Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We welcome....REBECCA HALE!

Today my guest is author Rebecca Hale!

From the Berkeley website:

Rebecca M. Hale is the NY Times bestselling author of HOW TO WASH A CAT. The series, starring Rebecca’s cats Rupert and Isabella, takes place at an antique shop in San Francisco’s historic Jackson Square. While fictional, each book features a different aspect of California history — from the Gold Rush (HOW TO WASH A CAT), to the San Francisco exploits of Mark Twain (NINE LIVES LAST FOREVER), to the Bear Flag Revolt (HOW TO MOON A CAT). The fourth book in the series, HOW TO TAIL A CAT, is due out September, 2012. Rebecca is also working on a new Mystery in the Islands series, set in the US Virgin Islands, which starts with ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN, available March 2012. ADRIFT involves the mysterious sinking of a water taxi off the island of St. John and the possible involvement of the Amina Slave Princess, a ghost from the island’s 1733 Slave Revolt. The second book in the series, AFOOT ON ST. CROIX, is scheduled for 2013 release.

And now....here's Rebecca!

R:  Meow, welcome Rebecca.
RH:  Thanks, ROCCO!

R:   Tell us about your “Rupert” series.  How did the series start and what was your inspiration for adding in the historical tie-in?

RH: It all started when a large pharmaceutical company bought out the biotech where I’d been working. I could have stayed on with the new company, but I was ready for a break, so I decided to take the summer off – that’s when I began writing.

HOW TO WASH A CAT was my first attempt at fiction of any sort, much less a full-length novel. It seemed natural for me to use my cats as character models. An actual cat-washing incident inspired the first chapter.

As for the historical aspect, early on in my legal career, I worked for a law firm in downtown San Francisco. Their offices were located in a historic building on Montgomery Street. I’d heard bits and pieces about how dramatically the Gold Rush changed the city’s layout (and that Montgomery Street was the original shoreline), but I never had the time to investigate that history until I started writing.

R:.  You also write another series, Mystery in the Islands. What was your inspiration for those books?

RH: I made my first trip to St. John in 2007 for a friend’s wedding – and I was immediately hooked. As soon as I got home, I booked a return flight. It was during that second week, on the island by myself, that I met many of the people who inspired the characters for ADRIFT ON ST JOHN. I’ve since been back several times…for research, of course.

I’m currently writing the second novel, AFOOT ON ST CROIX. This isn’t a traditional series; the characters shift from one book to the next. For example, a minor character from ADRIFT is the main focus of AFOOT. Each book is really about the island itself, its unique history and culture, and a fictionalization of the people I meet while exploring it. I hope to slowly work my way through the Caribbean, one book at a time.

R:  Which out of all the characters you’ve created is your favorite and why?

RH: For me, the best characters are based on people I meet – in San Francisco, the Caribbean, or anywhere else I travel. Sometimes the briefest, most random encounter can lead to the creation of a major character or even an entire plotline.

One of my favorite characters falls into this category. The “crazy hippie” Conrad Corsair in ADRIFT ON ST JOHN is based on a man I met on a very bumpy ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay. I was seasick, rapidly turning green, so he tried to distract me with chitchat. He told me his version of the tale of the 1733 Slave Revolt as well as a vivid description of his “teepee tent” at the Maho Bay eco resort.

R: .  If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

RH: I’ve been writing fulltime since 2006. I’ve become so thoroughly addicted to it, I can’t really imagine ever going back to “real” work. Much as I enjoyed patent law, I think that part of my life is over. I have too many books left to write!

R: .  What other writing genre would you like to try that you haven’t yet? Historical, screenwriting, etc?

RH: I’d like to work more visual aspects into the story-making process, such as photos and short video clips. Right now, I mostly share those on facebook, but it should be easy to incorporate those into the e-book format, and I suspect we’ll see a lot more of that in the future. Both my cat and island books tend to involve a lot of research, so the visual supplements provide a way for me to share those experiences with the reader.

R:   What new adventures are in store for Rupert and Isabella?  What can we look forward to?

RH: Coming up in HOW TO TAIL A CAT, Rupert and Isabella join their person on the hunt for a rogue albino alligator, who pops up in several locations around San Francisco – as well as in the basement of the Green Vase antique shop.

In real life, last year Rupert and Isabella welcomed a set of foster kittens into their home, and they eventually agreed to let the newbies stay on permanently. One of those kittens, now a “teenage” cat, will be making his literary debut in the fifth book in the series. Chester is a longhaired Russian Blue mix, who started off life as a feral. I have lots of material on cat/kitten interactions to use in that story!

R:  Every writer has an “agent” story. How did you get your agent, and what is your advice to aspiring novelists querying agents?

RH:  I’m somewhat unique on that front – I don’t have an agent. When I finished HOW TO WASH A CAT, I self-published it as a hardcover under my own imprint Green Vase Publishing and took it on the road. I never submitted it to anyone; I had this hair-brained idea that I could do everything myself. Working through the Barnes & Noble Small Press Department, I set up a number of “meet and greet” style front-of-store book signings across the country. Toward the end of that summer, B&N sent the book to an editor at Penguin, who then approached me for a license to the paperback rights. Since then, I’ve handled all of the negotiations myself. HOW TO TAIL A CAT will be my fifth Penguin-published title, and (between the two series) I’m under contract for at least four more books.

