Sunday, March 22, 2009

SPOTLIGHTING: DEBUT AUTHOR, Judi Fennell.



Before I start the interview, I’d like to tell you all a little about Judi. This very talented writer has been writing for as long as she can remember, literally, Judi won her first writing award in the second grade in the Caldecott Medal Contest. From those early days she soared in developing her unique voice and writing style. By 1994 her talents were validated again when Reader’s Digest gave Judi her first publishing credit as a writer. She was also a finalist, with her tongue in cheek style of writing in the Third American Title Contest by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester Publishing. As well, she’s a two time finalist in the Simon & Schuster and Pocket Books First Chapter contest. Her debut Novel “In Over Her Head” is coming out June 1st and that is what we are here to discuss today.

Judi, welcome.

Thanks for having me!

Question: After reading Star Crossed Romance, Lynda K. Scott’s remarks about your book being a “Delightful, quirky blend of humor, adventure and passion…a fast and fun read…” I have to admit, I can’t wait for June to get here so I can read for myself how you managed to mix humor with the paranormal. This is a strange combination. One usually doesn’t think of those two things together. So, what inspired you to blend humor with the paranormal?

Answer: I grew up watching Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Loved those shows and always wanted to be a character in them. Then there was the fact that my imaginary friend was Casper the Friendly Ghost – to the point of setting a place for him at the table, so I guess it’s not that far of a stretch.

Honestly, though, I never made a conscious decision to blend the two. I think like what you see on the pages, for the most part. I’m just glad others get—and like—my screwy sense of humor.

Question: Alright, here’s a far stretch, but we’re writers so we’re allowed to fantasize. As it stands, as of yet, no one today has declared seeing mermaids or sexy merman’s in our seas, but there was a time in our history when explorers and pirates widely claimed of seeing them. Many today, who have lived in Miami or traveled by boat to the Bahamas’ or Bermuda will tell tales of seeing mysterious light beneath the sea…Do you believe Merman’s (Possibly from lost Atlantis) could have once truly lived or still live beneath the sea?

Answer: I’d like to think it’s possible. Wouldn’t it be cool if they did/do? Especially if it was like my vision of Atlantis… I took a lot of myths, spent hours on Google Earth and dive sites, watched documentaries, etc. to create my vision. I like to use existing items, so the Bimini Road is mentioned, as is the Bermuda Triangle, some Norse mythology, Greek, pop culture, etc. I like bringing different elements into my world and having it be cohesive. One of the best feelings when I’m writing is thinking, “Hmm, I need XYZ to be here,” and coming to find out that I’d already included it fifty pages back but didn’t know why. Building their world was a lot of fun! I wouldn’t mind visiting it for real!

Question: What sparked the seed for “In Over Her Head”?

Answer: I write “fairy tales with a twist,” which is the tagline on my website. Other stories I’ve written are: CindaBella, Beauty and The Best, Fairest of Them All. I wanted to do a twist on The Little Mermaid, and the best way to do that was make him the Mer.

Question: Dawn M. Ekinia from Armchair Interviews said “In Over Her Head” was a “Heartwarming, action packed story and an Immensely enjoyable story”. Can you tell us about your heroine Erica Peck and her hero, Reel?

Answer: Erica is terrified of the ocean. A childhood incident has instilled an irrational fear—and she knows it’s irrational (and, yes, this is autobiographical although my childhood incident was seeing the movie JAWS). So when an ex-boyfriend forces her into the ocean to recover his lost diamonds she accidentally threw overboard, and she accidentally has a date with a bullet, only to wake up under the sea, she thinks she’s died and gone to her own personal version of Hell.

Reel is the devil-may-care second son of the Mer ruler, and has no hope of ever inheriting the throne because his older-by-four-minutes twin, Rod, will gain Immortality when he inherits the throne. So what does he have to lose? Especially since he can do nothing right in his father’s eyes…ever since an oh-so-significant incident with a female Human years ago.

So, what happens when the Oceanic Council demands Erica and Reel find the diamonds on pain of death? Erica finds out she’s really In Over Her Head.

Question: Did you have any AH HA moments while writing their story?

Answer: Oh yes! Definitely an Ah Ha! moment. I was writing the scene on the deserted island (Reel and Erica are on the island, sadly, not me). All of a sudden, Reel said something that just made me sit back and stare at the screen. So that’s why he was the way he was. Definitely a moment.

His pain broke my heart right then.

Question: Some author’s say their character talk to them as they write. Did Reel do any talking that we should know about?

Answer: Ha. Reel and his buddy (a suckerless remora—due to an unfortunate boat propeller incident) wouldn’t shut up. They both had a lot to say and very strong convictions. I had the wrangle the two of them to keep it down to a dull roar. At times I couldn’t type fast enough and ended up writing every other word. Good thing Erica is strong enough to hold her own.

