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What’s It Like to Be a New Romance Writer?

Today Kindling Romance launches a series of interviews with romance authors who are about to be published for the first time, beginning their careers in eBook format. Unlike chats with more established writers, the Fresh Pages, New Voices series invites authors for whom the novelty of publication hasn’t quite worn off, to share their experiences on the journey toward seeing their names in electronic print.

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Karalynn Lee’s…

…first fantasy romance novella, SUMMER-SET, is schedule for this fall from Samhain Publishing. She holds down a day job writing code in Silicon Valley, and tends to haunt sports bars during NFL season, where she is an aficionado of handcrafted beers.

Lee’s start as an author is romantic in itself. Growing up outside the U.S., she became frustrated as a child at not being able to find books to read in English. Thus, she devised a novel solution, write her own!

AH: How long have you been writing romance? Did you begin by writing in another category?

KL: I started out by writing fantasy; the romance seeped in.  Okay, maybe it was more like a tsunami.  At some point earlier this year, I threw up my hands and gave the characters free rein to pursue, well, each other. I do still write stories that are more on the fantasy side of the line than the romance side, but we’re talking about a matter of inches here.

AH: Do you write full-time? Do you have any rituals when you write, like writing longhand, or taking your laptop to a coffee shop, sitting down at 3 am with a giant bowl of M&M’s?

KL: I write around my day job.  I like to have a good book on hand when I’ve got a long writing session planned. Then when I need a break, at least I’m still doing something literary by reading, and I ration myself a chapter for every few hundred words written to keep myself motivated.

It’s a lovely system in theory…

AH: I love that, rationing your treats. Okay, next question, many writers just starting out wonder if an author writes every day, or on a regular schedule–

KL: I do try to write everyday, but I believe that even writers are entitled to have lives, so when something comes up and I get home too late to be productive, I let it slide.

AH: How long did it take for you to make your first sale?

KL: I had a handful of short story rejections in high school, but you know how things are then—I was more devastated by the fact that the cute guy in my English class didn’t know I existed. I was too busy in college to write much, so I didn’t submit anything for years. When I did start again, inspired by an anthology announcement, I got lucky on that try.

KaralynnLeeAH: What is the single biggest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far?

KL: That you must be able to simultaneously believe your writing is awesome and awful. Become confident that you can write well, and more confident that you can write even better.

AH: Can you take us through the timeline of making the sale? How long will it be from submission to publication?

KL: February 25: submission to anthology. Nail-biting ensues… March 16: submission rejected for anthology, but is passed to another editor. April 7: editor offers a contract by email. I bask in glory. November: tentative release date [scheduled], so about 7 months. I love how quickly electronic publishing moves.

AH: What did you do when you learned you were going to be published?

KL: I got the email early in the morning, so it led to singing in the shower. I usually don’t subject my neighbors to this. I also vaguely recall that it was a horrendous day in the office—bugs emerging everywhere from my code, deadlines getting pushed up, my computer crashing—and yet I floated through it all quite serenely.

AH: Who is your editor at Samhain, and what has it been like working with that person? Were you asked to do revisions?

KL: Lindsey McGurk’s my editor, and she’s been a lovely person to work with from the start. All our communication’s been over email, but even so I feel I know her voice, and I like the way she writes. This sounds trivial, but it makes me more inclined to trust her with my words, since she does such a fine job with her own—even though they’re not fiction.

I was surprised how much input I was allowed to have in the blurb and the cover art, but it seems to be standard operating procedure with Samhain.  And I suppose all authors need to get used to thinking about the marketing aspect of publishing.

And editing is definitely happening.

AH: Do you feel different about your writing or yourself now that you’re about to be published?

KL: I think I’ll always need one more published work before I feel like I have worthwhile credentials. I don’t think anything’s changed. Obviously I believed in my writing, if I was sending it out; and other writers, published or not, have always been kind and gracious to me whenever I emerged from my shell. I’m of the hermit breed of writers.

AH: What are you working on now? Do you plan to continue in the fantasy romance subgenre, or are there others you’d like to explore?

