Chalee Mar

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I live near Tampa, FL with my two precocious young daughters and supportive husband, my flesh-and-blood hero. Born in Puerto Rico, my heart beats with an exotic rhythm and I crave anything tropical. Raised near beaches, I spent my childhood splashing along their cool shorelines while soaking up the scent of salty ocean breeze and coconut fruit. Salsa dancing sizzles deep in my blood and nothing makes me happier than seeing my girls practice their dance steps while cranking up the music.

My passion for romance began at the age of twelve when I accidentally came across my first historical novel. Two days and four hundred pages later, I hungered for more. My mom allowed me to buy a new book each time she took me food shopping, and soon I had over a hundred books cramming my small closet. As I discovered different genres, I craved more and more adventures until I decided someday I'd write one myself.

Life took its course, and by the time I was thirty-two I'd been married, had 2 babies, divorced, and worked as a high school teacher. It was time and I'm thankful I pursued my life-long dream. Little did I know how far the genre has traveled and how that initial hunger for another book would turn into an obsession keeping me up late into the night.

For me, nothing beats the thrill of a hero conquering all to win the heart of his heroine. I love how romance has evolved since my first read so heroes never know exactly what they're getting into with sassy, strong heroines who truly go after what they want, be it taboo, risqué, or ménage.

Q: Have you had some of the experiences your heroines have enjoyed?

A: While I don't want to go into detail, let's just say we write what we know about. I'm a very passionate person and I believe we should follow our hearts and live life to the fullest. I've traveled throughout the Caribbean and spent many nights dancing away in South Florida. That's all I'll tell you!

Q: I see your books have a few Spanish words in them. Do you think your readers will get lost?

A: Not at all! Every word uttered in Spanish is translated so my readers miss nothing. I find my native language to be one of the most romantic, and in the middle of a very heated exchange, a Spanish word can be highly erotic. Even Will Smith had 'Ay Papi' in his 'Miami' song. Very sexy!

Q: What is a typical day in your house?

A: That depends because there is no typical. School weeks are quiet. I wake up at 5 and workout for almost two hours. I can't go a day without exercise or I'm drained. Once the girls are off to school, I'm at work. Then it's homework, dinner, cleaning, and spending time with them either playing the Wii or at the park. After they go to bed, I'm either writing or editing, never both on the same night, until 11 or midnight. Weekends change. When the girls are with their father, I'm writing all day, furiously typing the hours away. When it's my weekend we spend time at the beach or at one of the theme parks, then I write at night.

Q: What do the girls think of mom writing?

A: It's funny because a couple of weeks ago my 9 year old brought home her report card. The teacher's note was that she and the class love her stories, that she has a great imagination and they love what she writes. I was floored. Then my daughter tells me she got it from me. It was amazing. My 12 year old is working on a children's book. Wow. I've been blessed with two girls who understand, because of the hardships we've been through, that mommy has to make her dreams come true and they support me. Bed time is bed time for them, and they respect it's my time to work. I'm so fortunate to have them in my life.

Q: What does your husband think of what you do?

A: What can I say, he loves it. He pushed me to pursue my dreams from the moment we meant, really, on our first date. Now he brags to his friends that I write porn and I just laugh because it's how some men would view it, but he's so proud of me. He'd never let me stop trying and it's just one more reason he's my real-life hero.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: Life experiences, people I've talked to during my days and nights in South Beach, Miami, their fascinating stories. I've also been to South America, California, Las Vegas, Tennessee, St. Thomas, San Andres, all these beautiful locations that all have a story to tell with a wink and a smile. I also love historical romance and I think of a spin, a twist, where can ménage fit.

Q: For aspiring writers, what is your writing process?

A: I first visualize the story like a movie in my head. Then I write down notes, the who, what, where, when, and why. This is where I write down what drives my characters, who they are, what motivates them, what attracts them to one another, what keeps them apart, and what brings them together. I then take it further and write down the first major event, then the second, third, and on. The ending is critical and I'll change it a few times but I know it when I start writing, which comes next. When I'm writing I know where I want to go next and I just have to add the details to get me to that next event. I focus on finishing the story before I go back and add the second layer of details, dialogue, specifics. Then I start editing and polishing.

Q: How do you edit yourself?

A: That's my challenge, hands down. After I complete the bare-bones manuscript, before I spice it up, I have to tuck it away for a few weeks and come back to my work with fresh eyes. Does it still excite me? Does it make sense? I'm tempted to edit as I write so I just have to force myself to separate the two. If I can't come up with the problem or the resolution, I just step back, maybe sleep on it, and that usually helps. I bounce things off my husband all the time, bless his patience, and my friends.

Q: The very first manuscript you ever submitted was published. How does that feel?

A: There are no words. It's the cliché of a dream come true but adding all the variables of my journey to this point, it's unbelievable. I have to soak it in, enjoy, and never forget you really can accomplish what you set out to do. What a great lesson for my girls!

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: I love the beach. It's my place of peace where I find balance and just breathe. If I could go Salsa dancing every Saturday night, I would. That's therapy, the music pulsating, the hips swinging. I also love cooking real Puerto Rican food, the way grandma makes it. Of course, now I'm addicted to the Wii and play with my girls almost every day. We take turns playing Super Mario, Mario Kart, and Fitness Plus. And I love just relaxing with friends over a glass of wine and cooking together. My husband's Italian and he also loves to cook. See why I have to exercise so hard?

Q: What is your writing day like?

A: I wake around 5:00 a.m. and write until 8:00 a.m. I don't reread or revise during these hours. Then I get my two kids ready for school and myself ready to go to work. At the end of the day, around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., I review what I have written earlier and revise if necessary. If I have any conflicts with the story or the characters, I'll blog about it, talk to friends, and try different scenarios. Sometimes the best thing is to just sleep on it and I'll wake up with fresh ideas and the answers I need.

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