Title: An Imprudent Lady
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency era
Publisher: Harlequin Historical Undone
Date Published: February, 2011
Elaine, how would you describe what you write?
It’s all about the romance for me. Historical romance is my mainstay –any era, really. I love them all. I’ve written Regency, Westerns and Medieval manuscripts. I’ve also recently begun to dabble with a Steampunk series (playing with Victorian mores in a fantasy setting). I’m most comfortable writing in the third-person and strive to write in a style that’s evocative of the era, while still making it engaging for the modern reader.
Sounds quite unique. What’s your writing process in a nutshell?
Oh, I’m a plotter. Must know where my story begins and ends. I’ve tried, even during NaNoWriMo, to pants and I fail miserably. Every time. When I plot, I generally break the story down into three main sections, creatively titled ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’. Heh. I then try to sketch in the story’s major turning points (generally 3 of them) which are major shifts in the plot –events where the characters cannot return to where they were at the beginning of the story.
Now, with that said, I don’t feel like I need to plot every single scene in minute detail. I think writing would become a bit dull if I carried the plotting that far. Once I know where I’m going, I allow the story to take little detours along the way so I can discover things about the characters or greater detail about plot points. I haven’t had much success with character interviews, or profiles.
Sounds like a great way to develop a really solid outline. What has your submission history looked like? Rejections? Manuscripts written? Number of years ‘seriously writing’, etc?
I’ve been writing off and on for about 20 years, but only began to seriously write in about 2006. I’d discovered the wonderful world of the online writing community and suddenly realized I wasn’t alone in this endeavor. I’ve trunked a couple of novels and have three other fulls in progress at the moment. My first actual submission was in May 2009 and I sent it to 3 publishers –1 rejected it, 1 requested the full (then went out of business) and 1 bought it.
So the first manuscript you ever submitted, you sold? I hate you! Only kidding :). How did you pick your publisher?
In this instance, I did specifically write the story for Harlequin. I’d read about their new Undone! short story line and I thought I’d try my hand at a short. I’d been struggling with plot development and getting bogged down in the full-length storyline, so thought this would be a great way to hone my writing style. And, wow, did it ever! I learned more about plot, story and developing my writing voice by working on such a concentrated storyline. The other publishers I sent the manuscript to were epubs only, and I selected them because they were all short story friendly. But they also appealed to me because I’m a huge proponent of the epublishing movement –I buy only ebooks for myself and have anticipated the rapid acceleration of ebook adoption at large.
Yay for ebooks and I agree. Writing short is a great way to boil down your writing. Every word has to count! What’s your ‘call’ story?
For such a momentous event, in retrospect I have to say it all went down very quietly. It was a Friday morning, I was in my office and my cell phone rang. That phone rarely rings during the week, so when the number on the display was unknown I had no idea who was calling. But a very nice British voice greeted me –I recognized the name right away because I’d just gone 2 rounds of revision communications with her. I quietly walked across the room and closed my office door because my brain had begun to go blank and I wasn’t entirely certain if I was going to start screaming or crying. In the end I think I just babbled. She guided me though the conversation and asked me if they could please buy my story?
I think I forgot to say yes. Sorta like when my husband proposed, if you can imagine. In both cases, they had to ask me, was that a ‘yes’? Of course!
Since no one at the office knows that I write (and I prefer to keep it that way for the time being), my celebration was limited to a quick call and babble session with my husband, and then I had to idle down and deal with mundane day-job stuff for the next 8 hours. When I got home I had to re-read the emailed offer confirmation to be certain it wasn’t all a dream. Then my husband and I celebrated over a pitcher of margaritas!
I love stories like that and margaritas is a great way to celebrate! Did you have an agent when you sold? Now?
I don’t have an agent, but I plan to look for one this summer now that I’m focusing more time and attention to longer manuscripts.
So, what’s it like working with a publisher and editor? Are revisions really as bad as you hear?
It’s fascinating to see more of the publishing process. Working with a publisher is a bit of hurry-up-and-wait activity –there are periods of lots of activity and deadlines, then periods of silence. So it’s a definite practice in patience!
