I attended Words on the Street this Saturday in Lethbridge with my publisher, Dream Write Publishing. This was an annual event I enjoyed until COVID postponed it. So, this first in-person return to the book festival since 2019 was a joy. I reconnected with local authors and met new readers to my novels. To discuss my stories is always a fun conversation, as those who know my work, understand my ability to ‘flip’ ideas on their heads and give surprisingly twists and turns in my narratives.
As a reader I also took advantage of an independent bookstore’s weekend sale. The Purple Platypus in Castor, is jam packed with books and picking one or two is impossible. I left with a bag of books! More for my ever expanding TBR pile. (You know the problem all too well, I’m sure.)
Added to these were novels from three Lethbridge authors – Jenna Greene, Bianca Rowena, and Mandy Michelle.
So after I finish Fairy Tale by Stephen King I will have a difficult decision to make – which book do I choose first. Do any of these speak to you? Which one would you choose?
Mostly it exhausts me, both emotionally and physically. But so does playing the piano and doing art. If I was doing those things to relax, then it would be like a colouring page or writing a diary entry. But when I’m truly working on my art (writing) then I’m exhausted afterwards because it takes a part of my very self, when I’m truly creating.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes. I wanted to publish a mid-grade book, which would be too far separated from my adult romance. I wouldn’t want the mid-graders to pick up the adult romance, so I considered writing the younger genre under a pseudonym.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m part of a writer’s group, where we write together and share our work. My best friend is also a writer, who writes romance and we talk about writing all the time. I am lucky to also have a couple friends who work at the local library and who like to write and read, not to mention writers I’ve met and become friends with through conferences, book fairs and author readings from Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat. It really is a big community once you get involved. They help me become a better writer because we share insights and advice and things we’ve learned or discovered, from anything from writing style to book advertising options.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Currently I’m working on a three book series. The first two definitely go together, originally written as one long novel split into two. The third book could be a stand alone and is the prequel to the first two. The series is a Young Adult Sci-Fi Fantasy based on a fanfiction novel I wrote two years ago. The first book has been published and is called ‘The Gift Stone’, book one of the Gifted Series ( https://www.amazon.ca/Gift-Stone-Bianca-Rowena/dp/0994851332/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 ).
Book two will be released in the summer of 2018, and will be titled ‘Takano Rynn’, the name of the main male character in the series. Book three will hopefully follow soon after that.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I was born in Romania and we were Hungarian speaking. So when I came to Canada I was five years old and put into Kindergarten. I remember being forced to go to these English language sessions in the office, where they would hold up a photocard of a boot and say ‘boot’ over and over again. It didn’t take me very long to learn English, and it was WAY before anyone realized I understood it. So I had the power to know what everyone was saying around me and about me, without them knowing that I understood them. Understanding English came quickly at age five, but speaking it back, took a bit longer.
Also, whenever my parents needed to tell us something that they didn’t want anyone else to overhear, they’d tell us in Hungarian. And when they wanted to discuss something that they didn’t want my sister and I to hear, they’d discuss it in Romanian (we were too young to have learned Romanian in school, before coming to Canada). So I recognized at an early age that language held the power of communication, either to make it possible or to close it off and leave you completely clueless, depending on which language was being spoken at the time.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
‘Swim the Fly’ by Don Calame
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I’ve got five unpublished but completed novels and one half finished novel, as well as 4 full length screenplays and many, many, many stories I started.
What does literary success look like to you?
A movie made based on your book.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
For my fan-fiction I spend a lot of time researching the details. Otherwise my novels are more character based so I don’t get into details, even in my sci-fi/fantasy novels, of the technicality of things. I sort of avoid too much research. As for character research I watch a lot of movies, read a lot of books in the genre I write and observe everyone around me. That too is research!
How many hours a day/week do you write?
The last three months I’d been writing at least 3-5 hours daily, mostly for posting fanfiction chapters daily ( www.wattpad.com/biancawatson ). But when I’m not deep in my fanfiction I spend most of my time editing. I’ll write a novel in a month or two, non-stop, about 6 hours a day. Then I’ll stop and do edits at a slower pace. I’m not a planner, so when ideas hit me I write them as fast as I can (like my personal Nanowrimo), then I plan and edit and work hard on the rewrites, but at a slower pace, a few hours a day. It’s not a consistent thing for me, writing. It’s on a project by project basis, so the times fluctuate per month.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I like short, simple names. Usually I can just sense that the name is right for the character or if it is wrong.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I write YA because everything I write comes out sounding YA, whether I intend it to or not. My first novel, The Virgin Diaries, was a contemporary adult romance. Yet anyone who has read it would tell you it ‘reads’ like a YA. I’m naturally drawn to writing in a more simple, easy to read, style and my understanding of the world around me seems to be naturally very young minded. So I stick with what I write best!