Question: Jill Barnett, who we all know is a New York Times Best Selling Author, said “In Over Her Head” was a “Delightful…most innovative charming romance to come out this year…unforgettable!”
As a debut author, who has accomplished so much at the beginning of your career, what would you advise up and coming writers to strive for in getting their careers started?

Answer: Divorce yourself from your story once it’s on paper. Seriously. You have to be willing to put it out there and take the criticism. SEEK the criticism because that’s the only way it’s going to get better. We all get so enmeshed in the story that a lot of times we can’t see the trees for the forest. Other people can see those trees. You want them to see the trees before editors or agents do because you pretty much only get one shot with them. And, really, contest feedback that says, “This is great” won’t improve your story. Yes, sometimes the criticism hurts, and sometimes the critiquer doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but it’s always good to get another perspective on it, if only to strengthen the reason you did with the story what you did.

Question: You’ve won several major contests. Do you feel contests are important to a writer’s career?

Answer: Contests were a means to an end for me. And were what worked for me. They’re not for everyone, just as every genre isn’t for everyone. I used them at first to learn craft and strengthen my stories. Then I used them to build a resume and hopefully get requests. Once that started happening, I used contests to reach editors and/or agents I couldn’t get to another way. The three online contests I did were for name recognition and hopefully a win for a contract. It didn’t quite work out that way, but overall, contests were instrumental in getting me to where I am today.

Question: I see you have a wonderful blog. Right now you’re offering a special promotional Gift Voucher to a B&B between now and May 10th.
Judi Fennell
How important is something like this for a new unpublished writer to do?

Answer: Especially with the economy like it is at the moment, there aren’t a lot of promo dollars to spend on a debut author, typically. So you need to do something that makes you stand out. Something to get people to see your name. I’ve heard that people have to see a brand/name/product at least 25 times before it sticks with them, so anything you can do to get your name out is good.

I have to give full kudos to
Kelley St. John for giving me the idea of the B&B getaways, and for so generously and graciously allowing me to pick her brain on the ins and outs of this. Then to have found such wonderful properties and owners to work with on this cross-promotion…well, let’s just say I’m thrilled and I can’t wait to see who the winners are.
The special $150 off promo is something that I can give back to those people who have supported me through the contests, talking up my book, moral support, friendship, etc. I hope many people get to take advantage of the offer.

Question: What does an aspiring writer gain by doing a blog?

Answer: Name recognition. Practice. Familiarization with the technology and building a network. Just like physical networking where you go to conferences/workshops, etc., cyber-networking is important as well.

Question: How vital is starting a blog to her/his career and why?

Answer: It’s one more tool in your arsenal. Again, it’s not for everyone and you do have to be careful how much time you spend on blogging (because we all know how distracting the internet can be) so that it doesn’t detract from your writing time. After all, you want to get your name out there, but you need a good product to keep people coming back to buy your books, so writing the best story you can is your first priority.

Question: I know Sourcebooks is following “In Over Her Head” with another one of your books titled “Wild Blue Under” release date is for November of 2009. Interesting enough your Hero’s name is ROD TRITONE who goes after VALERIE DUMERE – Love the name BTW, and I see the third book to follow “Wild Blue Under” is “Catch Of A Lifetime” with a hero named LOGAN HARDINGTON and a heroine called ANGEL TRITONE…obviously she has to be the daughter of Rod and Valerie…so, are the three books a family saga?

Answer: Actually, Angel is Rod and Reel’s (yes, you are supposed to laugh at their names) sister. There are two other sisters who I hope will get their own stories some day. The books are stand-alone and can be read in any order, but you will find out how In Over Her Head ends if you read Wild Blue Under first and the same with WBU and Catch of a Lifetime.

Question: What secrets can you tell us about the up and coming books that know one knows yet? Come on, give us a hook…we’ll bite!

Answer: Secrets? You want secrets? Well, let’s see… Okay, what may or may not be evident in my stories is that names are very important to me. I attribute this to the fact that my first name doesn’t have a common spelling and I find that my name defines me. So, too, should it define the character. There are always reasons for main characters’ names and usually secondary ones, whether it’s the significance of the name, its meaning, it is a play on words/situation, a characteristic, etc. And I don’t always explain it, but it’s there. Sometimes, though, as in the case of Reel’s fish friend Chum, I went for the laugh. (But it really does fit him and the play on chum/friend, and chum/chopped up fish was too delicious to pass up.)

Thank you Judi for coming by today. This has been a real pleasure and I’m so looking forward to buying “In Over Her Head” and the books that follow.

Thanks so much for having me! It was a lot of fun to relive the “birth” of this book. Even though I’ve read it dozens of times (as you do with copy edits and revisions and galleys, etc.), I still love it and love visiting with the characters. I can’t wait to get reader feedback on my “little talking fish” story as it was known at one point early on with my critique group.

