Please welcome the incredible Susan Lyons (AKA Susan Fox), writer of toe-curling, scorching romance, and a fellow Vancouverite (woo-hoo!). Not only is Susan a fabulously talented writer, she's the most professional author I've ever met and generously gives her "spare" time to a large network of authors (published and unpublished), including the rest of us in the Greater Vancouver RWA chapter. I feel so grateful to be able to run things past her about the writing business, and she's been an invaluable help and resource. And did I mention she's freaking smart? Seriously, the woman has a law degree on top of being a multi-published author, for crying out loud.
Because she's so awesome, Susan is going to choose one lucky commenter to receive a print copy of her latest release, Love, Unexpectedly . Now without further ado, here she is.
Tell us about your new Wild Ride series.
It’s a sexy “planes, trains, automobiles, and a cruise ship” series, in which the three older Fallon sisters come home from Sydney, Montreal, and Santa Cruz for their baby sister’s wedding. Each uses a different mode of transportation, and when each sister meets a very special man, her journey turns into a wild ride to love!
Each book is mainly about the romance, but there’s also a theme about family relations. Though the Fallon sisters love each other, they aren’t the best of friends – but each learns new things about herself and about her sisters, and the bond between them strengthens throughout the series.
The first in the series, Sex Drive, is Cosmo magazine's red hot read. Tell us that story.
It’s so exciting! Publishers send their sexy romances to Cosmo, and the magazine chooses one book each month to excerpt as a “red hot read.” It’s a thrill to be chosen. I got the news when I was in Mexico, and promptly went to the bar and ordered myself a cosmo to celebrate. And just so everyone knows, Cosmo doesn’t simply copy an excerpt from the author’s book, they do a lot of rewriting, to make the scene fit their size and audience. I sort of recognize it as kind of like something I wrote. LOL. Anyhow, hopefully it will encourage some new readers to check out my books.
I'm sure it will. Now tell us, what inspired you to write Love, Unexpectedly (I'd hoped to finish it before posting this article, but due to unforeseen events--AKA kids--I'm only part way through. *hangs head in shame*)?I’ve always been intrigued by the “friends to lovers” kind of romance – where one kind of love turns into another, with a person you already like, trust, and respect.
Because I was writing a series, I already knew from Sex Drive that my next heroine would be Kat, the second sister. I knew she lived in Montreal and had a disastrous dating history. Though she longed for love and a happily ever after, she had poor judgment and luck in all her relationships. Except for one, with her best friend and neighbor, Nav Bharani. I loved the idea of writing a story where the hero’s secretly in love with the heroine, but she refuses to see his “love potential” because she’s afraid to risk the friendship.
I set Nav a real challenge in breaking out of the buddy trap and winning Kat. When she told him she was traveling to Vancouver by train, and said how exciting train travel is and how much fun it is to meet strangers, he hatched a plan. He’d reinvent himself as the sexy “stranger on the train,” a man she knew deep down was Nav but could pretend wasn’t really him, so they could explore the smoldering chemistry between them without risking their friendship.
So, Nav – who’d been the perfect friend who would feed her pizza, rub her feet, and watch an old movie with her after a crappy day – showed her a whole new side. A passionate, exciting, romantic, utterly sexy man. And she discovered that the whole package was one she couldn’t help falling in love with!
Yummy, and I love a book series that lets us follow the characters we've fallen in love with. Since inquiring minds want to know, why did you decide to become a writer, and why smokin' hot romance?
I was a drifter who studied lots of things and had different jobs but never found the thing that felt right. I was always a voracious reader of fiction, but it never occurred to me to try writing it until a friend gave me a book on writing. Once I began, I knew I’d found my special thing.
I started out writing mysteries, but realized I cared way more about the characters’ relationship than solving the crime, so naturally gravitated to romance. I like writing deep point of view, where the reader is really drawn into the heroine’s and hero’s minds and hearts. So, when they do something as intimate as kiss or make love, I don’t want to shut the reader out of what they’re thinking and feeling. Those closed bedroom doors always frustrate me. I wonder, was it tender and gentle, was it passionate and intense, did they laugh, did they cry? The way two characters relate together during their most intimate interactions reveal so much about each of their personalities and about their developing relationship.
(I hate closed doors too! I'm so glad I'm not the only one.)
As it happened, after writing a bunch of manuscripts and collecting rejections, the first book that sold was the sexiest one I’d written. And once a publisher buys one book from you, they generally want more of the same, and that’s a good thing for your career because it helps you build a name and a readership. So, that’s what I’ve been writing since I first sold in 2005.
I also love other kinds of relationships, and those are often a significant theme in my books, along with the romance. The Awesome Foursome series features four best friends, along the lines of Sex And The City, who support each other through romances, work problems, family issues, and so on. Each girl has her own book and her own romance (Champagne Rules, Hot in Here, Touch Me, She’s on Top), but all four are in every book. With my Wild Ride to Love series, as I mentioned above, sisters and family are significant themes.
(Sorry to interrupt again, but I have to mention her Awesome Foursome series is set in spectacular Vancouver--and I also want to point out that Touch Me features a meltingly-hot massage therapist hero. What can I say? I guess I'm biased.) Sorry Susan, carry on.
I love reading women’s fiction and one day I hope to be published in that genre too. In fact, I’m working on a book right now, in my very few slow moments.
