Title: Pray, Book One in the Wolves of Pray Series
Publisher: Cobblestone Press
Date Published: 8/27/2010
Chloe/Christine, how would you describe what you write?
I’m actually all over the map. I write erotic romance under the name Chloe Cole, so between the two pen names I have eight books contracted right now: Three contemporary erotic romance, one historical erotic romance, four paranormal romance and one steampunk romance. I have a YA novel in the works and I collaborated with author L.C. Chase on an M/M/F novella that we just sold to Loose Id due out on Feb 22nd. I think the thing that ties them all together is a thread of humor that I bring to the table, even in the darker paranormals.
Wow, you've been busy! What's your writing process in a nutshell?
Until I wrote with a partner, I was a TOTAL panster. But now, after writing a book where outlining and plotting was necessary in order for it to succeed and gel (since we were each writing a chapter, and kind of passing it back and forth), I would have to say I’m somewhere in between. The process of outlining and getting down some background info on the characters was really helpful, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Although, since I’m still a panster at heart, I don’t always follow it! But a loose guideline does alleviate the stress of “Wait, where is this story even going?” and also clues you in to some plot holes and issues in advance. The start or creative spark is almost always a situation and almost always involves a certain type of person entering a situation totally outside their comfort zone. For example, with my most recent ms, I was thinking, “What if, instead of fairy godmother’s, grown ups got naughty godmothers who would sort of find nerdy guys who couldn’t find love and teach them how to be irresistible and fabulous in bed? And what if this naughty godmother was actually new on the job (she just got promoted from Tooth Fairy) and so she wasn’t very good at it. OOH, and what if the guy wasn’t REALLY a nerd but had to pretend to be, because he was undercover.” And then, I’m off and running, the characters sort of filling in the rest as I go. Layering is super important in order to make readers connect, so I’m constantly looking at my characters to see if they are just words on paper or if they have quirks, and depth and act and react in a consistent way etc.
LOL. That sounds like some premise! What has your submission history looked like? Rejections? Manuscripts written? Number of years ‘seriously writing’, etc?
I’ve been super lucky. Although I was an English major in college and had a lot of experience writing, I’d never seriously considered writing fiction until last year. I wrote my first ms in December of 2009 and submitted it cold to Harlequin’s Nocturne Bites line. No crit group, no craft books, and no clue. I got a well deserved form R because it had all the rookie mistakes one would expect given the circumstances (“witty” dialogue tags, plentiful adverbs, “helpful” information dumps, etc.) Then, I found the E-Harlequin site, found my crit group, did workshops, bought books on writing and just really committed to learning the craft quickly. I received three more rejections, because the entire time I was learning, I kept submitting. On July 5th, I received a contract offer for the very first ms I ever wrote (albeit a totally revised and revamped version). Within a five week time frame, I sold everything I had written and had earned the right to direct submit to three different publishers (now I have four). It was a total whirlwind that I am still reeling from! I’m so grateful and pleased with the way things are progressing.
Sounds like a fairytale. How have you picked your publishers?
I had four publishers in mind, and targeted those four. I made sure to learn as much as I could about them, their editors and the books they sold. I bought and read their books, I took notes, I scoured their blogs for information on editors and what they were really looking for and what was hot. Then I wrote for them. Most of the mss that I have sold were sent only to that one publisher because that’s who I was writing it for.
What's your "call story" we all love to hear?
Well, my first sale was an email and I remember walking downstairs to my husband grinning and pointing the computer and my heart about stopped. It was awesome, but I think my first call story is actually more exciting, maybe because it was a phone call, so here is what I wrote on my blog about five minutes after “the call”. You can still *hear* my shock and excitement in the blog post, since I was almost incoherent, lol:
“They want to publish my steampunk romance novella, The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale! My whole body is shaking right now. They want it, Angela James just called me. From Carina Press. On the telephone. And she said it was her and I said “no it's not.” And she said “yes it is.” And laughed. Then I said, "Wait, you don't call with bad news do you?" and she said that no, she didn't. And then she told me that they want to publish my book. At which point I burst into tears. I wish I was kidding about that part, but I'm not. And then I babbled on and on about how I almost emailed her to get it back because of all the goofy dialogue tags and stupid adverbs and how I am taking her editing workshop. I came across very cool, suave, you know? Anyway, it's scheduled for release spring 2011. And I am STILL freaking out!!!”
I called my hubby then, and told him, and just had the best few days of total bliss and happiness. I think it was one of the most exciting days of my life.
Sigh.. That is so awesome. Did you have an agent when you sold? Now?
Nope, and I have yet to even query one. When I write a full length single title intended for print maybe I’ll try to find one, but for now I’m happy on my own.
What’s it like working with a publisher and editor? Are revisions really as bad as you hear?
Publishing is all abut patience. Which is unfortunate, because I have none! The good part is, you get these small little “wins” along the way that make it all bearable. List of those wins:
- Having the courage to submit
- Request for a full
- Contract offer
- Cover reveal
- Release day
Makes sense. How did you feel the first time you saw your cover? How much input did you have?
