What first led you to self-publish some of your books?
I had books finished and ready to go and couldn’t find a publisher that was interested in them. Maid for Love, book 1 of the McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, was rejected by every romance publisher. That series has gone on to sell more than 2.3 million books. The Treading Water Series, which has been very successful for me and much adored by readers, was also rejected all over the place.
What do you like best and worst about self-publishing?
I like everything about self-publishing. I like making all the decisions about covers and editing and release dates and prices. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, although it is a lot of work. Luckily, it’s work I love to do, and I have a fantastic team supporting me every step of the way.
I have a book I’d like to self-publish, but I have no idea how to get started. What do I do?
I want to be a writer. How do I get started?
I get this question a LOT, so I figured I’d add it here. My answer is usually the same: Writers write. A lot. Often every day. It takes a lot of practice, trial and error to reach the point where you’re able to consistently produce something that others want to read. It took years to learn my craft, perfect my technique and to reach the point where my books were good enough for others to read. And guess what? I’m still learning and growing and perfecting. It never ends. Once you have something you feel is ready for public consumption, STOP. Join a writing group in your local area, get some critique partners and get ready for the real work to begin. Be ready and able to take constructive criticism. If you can’t take it, you’re in the wrong business. If you want people to tell you your story is a masterpiece, you’re in the wrong business. If you’re unable to hear that your story is anything less than dazzling, you’re in the wrong business. The best thing you can do for yourself as a new writer is to HEAR what people are saying about your work. I used to do a lot of critiquing for other writers, but I stopped doing it because inevitably they didn’t want to hear that their book was anything less than perfect, so I was wasting my time trying to show them where they could make improvements. If you are writing romance, check out the Romance Writers of America for a chapter in your area. Most other genres have similar groups. Finding like-minded writers and learning from them is the best thing you can do for your fledgling career. Good luck!
I also get this one a lot: I want to be a published author. What’s involved with that?
I find it interesting that people say they want to be a “published” author. They’re often thinking about being published before they think about the book or the writing. This is another question I always answer the same way. Have you written a book? Have you had it critiqued by other writers you trust? Do you belong to a writing organization where you can find like-minded writers who can guide you through the very involved process of learning your craft? If not, you may not be ready to talk about publishing. Conventional wisdom says it takes 10,000 hours of practice, trial and error to become proficient at something like writing. I have no doubt I invested more than 20,000 hours in my writing before good things started to happen for me. If you don’t put in the time, you may not get the results you want.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
First of all, a plotter is a writer who plans out their book in advance. A pantser writes by the seat of his or her pants, without a plan. I’m a card-carrying pantser and proud of it! When I wrote my first book, I had no idea there were two schools of thought on this. I had my idea, a conflict, and a main character who had lived as a living, breathing person in my head for years. That was all I needed to get started. The result? An over-written tome that I eventually had to cut by 55,000 words. The lesson learned? Be judicious. Nothing gets in unless I can answer this question: How does this scene I am dying to write move Character X’s story forward? If I can’t answer that question, I leave it out. I think about what’s next but at the same time I lay the groundwork for what needs to happen later. I work within the confines I’ve established while going back and rereading what I’ve already done. The rereading is critical. It never fails to give me new ideas about where I could take the story, and it results in a well-edited manuscript when the writing is done.
Where do you get your ideas?
All over the place! Sometimes they literally just appear in my imagination. For instance, I have no memory of “meeting” my first main character. Jack in Treading Water appeared in my mind as a fully formed character who demanded I tell his story. Many of my books are sequels to others. Another one sprung from seeing a cute guy driving a black Mercedes convertible into Newport, Rhode Island, on an August Friday night. I wondered, ”Where’s he going?” The answer to that question is my book, The Fall. I also love to eavesdrop! Once, while waiting for a delayed flight, I listened into a conversation between two twenty somethings who were on their way to visit their significant others. They discovered they were on the same flight home. I remember thinking, wouldn’t it be something if they ended up together? That conversation resulted in Love at First Flight. Sometimes, it’s just a germ of an idea that leads to a novel. The idea of a pilot being punched in the face by an irate customer in an airport shop led to Everyone Loves a Hero. Sometimes, I’ll read something in the paper that sets off my imagination. Fatal Affair was inspired by a real-life story about a congressman who was found dead in his D.C. area home. The Green Mountain Series was inspired by a spot on the NBC Nightly News about the real-life Vermont Country Store and the family that owns it.
Do you know how your story is going to end when you begin?
Never! That’s the beauty of being a pantser. It’s as much a mystery to me as it will hopefully be for my readers. When I was writing my first romantic suspense, I purposely didn’t decide who the perp was going to be until I was three-quarters of the way into the book. I wondered at the time if that was a wise move, but it worked out really well because I ended up with a number of people it could have been. Once I decided who it was going to be, I had to go back and adjust a few things to make it work. That was an interesting learning experience, to say the least. I kept asking myself—shouldn’t I know who’s doing all this? Apparently not!
How long does it take you to write a novel?
The first one, Treading Water, took forever—on and off for three years—and then another year of trimming, editing and rewriting. For years before I published that book in October of 2011, every time I revisited the manuscript, I fiddled with it. The book that was published in 2011 bears very little resemblance to that early first draft from 2005. It’s a much better book now than it was then! The next one, Marking Time, the sequel to Treading Water, took me 90 days. I applied the lessons learned in overwriting the first one and ended up with a solid first draft of the second one that needed very little editing. The book that was published in November 2011 is exactly the book I wrote in 2005-2006 with very few modifications. Years after those initial books were written, I seem to have figured out how to do it. I’ve written a 96,000-word book in 39 days. The romantic suspense novels seem to take longer because they are way outside my comfort zone. But I love that challenge! I recently wrote Gansett After Dark in four weeks, but that’s book 11 in a series and I know the Gansett Island world really well at this point.
Do you like to write love scenes?
I like them much more than I used to. Back when I was first writing romance, I had to force myself through the love scenes. Now they are much more organic (and frequent) in my books!
Will you endorse or blurb my book?
No, I’m sorry to say that I don’t do blurbs, except for authors with whom I already have an existing relationship or those whose books I love. I get a lot of requests for blurbs and just don’t have time to do them. I’m honored, however, that you’d think of me.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
~ Calvin Coolidge