Sunday, April 11, 2010
Just Published - Cari Quinn
His hair brushed his collar, messily kempt in its own wayward style. She doubted he’d seen a barber in quite a while. She also doubted Alex was the type of man who’d wince if she yanked his hair too hard during sex.
That sealed it for her, and placed the cherry red lipstick kiss on the envelope. After her sexually anemic ex-husband, she deserved a young stud. And hell, she’d make sure the young stud got a lil’ something out of the deal, too.
After the waitress took Alex’s card, she rose, sure she seemed more confident than she felt. Her poker face had held her in good stead before, and it would now, too.
She’d simply act as if she were a sexy, voracious older woman who expected her every sexual demand to be met, and he’d never guess differently. He’d never guess her toes were curled in her sedate pumps, or that the back of her neck had already dampened, despite the air conditioning.
He’d never guess, and she would never tell.
She slid her hand down the strap of her bag. Coquettishly, she hoped. “Your place or mine?”
Alex stared up at her. There could be no debating the hue of his eyes now, a pure, rich green. Her heart skipped, much to her chagrin, but she couldn’t help it.
Had a man ever looked at her in quite that way before? As if he’d assessed every inch of her, and she’d come up a winner in every category?
What a heady feeling. And scary as hell.
He signed the credit card slip when it was presented to him and thanked the waitress. Then he stood beside her, drawing her gaze up to his sculpted jaw and the sexy cleft in his chin. He was taller than her five-ten by a good four inches. Maybe five.
Another huge plus. There weren’t a lot of guys who made her feel small—okay, smaller—but Alex did.
Of course, she’d taken note of his height in the office. Not the only thing she’d noticed. He also filled out a pair of well-cut trousers quite nicely. But she’d pretended not to notice, just as she pretended now to be unmoved by the heat of his hand as he touched her arm. Just that single contact, his fingers on her wrist, tightened her nipples to painful nubs.
Come to Mama.
“Let’s go to your place. I want to see where you live.” His gaze skipped over her face and continued down over her discreetly displayed cleavage in a way that was more proprietary than proper. “Where you sleep.”
When his fingers crept under the sleeve of her jacket and brushed her thrumming pulse, she gave him a flirty smile. She so could do this. In fact, if she didn’t take full advantage of this experience, she’d kick herself for the rest of her days.
"Where I won’t be sleeping tonight,” she said softly.
So now you have a feel for Cari's writing and voice, let's get down to business!
Cari, how would you describe what you write?
First and foremost, I try to infuse some humor in my writing, even if what I'm writing is erotic romance. I tend to write sexy and snarky and try to keep a fairly fast pace in my stories. I don't like books that lag and do my best not to write them either. My characters are often quirky. "Different" is a word I've heard a lot about my work.
Yeah, I loved that about Full Disclosure. What’s your writing process in a nutshell?
About 90% total pantser. I've tried filling out the character sheets, but even when I managed to finish them, I never went back to actually use them. Notecards, calendars, storyboards - none of that works for me. I don't write outlines or synopses before I write a story, mainly because I don't know what's going to happen and don't like finding out before the characters do as the story progresses. Not to say I don't usually have character bios and a few major turning points in my head before I write, but not always. With my full Blaze that's currently at Harlequin, Virgin Territory, I didn't even know the heroine's name until I got to her first POV scene, then did a google search for names that seemed to fit her. Kiki won, and since I didn't like that name at all, I figured that meant the name suited her perfectly.
One thing I have started doing when I start a story is to write a back cover blurb. They're needed as part of your query letter anyway and really seem to focus my thoughts without diminishing my enthusiasm for the story. Plus, I really enjoy writing queries. When you write the blurb, you distill your story to its sexiest, funniest, most emotional parts - the whipped cream and cherry on top, so to speak.
What has your submission history looked like? Rejections? Manuscripts written? Number of years ‘seriously writing’, etc?
Well, this may sound misleading, but I actually haven't received a R yet. I subbed a partial of the first incarnation of Virgin Territory to Brenda Chin at Harlequin a year and a half ago as a result of winning a proposal read from the Brenda Novak Diabetes auction - an extremely worthy cause - and while she strongly suggested I change a lot of it, she also didn't say she didn't want to see the ms again. When I subbed my partial again after making her requested changes, she called and asked to see the full. Other than HQ, my first submission was to TWRP last summer. I recently sold another erotic novella to them, the followup to Full Disclosure, Ex Appeal, and also just sold my first story to Ellora's Cave, Personal Research.
Hmm, manuscripts written. At this point, six - three Blaze length, three novellas. But I also have eight ongoing projects, and that's not including sequels of such projects or the three stories that are either on submission or being edited. I tend to switch around a lot. ;)
As my bio says, my first story was a bible parable in second grade. I started my first attempt at a romance in junior high and wrote pretty consistently through high school and beyond, though I spent way too many years fine tuning one story. It's still not fine tuned to my specifications. I finished my first book in February 2007 and immediately started the next. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to always keep moving. Don't let one story suck you into its cesspool for ten years. If you're anything like me, you likely have a lot of stories inside you waiting to get out!
LOL. Ideas aren't my problem either. How did you pick your publisher?
I picked The Wild Rose Press for a couple reasons. Number one, I edited for them and knew how things worked. I'd seen some of my friends become successful with them, so I decided to give it a shot. I'm also very much a person who likes to climb the levels. I dream of being NY-published one day, but I'm climbing the ladder to get there. Each story I've had accepted I targeted to that particular publisher and didn't simultaneously submit anywhere else.
What’s your ‘call’ story?
