Q. “Where did you get the idea for your book?”
A. “I got it when I first lived in Rio, about fifteen years ago. My aunt was the one who disclosed the original scoop my heroine, Rachel Moore, ends up finding. She’s also the one who opened my eyes to the fact that Brazilians view body image differently than Americans, which is a sub-plot of the novel.”
Q. “So it took you fifteen years to write Travel Secrets?”
A. “Not exactly. I still had some growing up to do as a writer. In the interim years I wrote some short stories and two screenplays. It wasn’t until 2012 that I began writing the Travel Secrets trilogy.”
Q. “So you’ve been working on it for the past six years? That also sounds like a long time.”
A. “That’s true. I homeschool my son, so my writing time is limited. I also had to develop the entire plot for the trilogy that it is a part of, meaning that I had to know exactly what the ending of the trilogy woul be. I had begun writing book one prior to that, but I had to make a lot of changes since. The novel contained over 150,000 words before the first professional editing. It stood at 74,000 before the second professional editing, which is where it remained for the third editing, which was more thematic.”
Q. “What do you mean by thematic editing?”
A. “There are strong romantic elements in the book, but it is primarily women’s fiction. I had to make sure it came out that way, which means highlighting Rachel’s pursuit of her career as her driving force. Her dream—her purpose—which I won’t reveal in advance here—is what guides all her actions. This meant that, at least at first, she had to view her sexy tour guide, Otavio, as an obstacle to her goal of achieving a scoop.”
Q. “Tell me more about Otavio.”
A. “In an attempt to maximize her chances of finding a scoop, Rachel hires both a male and a female tour guides. Otavio is the surly, “hot” Brazilian guide who begins wooing Rachel the moment they meet. She, who’s been bullied for her curvy body and sunny disposition her entire life, including at her current job with Travel Secrets magazine, cannot comprehend why someone like him would want someone like her. When she sees Brazilians’ attitude toward curvy women, she slowly begins believing Otavio. Also, the attitude of Isabel, the benevolent, “mulatta” tour guide, and the rest of the sweet Brazilians around her, expose her to a cultural environment free of disparagement for the first time in her life. And that, too, has enormous influence on her.”
Q. “Where did you get your inspiration for Otavio?”
A. “I started thinking about types of men long ago. I looked at movie stars, especially from old movies, and made some generalizations from there. Otavio came from a poor family, so he feels he has to prove himself, but since he’s not very good with words, he made it his business to be the best at all physical aspects. When it comes to women, he’s the best at flirting, the best at dancing, and the best at love making. This is how Rachel first meets him:
He leaned back on the van and lit a cigarette. He took a long drag as he scanned me openly from head to toe with a cocky half-smile. My heart started beating faster. He was one of those guys who dripped both testosterone and a surly attitude. His muscles were chiseled and tanned, and his light brown curls had blond specks of sun in them. His amber eyes had a feral look about them, which insinuated we both knew the sole purpose for which men and women were put on this earth. I forgot everything else and just hoped I wasn’t salivating.”
Q. “Wow! If you had to pick one actor Otavio is based on, you would choose…?”
A. “Burt Lancaster.”
— Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview with Shar Lemond