Monday, February 13, 2012

Interview with Avalon and Harlequin author Holly Jacobs

Grab a cup of coffee and a chair, 'cause love is in the air. Avalon and Harlequin Superromance author Holly Jacobs is a virtual cupid. From matchmakers to single dads to leg waxing (use your imagination ;), Holly's romances have spread love and laughter worldwide. She has even been featured in a Mutual of Omaha Aha moment video! Holly is a lot of fun, so sit back, sip your java, and help me welcome our honorary Valentine's week cupid :)

1. Holly, if I were asked to name an international romance star, you're name is the first that would come to mind. Your books are sold in Spain, Holland, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, and probably even more exotic places! It must be both thrilling and interesting to see so many book cover versions of the same book and how they differ depending on a country's marketing needs. Has your international success been due to publisher 'choice', the universal appeal of your stories, self-advocacy, or all of the above? Do you do anything different to address international marketing or to connect with overseas fans?

~Okay, I'm chuckling a bit, but thanks!  I'm going to go inform the family that you think I'm an international romance star.  Uh, I think they're going to do more than chuckle! But seriously, thanks!  I've sold internationally regularly since I started writing, on an average of three to six books a year.  But all of a sudden, last year the releases really took off.  I had 22 books released overseas, or reprinted in the US.  It was thrilling!  I've got a list of my most recent oversea's releases on my public FB page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Holly-Jacobs-Author-Official/197779663574406?sk=app_7146470109) and I’ll confess, I still get huge geek glee over seeing my books printed in languages I can’t read!

Some of the publishers are actual arms of Harlequin, others buy the right to publish my books from Harlequin.  I tend to hear about it as the books are released, and sometimes not until I get a royalty statement.  Most of the time, I have no clue why a particular book is picked.  However, BE MY BABY was released in Denmark last November and that one I do I do credit to readers who wrote the publisher there and asked for some of my books!  I am lucky...I not only have some great readers, many of them have become great friends.  Oh, and most international readers/friends simply contact me online, either through email, or on Facebook.

2. You write sweet and funny romances. Your 2001 title, I Waxed My Legs For This, says it all. But I'd say that even your more serious Harlequin Superromances are infused with a bit of witty humor, such as Tucker's unique t-shirt collection in A Father's Name(Sept 2011). Even not-so-funny predicaments can be hilarious in retrospect. Tell us about one of your funniest or most embarrassing moments (publishing or otherwise).

~Thanks for mentioning both books!  I have always maintained that if you find a man who will rip the hair off your legs for you...he’s a keeper!  LOL And I had more fun with Tucker’s t-shirts in A Father’s Name.  I had help from online friends coming up with some of the slogans. 

Hm, a funny experience?  My life is a comedy, so there are tons to pick from, but one of the more recent ones was at my first keynote speech.  Now, I’ve done writing workshops for years, and am pretty relaxed about them, but I was a bit nervous about a keynote.  After all, at a workshop, I have other people who ask questions, or make comments–I can play off that.  But at a speech...well, there’s just me.  So, anyway, there I was, in front of the entire conference and I started my talk saying they were my first keynote and if I sucked, please don’t through food.  (When you’re doing a talk while people are eating, that throwing food thing is always a possibility.)  So, I’m talking, and it seemed to be going well.  Then one of the ladies at the table next to my little podium, whacked her bottle of water, which flew in a lovely arc and landed...on the podium.  Now, it wasn’t exactly a rotten tomato, and hey, the lid was on, but still...  LOL It proved to be a very funny moment and definitely made me relax as I finished my speech!  (I’m happy to report, no other food or beverages were thrown.) 

Oh, another one of my favorite embarrassing moments was at the first conference I went to.  I’d just sold not only I Waxed My Legs for This? to Duets, and on that sale’s heels, I sold Do You Hear What I Hear? to Silhouette Romance, so everything about that conference was full of glee. I was getting dressed for the awards ceremony and singing Aida...loudly.   I thought I had the room to myself, but roommates snuck in and overheard.  And I don’t have a Broadway quality voice...I don’t even have a good karaoke quality voice.  SIGH.  But to make matters even worse, a friend in the next room overheard me as well.  (It was Pam Hanson, who writes with her mom as Jennifer Drew...we worked on Duets 100th Duet, You’ll be Mine in ‘99 & The 100-Year Itch together a few years later.)  Ever since that night, she likes to tell me that I have a lovely voice, and I assure her that it is lovely...if you listen through a wall!  Yep, my life is a comedy.  LOL


3. You're a wife, busy mom of four, wood chopper, eco-project pursuer, master basket weaver (don't argue...I've seen gorgeous pics!) and more. On top of that, you write for both Avalon and Harlequin. How do you juggle the deadlines and demands of writing simultaneously for different publishers? Any plans to join other others in self-publishing on the side, or is your basket full for now?

