Thursday, November 20, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Rachelle Ayala, Author

Rachelle Ayala, Author
Asian American author Rachelle Ayala recently published the second book in her Sanchez Sisters Series, a new romance titled CLAIMING CARLOS, described by one reviewer as a book with “Humor, food, hot cook, smoking hot passion... And quite the plot twists.” Ayala says she basically just likes to write a “good story,” and creates her characters to “feel real.” She believes that humor and her characters' natural good-will contribute to their likeability.

In addition to writing and publishing more than a dozen fiction or non-fiction books, Ayala is a leader in the writing world. She started an online writing group, Romance in a Month, and is actively engaged in other writing groups, including the California Writer’s Club and the World Literary Café.  She currently lives in California where she continues to write both fiction and non-fiction books and novellas.

Don't miss the opportunity to enter a giveaway at end of this interview.

Q: You’ve written romances set in a variety of times and locations. What inspired you to create the Sanchez Sisters and specifically your most recent contemporary romance CLAIMING CARLOS?

Rachelle Ayala: The Sánchez Sisters Series started with TAMING ROMEO, a book I was inspired to write by a group of Filipino authors who wanted to write a contemporary “steamy” romance. Since I love Filipino food, I decided to write a romance that centered around a Filipino restaurant. Choco and Carlos are characters in the first book, and it seemed natural to do the second book with them. Carlos is the chef, and Choco is the head waitress as well as assistant manager. I had a lot of fun with recipe disasters and pranks being played in the restaurant setting, as well as the introduction of a new character, Johnny Dee, the flashy restaurant consultant who tries to shake things up a bit.

Q: Reviewers tout CLAIMING CARLOS as a “refreshing story” and mentioned the “soul and hope that flowed throughout this storyline.” They were pleased to have read it. How did you create this sense of well-being?”

Rachelle Ayala: It’s really hard for me to describe, because when I’m in the writing process I just write and the characters speak and create their stories. I think the sense of well-being comes from the close family and the way the characters really care about each other.

When my characters care about other people, their natural goodness and vitality comes out. A character can be flawed and have problems, but when they show concern for others, this makes them sympathetic and someone readers want to follow.

Q: Reviewers also enjoyed your “incredible” characters and said, “You find yourself not just cheering them on in reaching their goals, but you rejoice in their successes, and ultimately have your heart ripped out when their world falls apart.” What makes an “incredible” character? How do you engage your readers to care about your characters?

Rachelle Ayala: Readers care about characters who feel real. One of the ways to engage readers is through your character’s voice. In Choco’s case, I think it’s her self-deprecating humor, her insecurities, and her bossiness of being the eldest sister that gives her the spunk she has to carry the day. Plus, she is the eldest, but the shortest, so she’s kind of like that miniature Chihuahua who has to prove herself by acting tough. She yaps louder than her bite, because she’s really a powder puff inside.

As for creating “incredible” characters, I don’t create my characters in advance. I find filling out “character sheets” dull and boring. Instead, I discover them while writing. I wrote CLAIMING CARLOS during the first Romance In A Month class I was holding in May-June 2014. One of the daily exercises we did as a group was to answer a daily question about our characters. It was a lot of fun to answer the question and in the process discover something about them. We also shared the answers to our questions with the group and talked about them as if they were real people. I think writing in this group and sharing about our characters made them more unique and “incredible.” I’ve since published the 366 Daily Questions in a ebook called “366 Ways to Know Your Character.” I think answering random questions makes your characters more well-rounded because there is the element of the unexpected.

Q: Several reviewers also mentioned that the “story kept me on my toes.” How helpful is suspense to telling a good romance story?

