Tina: The best advice I’ve ever gotten is the same advice I would give to new writers. EDIT. Edit and then edit some more. It doesn’t matter how good your story is if there’s too many distracting errors.

I have personally paid for some stories to be edited by three different editors, have edited those stories myself, and STILL find errors.

Edit—the time and cost are worth it—even if it is my least favorite part of the process.

Lynn: What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?

Tina: Build a community of advisors, editors, and beta readers who you can trust undeniably. Listen to their suggestions and MAKE those changes. There is no bad, constructive criticism—even if it means partial rewrites sometimes.

Chances are they are reading a lot more than you have time for—and with that comes a keen, developed eye. Since they aren’t engrossed in the project as deeply as you are, they will have a fresh perspective and eye for what needs to be changed to make your story better.

Lynn: How many hours a day do you write?

Tina: Some days none; however, when I am in my “cave” writing—which is just sitting focused at the kitchen table, or at night in my bed when the house is quiet—I can write for eight or ten hours a day, easy. Sometimes I can continue to write through most of the night.

Lynn: When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?

Tina: I just need to get in the mood to feel so that what my characters say is truthful to the situation. I often watch movies that evoke emotion—even if it is not the same emotion—it works for me to tap into my characters. It’s how I get into their heads. And remember too, I cannot get into my character’s heads unless I have thoroughly flushed out who they are.

Often too, I will listen to music—sometimes the same song multiple times—and scroll through my folders of mostly black and white images that inspire me.

Lynn: Whom do you trust for objective and constructive criticism of your work?

Tina: My tribe. It is small, but my girls are always there for me. I appreciate them more than they know, I am sure.

Lynn: What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?

Tina: For a character to be a hero or heroine in my stories, they need to be relatable. They need to be flawed and then work through or attempt to overcome those flaws.

I like to write intense, emotionally laden and passionate stories. These stories cannot be derived from perfect characters… besides, who wants to read about beautiful, perfect people? I don’t.

Lynn: Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

Tina: There are several that I enjoy reading and I think since I started reading my mother’s Savage Destiny and Harlequin romances in eight-grade, there’s more than I could list here. But it was specifically after reading K. Bromberg’s Driven novel in 2013 that I began the arduous process of writing Volition, which wasn’t published until 2018.

Lynn: What books did you grow up reading?

Tina: I grew up reading over a hundred books on average a year. I was a voracious reader. Some novels I would stay up multiple nights in a row—feigning sleep—just so I could finish faster.

I loved my mother’s romances—my grandmother—her mother, often shared novels with her and I would go to the library we had in our home and peruse the tens of dozens of titles she had shelved. What I couldn’t find at home, I would find during our weekly trips to the public library. I ALWAYS walked out with more books than I could safely carry each week. I felt rich, wealthy with so many books around me, which is laughable since my family was far from rich growing up. Regardless, I was privileged and blessed to have been exposed to and supported to read whatever I wanted.

I also really enjoyed Terry Brooks’ fantasy series Sword of Shannara, and the science fiction/fantasy novels and short stories from Ray Bradbury.

In college I especially enjoyed a class that exposed me to Anna Karenina and Madam Bovary—it was probably through those novels that I developed the later joy of reading historical romances set in the 1800s.

Lynn: Have you ever tried to write a novel for a genre you rarely or never read?

Tina: I wrote an M/M story for a LGBQT anthology that Crazy Ink published called Just Love. I do not read, nor have actually ever read this genre. I did some research and after developing the characters, just let them tell their story.

Lynn: If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?

Tina: Sylvia Day.

I adore her writing style, phrasing, word usage and voice. I am currently reading one of her historical romances, Passion for Him. I love how she writes intimacy, and her stories are strong, driving me to find the time I don’t have to read.

Lynn: Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?

Tina: I have a Kindle account on my tablet, but in spite of the huge lists I have created to read, I find myself ordering paperbacks or shopping for them in our local used bookstores. I love holding a good book in my hands and cuddling up in our hammock, on the couch, or in bed and reading by my dim lamp before bed.

Lynn: What books have you read more than once in your life?

Tina: Constance O’Day-Flannery’s time travel romances. I have read them each AT LEAST a handful of times. They never get boring for me. But the, I’ve also read Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury at least that many times too.

Lynn: Lets Get to Know You. Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?

Tina: I’d like to see myself as more accomplished, but being the perfectionist that I am, even with as much work as I’ve done, I still feel like it could be better, and I could be more accomplished. Someday I am sure reality and how I see myself will merge—when, I have no idea. LOL.

Lynn: Is there a particular genre you would love to write but only under a pseudonym?

Tina: I already write dark romance and mature adult romances under the pseudonym Tina Maurine.

Lynn: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal?

Tina: The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity.

Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions.

Lynn: If you didn’t write for a living, what would you probably do for work?

Tina: Teach since I received my master’s in education.

Lynn: Would anyone in your family disapprove, of anything you’ve written?

Tina: Certainly—but they are extended family and I’ve finally decided that their opinions of me don’t matter.

Lynn: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Tina: When I am writing for me, it energizes me. I also use it to center my thoughts if I am feeling all over the place. If I am writing against deadlines or collaborating on a project that I am not especially passionate about, then writing becomes work. It is still work I enjoy, but it takes more out of me.

Lynn: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Tina: Sometimes I get too into my inspiration and get caught up looking at YouTube music videos. I also really dislike posting on social media all the time because it steals my time. I get sidetracked and then it is hard to get back to writing. I have definitely found that I am more productive writing on days when I ignore all my social media accounts.

Lynn: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Tina: I think anyone can be a writer. If a writer wants to become an author or an author wants to be successful, they need to be willing and able to pour themselves and their emotions into their books. This is next-level writing and books that make readers feel, are what makes them memorable.

Lynn: Does your family support your career as a writer?

Tina: Yes, my close family is very supportive. My kids respect when I am writing, and my husband does everything he can to give me the time I need to write. I am very lucky in this respect.

Lynn: Where do you get your ideas?

Tina; My ideas come to me from the smallest things. I can see a couple joking as they walk by on the street and get an idea. I can see maybe a man with tattoos, and it will inspire me about a character I want to flesh out. I get many ideas from photographs and music, the way they make me feel and what ideas just sort of come to me… I’m all over the place with how I get my ideas.

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