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Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Alexis De Girolami!!

We’ve got another Omega on the blog today: 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Alexis De Girolami, whose manuscript PAGE SIX is nominated for Best Contemporary Romance!

Alexis De Girolami is a video game developer by day and a romance writer by… later in the day. At night, she sleeps. She’s penned romance since writing some impressively gratuitous fanfiction in middle school and has never looked back. When she’s not writing or making games, Alexis can usually be found in Seattle, singing overly-enthusiastic karaoke or cuddling her objectively perfect pup Pepper. She likes to write about funny, badass heroines who might not have it all figured out and the complicated men who love them.

Here’s a blurb for PAGE SIX:

Fresh off the high of her first Academy Award win, screenwriter Daniela Hendrix feels like an imposter. Unable to write a word of dialogue that she doesn’t want to instantly light on fire, her manager encourages her to pursue a project with lower expectations—and less risk of arson. So when A-List action star Damian Rivers approaches her with a secret film proposal, Dani is relieved to feel inspiration for the first time in months. But faced with the actor’s high-profile lifestyle and their budding attraction, Dani finds her quiet existence—and her professional reputation—at risk.

Damian is through working on action films. Stuck in an airtight studio contract but eager to shed his stuntman persona, he’s on the hunt for a screenwriter who can bring his new drama to life. But when he meets quirky writer Dani, he finds himself intrigued by more than her fresh perspective. When she agrees to discuss his film, gossip about their relationship reaches the studio and a fake romance becomes the most plausible story to keep their partnership under wraps. With pressure from the studio looming, and the paparazzi hot on their tails, the line between real and fake starts to blur—and one slip up could cost them both their careers.

Oh, this set-up is just luscious!!! The “fake romance” is such a great trope, and pairing it with creative types trying to break out of restrictive boxes to find an authentic voice (together!!)…I want it now!! Yum!!!

Folks, we’re thrilled to have Alexis De Girolami here for a visit!! Let’s dash into a local café to escape the paparazzi (everybody have your oversize designer sunglasses? Put ‘em on and they’ll never recognize us!!). I hear the sushi here is delicious!!

Ready, Alexis? I’ve got questions!!

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Welcome, Alexis!! I just love the concept for your GH book!! You work in a creative field yourself—video game design—but your book is set in the movie industry. Where did the idea come from? 

I have an entirely unmanageable obsession with Hollywood award shows—the bigger and flashier, the better. And don’t get me wrong, I love the Meryl Streeps and Bradley Coopers and the other excellent-but-incredibly-famous hot folks that the camera loves to focus on during tapings, but that’s not really the reason I watch them. My real love is watching the craft categories—production designers, writers, and sound editors, all the folks who never have the spotlight on them—achieve the highest point of their careers on live television. Creative work is so hard, and I live to see those professionals get recognition for their hard work in front of their peers.

I was watching the Oscars a few years ago and was struck by the mother of all plot lightning seeing one such craft category winner presented her Oscar by a mega-famous actor. And as many other romance writers can relate, six words popped into my head: what if they fell in love?

Two days later I wrote what is now the largely unchanged first chapter of Page Six. I was working on another WIP at the time, so I set the chapter aside for over two years, assuming I got the idea out of my system, but I kept thinking about it and would occasionally read through the chapter when considering new projects. Last year, I thought it would be fun to pick up the idea once more and give contemporary romance a try and wrote the rest of the book.

I love it! And, yeah, I so love seeing the behind-the-scenes folks have their big moment!! (I got to hold a friend’s Oscar a few years ago….I won’t reveal his name here, but he’s an animator who heads a wonderful and very well-known studio….super kind and shy guy who creates a lot of happiness for other people, but usually stays out of the spotlight. Everyone in town was in happy tears when he won!)

So tell me more about your background in writing. You got started with middle school fan fiction (a fabulous training ground, in my opinion: fanfiction’s driven by real passion for characters and story). How long have you been writing romance?  

Up until about a year and a half ago, I could count on one hand the people that had read my writing. I’ve been writing romance for most of my life as a hobby, NaNoWriMos and messy first drafts in my spare time when I was feeling creative, but it was always just a fun hobby I did on the side, as I was laser-focused on building another career. I’ve written about five finished manuscripts of varying lengths, most of which fall into some kind of paranormal-romance or fantasy-romance category. I came to a personal realization somewhat recently though that I wasn’t getting enough fulfillment from my day job and decided to start taking my writing more seriously. Page Six is my first straight contemporary—no one has superpowers and a dragon doesn’t show up in the first five pages, which is a nice change of pace. And at the risk of being trite, the rest, as they say, is history.

Sounds like you’ve found your true calling! And clearly you’ve just gotten a HUGE piece of positive feedback that you’re on the right track! What was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a Golden Heart finalist?