Rachelle Ayala: Ha, ha, the suspense usually happens because I, the writer, don’t even know how something is going to turn out. I write without planning and am prone to changing my mind in the middle of the story. It’s obvious when I’m writing a mystery or romantic suspense, as there are culprits and clues, however even in a romance there are opportunities for suspense. In CLAIMING CARLOS, we have someone sabotaging the restaurant as well as “what” does Miranda have over Choco’s father? There’s also a big bomb in there, but I won’t give it away because it would spoil the fun. I should add that the answer to that big one was actually not known even to my beta draft. In my beta draft I gave a different answer than the ultimate story. It took some rewriting to iron all of that up.

Q: Did you intend to deliver a message with your story? One reviewer was pleased to learn about the Philippines and its background. Was it your intent to educate readers? Or, were you just trying to tell a good story?

Rachelle Ayala: The message or theme always comes up during revision. When I first start to write the story, I’m going for entertainment. Therefore you’ll find quite a few slapstick or what I think are funny scenes. For example, the dumpster plays a role in CLAIMING CARLOS as well as TAMING ROMEO. The cooking disasters, the food fights, and the restaurant toilet mishaps are all meant for fun. So, I’m mainly telling a good story.

Later on, maybe I can think about a theme, or maybe not. I’m not exactly sure what it is. Second chances? Or maybe recognizing what you have in front of you instead of reaching for what’s not there? I think I’ll let my readers decide what they learned from the story, and I’m always happy when I hear what someone got out of the story.

Q: How relevant is the concept of heroes and villains to your story? What makes an effective villain?

Rachelle Ayala: I do use villains, even in a light-hearted romance. The villain doesn’t have to be someone who is a criminal or an obvious bad guy. It can simply be a person whose goals are opposite to that of the hero. I enjoy writing “villains” primarily because I remember that no one believes he or she is a villain. They feel they are the heroes of their story. It just happens that their story opposes the story of the protagonist. So they end up in the villain role. I usually like to make my villains memorable by being quirky and slightly unhinged. I go for colorful, flamboyant, or plain annoying. I don’t like flat all-bad villains, and therefore even a villain has redeeming qualities. I think a complex villain with good traits makes things more interesting.

Q: I notice that you were a software engineer in your career. What turned you to become a writer of romance novels?

Rachelle Ayala: Since my first book, MICHAL'S WINDOW, was about one of the greatest romances in history, I naturally continued to write romance. I’m not really sure how I turned to writing romance. I just know that I’ve always been a daydreamer and made up stories about people around me in my mind instead of paying attention at meetings.

Q: How useful is humor to telling your stories or developing your characters?

Rachelle Ayala: I’m always giggling or laughing when thinking up humorous scenes, so I believe it is very important. It’s a lot of fun to make up minor characters just to have something funny happen. For one, it makes the characters more likeable. People like seeing a character with a sense of humor. The other benefit is that I get lots of laughs as I’m revising or proofreading. Humor keeps me from being bored.

Q:  What’s next?

Rachelle Ayala: This year was a watershed year for me. In 2012 and 2013, I averaged two novels a year. However in 2014 I’ve already written 4 novels, 3 novellas, 2 non-fiction books, and am in two multi-author boxed sets.

I credit this explosion to an awesome group of writing friends that I interact with almost daily in my Romance In A Month class. I will continue to write with this group of fine authors as I not only find myself more productive while writing in a group, but also am happier with my writing and having more fun.

Q: Tell us about Rachelle Ayala. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Rachelle Ayala: I enjoy visiting with friends and going places. Of course these days, every experience could turn into research for writing, or end up in a scene, so I’m never “not writing.” I even dream about my characters while sleeping.

Everything I read about or observe in my daily life is grist for “what-if” questions. As I mentioned before, I daydream about people and situations. Not everything makes it to a story, but you’ll be surprised what does. I’m always learning new things and therefore everything I do is “research” for my writing.

Thanks Joyce, for having me talk to your readers.

About Rachelle Ayala

Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling Asian American author of dramatic romantic suspense and humorous, sexy contemporary romances. Her heroines are feisty and her heroes hot. She writes emotionally challenging stories but believes in the power of love and hope. Rachelle is the founder of an online writing group, Romance in a Month, an active member of the California Writer's Club, Fremont Chapter, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has won awards in multicultural and historical romance.