~Right now, I’m contracted with work for the bulk of this year.  I’ve got at least 3 backlist books being released as eBooks, and two new Avalon books (Everything but a Mother, Everything but a Dog) coming out.  And I’m currently writing a new trilogy for Harlequin SuperRomance that’ll be out in 5/6/7-2013.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t consider self-pubbing, but right now, I’ve got my nose to the grindstone, working on new books for my publishers.

As for my other activities...I’m such a geek!  We heat with wood, and I look at the wood splitting (walking the dogs, and shoveling snow) as my alternative to joining a gym.  I enjoy it...most days!  And I absolutely have fallen in love with basketweaving!  It’s nice of you to say I’m a master weaver, but really, I’m an enthusiastic novice!  Now, the eco-thing...I’m just lucky my online readers and friends put up with my...uh, enthusiasm!  We put a dual-flush toilet in when we did a bathroom renovation.  I was so excited about the water savings and waxed poetic about that toilet online.  They all indulged me...which was sweet! 

4. What better way to celebrate the month of love than to have a romance release? Not only are Confessions of a Party Crasher and The 100 Year Itch getting re-released by Harlequin this month, but you also have the debut release of Everything But A Mother, book 5 of your Avalon 'Everything but a...' series. Give us a little background on the series that has so many readers hooked.

~I will confess, I love the Everything But... series.  I’ve been writing much heavier books for Harlequin’s SuperRomance line, and while I love writing them, I really enjoy getting to return to my straight humor roots.  This series started with a trilogy (Everything But a Groom, EBA Bride, EBA Wedding) in which Nana Vancy, a tiny Hungarian grandmother has cursed her family to bad weddings and spends three books trying to break the curse.  Nana Vancy had so many fans, that I agreed to write the second trilogy (Everything But a Christmas, Everything But a Mother, Everything But a Dog) in which she gets together with her two best friends and plays matchmaker.  She doesn’t play it very well!  LOL In the book out this month, Everything But a Mother, as Nana Vancy and her friends trying to set up a daycare owner and a college professor–neither of whom want to be set up...especially not with each other!

Speaking of that series, the finale is out in October...Everything But a Dog.  In one of my other Avalon books (Night Calls), I put my Old English Mastiff, who’s since passed away.  In Everything But a Dog, my current dogs Ethel Merman and Ella Fitzgerald get center stage (with different names).  I’m so glad they’re part of that last Everything But... story!

5. Speaking of backlists, we'd love to hear about The Call that led to your first book.

~I’d been targeting Harlequin since I started writing.  I thought their comedy line would be a good fit for my writing.  I’d sold to a couple other small publishers, but kept trying Harlequin.  I’d send in a proposal, it would be rejected, I’d send in the next, they’d reject... 

Eventually, I didn’t get form letter rejections, I got personal letters that told me what the weaknesses were in a proposal.  Finally I got a letter about I Waxed My Legs for This? and it outlined a few very specific areas they wanted addressed.  I did them immediately and I think I had that book back to them within a week or so.  And the I waited again.  My husband worked swing shifts on the police force back then, and he was off the March day I got ‘the call.’  We’d just got back from the store (I’d bought a new clothes basket...I have no idea why I remember that, but there it is) when the phone rang it was my editor saying she wanted to buy I Waxed My Legs for This?  I don’t remember much about the conversation.  I’m sure I babbled...babbling is my specialty!  But it was amazing.  When you work so hard toward a goal and finally attain it...well, it’s amazing! 

That June, just three months later, another editor, this time from Silhouette Romance, called and bought a book.  I babbled just as much!  I remember telling her we were going out to celebrate...to Taco Bell.  She told me she was not a Taco Bell fan (I know...and I still loved her anyway! LOL), but her brother, Larry, was.  Now, if you ever ready my Perry Square series for Silhouette Romance, you’ll find not only a hero named Larry, but a Taco mention.  That was for both of them!  LOL (Larry (my character, not my editor’s brother) is in Be My Baby, that book I mentioned was just out in Denmark!)

6. You literally have a cop right at your fingertips ;). Did he help out with any research that went into your 'Count on a Cop' Superromance, Homecoming Day? Did he (and his station buddies) read it? Can we expect any more cop heroes or heroines from you?

