Friday, November 2, 2007

The Maven Interview with Stephanie Rowe!

The winner of our Choose Your Own Adventure® title contest is Bill Clark with The Cotswold Curse: Being the True Story of the Late Mysterious Happenings in Rural Oxfordshire, Together With the Perilous Adventures of Miss Mary Goodweather and Her Pesky Virginhood! Bill, send along your address because we've got a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts with your name on 'em!
Guest Maven Stephanie Rowe

Today, we are excited to have Rita-nominated author Stephanie Rowe with us. Stephanie also writes young adult as Stephie Davis. We peppered her with questions and she graciously shared some great information and experience! Feel free to ask questions in the comments as Stephanie will be around a bit today. Stephanie’s newest release is Sex and the Immortal Bad Boy.

When did you decide to try for a career in writing?

I decided for a career in writing when I came to the conclusion that there was no job on this earth that I could deal with except writing. I’d spend several years soul searching, trying to find the job that I could do happily for the next forty years. I did all the career workshops etc, and finally realized that writing was the only thing that fit. I’d dabbled in writing before, but more to amuse myself and escape from the reality of the killer-day-job (hey, it *looks* like I’m working if I’m actually typing a book, right?), but I hadn’t really been considering it a career. Until then. At that point, I sat myself down at the computer and decided to write a book and see what I thought. It didn’t take long before I was completely hooked, and I knew that was what I needed to do for the rest of my life. And then 18 full manuscripts and 7 partials later, I was published.

How much like "real" life were your first book(s)?

I think they were very grounded in my real life, as are many first books by novelists, but that’s okay. It’s difficult enough to write, you might as well make it easy on yourself by writing about something you know well, right? Of course, none of the books of my heart came remotely close to selling, because, quite frankly, my life isn’t that interesting. It wasn’t until I really grasped the concept of *fiction* that my books actually had a story worth telling.

Do you have a "call" story you wouldn't mind sharing, as far as landing an agent, then landing your first contract?

I snagged my first agent after only about 130 rejections, but then, I’ve always been an overachiever... anyhoodles, I had queried my agent (among others) and was waiting on a response, when I finalled in the Golden Heart in 2003. I immediately emailed her (and all the other agents) and told her that I’d finalled in the GH, mentioned that we were both invited to the GH reception, so maybe I’d see her there, and giving her an update on the status of my projects. She offered me representation a week later. I know she read my book that fast because of the GH final, so, although finalling in the GH seems so remote, I really believe it’s worth the $50 to enter, because you just never know.

My first sale was a YA to Dorchester, and it’s entirely my agent’s fault. The YA market was just heating up and she told me that I’d have a great YA voice and asked me to write something she could slide over to Dorchester for the opening of this new line. I did, she slid, and the offer rolled in. I cried. How could I not? It was incredible. Then I sold my first adult book a few weeks later (it had just won the 2004 GH) to Harlequin after a lengthy process of the revise & resubmit game with the editor. Then Dorchester’s YA line folded and the Harlequin line I wrote for folded and all the lessons I’d learned as an unpub about how to persevere through bad news and frustrating times kept me going.

How much plotting do you do before beginning a book? How close is the finished product to what you originally envision?

This process is constantly evolving for me. I used to do an 80 page outline, and then abandon it halfway through. Then I did nothing but start to write. Then I started doing extensive character sketches, and then I did random brainstorming of plot, character and whatever else, and then after about 25 pages of single spaced notes, I would put together a synopsis to try to organize my thoughts. I have recently concluded that this approach is no longer sufficient, and for my next book, I am going to put together an extensive and detailed outline that I hope will help me create the story I want, and help alleviate my tendency to run into brick walls and start over several times per book (there’s nothing fun about starting completely over when you’re on page 300 and only two weeks away from your deadline)...

How much plotting do you do before beginning a connected series (for example, your recent Mona series and your upcoming paranormal series)?

