Sunday, March 30, 2008

Meet & Greet!

When: April 3, 2008 7:30 pm
What: Adult Reading Group
Where: Barnes & Noble
444A Broadway
Saugus, MA 01906
Who: ME! I'll be talking about
NEUROTICA~The Secret Life of a Romance Author

So join me for a fun evening of dispelling the notions of bon-bons and feather boas. I'll be signing copies of DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS and the good folk at B & N have even stocked a few of my Diana Groe backlist titles.

I'll be doing plenty of speaking and traveling this spring and summer, from Rhode Island to Seattle, WA. Visit for more info about my itinerary. Hope to see you along the way!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interview with USA Today Best Seller Jennifer Ashley

Jennifer Ashley, creator of imaginative paranormal/historicals and the wildly successful IMMORTALS series, sat down to visit with me about her work, her writing style and what's next for her.

Emily: I'm still trying to get used to two names, Emily Bryan & Diana Groe, but you write under FOUR different pseudonyms. Can you tell us about all your incarnations and something about the latest title for each?

JA: Ah, yes, my many pseudonyms. I took each for a couple of reasons--1. contractual obligations I didn't want to violate, and 2. my style and feel are different for each one.

Ashley Gardner writes gritty, noir, historical mysteries set in the English Regency period. No light-hearted Jane Austen stuff here! That's at

Jennifer Ashley writes hot romances, both historical and paranormal. They have more humor, though they're not completely light-hearted. Sort of a combination of gritty action-adventure and romance and humor.

Allyson James goes for it on the erotic romance side. Her paranormal romances at Berkley Sensation are less raw than her erotic romances at Ellora's Cave or Berkley Heat, but still on the very hot side. She writes paranormals and futuristics with a sexual edge.

I also wrote one book as Laurien Gardner, which was part of Berkley's wives of Henry VIII series.

Emily: Wow! Talk about versatile. Last year, you won a RITA—the Oscar of the romance writer’s world—for LADY RAISED HIGH. What was that like?

JA: I was completely floored when Alyssa Day called me up to the podium. Not only are the odds of winning the RITA astronomical but the other nominees were fantastic writers, and I was certain one of them would win. I hadn't even prepared a speech. So there I was at the podium with this heavy statue in my hand, having to come up with an acceptance speech off the cuff. I think I did ok--I invoked my husband for some comic relief, which always helps. In short, I was stunned, thrilled, and so grateful to the judges who loved the book. I treasure the RITA and it has a place of honor in my living room.

Emily: I'm always fascinated by other writer's methods. Can you describe your writing process? Are you more a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’?

JA: Definitely a panster. I have tried again and again and again to plot out my books first, because everyone says I'm supposed to, and I just can't do it. I've written about twenty-five books now (I think), all of them by the seat of my pants, even though I tried on some to use note cards or timelines or white-board charts or grids or whatever the plotting tool of the day was. I gave up. My books sell fine, get great reviews, and win awards, so I've stopped worrying about it.

What works for me is to have a kernel of an idea (for both plot and characters), sit down and write as much as I can off the top of my head, and then brainstorm the rest as I go. I find that my stories are much more fresh and fast-moving if I do that than if I think I have to stick to what I've written on my little sticky notes. If plotting tools work to keep other writers organized and not panicked, I say go for it. If you're like me and can't get your mind around plotting first, I say go for it.

Emily: The IMMORTALS hit the USA Today Best Sellers list. What’s next for that series? Can you share a little about collaborating with other writers to produce the related stories?

JA: Because the first four books did so well, the publisher agreed to let us continue the series. The second series starts with Immortals: The Redeeming, which is the story of Tain and Samantha (September 2008), written by me. Then follows: The Crossing, by Joy Nash (Mac's story); The Haunting, by Robin Popp (with a new, very cool hero); and The Reckoning (anthology, with a novella by each of us.)

This was the first time I'd collaborated on a writing project, and I'm happy to say it worked very well. I came up with the core idea of the novels and the idea for the heroes and heroines, and then Robin, Joy, and I brainstormed to do the world building and make the characters individual. Joy and Robin had wonderful ideas about the world and the kinds of creatures in it. I had the premise that *all* paranormal beings we read about in fairy tales and mythology are real, and that it's perfectly normal to go to work side by side with a werewolf or vampire or something from Celtic mythology. We took that idea and ran with it. Robin and Joy are wonderful to work with--we all share ideas without feeling like we're each stifling the other. It's amazing.

Emily: What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

JA: I have to say I receive a lot of daft advice when I first started, most of it completely off track (although I didn't know it at the time). The best line of advice I remember was from a writing book whose author and title I can't remember (which makes me crazy). But what he said stuck with me, which was:

It really isn't who you know, but how well you write a good story that will get you published. A recommendation from a top author to her agent or editor might grease the wheels and get your book read faster, but what will sell the book is the still book itself. There are no shortcuts.