So, um, I’ve heard I’m not the only one this has happened to in the history of GH finalists, but it’s definitely one of the more hilarious experiences of my life. I live on the west coast, so when I woke up on announcement morning, RWA was already listing finalists on twitter. For better or worse, I’m not above saying I counted the number of finalists in my category as they were being listed. When it got to nine or ten people, I actually just assumed they were finished announcing the category and I forced myself to continue on with my morning, walking my dog and generally pretending I wasn’t sad about it. I jumped in the shower after and used the tried-and-true method of cheering myself up: singing along to happy music playing on my phone. Bathroom acoustics are great for that sort of thing.

I’m guessing you’re all ahead of me on this one, but these were the resulting series of events.

The music stops.

I freeze.

The phone starts ringing.

I unleash a slew of curses that aren’t fit for polite company.

I jump out of the shower. There’s no time for towels, y’all.

I look at my phone. My heart stops. I don’t recognize the number.

I answer the phone.

I get the good news.

And, like the cool, collected professional I am, I immediately burst into tears. My dog, the only other living creature in the house, is clearly (and perhaps rightfully) concerned and won’t stop licking my shins.

To put it more succinctly: I received my Golden Heart phone call standing stark naked, wet, and freezing in my bathroom, sobbing about good news.

That’s hilarious—and perfect, somehow! Such a vulnerable and yet exhilarating moment. And you clearly have a good sense of humor about it. Aside from your obvious sense of humor, what aspects of your personality are most valuable to you as a writer? What aspects (if any) make the writing life more difficult?

My answer to this requires a little extra context. My day job is as a video game designer, predominantly puzzle games for phone and tablets, and while I really like developing games, it’s a difficult and at times very stressful industry to be in. However, in regard to receiving feedback, I do think it has made me resilient when it comes to negative criticism.

I haven’t been in the publishing world’s trenches for long, so who knows how what I’m saying now will age, ha ha, but in a broad sense I’ll just say that people in games (developers and fans alike) are brutally honest or often outright cruel when it comes to feedback. So, while I’ll say that rejection is never a fun experience, being in a professional position of removing my self-worth from others’ opinion of my work is a critical and welcome skill that I’m glad has some use in my writing career. It’s also made me more considerate about the kind of feedback I give to others—remembering that there’s a person (or people) on the other side of the piece of art you just consumed is a major component of developing creative empathy.

That being said, the ultra-critical nature of games development and my own particular brand of type-A intensity has also made me my own worst critic. I have stopped measuring my own work by the metric of whether I like it and now will only consider it good enough if I can read it and only hate 50%. I’m not really proud of this, but if I tried to get to 100%, I don’t think I’d ever let anyone see anything I create until my dying day. Ultimately not everyone will like your work, but standing in your own way is almost certainly worse and we do what’s necessary to cope with our personal idiosyncrasies.

Oy, yes! Somehow we have to have a thick skin for criticism, and still keep an ear open for the valuable advice we get. I love the idea that you’ve learned it’s enough to find your work 50% acceptable. I think sooooo many writers are perfectionistic, and the assumption you have to get it all perfect is the best way to….just stop writing. Keep going for that 50%!!! Other than refusing to be stifled by type-A perfectionism, what’s your best tip for other writers?

Finish the draft. Just do it. I know it’s bad right now, but everyone’s first drafts are bad! Yes, all of them, even that one person who said their first draft was perfect and blah blah blah—whatever, they’re a liar and we don’t like them. So, go finish your draft, you have no excuse not to.

(Note: I look forward to reading this tip furiously back to myself in the mirror 40k words into my next first draft.)

LOL! Absolutely! It’s always hardest to take our own advice. But “Just do it” is a mantra we can all use. Okay, it’s time to open the conversation to our readers today. What question would you like to ask them?

If you were bequeathed a large estate by a wealthy but distant relative, what would you want the title of the estate to be?

 

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Connect with Alexis De Girolami on social media:

http://www.alexisdeg.com/

@VernaVenisa on Twitter and Instagram

 

 

 

 

21 responses to “Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Alexis De Girolami!!”

  1. Becke Turner says:

    The image of your GH call will stay with me for a long time. As Elisa mentioned, the vulnerability of the moment touched my heart. Writers push hard to reach the 50%, perfect their craft, and we’re so hungry for verification we have succeeded–even if it’s fleeting. When that moment happens, the different emotions overwhelm us. It’s hard to define if we should laugh, cry, or hide in the closet should it be a mistake.

    Congratulations, Omega sister. I’m proud to stand beside you.

    I named the family ranch Special-T so it still holds a place in my heart.

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    • Thank you so much Becky, that’s incredibly kind! It’s funny, most people would describe me as some variation of “tough” but I unilaterally cry whenever I get really /good/ news, and I’ve stopped fighting it haha.
      Can’t wait to meet you next week! <3

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  2. Lizzie Shane says:

    Alexis, your books sounds AMAZING. I am such a sucker for Hollywood stories (as evidenced by what I write). Congratulations on your final! I’ll be cheering loudly for you next week in New York!

