If it’s true you’re judged by the company you keep, then I am doin’ good! I’m proud to be a part of this collection of essays, which includes pieces by some of my favorite writers. Please check out this fabulous review from Publishers Weekly:
Watch Porter the dog play and sing. You won’t be sorry.
There’s always something good on the menu at the Daily Dish.
I said I was going to shut up and write, and I am, but first I had to visit with editor Andrea Richesin about, well, everything. Our conversation is posted at a great blog called “Novel Journey.” Check it out here: http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/
It’s been so much fun talking with Deborah Bouziden all month! Our interview will be published in its entirety later this year–without all the asides to show you pictures of Barkis or music videos–so stay tuned for updated links. Here’s the final bit:
DB: When you finish a project, what do you do to reward yourself?
SW: A vacation, a shopping spree, a reading marathon, a ski trip, a dog walk, the ritual cleaning of my study. Plow through a queue of 176 unread e-mail messages. Long, long phone calls to my mom, my sister and my long-distance friends. When I finished Lakeshore Christmas, I went on a ten-mile hike with my dog and my best friend.
DB: You’ve written so many books, how do you feed your muse?
SW: Listen to music. Read. Go to performances. Travel. Stay connected. Cherish your friends who remind you what life–and therefore your books–are about.
DB: What is your favorite thing about book signings?
SW: Shopping for the clothes, planning the travel and meeting the bookseller and the few readers who trickle in. Not so favorite thing? The fact that only a few readers trickle in. I have a theory about this. My readers are readers. They want stories, not the author’s signature. I’m fine with this. There are definitely writers who are a draw at signings, but I’m not one of them.
DB: Book signing nightmare or strangest thing to happen to you?
SW: A guy I thought I was in love with in college showed up at a signing in a far-off city and said, “I still think about you.”
DB: The romance industry has seen many sweeping changes through the years. Do you think they are for the best or detrimental to our industry? What future do you see for the romance industry?
SW: I’m sorry to see writers exploited by vanity presses that make their money by charging the writer. And (okay, this will get me in trouble but I’ll say it anyway) e-publishing doesn’t interest me as a writer–I simply haven’t seen proof of it as a viable commercial vehicle, and I’m a commercial writer who thrives on having readers. Lots and lots of readers. But overall, the future for the industry is bright. Readers crave stories and always will, so the storytellers are safe.
DB: Tell me a bit about your latest project. What is it about? When will it be released?
SW: I just finished Lakeshore Christmas, a hardcover coming in October 2009. It’s a nostalgic, magical love story about the town librarian charged with directing the annual Christmas pageant. Against her will, she is paired up with a bad-boy rocker who’s been court-ordered to help her with the music. After that I”ll be working on The Summer Hideaway, which was known as Lakeshore #7 until I came up with a title.
DB: And now the last and probably most important question of all—do you still keep a bowl of M&M’s on your desk? If not, what happened to get them banned? If you still have them, what kind is your favorite?
SW: What happened to get them banned? Middle age! Where is my girlish figure?! I had to trade the M&Ms for pistachios. I need more protein and fewer carbs. Actually, I need a nip and tuck but I’m chicken.
DB: I counted 43 published books. Is that correct? I think I may be missing a few.
SW: I stopped counting after 30. It was making me feel old. Or like I should be better than I am after all that experience. The truth is, every book feels like a first book to me. I never get over the hurdles easily. Then again, I never get over the excitement. I’m such a nerd.
As you know, I always create a playlist for the book I’m working on. Sometimes, a character gets his own theme song. If you read the end of Chapter 2 in Fireside, you won’t be surprised to know that this is exactly the song that was going through Bo’s head. The lyrics are probably supposed to apply to a romance, but in this case, they capture Bo’s ambivalence about AJ, the son he’s never met before:
When you’re good, you’re good:
Deborah Bouziden: When did you acquire an agent and why? Do you think agents are important to a beginning writer’s career? Why or why not?
SW: I worked with a couple of agents before I was published, but they didn’t work out. Within a few months of selling my first book, I attended a local conference where I met a couple of agents and went with Richard Curtis based on his personality, client list and genre know-how. I later moved on to Robert Gottlieb at the William Morris Agency, and we parted ways when he left the agency to found his own firm. Then, at last, I found my “terminal” agent in Meg Ruley. I’d always thought we’d be a good match, but never approached her to represent me. Why? Bad advice from people giving me “friendly” pointers. Eventually I stopped listening to outside advice and paid attention to my gut. The gut was right. Meg and I are friends and a great team, and she’s done amazing things for my career.
