Empi is a friend and fellow author at Evernight. She’s also one of my cps. 🙂 She is visiting here today to celebrate the pre-launch of her debut novel, Most Eligible Bachelor, releasing tomorrow through Evernight Publishing. Congratulations, Empi!
Empi Baryeh has been writing since the age of thirteen after stumbling upon a YA story her older sister had started. The story fascinated her so much that, when she discovered it was unfinished, she knew the task of completing it rested firmly on her shoulders. And somehow the ideas and the words for the rest of the story began to pour into her mind. She’s been writing ever since.
It wasn’t until another thirteen years later, however, that the romantic in her geared her toward romance. She now focuses on heart-warming multicultural romance with enough passion to enthrall readers who want a little sizzle with their romance. She lives in her native country, Ghana, which provides the exotic setting for most of her novels.
Thanks for having me here, Lorraine (trying very hard to sound calm and composed when I really want to say, “omgosh, omgosh, omgosh, I’m a published author!”)
What is your usual routine? Please describe a typical writing session for us. What do you do when you sit down to write?
I don’t have a routine per se. Due to my day job, I tend to write in the evenings and on weekends. The rest of the time, I think about the scene or chapter I want to write, kind of run it in my head prior to sitting down. I do it on the drive to and from work, in the shower…pretty much anywhere as long as my mind is free to imagine. Once I have the right entry or the right feeling about the scene/chapter, I sit down to write and the story usually flows from there. If I don’t do this, I’ll end up browsing the internet instead J.
I realize that English is not your mother tongue, although you write it beautifully. How has this impacted your writing?
To tell you the truth, English is kind of my mother tongue. It’s the official language in Ghana, so I’ve been speaking/writing English since I started school. I actually think in English and not my native tongue, Asante Twi (pronounced chwee), which I also speak fluently.
What are the primary influences on your writing?
Tough question. I’ve never really thought about it. I’ve been privileged enough to have travelled quite a bit. Interacting and making friends with people from all the different cultures, I think, is a major influence. I try to focus on showcasing contemporary Ghanain my stories, but really there’s always something else included. Does that make sense? LOL
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. A conversation, a dream, an event, a ‘what if’ question or phrase that pops into my head. Basically, everything is a story, and usually it’s just a matter of where it fits or whether it speaks to me loud enough to be put in writing.
What comes first, names of H/h, location or plot?
Definitely H/H. My stories are character-driven. If I feel like I know the characters like actual people, then it’s usually easier to write their story. I don’t use character sheets. What I do is think about them, or wonder about them the way I’d do a friend. If I’m feeling really connected with the character, the story pretty much writes itself.
Are you a plotter or pantser?
LOL. I think I answered that in the previous question. I’m Pantser, definitely. After a few tries at plotting, I’m convinced plotting goes hand in hand with Writers’ Block. But I’ve also realised that pantsing needs some discipline, and some amount of plotting to ensure all your GMCs are in place and there aren’t any lengthy breaks from writing. That’s the big problem with us pantsers.
Do you ever have trouble getting into the ‘writing zone’?
Yes and no J. I can pretty much write anywhere, anytime. But, if I don’t feel too connected to my characters, my mind can waver. The ‘no’ part of my answer happens when two or more characters from different stories try to get my attention. That takes me out of the writing zone, for sure. The best thing at that time is to take a break and do something else until one character stands out stronger.
My characters ‘speak’ to me as I write their story. Do yours? If so, what’s it like to have those ravishing, muscled heroes breathing down your neck?
Don’t all writers have characters speaking to them? LOL. How many times haven’t I created a character and wished he were physically real! I can tell you,Lorraine, my characters can be very bossy. I’ve had occasions when I write something, and I get the ‘no, I wouldn’t say it like that. Maybe (insert hero from another book) would but not me.” Then of course, I’d find it funny, because I’m talking out loud.
Writing vs social networking. How do you find the perfect balance?
Lorraine, I’m an internet addict. I can’t not be online, so the balance is very difficult to achieve. If I’m inspired and the words are flowing, then I don’t have a problem with focusing. My current strategy is to have the internet off for periods of time when I don’t want the interruption.
If you had to describe yourself, what three words best suit you?
Complicated, loyal, introverted
If someone else described you, what three words would they use? *evil grin*
Hmm…I should ask someone, but they’d probably say: quiet until provoked
Author? I don’t think there’s any one author who’s my all-time favourite. For romance, I love Olivia Gates’ work. I also love Barbara Taylor-Bradford, Susan Mallery. I like the kinds of stories Danielle Steel writes. In other genre’s, I like Robert Ludlum; I admire Dan Brown…it’s a long list.
Book? A Man Cannot Cry by Gloria Keverne (hands down)
Color? All shades of Green
Desktop or Laptop? Laptop
Dessert? Does tea count as a dessert? Ok, ok, it’s ice-cream and waffles.