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    • Alexis De Girolami says:

      Thank you Lizzie! Years of reading too many tabloids has finally paid off haha 😉

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  3. Tracy Brody says:

    Congratulations on getting the call and having a story to tell about it. 😉 No, you weren’t the first or only one to be in the shower when they got the call. I’ve heard stories.

    I need to take that advice on finishing the draft. I’m slogging through a novella way too slow. Look forward to meeting you in NYC!

    Oh, and can we name my estate Tracy’s Happy Place at Kiawah Island? Because a weathly relative (hello? Are you out there?) leaving me an inheritance may be the only way I get to own property there.

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    • Alexis De Girolami says:

      Oh my God Tracy, I’m originally from Florida and my family totally used to vacation in Kiawah! It’s a gorgeous place, Tracy’s Happy Place sounds like a /perfect/ bequeathal haha. Fingers crossed that wealthy relative comes around soon haha.

      Can’t wait to meet you next week! 😀

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  4. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Alexis!!

    I love your question….

    I think if a wealthy relative left me an estate, I’d have to call it Ravenmoor. Like it’s in a Bronte novel, perched on a high windswept cliff with at least one madwoman in the attic (possibly me, but I’d have the key to get out).

    Even if it’s a sweet little cottage surrounded by hollyhocks and bluejays: Ravenmoor.

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    • Alexis De Girolami says:

      Ravenmoor is a peeeeerfect spooky estate name Elisa! Very evocative. I definitely think Ravenmoor must be the site of… 3, maybe even 4 murders? And at least a dozen disappearances. I look forward to visiting and being woken in the dead of night by a chilling thump on the door that turns out to be nothing (or is it??) LOL.
      Thank you for having me on the blog today Elisa!

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Mysterious robed figures are spotted in the halls at night, just turning a corner.

        Handprints appear in the rain-splashed windows…on the fourth floor.

        The sound of weeping rises through the stairwells….

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  5. Darynda Jones says:

    GREAT interview!!! And your ms sounds awesome, Alexis! Congrats and good luck in NY!

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    • Alexis De Girolami says:

      Thank you so much Darynda! Really looking forward to next week and break a leg emceeing the luncheon 😀

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  6. Valen Cox says:

    Now Alexis, after that “what happened when you got the call” story I just HAVE to meet you in NYC! Singing in the shower, sailor-cussing, and standing naked while you sob with joy with a dog-licking pup…man, you are my kind of woman! LOL! I’m sure we’ll be besties forever and ever! But, seriously, so get that moment. Thanks for sharing and love your story–go sell the thing or something already!

    Hugs,
    Valen~~~

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    • Alexis De Girolami says:

      Hahaha! Well Valen, if all that is appealing, buckle up cause there’s a lot more where that came from :D. Can’t wait to meet next week!!

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  7. Lisa Heartman says:

    Alexis, OMG you will never forget that call for sure. I’m so excited to be your Golden Heart sister, and I cannot wait to read this book. It sounds like a riot.

    My estate? I’d name it the Love Shack, because, why not. that’s where I’d write all my romance novels.

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    • Alexis De Girolami says:

      Thank you Lisa! And omg the Love Shack is an amazing name, hahaha! I hope one day you are given this estate and you use your newfound fame and fortune to invite the B-52s over <3

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  8. Alexis,

    I love the inspiration for your story and it sounds like a very fun read. I completely understand never reaching 100%. Although I say I’m not a perfectionist (and trust me, if you could see my house, that’s the truth), when it comes to writing, I’m a perfectionist. And it’s hard to get over myself sometimes. Have you seen this video by Hank Green about his 80% rule? I go back and listen to it every once in awhile when I need a reminder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LAhHDEtTD0

    I’ve nicknamed our current home–which is far from fancy–the Peterson Monkey Habitat.

    See you soon! Like really soon. (That’s not supposed to sound like a creepy warning.)

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    • Alexis De Girolami says:

      I have seen this video Sharon but it totally slipped my mind during this interview! Hank is a smart guy, this is a great video to watch every so often as a reminder 🙂
      And haha the Peterson Monkey Habitat is an excellent name, I imagine it’s a wild place!

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  9. I just love you 🙂 Wish I was half as funny, smart and gorgeous when I was your age, but let’s not delve into medieval history. Very much looking forward to meeting you in NYC, hon (that’s southernspeak). Now if this said, estate was in England, I’d call it HEAVEN. if it was anywhere else, I’d call it FOR SALE.

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  10. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Great interview, Alexis! Such a funny story about your call and definitely unforgettable! Oooh, I would love to inherit a palatial estate from some unknown relative, as long as it comes with servants and a groundskeeper to keep things tidy.

    So thrilled to have you as my Omega sister — see you soon!

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  11. Really enjoyed your interview, Alexis and thanks for sharing your call story. Best of luck with both careers, wow!, and have a great time in NY.

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