"BUT if readers are willing to take a slight risk ... they can choose from a huge shimmering, iridescent palette."
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The Smashwords blog is running a series of interviews with some of their more successful authors. In one of these a couple weeks ago Claire Farrell said she writes “books she’d want to read.” Does this apply to you?
I became a romance author because I spent so many years reading romance novels. I suffered a lot of tragedy while I was growing up, the worst of which was losing my mother just as I was hitting my teens. I felt as though I went from 13 to 35, and when my friends were off having fun, I was cooking and cleaning and helping my little brother with his homework.
Romance novels were an escape for me. The Wolf and the Dove, The Far Pavilions, Whitney My Love, Rebecca, The Thorne Birds…if the book featured one man and one woman falling in love, I read it! As a young wife and mother, I discovered Silhouette Romance Novels. These books were short, sweet, and uplifting. Each and every story put a smile on my face, and the happily-ever-after endings always boosted my spirits. Are romance novels "real life"? No. Does every relationship end in happily-ever-after? Of course not. But if I wanted doom and gloom, I'd watch the evening news.
As an author, I can't think of a better way to use my talent than to bring pure enjoyment to my readers. I tell people that I write cotton candy for the mind. Think about that. When you were a kid and you put a small cloud of that wispy confection on your tongue, what did you do? You smiled. And maybe you even laughed. That's the reaction I'm going for with my short, upbeat stories. That's why I write romance novels.
You’re already had significant success as an author. Tell us about your history. How you got started writing. How many books have you written? I don’t know where I originally read that you have “3.5 million books sold,” and mention it every time I review one of your books. Can I increase that to 3.6 million yet?
I blame my husband for how I got started. When my youngest son was about to start attending elementary school, I thought about getting a part time job. My husband took a look at all the books stacked everywhere (I loved books and had a difficult time parting with them…I've since fixed that problem by buying an e-reader) and he said, "You've read enough of these. Why don't you try writing one?" I thought he was crazy, but…
The seed of a love story spouted in my head and I sat down to write, not knowing a thing about plotting, characterization, transitions, foreshadowing, etc. I found a local group of writers, a few of whom had found success with traditional publishers. I finished my first book and entered it in an international contest, and Mountain Laurel won a finalist spot. A Harlequin Senior Editor was the final judge. She didn't choose my book as the winner, but she did buy and publish my first manuscript. I went on to write 32 novels for the company.
I've acquired the publishing rights to my first 11 novels and I'm putting them up for sale as e-books. Harlequin sold 3.5 million of my novels. Since becoming an independent author, I've sold just shy of 100,000 books. So very, very soon I will be able to say that 3.6 million copies of my books have sold worldwide.
You’ve had several books originally published by Harlequin that you’ve re-published as an indie. What is the process you put these through in preparation for republishing?
Because the books are 15-20 years old, I edit and update the stories. And I hope that after I'm finished with the updating, readers think the books have a contemporary feel. I pay an English teacher to check the book for grammar and spelling mistakes. Then the book goes through several stages of 'readings'; each stage brings the book closer and closer to being typo-free. The people I rely on to help me produce a great book are all avid readers—lovers of fiction—who also offer opinions (sometimes strong ones) on ways I can enrich characters and/or my stories. I've put together a good team and I feel very comfortable that, in the end, I'm offering the public a good product.
As an author, what do you see as the tradeoffs between publishing traditionally and as an indie?
As a traditionally published author, I didn't have to worry (too much) about editing, copy-editing, cover design, marketing, distribution, advertising, etc. I wrote the book, mailed the manuscript off to
City, and the publisher handled the rest. (Whether or not they did a good job
is a whole other story. Once a manuscript left my hands…it was all, quite
literally, out of my hands.) New York
As an indie author, I'm the boss of my universe. The biggest difference is that there's less time to write, or course. A balance needs to be struck between the creative side of my career and the business side. I'm still working that out. But I enjoy a vast amount of freedom as an indie that I never had as a traditionally published author. If a scene needs a few more pages, I can give it that. If a character seems too one-dimensional, I can take the time (and words) to flesh him/her out a little more. And I have more freedom on the business end of things too; I decide where and when and how to sell my books. I have more exposure to my customers as an indie author via my blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Google +1, and other social media sites.
