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Author with local roots writes what she likes to read
By BEN KLEINE
Sara Vinduska sent manuscripts of her first book “Reflections” to multiple publishing agents. Some liked her book, but their favorable reviews were packaged with conditions. They wanted the book to have the two love interests together on a higher percentage of pages. They wanted less suspense and more action to fit the industry standard for romance suspense novels.
Instead of embarking on a tedious set of rewrites to meet those specifications, Vinduska published the book using Create Space, a company affiliated with Amazon.com. While the book features a Spartan cover and presentation, it is still available in bookstores nationwide without Vinduska having to compromise.
Sounds like an artist defeating a cynical industry by circumventing it altogether, right? That narrative is a little too simple.
Vinduska still works in the confines of a genre. The title romantic-suspense carries built-in expectations from readers. Vinduska knows this because she was a reader first, a fan of Nora Roberts and Katherine Colter. She said she feels tied to the romantic-suspense style. She does not want to write any other way.
Those expectations include a balance between the realistic aspects of a story and stretching the boundaries. It’s a simultaneous tightrope of readers losing themselves in a story real enough to draw them in, yet it provides the vehicle for escapism they are craving.
“Reflections” opens with her male main character, Lash Brogan, receiving the Academy Award for best actor, only the audience at the Kodak Theater witnesses the statue going to an empty seat. Brogan – a ruggedly handsome, blue-eyed Irish actor – is hundreds of miles away being tortured in a basement in Colorado. Using his captors’ carelessness against them, Brogan attacks an armed goon. He is able to knock the pistol to the floor, secure it in the struggle, and then kill both guards. He escapes into the mountainous wilderness and trudges through miles of snow before falling on the property of Justine McBride, a beautiful physical therapist for the nearby small-town hospital. McBride nurses Brogan back to health and in the process, they fall hopelessly in love.
“What if a normal woman ends up rescuing and falling in love with a celebrity?” Vinduska said of the premise of “Reflections.”
The story sounds a little farfetched and that’s the point. Vinduska strode the line between tightly researched circumstances and the scenes that are over the top. She said she studied the Hollywood film making process to give Brogan a more accurate vocabulary. When McBride gives a description of her job at the hospital, it smacks of realism. Vinduska said she writes out of order, a self-described seat-of-the-panster. It was scenes like Brogan’s escape or the romantic encounter in Brogan’s wine cellar that Vinduska wrote first.
There’s also the balance between writing what you know but also including the unfamiliar to give a work a more exotic feel. Georgetown, Colo., is not much different than Sandpoint, Idaho, where Vinduska lives. She was originally a Marion County resident, the daughter of Terry and Cindy Vinduska. Brogan’s encounter in the small-town grocery clerk could have easily happened at Carlsons’.
However, the scene where FBI agents visit the mansion of a Los Angeles Mafia tough is a little less sharp.
McBride has a career much like Vinduska’s. Vinduska is an assistant branch manager for Bank of America. The reader could picture McBride making natural soap or practicing yoga, two of Vinduska’s preferred hobbies. The descriptions of FBI agents and ex-Navy Seal bodyguards seem a little less reliable.
It’s the combination of realism and fantasy that makes books fun for Vinduska.
Back to those agents, Vinduska said she has tried to match the Harlequin mold, but that’s not her style. She feels the writers that bend those constraints are the most successful authors anyway.
“For me personally, I write the story I want to write,” she said. “I write what I like to read.”
She does not want to be a one-book wonder. The writing process for “Reflections started seven years ago. She has another book that almost complete. She has several more installments using the characters from “Reflections” in the works. She has been keeping files of ideas for each character that have gradually grown into prospective books.