Sunday, October 31, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Please join Five Scribes in introducing the talented Amy Atwell as she makes the transition from aspiring author to published.
Thank you so much to the Five Scribes team for inviting me today. I hope not to make this difficult or long-winded, but there is a lot of ground I want to cover in an effort to help other writers—writers who have sold books in one or more formats, as well as writers who will one day face their first contract and sales process.
You see, I recently sold my first book to Carina Press. Immediately, I had to stop thinking like an aspiring author and think like a published author. My mind grappled with this new reality. For ten years I’d worked to network with other authors, published and unpublished, as well as industry professionals. Now, suddenly, I realized that what a published author really needs is READERS.
Let’s agree on this simple truism: Most writers may be readers, but all readers are not necessarily writers. I’m going to start with the finding readers, because I’m afraid if I start with the math, I’ll lose some of you.
More and more publishers today are encouraging authors to actively engage in social networking. It’s free, it’s at your fingertips, it’s addictive, and it can be fun. In doses. Many of us are already active on Facebook with Profile and/or Fan Pages, Twitter, MySpace and the other networks. Many of us have websites. Many of us blog.
But stop and review how you use these tools. Is your target audience fellow writers? Do you even have a target audience? Or a message to share? Or a theme for your blog? With all the busy voices chattering on the Internet, why will a reader stop and focus on you?
Most of us start our networks with family, friends and writing contacts. This is a great start—yes, you’re doing fine. But at some point you need to look at the numbers of people you’ve gathered around you. 50, 100, 200, 700, 1,400. But if they’re all writers, what are the odds that all of them can help you in one key area that really counts—when you publish a book and need to sell it to readers? The problem here is that the bigger the network, the harder it is for writer friends in that network to support each other. And so, authors need to branch out. We need to find READERS.
Okay, here’s the math part. Stick with me, because after the numbers, I’ll give some tips on how we writers can help each other expand our networks and find those readers out there.
My upcoming release is a digital book. The cover price is $6.99 (it’s over a 100K words in length, hence, the higher price). Amazon and B&N are offering it at a 20% discount. Carina Press also sells it directly, and has a 10% discount on it. Plus, you can often find additional coupon codes to discount the price again.
Like many authors, I’d like to earn a minimum of $1,000 in royalties on this first book. If you review Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money webpage, you’ll see this isn’t always easy with digital books. But digital has the advantage of higher royalty percentages than print books. Significantly higher percentages. Still, let’s do the math to see how many people have to buy my book.
My contract says I get a royalty percentage based on Cover Price. This is good, because it means I don’t take a hit by all these discounts being offered. Digital royalties vary by publisher—anywhere from 25-45% for sales made directly by the publisher.* Sales made through third-party booksellers (Amazon, B&N, Fictionwise, Borders, etc) often earn a smaller percentage. In my case, I earn half the royalty for an Amazon sale as I do if someone buys my book from the Carina Press website.
In some instances, traditional publishers might set digital royalties at a much lower rate. See the comments on this post for more specifics. In general terms, the royalty rate mentioned above should reflect what most digital or digital-first publishers are contracting.
So, let’s say my percentage royalty works out to be $2.00 per digital book sold by Carina. (It doesn’t, but it keeps the math easy.) I would have to sell 500 books directly from Carina to meet my target of $1,000 in royalties. However, thousands of book buyers are more familiar with Amazon than with Carina. And Carina doesn’t sell the Kindle version of my book. At Amazon, I only earn $1.00 royalty per digital book sold. Now I need to sell 1,000 books from Amazon and the other online retailers combined to earn that same $1,000.
I know I have a lot of writing friends, but I honestly don’t expect 1,000 of them to go out and buy my book. My only hope is to get info about my book out there to people who love to read the kind of story I’ve written—even if they don’t know me that well.
Note: authors of printed books often earn an advance against their royalties, and this should be a minimum of $1,000, sometimes much higher. But royalty rates for paperback books are generally 4-8% and contracts may vary on whether that percentage is based on cover price, selling price or net received by the publisher. Also, royalties are held in limbo by the publisher for months in case bookstores choose to return copies of a book, effectively canceling those “sales.”
