Thursday, June 18, 2009

Author Interview by Lydia Hirt (give her a warm welcome)

Lydia Hirt has been told she hides her nerdiness well and has been frequently reprimanded for correcting the grammar of superiors. With an obsession of books and the written word (and a secret skill at the Set® game), Lydia renounced the Chicago advertising world to join the publishing realm. Currently freelancing at Lake Claremont Press, she’s attempting to whittle down her pile of 22 pair of shoes to spend the summer in New York City, attending the New York University Summer Publishing Institute. Thrilled to join the Publishing conversation and keeping her fingers crossed on finding a job in Publicity, Lydia can be reached at novelwhore at gmail dot com or

Lydia recently interviewed me for an article she wrote for Beneath the Cover. She was kind enough to allow me to post the interview here. The full article can be read here. And I highly recommend it. Give her a thumbs up and add your two cents worth with a comment at the end.
So…on with Lydia’s interview.

How did you get started in writing romances? I decided I wanted to take a serious run at writing as a career. Breaking into fiction writing with one of the big publishing houses (or even finding an agent) is less likely than being struck by lightning (a statistical fact). E-books provide the structure and discipline of a traditional publishing house without the print side (though some are doing that as well). The most sold genre in e-book is erotic romance. So the answer is pretty simple. I’m here to hone my craft and build a resume.

Given the recent shakeup in the print industry - restructuring, rethinking of the print business model, drop in sales, and growth in the e-book industry to the tune of 100%, I firmly believe I’ve chosen the right place at the right time.

On a more personal note (evil grin) I like it. There is no more challenging genre. Romance is timeless (Romeo and Juliet) and plumbs the depths of mankind’s most intimate place. The heart.

Why did you choose the erotic vs. more mainstream genre? Again, access. The readers are there and the publishers are servicing the market. They’re always looking for new talent. But I must ask, why not? Eroticism goes hand in hand with romance – the natural next step that could be left at the bedroom door with a scene break. Erotic romance might be considered the ‘Director’s Cut’. Where romance walks through the bedroom and discovers what happens next.

Here are the opening lines to a book of mine that will be published shortly. Maybe you’ll find the answer here. I can’t take full credit for the idea of these words. I’ve adapted the thought from an author unknown blurb I came across. But it says very well what we all know to be true. The most active sexual organ is the mind.

He whispered in the dark.
“Tell me where to touch you so I may drive you insane.”

She smiled.

He blew on her ear.
“Tell me where you find the greatest pleasure.”

Her skin exploded in a million tiny bumps.

He trailed his finger down her spine and insisted.
“Tell me of your most intimate place that I may rape and ravage you beyond all reason.”

She kissed him softly and whispered back.
“Touch my mind.”

Orion by Roscoe James -

How long did it take to get published? In 2000 I wrote a full length mainstream novel (95K words). In 2002 I sent over 260 queries to agents. All rejected. My writing career ended. In October of 2006 I decided to give writing one more try. I started investigating the publishing industry in 2007 and discovered e-books midyear. I spent time on the loops, forums, and blogs narrowing my selection to a specific publisher. In September 2007 I wrote a 45K novella and subbed. It was accepted in Jan of 2008.

Feeling you had when your first book was available? Great! Hard to explain. There is a feeling of accomplishment that comes with being part of any of the arts that is very fulfilling. I wrote 310K words last year and, good or bad, they all carry that same feeling of creating something from nothing that you’ll never find in a traditional nine to five job.

Ebooks vs. physical books? The future. I just checked. I have seven paperbacks on my nightstand. When I finish reading them what should I do with them? I much prefer an e-reader to a stack of paperbacks. If we are realistic about paper use, buying habits, and convenience, there is only one way books can go. Electronic. When we consider the average weight of a book bag or backpack carried by students to, from, and at school is around fifteen pounds, e-readers make even more sense. Take the backpack away and give our students an e-reader. FYI – I don’t have an e-reader yet only because the two big names (Sony and Kindle) do not allow downloads in Mexico. The first one that opens up their market will get my business.

What do you see as the future for the romance genre? Growth. Constant. Matters of the heart will always be first and foremost in the minds of modern society. After my complete failure in 2002 I discovered something that surprised me. The number one purchasers of fiction books (as a category) are women. The reason? Romance. I was in the dark on that one. I also believe romance (whether comedic, heartbreaking, or erotic) is one of the few genres that will stand on its own and endure. If you look at my DVD shelf you’ll find Matrix, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings (all of all of them) - and every one of those movies has a romance thread. You’ll also find Out of Africa, You’ve Got Mail, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Notting Hil. There are no more dark and mysterious places than the hidden rooms of the heart. We may not all own a light saber or be saving the world from evil but we all have a heart and experience desire.