How long does it generally take you to plot, write, and get a book ready for submission? Just so the rest of us know whether we should jump off a bridge or not :)
We are all so different about this. Not only because of our personal writing process (which I truly believe we have to discover over time, and then respect), but because of our personal circumstances. Two years ago, I took a leap of faith and pretty much gave up the day job, so am living mostly off writing income and savings. Basically, I took the approach that I’m starting a small business and I want to fully invest myself in it, with fingers crossed I’ll actually be able to make a living. I’m healthy, I don’t have kids or other major commitments, and my guy is incredibly self-sufficient and patient. I do have volunteer commitments, and I spend a fair bit of time on promo and writing-related business stuff, but really, I’m pretty much a full time writer.
Having said that, it takes me about 4 months to produce a book. I mull it over ahead of time, then spend maybe a week doing some focused brainstorming and research, and making notes (I’m not a plotter, but I do think about characters and story ahead of time). Then I write pretty solidly for 11 weeks, sending sections for critique during that time and making revisions. At the 3-month point, a pretty clean draft goes to my second critique group. They have it for 2 weeks, and during that time I catch up on admin, promo, and life, and brainstorm the next book. Once I get critique feedback, I spend 2 weeks on final revisions.
This is pushing it, for me. During that time, I’m also doing promo, maybe preparing and presenting a workshop, maybe going to a conference, and that all takes a fair bit of time. I’d be really comfortable taking 6 months for a book – it would allow for some R&R time! – but right now it’s important to me to build my name, brand, and career so I’m working harder.
What do you wish you'd know at the beginning of your writing career?
I’m kind of glad I didn’t know very much! If someone had told me how long it was going to take me to get published, I might have been discouraged. Instead, I just focused on the goal and kept working toward it, and learned what I needed to learn along the way.
Can you give some tips/advice on writing that you find really helpful?
One is that there are no right or wrong ways to do this (except, obviously, that being professional is a good thing). But in terms of process, we each have to find our own. It’s great to read writing books and take workshops, to try things out and see what resonates, but you should never think that because Wendy Writer does it this way and she’s successful, you have to do it the same way.
The second is that becoming published and staying published takes a combination of things: hard work (e.g., learning, practicing, producing), being businesslike (e.g., researching the market, finishing manuscripts, polishing them, submitting them), believing in yourself, persevering, and being lucky. We can control all of those factors except the last one, and it’s the ultimate determining factor. Just because Ann sold and Betty didn’t, that doesn’t mean Ann’s writing is better. It means Ann had the right project that reached the right editor on the right day.
That's great advice, because the publishing industry is a tough nut to crack. And on that note, how can we as writers toughen our hides for this business?
An excellent question, because we really have to. I think people in the arts have the most amazing mix of personality attributes. We have the sheer ego to believe that the art we produce is something others will want to pay for. Yet we’re also very sensitive – it’s that sensitivity, in part, that gives the emotional connection that makes for great art. It also means, our egos are terribly fragile when it comes to rejection and criticism. And we’re going to get it, because appreciation of the arts is such a subjective thing; of course some people won’t like our work.
So, what do we do? We remember that it’s impossible for every reader (or editor or agent) to love our work. We hoard words of praise and refer to them whenever something negative happens. We hang onto our belief in ourselves, and find ourselves a support group of writers and friends. We remind ourselves that every single writer in the world has suffered setbacks. We focus on the positive things and the things we have control over, and we celebrate every small triumph, and also celebrate the setbacks like rejection letters because they, too, are part of the process and the life that makes us writers. We cry, debrief, whine – but only with close friends, and not in public forums – and then we move on. We make way too much use of bubble baths, wine, and chocolate!
Yes! Lots of chocolate and support, and it's so important to stay professional in this shrinking publishing industry. When you do get that contract and have a new release, what sort of promo do you do?
I always put an excerpt, behind-the-scenes notes, a discussion guide, and recipes on my website, promote the book in my monthly e-newsletter (which goes to over 2500 people), and blog about it. In addition, I do some or all of the following: ARCs to key stores, reader groups, and review sites; excerpt booklets and bookmarks to stores, reader groups, conferences, reader luncheons; ads in RT BookReviews, Romance Writers Report, Romance Sells); produce a book video.
What's next for you, and what are you working on right now?
It’s been kind of a crazy winter with releases in November (“Too Hot to Handle” in Men on Fire from Kensington), December (Sex Drive from Kensington), January (Sex on the Beach from Berkley and Erotique: Carrie from Harlequin), February (Erotique: Jillian from Harlequin), March (“Private Eyes” in Some Like It Rough from Kensington and Erotique: Alex from Harlequin), and April (Love, Unexpectedly from Kensington). I’m also attending the RT Booklovers Convention later this month.
My next releases will be “Tattoos and Mistletoe” in the Brava Christmas anthology, The Naughty List (October), and a single title, Sex on the Slopes (in December, from Berkley). At the moment I have copy-edits to do on both of those, plus the third Wild Ride to Love book is due April 30. Its working title is His, Unexpectedly, and it’s tentatively scheduled for February 2011. After that, I’ll be working on another book for Berkley (working title Sex on the Sea), then the 4th and final Wild Ride to Love book. It’s a busy year!
Holy hell... Busy? I'd call that exhausting. I'm in awe of you. Seriously. Thanks for visiting us today, especially when you have so much on your plate already!
Are the rest of you impressed yet? I thought you would be. And aside from the hot titles mentioned, Susan also has a collection of sweet romances with The Wild Rose Press, called Calendar of Love.
For more information on Susan and all her other fabulous books, please visit her website.