Readers, Judi has graciously agreed to answer questions - on writing, the business or about her and her books – so ask away! Just leave your question in the comment section of this blog and Judi will respond!

I leave you with several things to think about, Caridad Pineiro, a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller “South Beach Chicas Catch Their Men”, said “Fennell’s under the sea suspense will enchant you with its wit, humor and sexiness.”

Come back in a few weeks and I will have a contest to win a signed copy from Judi of “In Over Her Head”.

Here’s a special excerpt from the book:

Reel crossed his arms and studied her. “You’re taking this a lot better than I thought you would. I didn’t know Humans had such open minds.”
“Apparently we have lots of neat tricks, us humans. Like breathing water, for instance.” Erica sucked in a few pints just for kicks and giggles. She hoped she remembered this hallucination when her body recovered from the bends.
“Actually, you can’t breathe water.”
“But I am, ergo, I can.” She demonstrated again.
“Well, that’s only because I did that to you. To save your life.”
“Oh. Right.” She choked on that last pint. “Um, to save my life? Well, that’s a relief. I had thought that I might be um, well, dead, but then, this certainly isn’t my idea of Heaven. So, I’m alive but unconscious? I just have the bends, right? I mean, yes, I’m seeing you as a naked, water-breathing stud-muffin, but you’re really just an illusion, aren’t you? Maybe a doctor at the hospital some passing boater took me to?”
Reel didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. The tittering of the little fish scattered among the whelk art answered for him.
“Um, Reel…?”
“Erica, I think you better rest on the bottom.”
“Why?” She did as he suggested, but put her hands up as he floated toward her. He had to be a figment of her imagination. He had to.
“Sweetheart, you’ve been out for a few days and you’re not in a hospital. You can’t have the bends because you never went up to the surface. Chum reminded me about them, actually. So I did the only thing I could.”
His face was grave, which, considering the situation, might not be an appropriate analogy, but then, what was appropriate when facing the impossible?
“What. Did. You. Do?”
“I turned you.”
“Turned me?” Somehow, that phrase did not offer comfort.
“Yes. Into a water-breather.” He crossed his arms, which flared some really nice pecs that tapered down to slim hips and--
Wait a minute--
“A fish? You turned me into a fish?” Forget the pecs. And other parts.
“Not a fish. Do you see any fins? Gills? You’re not even a Mer. I just gave you the ability to breathe underwater. Otherwise, you would’ve drowned. And Vincent would’ve had the right to, well, eat you. I couldn’t let that happen.”
“Of course you couldn’t.” Well, see? That made sense. “And Vincent was the, um, shark?”
“That’s right.” The faintest glimmer of pearly whites showed between his lips.
“And he wanted me for dinner.”
“Yes.” A bigger smile.
“So you somehow managed to re-route my entire oxygenation system and voila! Here I am at the bottom of the sea.”
“That’s it.” Full-out grin going.
“I’m going to be sick.” She turned her face to the side and felt her insides heave.
But then the floor blinked at her.
“What the hell was that?” she screamed, crab-walking backward.
“Flounder. They like to hang out in here since no predators are allowed.”
She put a hand on her chest, her heart beating three times as fast as normal. Or was that now normal with her newly-acquired aqua lungs? “Well there’s a relief. So I won’t have to worry about my body being torn apart by Vincent or others like him? Good to know. Now if I could only guarantee my mind won’t fall apart, I’ll be just fine.”

I hope you enjoyed the interview and remember, you can ask questions of Judi!

Hawk

71 comments:

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Judi,

Awesome interview! But I have a question..will you be writing a book for Reel's buddy (the suckerless Remora)? It sounds like he could be a wounded hero who needs a heroine?

Love the advice you gave to us unpub's! You've got my brain rethinking contest...I wasn't one to enter contest. I thought of them like modeling...the acting in an audition is so way off from the acting you do for the actual job. It takes two different talents...two different writing styles. BUT that was just IMO...obviously, I might be wrong.

Hugs
Hawk

Judi Fennell said...

Good morning, Hawk, and thanks so much for having me! This was a lot of fun. (oops, I accidentally typed "fin"--occupational hazard, I guess.)

As for Chum getting his own story...Right now he's being a bit quiet. He does show up in Wild Blue Under and doesn't have a special someone in his life, but who knows with Chum? The guy's got a mind of his own so we'll have to see what he's got going on.

Re: Contests - I've found them extremely helpful for getting unbiased, fresh opinions. You know, your critique partners know you. Your voice, how you interact on a personal level, even if it's just cyberly - they "hear" you speak in conversational tones, so they carry that with them when they read your words. Contest judges are like readers - you have to capture them, you have to engage them and weave a story that stands on the merits of what's written, not previous knowledge of the author. That gives you the unbiased, new feedback that a critique group can't. Oh, the critique group is fabulous for technique and story structure, plotting, etc., but to see if the story works "cold" - contests are great for that.

