>Let Me Count the Ways….

>The other day, very early in the morning, I found myself watching a movie on Encore–Valley of the Dolls, based on the ’60s bestseller by Jacqueline Susann. No one could ever call Susann a romance novelist with a straight face, but she certainly did write about about relationships. Her characters’ relationships were closer to reality than the classic romance formula, in which the heroine hates the hero for most of the book, then falls madly in love with him at the end. In Valley, Anne Welles falls for marriage-shy Lyon Burke from the start, and they have an on-again-off-again affair throughout the book. At the end, however, she does not rush into Lyon’s arms. He realizes he’s been an ass and seeks her out, finding her at her family home in New England. When he tells her he loves her, she responds by telling him that there was a time that was all she wanted to hear. But Anne has come to realize that this past history is an indicator that a marriage between them would never work.

She sends him packing, and he deserves it. It took him too long to make up his mind about her, about them.

Early in my career, I fiercely resisted the “romance writer” label (except for my Silhouette romances, and even they weren’t formulaic). I didn’t have a problem writing about love, about relationships–in fact, I don’t believe any novel can work without it. My problem was in the type of romances I was expected to write. In Dance of the Gods, for example, I had to delete a reference to Meredith padding barefoot across the room. She couldn’t like Barry Manilow. She had to be a feminist. I’ve already mentioned in other posts all the projects that were rejected because they weren’t “glamorous.”

Love isn’t about expensive jewels, five-star restaurants or jetting to exotic locales. That’s just grandstanding. It’s not Scarlett and Rhett (though it could be Scarlett and James–but then, that’s a personal bias).

I’ve loved writing the love stories of Connor and Lynne in Chasing the Wind, who found each other against all odds and endured a supernatural war; Alex and Robyn in An Army of Angels, her insistence that they belonged together overcoming his doubts–theirs was a love that transcended death itself; Jamie and Kate in Final Hours, willing to die together rather than be apart; and Gabriel and Chloe in Same Time, Tomorrow, meeting on the internet and discovering they’re soul mates….

My favorite romances are mostly from movies: Jack and Joan in Romancing the Stone, Harry and Sally in When Harry Met Sally, Edward  and Vivian in Pretty Woman, Indy and Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ian and Samantha in If Only, Noah and Allie in The Notebook.

Who are your favorite lovers in books or film? I’d love to know!

>Writing and Prostitution?


Writing is like prostitution
First, you do it for love
Then you do it for a few friends
And finally you do it for money.

I wish I could remember who said that. I used to have it on a poster, hanging in the home office I rarely used. There is some truth in what appears at first glance to be a humorous statement.The selling of the author is, in a sense, very much like prostitution.

A fellow writer recently asked me how to promote his novel. I was giving some thought to this when I agreed to do a blog interview–in which that same topic came up. I have to admit that I came to self-publishing with no idea of what to do at first. I was accustomed to having the publisher’s publicity department do that for me. Advance bound galleys were sent out for review. Slick sales brochures were handed out to buyers from the bookstore chains. Press releases were issued. In some cases there were book giveaways. Interviews were arranged for me.

The smart writer also did things independently. For example, some authors go into the warehouses in their hometowns and spend a day applying Local Author stickers to their books. (I never did, because as a reader, whether or not an author was from my neighborhood had zero impact on whether or not I would buy their book.)  And if they’re really smart, they get a bunch of writer friends to help, with the offer of reciprocation.

The late Jacqueline Susann was one of the best promoters I’ve ever seen. She would go to the warehouses and spend time with the truck drivers who took her books out to the stores. She’d go armed with coffee and donuts and she’d win them over. They’d go out and give her books the best possible placement because they liked her. No star attitude–she was one of the guys. They wanted her to succeed.

One of my fellow local authors decided to try Susann’s method. She got a small group of us together and we spent the morning stickering her just-delivered books at the ARA warehouse. Then, during a break, she told the group at large that she wanted to go out and talk to the truck drivers. Eileen spoke up: “Better send Norma in a blond wig. You use too many big words.”