Mass market paperbacks may cost the same as a digital version of a book. But trade paperback books often cost the buyer twice the digital version price. If a book is $12.00 in print and $5.99 in digital, the author still earns a larger royalty on the digital sale than the print sale.
Still with me? I go into all of this assuming you’re writers. You want to see fellow authors be financially successful. You want to be financially successful. I don’t want to imply that there’s a right or wrong way to buy and read books. It’s just that the last four months has gotten me thinking about the effects of my buying choices. For instance, when I buy a digital reading device, I may buy a Nook instead of a Kindle because with a Nook, I can more easily buy books directly from the various digital publishers. In most cases, this means more money flows to the author than if I only buy from Amazon.
Even if you can’t afford to buy books written by all your author friends, you can spend a little time to help them (or yourself). Try not to sacrifice your writing completely. It’s true that you cannot do it all, but try to prioritize arcs of time to include writing, your own marketing efforts and supportive networking. I’ve included some ideas to get you started.
· When buying books, stop to consider whether format (i.e. physical book vs ebook) is important to you. If you’re flexible, consider which version of a book is likely to put the most royalty in the author’s pocket. Generally, a digital copy will earn an author more money than a print copy.
· If/when you read, take a few minutes to post a review on your blog and/or at the various book websites: Amazon, B&N, Borders, GoodReads, Shelfari. Customer Reviews really help.
· While you’re buying books online or posting reviews, be sure to “tag” and assign a “rating” to the book so other readers can find it. The more people who take these simple steps, the more it helps that book come up in searches within that site.
· Create a Listmania list on Amazon. List your favorite books, favorite authors, books about a geographical area, a subgenre, a character archetype. Yes, if you’re a published author, by all means include your own book on the list.
· On Twitter, tweet about books you love. Use #amreading to tell the world what you’re currently reading. Other useful hashtags to connect with readers are #books, #reading, #readers, #ebooks.
· If you’re invited to attend a Facebook Event for a book release, click Attend to support that author. You can Share the event (this adds it to your profile and feeds it to your friends) to show even more support.
· If you like an author, then Like her/his Fan Page on Facebook. This feeds their “professional” announcements onto your Wall so all your followers can see it, too.
· Seek out friends who are readers on the various social networks. Libraries, review sites, independent bookstores are great places to start.
That's it for me. I'm by no means the authority on all of this. As for the math, I've got a fine arts major from a liberal arts college, so pull out a calculator (and your publishing contract, if you have one) and crunch a few numbers yourself. I'd love to hear your thoughts on all of this including:
Do you think social networking is useful in connecting authors and readers?
Have you ever written a reader review of a book you enjoyed?
Do you buy books on the Internet, and if so, from where?
Do you have additional ideas on how to connect with readers?
Amy Atwell worked in professional theater for 15 years before turning from the stage to the page to write fiction. She now gives her imagination free rein in both contemporary and historical stories that combine adventure and romance. In addition to her writing, she runs the online writing community WritingGIAM and blogs regularly at What’s the Story? and Magical Musings. An Ohio native, Amy has lived all across the country and now resides on a barrier island in Florida with her husband and two Russian Blues. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Lying Eyes, will be available in November 2010 from Carina Press.
Friday, October 22, 2010
At a recent doctor's appointment, I thrummed through the various magazines to pass the time. The eventual winner of my selection (and definitely for me) was the 2010 October/November issue of The Philadelphia Trumpet.
The cover bears the picture of a boy wearing headphones, holding a cell phone, a keyboard in his lap and a TV remote control by his side. If that technologically-overloaded visual wasn't enough to draw me in, the boy's zoned-out expression surely did. And finally the caption, The Perils of Screen Addiction (and how to Beat it) hammered the subject home.
