Author, blogger and adult educator are a few of the hats this bibliophile wears. Olivia holds a BA in Mass Communications from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and a Masters in Organizational Management.
When she is not teaching others the art of writing, she is penning short stories and romantic adventures.
Olivia Gaines is your pen name. Why did you choose to use a pen name?
OG: When I first decided to put my work out there, I was still on the podium with a full class load. One, I did not want the class distracted by discussing characters and plot choices in my work, and two, I did not want to have someone be cruel, telling me the work was horrendous. Then, I would have been faced with the choice of whether or not to flunk that student for being a smart ass. All kidding aside, I mainly chose the pen name to honour our mother, whom we lost to breast cancer. Olivia Gaines Aaron was an advocate of education, a bibliophile and lover of learning. I felt I could honour her dream by allowing her legacy of reading to live on through me. I’m not sure how she would feel about Two Nights in Vegas so, Mama, please forgive me.
You have said that you write stories about people and about life. Is this how you connect with your readers and how they connect with you—through your storytelling?
OG: I would like to believe that is the case. I write stories about real life situations. I have lived a different type of life so my reality is very different. I bring many of my real life experiences into the story and put a spin on them to make the readers laugh, while still, in a form, teach.
We’ve heard the saying ‘friends with benefits’ many times which is the title of your latest book. Is it any different from what we know to be true about friends with benefits or is it the same?
OG: Yes and no. Oftentimes when we hear the term, it refers to you and a close friend whom you are familiar and comfortable with having some form of coital coupling. I took it a step further and took the readers through the process of two people, who already share a life, learning about what it takes to build a life. Although there are a few steamy scenes, the story is not about the sex. It is about having the benefits of sharing a life with someone who understands you and your crazy dysfunctional family.
In Friends with Benefits would you describe the main character, Grayson, as the typical man who does not like to commit? And would you describe Charlize, his best friend, as the typical woman who desires to be in a monogamous relationship?
OG: No to both questions. I don’t believe for one minute that the typical man does not like to commit; the typical man will not commit to the wrong woman. Many times we are the wrong woman, but once we set our cap for ‘that guy’, it is like heading to a 50% off sale at Macy’s. In my mind, I WANT THAT DRESS! In reality, that dress does not fit well and makes me look fat.
What is the typical woman? I think if most women had their way, they would not be in a monogamous relationship. The typical woman would have the lover who sweats out her hair on Friday night and the stable man whom she can build a life with, who pays the bills, goes to PTA meetings and likes watching Tyler Perry plays.
As for Charlize, she had just met too many of the wrong men and decided to wait for the right one.
I am not trying to get you trouble here, but do you believe that men are more susceptible to initiate a friend-with-benefits type of relationship?
OG: I think my last response will get me in enough trouble by itself, however, to answer your question, I would say no. As a mother, an aunt, a sister, a niece and a cousin, I can honestly say that most men enjoy the company of women they can talk to and hang out with doing some everyday stuff. Sex complicates matters and most men don’t like complicated. But, if you insist on offering me free money, I am going to take it.
The book is also about two best friends who in the end decide to try love by committing to each other and possibly creating the ‛perfect’ recipe for a love life. Do you think such stories can become a reality?
OG: I do. The problem is, we live in an instant society; instant messages, instant relationships and instant meals. To have a truly fabulous meal, the meat has to be marinated, the vegetables hand-sliced and the bread given time to rise. If spending this much time preparing such a nice dinner, I would not pair it with a three-dollar bottle of wine. I say that to emphasize this point, our reality is what we make it. You want better, you must be better. Everything requires time; allow some things to marinate.
Do you think a relationship built on ‘friends with benefits’ can work?
OG: I am heading into 25 years of marriage to a man who was a friend, who taught me how to play chess. I believe that a relationship built on friendship can blossom into something great and longstanding. I am not certain that a friendship that adds sex to it for convenience is a smart idea, but it depends on the individuals and what they want out of the arrangement. In the story, after their first night together, Grayson knew Charlize was the missing piece in his life. His movements and choices in the story, from that point forward, were built on making her his wife.
Would you prefer to have a friend with benefits or would you rather be in a committed and romantic relationship?
OG: For some weird reason, I feel like I need to plead the Fifth Amendment on this one. I am in a committed and romantic relationship. I know many women would love to have the same.
How do you prepare yourself to write? Do you have a writing regime?
OG: I tell my students all the time to keep a journal. I take mine with me wherever I go. I prepare myself to write by first deciding what story I want to tell and what life lesson I would like to share. I look for the right image and I write the story around two characters. If a picture is worth a thousand words then several pictures can tell the story. I then outline the sequence of events in the story, chapter by chapter, so I know what is going to happen. I do two chapters a day. I finish what I start, and if it is not ready, it goes on the shelf.
I read that you often sit with your friends and hash out story ideas. How has that worked for you?
OG: Friends can be brutally honest with you, even when you don’t want to receive the truth. I
have wonderful friends who will not tell me what I want to hear, but tell me what I need to know. We have story night or story lunch where, over food and wine, I may read an excerpt or bandy about characterization or plot. I don’t get many of these, so I have to use them sparingly. If I am in a room full of educated, well-traveled women who say an idea doesn’t resonate with them, I scrap it. It has worked thus far.
Tell us about your marketing efforts for your book. How did you get the word out?
OG: I cannot emphasize it enough, book covers sell books. Two Nights in Vegas was an experiment. I put two naked people on a cover and made the title and story match. I applied the principles of literary fiction, mixed the genres, and the readers responded. They said they wanted more, so I wrote more.
I don’t really have a marketing plan or strategy. I was behind the curve on getting Friends with Benefits out, so I released Being Mrs. Blakemore as a bonus read for August for my bibliophiles. Friends was the first full-length novel I released and I was nervous, so I gave it away for a day.
My Facebook page and Twitter feed are about me sharing the writing process and my day-to-day life. If people want to buy your books they will. For every book there is a reader and for every reader there is a book. My books are not for everyone. Those who read and get it, I love and appreciate their support. The ones who have read my work and hated it, I thank them for giving me a try.
Have you met your publishing goals at this point?
OG: I have exceeded many of my publishing goals for my first year, and am very pleased with the response I have received from the readers as well as the support from my bibliophiles. I am in the middle of my literary journey. I started as a child by reading. I learned as a teen to express myself through words. I wrote for the college newspaper and understood inferences and nuance. I served as an Army journalist and learned to write nonfiction based on fact. As an author, I am a neophyte. I have a long way to go and so much more to learn. No, I am nowhere close to my publishing goal.
What would you consider your biggest success so far?
OG: I have learned to like myself again.
Buy the book: http://amzn.to/19xeVbN
Buy the ebook: http://amzn.to/19JUMwv
Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/1ahwBG0