I looked at Karyn. “You do realize she just took both of us out with the same bullet.”

Eileen was teasing Karyn a bit. Karyn was a very talented writer, but she was sometimes too intelligent for her own good. Billy Graham has always said he wrote his sermons on a fourth-grade level to reach the largest audience possible.  Karyn was one of those writers whose books sometimes needed to be read accompanied by a dictionary.

In selling one’s books, the author is also selling oneself. Making a good impression on distributors, bookstore staff, reporters and ultimately, readers, has always been essential to making sales. Some things have changed over the years. Others have not. These days, an author can be interviewed by a dozen reporters in a dozen different locations, speak at half a dozen book clubs and never leave his house, thanks to the internet. High visibility can be maintained via social networking, blogging and online writers and readers’ groups. Publicity and promotion that once meant spending a large amount of money can now be achieved for little or no expense.

These days, we can publish our own books in a fraction of the time conventional publishers would take. If we find it’s not working, we can rewrite it and put it back on the market. We can change the title and the cover. We can take it off the market completely in the press of a button if we so choose. We can keep a much larger chunk of the profits than we could with a conventional publisher.

There has never been a better time to be a writer….

PS Please…stop by Maria McKenzie’s blog, Reading, Writing, Romance and catch her interview with moi! And while you’re at it, check out The Life of a Novice Writer.

>Know When to Fold ‘Em….


Recently, a friend and fellow author made a comment I found disturbing: “I always get what I want.” She made it clear she had no problem with getting in publishers’ faces to make her goals attainable. I found it disturbing because her statements made me think of another writer I know quite well: me. 

My friend’s determination can be a blessing or it can be a curse. It can take her just about anywhere she wants to go…or it can make her desperately unhappy. I’ve experienced both. 

When I began my career, I felt like Leonardo diCaprio on the bow of the pre-iceberg Titanic. I was the queen of the world: three books under contract with advances totaling six figures, promises of a prominent position on the publisher’s list, advertising, publicity, the works. I had, in my estimation, the best agent and editor in the business. When I went to New York, I got the star treatment. I should have been the happiest person in the world. So why wasn’t I?

I’d made an unsettling discovery. How they saw me as an author and how I saw myself were not in sync and never would be. I was viewed as the next Danielle Steel. What did that mean for my future, I wondered–writing sappy romances and having multiple marriages? 

I rebelled. This was not me. I’m a middle-class Midwestern girl who doesn’t know Donna Karan from Kmart. Jeans and T-shirts. I make it a rule to never wear jewelry someone would be willing to kill me for. There’s a photograph of me out there in a fur coat, for crying out loud! I’m an animal rights activist! I consider Town and Country the most boring publication ever printed.

I grew increasingly unhappy, taking offense at just about everything. It didn’t take much to trigger an emotional outburst from me. Fellow authors advised me to “take the money and run,” but I’m not made that way. I’m not one to settle for less than what I really want. I don’t give up easily, but once I realize it’s not working and not going to change, I’ll walk away. As Kenny Rogers sang, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” I should have paid special attention to the line that followed those well-known lyrics: Know when to walk away. Know when to run.

I should have cut and run.

When Maria (my agent) rejected a project I dearly loved because it “wasn’t glamorous,” I knew it was time to leave the game, but I couldn’t quite give up. I wish I had, because my unhappiness with the direction my career was taking, compounded by a personal crisis, soon put me in self-destruct mode. You know that saying about burning bridges? I blew mine up on my way out.

Oh, there were many people in the business who were still willing to work with me–we had a total of four agents representing Chasing the Wind–but I was still dissatisfied. That was when I realized the only option for me was self-publishing. Pride got in the way at first, but once I took the plunge, I found a happiness and contentment I could never have known in New York.

So yes, when I heard my friend say “I always get what I want,” I was concerned. The reality, in publishing and in life, is that no one always gets what they want.

Definitely not in publishing….