Friday, January 26, 2007

A writer's life

How about an account of what goes into writing a book and getting it published?

I'm very fortunate to have a successful series going at one house, Triskelion, so for this series I sell on proposal. This is after several books, but by now the publisher knows I deliver my work on time and it's of a certain quality.

Writing the proposal is agony. I have to think up a plot and characters, and get them down on a page. This is where writing a series helps, because the hero and heroine of one story may have been secondary characters in other stories. So I have a chance to get to know them.

At any one time, I have stories in various stages. I only ever write one at a time, but I might be editing another, or revising one ready to send off to my editor. I can do that. What I can't do is write more than one novel. I invest so much of myself in the characters, immerse myself in their world, so I can't disentangle myself to go elsewhere.

At this time, I've just revamped my website, because I thought it was time. And next month sees the release of RUBIES OF FIRE, the first vampire instalment of the Department 57 series. I'm thrilled, because I do love writing those big bad vamps!

So I'm beginning to promote this book in earnest. While promotion isn't my favorite part of the job, it has to be done. I don't want my 'babies' entering the world without a little help, and you can have the best book in the world, but if nobody knows it exists, then it will fade and go away without trace.

I'm going through the editing process with DIAMONDS OF ICE, the next Department 57 book, which I'm very happy with. I made the hero suffer, but he's a strong character, and he can take it!

And I'm writing Ryan's story from the WILDFIRE series, ICEFIRE. I am loving it. I've found a well-organised, together woman for him, and she might surprise you when you come to read about her. Ryan adores her, and so do I. He is such an interesting character, I couldn't wait to get to him, and I was right. Tortured, strong, and with a wicked sense of humour he uses to tease his lady!

I'll try to keep this up, try to show you some of the things that go into the life of the average writer. You never know, it might enhance the reading experience!

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Does a modern romance story need a Happy Ever After?

I have to put in my two penn'orth.

There's a big kerfuffle going on at Dear about a trilogy that ends with the death of the hero, and is being marketed as a romance.

There have been a storm of comments, which I couldn't resist, so here's my bit:

They are Romances, not romantic fiction.

At uni, I studied a lot of love stories, Romeo and Juliet, Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights, but while I considered them 'classic romances' or romances in the old style, I would never call them romantic fiction.

Then there are the Romances, or Romaunces even, of the middle ages, the Romance of the Rose, The Song of Roland, the Morte d'Arthur. These were romances because they were written in Romantic languages (ie languages derived from the language of Rome - Latin). So we can argue terminology until the cows come home, but these days, romance fiction means a few specific things.

Romantic fiction readers nowadays have only one expectation - a happy ending. You can have same-sex relationships, multiple partner relationships, inter-species (as long as they're sentient), but you have

to have that happy ending. And to kill off the hero in the last book is not a happy ending, however

you look at it.

I could go into lots of technical stuff, about story arcs and genres, but what's the point? As a reader, if I pick up a book labelled "romance" and it has an unhappy ending, or it just stops, I feel cheated. Yes, cheated. The publisher has cynically tried to shove the books into a market that is still the biggest genre, still has healthy sales. So write a book "with romantic elements," write a "love story," but don't call it romance. It's not fair.

And some people wonder why I read the last page first? I want to assure myself that the couple, or threesome, or whatever, get to a resolution, and have something to look forward to. With each other.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Writing angles

Back to writing.

Okay, I've read mails and stuff from all kinds of wannabe writers, and it amazes me how many people actually want to write!

Believe me, if I didn't have a head full of characters yelling, "pick me! Pick me!" I'd find better ways of spending my time.

Like any other profession, the huge success is a mixture of skill, talent, hard work and sheer luck. The last factor is the really important one, if you're talking about the difference between midlist and breakaway success. Publishers try to skew this, and at the moment the trend seems to be to get celebs writing (or rather, being ghosted) their autobiographies, their 'how to' books and so on. While the celeb book will always be with us, at the moment it's getting out of hand. Then the readers will tire of it and move on, leaving a few sure-fire names to hold the fort.

In fiction, the paranormal market is currently a screaming success, but if you want to write a vampire book, about the uber-alpha vamp and the feisty heroine, you're too late for the huge success. Unless, of course, you know different.

And that's what it's all about. Different. A twist, a different approach, something special. I've been a bit taken aback by the success of the Department 57 series, for example. Thinking about it, I shouldn't have been, from a market point of view. The stories are different, they have a different approach to the paranormal market. Not a secret society of vampires, for instance, but all paranormal beings joining together for their mutual benefit. Teams of Talents, led by a mysterious group of people who refuse to say what their Talent is, precisely, but have a bit of everything. Or do they? Neither are my Talents 'different' and special. I really didn't want to write about an elite, but I did want to look out how you would actually face the modern world if you lived longer than the norm, or you could turn into a mythical beast at will - and you wanted to keep your ability secret, at least until the world is ready to accept you as an equal.

So I found my "angle," almost by accident, by writing about something I cared about, something that interested me, and I ended up with a romantic suspense series about a group of people working with MI6 and the CIA. James Bond with wings and fangs, you might say.

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