Today I sat down with Elizabeth Spaur to talk about her new book, Miss Atomic Bomb 1953!
When did you realize or decide you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 12. It took me a while to turn the dream into reality, but better late than never!
What has been your best experience as an author so far?
It’s hard to say. Since I’ve joined my local RWA chapter I’ve had so many amazing experiences within the fabulous community of romance writers. I would have to say, though, that one of the best moments happened at the RT Convention last year. I had a request from an editor for a full manuscript. When I shared that with several writers I’d taken classes with they were so overjoyed for me. It was a beautiful feeling. Not only did an editor want to see my work, but a group of writers I truly respect were excited to celebrate my success with me.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a writer? How did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was myself. For the longest time I would only write when I felt inspired. After 5 years of work, I still hadn’t finished my novel. I finally realized that I had to stop waiting to be motivated and waiting to be inspired. I started getting up every morning at 5:00 a.m. so I could have at least two hours of writing time before I had to go to my day job. This was in February 2016. Forcing myself to put my butt in the chair has made all the difference. I have been more inspired and more motivated in the last year than ever before. Since putting my butt in the chair I’ve completed two novels and two novellas. I also have three more novels and two more novellas in the works.
How do you research and plan your books? Do you find outlining helps or hinders your process?
I am a big believer in research. I write historical, contemporary and paranormal and I firmly believe every writer needs to do at least some research to strengthen their story and give it an underlying authenticity that readers appreciate. Obviously, I do more research for my historicals to make sure I have the details of the era correct. As far as planning, I am more of a pantser than a planner. I usually have a general idea of where my story is going and I do enough research to make sure I can fill in the right details as I go. However, once I start writing I don’t stop to research. I highlight the section in blue and do another round of research between my first draft and my first revision. This way research doesn’t bog me down, but I can keep track of those areas that need to be fleshed out with more detail. Since I don’t outline my stories that much my characters are fond of surprising me late in the game and I need to be prepared to go back and fill in some blanks.
Have you learned anything really cool or interesting while researching your books? What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?
I’ve learned so many interesting things while researching. My novella is set in Las Vegas in the 1950s and features the Miss Atomic Bomb Pageant. While researching that pageant I learned there have been a lot of bizarre pageants over the years. There was a Miss Perfect Posture sponsored by the chiropractor’s association. Contestants would actually have their x-rays taken and judged as part of the contest. I think the pageant research is also some of the weirdest research I’ve done, so far.
What advice would you give to new writers in the field?
Two things. First, put your butt in the chair and write. You can’t do anything with a blank page. Second, find your tribe. Writing is, by necessity, a solitary practice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find other writers to help you learn and grow as a writer. My writers’ group here in Las Vegas has been invaluable to me.
Have you made any writing or reading themed New Year’s Resolutions?
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions anymore, because there’s always the feeling that you can let a resolution go. I do set goals at the beginning of each year. As far as reading, I want to read 100 books this year (new books, not just the re-reads). As far as writing, my goal is to publish 3 novellas this year and at least 2 of the novels in my contemporary series.
Tell us a little about your writing nook! Favorite tea/coffee/writing snack?
My writing nook is my couch, right now. My husband and I are in the process of re-doing my office, so it’s a bit of a disaster. I am excited to get it done. I am most looking forward to my idea wall…an entire wall painted with dry-erase paint so that I can write all over it. I couldn’t do my 5:00 a.m. writing sessions without my coffee. I drink vanilla-flavored coffee with a little cream and sweat and low. As far as my favorite snack, when I write in the afternoons, a little buttered popcorn keeps me going.
Of all of your own characters, who would you most want to date?
He’s actually a future hero, Boyd “Boomer” Hale (He’s the hero in Book 4 of my Gridiron Knights series). He’s been lurking in my subconscious for a few years and is finally getting ready to have his story told. He thought he’d found the woman of his dreams until she tried to have him killed. He’s a big hearted alpha whose just waiting for the right woman to show him what real love is. I can’t wait to share his story.
What project are you currently working on?
I am working on revisions to the sequel to Miss Atomic Bomb 1953, Love Comes After. My critique partner and I are going to publish a duet of novellas in the Spring, probably May.
What’s next for you?
Love Comes After, the sequel to Miss Atomic Bomb 1953, which is in the Decades of Love Anthology released on February 28, is in the revision stages right now and will be released in the Spring, likely May, with BA McIntosh’s sequel to Home At Last.
