There’s been a lot of fanfare about this announcement, created by me (with help from the overly enthusiastic Jennelle Holland, who wants you all to believe I’m really the Pope in disguise). Many of you have guessed what I’m going to say, and some of you I’ve already told, because let’s face it–I can’t keep a secret. Before you start insisting you knew you were right, I’m totally a zombie/nun/writer of the President’s speeches, let me tell you a little story. Or a long story, as when writing, I word vomit and then cut.
Even before I knew how to write my own name, I was a storyteller. I’d entertain my mother from the start of our car ride to my brother’s school to the end with whatever story I’d decided to weave that day. As I reached elementary school, I was lucky enough to have a teacher who not only recognized my desire to write, but nurtured it. Through her I won my first essay contest against children older than me, and the rest, as they say, is history. I was hooked.
For years, I’ve struggled with how to make this writer thing a reality. My background is in fantasy text-based RPGs, where for years I led and wrote with a small but dedicated group of players. I learned how to create characters, to embody them until my soul broke from the pain I’d end up causing them all in the name of drama. But I held back from developing a book, struck by the fear that if I reached outside of my comfort zone I’d fail. I was the undisputed best writer in my little group, the one they all turned to for plot advice, and I was loathe to give up that throne.
I got married shortly after studying writing in college and real life took control, stabbing away at my writing time until I got completely out of the habit. I forgot what it was like to marvel at the power of the written word. I knew in my heart I wanted to be a writer, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea what to do with that knowledge. It wasn’t until about two years later when I found a regency romance RPG that I realized I could do this historical fiction thing. Through that RPG, I met someone who would change my writing forever: a girl named Jennifer DeWoody. Through her, I found romance and from there, I haven’t looked back. I learned to love giants like Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas. Jenny’s drove me away from my fear long enough to plot what would become my third novel attempt. It floundered miserably, as I tried too hard to imitate the novels I was reading at the time–fluffy, happy regencies that focused more on reputation as a conflict. While I still enjoy those novels, it was Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone that led me to me to my current work in progress.
A Gentleman Undone was like anything I’d read up to this point. It was raw and emotional, gut-wrenching and beautiful. I fell so deeply in love with Grant’s flawed characters that at the end of the book, I knew the great truth: this was what I wanted to write. Something that touched on basic human emotions. Motivated by a hell of a lot of Castle television watching, I sat down and wrote the first few pages of Wicked by Midnight. I sent it off to a few of my critique partners, asking if I was insane to give up the novel I’d slaved at to pursue something wild and entirely different. Their response? A resounding hell no. In writing about London’s underprivileged, I’d found my voice. (As a side note, I received word last weekend that WBM has finaled in two writing contests–the Winter Rose and Write Stuff–while my previous novel failed miserably in contest.)
To date, Wicked by Midnight has gone through a few drafts and plot rewrites. I’m 50,000 words in and the novel’s finally starting to be on the right path, a path to which I know where I’m going and what I need to do. Maybe you’re one of those writers who doesn’t start planning until you’ve got a draft in your hand and it’s completely done. But me, I’ve always been someone who works best with a plan, a solid intent of where I’ll end up next.
When I started to sketch out the book that would follow Wicked by Midnight, I knew I’d created for myself a strange little niche. I’d write about the thieves, the prostitutes, the Bow Street Runners, the bar tenders, and in one case, even the accused murderers that inhabited London’s poorest areas, known as the rookeries. I would explore themes of redemption, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, alcoholism, second chances, and passion above all else. I was excited–am still excited–for the first time in a long time, knowing that I’d finally figured out where I wanted to be. I love romances that verge on the edge of suspense, with a mystery to tie everything together. In describing WBM, I was told often that it wouldn’t sell well. At first, that worried me, but then I started to reach out in the RWA community.
I learned about a new concept being tossed around, that of the “hybrid author.” This type of writer dabbles in all forms of publishing–self, traditional, and digital first. The hybrid author isn’t limited, understanding that each form of publishing has its benefits. That’s my ultimate goal–to be published in all different forms.