Written by The Philadelphia Trumpet columnist Brad Macdonald, he begins with: "Do you stare at a monitor for huge portions of your day? Descend into panic when you misplace your cell phone? Feel compelled to check your e-mail or IM incessantly?" Followed by: "When you pick up a book or pause with a deeper reflection, do you easily succumb to the glow of a screen, or the chirp of a newly arrived text?"
If you do, then you are part of one of the most significant cultural phenomenons in human history: screen addiction.
Macdonald claims the infatuation with the screen is precipitating a transformation much like the one unfolding in our libraries. "The library used to be an asylum for thought," he writes. "Nestled amid the bustle of the campus or city center, it was once a place of refuge.... Today, the most popular service libraries provide is Internet access. (Ninety-nine percent of libraries provide this function throughout the U.S)."
"In libraries around the world, books are being pushed aside and screens erected. Why should we care," the columnist asks? "Because screens are also refashioning our minds."
Macdonald pulls quotes from Author Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows, in which Carr claims a perpetual connection, specifically the Internet, is affecting the way we think. "When we go online we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking and superficial learning." According to Carr, screen addiction is rewiring our brains.
Baroness Susan Greenfield, an Oxford University neuroscientist, and whom Macdonald quoted, agrees. Referring to the popularity of Twitter, Facebook, texting, video games and to technology addiction in general, Greenfield says, "My fear is that these technologies are infantalizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment." (Feb. 24, 2009).
I don't think Brad Macdonald or the experts he cited in his article are alone in their worries. Polls have been done were ordinary people express concerns.
In a New York Times/CBS poll in May, nearly 30 percent of those surveyed under 45 admitted they felt like their use of gadgets was making it harder for them to focus.
By becoming addicted to the screen, Carr observes, we have "rejected the intellectual tradition of solidarity, single-minded concentration" -- a state of mind often induced by reading a book, for example-- and "cast our lot with the juggler." (op cit.).
Why do I bring this article up on a Five Scribe's blog? Because I find every word cited in this article is true. I wrote my first book in three months. Each one afterward took considerably longer, and I believe the culprit isn't that I'm merely having trouble focusing, I'm being bombarded with outside interference. When I start to research, there is so much information available to provide a distraction, I spend hours on line where I used to spend one or two.
I find myself constantly saying, "Where was I?" Or "What did I accomplish today?" And don't even get me started on the social networks.
The good news about The Philadelphia Trumpet's article was the author did offer helpful tips in which to combat what I see as a serious problem.
Consider your Ways.
To beat screen addiction and reclaim your mind it is important to as the Prophet Haggai put it, "consider your ways" (Haggai 1:7).
Count the number of screens in your life. Calculate how much time you spend with each. Then consider how that time is spent:
How many texts do you send and receive per day? ... How much television do you watch? How many times do you check your e-mail? How many times do you need to recheck your e-mail? Do you visit a website 10 times a day when once or twice is enough?
Now, consider how much time you spend in activities that deepen the mind. How much time do you spend reading each week? How much time in mediation? How much in conversing with your family?
And this is the most critical: Think about your ability to think. Would you call yourself a deep thinker?
In the article Macdonald references the bestselling book The Art of Thinking by Ernest Dimnet. "Great thinkers are "people possessed of a mastering purpose leaving no room for inferior occupations."
Screen addiction has created a fear of solitude, a fear of being alone with one's thoughts. Creating solitude is not an easy task. It means turning off every screen, signing off of social networks, e.g. signing off every screen in our lives.
Budget your time.
Put a limit on your recreational Internet use. Carve out blocks of times when cellphones, or all gadgets are off.
Brad Macdonald also talks about Hamlet's Blackberry, written by William Powers in which Powers says he created what is called an "Internet sabbath." He and his wife began turning off the modem on Friday night and not switching it on until morning.
Feed Your Mind.
Once the screens are switched off, feed your mind a healthy diet of information and knowledge. Journal, take time to write a handwritten letter to a friend or a distant relative. Embrace a hobby that lends itself to solitude and meditation, like gardening or painting. Don't be afraid to turn off your iPod or radio. Create your own mental music. Read the Bible. The Bible is the mind of God in print.
