A Traditionally Pubbed Author Wades into the Waters of Self Publishing

Here’s a peek at my interview with IndieReader.com in their “Crossing Over” section.

Cover Dreamspell Final     Cover Unveiling 1FinalKinSmashResolution     Cover Yielding 1NewFinalAmazSmash1012     Stealing Adda: An Inspirational Romance

PROLOGUE

(I know…writers beware of opening with a “prologue,” but I think you’ll find back story is relevant to my decision to enter the world of self publishing).

In 1993, I signed a four-book contract with Bantam Books. A year later, my first medieval romance, Warrior Bride, was released and another three “bride” books followed. As I continued to write for the general market, publishing three more medieval romances with HarperCollins and Dorchester and earning awards and placement on national bestseller lists, I infused my growing faith into my writing (much of which fell prey to red pen-wielding editors).

In 2004, I committed to writing books that not only reveal Christianity to non-believers but serve as inspiration to believers. In 2006, my first inspirational romance, Stealing Adda, was released. In 2008, my second inspirational romance, Perfecting Kate, was optioned for a movie and Splitting Harriet won an ACFW “Book of the Year” award and was nominated for a RITA award. In 2009,Faking Grace was nominated for an ACFW “Book of the Year” and RITA award. In 2011, I concluded my “Southern Discomfort” series that launched with Leaving Carolina, continued with Nowhere Carolina, and ended with Restless in Carolina.

That makes seven general market medieval romances and seven inspirational market contemporary romances for a total of fourteen traditionally published books. Hence, the purpose of this “prologue” is to show that I come at self publishing from the angle of an author with a reader base as compared to an unpublished author lacking a reader base outside of supportive friends and family. That’s not to say unpublished authors shouldn’t explore and venture into the world of self-publishing—absolutely not!—but neither should they blindly jump into it. More on that later.

CHAPTER ONE: WHY?

Though I feel blessed to have had my books published by traditional publishers for seventeen years, another path to publication is now viable due to the rise in popularity of e-readers and those fearless and driven authors—both previously unpublished and traditionally published—who struck out on their own years ago. This past March, I joined the ranks of traditionally published authors who have embraced the electronic format by releasing out-of-print books in hopes of finding new readers who missed their titles “way back when” a book’s shelf life was severely limited by physical space (hello!), revamping old titles to give them new life (hmm…), and offering new titles (hello again!).

To read the entire interview, visit: IndieReader.com

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ALAN LOEWEN’S “RAMBLES OF THE LITERARY EQUINE” INTERVIEW

Note: The following is a repeat post salvaged from my original black hole-destined Kitchen Novelist blog.

Seven Questions for the Horse – Tamara Leigh

1) How has your faith made a difference in how you approach life and writing?

I’m a worrier, but as my faith has grown, I’ve come to trust God to lead me through difficult situations. I still get a sinking feeling at the approach of trouble. I still take it out on my fingernails. I still climb into myself and peek through my fingers at what appears to be insurmountable. However, as I’ve learned to pray for guidance and become more familiar with Scripture, the feeling of being overwhelmed has decreased. My faith has also affected my writing, as evidenced by how it began to weave itself into my general market historical romances—so much that revisions from editors often called for excising faith elements (Misbegotten was cut by 30,000 words). When I finally turned my writing efforts to inspirational fiction, I was thrilled to have the freedom to express my faith through characters who always manage to teach me something as they tackle the issues I throw at them.

2) Tell us about your journey from writing historical romance for the general market to writing contemporary romance for the inspirational market.

You know the saying “caught between a rock and a hard place?” That’s how it felt when, over the course of several years, I toyed with—and rejected—the idea of crossing over to the “other side.” The rock represented the general market medieval romances with which I’d had success, while the hard place represented the possibly failure-riddled world of inspirational romance. To make a long story short, I finally crossed over—only to question my decision when I learned that romance novels set during the middle ages aren’t well received by publishers of inspirational fiction. I grumbled when my agent asked for something different but eventually pulled out a story I’d written to relieve my pen and paper craving following a particularly long boycott of the publishing world. Thus, Stealing Adda, a humorous take on the life of a contemporary romance writer, ushered me into the world of inspirational fiction.

3) Are you a “plotter” or a “pantster?”

A “pantster” (heavy sigh), but I do work at becoming a “plotter” in the hope I’ll avoid backing my story into a corner as I sometimes do. Before I wrote the first chapter of Nowhere Carolina, the second book in my Southern Discomfort series from Waterbrook/Multnomah, I forced myself to construct a detailed outline. It was almost painful, especially as it took several weeks and I was itching to write the “real” thing. In the end, the outline paid off, but it still doesn’t come naturally.

4) In your opinion, how different is writing and publishing today versus when your first book was published in 1994?

