Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Favorite Author and My Guest Today: Parris Afton Bonds

Parris Afton Bonds is the mother of five sons and the author of thirty-nine published novels! (How did she do it? Regan asks) She is also the co-founder of Southwest Writers Workshop and was the co-founder and first vice president of Romance Writers of America.

She published her first romance novel, Sweet Golden Sun, in 1978. Her editor was Kate Duffy who went on to establish a stellar name for herself in the publishing industry.

Parris attributes her particular fascination with historical romances and, in particular, Native Americans, to authors she had read as a child and young woman such as Frank Yerby, Rafael Sabatini, James Fennimore Cooper, Dale Van Every, and Edna Ferber. The plight of the Native American as described in the novel Romana by Helen Hunt Jackson, most influenced Parris.

Today, Parris joins me to talk about setting a historical romance in an exotic locale, something she has done with flair.

Be sure and comment for a chance to win one of two copies of her book Blue Moon which I've reviewed below her post. And make sure I have your email!

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Parris Afton Bonds

I'm so glad Regan invited me on her blog to share my experience setting some of my novels in an exotic locale. Both Blue Moon and Dream Time/Dream Keeper are set in historically exotic locales. I was tempted to write about these locales with the title “From Here to There.” How did my character Roxana Van Buren in Blue Moon manage to get from the haute societe of turn-of-the century Paris to war-torn Mexico? How did Nan Livingston, the main character in Dream Time, go from the heights of 1786 London’s beau monde to convict status in the far-flung colony of Sydney, Australia?

Then, smacking my palm to my forehead, I realized I was asking the wrong question. The question should not be ‘how’ but ‘why’, which is the most important question a writer – or anyone, for matter – should ever ask.

My wonderful agent and friend of many decades, Chuck Neighbors, once told me, “Always say, ‘Yes,’ to everything, as long as it isn’t illegal.” (And I believe the Universe always says, “Yes!” to any question asked.)

Following that correlation, I believe my characters by saying, “Yes” (sometimes even to illegal situations), when they land themselves in exotic environs, the same as do living people. My dictionary defines exotic as something foreign or uniquely new. Each time we step out of our comfort zone, we are stepping into an exotic environ. And the exotic is where we come most alive. Our senses are more heightened. We are experiencing something for the first time, even though it may be walking on the edge of death.

That is why I like to set my characters in exotic locales. Such places/situations test my characters’ mettle; their greatness is forged in fire. In Blue Moon, Roxana must brave Pancho Villa’s firing squad in order to rescue her beloved Sam Brady.

Oddly, it is the allure of the exotic that both entices and challenges us.

Dream Keeper’s Annie Tremayne, against her inclination and intuition, has agreed to leave the freedom of her beloved sheep ranch in Australia’s Outback to learn to navigate in the alluring haute monde of 1890’s London, but the mere act of traveling underground via the confinement of a train that fills the compartment with smoke and suet and smothers the traveler in darkness is almost enough to blight forever her willingness to take risks.

But risk we must. If we are to experience joy, we must be willing to risk the possibility of pain. In 1683, in Blue Bayou, the aristocratic Natalie du Plessis, in order to avoid possible imprisonment in Paris’s Bastille must take the certain risk as a contract bride, bound to a stranger living in a land that is little more than a jungle.

The Bastille

As a reader myself, I know that I read to find out why. In climbing into the character’s psyche, I find out why he/she took the risks they did. In taking the journey the author has sent me on in his/her novel, I experience the exotic locales along with the characters ~ yes, I experience their pain, but I eventually experience their transcendent joys at having risked making the journey to their Brave New World.

So, for Regan’s followers, tell me, what is your favorite exotic locale for a romance novel or to what exotic locale would you like to one day travel?

Here's one place I loved--the top of Huayna Picchu--a very exotic locale!

Regan here. Thanks, Parris, for shedding light on why, as readers, we are so attracted to stories set in places we’ve rarely seen. And for my followers, take a look at my review of BLUE MOON below.


  1. From Cordia Byers (who had trouble posting and asked me to post this): "l loved Parris interview. She is one of Historical Romance's First Ladies. I've admired her work for years."

  2. Oh my. Oh wow! I love this emphasis on 'Why? Why?' It is a significant shift in one's point of view and it really brings things to life. Interesting to apply this to writing - many people know how to write, but why do they? Why do they not? As for my favorite exotic locale for a romance novel (any novel!) I would have to say Ireland, Scotland, Wales. I fell in love with the Arthurian legends and, for me, it all gets wrapped up together. Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights, Ms. Bonds, and I apologize for my tardiness ... time feels malleable sometimes and I lose track of it. Best wishes.

    1. Barbara, I'll see if Parris wouldn't like to still send you the book since you were the second commenter. Thanks for stopping by!

    2. That is very kind of you, Regan, but it really isn't why I commented. I was just seriously impressed and inspired! Thanks again.

    3. I understand, Barbara, but I'm sure Paris will be happy to do that (as soon as she sees my email!). Thanks for dropping by!