SWA Presenter Spotlight: Berta Platas

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presentersFor more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

Next up is romance author Berta Platas.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Havana-born Berta Platas writes what she refers to as “fun, sexy romance.”

The martini-loving mother of four is the author of several chica-lit novels, including To Catch a Dream, All of Me, Miami Heat, Livewire, Cinderella Lopez and her latest, Lucky Chica.  She has also co-authored a few titles, including Names I Call My Sister, Friday Night Chicas: Sexy Stories from La Noche and Blessings of Mossy Creek as well as published essays in Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume and Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray and Drunken Uncles.

Every month on her blog, Straight Up and a Little Dirty, Platas hosts a contest, where she awards a $10 Amazon gift certificate.  Please visit her Web site for more details on how to win.

THE INTERVIEW

RS:  How did you get into writing?

BP: I think I decided to write a book in the same way many authors do.  I read a book which had an unsatisfactory ending, and kept thinking of different and better ways it could have been concluded.  Finally, one of the options spawned an idea for an entirely different book. I pitched the idea to my husband, who was also a writer, and he encouraged me to write it myself.

RS: What keeps you writing?

BP: Right now, nothing motivates me more than a contract and a deadline. I’m the world’s worst procrastinator; however, if I didn’t have a contract, I think I would still write, just much more slowly. Writing is like a chronic condition, and one for which I seek no cure.

RS: What do you do when you’re not writing?

BP: I love to spend time with my family, help my husband build an HO-scale railroad empire in the basement and watch television. I try to stay away from the TV because it’s so darned addictive, and it really bites into my writing time.

I also enjoy building period costumes, with a particular love for the late eighteenth century and mid-to-late- nineteenth century, and love to make miniature room boxes—little stage sets in one inch scale.

I used to plunge into these hobbies after finishing a book, but now I have back to back commitments and don’t have the time.

Perhaps these 19th century shoes would fit Platas's fancy.

RS: What draws you to the romance category?

BP: I love happy endings. And it helps that the romance market is enormous, even in these tough economic times.

RS: What are you currently working on?

BP: I’ve got a young adult manuscript due on March 1, which is finished, but I’m cleaning it up.

After that, I have three more projects to finish and get to their various destinations. One is women’s fiction, another is a young adult novel and one is a paranormal, a genre I love to read but had never attempted.

RS: Speaking of dabbling in new writing genres, what’s another type of writing you’d like to attempt but haven’t yet?

BP: I adore murder mysteries, but I don’t think I’ll ever write one.  I’ve got enough to do right now, and it’s nice to have a genre that I can read without dissecting the plot. I love following the clues and being surprised at the end.

RS: What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

BP: That’s sort of a trick question, since I have 250 books on my nightstand, all on my Sony eReader!

I also have a few good old-fashioned paper tomes: James Howard Kunstler’s World Made by Hand, Patricia Brigg’s The Hob’s Bargain, Edith Wharton’s The Bunner Sisters, and Nora Roberts’s Bed of Roses, Linda Fairstein’s Lethal Legacy.

The eReader holds mostly my favorite authors, which include many classics, including Dickens and Twain, as well as modern authors such as Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Platas embraces e-books, the future of publishing, with her Sony e-Reader.

RS: Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

BP: Wow. There are too many to name them all.

As a child, I read a lot of Vonnegut, Asimov and Poul Anderson. Science fiction and fantasy were my favorites.

Then I spent a rainy week at the beach reading a long shelf of Barbara Cartland’s Regency romances. It was like too much candy, but I’d never read romance novels before and enjoyed the light-hearted tone.

Soon after, I read every Agatha Christie book I could get my hands on and got hooked on murder.

So there are a lot of influences, but all have one thing in common: a good story.

RS: Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

BP: I’ll teach novel-writing at Southeastern Writers Association, with classes devoted to creating memorable characters, determining point of view, plotting a story, different ways to plot (including planning a trilogy or series), worldbuilding and tools for organizing a book.

I’ll have handouts that give an overview of each class, as well as a short one on formatting a novel and writing a query letter, in case anyone needs it. I hope I can fit all of that in!

My goal is for each student to have an understanding of what their strengths are, and I’ll try to tailor the class for the type of book the students are writing or want to write.

THE PLUG

For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.  Don’t wait to sign up—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

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