In most types of commercial publishing, an agent is mandatory. Every week there are requests and things for the agent to handle. I can’t imagine juggling everything on my own.
DB: What should romance writers know about marketing and the publishing business today? What are some marketing tips for them? (One or two, if you can think of any.)
SW: Create a vibrant, user-friendly web site with a companion blog, and keep it fresh. Readers are surfers these days. Give them something great to look at on the Web.
Also, be kind to everyone you meet in the business, from the casual reader who drops by a booksigning to a book chain’s vp of marketing. The first time I met Nora Roberts, she had just published her first single title novel (Hot Ice) and was at a booksigning in Houston where nobody came. She and I talked that day, and I’ll never forget how genuine and kind she was to an emerging writer. Debbie Macomber is another great example. She is one of the most beloved authors around because she’s genuinely kind, and very generous with advice and encouragement. Writers like that are my role models.
DB: How has the Internet changed the way you work? (Research? Staying in touch with editors? Readers? Marketing? Etc.)
SW: It’s a classic blessing and a curse. Everything is literally at your fingertips, meaning you can instantly find out how an emergency ejection takes place in a fighter jet. That’s a blessing. It’s a curse because everybody can find you and they’re all so great! I am easily distracted, and the Internet messes with my focus. It’s easy to get sucked down into a time sink when you’re searching or surfing.
However, it makes doing business very fast and easy. No more churning out printed pages. I just e-mail everything.
Question for everybody–how do you stay focused when the World Wide Web is just a click away?
I’m a tough sell when it comes to movie adaptations of books. When the book is a beloved children’s classic–even tougher. When the adaptation is a feature-length film based on a 32-page picture book…well…. But the good news is, the director is Spike Jonze and the story was adapted by Dave Eggers. And the trailer is very watchable. See for yourself here. What do you think? Will it be the next Wizard of Oz?
Deborah Bouziden: What is the most difficult thing about being a writer? What is the most rewarding?
SW: The most difficult? The competitiveness of some writers and no, I’m not naming names. You learn, sometimes, that not everybody is your friend. Not everybody wishes you well. I try to avoid people who are negative, especially those who are constantly critiquing other writers’ careers and declaring themselves superior. The negative energy stresses me out, so I tend to hang with people who are positive, supportive and kind. When I was a teacher, I used to tell my students, “You don’t have to blow out somebody else’s candle to make yours burn brighter.” Some writers need to learn that, too.
By the same token, the most rewarding thing is hanging out with writer friends, dealing with people in the business, and readers. I’ve met some of the most delightful, unforgettable people life has to offer–readers who have become close friends. My agent and editor are like girlfriends. And my writers’ groups–lifelong friendships have formed. Some writers have questioned why I recommend my friends’ books on my blog. They ask, “Why would you want to divert the reader’s attention away from your books?” One newspaper book critic mentioned this in what turned out to be a negative review! I didn’t feel bad about the review because she was so nice about my blog.
DB: What do you enjoy most about the writing process? What do you not like?
SW: I love creating the first draft, and watching the story emerge and take shape. That’s probably my favorite. I don’t like entering editorial changes from the hard copy to the computer. Tedious!
DB: Do you ever see yourself doing anything else?
SW: Skydiving, re-learning my French, learning to speak Italian, volunteering in a prison literacy program, getting my PhD in comparative lit, becoming a world-class grandmother (but please, after my daughter gets married next summer), celebrating my golden anniversary, spending every February skiing, founding a nonprofit for literacy, taking lessons in haute cuisine, beating my son-in-law-to-be at Scrabble, studying photography, losing weight, spending a whole season in a villa in Ravello (Italy), ballroom dancing, climbing Mt. Rainier. To name a few.
DB: What is the greatest obstacle you’ve faced in your writing career?
SW: Myself. I am my own biggest fan and harshest critic. Whenever I’ve had trouble with a book or with the business, it’s usually because I’m standing in my own way.
DB: What advice can you give to struggling writers?
SW: To accept–no, embrace–the struggle. Did you think it would be easy? A smooth ride all the way? If it was easy, everyone would be a bestselling writer. Also, smack me for saying “bestselling.” Every writer has the right to choose her own standard of success. For one writer, it might be a literary accomplishment. Or simply finishing a book she’s been dying to write. For another, it might be a level of popularity or sales. So my advice? Define success for yourself and make sure you put your passion on the page.
Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of human possibility, with no history to guide them, and with a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond words.But the problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don’t get young men standing up and saying, ‘How can I combine career and family?’Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.