What projects are you working on at the present?
I was working on my Star Wars fanfiction right after the new movie came out, doing a sequel to it. Now I’m focusing on my next novel in the Gifted Series, Takano Rynn, which comes out this Summer. I also want to write some new material for future work, and I’m editing (alongside book two) book three of the Gifted Series, which may need a rewrite for the ending. I also write in a journal when I can.
I had a story idea that started to play out in my mind like a movie and I began writing it down. I found myself writing all day because the story just kept coming. I wrote at work, at home, while I ate, at night, in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning. I did this for about two weeks when I had my first rough draft of my very first novel I had ever written Hamster Heaven. I know that sounds crazy, just two weeks, but I don’t think the manuscript was full novel length anyway, in its first draft. Then I had the brilliant idea to add the boy character’s point of view, alternating with the girl character’s point of view, for each chapter. Once I added that in my manuscript was twice as long and at that point I think it was actually novel length. I edited Hamster Heaven on and off for about ten years. It is still my favourite novel that I’ve written. Since then, I’ve written a few more novels and my writing style has changed a lot. So I suppose my inspiration was just a great story idea that insisted on being written.
How did you come up with the title?
The title came to me during one of my early edits when I reached the part where Kati’s beloved hamster dies. The hamster is just a small part of the coming-of-age story, but it is Kati’s breaking point, when everything goes from bad to horrible, and she finally cries. Sometimes it takes a separate incident from all the pain you’re going through, to unleash the emotions and tears, like a sad movie or the death of a gold fish, etc. Once the title, Hamster Heaven, came to me it stuck.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?
The novel I’m highlighting today (The Virgin Diaries) isn’t my first book, it is my fifth. Prior to The Virgin Diaries, I wrote Hamster Heaven, Moonlight Shadow and Emodroids and Boy Charming. They are all quite different.
-Hamster Heaven is a teen fiction novel set in the mid-1990’s.
–The Virgin Diaries, which is currently my most successful Wattpad novel (with over 5,200 views) is a contemporary Romance about Abby Blosym, who is still a virgin and about to be turning thirty. She is desperate to start living her adult life; marriage, a house, kids, etc. possibly with her boyfriend Ben. But when he proves to be the wrong one for her she leaves to ‘chase the sun’ and falls for Jade, who is considerably younger than her.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. I did research on a little known condition known as Vaginismus, a muscle spasm, which makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for women to have intercourse. This is not an uncommon problem and yet it is not talked about or understood, even by doctors, because the condition is caused by psychological factors such as fear and anxiety. This is what my character Abby has to work through in this novel. Even for those who don’t have a condition to work through, having sex for the first time is a life milestone that can be intimidating, like a rite of passage into adulthood. This can be especially intimidating for women who have waited until they are older.
I decided to take the challenge of writing about a character who is making this transition, in conquering her fears and inhibitions so she can move into the next chapter of her life. I’ve heard it said that to be a successful writer you must write about something that makes you uncomfortable, or challenges you to delve into the difficult things of life, or about something that scares you. So with this novel, I took that challenge.
How much of the book is realistic?
Realistic? It’s a contemporary novel, with locations that really exist and situations that are relatable. One of the main locations, Penticton BC, is a place where I myself have vacationed, and I use descriptions in the novel from my recollections of my visits there; the S.S. Sicamous Museum, Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake, the beach front, etc. Abby’s hometown is a small city in Southern Alberta, which is also familiar to me. The main character, I feel, is a realistic representation of women who are still trying to leave their parents’ overprotective influence over their lives create a life for themselves.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Abby is a combination of character traits based on friends of mine that are not married yet, as well as character traits from my own self, before I was married. One of the things I find interesting is the powerful emotional impact that overprotective (or overbearing) mothers can have on their grown children’s lives. My mom doesn’t get too involved in the details of my life, but there are many women whose mothers try to control their decisions with emotional manipulation. I wanted to make Abby a woman with a mother like this, thereby putting her in a situation where setting up age-appropriate boundaries between parent and grown child would be essential in order for her to become independent and make the transition into adulthood. I love having a wide variety of friends in my life. My fictional characters can be as diverse as the personalities of the friends I’ve grown to know personally.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Always the beginning, maybe the first 1/4th of the novel. It’s where I always have the most difficulty, where I do the most editing, where I can never seem to be satisfied. So with The Virgin Diaries I’d want to tighten up the beginning a little in order to get to the first meeting between Abby and Jade sooner in the novel. I tried rearranging the order in which the chapters occur (with flashbacks, etc.) which was a nightmare with Wattpad, back before they created more user-friendly chapter editing options for writers who use Wattpad to publish their work.