~He does help a lot.  I said “What if” to him any number of times as I write books with cops.  (Okay, I say what-if to him about every book...he’s a good sounding board.)  And he’s always a good sport about the cop questions.  Most of the time when I have a cop in a book, they’re not running around solving murders or saving the world.  They’re real people who go out and work with kids in trouble or who deal with crazy drivers, real people who...  Well, when I write a police officer hero, I try to make him a real man who simply goes out and does his best each day.  Sometimes they do solve a murder (In Lost and Found the cop hero was chasing down a disappearing dead body throughout the book), but most days they’re just trying to leave their city a little safer.  My husband is sort of the template I model all my heroes after...cops or not.  I’ve never written a hero who truly measures up to my husband.  I know, I’m groaning as I write that.  It’s so sappy.  But don’t tell him, it’s the truth! 

Oh, and I’m sure you’ll see cops in the future.  I’m sort of fond of cops as a whole!  LOL Two of my brothers are cops as well!

7. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! Forget flowers. We need to start a tradition where people give romance novels (and chocolate...we can keep the chocolate) as Valentine's gifts :) What's the most romantic thing anyone has ever given/done for you?


~Okay, confession: my husband and I don’t do a lot of candlelit dinner, dressed to the nines sort of things.  He does bring me dark chocolate covered cherries on occasion (my favorite).  Mainly, we go out and walk the dogs together most nights, we split all that wood together, or do projects around the house together...it’s that together thing that matters to me.  He’s still my all time favorite person to spend time with.  Even when we do something big for a celebration, it’s not fancy.  Our twentieth anniversary was at Disney...with no kids.  LOL    I know, not everyone’s idea of romantic, but we love Disney!  We honeymooned there, too!

And I love the idea of giving romance novels for Valentine’s!!

8. Apart from not quitting, what's the one thing you did that you feel played a critical role in getting you published?

~LOL The not quitting certainly is a big part of succeeding, but when asked, I always say the most important thing for me was writing every day.  I’m at the computer every day.  I work on books I’m contracted on, but I also work on spec pieces that are just fun for me.  I write articles.  I...well, I write.  It sounds like a simple hint.  As simple as ‘not quitting’, but sometimes the most simple things are the most important.

9. Okay. Now I can't get chocolate out of my head. Do you have a favorite deadline crunch time snack? Any quirky writing habits/rituals?

~To be honest, I’m sort of a boring writer.  I don’t wait until the last minute and get all crazed in a deadline crunch.  I map out how many pages a day I have to write to meet a deadline, then I write that many pages!  LOL Yep, boring.  But I do much better with a cadence to my life, and I don’t miss deadlines, so it works for me. 

But yep, I’m boring.  Hmmm, I bet I could come up with a less boring if you’ll let me lie!  LOL

10. Let's pretend hunky, cop hubby just called and asked what movie you'd like him to rent. so that you can curl up on the sofa and watch in on Valentine's Day. What movie is it?

~Now, if it was Valentine’s and he was indulging me, I’d say something sci fi-ish, but if I were indulging him, it would be something actiony.  Uh, if we were going to simply indulge each other, Disney flicks are never out of order!  LOL

Thanks so much for inviting me over to visit today, Rula!  There’s more information on me and my books at my website, HollyJacobs.com.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s!

Thanks for being here, Holly!

Everything But A Mother:

Nana Vancy is at it again...she has two new victims, er friends in her matchmaking sites. Heather and Henry don't stand a chance of fighting love, not when a determined Hungarian matchmaker and her friends have them in their sites!

Buy it here:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Read excerpt here

Visit Holly at:

www.hollyjacobs.com
Facebook
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

The winner is...

CAROL KILGORE!

Congrats, Carol :) You won a copy of Once A Good Girl. Just in case you missed Wendy's comment in the last post, go ahead and email your mailing info to wendy (at) wendysmarcus (dot) com. Enjoy!

NEXT WEEK: Join me Monday, February 13th for an interview with Harlequin Superromance and Avalon author Holly Jacobs. Find out how many languages Holly's romances have been translated into, get a peek at her international Harlequin covers and hear what she has to say about writing a 'universal' romance. Be sure to stop by! I'll have coffee brewing :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Interview with Harlequin Medical Romance author Wendy S. Marcus

Good Morning everyone! Looks like Groundhog Phil saw his shadow and we're in for six more weeks of winter. What better excuse to curl up on a sofa with a romance novel? Well, grab a mug of hot chocolate (with extra marshmallows) and help me welcome Harlequin Medical Romance author Wendy S. Marcus. Never mind Phil's shadow and the extra six weeks of cold, Wendy's books will keep you warm all winter.

