Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’ve been writing romance novels off and on for thirty years. I wrote more than a dozen novels for Harlequin. In between books, I’ve had the good fortune to travel to many interesting and exotic locales from London and Paris to Panama, Cuba and Costa Rica. I’ve sailed on a twenty-nine foot sloop in the Pacific, volunteered at a Sisters of Mercy Mission in Colon, canoed on the Big East River in the wilds of Canada and lived part of a winter with trappers in the Louisiana swamps—collecting memories, friends and experiences—which oft times made appearances in my novels.
Christmas of 2011, I was gifted a Kindle. I didn’t have a clue what the gadget was, but an Amazon gift card came with it–and believe me–I learned darn quick. The Kindle changed the direction of my life. I thought I would never sit still to write another book or engage in any sort of publishing event. Been there, done that. An online publisher contracted to bring out seven of my back list. A writer friend introduced me to indie publishing and walked me through the procedure–looking over my Skype shoulder, so that’s what I’m doing now. I love indie publishing. I love the networking, and meeting new people and fans.
Before I owned a Kindle the only electronic innovation I knew how to use was my ATM card. It works everywhere in the world! Now, I know how to Skype, maintain a webpage, write blogs, post on a Facebook author page and a myriad other events that a writer must do to have a presence on the WEB. I know it sounds odd that a woman living in the 21st Century did not know how to do these things, but until I returned stateside for that 2011 Christmas, I’d been living in tiny jungle villages and off-islands in Central America. I made a trek into the City every six weeks or so to visit an internet cafe, let my family know I was alive–not snake bit, not lost in the Pacific, and to chat up other ex-pats and trade English language books. I stopped by an ATM machine, then returned to my primitive, peaceful existence. I have some new works in progress, but finding time to compose in this new environment of promote! Promote! Promote! is a learning curve I haven’t yet mastered.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My most recent release is On a Wing and Prayer. Some time ago, I read an article about handicapped orphans and how difficult it was to place them for adoption. I learned there are conclaves held around the country several times a year in which social agencies pooled resources and brought prospective parents and the orphans together. Next came a series of what-ifs? And the story was born. Especially–what would happen if after all of the planning the orphans didn’t make it to a conclave. That was enough to gather my characters together, but I still didn’t have a clue about the event that would interrupt their journey. Then a nephew came to visit for a summer and found a job at a small family-owned airport. One of the pilots who housed his plane at the airport had a government contract to fly military mail. My nephew often went along on those turn and burn trips sitting in the co-pilot’s seat and brought the pilot’s tales of his flying life home. One of the stories was about a belly landing on a frozen lake. Whoa! That was it. Had my characters, had the plot and had the action. I love the book. I adore the orphans. The title is an old cliche: On a Wing and a Prayer, but I have a banner with a subtitle: The Christmas Orphans. I discovered some technical issues when I uploaded it to Amazon, so won’t do a launch or any promoting until the publishing service repairs the glitches.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
It takes a pot of coffee to get my eyelids unglued, then a game of cards to clear my head before I boot up and look at what I wrote the day before or the week before. One habit I have got to break is checking my email, my blog, my Facebook page before I start work. Somehow I get snagged and next thing I know it’s late afternoon! I prefer to write mornings until I’m deep into a book–then time doesn’t matter.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Old journals and diaries written by women who helped settle our country and auto biographies always catch my attention. One will seldom find these gems outside of small town museums, or dusty, used book stores. I once came across a small book about Casket girls. When the Louisiana Territory was owned by France and the French kept a garrison in New Orleans, soldiers clamored for wives. Napoleon gathered young girls and women and shipped them to The Ursuline Convents with small trunks called caskets in which was a change of clothing and perhaps a few ribbons or lace. There the girls were educated by the nuns until courted and often married in the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France. Some were not of the best reputation in France; perhaps they were thieves or pickpockets–but all were touted as virgins. If you have been to New Orleans, you’ve seen the Cathedral in all of its majestic glory facing Jackson Square and one can tour the Ursuline Convent. For years I thought I wrote contemporary romance, but I don’t actually because those old journals and diaries seem to influence me and my characters.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I am concentrating on getting my back list into digital format, although I have one new work in progress and notes for two others. I write on the WIP as time permits, but digital publishing and learning promotion is a massive learning curve for me simply because I came to it so late. While many well-published and new authors were plunging into digital, I was lazing in a hammock in a tiny jungle village or hunting sea glass on small island beaches in the Pacific. Too, I am such a slow creator. I write ten pages and toss out eight. But–that’s what works for me.