But I don’t allow myself to look at the novel anymore because the moment I do I will begin editing again, wanting to change everything. I’m the type of author that is never satisfied with any draft, as happened with Hamster Heaven, which I edited over and over for ten years. It gets to the point where I realize I like my old drafts better than the new ones and I start putting old scenes back in. That’s when I know I need to stop editing and make a final copy. Whether or not the novel could have been better, at this point, doesn’t matter. There’s a time to finally let go. Wattpad helps me to do that. Once a chapter is published I let it go. I have to. Because if I keep making changes my poor followers will keep getting updates in their newsfeed alerting them that my chapter has been “updated”, and I don’t want to clutter their news feeds. This is one of the reasons I love Wattpad. I love connecting with the readers and it helps me build a platform of followers for the future when I will be selling novels or e-books for a cost.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
First of all, I’m SO grateful for those who have read, left comments or voted for my novels on Wattpad. It is always such a great feeling to know that someone has connected with my story or my characters. Any encouragement or nice comments can make a difficult day into an awesome day! But I also appreciate constructive feedback, which I got lots of in the comments section for The Virgin Diaries on Wattpad. I did make changes to the story due to some of the reader suggestions. And lastly I want to say to readers that if you enjoy a story, and it has made you feel, think, cry, laugh, see things in a new light or the story has entertained you, then please suggest the book to your friends! Word of mouth is one of the best ways to promote anything, including novels J it is a great way to show appreciation to the author for his or her endless hours of work in making a novel for others to read.
What is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?
My favourite part… right off the top of my head I would say when Abby meets Jade in the waters of the Okanagan lake. It is a pivotal point in the story and Jade is the catalyst that propels Abby into one of the biggest and most difficult transitions of her life, and yet the whole scene is so unassuming and casual.
What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
There is always an element of romance in all my novels, whether it’s sci-fi, contemporary adult or teen fiction, and yet I wouldn’t say my favourite genre to write is Romance, but rather, Young Adult or Teen Fiction. As for theme, whether the story is about Alien conspiracies or a girl running away from home, my favourite theme is always ‘boy meets girl’.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Horror or war memoirs, the holocaust, rape, psychological thrillers, or satanic cults and human sacrifices.
What book are you reading now?
I’m not one to read just one book before grabbing another and starting that as well, so currently I am reading the following books:
–Midnight In Austenland by Shannon Hale
–Scott Pilgrim Manga Series by Bryan Lee O’Malley
–Venus in Love Manga Series by Yuki Nakaji
–Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout (I’m really enjoying this one)
–The Academy Ghost Bird Series by C.L. Stone (e-book)
–Conquering Shame and Codependency by Darlene Lancer
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, new to me at least. Ally Condie who wrote Matched is a really poetic author that packs so much meaning and depth into every sentence, and yet her writing style is easy to read and flows seamlessly. I LOVE her book Matched.
Also, C.L. Stone, an indie author who offers the first book of her book series for free as an e-book! It isn’t so much her writing specifically that grasped my interest but the fact that she was able to engage so many readers and grow her audience to such huge proportions with just a simple teen story.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but with screenwriting more than novel writing. I see myself selling screenplays, before any book publishing deals come along. Book publishers are very picky, they are buying the product that they hope to make money on so it has to be perfect. When you sell a script, most likely it will not be your script that will be used for the movie; rather, your script is given to a better known screenwriter who is paid $1 million to rewrite it.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself having sold one or two film scripts and possibly publishing a novel, whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing one of my novels (in a printed book format, for sale, not free online as I’ve done on wattpad). I also see myself doing a lot more self-promotion. With my daughter being out of the house in ten years, I imagine I will be attending more writer’s conventions and festivals where I can promote my work and do readings, like I had the privilege of doing at last year’s Word On The Street festival in Lethbridge. I did a reading from my (still yet to be completed) novel Boy Charming in the Young Adult festival tent. It was a nerve-wracking experience! I’m also planning to attend the World Screenwriter’s Conference this year for the first time and hopefully get my foot in the door in the screenwriting world and sell a script or two, in the next ten years.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The beginning. I know how important it is to capture the interest of the reader right from the start and I find that creates a lot of pressure on an author to write a compelling beginning. When I write a first draft I don’t worry too much about structure or rules, but once I get into the editing I do worry about these things, especially capturing the reader’s attention at the beginning and moving the action along fast enough yet still taking time to do world building and character building. In The Virgin Diaries for example, I was told that I should move the action along faster at the beginning because it takes too long for the main love interest (Jade) to be introduced. But I didn’t feel the reader would be invested emotionally enough in Abby’s character or have a sufficient enough understanding of her life situation and state of mind, if I skipped those beginning character building chapters.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
