Lantern Leaf Press

Voyages Into The Fantastic

Guest Interview: RJ Conte and “The Hotline Girl”

Hello everyone. Today I get the pleasure of introducing a friend of mine to you, and her latest book release The Hotline Girl.

The Hotline Girl is about a young lady who works in a suicide hotline center for very personal reasons. One day she answers the phone and discovers that the person on the other end of the line is someone she has a difficult history with. Caught between her feelings and her professional sense of duty, Arabella makes a choice that will forever change her life.

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Normally I do not read contemporary fiction, because, let’s face it, I have enough contemporary in my life without reading about more, but The Hotline Girl managed to grab my attention. Half of the fun came from its loose analogies to the fairytale Beauty and the Beast. I had a blast hunting down all the Beauty and the Beast references and giggling over the real life parallels being drawn. This book managed to be sweet, serious, and (at times) sassy in a refreshing combination. You can preorder it on Amazon over here. 

Now, as you know, I’m all about process and growth as a writer, so I’m going to turn this over to R.J. Conte so you can get to know her a little. She has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her life and work. 

RJ ~ “Hello! I’m RJ Conte – author of a couple of novels. I am a wife, mother of two toddlers, and a piano and voice teacher. I am a newer friend of Rebekah’s, and I think she’s absolutely delightful. She’s offered to host me in an interview, which totally makes my week. :-D”

Rebekah ~ I’m glad you could join us for a visit. =) I very much enjoyed my pre-glimpse at Hotline Girl, and I have a few questions for you. A good portion of what lends this book its charm are the many parallels and references to the fairytale Beauty and Beast. Is that one of your favorite fairy tales? What’s your relationship with fairy stories?

RJ ~ “Beauty and the Beast has to be my favorite.  I like writing heart-rending, soul-searching, raw stories about realistic people, along with their thoughts, motivations, and how they change.  Beauty and the Beast portrays change enveloped in a sacrificial love story.  I’m a sucker for those!  I don’t write fantasy, so I thought it would be great fun to take two fairy tales and bring them to the real world.  Make it so they could happen next door, so to speak.  I did Beauty and the Beast (The Hotline Girl), and have another one: The 12th Girl in Heaven, coming out June 6th.  You’ll have to guess which fairy tale The 12th Girl in Heaven is pulled from.  ;-)”

Rebekah ~ Arabella Rose had a very distinctive, and (I felt) realistic tone to her as a main character. What did your process look like in crafting her, and what are some ways you identify with or do things differently than her?

RJ ~”Thank you!  In another article on my blog tour, I talk about Myers-Briggs personality type.  I always use this as a foundation for crafting characters.  Then I do a lot of drawing from real life, and this time I used my best friend.  She is calm, collected, organized, and responsible.  She is like a little sister to me, and I think she’d make a great “hotline girl.”  She has a sense of humor, and yet she takes no nonsense from people.  She has listened to my woes for thirteen years now, so I know she’s a great listener and support.  My friend’s circumstances are nothing like poor Arabella Rose’s, but I like to think that she’d step up to the plate graciously in the same way if she had to.  🙂

How am I different?  In many ways.  I’d be a blubbering mess who’d break all sorts of protocol rules of not getting attached to people, and I’d definitely need therapy, if I volunteered on a suicide hotline.  I don’t have the guts she does.  ;-)”

Rebekah ~ There are some tough sections to this book (dealing with health difficulties, the topic of suicide, and grief processing). What did you find to be the hardest part of writing this book? Was it handling those topics or something else?

RJ ~ “Those topics excite me.  😛  I like hard, emotional, psychologically intense books.  The Hotline Girl is my sweetest and prettiest book so far.  Angel-Lover, my full length novel, for instance, is quite a bit darker.  The hardest thing about The Hotline Girl was pacing it to get it to stay a novella length, 20,000 words!  🙂  I originally wrote the story for a contest, that turned out to only want ghost, zombie, and ghoul literature, so I was a bad fit.  I decided to publish it myself instead, but kept the 20,000 word limit.”

Rebekah ~ And, looking to the future, what are you planning to tackle next? Are you taking any new lessons or ideas with you from this project into your new material?

RJ ~ “Definitely having to write something this short and slick and crisp was an excellent exercise for me.  Like I mentioned above, I’ll have another fairy tale retelling, appearing in June, at almost the same word count.  Novellas are a super fun length and great challenge, which I enjoy.  After that I plan to take a much-deserved break and spend a little more time with the kids!  🙂  Probably by fall, I’ll start back into my latest large novel, which is about a college-aged missionary girl who meets a mysterious guy on campus whose dead girlfriend looks just like her.  🙂  That one’s been exciting and really hard at the same time!”

Rebekah ~ It’s been a pleasure having you here. Any last thoughts you’d like to share?

RJ ~ “Rebekah, thank you for your time and your service to me.  I have so loved getting to know you, and read this blog!  Check out A Twist of Fae, everyone!  I adored it!

And please come to my Facebook party on May 2nd to celebrate the release of the book!  Giveaways, prizes, and fun, as well as virtual snacks!  😉  If you’ve never been to a full-blown Facebook party, you’re missing out.

  Consider yourselves invited!  Click here to say you’ll come!”

5 Comments

  1. Thank you again for having me. You’re so much fun!

  2. This is a great interview! I really like how you summed up the book in the second paragraph, Rebekah…you captured the premise without giving anything important away. 🙂

    • Rebekah

      April 19, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks, Bethany. It’s somehow easier to sum up someone else’s story than to try to explain my own. 😉

  3. I read a lot of contemporary and quite enjoy it, so I’ve preordered RJ’s novel and RSVP’d for the Facebook launch event. Thanks for sharing the work of another ambitious writer!

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