The other day I reviewed Francesca Prescott's debut romantic comedy, Mucho Caliente!, for my new role as an official reviewer for Classic Romance Revival. You can find the review here:
You may want to pop over and read that first and then return for Prescott's lovely words of wisdom and insight in the interview she kindly granted:
Hi Francesca! Thank you for being here.
First things first, is there anything about my review of Mucho Caliente! you'd like to discuss, argue, etc?
I was impressed by your review, as you mentioned things about my book that other reviewers never had. You talked about the issue of self-acceptance brought on by being an artsy type in a business world, which, in my opinion, is an important one in “Mucho Caliente!”. Personally, I often feel somewhat “out-of-sync” during social gatherings grounded in business, as it’s as if my mind doesn’t quite connect on the same wave-length as those of the people carrying on conversations around me. It can be rather unsettling, as I’ll immediately start worrying whether the other people are wondering if I’m altogether there! Truthfully, chances are I’m not, because my mind will be busy with random, visual details, or drifting off somewhere else entirely, simply because I’m shy, I’m out of my element and - oh dear! - fundamentally, not that interested! But if I am interested, I’m there two hundred percent, and will remember even the tiniest, most insignificant details forever.
You also mentioned in your review that you never quite connected with Emilio Caliente as a real person, and were not convinced that Gemma moves from seeing him as a pop star to seeing him as simply Emilio. It’s true that we don’t learn much about Emilio’s psyche in “Mucho Caliente!”. In my defense, I’ll say that this probably stems from the fact that the book is written in the first person, present tense, and focuses intensely on Gemma’s thoughts and actions. I “became” Gemma while writing the book, and therefore felt her strong connection with Emilio. I can honestly say that felt I “knew” Emilio so well by the end of the story that I was as much in love with him as Gemma was. In real life, I’m still in awe of my husband’s capacities, be they intellectual, creative, humoristic, etc. Somewhere in my mind, he’s still that gorgeous, perfect individual that I so desperately needed to impress. Relationships are an endless, fascinating, learning curve, don’t you think?
Ah, yes, and that's good for us all to remember, that relationships are on a constant move! I agree about the first person POV and I missed mentioning it in my review, but although I rarely like first person fiction, I thought this was the perfect way to tell Gemma's story and it came across well, was well done. And it is true that in real life we rarely connect with another as intensely as novels generally show, since we are only seeing from our own perspective, so it came off as very real!
In staying with the "real" theme, I love the premise of Gemma being embarrassed by her infatuation with Emilio Caliente, pop star, because pop is often looked down on much the way romance novels are. I've never heard of anyone being embarrassed to be a fan of, say Chicago or Journey or of mainstream writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, but that does seem untrue of boy bands and romance books. Was there a correlation between the two in mind while planning the book? Any insights as to why this would be?
I’ve always loved mainstream pop-music. I love catchy tunes and lyrics that I can sing-along to. There’s something deeply satisfying, not to mention uplifting, about going to a concert and being able belt out every single song along with the performer. As far as I’m concerned, I become euphoric, get goose-bumps and even cry tears of joy! Were I a performer, this is the kind of response I’d strive to receive from my audience. However, in my experience, this rarely happens as it calls for a very special connection, an extreme generosity, and an honest, mutual love and acceptance. I’ve been to many very good concerts, where I’ve come away impressed on an intellectual level, but few have taken me to a state of euphoric, blissed-out, shiny-eyed, extreme happiness. Come to think of it, the only performers that have taken me to that level are “lowly” pop artists! You want names?! One that springs to mind is Ricky Martin, particularly during his concert two years ago in Barcelona, and the other is British boy-band Take That in Zurich, a few months later. The atmosphere during both concerts was fabulously festive; both arenas were literally heaving with joy from the very first note. And yes, I’ve often been on the receiving end of little smiles of disdain when asked about my musical tastes. I’ve taken snide comments about the bubble-gum, commercial rubbish I like to listen to. The thing is, such comments are often so petty and cliché! Besides, it’s extremely hard to write a perfect, classic pop-song that will sound as good today as it will in twenty, thirty, forty years. Look at Abba! Who wanted to admit loving Abba when they appeared out of nowhere and won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974! Yet their songs sound just as fresh today as they did back then.
Not that I’m knocking other types of music, nor am I saying that people who aren’t particularly swayed by pop music are pseudo-intellectual snoots who should get a grip. The music I enjoy listening to extends way beyond pop; what I play depends on my moods. However, I’ve never been able to enjoy jazz, probably because I’m always trying to find a tune, and chances are there isn’t one!
In regard to the literary snobbism often extended towards romance books, yes, I do find it irritating. I went to a literary conference a few years ago where I felt utterly out of place after announcing I was writing a romantic comedy. Cue disdainful, condescending little smiles, pained expressions, and pinched nostrils; everyone else was writing “serious fiction”. Talk about social suicide! But somewhere deep inside, despite my shyness, I must be a bit of a rebel: Mucho Caliente! is a romantic comedy involving a lowly pop star, and it’s written in the first person, present tense! Three major no-nos; ooh-la-la! But from what I’ve gathered, my book makes people smile. It makes people happy. It’s sheer entertainment. It’s literary pop music!