Thanks, again, for having me. I'll be out today writing (Catch of a Lifetime), but will check back later to answer questions.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Judi,

I can only hope Chum speaks up...for some reason, I'm feeling his story. It's sad but could have a wonderful ending.

Ah, always the romantic at heart.

hugs
Hawk

Jill Lynn said...

Thanks for introducing us to this talented author. I look forward to reading Judi Fennell's debut novel. I, too, have fond memories of watching Bewitched as a child, (and would also welcome Caspar, the Friendly Ghost at my dinner table LOL) so, IMO, mixing paranormal fiction with light and humor--rather than dismal and dark--is long overdue.

Kat Sheridan said...

Outstanding interview! And great advice to aspiring authors, Judi. I've been following the unfolding of this story for quite some time, and am anxiously anticipating the release of "In Over Her Head". Congratulations, Judi, and best wishes!

Ken Coffman said...

I'm sure this is a simple coincidence, but Amazon tells me that people who bought In Over Her Head also bought America's Favorite Fish Recipes: More Than 180 Mouthwatering Recipes from Fishing Guides and Professional Chefs.

Okay, I confess, I made that up.

LKap said...

Hawk and Judi -
Great Interview! The story sounds very interesting and I can't wait to see how you've blended all of the tales of Atlantis.
My question: How long did it take you to get published for this book?

Judi Fennell said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Jill and Kat - you ladies are GREAT friends and GREAT writers! Can't wait to be able to do the same for you some day!

Ken - why am I not surprised? LOL (and you're a great writer too!)

LKap: thanks for checking it out. As to how long it took... This isn't your "typical" publication story. I finished the story because I'd been in the First Chapters Romance contest on Gather.com with my American Title manuscript, Beauty and The Best. Beauty finished in the Top 20 out of 2700 entries but didn't win. I thought I was done with online contests, but when Gather announced they were doing a Romance one, I had over a hundred people I didn't know emailing me on that first day to please enter. I didn't want to enter the same ms, so I quickly finished In Over Her Head. I entered, made the Top 5, didn't win, but caught the attention of one of the final judges who pitched it for me and it sold. From the announcement of the contest to contract was almost exactly one year. Eleven months later, it'll be in print. I'd been a member of RWA for 4 years when I sold.

Lea said...

What a wonderful interview Judi!

Congratulations on the release of "In Over Her Head", which sounds like a wonderful read!

I will add it to my list.

Thanks for sharing Hawk!

Warm Regards
L

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi Hawk!! Hi Judi!!

Actually, I have been waiting patiently (toe tapping as we speak) for Judi's book to be released. Do I really have to wait until June?? (Hate to be whiny but...) I love Mer stories, the excerpt was great! Your experiences with contest have shown them in a new light. I've always been a little afraid of contests, but I've come to understand if you can't take the criticisms, then the writing will never get better. It's always so hard to have someone criticize your baby. I don't care what you've written, it's still your baby--from papers to manuscripts. Okay--my question has taken some pondering--How many times did you have to put yourself out there with publishers, editors, etc. until 'it' happened for you?

Keep everyone updated about what's happening Judi, now is not the time to relax as they say! If you can send a link to your blog, and I'll follow it. Authors always have the best blogs!! (See Hawk's blog for proof.)

((hugs))

Dottie

Jamie C. said...

Fantastic interview! Judi always offers wonderful advice. And to obtain such fabulous quotes from established writers. Wow, that must be quite heady. How do you respond when a best-selling writer loves your work and supports it, Judi? I can't even imagine how wonderful that feels.

And after reading that exerpt I find myself already in love with Reel. sigh... I can't wait to read this book when it's released.

Sherrie Super said...

Great interview! Interesting about the mermaid legends of yesteryear. I think Judi's onto something!

John Philipp said...

A through and interesting interview.

I am now looking forward to reading this book.

Thanks.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Jill Lynn,

Thank you for coming by. Like you, I'm looking forward to the books release as well! Remember to come back and visit, I will be giving reminders for the contest over the next few weeks that I will run on May 3rd for a free copy of "In Over Her Head" that Judi has so sweetly offered to sign!

Yes, that's what struck me as well about the book - the mix of humor and the paranormal.

I can't wait to read it!

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Kat,

I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview...Judi's sweetness just pops through in all the questions...with that kind of voice - you know this book is going to be awesome!

The release date is June 1st. In May I will run a contest to win a copy of "In Over Her Head" so besure to come back and enter your name in the hat!

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Ken,

Glad you stopped in for a visit.

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Laurie!

Hey Sweetie, how are you?