My call came via email last August from TWRP. My first reaction wasn't to dance around and drink champagne. I told my CPs and friends and mostly sat staring into space like a robot. To say I was numb is putting it mildly. The excitement didn't come until later, when I realized it was all really happening.
Did you have an agent when you sold? Now?
No and no. I'm starting to think more seriously about doing a single title contemporary proposal and testing the waters. I have two agents I've had my eye on for years now, so I know who I will query first when I take that step.
What’s it like working with a publisher and editor? Are revisions really as bad as you hear?
My first experience with an editor was my phone call with Brenda Chin. Once I got over my nerves, the call was fabulous. She was so detailed and honest and really had great ideas about how to make my story better. She also was really nice! After speaking to her, I was even more certain I wanted to write for Blaze. I haven't had too much contact yet with my EC editor, Kelli - I just received the contract last week - but she seems awesome. I knew her a bit from Twitter, and so far she's been extremely friendly and helpful.
I've had two editors at TWRP, Karen and Diana, and both have been wonderful. As with all people you meet, editors have different styles. Some like to chat more, some less, some point out exactly where they think your story should go, some only give you a vague direction. I just completed my first round of Ex Appeal edits last night. While they were minor, I had to add more sensory detail in a couple sex scenes and delete some things to quicken the pacing. Once I was done in Word's Track Changes, there was a lot of red on those pages! But by and large, I've agreed with my editors' suggestions. And when I don't agree, so far each editor has been willing to open a dialogue about how to compromise.
That's good to know. How did you feel the first time you saw your cover? How much input did you have?
It felt weird! I love my Full Disclosure cover, but after waiting so many years to have a cover, it didn't seem real. At most publishing houses, you have to fill out an "Art Fact Sheet" which allows you to list your characters' descriptions and anything else you think might be pertinent for the artist designing the cover. Some people include snapshots of who they envision playing their character. So you definitely have input early on, but if the artist goes far afield of your "vision," most of the time you still have to accept the cover as is. I should be getting two more covers in not too long and I'm excited.
I hope you're just as happy with those! What was release day like?
A blur. It felt like I'd been waiting forever for that day, and when it came, it ended too quickly! The only solution, in my mind, is to keep the fun going by having lots of them!
How did you market your book?
Mostly by guest blogging and Twitter. I can't overstate the importance of Twitter as part of a new author's overall marketing strategy - especially an epubbed author, who has to do the bulk of their promotion themselves. The "hard sell" rarely works, but by connecting with other authors and readers over common hobbies, etc. on a social networking site, often interest in your books just evolves from the relationship. I know of at least several people who bought my book directly because of Twitter and word of mouth. Not to mention, I met my EC editor on Twitter. She and I chatted a bit and that informal relationship allowed me to sub directly to an editor who is really in demand.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned during the publishing process?
I guess that support can come from the strangest places. Some of the friendships I made early on in writing have changed, and it's odd to look around me and see different faces than I'd planned. Odd, but okay. This is a business, and sometimes it's hard to know who to trust and who really has your back. The romance community is so supportive, even though authors are, in a lot of ways, in competition with each other. I think I was surprised most by both the support I've received and the support I didn't, if that makes any sense.
What do you think were the factors that got you published?
Well, on my end, I love to write and wouldn't stop even if no one ever read a word I wrote. Writing is my therapy, though my characters often are completely different than I am. But finding the facets of them that allow me to express some, perhaps untapped, part of myself is one of the parts I like most. I'm tenacious like a bulldog. This career is what I want, and I'm determined to keep going through any and all setbacks. Other than that, luck and timing and targeting my submission to the right market. There are so many more factors to getting published than just a writer's work, as strange as that sounds.
I agree with you. What’s your 5 year plan look like?
To write a lot of books! Ideally, I'd love to be contracted at Blaze and write a couple of those a year while continuing to write erotic romance novellas for my current publishers, and hopefully Samhain. I'd also like to write a single title contemporary per year and start working actively on my urban fantasy series. Snagging an agent somewhere in there would be nice, too!
So, what’s next for you?
Next up is the release of Ex Appeal, the story of Jenny and Ty, from TWRP. Jenny was mentioned briefly in Full Disclosure and has a bit of a hot mess of her own to untangle in her own story. She's ready to have the wildest sex of her life, but first she has to get the man she's interested in to agree. The man who just happens to be her ex.
Also coming soon is Personal Research from Ellora's Cave. Elena's a legal secretary by day and erotic romance author by night who happens to print out her latest torrid story by accident at work. Luckily for her, the sexy computer maintenance tech finds it, but he's awfully curious to see if she keeps her hot fantasies confined to the pages of her books. No release dates yet, but soon hopefully!
I'm also working on several other stories I hope to submit in the near future, including the third story in the Full Disclosure, Ex Appeal trilogy. That one is about Holly from Full Disclosure's sister Haley. She's a model and her hero is a displaced cowboy. So far, that story has been super fun to write.
What’s the best advice you can impart to writers aspiring to be published?
Stay focused on your goals. All it takes is one yes by one editor at one house to get the ball rolling or to keep it rolling. If you love to write and keep improving and practicing your craft, you will get better. As much as they hurt, no rejection can stop you permanently unless you let it.
Thank you so much for having me here today, Kaily! Your questions were really thought-provoking! :)
Cari, your answers were awesome! I know for me they were interesting, educational and inspirational, just as I knew they would be. And thank YOU for being so generous and sharing so much of yourself. I wish you much success on your upcoming releases and achieving your goals. I know you won't need any luck :).
You can check in to find our more information about Cari's books and what she's up to, on her blog at http://cariquinn.blogspot.com/.