When her physics teacher gave her detention for reading a romance novel during class, Elizabeth Spaur knew she was destined to be romance writer. Her journey from physics class to published author as gone from coast to coast and led her through multiple industries, including film and television, banking and the law. Every step along the way has enriched her life and helped her tell stories that always come with a happily ever after and, usually, a side of snark. Elizabeth writes contemporary, historical and paranormal romance. She lives with the love of her life and two pairs of cats and dogs, all of whom are named after television crime fighters. She enjoys hearing from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us a little about your new release:
Miss Atomic Bomb 1953 is the story of Jack and Lily. He’s a no nonsense rancher who served in WWII and Korea and just wants a little peace working the ranch his family has called home for decades. She’s a mob princess caught between two warring families who just wants a home of her own. When they meet at the Miss Atomic Bomb Pageant, sparks fly. Can their love survive the plans her family’s made for her?
Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
At RWA in San Diego a group of us, include BA McIntosh, went out for lunch and out of nowhere she said “let’s write an anthology.” We were all from Las Vegas and decided to set the anthology here and then we came up with the idea of every writer taking a decade. I volunteered to do the 1950s. When I started my research I saw a picture of the first Miss Atomic Bomb and off I went.
Did you outline the story, or dive right in?
I dove right in.
How did your characters come to life?
I’m never sure where my characters will take me. When I start writing I usually only know where they are in the first scene of the story and what the darkest moment in their life was before the story began. Since I’m a pantser I let my characters tell me their story. Once I get going on their story they do a fabulous job of letting me know what they are all about. Lily and Jack both came into clear focus in each of their first scenes. Sometimes, my characters really make me work for their story, but Lily and Jack practically wrote it for me.
Did you do any cool or interesting research for this story? What did you learn?
As a transplant to Las Vegas, I really enjoyed learning more about my adopted city. One of the most interesting aspects of my research was the history of ranching in the area. People don’t think of Las Vegas as a location where ranching could be successful, but up until the casinos really started to take over there were a lot of successful ranchers in the area. The development of the city was fascinating to me, and finding the photographs from the 1950s and seeing just how much had changed was amazing.
What was your favorite part of working on this story? What was the most challenging?
My favorite part was working with some of the other authors in the anthology on plotting issues. Having their feedback and being able to share mine with them was a great experience and a lot of fun. The most challenging aspect was telling a complete story in 15,000 words or less.
What’s next for this story – is it part of a series? When does it come out?
It’s interesting. I usually think in series, but this one started as a stand-alone for the anthology. However, my partner in crime, BA McIntosh, turned to me one day and said the heroine’s sister from her story wanted to have her story told, too. My hero, Jack, has six brothers and a sister. So, next up is a duet of novellas which will include a sequel to Miss Atomic Bomb 1953, Love Comes After. It’s the story of Jack’s brother, Deke, and Lily’s stepsister, Siobhan. They are two wounded souls who’ve lost everything and are trying to pick up the pieces. The duet will be out in the Spring, likely May. I think, before too long, the rest of Jack and Deke’s siblings will let me know they’re ready for their stories to be told. Also, Deke’s story includes the origins of a motorcycle club in Las Vegas and there’s a contemporary series involving the club that’s going to have to be written. In fact, Sin City Romance Writers, the group that published the anthology, is doing a Christmas Anthology and I think you’ll be seeing a story involving Deke’s grandson and the modern day MC.
Las Vegas, September 1953
Lily Genarro’s career as a Las Vegas showgirl lasted a total of five minutes and thirty-six seconds. Unfortunately, it didn’t end the way she’d hoped. She made sure her fan kick went left when it was supposed to go right. What she hadn’t intended was for the buckle of her shoe to hook Mary Ellen Pinski’s feathered headdress. A second later the entire chorus line went down like a row of rainbow feathered dominoes. She tried to slink away, but her shoe was still attached to a string of bright red feathers. Instead of escaping backstage, she found herself face first on the floor, trying to decide which was worse – being caught in the middle of a mob war in Chicago or living with an uncle in Las Vegas who was sure all her problems would be solved if she was a star.
An hour later, she sat in her Uncle Tony’s office while the show’s director fired her, without actually saying the words. She twirled a black curl around her finger, trying not to show how happy she was that at least one thing had gone the way she’d wanted tonight.