I'm with you, I can't wait to read this book...but, like you, I'm into the faeries, ghost and mer's! Specially this mer Reel...he sounds too tempting to pass by! Did you see that cover!

I'm knocked over by Judi's sold story...WOW...if only that could happen for us, huh?
{:-)

Hugs
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Lea!

I knew this would catch your interest! I cant wait to read your review on it!

Hugs
Darlin'
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Dottie!

June release, sorry, LOL. If it makes you feel better I asked her the same thing.

I have a link to Judi's site on my blog under AUTHOR FRIENDS - just click on that. It's always there. And it's within the article as well.

Ah, you're such a sweetheart to say that about my blog! I adore you!

Hugs always
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Jamie,

Thanks for dropping by. So glad you enjoyed the interview.

Remember on May 3rd I'll run a contest for a free copy of "In Over Her Head" that Judi has offered to autograph special for the winner. So, come back to enter...I'll be putting out reminders from now until then on this blog site.

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Sherrie,

Glad you stoppped in for a visit...and I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the interview. Judi's such a fascinating author and person, it was easy to have such a successful interview...she made it easy.

I adore her just as much as I know I'm going to love her book -- if we can only make it to JUNE!
This is going to be a hard journey...the dreaded waiting game...and JUNE seems so far away when you've got to wait, but I hope to make to speed by with reminders and a contest for a free signed copy of her book to come.

So, keep dropping in from time to time!

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

John,

Thank you for the compliments...come back for a chance to win a free copy of Judi's book - May 3rd.

Hawk

Anne-Marie said...

Anne-Marie waving to Hawk and Judi. Judi, I'm so excited for you. I've been waiting for In Over Her Head to come out since the very moment I voted for it on First Chapter and American Title. Go Girl. Congrats again.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

AMC! OMG sweetie...You honor me with your special visit...I know just how busy you are right now. Thank you for stopping by.

I've missed you!

Awesome, you saw Judi's MS beyond this wee little bit we got to see?
OMG - O.K., just between you an me, tell me what happens next!
PLEASE...I don't think I can wait until JUNE to find out. {:-D

I'm a devil huh? {;-D

CYBER HUGS DARLIN'
Hawk

~Sia McKye~ said...

*Waving at Hawk

Judi, Very nice interview, ma'am. As you know, I've been waiting, what feels like forever, for your book to come out. I can't imagine how it feels on your end. :-)

I loved Bewitched and I dream of Jeanie. There was a lot of humor in both, yet they managed to touch on some very topical subjects. There was a solid story running through both--especially Bewitched. I think the humor merely accentuated the topics. Both handled prejudices,jealousy, insecurity,and abuse of power. So I'm especially looking forward to how you handle INOHH.

I've always been in love with the idea of unknown worlds co-existing with ours. Loved fairy tales, Celtic tales of magic and beings of magic.

Judi, Atlantis would be a cool place to visit, but unfortunately for you, like Erica, it would mean being underwater, lolol!

Contests? That's a hard one. They've taught me a lot. Hard on the nerves though.

You did such a nice job on this Hawk. One of the things I've always like about your site is the fact that while you offer promotion, you always manage to highlight the personal. that combo is always more attractive to read than being beat over the head with a book, no matter how good it is. :-)

Judi, you know I'm cheering you on!

Judi Fennell said...

Hi everyone! Just got back from 6 + hours at Borders and wrote over 6000 words for Catch of a Lifetime! Boy does that feel good!

Thanks so much for stopping by, and thank you, too, Hawk, for answering everyone while I was out. I'm feeling truly blessed at the friends I have.

Hawk, readers on Gather got to see the first 10K words of IOHH, but they're a BIT different now. I'll let them spill the beans once it comes out in how it was different.

Again, thanks, everyone!

aries18 said...

Hi Hawk! Hi Judi!

Great interview and a great excerpt! I can hardly wait for my copy to show up in my mail box! This waiting game is hard!

Judi, a hand crocheted angora shawl in a baby pink.

wanda

Judi Fennell said...

oooh, baby pink! Thanks, Wanda!

Sia, I knew there was a reason we like each other! LOL

VA said...

Judi,

I love your advice to writers to get as much feedback as possible. It doesn't pay to hide away. Persistence and dedication to finding your own voice, which is unique is inspiring as well.

Reel is adorable, I can't wait to get my hands on him!

other lisa said...

Great interview, Houston! I too am looking forward to the release of Judi's debut!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Good Morning Judi!

Awesome day yesterday...and it looks like today will be just as much fun!

Question: Now that you've turn from writer to author what can you tell us unpub's about the big step? Is it what you expected? Does it get easier or harder? How many hours a day do you work now compared to before publishing?

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Sia!

I'm waving back! Isn't this fun...Judi's such a pleasure to work with. I feel blessed to know her.

