Monday, May 14, 2007

Gemma Halliday - Film & Television Actress Turned Award Winning Novelist

Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Gemma Halliday. She's the author of the "High Heel series." Spying In High Heels is in development for a television series on the USA Network! Producer is Larry Shuman and Executive Producer/Writer is Sara Endsley. It is currently planned to be one of five new shows being developed for their fall 2007/2008 season.

EI: Thank you for dropping by and please tell us what were you like as a teenager? Can you tell your readers more about Gemma Halliday -- the woman behind the author?

GH: Oh boy. I was a bit of a rebellious teenager. My mother affectingly refers to those years as "the dark ages". Cutting class, hanging out under the bleachers – you name it, I did it. I'd like to think it gave me plenty of fodder for future writing. Luckily, I've mostly grown out of that stage. Mostly. These days my biggest sin is overspending at the mall.

EI: Do you express your inner self in your writing, or do the personas you create exist only in your imagination?

GH: A little of both. I'll admit there's a bit of me in Maddie, but for the most part the characters are purely figments of my imagination. Sometimes I'll "borrow" characteristics from people I've met, but at the risk of alienating my friends, I try to keep that to a minimum.

EI: What is your response to the public perception about your creative insight with your book?

GH: I've been very lucky in that the public response to my first books has been so positive. In fact, I recently learned that SPYING IN HIGH HEELS is currently in development with the USA Network for a televisions series in their 2007/2008 season. I'm thrilled and can't wait to see how they translate the characters onto the small screen!

EI: You also have a story published in Dreams and Desires, an incredible anthology. Would you please tell the readers more about it?

GH: This was a wonderful project to work on! There were 19 authors in all that contributed short stories to the collection published by Freya's Bower. All the proceeds from the sale of the book have gone to a battered woman's shelter. So far, it's been such a great success that Freya's Bower will be publishing a second volume again next February, and I'm honored to have been asked to contribute again.

EI: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?

GH: For me, reading is all about escapism and I think romance is escapism at it's best. Of course I'm a little bit of a rule breaker by nature, so my romances tend to have dead bodies in them too. :) But as far as a community of writers go, I haven't found any as supportive and helpful as the romance writers.

EI: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?

GH: I think if you start questioning whether your writing is good enough to matter to anyone, you're dooming yourself to fail. Publishing is a very competitive business. You have to go into it believing that your writing is good enough and you will make it. I look back on the first manuscript I wrote and honestly cringe a little at the quality of my writing then, but if I didn't have confidence in my abilities I never would have continued writing and improving.

EI: Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you? And what do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

GH: If I had to pick one, I'd say I'm more plot driven. I love to write mysteries which tend to have to a lot of twists and turns in the stories. But it really isn't interesting to me if a story is all plot, so I generally like to take some wacky characters along on the ride with me as well.

The hardest part about writing for me is definitely the deadlines. It's very difficult to be creative on command, but when a deadline is looming, that's exactly what you have to be.

EI: Would you describe yourself as a confident writer, always ready to face the next new challenge? Or do you have to psyche yourself up to try different venues?

GH: I love trying new thing! I'm not a super fast writer, so by the time I'm done with a project I'm generally really ready to work on something new and different. Right now I'm actually working on a novella for a paranormal anthology - a genre I haven't yet written. It's definitely a challenge, but I'm really enjoying it so far.

EI: You are well known in the writing community as a recipient of RWA's prestigious Golden Heart Award, now a finalist for the 2007 RITA Award with two nominations. I believe these awards are given to books published in romance every year and it's equivalent to 'Oscars'. Can you tell us about it?

GH: Yes, I'm extremely excited to be nominated for two RITAs this year. Both are for my debut book, SPYING IN HIGH HEELS, which I really had a blast writing, making the nominations all the more validating. I'm up for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (the category I won as an unpublished writer in the Golden Heart contest in 2005) and Best First Book. The other authors nominated in these categories along with me are all a superb group of writers so I'm very honored.

EI: Now let's shift gears here for a second... Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced to publish your first book 'Spying In High Heels'? Is there anything about you that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?

GH: SPYING IN HIGH HEELS was the seventh full manuscript I completed before selling – the other six are currently keeping the dust bunnies under my bed company. So, I had a pretty long learning curve. And once I did sell, that first year was a whirlwind of new experiences. Luckily, my publisher, Dorchester, has been just fantastic and my editor and publicist there were always happy to answer my sometimes very-blonde newbie questions.

EI: How did you develop these characters? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story?

GH: A little of both. I had the main ideas for the book plotted out ahead of time, but the characters definitely grew and developed as I continued to write, especially in the scenes between my hero and heroine. The more they fought the better I knew them.

EI: Please tell us about 'Undercover In High Heels' which is due in September '07. It's the 3rd in the 'High Heels' series. Would care to share a little a bit about it?

GH: In the next installment, Maddie goes undercover as a wardrobe assistant on a very Desperate Housewives-esque TV show where a pretty young starlet has turned up dead. This was very fun for me to write as I used to work in television, so drew a lot on my own personal experience. Granted, I never stumbled on any dead bodies while in Hollywood, but many of the settings are real places that I've been.

EI: How much of Maddie Springer's life and detective Jack Ramirez is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with their characters? What was your biggest challenge?

GH: I actually carry around a lot of their lives in my head. I do plan out in advance where they're headed and what's up next for them. Things change along the way, but I generally keep a good mental roadmap going.

The biggest challenge I've found writing this series is keeping the characters and situations fresh from book to book. I think with any series there's the risk of things feeling repetitive, so I've really tried to throw new things at my characters in each book to keep them on their toes.

EI: What's up next? Is there another 4th book in the works? What can you share something with us?

GH: Yes there is! ALIBI IN HIGH HEELS is the fourth book in the series, which will be out in March of 2008. In ALIBI, Maddie and her gang travel to Paris to unravel a murder at Fashion Week. Lots of fun, fashion, and a few dead bodies.

EI: Ms. Halliday, thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?

GH: Just keep writing! The more you write, the better you'll get so ignore that little inner critic and just keep at it.

To learn more about Gemma Halliday, please visit her at:

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