That gave me great hope because at the time I knew absolutely no one--no bestselling best friends, no cousins of NY agents. Many disgruntled would-be authors told me that I had no chance because agents only took things recommended by their top clients. A nobody beginner like me had no chance.

Well, guess what? I did it without doing anything but writing books until they were good enough, and persistently sending them in until they caught an editor's and agent's attention. And now I'm a multi-published, award-winning, bestselling author. In other words--against all odds, it can be done!!!

Emily: Thanks so much, Jennifer. It's such a pleasure to hear from someone who's writing spans so many styles and sub-genres. Be sure to look for HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Have Pen, Will Travel

I've started my traveling road show, hitting the bookstores in the Boston area to sign stock. This is a huge change for me. When we lived in Missouri, the nearest Barnes & Noble or Borders was 100 miles away. Now I have 19 Borders and 23 B & N within 25 miles of my home. Now this might sound like I've got it made, but if you think so, you obviously have not tried to get around Boston!

Let's forget for a moment that I totaled a car in city traffic during a snow storm about a year ago. I'm strong-willed enough not to let the traffic stop me from driving, but I do pay for it with increased anxiety. Thank God for my GPS! I wouldn't find my way anywhere without directions from that well-modulated voice from the sky.

If I go by car, parking is a devilishly difficult issue. I travel with a pocketful of quarters to feed the meters. And if I end up paying to park in a deck, chances are good that I'll spend more to park than I'll make if the bookstore sells every single copy of DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS that I stop by to sign. Sometimes, my Dear Husband drives me to the bookstores and this helps tremendously. The only problem is that if I hop out and he tries to drive around the block, it may be awhile between passes for him. Boston is not laid out on a grid. You can't make 4 right turns and be assured of ending up where you started.

Today, I rode the T (Boston's subway) to visit a couple of stores that are located near a T station. Taking mass transit is less stressful, but seems to take longer. I wish there were more bookstores by T stations. This is my preferred mode of travel, even though there was a shooting at the T station two stops south of where I was just this week. When you travel about in the city, you have to be aware of your surroundings and you need to move with purpose. By the time I got home, I needed a stress nap.

So why am I doing this? First of all, because even though I'm by nature a bit of an introvert, I want to meet the booksellers. They are my heroes. And I want to help them sell my books. If my signature and a bookmark makes their job easier, it's a win all the way around.

And I want to give my readers a little extra. I appreciate it when someone is willing to plunk down their money to read my story. I want to make sure they get their money's worth.

So if you're in the New England area, you can find signed copies of DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS at the Borders in the Cambridge Galleria, in Boston on Washington St near DownTown Crossing, and across from Copley Square. I signed copies at the Barnes & Noble on Harvard St. in Brookline, the B. Dalton in the Arsenal Mall in Watertown, and CharlesBank Books in Belmont.

I'll be hitting more stores each week and I'm scheduled for a talk and signing at the B & N in Saugus, MA. I'd love to see you there!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Writing is like Stripping . . .

You expose yourself little by little with words.

I'm not talking about sex scenes, either. Even without conscious effort, a writer's unique take on the world comes out in our stories. There is no hiding. It'll happen even if you try not to let it.

So if you want a writing career, the sooner you get used to the idea that you're going to put yourself out there for folk to slice and dice, the better off you'll be. To that end, let me suggest one of the best ways to get used to the feeling of exposure is to enter your work in contests.

I'm often asked to tell about how I broke into the competitive world of publishing. There were many factors, but one of the things that helped me most was entering contests. Before I'd even finished my first manuscript I entered my first contest.

No, of course, I didn't win. But I learned something. One of the judges asked if I was writing a romance or a straight historical. I'd read romances widely, but I never thought much about what makes a romance by definition, a romance. I needed to find out what the reader expectations for my genre were. Ignore reader expectations at your peril.

I know what you're thinking. It's scary to put your writing out there for strangers to pick to pieces. But you need to realize you'll never please everyone. Even J.K. Rowling has a few detractors. And each judge is only one person. But if you hear the same comments from multiple judges, you need to take the critique to heart.

Where do you find contests to enter? Since I write romance, there were plenty to choose from. Most RWA chapters offer contests. Check to see who the final judges are. Is an editor for a line you're targeting listed? Definitely polish up your work and send it in. Even if you don't win, a place among the finalists will get you listed in the Romance Writers Report. Your name gets out there and people notice.

People like agents. Until I had a few contest wins, I had nothing to put in my query letter under past publishing credits. This is such a subjective business. If you have some contest wins, it means someone else likes your work, too. It gives an agent or editor reason to take a chance on a newbie.

So, send in your contest entry, but don't stop at the three chapters and synopsis. Go ahead and finish the manuscript. That way when the editor or agent who's judging requests the full, you'll be ready. Remember, until you type THE END, you've got nothing but the dream of being published. So keep writing!

Check my website for more writing tips!