Needless to say this article affected me and I wanted to share. Also, to use this much information from the article I requested the author's permission, which he granted. If you are interested in reading Brad Macdonald's article in its entirety, visit www.theTrumpet.com, or send an e-mail to request@the Trumpet.com
So how about you? How often do you turn off the screens in your life?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Lia Slater thinks the world would be a better place if everyone read romance novels. Slater says there's so much to learn from the storylines. Love. Loyalty. Confidence. Passion. Desire. Conflicts would be resolved with happy endings. And of course the sex would be mind-boggling. Lia is well on her way to helping the world become a better place by writing steamy romance with heart pounding emotion.
D.B.: Good morning, Lia. Thanks for being here. First of all, I thought your blurb was adorable. And wouldn't it be cool if all the life lessons and world conflicts could be resolved with happily ever afters? I think you're on to something.
L.S.: Thanks for having me, Donnell! If only everyone read and loved romance novels.
D.B.: You write, hot, steamy. You also create great characters and world building. WERE BLOOD is the third book in a series. It's the story of a werewolf/woman who falls in love with an enemy vampire. These themed novels are incredibly popular. What compelled you to write this series?
L.S. Thank you! I love writing make-believe and that's exactly what the books in this series are -- dark, steamy fairy tales. I'm attracted to paranormal stories, so it only felt natural to include paranormal creatures in this series.
D.B.: I'm always amazed at the different way authors can make vampire legends their own. I thought you did a particularly good job with Worth, the male protagonist in the story. He is a decent guy, not at all like the bloodsuckers who surround him. In Worth's world, he occasionally draws blood from a willing human (He is sexy after all), or he stays out in the sun all day and burns to a crisp. This way, he receives the sun's nutrients to stay alive and immortal, but once he comes in from the sun, he quickly heals. I did wonder if you ever put a time limit on this. What happens if he stays out too long? I'm also curious, what stories influenced you, if any? Talk about what makes you want to write about vampires and then explain how you came up with your own brand on the legend.
L.S.: Great questions. I didn't get too detailed about what happens to Worth if he stays in the sun too long. But he is immortal so I imagine he'd just be in a heck of a lot of pain until he found refuge and allowed himself to heal. The vampires in this book can't be killed by the sun. Just the opposite--the sun provides the nutrients needed to produce blood for them to survive. They just have to endure the physical pain that the sun causes them, which most of them avoid by taking blood from others.
About what stories influenced me? Any and all. I soak it all in. But I do try to give my stories a twist so they're unlike anything out there. About vampires: At first, I hadn't anticipated on writing a vampire as one of my heroes. The series is based on a pack of werewolves. Blanca is one of the females in the pack and when I began brainstorming her story, it felt natural--or unnatural, depending how you look at it--to have the hero as a vampire. With her history, I imagined it would create a ton of conflict.
D.B.: Blanca is your female protagonist. She is a shapeshifting wolf. She's an interesting character, and, Lia, forgive me, when I read your description of her, she had a lot of your physical traits ;) I smiled as I read, and I wondered if you'd written this as an indulgent fantasy. Talk about Blanca's character and the female protagonists in your books. Are they various sizes and shapes, or was this an erroneous assumption on my part? Talk about Blanca's name. It means white, doesn't it? Where did you come up with that and what does the name mean to you? Interesting names for your protags by the way.
L.S.: Did she?! Well, I guess I should say thanks! LOL! I try to give my heroines different physical characteristics. The heroine in WERE SLAVE has black hair with blue eyes, the one in WERE SEDUCTION has brown hair with brown eyes. The heroine in FATAL EXPOSURE has red hair with green eyes (at first). It just so happened tha Blanca has my hair color but with amber eyes. It does seem that most of my heroines are petite or average height, probably because I can relate a little more with the vertically challenged.