All in all, I have to say that being indie is much more exciting than being traditionally published. When that check is transferred into my bank account each month, I have a deep sense of satisfaction that I made it happen. I truly earned that money with good, old-fashioned hard work.
What do you think indie authors have to offer readers that traditionally published authors don’t? How about the reverse?
Let's talk crayons. The Big 6 (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) are solid colors, perfect for drawing that rainbow at the end of which sits a pot of gold. The focus of The Big 6 is the gold, so they stick to the bold, well-known colors.
Indie authors are like the Crayola™ box of 120 crayons, plus the box of neons, and the box of glitter ones, and the metallics, and the watercolors, and don't forget the markers from bold to subtle. Indie authors offer a much wider variety when it comes to colors. Granted, not everyone is going to like every hue, and some of them won't be worth the wax they're made of due to the lack of product control (which includes everything from talent, to editing, to formatting, etc), BUT if readers are willing to take a slight risk, rather than viewing the same (albeit beautiful) rainbow over and over, they can choose from a huge shimmering, iridescent palette. (Okay, I've probably taken this color thing a bit too far, but you get the drift.)
One of the things that sets your writing apart for me are your characters. They seem more realistic. I think in a genre where you know in general how the book is going to end and the big question is, how are we going to get there?, that this is critical. How do you do this?
It's true that my books are character driven. Often, my characters show up in my head, fully fleshed and ready to go. Other times, they're a little more shy and I have to spend some time figuring out who they are and why they're the way they are (I hope that makes sense). I love figuring out why people do the things they do, why they think the things they do, why they act the way they do, in real life and in my fiction. The "whys" are usually the "baggage"…you know, the stuff we all lug around that makes our lives so difficult. All of us would be much better off if we just dropped it, just released our hold on it. But it's hard to do. That critical moment of learning to let go is an important hinge pin of all my stories.
When you write a book, do you start with the characters or the situation first? When you start writing, do you know how you’re going to get to the
HEA or do you work this out as
Stories come to me in a variety of ways. A person I meet might spark an idea, or I might read about a situation that provokes me to write a story, or I might overhear a conversation (yes, I'm a blatant eavesdropper) that stirs up the urge to plot out a tale. I accept all ideas that the Universe offers!
When I wrote for Harlequin I had to turn in a synopsis, a short, concise summation of the book that included plot twists and turns, so I learned long ago to work everything out at the beginning. I see a synopsis as a road map that gets me from beginning to end.
Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
Ah, Al…I've been asked this question a lot, and I'm going to give you the same answer I give everyone else. Books are like kids, what mother can choose one child over another? I like different books for different reasons. Mountain Laurel was the first book I wrote, so it always conjures smiles for me. When that book came out, my then 6-yr-old son took one look at the cover and said, "Mom, that looks like you." Then he looked up at me, confused. "But that doesn't look like Dad." I had to explain the meaning of fictional characters. I really liked Close Proximity because the word-count was higher and I was given room for more intricate plotting. I loved Where's Stanley because the story focused more on the female protagonist and her relationship with her BFF as she searched for her missing husband. And The Merry-Go-Round is a book that's a bit different in that the plot focuses on a woman who thinks the thing she wants most in the world is a divorce; very different from the normal romance novel. Oh, Al, I love all my books. What writer doesn't?
Dare I ask about your least favorite of your own books?
It's not the books I don't like, it's some of the titles. When I wrote for Harlequin I didn't have the final say when it came to titles, and those editors came up with some doozies. The Stand-by Significant Other. Who's The Father of Jenny's Baby? The Doctor's Medicine Woman. His Wild, Young Bride. However, even though I complain, the books sold well. So I guess those editors knew what they were doing.
What are your future plans as an author? Do you plan to stay indie or possibly try a mixed approach?
I really can't say for sure. I'm the kind of person who enjoys life. Period. So whether I find a traditional publisher or continue publishing as an independent author, you can bet your last dollar that I'll be enjoying myself. Fully.
For More Donna:
The above are those books published or re-published as an Indie. Availability of Fasano's other books in paper varies, but can sometimes be found from third party sellers. Check Amazon's Donna Fasano page (US / UK) or Donna Clayton page (US / UK) to determine availability.