R:  Are there any writers in particular that have influenced your style of writing?

RH: Graham Greene is my all time favorite author. Right after I took my bar exam in 1997, I hopped a flight to Vietnam for a few weeks vacation before I started my first law firm job. While there, I discovered The Quiet American and read it while walking down the streets of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), where the novel was set. I had about $90,000 of law school debt to pay off and ten years of working as a lawyer ahead of me, but that’s when I first thought to myself “I want to be a writer.”

R:   What book is on your TBR shelf you can’t wait to get to?

RH: When I set aside my writing for the day, I like to read something completely different, typically nonfiction such as travel writing or history.

I’m currently reading Robert Kaplan’s Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. It’s a fascinating overview of the history of the region surrounding the Indian Ocean and how the monsoon, which switches direction from one season to the next, shaped world trade and development.

R:  What advice would you give new writers just starting out?

RH: Believe in yourself. Get feedback from every available source, but focus only on the constructive criticism. There will be countless people willing to shoot you down. Ignore all that. The only opinion that really counts is your own.

R:  What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

RH:During that trip to Vietnam, I rode on the back of a moped from Saigon an hour south down a busy highway to the Mekong River, where I got onto a tiny fishing boat for a private tour of the delta. The forty-year old me is a much safer traveler now than I was then!

R: Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be…

RH:  If I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would want to see my grandfather, Bill. He’s the inspiration for the Uncle Oscar character in the Cats and Curios series. He died many years before I left the law and started writing, taking with him his secret fried chicken recipe…

R:  Tell us Your Favorite:
RH:  Book:  The Quiet American
Movie:  Casablanca. Close runners up: The English Patient, Sliding Doors, and The Man From Snowy River.
TV show: Spooks (MI-5)
Actor: Nathan Fillion  (R:  who doens't love Nathan! Meow!)
Actress: Zooey Deschanel

Night or Day: Sunrise
Mountain or Lake: Mountain
Hawaii or Alaska: Hawaii
Book or Nook: iPad
Cat or Dog?: Iguana

R: Thanks for a great interview, Rebecca!
RH: Thank you, ROCCO!

Folks to learn more about Rebecca and keep up with her works, you can visit Rebeca's Facebook author page: Rebecca M. Hale Author.

Also these websites:

Books can be purchased at your favorite bookstore or online at Indibound, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Apple iBooks, Amazon, and generally wherever books are sold.

And now for ourGiveaway: Rebecca will be giving Signed copies of HOW TO TAIL A CAT and ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN to two lucky readers!  To enter just leave a comment with the book of your choice (please select only one - either Tail a Cat or St. John) with your email address.  Winners will be chosen by random.org. For extra entries you can:
Friend moi or the Human, Toni LoTempio, on Facebook
Follow me on twitter @RoccoBlogger
Follow Carole on twitter
Friend Carole on Facebook
Tweet, FB or blog about this interview and contest (gets you 3 extra entries).

The contest is open to US residents only and closes midnight, September 9 – winner announced Sept. 10!

Get goin!
Next week:  Dakota Cassidy in MY hotseat!  Meow!

That Incredible Talking, Blogging Cat!


  1. What a great interview Rocco. Wonderful to meet you Rebecca :). The books all sound and look great.

  2. Great interview. Rebecca is a new author for me. Love recommendations on new to me authors. I would love to win either book. Just have to say that Rebecca and I both love the Man From Snowy River and not a lot of people even know what that movie is. I just pulled the DVD out the other day and watched. Still love it. Thanks for the giveaway.
    christinebails at yahoo dot com

  3. Right up your alley,huh,Rocco?(Not that you are an alley cat!)A cat protagonist? A kindred spirit.
    I am kind of amazed at the number of writers who have law backgrounds...hmmmm...wonder what the deal is.
    Anyway, sounds like you know what you are doing,Carole.I have heard/seen a number of self-publishing horror stories...good for you!And agent-less! Do you know how hard it is to find theaters that will read an unagented play in its entirety? I can count them on one hand...not that I need to,I CAN count without fingers or kitty toes!

    1. Yes, Rebecca's self-pub story is a good one - and there are lots of lawyers who end up being novelists (Grisham for one) must be writing all those briefs...

      In other news, I am seriously considering proposing marriage to Ms. Isabella Hale...I am that smitten....

  4. here are more entries via the Human and Facebook!

    Would love to win either book - auditgirl2010 at yahoo.com
    Adrift on St. John - love the islands! - CarmyBabe43 at gmail dot com
    Big fan of all Rebecca's books - would love to win the latest cats andcurios - doris47 at yahoo dot com

    Dont' forget Folks, if Blogger won't let you post, PM the Human on FB and we will enter you!

  5. Some more folks who find Blogger unfriendly....

    Would love to win either book tip9874 at yahoo dot com
    Rebecca sounds like a great new author I'd like to try. I love cats so would pick that one AlM1057 at yahoo dot com
    I love Rebecca and love the islands Denise65 at gmail dot com
    Great interview Rocco - have read Rebecca's others and she is fabulous would love to win her latest jimsmom at gmail dot com
    Either book would be great always on lookout for new authors - OrlandoKat at aol dot com

    Keep 'em comin' folks! We appreicate your reading the blog and entering our giveaway!