As far as indulging in fantasy? Honestly, when I write, I'm writing about the characters, and I take a backseat as they travel through their journey. It would be much, much too personal (for me) to think of myself in these roles. I'm just the hermit writer sitting at my desktop thinking up these crazy ideas. Feel free to ignore me as you read my stories. LOL. About Blanca's name: I know someone who knows someone named Blanca. When I heard the name, I knew I had to use it. Same thing with some of the other names I've chosen. I hear them and I have to use them. Blanca as a Spanish adjective means white. As a noun, it can translate as an old Spanish copper coin, minim, or half note. (I hope I got that right!)
D.B.: Works for me. Both of your protagonists are pretty darn heroic -- well, Blanca does have the foulest mouth I've ever seen, but that eventually fades. They are surrounded by corruption, evil. They are good, albeit mistrusting of one another, because they're enemies. I found myself thinking of Romeo and Juliet. They are so passionate about one another and yet both sides of their worlds are forcing them apart. You really do practice what you preach about much to learn from a romance novel. Are all your themes like this?
L.S..: I find that a common theme I use is survival along with forbidden love. Yes, Blanca does have quite a mouth on her, doesn't she? Sorry about that. She couldn't be contained.
D.B.: One part of the book didn't quite make sense to me, and I hope you'll explain this away. When Blanca fantasizes about Worth, she thinks about having his children. He's immortal, she's of a different species. Do you address this in different books? I'm thinking Biology 101 here, and scratching my head. How is this possible?
L.S.: Blanca is also immortal like the rest of her pack--well, except for a few vulnerabilities. So the couple will live happily ever after, barring any disaster. And I'm sure they'll have cute little pups with sharp fangs. Hey, it could happen! This is one of those times that the reader will have to suspend their disbelief, which happens a lot with paranormal fiction. Maybe I'll give the kids a cameo in the next book. That would be cute.
D.B.: It would! ;) Will you talk about writing for Ellora's Cave? What have you learned from them, what are they primarily looking for, and what would you say to writers who want to pursue a publishing career with them?
L.S.: Ellora's Cave, I believe, wants to see sexy stories that have a great plot with genuine characters. Erotic romance isn't simply sex scene after sex scene with some fluff added here and there to fill the pages. Readers want more than that. The customers are intelligent women (or men) who want their money's worth. So, for anyone who'd like to write for EC, or any other erotic publisher, I suggest letting your inhibitions go (because this is erotic romance!) and writing the best story you can. You can find their submission guidelines here: www.jasminejade.com/t-writerscircle.aspx
D.B.: Will you give us a brief summary about the other books in the series, and what's next for Lia Slater?
L.S.: WERE SLAVE begins the Were Legends series. It's a romance between the werewolf pack leader and the human queen of the country who's captured and imprisoned [by] the pack. WERE SEDUCTION is the second book where the second-in-command of the pack falls in love with a witch who has less than altruistic motives in seducing him. But, nonetheless, can't help falling for him as well. The next story on my agenda would be to finish up the series. I think one more book might do the trick. Side note: Each story can be read as a stand alone!
D.B.: Thank you so much for the interview, Lia. I think you're onto something. Let me know when you're not busy writing. I'm going to nominate you for political office :) Boy, could our politicians learn something from you!
L.S. Glad to know I have your vote! LOL! Or we could just send them a few romance novels. They might learn something.
Readers: I'd love to give away an eBook copy of WERE BLOOD to one of the readers. Or FATAL EXPOSURE, if you prefer romantic suspense over paranormal. Please let me know which one you'd like in the comment's section. [INTERVIEWER'S NOTE: Be sure to leave e-mail to be entered in the drawing. Names will be drawn on Friday October 22nd.]
JESSICA!!!! IS OUR LUCKY WINNER OF LIA'S SLATER'S WERE BLOOD. CONGRATULATIONS, JESSICA, WE'LL BE IN TOUCH.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Rebecca Dru, my longest (instead of oldest) friend, never ever allows me to be on a whiny tear, at least NOT for more than one email. In fact, recently I was complaining of feeling like an idiot because of someone else's reaction, and she told me to "take back my power."