“I’m sure you can understand, Lily. We simply can’t risk another…incident like this.” Myron Lynch shuddered and glanced out of the corner of his eye at Tony Genarro, the owner of the casino and hotel. Myron mopped his brow with one hand and leaned in to pat her knee with the other.
Lily shifted back slightly. She’d nicknamed the mousey little man Myron Drench, due to his unfortunate tendency to sweat and, right now he was dangerously close to dripping all over her.
“Four of the girls are out for at least two weeks. Mary Ellen has a concussion,” Myron continued.
“A concussion?” Tony raised an eyebrow. “From falling down?”
“Well, no.” Myron brought his handkerchief to his face again, although she didn’t understand why. By now it was so wet it couldn’t do anything to stop more moisture from trickling down his forehead. “Apparently, when your niece tripped trying to get off stage, she kicked Mary Ellen in the head, and knocked her out.” He started to twitch, glancing back and forth from Lily to Tony.
She felt for him. After all, she was his boss’s niece, and the apple of Tony’s eye, which certainly made her relationships with her cousins interesting. Everyone at The Palermo was afraid of upsetting her, because they were terrified of her uncle. As far as he was concerned, she was the next big thing, Liz Taylor and Ginger Rogers combined. She was twenty-three years old. You’d think she would have figured out how to take control of her own life by now.
“Her grandmother was a Ziegfeld girl. She’s the most beautiful girl the show will ever see, and she’s a ducky shincracker.” Lily couldn’t help rolling her eyes at her uncle’s attempt to be hip. “Must have been that other girl’s fault. We’ll get new dancers, put Lily up front. She shouldn’t be hidden in the chorus line anyway.”
Myron’s eyes bugged out as if he was about to have a stroke. Taking pity on him, Lily intervened. “Actually, Uncle Tony, I don’t think being a showgirl is for me.”
He turned his dark eyes, so like her father’s, her way. “Well, no, not forever. We just need to start getting your name out there. You make a splash here and before you know it Hollywood is banging on our door.”
Lily cringed. She loved her uncle, but he was so sure the way out of the mess her mother and Uncle Sonny were making of her life involved making her a huge star. But that was the last thing she wanted.
“Lynch, just redesign the show around her.” She had to stop her uncle’s tangent both for her own sake and for Drench’s. He was getting redder and redder by the second. One more idea from Uncle Tony might put him over the edge.
“No!” Well that came out louder than she intended and, she could tell by the look on her uncle’s face, he was not a fan of her tone. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…that is…”
“Out with it. You’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t say what you want.”
Well, that was a laugh. She could say what she wanted until she was blue in the face. The only one who had ever listened was her father and he’d been dead for nine years.
“I heard from Dotty Morris, who heard from one of the girls that left the show to audition for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes…that…the directors in Hollywood wanted nothing to do with Vegas showgirls. Something about…” Lily stared down at her clasped hands and her mind raced with reasons why Las Vegas dancers would be a problem in Hollywood. Since it was nowhere near true, she was having a hard time thinking of one. She stammered while she tried to think of why there would be a showgirl blacklist. Drench sat next to her, sweat dripping everywhere, his gaze whipping back and forth between her and her uncle like a tree in a windstorm.
Fortunately, all her uncle needed was the hint that being a showgirl could damage her non-existent film career. “You can go, Lynch. My girl doesn’t need your show. You get it straightened out.”
Myron stood to leave. “Right. Thank you, Mr. Genarro.” He was practically bowing to her uncle. He paused before moving to the door. “About Mary Ellen…”
“What about her?” Tony narrowed his eyes. “The Palermo will pay her medical bills. She comes back when the doctors clear her.”
“Yes, well. There’s something else.”
“What?” Tony leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms.
“Mary Ellen was competing in the Miss Atomic Bomb Pageant, representing The Palermo. The pageant starts in a week, and she definitely won’t be cleared to participate by then. But every hotel in Las Vegas has a girl competing. It’s great press, and will be a real boost for the winner.” He glanced nervously at Lily, who watched her uncle, a feeling of nausea building.
She knew the moment the idea occurred to him. He smiled that slow smile, identical to her father’s. It was the smile that either meant someone was in big trouble, or about to get very lucky. This time, that someone was her. Whether she was in trouble or lucky, only time would tell.