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Wow! I do not have a best–yet. Perhaps I will know more next year. I have made some missteps. Perhaps all new indie authors do. I have handed over hundreds of Paypal dollars for promotions that did not sell a single book. I waltzed along happily submitting to any site that accepted books for review. But reviewers have favorite genres and my books often did not fit. Books that earned a solid five stars from one reviewer, may only earn a two from another. Thus, I’ve learned to be more discrete in where I submit my books. The best promotion sites are those readers trust. Books must often have not less than ten or twenty reviews with an average star rating of 4/5.0 to be accepted for free or paid promotion. Bookbub, E-reader News Today, and Pixel of Ink , along with Daily Cheap Reads are four of the top sites to move books. Bookbub is costly, but done right, a promo on Bookbub can move a book into best-seller stardom, or at the very least, place the book high in the top one-hundred on Amazon. I am saving $$$ and learning from colleagues who have promoted with Bookbub and actually achieved the number one slot, in addition to becoming a USA Today best selling author via a Bookbub promotion.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Golly. I am so reluctant to give advice because the digital market is new to me and I’m just learning what works for me and what doesn’t. It helps to have a mentor or a colleague who knows the ropes. I have contracted seven books with an online publisher and that was a misstep on my part. The publisher’s reputation is for spicy sex, erotica, shapeshifter, M/M and menage. There is no way my sister authors can help promote my work because their followers are not into plain vanilla romance. I would suggest that if a writer is signing with a digital publisher to make certain there is a clause in the contract that if the author’s book does not sell three-hundred copies in the first quarter, publishing rights revert to the author. And since reviews are so important to get on the best promo sites, do ask if the publisher contracts with Netgalley, an organization that maintains a stable of reviewers to read and review ARCs (advance reading copies). If not, the author is going to struggle to earn those all important first reviews.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Two things: Write what you know (don’t skimp on research) and learn how to edit. Writing fiction is taking the ordinary and raising it to a level of word art. If you want readers to suspend belief and enjoy your story, you must anchor the fantasy with something the reader can identify. Writers can create entire worlds, new species, new customs, but a boa constrictor cannot fall out of tree in an Oregon forest and attack a protagonist. The scene is great for drama, but boas don’t live in Oregon. Perhaps a protagonist is an art thief and stole the Mona Lisa–just last week! As a reader I want to know how the theft happened. The author didn’t tell the reader, because he/she didn’t know. Millions of people have stood in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, including me–so I know that theft could not have happened. It’s a great opening, but not credible. Facts are important. As a writer we can shave them a little bit–with a credible explanation. But Glory! The book is going to be in trouble if the reviewer happens to know a the difference. An Amazonian guide cannot leave a tourist propped up against a tree, helpless with a broken leg while he runs a hundred miles for help. It is utterly impossible to run a hundred miles in a jungle. Besides, it took two weeks to get to the site where the tourist broke his leg. And, I’ll tell you what I know. As soon as it gets dark, something is gonna eat that poor guy. The author’s intention was to make the guide heroic. Didn’t work. That’s where learning to edit our work comes in. Delete those throwaway lines. Even if a writer has crafted a great book, every reader won’t be pleased. You just have to move on.
What are you reading now?
I have four books on my desk that I’m dipping into as the mood strikes: Cane River by Lalita Tademy, All Souls (NF), a Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald; Seraph on the Suwanee by Zora Neale Hurston, and New Orleans City Guide, one of the WPA writer’s projects. Each of the books has an appeal that lingers and lingers and I reread them often.
I just finished an ebook, A Home for Wayward Husbands, by a first time indie author, Johnee Cherry. Wow! The book is not perfectly rendered, but Wow! I couldn’t stop reading. The girl can write.
What’s next for you as a writer?
At the moment I am concentrating on getting my back list into digital format. I’ve learned to be brutal in my edits for digital, because what is acceptable in print is not always accepted by ereaders.
I have one new work in progress and notes for two others. I write on the WIP as time permits, but digital publishing and learning promotion is a massive learning curve for me because I came to it so late. While many well-published and new authors were plunging into digital, I was lazing in a hammock in a tiny jungle village or hunting sea glass on small island beaches in the Pacific. Too, I am such a slow creator. I write ten pages and toss out eight. But–that’s what works for me.
What is your favorite book of all time?
The African Queen by C.S. Forester. I have an early pback edition. 1937. It’s falling apart. It’s a hundred and forty-two pages of pure delight. Romantic adventure. I love Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer. If ever there was a reluctant hero…