Monday’s Friend: Robbi Perna
Today I am pleased to welcome fellow Muse author Robbi Perna to the blog as this week’s guest.
SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?
RP: This is a tough question that fits in with when did you learn to cook or sew. I can’t remember a time I couldn’t write and have been a writer all my professional life. I started writing fiction five years ago on a serious basis, but I wrote stories to amuse my friends and family from my grade school days at St. Peter and Paul’s. Catholic nuns are the world’s best educators and I owe a lot of my success to the lessons in English and grammar I learned in their classes.
SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?
RP: As writers we tend to mimic those authors that we enjoy. I loved Emilie Loring’s romance stories. They are out of date and politically incorrect now, but for their time, they were magic. Later, Elsie Lee starred as one of my heroines. Her books of gothic, romantic suspense are classics and I own almost all of them. Today’s authors that I list as favorites and who have an influence on my writing are Susanna Kearsley, Nora Roberts, and Mariah Stewart.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
RP: Don’t fall into the trap of believing you need a group of people you don’t know and may never see again influence your writing. I had a bad experience with a writers group that nearly torpedoed my first attempt. I never repeated it. Find one or two beta readers and let them give you feedback.
SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser?
RP: I have a very meticulous procedure for my writing. An instructor once told me if an author works from an outline, then he/she knows the story arc and never has to worry about writers block. I take it a step farther. After I have my basic story line set, I make a very preliminary outline using a 15-step method that begins with Line 1 (story opening) and then moves to Line 15 (story closing). I then alternate between first lines and last lines ultimately meeting in the middle. One of the benefits of this method is it helps with the sagging middle a problem with which many writers have to deal. Knock on wood—hasn’t happened to me yet. Once I have this basic outline, I pull out the main points and use them to make my video trailer. Only after I’ve finished these steps do I sit down and start writing my story.
SJT: Tell us about your latest release.
RP: My latest book “Where the Lion Dwells”, which Muse will release in electronic and print formats in September, takes place in the horse country of Middleburg, Virginia. The heroine, Joanna Sansone, returns to Virginia following her civilian deployment in Iraq as a political advisor. A disfigured left forearm and the loss of her fiancé, Renzo Moretti, are the scars she carries from the experience. Now, she asks for nothing more than the peace of her new home. The U.S. government has other ideas. A large defense contractor calls on her services. A new English language training facility in northern Virginia’s horse country needs a registrar. Then, one of the students, the son of an important tribal sheikh, becomes seriously ill.
Mick Riliuni is a brilliant physician renowned for his work in tropical diseases that the family engages to consult on the case. When he meets Joanna, he accuses her of prejudice when she questions the need for the expertise of the student’s mysterious uncle. The arrogant Doctor al-Najid is a painful reminder of her losses and an irritating presence in her life.
Caught in the crossfire between two strong personalities, Joanna discovers her passions’ reawakening, but she has questions. A trip to a mountain fortress in Sicily may yield the answers. Will they give her a future or will her heart remain buried in the grave with Renzo?
SJT: Your website says that growing up in an Italian-American family gave you a “unique insight into the Italian male psyche”. Do you think cultural background shapes a person’s personality, and if so how has the Italian psyche influenced your stories?
RP: Absolutely…cultural background shapes a person’s personality and worldview. Italian life revolves around family, friends, loves (and lovers), and, of course, good food and wine. My stories have all these elements, I guess because like many authors, I write what I know and that forms the foundation upon which I spin my tales.
SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
RP: Since I’m a defense contractor and technical writer in addition to a romance author, I’m always writing something. When I have downtime, I read other authors’ works, travel, and spend time with my favorite guy—Santino the parti-poodle.
SJT: What’s next for you, writing wise?
RP: I have two sequels planned in my “The Vines of Bordessi” series. The first one (for which I have completed two of the steps in the procedure above) is “Triumph without Glory.” I’ve posted the video trailer on my website if anyone wishes to have a sneak peek. The next story in the series, as yet untitled, is waiting in the wings. The inspiration for it is two stuffed bears. One is a tough Army ranger dressed in camouflage, which belonged to my late brother, and the other, a lovely white bear I found to keep him company. Paolina, the Bearness of Mezzogiorno, is a gorgeous white velvet creature complete with black lace gown, diamond earrings, and a sparkling tiara made for me by my very talented friend, Julie. That story will be a corker…stay tuned!
Award-winning, multi-published author Robbi Perna started penning romantic fiction as a respite from her career as a military analyst specializing in strategic communications. Her historical romance, “My Heart Still Surrenders,” won first place in the Florida Writers Association’s 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition. Her time travel adventure, “The Roman Phalera” is a finalist in the 2015 competition. Robbi grew up in a strong Italian-American background in Colorado where she spent the first half of her life before she moved to Virginia. She has since moved to central Florida where she claims snow is a figment of her overactive imagination. Her parti-poodle, Santino, manages the house while she works on her latest manuscript, “Robes of Destiny.” Readers may contact her through website, http://www.RobbiPerna.net.