And Thank you for the thump on the back about the interview set-up. I did a soft sell because I think Judi's book sells itself just fine.
She found an interesting plot to twist into her voice and keep us all waiting for it's release!

Talk about sitting on pins and needles! }:-/

LOL
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Aries - Wanda,

Thanks for coming by.

Ah, I'm full of envy - Judi gets a crocheted PINK Angora?

Man oh man - I'm going to eat a can of warms. :-|

LOL
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

VA,

I agree, Reel sounds like a sexy hunk indeed!
Watch out - I might get him first!

:-)
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Lisa,

Thank you, and come back on May 3rd - I'll be doing a give-away for "In Over Her Head" and Judi will persoanlly sign it for the winner! Isn't that awesome?

Hawk

Judi Fennell said...

Good morning! Checking in before I start writing today.

Hi Lisa!

As to your question, Hawk: the big step. It's a biggie. All of a sudden there are deadlines (if you're lucky enought to get a 2- or 3- book contract). I would HIGHLY recommend that unpublished authors start to work on their marketing BEFORE being published. Get a website or blog up and running (and seriously, blogs these days can be your website; there are so many ways to customize them and they are FREE for the most part, unless you want to fancy it up a bit).

Sia, Lisa and you, Hawk, are doing a FABULOUS job with this, among others. Build your network. I was lucky that way with the American Title contest. We all called it Promo Bootcamp 101 because we had to hit the ground running with innovative and quick marketing techniques. I built a huge email base from that. Social networking (shout out to the Wombats!) is wonderful and pre-pub is when you have the time. Thank God for my in place contacts and my web designer (Jo Piraneo at GlassSlipperWebDesign.com). I'd worked with Jo prior to getting published and my current site is actually the 2nd one we did together. I had the time to play around and figure out what I wanted the site to look like. I also taught myself to maintain it and be able to update it which, while time consuming at the outset, helps in the long run because I'm able to update it whenever I want and not be tied to anyone else's schedule.

Does it get any easier? Heh. I was just at a conference of published romance authors and we asked that same question of the ones who've been in the business for a while. Their response? It just gets harder.

Deadlines, promo, marketing, proofs, galleys, ARCs, deadlines, etc. This is a business. Think of getting yourself prepared for the business world. How high school/college compared to the realities of the working world. All of a sudden those 8 am classes you could skip in college turn into business meetings that you need to suck down coffee to get through (geez, what a badly constructed sentence!). I'm definitely more focused on the writing now that I have a contract (and books due!) than I was before, and that's saying something. You saw that I did 6+ hours at Borders yesterday - that's a day job, essentially. And it is for me. On TOP of being a wife, mom, having a part time job, life, etc. I laugh when people say, "Oh, you're a stay at home mom." Um, yes. I am at home. And I am a mom. But first of all, anyone who thinks stay-at-home-mom is a piece of cake, well... um. yeah. Notsomuch. Toss writing on top of it and it gets that much busier. I'm lucky my kids are all that ages where they're pretty self-sufficient, but I still have to manage my time around their schedules and my husband's work/travel schedule. It's a juggling act.

So if it's harder, why do we do it? Simple. We can't NOT do it.

The voices in our heads won't let us. :)

Have a great Monday!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

OMG, Judi!

What fabulous insight to an authors world! O.K., I'm ready...I put in a sixteen hour day already with my writing, so I'm paying my dues to be published. I will be more than ready when I get THE CALL. And Based on what Sia said about loving unique world building and romance...My story "A Lover's Paradox" falls right into that...I've got pirates, faeries and magic with the rise of Atlantis to begin a futuristic world. And of course - I've got hot romance and a hero that's to die for! He's a hunk of buring love!

Now all I need is an agent brave enough to reach for it and a Publisher who wants to make the Best Sellers list.
Nationals watch out - 'cuz here I come! :-D

Hawk

Adele Dubois said...

Wonderful interview, Judi! You know I wish you all the best with your releases.

Adele

Jessica said...

Sounds like an awesome book! I'd love to be entered in this drawing, if it's still on!

jessica_nelson7590 (at) yahoo (dot) com

~Sia McKye~ said...

Okay, Hawk, you got me with "faeries and magic", lolol! building worlds is fun, but it's also work.

Judi, thanks for the compliment. I've learn a lot from observation. Two years ago is when I got serious about writing fiction and novels. I was such a newbie, but smart enought to know it and learn and watch some pros in action--including you.

I hear you on the work aspect of writing. It's first and formost a business and speaking from a promotional standpoint, getting name recognition first is vital. It's all prep for being published. I've worked to writing deadlines many times in my life and that means regardless of how you feel you have to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Like you, I look at writing as my day job, that's how I treat it. Granted, the last month, I've spent more time on promotion and my blog than writing, but I'm back on my writing schedule this week.