About CLAIMING CARLOS: Book #2 of Sanchez Sisters series

Choco Sanchez is stuck in a rut. She's never hit a softball and has been friends forever with Carlos Lopez, the head cook at her family's Filipino restaurant. When flashy restaurant consultant Johnny Dee hits her with a pitch, she falls head over heels and gets a makeover

Carlos Lopez is not about to lose one for the home team. Johnny launches a full scale change on the menu, and Carlos sends him straight into the dumpster. Claiming Choco's heart proves more difficult. But never underestimate a man who can cook hot, spicy, and steamy, and we ain't talking just food.


“Stop.” Miranda waves a spatula and blocks our way. “No members of the wait staff allowed in the kitchen.”
“I need another order of vegan spring rolls. No meat!” Sarah yells.
“She stole my gluten-free bangus.” Susie pushes her way past Miranda, who bounces against the door to the cold room, opening it.
“Out, out of the kitchen.” Miranda sticks a finger in Susie’s chest. Big mistake.
Susie’s nostrils flare and her piercings dance. “Out of my way.”
With a hefty push, she shoves Miranda who stumbles back into the cold room. Her arms windmilling, she falls in between the sides of raw pork belly hanging up to dry.
“Ai ya!” Miranda slaps at the pork bellies and pulls on a trussed whole duck for balance, right when a wooden tray of balut, fertilized duck eggs with the intact embryo, falls and splatters over her. The slime and partially formed embryos ooze down her hair and face.
Everyone except Johnny bursts out laughing. I whip out my cell phone and snap as many pictures as I can before Johnny blocks my view to help his mother.
Out of nowhere, Carlos appears, and he gives Johnny a kick on the back of his tight leopard printed butt, sending him sprawling against the skewered suckling pigs. They tumble like dominoes, knocking Johnny on top of his balut-covered mother.
Carlos picks up a tray of the Vietnamese style transparently wrapped no-fry spring rolls and flings the contents into the cold room all over Johnny and Miranda. “Vegan spring rolls is off the menu.”


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Selected Other Books by Rachelle Ayala
For a complete selection, go to

Taming Romeo, SánchezSisters Book #1 - Evie Sanchez is recovering from heartbreak when she runs into Romeo Garcia, the boy she left behind. Now a movie star, Romeo reignites her love with romance and skillful lovemaking. But is the fantasy real or revenge?

Broken Build, Chancefor Love Series #1 Dave and Jen must thwart a killer while rescuing a victim from their past. Love blossoms, but Jen is suspected of being an accomplice of the kidnapper who ruined Dave’s life.

Hidden Under Her Heart, Chance for Love Series #2a heartfelt love story mixed with controversy over difficult decisions.

Knowing Vera, Chancefor Love Series #3 Every woman needs a Zach by her side, and Vera Custodio is one lucky girl, if only she can solve the mystery of their families’ past.  

Michal’sWindow (A Novel: King David’s First Wife)a powerful and emotional journey as lived through the eyes of Princess Michal, King David’s first wife.

Whole Latte Love (Contemporary Romance) - A career oriented young woman has no time for distractions—especially the sexy, guitar-playing barista she rooms with. But how can she resist his hot looks, lattes, and heart for the homeless? Set in Berkeley, California, this opposites-attract romance mixes bluesy rock music, hot, steamy love scenes, and financial shenanigans.

A Father forChristmas – (Holiday Romance) Single mother Kelly Kennedy can’t afford lavish gifts for her four-year-old daughter, Bree. Homeless veteran Tyler Manning doesn’t believe he deserves a Merry Christmas. When Bree asks Santa for a father and picks Tyler, both Tyler and Kelly must believe in the power of love to give Bree her best Christmas ever.


  1. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!

  2. Thanks Joyce for interviewing me. I really appreciate your post and support, Rachelle