I cried. It was just overwhelming and so exciting! And actually, for my first cover (and that particular publisher on the whole) I had a lot of input. Their cover art form is very long and very detailed. So far I have loved my covers! I know for some of the other publishers, I will have less input, but my expectation isn’t perfection. I just hope that my covers reflect the tone of the story inside.
So, what was release day like?
Stressful, nerve-wracking, nauseating and AWESOME!
How did you market your book?
Luckily, I had already established myself within a lot of different online communities so I had a lot of help with promotion. Other writers offering to have me come and do interviews, guest blog etc. I ran a contest that was a BLAST with giveaways etc. and I plan on doing that for most of my releases. Then I sent out copies for many review sites, made sure family and friends knew about the release on Facebook. I’m also on Twitter (_ChristineBell) and I blog about writing (http://www.chrisbwritin.blogspot.com/).
It sounds like you were prepared. What’s the most surprising thing you learned during the publishing process?
I think I expected editing to be more painful that it has been. Although my first experience with Pray was intense, it was really such a learning experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think I learned more from Darcy Quinn, my editor for that book, than I had in months of reading craft books, articles etc. She was great and I think that she is directly responsible for my ability to turn out a pretty clean manuscript now. Of course, I still get edited, *grin*, I just don’t make as many of those newer author mistakes anymore. I had the impression that many authors disliked editing because it changed the work, etc. but I’ve been so lucky to have fabulous editors and I have yet to get a ms back that wasn’t better after edits.
What do you think were the factors that got you published?
I can say almost unequivocally that my voice was the biggest factor. Early on especially, I was very lucky that the publishers I subbed to were willing to overlook a lot of new author issues because they liked my voice. They took a chance on me because they heard something there, even though the work wasn’t as polished as it should have been. Another thing that worked to my advantage is that I never stopped writing, submitting and working towards my goal. It’s really easy to write a book, submit it, get a rejection and walk away or take a year off before trying again, or shoving it under the bed. It’s a lot harder to look at it again, admit your mistakes, rewrite it, and submit it again. And again. And again. You have to be willing to take your lumps and use every bit of feedback as a learning experience and use it to grow as a writer. I think I did, and still do, that.
Yeah, I think being able to take feedback and really internalize it is essential. And hard LOL. What’s your 5 year plan look like?
I want to keep writing novellas because I really love it, but I also want to try to write one single title each year because I want to explore other genres (YA, chick lit etc.) I’m hoping to kind of sneak it in there, just committing to 2k words a week and then at the end of the year spend a month editing and polishing. I love my current editors and publishers so I don’t want to stop writing novellas. So far, I’ve been on schedule with my goal of getting one novella published per month, and I am scheduled through April, but I have to write pretty non-stop to keep that pace so we’ll see whether my plan works or not! There’s no rush on the single title, if it takes me 18 months, so be it. Then I would just try to cut that to 12 months for the next year. In five years, I hope to be able to quit my day job and focus on writing 100%.
Sounds like you're very focused and goal orientated. So, what’s next for you?
What’s the best advice you can impart to writers aspiring to be published?
In order to do this, you have to love it. It’s not usually an easy road and it’s not a high paying profession for the majority of us. It’s hard work and writing is just the tip of the iceberg. Blogging, networking, website management, tax and financial management, contracts and negotiations, cover art and blurb forms, promoting yourself and your work, editing, revisions…if you break it down to an hourly rate you it would be…You know, just don’t do it. Don’t break it down to an hourly rate. Trust me. But if you truly love it, let it infiltrate every part of your life, read about writing, write about writing, take workshops, read blogs, read books and write write write. Then submit submit submit. Take the feedback you get from editors and a trusted mentor or crit partner (and most of us need those) and apply it, then write some more. This is often said, but it really is the truth: A published author is one who won’t quit. When you get knocked down, get back up and do it again. For a great, inspiring book about becoming an author, I always suggest Stephen King’s On Writing.
Great advice! You're right. I think perserverance is a critical factor on this rocky road. And I don't want to calculate that hourly rate either :). Now for some fun! If you were stranded but could only take 1 thing from each of the following categories, what would it be & why:
Person – Since I can only take one person, that means I couldn’t take my kids, so I don’t have to feel guilty about saying that I would take my husband. He’s the person I have the most fun with, and I love him to pieces.
Animal – A cow. So we could have milk or at leas a nice steak dinner. Oh! Or maybe a chicken is better?
Food – turkey chili.
Book – Fool by Christopher Moore. I love to laugh and that book is hilarious.
Music – Can I jut take my whole Ipod?
Personal Item – Hnm…a deck of cards maybe. We love to play poker, gin rummy, 500, etc. I do love lip gloss too though, because I hate having dry lips, so it would be a toss up. ACK! WAIT! Do we have WiFi??? If so, then my laptop.
Chloe/Christine, it was great to learn more about you and to hear about your incredible journey so far (you prolific thing you)! Thank you so much for agreeing to be on Just Published and sharing your views and advice. I wish you much success and mega sales!!