Find An Author Friday: Ria Cantrell & P. A. Crust
We had the opportunity to interview two historical romance authors for the price of one this week. Ria Cantrell and her husband P. A. Crust.
Ria grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. She has enjoyed some very exciting endeavors in the past including competing as a figure skater, dancing professionally as a belly dancer, and singing as a classically trained vocalist with auditioned chorales as well as working as a soloist.
With a love for history, Ria was fascinated with Medieval and Renaissance history and found herself drawn to participate with reenactment groups that recreated the Middle Ages. Since fostering her love of all things medieval, Ria's stories soon became flavored with Medieval and Renaissance themes.
P. A. Crust was born and raised in the heart of rural Lincolnshire, England, and grew up in the idyllic setting of a small village in the 1950s. The 60s saw him playing in many local beat groups and he has retained his love of performing live music all his life. He worked professionally as a musician all around the UK as well as Europe and Scandinavia for many years.
They now live in the sunny tropical paradise of Southwest Florida. The two share their love for music and writing. They perform together locally and they collaborate on writing endeavors.
What did you do before becoming a Romance writer, and how has it impacted your writing?
Ria: So many things really. I worked full time as a secretary or an office manager, but it seems that long before I ever entered into the work force, I longed to be a writer. I wrote stories and poems as a kid; for as long as I can remember. Nothing was like having a brand new notebook to scribble thoughts. Back in those early days, my stories were like soap operas. I just could not end them. I remember one story filling 14 notebooks. I guess it is still hard for me to let go of my stories, which is why, I think I wrote a series to start. I just needed to weave everyone’s part into the tapestry that is the Celtic Storm series. I also was a belly dancer, and a figure skater. I think I have been fortunate because I have come from a family that believes in the arts, and in the pursuit of dreams.
What is one thing about your novels or your writing that sets them apart?
Ria: That is an interesting question. I think I touch more on the psychological level instead of just creating beautiful “eye candy”. My characters have depth and substance and can be a little complex. Just when you think you have them sorted out, they surprise you with another facet of their personalities. They are all very real to me. I haven’t told too many people this, but I believe that each character I have created is me in some way. Yes, even the male ones. What I mean is that the things they go through are things I have experienced. I solve their problems based on challenges I have faced. The obstacles they overcome are ones I have as well. Likewise, in creating my characters, I have been able to fight my own battles at times, too. It has become sort of like a wonderful symbiotic relationship. I believe writing has probably saved me a fortune in therapy.
Where do you get the inspiration for the paranormal elements of your stories?
Ria: I am a woman of deep faith. With that comes the belief that anything is possible. Certain aspects of the paranormal, like the ability to walk through time, I think may be plausible. Lots of people have written about it. Many of us get that feeling of déjà vu. As for the aspects of spiritual encounters, I most definitely believe in them. I will explain more about that in the next question.
Have you had paranormal experiences, and if so, what is the most memorable?
Ria: Yes, I would say most of my life. I remember talking to a woman named Julia when I was a little girl and I later learned that she was the previous owner of my childhood home. She was like a little Italian grandmother. I have had so many experiences, really. It is hard for me to pick just one. One particular one was after my father had passed away. I was awoken by a man standing in my room, which I refer to as the Gate Keeper. He said for me to tell my mother that my father was alright. My father had been very ill and so I believe that his energy needed to gain strength, which is why he didn’t come himself. Well, I told my mother and she said that my sister had the same experience. My sister doesn’t believe in all this “Hocus Pocus”, as she calls it. Another time, a friend who was very dear to my heart passed away suddenly. A psychic told me he would make his presence known to me. One day, while riding the subway, Iwas thinking of him and I felt as if someone pushed my face gently to the side. There on the wall was a poster and his picture was on it. He worked for the transit authority and I remember had had mentioned that he had ended up being on a promo of some sort. I had forgotten about it, really. From that day, I saw that poster everywhere. I believed that was his way of letting me know he still watched out for me. Maybe, he is even my inspiration for my Derek Campbell character.
Your husband, Paul Crust has recently started writing. Do the two of you collaborate?
Paul: We mostly brain storm together and if we have a particularly difficult twist in the plot, we come up with ideas to make the story believable. We have worked out some story holes this way. It is really quite nice to do that. We also read our Works in Progess out loud and get feedback on what we have written. It really helps set the tales in motion.
How did you two meet and fall in love?
Ria: Oh, dear; well here goes. We had both been divorced around the same time. As you may or may not know, Paul is from England. Well, I had done the post –divorce dating thing and had decided single life was best for me, but I was still lonely…and probably sad. I stayed up nights just writing or blogging and then playing trite games when I couldn’t sleep (which was most every night). So I started playing this game called Vampire Wars. Now, I must say that I am not one of these Vampire groupies. I am not into much more than the Buffy series, but it was a way to pass the time. So I “bit” Paul, who was a higher level “vamp” than I was and so he promptly and effectively killed me. But instead of gloating about it, he typed a note and said, “So sorry. Didn’t mean to kill you, but you weren’t a high enough level vampire to bite me.” When I read the words "So sorry", I figured the man was British, because you know, I mean an American guy would have been like, “Take that you blankity blank…” We started writing to each other and then we started Skyping and we would end up talking for hours. Then, after about two and half years, we decided we already loved each other and it was time to meet in person. Paul saved up to come to America for Christmas in 2010. He asked me to marry him on Christmas Eve and we were married in 2012.
Does your own love story influence your writing?
Ria: I’d like to think that it does. I mean, we have had to overcome time and space to be together so I think that plays a part in our stories. Our heroes and heroines defy logic, and overcome great odds to live happily ever after. Having been through what we had, we believe it with all our heart.
Paul, what prompted you to start your own writing career?
Paul: I think I was always just a few steps away from it for a large part of my life. I used to run a small publishing business in the UK back in the 1970s and 80s and produced a weekly, free newspaper. I had to be a “jack of all trades” and do type-setting, graphics, advertising and even write articles. I also designed covers for books as well as brochures and organized advertising campaigns for clients. I became involved in the production of several books and so started a yearning to write one of my own. It was not until I moved to the USA and became involved in Ria’s writing journey that the opportunity arose for me to take the first tentative steps of my own.
Was there anything that surprised you when you actually began writing a book for the first time?
Paul: Yes, actually there was a big surprise. I don’t know if the same thing happens to other authors, but I discovered that once I had described the characters and given them a name, they seemed to almost come to life and tell their own story. I then set them down in a particular time period and situation and away they go with me running after them trying to take notes. I know that sounds more than a little crazy, but that is very close to the way it feels when I am writing.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Paul: I think the main piece of advice I would offer to other authors who are just starting out is to believe in yourself and don’t give up at your first bad review.
Where can we find your current work?
Ria: On Amazon. Right now our books are strictly e-books, but we are hoping to have printed versions and audio versions available within the upcoming year.
What would you like to share about your next book?
Paul: I am currently working on my second novel, which will also be a time-slip romance that has some wonderful twists which will keep you guessing to the end. This time, it will be set in present day and during the second World War.
Ria: I am finishing the last book of the Celtic Storm Series. All previous characters will make an appearance. There is intrigue, adventure and of course, passion. There will also be some unexpected drama that hopefully, will keep the pages turning.
We would like to thank Helen, Ken and all the people involved in One Time Editing. You are so wonderful and we are so blessed to know you. Thank you for considering us for your interview. It has been an honor for us to share our thoughts with you.
Where can readers find you?
Where can readers find your books?