Holiday? It would have to be Christmas. I like the general ambience at that time of year, but on the other hand I can’t stand the mall and vehicular traffic.
Movie? The Wedding Planner (I just LOVE Matthew McConaughey)
Vacation Spot? South Africa, France, Dubai.
Here inCanada, the changing seasons would be much different than what you’d experience inGhana. In fact, it’s freezing cold right now. Can you tell us a little about the climate there? What is your favorite season? Why?
We have two seasons, the Rainy and Dry Season. So it’s like Spring and Summer all year round; it’s either raining or not raining. Right now, we’re in the Dry season. It’s hot during the day but temperatures drop at night, and it’s dusty and dry. I like and dislike different things about both seasons. The Dry Season, because the dryness reduces the tendency for sweating, but it also dries out the vegetation. The rainy season is like summer – everything is green and fresh and you see rainbows, but then it gets very humid and sticky.
Do you think you’ll try your hand at different genres in the future? If so, which ones?
Definitely. Here’s a little secret. I didn’t start out writing romance. I’m currently working on a femoir (fiction memoir) that I hope to complete this year. I have some other mainstream stories that I intend to get back to soon (fingers crossed); most have romantic elements, so I guess it’s still not too far from what I write now.
And it looks like Book 3 in my Men of Distinction series is gearing up to be a romantic suspense. That’s a genre I haven’t attempted before.
What pearls of wisdom would you like to impart to aspiring writers?
Nine words: Take a break if you must, don’t give up.
Most Eligible Bachelor releases tomorrow through Evernight Publishing.
I love the cover!
Thanks. I love the cover too. I think the colour really stands out among others that I’ve seen. The book releases tomorrow, and it’s probably on pre-order today at Evernight.
BUT I’ll be giving away a free copy to a luck commenter on your blog. I’ll tell you more later.
I believe this is the first in a series. Correct?
Yes, it is Book 1 of a series titled Men of Distinction. Each book can be read as a standalone, but if you’re like me, you’ll want to read all three since you’ll get to see characters from each book playing a secondary role in the other books. I always find that a lot of fun.
What prompted you to write this story? How long did it take?
It’s an interesting story, Lorraine. I’m a member of a writing community called FanStory, and Most Eligible Bachelor came about as a result of a writing competition on that site. It was a Valentine’s Day short story contest that had to be set on Valentine’s Day, and the hero and heroine had to kiss at the end of the story. So that was the original chapter 1. Another writing prompt got me to write a 2nd chapter, the first sex scene (yes, people there’s more than one). Later, I discovered an editor pitch competition, for which my characters and plot were a perfect fit. That’s when I decided to make it into a novel. So in essence Most Eligible Bachelor is a competition story. The entire first draft took a little over a month to write. It’s the shortest time I’ve ever completed a novel-length story. I’m hoping I can do the same with the sequel.
What characteristics/personality traits make your hero and heroine memorable?
My hero’s name, for one. His first name is Lord, and he says the darndest things; things that most guys would never dare say. I simply enjoy reading his dialogue lines.
My heroine is principled, I think, and is easy to identify with – either from personal experience, or we know someone who’s in essence my heroine.
Magazine columnist Chantelle Sah doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day—not since her fiancé’s betrayal three years ago—and after botching her first assignment as a feature writer, she’s more than willing to put in a hard day’s work this Valentine’s Day; even if it means going on a date with gorgeous construction Tycoon, Lord McKenzie, and opening herself to an onslaught of all things love.
When Lord—his given name, not a title—sets his sights on Chantelle, it isn’t just work he has on his mind. But even he couldn’t have predicted the magnetic attraction between them when they meet, nor the evening ending with more than an interview. Now he has to convince Chantelle that their one-night stand wasn’t a mistake. Can he win her love without revealing a secret from their night of passion, which could prove fatal for both their hearts?
He seemed amused by her lack of a response as he took her hand and led her back to the dance floor. The music had turned slow.
She hesitated. Slow music meant being in his arms, their bodies touching. She shouldn’t do this. Yet for some ridiculous reason, she wanted – needed, even – the closeness, to feel like a woman again. Just for a moment. Even if she was certifiably insane for wanting all this in the arms of Lord McKenzie.
He pulled her gently, bringing her body flush against his. A tremor rushed through her. His warm breath on her face sent tiny tingles running over her skin. Heat radiated to her from each part of his body touching hers, his powerful thighs, lean hips and firm abdomen, his hand, pressed firmly on the small of her back.
When was the last time she’d been this close to a man? Her breath quickened as raw need surged through her. Far too long. Not since Martin.