At first I was a bit pissed. It wasn't my fault this dude was being what I considered...uh, rude...then I realized she was right. We allow our feelings, our reactions to be manipulated by others.
So I asked her to write a blurb on taking back your power for us creative types of which she is a charter member, so here it is:
I say it every day....”Take back your power!”. As artists, we give it up so easily. We bow down to authority. We think we’re not worthy and we allow others to disrespect us. So I’ll say it again....shouting it louder...”Take back your power”....find your sense of self....set boundaries and TELL people what you want.
It seems to me as artists, we have two different arenas in which to take back our power… the creative and the market place.
In terms of the creative arena, your instincts are your talent...they’re all you’ve got. Trust them.
As far as the business.... you can’t take things personally. Remember everyone’s brain is wired differently...people don’t necessarily think like you do. We have expectations that one can read our mind (or our novel or our screenplay) and that we all do things the same way. We don’t. It’s not just about men and women being from different planets....everyone is. You can say something 1000 different ways before the other person gets it...but eventually, if you stick with it, they will.
Find the humor... .don’t take things so seriously...take responsibility for that which is yours and put the rest back on the other person. Remember that when an editor or publisher doesn’t shower attention on you or show you respect, it may have nothing to do with you..and usually doesn’t...you just happened to be with them in an inopportune moment.
Think about the people on your creative and professional team. Do they enrich your creative process.... what is your purpose for pursuing them?
Why do you get upset when they’re not available to you...who are they to you? If they’re really someone worth keeping on your team, then start developing communication skills. It’s vital for a successful business partnership that you tell them what you want and expect from them. If they’re not someone that gives depth and meaning to your life; to your career; to your creative process - if the feeling isn’t mutual...let them go...clean house.
Speak up! Find a way to talk to your agent, manager, publisher or editor about what is okay and what is not. Don’t go in there and squirm....Take notes...create bullet points, take a deep breath and get oxygen into your brain, stand up strong and say what you need to say in an intelligent articulate emotionless manner. The people who take risks in life are the ones who get what they want.
Take Back Your Power.
Talented songstress, writer and friend extraordinaire!
And guess what's on Oprah's cover for her Oct. magazine? Take a peek:
So my friends, TAKE BACK YOUR POWER! I'm taking mine back every day, in every way I can...starting by e-publishing and not letting other people nay say me or get in my lunch because they want to get their power that way.
Let me know what you all think.
Monday, October 11, 2010
But now.... bwahahahaaaaaa, I've got her, and I wonder..... Now that she is a finalist for RT's Brava Contest Writing with the Stars, is she, or is she not, going to participate in NaNoWriMo?
Only time will tell.
Congratulations to my friend Dale Mayer for her much earned success. For more information about Dale, check out http://dalemayer.com
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
NOTE FROM BARBARA: Hi, I'm Barbara White Daille, and I'm happy to welcome you to the Book Release Party for my October Harlequin American Romance, FAMILY MATTERS! I'll be celebrating all day today both here at Five Scribes and at my own blog www.barbarawhitedaille.com/blog
Since I'll be off working a day job, Donnell will pop in from time to time to keep the conversation going. I hope you'll stay and party, read Donnell's interview below, and leave comments and questions for me. I'll be back later today to join in the fun and respond to everyone! And now, I'll let Donnell take it away....
D.B.: Oh, good! I was wondering when I'd get a word in edgewise ;) Welcome, Barbara. Ever since I saw that you won The Gayle Wilson Award for Excellence for your previous book, COURT ME, COWBOY, I've been curious about your writing. I knew you were obviously talented, but I had no idea how much. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read FAMILY MATTERS.
BWD: Thank you, Donnell. I'm honored--and blushing!
D.B.: I loved FAMILY MATTERS. Your heroine Kerry MacBride is a family-first kind of woman, and I'm BIG on families :). You open this story with Kerry witnessing a brouhaha between her entrepreneur uncle, her fearless environmentally-conscious grandmother and the hero, the overprotective attorney Matt Lawrence. The story starts out, in all places, in a retirement community. Kerry's Uncle Bren has gotten the residents excited enough to invest money in the restoration of an amusement park. When Matt Lawrence learns his mother, a resident of the community, has invested in the hair-brained scheme, let's just say Matt sees Kerry's Uncle Bren as a swindler of the worst order.