Judi, you made a good point about watching that blogging (and promotion, for that matter) doesn't take up too much time that you forget WHY you're doing it. all.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Adele!

Thanks for coming by. I hope you'll come back for the give-away drawing of "In Over Her Head" on May third.

Hawk

Sherilyn Winrose said...

Wonderful read. June is too far off.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Jessica!

The drawing for a free copy of Judi's book will be done on May 3rd...so I hope you come back from time to time to check out my blog.
I will be reminding my readers about this from time to time.

But I see you left your addie. So, I'll drop you
an e to remind you when it's time to enter, o.k.?

ATTENTION ALL!
Anyone who isn't a regular reader of my blog, can leave their addie and I'll send out a personal reminder!
The drawing will be done in May and the book will be sent as soon as possible in June.

Hugs to all
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Sia!

You're such a sweetheart.
I will do my best to sell my baby at the RWA Nationals this year...So you can be one of the first to have it when it comes out, o.k.?

kisses!
Hawk

jrafferty said...

Hi Judi,

You've provided lots of good information for aspiring authors as usual, particularly about the nits and gnats of promotion.

Hawk, fine job on the interview. I've known Judi for 2 years, but there's lots here that was new to me. Judi writes consistently well and I look forward to being able to buy this first novel. I agree with Judi about the value of contests; I found getting feedback from lots of readers on my own first chapters within these contests to be invaluable.

James Rafferty

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Sherilyn!

I agree, June isn't ever going to get here...it's like when I was a kid waiting for X'mas...could it come any slower?

But until then I'll be giving you as many little tidbits as I can from Judi. I'm good at needling so we'll see what I can get out of Judi about the book between now and then...to keep us going until JUNE!

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

James!

Thanks for coming by and thank you for the nice complement about the interview, but I have to be honest...Judi made it easy. First she wrote an awesome book and second, I come to find she's not only beautiful and smart but a fantastic person to work with. I adore her!

Hawk

Judi Fennell said...

Okay, Hawk, I now have so much blushing going on, I look like I have windburn! (and it's verrrrry windy in Philly today!) How sweet you are!

Thanks to all the Wombats for stopping by and the new names as well!

aries18 said...

Hi Hawk,
I didn't mean to leave you out! I have quickly crocheted a 3 piece set for you in a lovely pale lavender. Just for you, a snug, warm hat, a pair of warm mittens and a soft-as-air scarf. Keep warm out there! Enjoy.
wanda

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Ah, wombats - you should have told me you were here!
Welcome to you all!

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Wanda,

Oh, I'm feeling so comfy warm now...and just in time...it's cool here tonight!

If I say so me self - I look great in Lavender! It's me hubby's favortite color on me! How did you know? LOL

Hugs Honey...I love me gifts.
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Sweet Judi!

You earned those beautiful red cheeks...enjoy the spotlight! ;-)

Hugs
Hawk

VA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VA said...

If we told people Hawk, then everyone would know ;) Think of us as the Templar Knights of Marsupials.

Judi your energy level and drive make me envious. I want my IOHH!!!

Gwyn Ramsey said...

Nice interview, Hawk. Thanks.

Gwyn Ramsey
http://gwynramsey.blogspot.com

Houston A.W. Knight said...

VA,

;-) Ah, gotcha - my lips are sealed. LOL

Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Gwyn,

Thank you sweetie for coming by...a Taran's support is always welcomed and appreciated!

Big Hugs
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Good Morning Judi,

Another question(s)for you.

What is the key to a good opening in a story and how do you know when you've picked the right spot to open it at?

Sorry - I'm chatty tis morning. LOL

Hugs
Hawk

Judi Fennell said...

Good morning.

Ah, the key to a good opening. Start where everything goes to hell. :)

Otherwise known as the inciting incident, that's where your story starts. That's what hooks your reader into it. In In Over Her Head, Erica is facing the wrong end of a gun as her ex boyfriend forces her into the ocean. Two scary things and (hopefully) you find that compelling enough to read on.

When you write the opening, run it by some friends. Did you open in the right place? Or were you dropping too much backstory? Is it compelling enough to engage the reader?

If it is, then you've "hooked" them. (Sorry, couldn't resist the fishing pun!)

Have a great day!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Judi,

Wow, I'd say looking down the end of a gun would get your attention...but what about a story that needs world building? Say like a fantasy or futuristic...do you start with a "Gun/laser looking" scene and then build the world or do you give a bit of the world and then the shock of a gun scene?

BTW, why was her ex forcing her into the water by gun point, hummmm????

{:-)
Hawk

Judi Fennell said...

