What’s Jack up to? Well he’s being a total Jack in the butt. Completely under foot with everything I do and feeling full of himself, barking up a storm. I’m sorting laundry and he’s stealing socks. Oh, Jack you are so asking for it.
This Friday we have a treat. At RWA National I had the pleasure of meeting the super cool friend of my PIC, Carolyn Jewel. I was so happy that we hit it off right away. How awkward would that have been if we hadn’t? Whew.
Well, Carolyn has agreed to be interviewed in my little corner of the blogosphere today.
Carolyn is the author of: A DARKER CRIMSON, THE SPARE AND LORD RUN. Her newest release MY WICKED ENEMY is just out this August.
Thanks for being here Carolyn. Let’s start with my traditional questions. Did you always want to be a writer and can you tell us the story of your ‘overnight’ success?
Yes, I always wanted to be a writer, pretty much from the time I could hold a pen. But for some reason it never occurred to me that writing was something I could actually do. When I finished college I got a job and worked and really pretty much didn’t like what I was doing. I was, naturally, reading a lot. But overnight success? Kwana, it is to laugh! No, no overnight success, despite the story that follows. Read on for someone who sold her first book ever after sending one query. . . When I was 25 or 26, I read a book I thought was just awful. It was a historical romance that read (to me) as if it had been badly translated from some other language. I thought to myself that, surely, I could do better. From what I hear, this is a very common inciting event for writers. After that reaction I got to thinking that I really ought to see if it was true. I bought a computer and started writing and just kept going until all I was doing was changing the punctuation. Must be done!I did some research into next steps and discovered I needed a literary agent and a query package. I decided that I would not be able to tolerate more than two rejections at a time so I prepared two queries. I managed to transpose some digits of one of the street addresses on one of them so, leaping ahead a bit, I’ll reveal that six months later it came back as undeliverable. Flash back to me mailing off my two queries. Two weeks later, I came home from work to a message on my answering machine from a woman who introduced herself and said that she thought she had an offer on my book, could I call her, please? Well, I live in California so I had to wait until the following morning. In that one conversation I learned two Very Important Lessons about the publishing world. St. Martin’s Press had a line of historical romance called Americans Abroad. They featured, not surprisingly, American heroines who were, eventually someplace other than America. (Note: my heroine was French.) But an author had not turned in her manuscript. The woman on the phone with me was an agent and book packager who was desperately looking for a book to fill that slot. We chatted for a bit. She told me I was a talented writer and then said something along of lines of, “and you seem like you’re a rational person.” Would I mind, she asked, rewriting my heroine to be American. Heck no! And would it be possible, she asked, to do the rewrite in six weeks? The book was due out before the end of the year and they were all in a jam. No problem, I said. So the deal was done!.I’d sold my book to New York! But not for a royalty contract, for a flat fee. I knew nothing about the business, really, though as it turned out, I have no complaints about that sale.
The two lessons were, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, that deadlines really do matter and that it pays to be easy to work with. They were, I realized much later, taking a risk that a complete unknown could pull off a rewrite as promised. There is a third lesson embedded in this, which is that talent isn’t necessarily enough. There’s luck involved. I was lucky not to have misaddressed that query. I was lucky that it arrived at a time when there was a need for a book like mine. If my writing were dreadful, they would have kept on looking. I wrote another book in pretty much the same unconscious way. By the seat of my pants. And when all I was doing was changing the punctuation, I figured I was done. I found an agent, which I confess didn’t take very long at all, and she sold my second book. It was ten years before I published again. The reasons are varied but it comes down to two pretty simple things. I wanted to write a more purposeful book, but I had not yet learned that I’m a panster, and I had a baby in the middle there and spent three plus years absolutely exhausted because I swear that boy never slept. As a single parent, I did not have any help, so the exhaustion was pretty desperate.Eventually, I did learn more about writing and myself as a writer, most of which occurred after I joined RWA and met other writers. I did publish again, but I also had other periods when I thought my writing career was over or that I would never be able to write a publishable book again. So, overnight success? Uh, no. Not exactly. The battle continues. Each and every day.
You are a mother, a writer and you also hold down a separate job, not to mention all the many animals you care for, how do you handle it all and still make your deadlines? What is your typical writing day like?
Let me start off my saying I am NOT a morning person. Nope. As far as I’m concerned, a good morning is one you sleep through. (Carolyn’s preaching to the choir here!) But I get up at 4:25 a.m. so I can get to the gym and then to work early enough that I’m home in time to supervise homework and perform amazing feats as a soccer mom. At the gym, I use an exercise bike because that leaves my hands free for 45 minutes of notebooking and brainstorming my current writing project. If I’m behind or otherwise panicking, I bring my laptop to work and write on my lunch hour. On days when there’s soccer practice, I get two uninterrupted hours in the car to work. Otherwise, in between or after my family responsibilities are done, I write in the evening, from 6:00pm to about 10:00pm with lots of interruptions until after dinner and homework. I put in as many hours as I can on weekends. If I’ve met my daily minimum word count, then I can stop.
You seem to live in two worlds, the historical and the paranormal. How do you balance the two?
When I was a child, my mother always complained I had a one track mind. So it should be no surprise that I write in two different genres by focusing on one project at a time. Although I think my voice is similar for both types, the sensibilities are very different and if I were to switch off between them, I think things would be very rough going.
Tell us about your newest book MY WICKED ENEMY, especially the sexy Nikodemus.
MY WICKED ENEMY is set in the contemporary world, but it’s a world in which there are demons and people who can do magic. They don’t get along. The demons can and sometimes do take control of innocent people and destroy lives. They also can only reproduce with humans. Is it any wonder that magic-wielding humans (the magekind) have learned to protect themselves and other humans? Unfortunately, they do this by enslaving the demons or by outright killing them. Worse, some of the mages have learned how to kill a demon in order to prolong their own lives. It’s no wonder the demons are thinking about outright war.Nikodemus is a demon warlord who has sworn to kill the mage Magellan and Carson Phillips, the witch who’s helping Magellan murder his kind. Imagine his delight when he discovers Carson all by herself! But Carson isn’t what he thinks and, as it turns out, she has ample reason to fear and hate Magellan.
What’s next for you Carolyn?
A book set in the same world as MY WICKED ENEMY is set for summer of 2009, it features Xia, a secondary character from that book. SCANDAL is a historical romance that will be out in February 2009 (Berkley Books). It’s about a Regency rake who has fallen deeply in love with a woman he’s treated very badly. Will he be able to prove he’s reformed?
Thanks so much, Kwana, for asking me to appear in your wonderful blog. Please give the adorable Jack a biscuit from me, okay?
Aw. Thanks to you Carolyn for being here and just because you said so I will give jack that biscuit and tell him it’s from you!
Check out Carolyn’s book trailer for MY WICKED ENEMY below and catch up with her on her site here.