That’s a tough question. I can say I’ve hated ‘sharing’ something I’ve written, that is, sharing it with the wrong audience for the work. But I can’t say I’ve never hated the work itself. Each work is a piece of you, a creation of your creative mind. If there was some effort, some emotion, something shared, then I don’t think I could hate it, even if I am uncomfortable with the work, or unhappy with its quality. Any piece of prose can be made better and improved, and there’s something beautiful about a first draft, the emotional honesty of it. I’ve also learned that not all writing is appreciated by all audiences and that you have to know when it makes sense to be vulnerable and present your work to others and when it isn’t the right place or time or audience. I attended a self-publishing workshop given by Linda J. Pedley from Dream Write Publishing (http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/), during which Linda said something that stuck with me to this very day and I will always remember, she said ‘be proud of your work’ [not embarrassed or ashamed or secretive about it]. She said some authors don’t want their picture on the back of their books, but it should be an honour to be the writer of your work. I realized that I too felt embarrassed sometimes by my work because it had a heated romance scene in it or had an uncomfortable topic like my novel The Virgin Diaries. But after listening to Linda speak at that workshop I realized that if I write something, that I believe in and have worked hard on, I have every reason to be proud of it.
What book do you wish you had written?
Matched by Ally Condie. It really captured me. It is brilliant in its simplicity and deep in its purity. Here is a quote from Chapter Twenty Five of Matched:
“Our time together feels like a storm, like wild wind and rain, like something too big to handle but too powerful to escape, it blows around me and tangles my hair, leaves water on my face, makes me know I am alive, alive, alive. There are moments of calm and pause as there are in every storm, and moments when our words fork lightning, at least for each other.”
What is your best marketing tip?
Get involved! Support and encourage other authors by following their blogs or Facebook pages, commenting or rating their work, etc. This can really make a difference for you and your own marketing in the long run. Attend conferences if you can. Make friends. Sell yourself.
There are millions of writers out there, millions of great books, just step into a used bookstore or a Chapters store, shelf after shelf of top quality writing. How will yours get noticed? If you sell your work to Random House then their marketing team will help you get noticed, but otherwise it’s important to network and socialize. What I mean by that is ‘care’, about your work and about others’. Care about those trying to do the same thing you are doing. Comment on their posts, follow them on twitter, leave positive feedback. Particularly in the world of Wattpad, it is important to read others’ work as much as it is to write and publish your own.
But in the end the best marketing strategy is to have a good manuscript. Word will spread and people will show interest. If it is a good novel it will get noticed, eventually, and hopefully not after you’ve passed away. If it isn’t a great novel, then no amount of marketing will make people invest their time in it. So make sure you have a great product that YOU are proud of and then share it with others, while also encouraging fellow writers (and your readers too). If you have just one reader tell them you appreciate them. Reply to comments they leave and (as I like to do on Wattpad) write them a thank-you message if they’ve left a comment or voted on your work.
Don’t despise small beginnings and celebrate your achievements, even the small ones.
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
My next novel that I will be uploading to Wattpad is Hamster Heaven (teen fiction) which will involve another read through / edit of the manuscript the chapters get posted week by week. This will be the first time Hamster Heaven is published to the public even though it was written over ten years ago.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Hamster Heaven is a teen fiction novel about a 13 year old girl named Kati, from an immigrant family, who has never quite fit in, nor has she felt the need to. Then she crosses paths with David, also a child of immigrant parents. Before long he is the friend that she has always wanted and needed. But Kati’s sudden change of social status at school threatens to destroy their new found friendship.
You can also follow my Facebook Author’s Page for updates and info on upcoming book / e-book releases and of course to leave comments and contact me J www.facebook.com/BiancaRowena
More about Bianca:
Bianca writes teen fiction and YA (including sci-fi, romance and contemporary styles). She is the author of The Virgin Diaries, Boy Charming and Moonlight Shadow, which are available to read for free on wattpad at: www.wattpad.com/BiancaWatson
For the first 10 people to follow Bianca’s facebook page and receive a free bookmark.
When she isn’t writing, Bianca enjoys playing the piano, reading, going to plays or the symphony, frequenting used bookstores, going out for fancy cupcakes with her daughter, high-tea social events, watching Netflix and baking banana chocolate chip muffins.
“I will always write, because to not do so would be to deny my very self”