Hi Rula! Thank you so much for having me at your blog today. You sure did your research! Great questions!

Thanks, Wendy. It's all in the great answers, so on with the interview :)

1. Many authors worry about suffering from second book syndrome, but it’s safe to say you're in the clear. After your first book in the Madrin Memorial Hospital series, When One Night Isn't Enough, garnered a 4 star RT Book Review, I'd call your second book, Once A Good Girl, success on steroids! It recently earned 4.5 stars from RT Book Reviews and an extraordinary write-up including this..."The story challenges the guidelines of a Harlequin Medical Romance in an excellent way....readers will not be able to resist the rising tension that builds to a crescendo." Wow! Congratulations, Wendy! For many writers, especially those trying to break into category romance, pushing the envelope is a terrifying notion. One where a writer is never quite sure if they've struck a balance between being original and venturing too far outside the box. Along these lines, what advice can you give writers hoping to break into the category market?

Thank you for your kind words! Success on steroids…. I like it! I think the most important thing for a new writer is writing with your own, unique voice and style while staying within the requirements of the category line you want to write for ie. word count, heat level, and for certain lines technical elements such as medical elements for medical romance. Harlequin and Mills and Boon have excellent guidelines and help for new writers on their websites.

2. I'm amazed by how many romance writers (myself included) have/had left brained careers. Sometimes our left brained colleagues don't understand the switch in gears, but I'm a firm believer that one life/one career is an archaic idea and, much like brainstorming a story, our later choices can be better fits. I also believe that no career or experience is wasted. Think of it as hard core research ;). You earned both a nursing degree and a master's in health care administration...and may I add a doctorate in motherhood? All mom's deserve that one :). In writing for Harlequin Medical, you've formed a natural bridge for your experience. However, having seen the nitty gritty details of health care, do you ever struggle to find romantic inspiration in it all? Have your past colleagues read your books and given you 'feedback'?

For me, writing medical romance is actually quite difficult. As a nurse, I have to be very careful not to get too technical or realistic in some scenes. If I use too much medical speak or expose too much gore, I will pull the reader out of a scene. And that’s the last thing I want to do. To find romantic inspiration I must focus on my characters and their emotional responses to the medical situations they are faced with and the staff they work with as opposed to focusing on the medical conditions and treatments themselves. And with regard to past colleagues reading my books, I have heard from a few who said they liked them.

3. While we're on the topic of new careers, tell us your Call story that started it all!

Well, I entered a medical romance pitch contest back in 2010 just like the one Harlequin is running now.Find information here: http://community.harlequin.com/forums/write-stuff/editor-pitch-challenge-harlequin-medical-romance. I was one of five winners, along with fellow medical romance author Scarlet Wilson, and I was assigned my wonderful editor Flo Nicoll who agreed to work with me to see if I could turn my manuscript into a saleable medical romance novel. And it took A LOT of work! But after six long months of revisions, during which I basically re-wrote my manuscript…twice, I received ‘The Call’ in October 2010. First my then agent called with the news that Mills and Boon wanted to make me an offer. Then Flo called me from England! I don’t remember one word of the conversation. Luckily she sent me a summary e-mail afterwards!

4. I love your book covers and the way they focus on your heroines. I have to say that the model on the US cover of Once A Good Girl looks like Julia Ormond...and her expression says it all. Although many Harlequin books end up with overseas editions, for Medicals it's part of the routine. For every book you have out, there are multiple release dates and different covers. Has that posed any marketing challenges for you? Any advice for streamlining marketing in a situation like that?


Now that you mention it, I agree! The model on the U.S. cover does look like Julia Ormond! And as much as I like my Mills and Boon book covers, I would love a really steamy sexy cover. One day! As far as multiple covers and release dates, it does get a bit tricky. But if you look at the Books page on my website: http://WendySMarcus.com, I display the book covers for all my English language books with links for purchase. I’m thinking about adding an international page for my French and other language translations.

To give you an idea how release dates work, my current book, Once a Good Girl…, went out to UK medical romance subscription holders in October, up on the Mills and Boon UK website in November, on store shelves in UK and Mills and Boon Aus website in December, store shelves in Aus/NZ and Harlequin.com in U.S. in January, and on Amazon and Barnes and Noble U.S. in February. That’s a lot of promo time! I dealt with this by scheduling promo for January, when my books were either available for purchase or pre-order in all markets.