Well, mine has world-building b/c she ends up under the sea and the gun gets her there. The key to world building AND hooking the reader is to fill in the world around the action. So, Erica is in the ocean facing the gun, dives even though it scares her (b/c the gun scares her more) and I start building the undersea world. Then, well... okay enough info, you'll have to read it to see, but from the excerpt you know that she ends up at the bottom of the sea with Reel. That's where the world building comes in.

Her ex is forcing her in b/c she accidentally dumped the diamonds he'd stored in her grandfather's urn into the ocean with her grandfather's ashes. I mean, really, would YOU check the ashes for stolen diamonds before you dumped them? :)

Houston A.W. Knight said...

{:-O EVERYONE! Judi just gave a us a wee bit more on her story! Teeheee I told you I'd get more out of her...

LOL, Judi I can't thank you enough for sharing with all of us. I guess you can tell from the responce EVERYONE is looking forward to getting your book!

Todays question is..you've worked a long hard road to getting published...can you give us any hints as to a few pit falls we should try to avoid, in contracts, in submitting, in writing?

Nothing like an easy question with us Irish lass' LOL

Hugs
Hawk

Judi Fennell said...

pitfalls? Hmmm. I'd say, becoming so attached to your own writing that you don't listen to feedback. That's probably the biggie. The other is not to get so discouraged that you give up. That's the way to ensure you won't get published. But learn all you can about the industry, about craft then listen to your muse and write the best book you can.

and keep submitting.

Anonymous said...

I loved the beginning of the story. can't wait to get the book. Here's wishing you great sales.

Jan

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Jan!

Thanks for dropping in for a visit...

The story is awesome...I'm sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for it.

OMG, you should go to Judi's site and see the covers of the other two books that follow this one...oh lala! SEXY COVERS!

Just look for Judi's name on my blog (right side)under "Authors friends" and click the link (her name)and it'll take you right to her site...you'll be glad you did.

Hugs
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Judi...

Those are words of wisdom...and the fight not to give up at times can be a mighty one for some.

This is wonderful advice...thank you.

Hawk

Vicki said...

Hawk and Judi, fabulous post/interview. I can't wait for the book to come out.

My question is this: When you wrote the first book did you plan to write others following it, or did that happen as you were writing?

Do you think as a new author is important to write a series of books even though each may be stand alone?

And sorry it took me all week to get here, but coming back from vacation has been crazy busy at the day job.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Vicki...

Girl you just got in under the wire! TGIF!

Judi will answer your questions sometime today...BTW, great questions I can't wait to read her answer!

Hugs
Hawk

Houston A.W. Knight said...

JUDI,

I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR SUCH A FANTASTIC WEEK!

This has been an awesome time for me and my readers and all of us will be looking for your sexy book, come June.

Thank you for the time you took from your writing to answer our questions and just talk with us...you're a wonderful person and a joy to be around - even if it's only cyber space we share!

Hugs Sweet Judi!
Hawk

Judi Fennell said...

Hi Vicki!

Sorry it took me a day to get back to you - crazy 48 hours.

Anyway, did I plan to write a series? The funny thing is, it was already part of a series. My American Title book, Beauty and The Best was the 2nd in my fairy tale series, beginning with Cinda Bella. I hadn't planned to do a series with that one, but Jolie (the heroine of Beauty) just popped into my head one day. So I wrote that one next. Then I started Fairest of Them All, a twist on Snow White. And while I was writing that one, I thought, how can I do a twist on The Little Mermaid (because, by then, I had seen the series idea of fairy tales). So, I decided to make the hero the Mer and the story was born. I finished it to enter it in the contest and when I made the Top 5 I knew that I wanted the editors to see that I could do more than this story, so I wrote the partials for Wild Blue Under and Catch of a Lifetime. But I didn't write the stories until my editor wanted the whole series.

Do I think authors need to think in series terms?

First, you have to write the best book you can. That's the most important thing. But then you do have to think marketability. Readers love continuities and series and linked books. Authors like to use their research and know they have more than one book, so it can't hurt to have at least an idea of a series.

I have a friend who'd written a time travel where the heroine switches place with a woman in the past, actually switching bodies. She had no intention of writing that woman's story in the present. Yet, when she sold, the publisher asked her about the other character's story. She'd made that woman very un-romance heroine-ish in the first book and had to come up with plausible reasons for some of the things she'd done and her thought processes. Lesson learned: be thinking about the next book and relating them to the world you're creating.

Hawk, thank you so very much for having me! It's been a lot of fun and I really appreciate everyone's enthusiasm. I'd love to hear what you all think when you read In Over Her Head!

Have a great week!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Judi, I'm sure everyone will agree - this week with you was awesome!

Your answers to the questions were eye openers...I will remember all the wonderful advice you've given us to think about, as I work to become a published author.

Thank you again, and PLEASE drop by next month when I do the give-away contest for your book!

Cyber Hugs
Hawk