Publishing overall? The traditional business model that has dominated what and how we read for over a hundred years is under attack. Cumbersome, limited, and costly are some of the words I’ve seen used in recent months to describe that model. When we consider music, movies, and encyclopedias (with current search engines when was the last time you cracked open an encyclopedia to learn something?) we can easily see the spread of entertainment and learning into the electronic business model. My real question is – what is the publishing industry waiting on?

Is this the career path you dreamt of? Writing? Yes. Did I believe I would ever have the opportunity to pursue that dream? No. Why? The industry business model. The e-publisher has opened a lot of doors for a lot of new authors and every month you’ll see an e-author offered an opportunity with a print publisher.

What are your biggest struggles? Craft. Not telling the story but putting the story on paper. I find my vocabulary is limited, my grammar atrocious, homophones a mystery, and my comma use appalling. However, if you were to read through my small body of work you would find constant improvement. I work at learning my craft. When reading a book we want the printed page to disappear leaving only a movie in our mind. That’s where craft comes in. Ask a million people and nine-hundred-thousand will tell you they have a story and could write a book. The reality is another.

Do you find yourself having to defend your career? (I assume you’re referring to the erotic nature of my work) Nope. The family and extended family are well aware of what I do and support me completely. The first thing someone studying art and painting learns to do is to draw the nude form. When studying photography you study… the nude form. Rodin did blatantly erotic sketches when not creating sculpture. Should I mention D. H. Lawrence? I could go on. My work is not about its erotic nature. My work is about the story. The writing.

What’s the impact of being male in a female dominated genre? Good question. Right off the top of my head a word comes to mind – challenging. There are, in fact, some publishing houses that will not accept romance or erotic romance from a male author. Any book for any genre must be written to appeal to that genre’s readership. Every group of readers has expectations. I have no doubt that I am still learning what those expectations are.

Why do you believe your books are popular? The same factor that makes me work harder to understand what my reader wants is also my greatest asset. My writer’s voice. I bring a unique perspective and voice to romance. Through his eyes becomes very real when reading my books (even when writing from the heroine’s point of view). When I finally place my finger firmly on my reader’s pulse that unique point of view and voice will keep me in the forefront. This is why my pseudonym is male and you’ll find my picture, not some avatar, on most my web sites.

How do you reach out to your target? Reach has a lot to do with site traffic as determined by your publisher. People are becoming more accustomed every day to purchasing on-line. As an author your best asset is the exposure your publisher has developed over the years. But you’ll also find me on MySpace, Twitter (wait, you did, didn’t you), my blog, my author web page, different forums, group loops, and other writing forums. You look for opportunities where you can. The best advice I’ve had to becoming known as an author was simple. Write, write, write. I work fulltime at that.

You post excerpts, blurbs, covers. You look for exposure and make sure your name is coming up on the search engines.

How have you found success? Discovering what the reader wants to read and writing it. I have a book coming out the 19th of this month with Loose Id. A sub-genre I had never considered writing. Actually, a sub-genre I knew little about six months ago. This book started as a six-thousand word post at MySpace that I wrote for the sole purpose of entertaining my friends. The small post was so popular and drew so much attention that a publisher took interest. That post is now buried somewhere in the middle of a 56K word novella about BDSM and the Dom/sub lifestyle. The publisher is so excited about the book that it was fast tracked from first author full to published in two months. A very short turnaround. I’m working on the follow up as we speak.

Any endeavors that have failed? Sure. A lot. Biggest failure to date has been the wholly male point of view approach. I did that with my two earliest books because, frankly, it was safe ground for me. And while the books have a very passionate fan base I’ve learned that the female romance reader wants to hear from the heroine as well. They want the person they identify with to have a voice.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your career? One morning I started by day by checking my e-mail. I discovered a mail from a reader that pretty much sums up the satisfaction of writing. A woman (I assume – only signed with initials and I couldn’t tell from the address) wrote after reading Forever’s Not Enough. To paraphrase she started out by calling me a bastard. Then she explained that I’d kept her up until four in the morning because she couldn’t put the book down and I’d made her cry twice. That’s what romance writing is all about.

But a better answer might be - Having taken the journey.
Thanks for dropping by.
Roscoe James

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