Since 1980, prolific romance writer Ann Major has penned nearly 50 romance novels under her Major pseudonym and under her real name, Margaret Major Cleaves. The Texas native is a founding member of the legendary Romance Writers of America (RWA).
The iconic Ann Major was gracious enough to take a few moments to be interviewed and by doing so made one of my dreams come true.
What was the most memorable research trip you’ve made?
I went to Ravello on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Because I was meeting a stylish friend, my husband and I stayed in a five star hotel there that was heaven
on earth. It was like being inside a Maxwell Parrish painting. While in Rome before driving down to Ravello, I met this lovely young couple at an outdoor restaurant near the Roman Steps. When the bill came, the Italian guy vanished for a very long time while his Australian date, a burned out attorney in search of her soul and other adventures remained to pay the bill. She told me the story of their romance which inspired in large part The Amalfi Bride. When I went to Rhodes, Greece, I was so inspired I came home and wrote A Cowboy and a Gentleman very quickly.
Please share with us the most interesting stories law enforcement
professionals have told you:
I remember this detective told me he has nightmares about using his gun. When he gets ready to shoot, the bullets just drop out of the front of the gun.
Are there any stories that have made you cry, laugh, stunned you or
rendered you speechless when you heard it, that you had to incorporate them in your fiction?
Yes — but being 65, I can’t’ remember them off the top of my head.
What is the most memorable moment you’ve woven a story around?
Oh, so many. I think the one that got me in trouble though was this one: My mother-in-law and father-in-law were having an argument in the car while in the middle of west Texas, which is very desolate. Furious, he stopped the car and got out to get a break from her. She pulled out a spare set of keys from her purse, slid over into the driver’s side, restarted the car and drove off without him — leaving him in the middle of nowhere. He had to hitchhike back to civilization. So I had this happen to my heroine. She argued with her headstrong mom and got out of car. My hero, a biker, picked the heroine up I believe.
How would you say you have evolved as a writer over time?
I wish I had evolved. I love evolved writers. Maybe I found my niche early because my third book was a Desire which was published in the early ’80s and I am still writing Desires.
The market itself evolves and the readership grows younger while the writer grows older, so you have to constantly update yourself. You can’t ever sit on your laurels and think you know it all.
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite ways to relax and have
I like to meditate, read, play the piano, study stuff, travel, kayak, walk, hike, sail, cook, get massages, garden, hang out with girlfriends, hang out with grandchildren, shop — or just hang out with my husband.
Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which
one and why?
Hot Ladies Murder Club… Well, it’s local and it’s about something that happened to me.
Do you have plans to write other genres in the future?
Has your life changed since you’ve become a published author? If so,
I am not chained to an 8 to 5 job as I was when I taught. While at school, bells were always ringing, and lots of those bells meant I had to be somewhere specific doing something specific. Now every day is different. This morning I bounded out of bed at four a.m. because I was dreaming about my characters and excited about writing.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment at a booksigning?
Probably, but I don’t hang onto bad moments. I have to write them down and file
them somewhere I can hopefully find them to relive them.
I have found that some authors listen to music while they write. Do you
listen to music or is it something that is distracting to you?
No. In the olden days when you went to a dentist or waited for your car to be
repaired there was no music or television. I am blissfully happy with silence.
Do you ever fear writer’s block or that you’ll let your audience down?
Oh, yes. I get writer’s block all the time. I write into these walls. Like procrastination, it is part of my process. I always fear that I will let my audience down. Every time a book idea grabs me, I wonder–can I pull this off? Can I do justice to these lovers’ story? Can I?
Do you belong to any writers groups and what do you feel you have
gained from the social sites?
I am in RWA and SARA… and I thought I joined the Austin chapter of RWA. I think I owe them money. Then I never followed through. I will check on that. Social sites. I am really not into social sites like I should be. That said, I have an OFFICIAL ANN MAJOR FACEBOOK PAGE. I have a personal Facebook account where I keep up with lots of personal friends and I have another Facebook
account where my friends are mainly authors. I tend to visit my personal account the most… but only briefly.
Are there any characters in your books that represent you?
I am sure there are, but I lack the insight to know this.
How much of the characters and story lines come from people you know
and your own experiences versus your imagination?
Lots of them.
How do you keep your characters fresh and the plot exciting?
I don’t know. This is always the challenge. When I finish a book, I start reading and thinking. An idea has to light a spark inside me — maybe that is the key. I need to feel excited as I develop the story.
Can you tell us one thing about yourself that most of your fans don’t
I would imagine there are many things. I am shy. I think I went into writing so I could hole up and spend great quantities of time ALONE. I have lots of friends but I am not an extrovert. One of my best friends, however, is. Saturday she wanted me to go to a really great luncheon with ten of our friends. I usually eat lunch with these friends on Friday and was planning to see them on Friday.
But my friend wanted me to do this special luncheon Saturday. I felt so guilty to tell her, I scheduled writing time all day Saturday. She simply didn’t get this. It’s like I slapped her in the face. And yet I really WANTED to spend the whole day ALONE. I wrote ten pages. I told my daughter I felt guilty to always be rejecting my friends. She said, “Mom, you are making time for them — on Friday.”
What do you feel are the benefits of the new electronic readers such as
the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Nook etc add to the environment?
For me — I have hundreds of books in my Kindle account available on my iPhone. So if I’m standing in line at the pharmacy I can read. I don’t have to carry paperbacks around anymore. I have a garage full of paperbacks. I imagine that fewer rainforests will be chopped down to publish romance novels. Rare species may survive longer.
What impact do electronic readers create on the bottom line for authors
in the end? Do you feel they have a negative impact or positive, or no
impact at all that you can see?
I don’t know. We all fear a negative impact of course because we get less for our stories that are sold that way. I think that remains to be seen.
What do you love most about the romance genre?
It is full of smart, hard-working, innovative, inspiring women, whom I admire immensely.
Ann, please share with us how Romance Writers of America (RWA) began?
I imagine that in the late ’70s and early ’80s all over the U.S. women were
reading romance novels and lusting to write them. I went to the Southwest Conference in Houston and met Rita Estrada and her mom and Parris Afton Bonds. Sondra Stanford, who published two novels with Harlequin, was from Corpus too. We were all trying to write romance novels, but the other authors and editors at that conference shunned us and told us we weren’t real writers. Every year the numbers or romance writers swelled, while the other writers’ condescending treatment of us got worse. I remember Sondra, Rita, Paris and me, along with several other friends spending time in our hotel rooms dreaming about starting our own organization. Rita Estrada was a charismatic leader. Forty writers met one day to form RWA. I was voted onto the first board along with Sondra Stanford, Parris Afton Bonds, and Rita Estrada… and Rita’s mom, Rita Gallagher. At our first conference in Houston we had over one thousand writers and writing professionals show up. I think if we hadn’t started RWA whenwe did, someone else would have. It was always a dynamic organization.
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