5. Book 3 in your Madrin Memorial Hospital series, A Nurse's Not So Secret Scandal, comes out this spring (April 2012 UK/May 2012 US-AUS-NZ). It's the last in this series, but you recently completed your fourth book. Any hints? Different hospital? Different town? Your fans want to know!

My fourth and fifth books are a two story continuity that will come out as a 2in1 in the UK, involving two nurses who are twins. I just sent my revisions on #4 to my editor and I haven’t yet started work on #5, but I have plenty of ideas percolating! Book #4 centers around Jaci who works as a community health nurse and women’s crisis center advocate.

6. Now don't take this the wrong way, but you're one funny person :) I love your sense of humor, and humor is definitely the magic pill to get through motherhood and life's general ups and downs. The title for one of the blogs you take part in, www.4badmommies.com ,  made me laugh. Does writing with kids underfoot get any easier as they get older, or do the challenges and distractions just change? What was one of your funniest and/or most embarrassing experiences as a mother, nurse or writer?

Thank you for mentioning 4badmommies! It’s a project near and dear to my heart. Our mission is to create a safe, compassionate place where moms can share their failures as well as their successes. Because sometimes we may feel like bad mommies; it doesn't mean we are.

I’ve been working from my home office for over fifteen years. It pains me to say that when my children were little, they watched a lot of television on the days I didn’t send them to daycare. And during those times, when I heard little feet pitter pattering in my direction while I was on an important call with an attorney or doctor, I have been known to place the call on hold and scream like a crazy woman, “Unless you’re choking or bleeding you’d better not come into my office right now!” I must point out, that worked a lot better when they were little. Now they come into my office whenever they please, because for teenagers, their problems are always more important than what I’m doing! Regardless of the challenges I faced working full time and raising three children, I’m proud to say I wound up with three great, well adjusted, respectful (most of the time) children! Oh, and I’m sure my husband played some small part in that, too!

7. To add to your honors, you were chosen to be the Mills and Boon New Voices Contest author mentor of 2011. Let's pretend you're mentoring every unpublished writer out there. Other than not quitting, what's the single most important advice you could give us?

Don’t write the first thing that comes to mind. Or the second.They are usually overused or clich√©. Make your writing fresh and unique. (I can’t take credit for this. It’s something I read when I was a new writer myself. And boy am I glad I did!)

8. And now for some fun. What's your favorite deadline crunch time snack, and do you have any quirky writing rituals?

As a new writer I gave myself incentives for meeting my daily word counts. Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate with Almonds Nuggets. YUM! Unfortunately, since publication they’ve become a daily treat regardless of my word count. I rationalize this by telling myself dark chocolate and almonds are good for me! As far as quirky rituals, when I am deep in the zone and the words are flowing and I’m getting down to the wire on a deadline, I wake up, roll out of bed and go straight to the computer. I work on and off all day and night. And I don’t shower. Granted, I can only do this when I don’t have a reason to leave the house. And regardless, three days without a shower is my limit!

9. Coffee or tea? Beach or mountains? Denim, leather, or sweats?

I prefer decaf coffee with a shot of Baileys. I love listening to the waves at the beach. I’m most comfortable in sweats, but I usually wear denim, and I like my men in leather! (Don’t tell my husband!)

And now I’ll throw a question out to you visitors. Which of my book covers is your favorite? You can find them on my website: http://WendySMarcus.com on my Books Page and my Coming Soon Page. While you’re there check out the excerpts. If you see something you like, click on the purchase links.

GIVEAWAY: One of today’s commenters will win a 2in1 UK copy of Once a Good Girl… which includes a complete novel by Alison Roberts. The winner will be announced here this Thursday, February 13th.

BLURB: Once A Good Girl

Prim Victoria Forley’s perfect life changed forever the night she slept with Kyle Karlinsky, baddest boy in town. These days, single mum and uber-perfectionist nurse Victoria has goals that nothing – not even Kyle’s shocking reappearance! – can derail. But behind Victoria’s oh-so-frosty exterior is a heat that only Kyle can unleash… maybe it’s the right time to be with the wrong guy after all?

BUY IT HERE:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
eHarlequin

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And the winner is...

SNOOKIE!

Congratulations, Snookie! You've won Rogenna Brewer's entire My Marine Trilogy. Contact Rogenna with your information here. Enjoy :)

Also, a quick reminder to all...tomorrow is National Wear Red Day. Show your support and increase awareness of the deadly impact of heart disease on women by wearing red tomorrow, Friday, February 3rd. Check out the Go Red For Women sidebar link to find out more.

Have a great weekend everyone!