I absolutely fell in love with this ingenious set up. You establish conflict from page one, and immediately draw the reader in. Tell us how FAMILY MATTERS started to bloom and what inspired you to take it to completion.
BWD: I'm glad you liked the idea! It initially started with the hero and heroine, then the secondary characters, and suddenly I knew I had to have a conflict that would involve them all. The idea came to me of a "land development" story--which many people say has been overdone, especially in romance. Because of this, I felt the book's setting needed to be out of the ordinary. And, with luck (because I love using humor in my books), I hoped it would provide opportunities for lots of fun.
In FAMILY MATTERS, as you mentioned, the development debate is over an amusement park. For me, that's the fun part! ;) To up the ante, instead of the hero and heroine being at odds, they're actually both against the situation--for very different reasons. But, of course, they're also in conflict with each other over everything else! Once I realized all that, I couldn't let the idea go.
D.B.: I must confess I haven't read many Harlequin Americans (which I plan to remedy, thanks to you). I am, however, thrilled that I started with yours. It is unlike any category romance I've read. No offense to any category writers out there (I adore a great category romance), but this story felt like the editors gave you more leeway in which to tell it. Is it because you aren't a first-time author with them, and they trust you to tell a story more, or is this typical with Harlequin American?
BWD: What a wonderful compliment. Thank you!
I've been fortunate to find a line that fits my voice and style and to be working with an editor who helps me hone them. Also, I've been lucky in that Harlequin American Romance allows for a broad range of story elements, from the main characters to the zany secondary characters and humor I love to write, all the way to the variety in the level of sensuality.
D.B.: FAMILY MATTERS had more characters, it had a subplot and the romance was there, but the story included a growth element. By the time the story ends, Kerry, an art teacher, realizes something about herself, and Matt has changed dramatically, too. Did you see this evolution in your proposal, or is it something that occurred as the story unfolded? I'm very interested in your process.
BWD: As I said recently in a blog post, I'm all about characters. They drive the plot. (With help from me, of course.)
By the time I'm ready to submit an idea to my editor, I have a complete synopsis of the story. That's not to say that things don't change during the writing of the manuscript. Most of my characters don't let me know all there is to know until I've worked my way through to The End. (Kerry's realization was one of those surprises.) And then I have to go back and change the manuscript to match what I've learned!
Kerry and Matt went through the same process that happens with all my heroes and heroines. While I don't always see their evolution down to the last detail, I know each of them will face some type of change. At the beginning of the book, the hero and heroine are in conflict. By the end, they've reached their happy ending. Somewhere along the line, the characters have to come to an agreement or compromise. And that requires change--at least from one of them.
I have to say, though, I don't usually like change to be one-sided. ;)
D.B.: Yes, I can see that. So, let's talk about characterization. Kerry's family is Irish and there is, of course, references to getting one's IRISH up, but the characters are so well defined. You know them so well, and each is so different. Do you do character worksheets, or do you get to know them on the page?
BWD: I try to do character sheets. I really try! But I often forget to go back and update them. Once my people get moving on the page, all the elements of the story are so intertwined that I know the characters without having to refer back to the sheets.
What I will do from time to time is let one of the characters journal about the story. Usually, this happens because he or she has gotten into a corner it's impossible to get out of. And that happens most often because one of them has refused to do what I wanted them to do. LOL.
D.B.: You give them the lead. That's the sign of a great story IMO. Then there's Barbara White Daille's writing, of course, which I have to say is flawless. Since this was an ARC, I looked for typos. (Readers, I have to tell you, I couldn't find any.) Barbara White Daille put her years of English grammar classes to good use.) Your tags and beats tell us exactly what the characters are doing/thinking in such a non-cliched way. Is this something you struggle with? I picture you at your keyboard seamlessly telling this story.
