Hello, Stella! I’m so happy to have you here at Cinderella Stories. Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for granting me this interview. First of all, congratulations on your new book, “Crushingly Close.”
– Thanks, Jho! I’m glad to sit down with you for this interview. I hope that I can share more about the book with your readers 🙂
1. Would you please tell us about your book Crushingly Close? How long did you write this?
Crushingly Close started out as a story written for #buqosteamyreads in 2014—at that time, I had this concept of a news producer and an anchorman working late nights and butting heads at work before realizing that they were meant for each other. I ended up not being able to publish at that time (for reasons related to my PhD) but I had the chance to rewrite it later in July of that year as a novella for Camp NaNoWriMo. This time, I was able to expand the story because I had just come back from a trip to Indonesia, and I was also into soccer and the World Cup.
It took me one month to finish the first draft, and two more years of polishing and rewriting in between my PhD coursework, but I managed to get it out—and here we are!
2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I guess I’ve always known I wanted to be one ever since I was in elementary school. I liked telling stories, and I would always do things like rewrite fairy tales or draw “comics” with cartoon characters in adventurous situations. It wasn’t until I was in sixth or seventh grade when I realized that I wanted to write fiction, and I tried to work on my first novel back then. I was so ambitious!
3. Ms. Stella, you’ve got a ‘day job’, what is your work schedule like when you’re writing? How does that work? Do you have a daily word count goal?
Because my PhD is my “day job,” I’m lucky that I get to take semestral breaks to concentrate on my writing. For the remainder of the year, however, I’ve structured my days in such a way that I would have “office hours” where I would concentrate on my coursework and research during the daytime on Mondays to Fridays, so I can write fiction on nights and weekends. There are times when I deviate from the routine—say, when I have an important presentation that needs more of my time—but most days I can manage to get things done.
As for word counts, I had a goal of at least 1,000 words per day when I wrote this for Camp NaNoWriMo, since I wanted to come up with a 30,000-word story by the end of the month. The great thing about my Camp NaNo experience (as opposed to the regular National Novel Writing Month experience in November) was that I was able to set my own word count goals so I could take the pressure off myself. It’s good training when you’re starting out and writing your first draft.
4. What is your writing process, do you work on an outline first or just go write without one?
I used to write without an outline; the initial draft for my first book (Save the Cake) was written without one, and so were the first 30,000 words of Crushingly Close. It wasn’t until I started with the rewrites for Crushingly that I realized that the system wasn’t working for me: the plot was a mess, the characterizations didn’t make sense, and the scenes weren’t as funny or exciting as they were when I came up with them inside my head.
I had to go back and write a whole new outline for the book to guide me through the rewrites and check on how every aspect of the story worked together. The rewrites got easier after that, and now I can’t imagine writing (or at least rewriting) without an outline. My next two (!) books have outlines now, and they’ve made writing easier for me.
5. What is one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
One of the most important revelations that occurred to me while writing this book was the power of characterization. It wasn’t enough for me to say that my main characters were in a high-stress environment; I had to feel every emotion and every ounce of tension that they held in their body.
When I put this book through revisions, I worked on getting under my characters’ skins to figure out their motivations—what turns them on, what makes them tick, what keeps them awake at night. It got to the point where they were talking to me about where they wanted to go in the story. And I had to listen, because I felt like the story didn’t go anywhere when I had complete control over everything. That felt very freeing for me.
6. What do you think makes a good story?
That’s a good question! I’ve been reading non-romance books lately, and I find that the best stories are the ones where the author can make the reader care about what’s happening. The characters don’t always have to be likeable, but the plot must be steady and the writing has to be consistent. Also, the ending has to make sense—no use going all the way to the end of the book only to say, “What the hell did I just read here?”
7. Do you have other works in progress?
Right now I have an unfinished story that I wrote for another class, which I didn’t finish in time for the deadline but I’m planning on querying in the future for publication. It’s about a long-distance relationship between a call-center agent and a guy who works twelve time zones away—nothing too complicated, but it’s sweet and romantic and gives all the feels.
I’m also planning on joining NaNoWriMo again this November, but that story is still in the outline stages and I won’t be sharing any details about it until later this year. Of course, everything will depend on my academic schedule and how much I’ll be able to take for the next two years, but I’m hoping to have complete drafts for both of those stories by this time next year.
8. Your tips for aspiring authors?
Read, read, read! It’s the best way to discover who you are as a writer. You can learn a lot from other writers, not just in your genre, but from other genres as well. Don’t just study the “classics” in every genre—take them apart, piece by piece, so you can figure out why they’ve endured for years.
Also, don’t worry too much about what other people will say about you while you’re writing. It’s all background noise. Finish the book first, and everything will take care of itself.
Book: Crushingly Close
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Author: Stella Torres
About the Author: Stella Torres is the author of Save the Cake and the short story “Be Creative” from Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Arts Academy (Vol. 1)). She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and worked briefly in public relations, but has chosen to pursue her post-graduate studies in the field of education. She loves dark chocolate, hates flyaways, and is constantly in search of comfortable shoes.
Connect with the author:
About the Book: At twenty-four years old, Agnes Escueta has risen from the ranks to become a producer for Sports Tonight. No one can touch her, it seems—not even crush-worthy anchorman Daniel Ferrer, who she gets to work with every single day. When a road trip to Indonesia throws Agnes and Daniel together, they find themselves working in close quarters. It doesn’t take long before Agnes finds herself being charmed by Daniel, and her defenses start to melt with his touch. With deadlines looming and a big game coming, Agnes must figure out how to let Daniel into her life without risking her professional reputation—and without breaking her own heart.
Amazon (pre-order): https://amzn.com/B01I5IXL9U or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01I5IXL9U/ref=cm_sw_su_dp
“Anything you want with your coffee?” Daniel said. “Cream? Sugar?”
My gaze fell on the containers of sugar and creamer that Daniel had taken out of the cupboard. “I thought you took your coffee black?”
“I thought I’d take them out for you.”
I may not swoon at the feet of Daniel Ferrer on command, but I wouldn’t deny that he was handsome. His hair was short enough to keep the emphasis on his almond eyes and sharp cheekbones. His skin had the kind of glow that came from running at the break of dawn, which he always talked about as part of his regular-day workout routine. And while he cut an impressive figure whenever he showed up in his suit and tie on-screen, the jeans and polo shirts that he wore to work showed off his lean muscles, especially in his arms and chest.
And his abs.
And his butt.
There, I’ve said it. Daniel Ferrer had a hot bod. But his body was beside the point. First and foremost, he was a co-worker, and co-workers weren’t supposed to think of each other that way.
He smiled like he knew how his presence would affect me. “You look like you’ve got a lot of things on your mind.”
Of course I had a lot of things on my mind. We had a show to produce tonight, and a meeting in two hours about our trip to Jakarta for the football friendly between the Philippines and Indonesia. Not to mention the text messages that I wasn’t getting from my mother and brother…
“You make this face whenever you’re worried,” Daniel said.
He pointed to my mouth. “See that? Your lips curve downward when you press them together.”
“No, they don’t.”
“You’re making that face again.” He cocked his head to the side and leaned forward. “See? Your lips press hard, and your eyebrows scrunch in the middle of your forehead. Then your eyes go blank, like you’re spacing out.”
“I don’t space out.”
“Really? Then why haven’t you stirred any cream and sugar into your coffee?”
I looked down into my cup, and—just as Daniel said—my coffee was still black.
“It’s getting cold,” he said. “Here, have a spoon.”