Tears stung her eyes as the familiar loneliness accompanying Valentine’s Day closed in. Old love songs always got to her. She turned away from his watchful gaze, focusing on other couples huddled close together on the dance floor. Yearning pierced her heart. She gave herself a mental shake. She couldn’t entertain such thoughts. Once she did, there would be no salvation.
As if sensing her distress, Lord pulled her closer, his hold tightening around her. Every thought flittered out of her mind as soon as their gazes locked, and she began to drown in the deep pools of his dark eyes.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Chantelle.”
Was it stupid that she liked the way her name sounded on his tongue? She opened her mouth to say something – about how Valentine’s Day had been commercialized to the point of triviality, an occasion for errant lovers to feel better about neglecting their significant others, a day to buy enough credit for another year, one day to make the unloved feel even less loved – anything to hide how hard it was to hear those words, but nothing came out.
His face hovered just inches away. Her heart stutter-stepped; her breath snagged. Without explanation, she wanted to know the taste of his lips. She wanted to erase it all from her mind, her pain, his reputation. She wanted to simply believe he really was just the most eligible bachelor in town, and he had her in his arms.
He smiled, really smiled, not the movie star grins he’d been flashing earlier. His gaze emitted pure heat wrapped around a hint of sadness. What in the world could make a man with his looks and popularity melancholic? Surely Lord McKenzie didn’t have the same kinds of problems as mere mortals.
His fingers feathered her cheek, sending another wave of tremors through her. When his hand reached her chin, he lifted her face. Her mind barely registered what was happening before the space between them vanished. His searing kiss was nothing she could have imagined. It scorched her, inside and out. A soft moan escaped her throat before she could stop it. She melted into him, curling her fingers around his nape.
When he pulled away, her breath came in fast, shallow bursts. In stunned reflex, her fingers came to her lips, which felt swollen, having not been used for this purpose in a while. Weak-kneed and aroused, she sensed she only remained standing because of his strong arms around her.
One of the couples dancing bumped into them, jerking her back to reality.
Shoot. This evening would be more difficult than she could have guessed. How was she supposed to conduct a professional interview when she’d just kissed the interviewee, and now her mind insisted on dancing around words like ravished?
I’m running a separate book give-away contest on my website, Facebook and Twitter where I’m campaigning for my first 100 fans. There three ways to enter: 1) join my website; 2) follow me on Facebook 3) Follow me on Twitter. When I reach 100 fans on each site, I’ll have a draw and pick 2 lucky winners to win a free copy each of Most Eligible Bachelor. The draws are separate, so following me on all three increases chances of winning
Evernight Publishing: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/most-eligible-bachelor-by-empi-baryeh/
All Romance eBooks
Remember folks, Most Eligible Bachelor is 15% off for the first two weeks through the Evernight website.
Coming 17th March through Black Opal Press: Chancing Faith
What prompted you to write this story? How long did it take?
a) I decided I wanted to write a romance novel and b) I wanted to write about an interracial couple where the fact that he was White and she was Black wasn’t the focus of the story.
It took forever to complete this story. I started it in graduate school, so studying took precedence. Also, I didn’t target a completion date, so I only wrote when inspiration hit. Starting a job after school caused further delays, so it took a couple of years between when I started and when I completed the first draft. But the thing about Chancing Faith that I’m very proud of is that, plot-wise, the final version isn’t a whole lot different from the first draft.
What characteristics/personality traits make your hero and heroine memorable?
In most cases it’s the hero and heroine’s differences that present the major conflict. I think in the case of this story, it’s the opposite.
As far as the characters themselves, my hero is an all-round good guy and a gentleman. In the first scene I wrote for Chancing Faith (which didn’t make it into the story), I’d planned for him to be an alpha, but when I actually started the story, I realised he had both alpha and beta tendencies. My heroine is career-driven, but remains very sweet and feminine.
To borrow from a CP of mine: my hero, Thane, isn’t over-Caucasianized, and my heroine, Naaki, isn’t over-Africanized for literary purposes (which was very important to me when I set out to write this story).
He didn’t do short-term relationships…
American ad exec, Thane Aleksander, doesn’t date co-workers either—until business takes him to Ghana,West Africa, and he meets Naaki. Now he’s at risk of breaking all the rules. Can he stop this headlong fall before it’s too late?
Until he met her!
Naaki Tabika has a burning need to prove, to herself and others, that she’s more than wife and mother material. To do so, she’s prepared to give up everything for her job. Meeting Thane, however, makes her want to get personal. But falling for her boss could destroy her career. Will she be willing to risk it all for the one thing that can make her truly happy?
Two divergent cultures, two different races, two career-driven professionals, only one chance at true love—will they find the faith to take it, or will their hearts be sacrificed on the altar of financial success?
You can find Empi at the following destinations:
Best of Luck, Empi! Thank you for spending time with me today. 🙂