It is a great time to be an author. There are so many different methods out there for us. And as I’ve sat back and watched the GH and RITA announcements this week, taking in all the love and care that we as authors in RWA offer each other, I’m so proud to be a romance author. I used to fear that going into this, people would view me as a competition. But now I understand that romance writers are some of the most supportive people out there you can find. We’re all united in our desire to bring great books to the masses. So I’m saying goodbye to the fear, goodbye to the little voice inside my head who says I can’t make it in publishing. I’m going to try all avenues, and write my little arse off. (Because it is little, y’all, no matter what my pants say.) There I think I’ll find success, better utilizing the evolving publishing industry. In today’s world as a writer, no longer is in an “all or nothing” battle. I know that my work will eventually make it to readers. Whether it’s 5, 10,000, or 100,000 copies, I know that someday my book will be in someone else’s hot little hands.
So now you’re asking, “why all the fanfare? This seems like a pretty simple business plan.” I’m announcing it to all of you because in doing that, I know that you’ll keep me accountable. My aim is to start by self-publishing a novella as a trial run of that method, and I want to have this released in late 2013. This will be my first step in becoming a hybrid author. I hope to have another novella that I’ll be submitting to a digital first publisher, as well as a novel I want to self-publish in early 2014. I’m excited to be able to plan out my writing schedule. I’m counting on all of you, dear, wonderful readers, to keep me on task. (No, Jennelle, this does not mean you can practice kung fu on me if I don’t work hard enough!) It comes down to a declaration of intent–me no longer being afraid. Me knowing that I can succeed, and will succeed (or die trying). I’m working on my Rookery Rogues series and I’ve gotten great feedback.
Thus, by the end of 2013, I will be self-publishing something from my new Rookery Rogues series.
If you’ve managed to get this far, God bless you. Hold on just a moment more, so I can thank the people who’ve listened to me debate for months–even before Wicked by Midnight was ever an idea in my head–the merits of self-publishing/traditional publishing/digital first only to come to the conclusion that each has its advantages. To the girls at the HCRW self-publishing panel who clinched it for me, Marquita Valentine, Sarra Cannon, Ava Stone, and Catherine Gayle, your advice is worth its weight in gold. To the fellow authors I’ve met through Twitter, who answer my DMs and actually seem to care about my success (are y’all sure you really want to talk to little ole me?!), Deb Marlowe, Delilah Marvelle, Isobel Carr, Maire Claremont, Vicky Dreilling, Kieran Kramer, Tessa Dare, Valerie Bowman, Ashlyn Macnamara, Cecilia Grant, Darcy Burke, Emma Locke, and Evangeline Holland. To Lisa Lin and Amy Pfaff, have held my hand over text message after text message. To my blog sisters here, and my wonderful critique partners Andris Bear and Olivia Kelly, who’ve always been willing to read the crap I send them. To Jennelle Holland, who has become the twin I never knew I had–your strength emboldens me and makes me think I can be the person you seem to think I am. Lastly, but never least, my amazing husband (known throughout Twitter as MrMonroe), who never tells me to shut up and go to sleep when I’m musing over publishing, and who has always thought I’m a “real author” whether or not I had a book to my name.
More details will come in future posts about the Rookery Rogues!
But you all really want to know who won Jenn LeBlanc’s book. I know. You’re in it for the hot men.
The winner is Ashlyn Macnamara, who not only had the most entries, but the craziest.
You’re taking a vow of chastity and joining a convent.
Why did this one tickle me so much? A week before my now-husband asked me out on our first date, I wrote a blog post claiming I wanted to be a nun. We were 16. I was melodramatic.
Some other fun guesses…
You’re giving away Richard Armitage on the blog (Kati Rodriguez)
You’re going to run away to join Cirque de Solei (Ashlyn Macnamara)
You’re going to be a guest judge on Dancing with the Stars/chief demonstrator of the jitterbug on roller skates (Nicola Davidson)
You’re the reincarnation of Jane Austen (Kimberly Truesdale)
You’re going to become a world-class ice dancing coach (Ashlyn Macnamara)
You are running away to join the circus (Mary Preston)