KL: Fantasy’s definitely my stronghold.  I would love to try historical in various non-British settings, but that will have to wait until there’s room on my to-be-read stack for some history books.  I’m also growing a little more confident in my science fiction attempts, whereas before I was convinced I needed a PhD in physics to do so. A brother-in-law with said degree and a caustic tongue can inspire such doubts.

AH: What’s your favorite dark beer?

KL: Deschutes Black Butte XX.  Mmm.

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SUMMER-SET BY KARALYNN LEE

He is hunting a man into exile when he sees her, and for the first time fails to catch his prey. Ryuan becomes enthralled by this woman who meets his wolf’s appetites with her own hunger. But even as Calanthe bares her body and heart to him, she hides a secret — one that will wrench them apart and into the path of an ancient vengeance.

Coming from Samhain ~ November, 2009

Visit Karalynn Lee at her website at www.karalynnlee.com

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Leigh CourtRed Sage romance author Leigh Court found herself on the NBC Nightly News this Sunday in a segment on how the U.S. recession is influencing the entertainment business.

While bad economic times mean layoffs and cutbacks for many, for others it offers a creative wellspring of plot lines for a variety of media from television to literature. Court’s part of the segment lasts a mere eight seconds, yet romance publishing is shown in a positive light, as an industry providing much needed escapism.

Watch the segment and see what you think. Correspondent Chris Jansing reminds us that in the Great Depression, fiction about people who met with strife during the era became immensely popular.

Conversely, the 1930s was also the decade of the glamorous movie musical, of Ginger Rogers swirling around in exquisite gowns that in today’s dollars would likely equal the annual salary of some unfortunate soul manning the fry station at Burger King. Americans wanted to be misdirected away from bread lines toward romantic stories about women enjoying life in big houses complete with servants, sleek Art Deco furniture, and a wardrobe of hats to die for.

Curiously enough, in several of the most enduring movies of the 1930s, the women were rich while the romantic leads weren’t always as well off. Think Kathryn Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story. Granted, Hepburn ends up marrying her well-to-do neighbor played by Cary Grant, but I doubt viewers questioned Stewart’s virility or maleness in his role of an underpaid writer who literally sweeps the heroine off her feet.

During her NBC report, Jansing also directed the spotlight toward  the new “recession TV” series Hung on HBO, about a middle-aged man who loses everything to the downturn and opts to use his best asset to survive as a gigolo.

Which brings up the question, would romance readers, not simply accept, but propel a story with a similar dynamic to the top of the lists? Can romance readers be comfortable with a man who isn’t rolling in dough, but who is still incredibly yummy and masculine?

A poverty-stricken heroine is no stretch, but a hero living in a pup tent is a dicey choice. Though it worked for Gigi Levangie Grazer in The Starter Wife, personally I found myself more attracted to the author’s hilarious and secretly tragic descriptions of life in L.A. than the hero of her novel, Sam Knight. Sam may be sweet and tortured, but he feels like a bit of wimp to me, too much Heathcliffiness without the deranged strength.

Sometimes a girl just wants to forget the fact that she’s driving around in a ghastly old minivan with two missing hub caps, a cracked windshield, and a passenger’s side window that won’t roll down any more because bird poop shorted out the motor. Sometimes you just want to fantasize about things you probably won’t ever have. That includes a dangerous alpha hero with a lot of money.

Then again, dreams of something much more attainable, a man who understands what it’s like to struggle financially because he’s been there himself, can be incredibly romantic and funny and sexy.

Here’s the question I’d like to ask, will romance successfully pull something exciting and daring out of the present economic situation? Would readers buy it, as in a lot of copies of it? My thought is that this might be the perfect opportunity for eBook romance writers, those who, by definition, can get stories to market faster and who have publishers more open to taking calculated risks.

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Nora Roberts discussed her latest release, Black Hills, at a signing hosted by The Washington Post on July 14. Reported Ron Charles on the newspaper’s Short Stack blog:

About 550 women (and four hen-pecked men) filled our auditorium to ask her questions and get signed copies of her new bestseller, “Black Hills.” She offered witty and wonderful advice to writers…Watching her charm this crowd, I wasn’t surprised she sells a book every two seconds.

My thanks to Steven Levingston, Nonfiction Editor for Book World at The Washington Post, who thoughtfully passed along the link to this video.

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