Today, I welcome another of Black Opal Books’ authors to my blog. A couple of things that caught my attention about Genie Smith Bernstein is that she is a faith-based author, who lives in Athens, Georgia. As I attended school in Athens years prior, we hold a “talking” point, essential to new relationships. Meet Genie and do not forget to leave a comment to be part of the Giveaway she is hosting.
Genie Smith Bernstein began writing by falling out of the sky. After safely landing an airplane whose engine failed, she was unable to talk about the experience until capturing her emotions on paper. From that exercise came her ability to infuse writing with emotion and led her to the romance genre.
Originally from Eatonton, Georgia, Genie writes in an authentic southern voice. Swimming to keep fit she makes her home in Athens, Georgia, and shares with her husband their joyously combined family of six children and thirteen globe-trotting grandchildren.
Genie is a featured columnist for Georgia Connector, Georgia’s premier regional quarterly magazine. Winner of South Carolina’s “Carrie McCray Literary Award for Non-Fiction,” her short stories were also selected to appear in four volumes of “O, Georgia!” anthologies of Georgia’s newest and most promising writers.
Genie’s romance novel, Act on the Heart, was recently published by Black Opal Books.
What’s the craziest, bravest, or stupidest thing you’ve ever done?
Learning to fly pretty much covers all three categories mentioned here. I say this because all I really wanted to know was how to land. Safely landing an airplane whose engine failed actually propelled me into writing, because I was unable to talk about the experience until I managed to capture it on paper. (Private Pilot Magazine, 2001; Georgia Connector, Winter 2015) This exercise of learning to infuse writing with emotion eventually led me to the romance genre.
How long have you been writing, and how did you decide this was a career you wanted to pursue?
I started taking classes and seriously writing in the 90s when I stopped working fulltime. The writer inside me awakened and has never so much as taken a nap since then.
What do you write? You’re welcome to include your latest title (shameless plug).
My fiction began in the mystery genre and moved to romance. Act on the Heart is my first romance novel, released this month by Black Opal Books, Inc. My first three books were mysteries driven by characters teetering on the brink of romance, so I naturally slipped into that genre.
Tell us about your new release.
The title of my new book, Act on the Heart, is the definition of the word “courage.”
Mired in grief and pain, three troubled people face a hard choice – to walk away and risk losing everything that matters or to act on the heart. The following cover blurb sums up the story quite well:
Grieving the loss of her husband and child, she just wants to be left alone…
On the brink of depression, Kathryn Tribble abandons her New York editing career and flees home to Georgia, but one of her major clients, celebrity author Joe Butler pursues her, insisting she edits his first fiction novel. Kathryn reluctantly agrees, but the manuscript seems to be mined from her very own misfortune. Instead of finding the peace she longs for, Kathryn is once again pushed to the brink.
Hiding a sham marriage and caring for a seriously ill child, Joe desires much more from Kathryn than her editing skills…
Descending from Hollywood royalty, Joe’s first book was a successful biography of his family, but Kathryn recognizes his rare talent and challenges him to write fiction. Doing so, Joe transforms the raw courage he sees, in her efforts to reclaim her life, into what promises to be a blockbuster heroine. His hard work backfires when Kathryn refuses to have anything more to do with the book – or with him. Heartsick at the pain he unintentionally caused her, Joe abandons the project.
However, his megastar cousin, Colton Bennett, is determined to make it into a movie. Even worse, Colton becomes infatuated with Kathryn, convinced that, in his world of make believe, he can anchor himself to reality by making her his wife.
Purchase Link: Amazon
What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Do you still have them?
Early on, my writings took the form of descriptive letters. Family and friends constantly encouraged me to write a book. One dear friend who died unexpectedly became the inspiration for dynamic Donna Ray, a character in Act on the Heart.
Tell us something of the genre in which you choose to write. If you write in more than one genre is your approach different for each genre, in the manner you write, plot the book, or brainstorm ideas?
My novels, mystery and romance, are fiction and my short stories are non-fiction. In both, I write what I feel. I look for opportunities to blend past with present. I always know the ending but I don’t plot or outline much in advance.
What difficulties does writing this genre present?
In writing Romance, the difficulty is keeping myself and my characters where we are comfortable – romance vs sex. My characters are faith-based and lean more toward a Hallmark-type story than a bodice-ripper.
What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
I enjoy the fictive dream – that singular state a writer enters where characters speak, scenes become real, and time disappears. I have looked up at the end of the day to find my husband returning from work without remembering he’d even gone.
I dislike deadlines; I meet them, but I don’t like them.
How much time do you devote to writing each day?
There is a layering effect to my writing. In first-draft phase, I spend long spans of time getting the story out. I’ll write for days on end and then not write for a week. When I come back for a second pass, I need more long spans of time to deepen my knowledge of the characters and the story they want to tell. After that, I let it rest, work on another project, travel, live in the real world, until I can approach it again with fresh eyes. Subsequent drafts and rewrites of scenes add detail and polish.
Are you more of a plotter or a pantser, or does it change from book to book?
Pantser. I begin by knowing the ending, but how I get there is character-driven. My writing mentor, Harriette Austin at the University of Georgia, shared this example from “back in her day” at Yale – when driving through a dark night, you can only see as far as the beam of your headlights, but you can drive all the way across the country like that.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Names either feel right or they don’t. Wrenn, the name of a child in Act on the Heart came from the name tag of a fast food server. I just liked the spelling and had no idea it would became a vehicle for the character’s father to show his love by calling her “Bird.”
What was your favorite chapter (or part) of your current project to write and why?
I really enjoyed writing the Joe Butler scenes. So much so that my critique group warned me he was going to take over the book. I loved putting him at Kathryn’s cottage for the first time, having him realize he could never have the simplicity of her life, yet wanting it. I cried when I wrote the chapter where he believes she is dead.
Why – because he’s handsome, powerful, and filled with empathy and love.
Share a quirky fact from your research.
Carvings made in tree bark don’t grow upward with the tree because tree growth comes from the top.
What characters are lying on your “office floor”? Why didn’t they come to life on the page and do you think they ever will? Or why not?
My WIP has picked up two characters from my “office floor.” I wrote three mystery novels where a couple come together to solve crimes. A romance never developed between them, but they were always on the verge.
Also, I have three characters to feature in a children’s picture book. Someday.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?
“There are no rules.” Those four words, spoken in my first writing class, were so freeing. I study the craft but don’t let myself get too wrapped up in research, outline, plot points, story engines, etc.
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?
I am happily at the midpoint of Trust, a work in progress featuring an interracial couple. Their sibling-type rivalry escalates over the care of an Alzheimer’s patient, while one deals with a failed business and the other a criminal son.
Now for the giveaway!!! Leave a comment below to be part of a giveaway of an eBook copy of Act on the Heart. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, August 18, 2015. [Note!!! for those who purchase a print copy of Act on the Heart, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and include your mailing address, and Genie will mail you out a signed book plate to personalize your copy.]