Shore to Please is Book 3 in my Gulf Shore contemporary romance series. For those familiar with the series, it’s Flipper and Tara’s book. Paul “Flipper” O’Riley is the head dolphin trainer at Gulf Shore Aquarium in west-central Florida, and Tara Langley is an animal rights activist who doesn’t think dolphins and whales should be kept in captivity. These two are such as unlikely pair, and not just because of their views on what’s become a very controversial subject. The book has heart, humor, lots of fireworks, mystery, and suspense.
What draws you to write your genre and sub-genre?
I write what I love to read. I became a big fan of romance novels, particularly contemporary, when I picked up my first Catherine Anderson book. After that I started exploring other authors and subgenres and found myself hooked.
Do you have any tips for new writers?
I like to quote an old Nike commercial when people ask how I “find my muse” or get in the mood to write: Just do it. I’ve worked most of my adult life in the newspaper business, so I’m used to writing and editing under intense deadline pressure. The best way to defeat writer’s block is to sit down and put words on the page. You can always go back and tweak them later. Another important thing for writers is to read, a lot, particularly in your chosen genre. Almost everything I’ve learned about fiction writing—pacing, plot and character development, dialogue, etc.—I’ve picked up from reading other writers’ work. But don’t ever copy another writer’s style. Find your own voice.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Staying up entirely too late, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning, to read. My husband is asleep, and it’s the only time my pets are quiet for a long stretch.
Where can your readers reach you?
Please drop by my website at www.annettemardis.com. I’d love to have folks sign up for my newsletter, read my blog, and explore the other content on the site. There also are links there to buy my books and find me on social media.
Are you working on another book?
Yes. My work in progress is Gulf Shore Book 3.5, a contemporary paranormal tentatively titled Shore is Magical. It’s my first paranormal but it will have all the hallmarks of the series, including characters from the other books. Flipper’s boss, Kenshin Hamasaki, is still haunted by his baby’s death and his then-wife’s betrayal. When he meets the mysterious Marina, he’s not sure what to think because she’s unlike any woman he’s ever known—or ever knew existed.
How did you come up with the title?
All of the titles so far in my Gulf Shore series are a play on words based on the town they’re set in: The Shore Thing, Shore Feels Right, Shore to Please, and Shore is Magical.
Is there one particular thing that you find challenging about writing?
I’ve spent most of my adult life writing and editing newspaper stories, so fiction writing is a big departure for me. My first book, a woman’s fiction novella titled Getting Her Money’s Worth, is based on true events. I had to keep reminding myself that I could change the facts or totally make them up to suit the plot line or the characters.
Are your characters a reflection on you or anyone you know?
I draw on life experiences, my own and other people’s, in writing my books. For instance, I’m a lifetime Floridian and a volunteer at a marine animal hospital in Clearwater. Those factors definitely have influenced my Gulf Shore series. But while I’ve learned a lot about marine life and how an aquarium/rescue facility operates through my volunteerism, I am most definitely not writing about the place or the people where I work. Gulf Shore, Gulf Shore Aquarium, and all the characters there are fictional.
What is your favorite thing about writing?
Finishing a book and seeing my name on the cover are both big thrills. My goal is to entertain people. So I love it when someone says he or she enjoyed the book.
Do you have a favorite character from one of your own books? Who and why?
One of my favorite characters from the Gulf Shore books is not a person, it’s an African gray parrot named Ozzie. His fictional owner, Dani Davidson, refers to him as her “little boy in a bird suit.” He talks a lot, often in context, and keeps her entertained. My own Ozzie in real life does the same and was the inspiration for that character.
Do you find love scenes difficult to write?
Sometimes. There definitely is an art to it. I try to be descriptive without being too graphic. I want to give readers the excitement of being in lust and love while leaving a little to the imagination.
Are any of your personal experiences reflected in your writing?
My first book, Getting Her Money’s Worth, was inspired by my friendship with an extraordinary person who died a few years ago after four go-rounds with cancer or related illnesses. There is a lot of me in that novel. I wrote it as a tribute to my friend because I so admired the way she could put aside all her worries and challenges and totally live in the moment on the occasions when she had time for fun. I always wished I could emulate that.
Do you characters talk to you?
Not really. But a lot of times I work out storylines in my head while I’m trying to fall asleep. That’s probably why I so often have insomnia. :)
Who controls the storyline, you or your characters?
Ultimately I do, of course. I don’t plot out my books in advance—I’m a classic “by the seat of my pants” writer—so I’m often surprised by what ends up on the page when I sit down and start typing. On the best of days, it just flows out without too much thought. At other times it’s a struggle. All writers go through that, so you just have to plow through those periods when you’re not feeling as creative or inspired as you want to be.
What is your writing day like once you start a book?
I usually sit on the couch, right next to my bird’s cage, with my feet up and my laptop on my lap. My two dogs are either on the couch with me or nearby. I swear they bark if a leaf falls off a tree on the next block, so I get interrupted a lot. But one good thing about having worked for a newspaper is I’ve learned to concentrate in environments where there are a lot of distractions. Newsrooms at peak times are like train stations.
Do you promo your backlists when you’re writing a new book, or dedicate your time solely to writing?
Every author, whether self-published or a fixture on The New York Times best-seller list, has to do a certain amount of self-promotion. While I very much enjoy connecting with readers, it does take away from writing time. It’s easy to get so caught up in social media that you don’t have time to write. You just have to strike a balance and not lose sight of the work.
How many books do you write in a year?
On average, two. Some books can take a couple of months to write. Others take longer. It depends on the story and the characters. Some write themselves, while others feel like I’m building space shuttles.