The same, but different. When I say “the same,” I mean the author still needs to know her craft, be disciplined in her pursuit of a writing career, and deliver a great story in order to attract readers. As for how writing and publishing are different today, there are several areas that immediately come to mind. The first is the incredible growth and variety of genres in today’s inspirational market, which was fledgling when my first medieval romance was published. Then there’s the marketing aspect. In the nineties, my publisher discouraged my husband, an advertising executive, from participating in the marketing of my books. We were told it was the publisher’s responsibility and that any effort on our part was wasted. Today, publishers realize the importance of an author’s contributions to marketing and, at minimum, seek their input. At maximum, sometimes the demands on an author are so great it’s hard to find time to write the book. The next difference is the powerful influence of the internet that not only allows readers to purchase an author’s book without leaving home, but allows writers to connect with readers on a more personal level and makes the process of manuscript submission and revision easier and faster. The last difference—though certainly not least—is the rise and phenomenal momentum of self-publishing. More and more authors are dipping their toe in the water and finding it pleasantly warm. This past spring, not only did I release Dreamspell, a new medieval time travel romance as an ebook, but I re-released Stealing Adda as an ebook. Yes, the water feels pretty warm.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If writing is “in your blood”—kind of like the first bloom of romance rife with infatuation, longing, and need—you WILL write. Through writer’s block, interruption, revision, criticism, and rejection, you will write. Once your story is on paper, you will REVISE. You’ll go back and detail characters, fill gaping holes, pump up scenes, check for consistency and point of view problems, etc. The next one’s a biggie: you will ask trusted friends to read your work and provide specific feedback. Then you will seek out experienced writers who are willing to mentor. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) have local chapters you can join to network with other writers. Lastly, you will READ, not only books on publication and the craft of writing, but other authors whose work you admire.

6) What are some of the challenges you face as an author and what do you enjoy the most?

The usual challenges: deadlines, revisions, synopses, writer’s block— Yes, writer’s block. I know some say it doesn’t exist, that it’s an excuse and all it takes to get a story on paper is to sit down and do it, but that doesn’t always work for me. I sit, fingers on keys, poke a bit, sit some more, poke some more, but the block remains. Sometimes it’s a result of having backed my story into a corner and the only way to get it out is with a rewrite; other times, the well simply runs dry. As for what I enjoy the most, the solitude is wonderful. Creating characters that surprise me is fun. And readers are inspiring.

7) What project are you working on?

Since romance novels set during the middle ages have yet to be embraced by publishers of inspirational fiction, I’ve decided to release the first book in my new Age of Faith series, The Unveiling, as an ebook. Once revisions are complete, it will be available on Amazon. Here’s a peek:

For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind: to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact her revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy at all. Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.

CREATING GREAT HEROES AND HEROINES

Stealing Adda: An Inspirational RomanceRecently, Serena Chase at Edgy Inspirational Romance invited me to write a guest post that addresses what it takes to make a great hero or heroine. Though I’m mostly an intuitive writer, I’ve learned to analyze my writing over the course of fourteen novels contracted by publishers like RandomHouse and HarperCollins. So how do I go about creating memorable characters? Here’s a peek at my post:

Mostly, I rely on my own reading experiences. When a character grips me, I ask: Why do I cry when X cries—laugh when X laughs? Why am I anxious when X faces an obstacle? Why does X stay with me even when I put down the story? I also question the rare antagonist that presents as more than a paper doll villain: What makes me sympathize with Y even though Y is a baddy? The answers have given me insight into what makes a character great. In summary, this is what I strive to do when I create characters:

MAKE THEM HUMAN. Even if a heroine is a mature Christian, she won’t always think/act/speak like one. She will make emotional—and bad—choices that the wise author uses to further the plot. In other words, a character should be humanly flawed in order for readers to relate to them in such a way that they become almost real. Note: One reason I didn’t sooner transition from the general market to the inspirational market was because I had difficulty relating to characters in inspirational novels published during the ’90s. Too often, a character’s only apparent flaw was a bad thought or misplaced word. Perhaps that’s why so many readers embraced Francine Rivers’ edgy Redeeming Love. Though I probably shouldn’t admit that the novel wasn’t a “keeper” for me, the author so deeply and believably flawed her heroine that I felt as if she were real. And nothing got in the way of me reading to the end to discover how she could possibly find redemption.

MAKE THEM QUIRKY/UNIQUE. When I write romantic comedy, I give my heroine quirky traits and habits to make her stand out. In STEALING ADDA, my once-upon-a-time nail biter heroine is obsessed with her fingernails and always up for a new coat of polish. When I write historical romance, I imbue my heroine with unique traits and habits. In THE UNVEILING, Annyn Bretanne is a woman so bent on revenge that she is more familiar with the sword than sewing—a no-no in the 12th century. Regardless of what quirk or unique trait you give a character, make sure the reader experiences instances of it throughout the story.

To read the full post, visit: Edgy Inspirational Romance: Readers, Writers, Reviewers