I love working with an editor; I’ve found it very give and take. Basically, she sends over notes about what’s working or not in the manuscript, but always leaves it up to me how to digest the feedback and what changes to make as a result. The feedback is always insightful and informative and serves to make the stories stronger. If I decide not to incorporate something I generally include an explanation on why and, so far, we’ve been able to easily strike an accord.
Sounds like a great relationship. How did you feel the first time you saw your cover? How much input did you have?
Well, before it goes to the art department, I filled out an art fact sheet for them. It consists of character descriptions (hair color, eye color, other physical traits), story themes (lost love, first love, redemption, revenge, etc) and even key scenes to describe. All of this is taken into consideration by the art department when they select the artwork for the cover.
It was so exciting to receive that cover, to see how they would represent the story to a buyer. I was pleased that they chose to convey the study scene (a turning point in the story) and Charlotte’s rose gown. I’ve got a poster-sized version on my wall over the computer now, as inspiration!
What was release day like for you?
Well, without physical copies of books to sign (since it’s an ebook only line), we ended up inviting some friends to hang out at a neighborhood pub and countdown till midnight, when it would be available for download. I had postcards printed with my cover so there’d be something physical to hold and talk about. Even the waitresses joined in the fun!
That sounds like such fun. How did you market it?
Ah, well, being an ebook it’s all about online marketing. I try to use Twitter and guest blogging for meeting new audiences and offering giveaways. I’m also blogging on my site, Goodreads and the Amazon author’s page. But mostly it’s about participating in online communities, being a member of the writing and reading community and generally talking with people that have had the best success. I did try a brief promotion with Google AdWords (I received a $100 promo gift card from my internet provider, so decided ‘why not?’). Other than a number of hits from certain key word searches, I can’t say if there were definitively any sales tied to it, though.
That's great information. I always like to hear what avenues authors think work (or not). What’s the most surprising thing you learned during the publishing process?
I’ve been most surprised by how very small the industry is.
What do you think were the factors that got you published?
Aside from having a good story to tell? I think it was showing that I could take and adapt to criticism. That original manuscript went through 2 separate revisions before an offer was made, and in retrospect I think that was as much about getting the manuscript into tip-top shape as much it was about seeing how I processed and executed the revisions.
Sadly, I think some people never resubmit. I think others refuse to revise. I think being open minded and willing to adapt is an invaluable trait if you’re serious about being published.
Great advice. I do think the revision process is sort of a trial run in how an author will work with a particular editor. So you're going to be a multi-published author. What’s your 5 year plan look like?
Short term my focus is on finding the right agent and selling a full length manuscript. My 5-year plan is more about building my name and backlist to the point that I’m able to write full time.
Awesome! What’s next for you?
That first sale turned into a series with Harlequin, called the Fortney Follies. So, March 1st is the release of book two, A DISGRACEFUL MISS, and book three has been accepted for a tentative June release, though it’s currently untitled.
Congrats!! What’s the best advice you can impart to writers aspiring to be published?
Never forget this is a business. Treat it like one. That means networking, being open minded and flexible, and behaving like a professional. Remember my comment about how small an industry this is? Never forget it.
Now for some fun! If you were stranded on a desert but could only take 1 thing from each of the following categories, what would it be & why:
Person My hubby. He’s my best friend and lover. Don’t know if I could make it without him, and I could totally enjoy being stranded with him!
Animal I’m not a big pet person, so this would be a totally practical animal. Like a chicken for eggs. Or something. Just so long as I don’t have to keep up with it. Or feel guilty because I didn’t play with it enough. I spend too much time in my head, and I’m lucky to keep up with the husband and myself.
Food Chocolate. Life’s just not the same without a little chocolate in it!
Book The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. I’d really want to have the whole series, but could make do with just the first book. Dunnett was such a rich, complex storyteller that every time I read it, I discover something I missed on earlier reads. It’s a favorite of both of ours.
Music Anything by the Counting Crows. There’s just something about Adam Duritz’ voice that I love to listen to.
Personal Item A guitar. I don’t play but my husband does, and I sure do love to listen to him play.
Elaine, thank you so much for being here today. Best wishes to you for your upcoming releases and achieving those goals. You really are an inspiration! If anyone would like to get in touch with Elaine or learn more about her or her books, you can visit her here:
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