FAQ – Rebecca York Answers Questions
Answers for Readers
1. Do you research your love scenes?
This is my husband’s favorite question.
Actually, I’ve always thought it interesting that people ask this question of romance writers. I also write mysteries, and nobody ever wants to know if I practice murder.
I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I thought I couldn’t because I can’t spell my way out of a paper bag. Then, when my kids were little and I was a stay-at-home Mom, I took a course at the local community college designed to help women select a career. No surprise that I came out high in writing interest. So I decided to write an article about the course and see if I could sell it to the local newspaper. They bought it! (for $10), and my new career was launched.
For several years I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines. But I always wanted to try my hand at fiction. So I took another course where writers signed up and read their works in progress. I started my first novel in that class. It was a kids’ science fiction book, which was rejected by five publishers. But the last one, Scholastic, sent me a “good” rejection letter; the editor wrote me two double-spaced pages about what was wrong with my story. I vowed to make the revisions she suggested. When I did, she bought the book. Which leads to my next question.
It’s really hard to get an agent when you haven’t published. I sold my first book by myself. Then I asked an agent to represent me. I know this sounds like Catch 22. But it’s often as hard to get an agent as it is to get a publisher. If you interest an editor in your book, it’s easy to get an agent to negotiate the contract. And, yes, I think that what an agent does for a writer is worth that 15% commission.
From a little shop in Ellicott City, a charming two-hundred-year-old town about fifteen minutes from home. (Very convenient!) Seriously, ideas have never been a problem for me. A lot of good ones come from newspaper articles. I might see a story about a woman who murdered her husband for his insurance money and think that it would make a great suspense plot. Or I might read about nuclear weapons going missing in Russia and start thinking about another scenario. What if the hero of a book had to find a cache of stolen Russian weapons in order to save civilization as we know it? In FOR YOUR EYES ONLY there’s a very scary scene where the villain tries to kill the heroine by dumping her off a bridge into a reservoir. Several years ago, this actually happened to a local woman. The story stuck with me, and I used it in my book.
I’ve got the greatest job in the world! I get to write about two of life’s biggest pleasures–romance and food. I love switching gears, turning on a completely different kind of creativity. Designing recipes is nothing like plotting a novel or writing an intensely emotional scene. But creating a great dish is as satisfying for me as writing fiction. My culinary specialty is “healthy food.” I love coming up with dishes that are good for you but also taste great. And I love adapting traditional recipes, like Beef Burgundy and Twice Baked Potatoes, to today’s healthier lifestyle.
Taste is the bottom line for me in recipe development because I know that no matter how healthy a dish is, nobody will eat it if it doesn’t taste good. My latest cookbook is SNACK ATTACK!, which I wrote for the American Diabetes Association. My goal is to create easy snacks that everybody will love–not just people with diabetes. One of my most popular cookbooks, written with Nancy Baggett, is SKINNY SOUPS, published by Surrey Books. The book was such a good seller that Surrey asked us to write a second edition. My cookbook, 100 PERCENT PLEASURE, for Rodale Books, also written with Nancy, was named one of the 12 best cookbooks of 1994 by USA Today.
Often I write all day and then test a recipe at dinner time. I also hire trained chefs to come to my house and test recipes. When you have someone else do the recipe you’ve written, you find out if they get the same results you did. One of my cooks or I test each one at least three times–sometimes more. I’d be afraid to put a recipe in a cookbook if I hadn’t tested and retested it.
My characters come out of the heroic tradition of myth and legend. They’re never petty or mean-spirited. When I put them in dangerous or trying situations, they have the guts to deal with their problems. I find myself trying to live up to the standards they set. For example, I’m deathly afraid of heights; and several years ago I found myself standing in front of a suspension bridge over a chasm in Vancouver, BC. I tried several times to cross it, and each time fear turned me back. Then I told myself, “Any one of your heroines could do this!” So I gritted my teeth and marched across the bridge. Unfortunately, the worst part was having to cross it again to get back to my car!