Wonderful insights! I completely agree. I've often wondered why anyone should look down on something that truly makes so many other people happy! Whether it's pop or romance, both of which are truly very connecting mediums, maybe more so than other genres, if it's touching peoples hearts and souls, it's worth its weight in gold, regardless of critics. And I have to say that's one thing I really liked about your book, that it ventures outside the commonalities of the romance genre and reaches more toward literary romance, unconventional, unusual, and delightfully rebellious. Of course, we should also stop and realize that both pop music and romance novels, both while being so "disdained" are the biggest selling genres. ;-)
Francesca, are there any of Gemma's qualities you particularly relate to?
Like Gemma, I tend to over-analyze situations, I worry about the most ridiculous things, I often lack self-confidence. But as my thirteen year old niece once said when she was much younger, “if you don’t go to the party, you don’t get a balloon.” Some parties are worth going to (lots of balloons!), others less so. Basically, I’ve learned to push myself towards new challenges if I sense the outcome will be beneficial, if I think that I’ll learn from it, that I might grow. Gemma grows by daring to make changes in her life and by trusting her instincts, even if she’s a big chicken at heart. I’m a big chicken, but I’ll blow the coop if I feel there’s something worthwhile on the other side.
Incredible lesson, there! So tell us about your feature in Ibiza Style! How does one who describes herself as shy deal with an article interview and photoshoot? Where can we find it?
Being interviewed by Ibiza Style magazine was a chance opportunity that I cemented by simply daring to believe that it might be possible, that there was no harm in trying, that the worst they could say was “no.” As a writer, I’ve grown accustomed to being told “no,” so one more wasn’t going to reduce me to tears. I simply emailed the editor of the magazine, explaining who I was, what I’d accomplished and what the book was about. Of course, the fact that “Mucho Caliente!” is set in Ibiza made it more alluring to him. To my knowledge, there is very little fiction written about the island. I sent the book over, he read it, enjoyed it, so I flew over for the interview, never expecting there’d be a photoshoot involved!
What I did expect, however, was to be extremely nervous before meeting Jurgen, the editor of Ibiza Style, for the interview. Strangely enough, I wasn’t. I suppose I was confident enough about my book to know that I’d be fine discussing it with him. I’m passionate about writing, about Ibiza, about the themes in my book, as well as about all sorts of other things, so I figured it couldn’t be so terrible. I mean, if he wanted to write about me, he wasn’t going to bash me, was he?! Sure, we might not have connected at all, but as it happened, we got along extremely well and had plenty of things to talk about. The tape recorder was a little intimidating initially, but I soon forgot about it; after a few minutes, it was just like talking to a friend about things that make me tick. I enjoyed myself, and really liked him. On the other hand, had he shown up with a team of people to listen in on the conversation, I’d probably have clammed up. I’m not good in big groups!
As for the photoshoot, we did that the following day. Jurgen is also a photographer, so he came to the house where I was staying, and we just carried on from where we’d left off. As I said, I was comfortable with him, so all I had to do was listen to his directions, and try to look as relaxed and as pretty as possible! And frankly, I was delighted with the photographs. I was even more delighted when I saw the article in the magazine: I never expected four pages!
Ibiza Style is available from the German Amazon, www.amazon.de . It is a trilingual magazine, all the articles are in English, German and Spanish. It was particularly fun for me to see the first few paragraphs of my book translated into German and Spanish, as I do hope that, one day, the book will be available in other languages. It is a very multicultural book, so I’m convinced it could be appreciated by a wider audience. You can also download the magazine on-line from : http://www.pressekatalog.de/IBIZA+%26+FORMENTERA+STYLE-ebinr_2079263.html?PT=&CSS=995&fachstichwort=ibiza&gattung=PUP%2CFAP%2CINP&angebotsform=ABO%2CEZH%2CATK&backlist=True&Catalogswitch=3 . However, the instructions on the link are in German, which might be a little daunting if, like me, you don’t speak Deutsch! Otherwise, you can read the article and view the photos on my website: www.francescaprescott.com.
What do you do in your down-time for relaxation, other than reading?
When I’m not writing, or reading, I’m usually running around taking care of my family’s needs, so have little down-time. My other big passion is horses; my daughter and I share a dressage horse, so I spend a lot of time at the stables. I go to Pilates classes twice a week to keep myself in supermodel shape (ha ha!), and take care of my garden, which, right now, is simply stunning.
I see on your website you're considering a sequel to Mucho Caliente!. I, for one, would love to read their story farther down their relationship line. Do you have a plot idea in mind for it, or is it still in the maybe stage?
I am considering writing a sequel to Mucho Caliente!, but only once I’ve finished working on my dramedy, Turn Left at the Ocean, which I’m currently in the process of re-writing. This is a much more complicated book than Mucho Caliente!, the story is a lot bigger; it’s practically a saga in its sheer scope. It is set between California, England, Sicily and the Greek island of Ithaca. I hope to be finished by the end of the year. After that, I’ll start thinking about a potential sequel to Mucho Caliente!. I have a few ideas, but I don’t like working on more than one book at a time. I get so involved with my characters lives that I can’t just put them on hold while I attend to the intense demands of new ones!
Oh, I do truly look forward to your dramedy, as I see the potential for even more literary style there, and such gorgeous settings. Francesca, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to be here. Best of luck with Mucho and your future work!
Thank you, Loraine, for your great review of Mucho Caliente! and for your extremely interesting questions that I’ve really enjoyed answering. I wish you all the best with your writing, too!
Bookstrand, Romantic Comedy
340 pgs, sensual