BWD: Donnell, I can't tell you how happy your vision makes me feel! Many thanks to you for the vote of confidence and to my eighth-grade English teacher for the grammar drills.
The truth is, everything is a struggle for me. I'm a perfectionist who is learning to get over it...I think.
I want to tell a story that readers will enjoy, which means I have to be happy with it, too. And I'm sometimes...oh, all right! I'm always my own worst critic.
D.B.: LOL. I'm not sure that's a bad thing in writing. Okay. Okay. Let's move on to romance. The attraction is obvious from chapter one between Kerry and Matt. It is, after all, a category romance. But it's not so in your face in interviewer's opinion. Matt is obviously frustrated that Kerry's uncle is taking advantage of Matt's mom. But at one point, when Matt lets his guard down, he smiles. Kerry, ever the artist, visualizes capturing that fleeting expression with her paintbrush. That was a stunning scene, loaded with sexual tension, but so subtle. I formed the opinion you liked writing Kerry and Matt's story. Was it difficult?
BWD: Again, thank you so much. Yes, I liked writing Kerry and Matt's story. And, yes, it was difficult. That's part of the challenge, I guess. Or the struggles you mentioned earlier.
Without giving away the entire story, let me just say this. What intrigued me most about Kerry and Matt is that they're so alike in one very important way. Yet they're too stubborn to acknowledge the truth. Too driven to admit it. And...maybe...too close to their history to overcome it.
D.B. Ah, well said. I talked about a subplot earlier. I saw the introduction of J.J. as one. He really upped the stakes between Kerry and Matt, forced them to take stock of their situations and who they were. For the reader's benefit, J.J. is one of Kerry's students. He has enormous talent, but he comes from a broken home. In my opinion, his presence was the catalyst that made Kerry and Matt appraise their goals.
BWD: I feel that way, too, Donnell. J.J. became very special to Kerry and Matt and, I hope to the story.
Again, going into detail would probably give away too much, but I will share another aspect of J.J. Not only is he a catalyst, but, in my humble opinion, when it comes to Kerry and Matt, this troubled teen embodies the best of one of them and the worst of the other.
That's my intention, anyhow!
D.B.: Ah, one for the book club to study.;) Thanks for pointing that out. I promised not to spoil the plot, and I hope I kept my promise. Let's talk about Harlequin American Romance. It's my understanding that some books have love scenes and some don't.
BWD: Yes, it's true. There is no love scene in FAMILY MATTERS, and I did reveal that fact myself on a blog just last week. In fact, I talked about the need for--or the lack of--the love scenes in my books and the reasons for each. Just as I feel the characters drive the story, I also feel they control some of the romantic relationship. (After all, there has to be something left for me to do!)
To clarify, some of my books do have love scenes, though, Donnell would probably put them in the tame category ;). I'm all about the characters, and for me that makes an intimate setting all about the emotion.
D.B.: Well, a book with no sex scene that earned Barbara White Daille a 4-1/2 star Top Pick review from Romantic Times? I'm more than okay with letting an author do what's right for her story. The story's focus is foremost on Kerry and Matt's growth, which brings them together as a family unit in their own right. Readers, I hope I've whet your appetite enough to pick up this book. And, Barbara, thank you for giving me the opportunity to read it. Further, to learn so much about Harlequin American.
BWD: My pleasure, Donnell. Thank you again for interviewing me and for hosting this fabulous release party.
Which reminds me, I hope everyone is having a great time. I'd like to offer some fun prizes both at Five Scribes and at my own blog. At each location, I'll be holding drawings for one $10 gift card from Barnes & Noble and one copy of each of my backlist books, THE SHERIFF'S SON and COURT ME, COWBOY.
To enter both drawings, please leave a comment here at Five Scribes and send an e-mail through the Contact Barbara form at my website www.barbarawhitedaille.com before the end of the day (October 6th).
Meanwhile, party on, and I'll be back after work to catch up with the latest.
See you soon,
All my best,
THE SHERIFF'S SON - Annabelle and B.A.