Obviously, I do a lot more plotting before a connected series than I do for single book. The paranormal suspense trilogy I have coming out in 2008 required a tremendous amount of pre-work because I had to create an overarching plot to span all three books, as well as a standalone subplot for each book. It was a great learning experience for me, for sure!

How much planning do you do in advance to develop characters and character arcs? Do the characters "surprise" you along the way?

I really map out my characters well, and they do not tend to surprise me. I am not one of those authors who claims the characters control the story. I control the story and the characters and if it doesn’t work, it’s my fault. Don’t get me wrong, I completely think of them as real people, but they are real people who are not separate from me. They are real people who are a part of me; we are one and the same. Does that make sense?

Do you have critique partners and/or plotting buddies? What are suggestions/concerns to keep in mind regarding those?

I actually do not have any critique partners or plotting buddies. I am a one-person-show, for better or for worse. The only people who get to read my book before it hits the shelf are my agent and editor, and they don’t see it or hear any details until it’s finished. I like the independence of being on my own, and I like the challenge. It works for me, so I guess I’ll stick with it, though sometimes I do feel somewhat like a deviant child when everyone around me is talking about their fantastic critique partners...

Do you love or hate synopses? What's the best way to tackle them?

Synopses don’t bother me at all ever since I discovered Lisa Gardner’s workshop on synopsis writing. It can be found on her website or on the Rose City Romance Writers website. It is, quite truly, the very best synopsis aid I’ve found, and it makes it so easy to write them.

You write on a fairly fast-paced schedule. What do you do to keep yourself on track and how much time do you spend writing vs. non-writing, but necessary-for-the-writing-career tasks every day?

I have my daily schedule written out for every single day from when I start writing a book until I turn it in. I know exactly what page I need to get to each day, and I stick to it. I have all sorts of charts and spreadsheets to track my work and help me set goals that work for me. Writing comes first, and other writing related tasks like responding to email or updating my website don’t get addressed until my page quota is done for the day. If I’m struggling with a book, that could mean that I get very behind on those things, but that’s okay. Writing is my priority because if I don’t write books, there will be none of the other stuff to do... I write about six hours a day, seven days a week. At the end of the book, I may write more than that, but I try not to until I’m near the end or I’ll burn myself out. I write 12 new pages/day minimum, but I aim for 20. But if I hit 12, I’m good. If I go over, then it’s icing. Honestly, I almost always come in with at least 18, which is why my goal is 12. That way, every day, I can feel good about my production. It’s all psychological games, really. But if I go over 25, then I need to be careful not to burn myself out if I’m still early in the book.

Thanks so much for having me!! I’m so thrilled to be here!

And thanks for being here, Stephanie! Go ahead and post your questions/comments. One lucky random poster will receive a signed book from Stephanie's backlist!


Anonymous said...

Where do you get your ideas for writing your paranormals? Also
who was your favorite character to write about? Hope you had a great Halloween.

Erica Ridley said...

Stephanie!!! Yay! Love you, love your books, got Sex & the Immortal Bad Boy right here within reach. =)

Thanks for the awesome interview! You amaze me with your perseverance and productivity. So glad you kept writing, and can't wait for the new series to hit the shelves!

Angie Fox said...

Stephanie! I just love your books. And it's so interesting to hear how you work. Your productivity is simply amazing - and folks - her books are funny, engaging and downright impossible to put down. Can't wait to go pick up my copy of Sex and the Immortal Bad Boy today!

Anonymous said...

Hi again Stephanie! :-)

I can't rave enough about Stephanie's books and Stephanie herself. Just an amazingly sweet, generous person and a darn good writer to boot! I love the paranormals and can't wait to pick up the Immortal Bad Boy.

Bill Clark said...

Six hours a day, 18 pages - pretty impressive stuff! Do you do the six hours non-stop (e.g., 6 AM to noon), or do you allow yourself coffee and water cooler breaks?

Bill is humbly grateful for the honor of naming the Mavens' fabulous CYOA(R) story. And even more grateful for the forthcoming box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts! :-)

But the most wonderful thing of all to come out of this whole glorious adventure were the nine little letters in yesterday's blog thread typed by Miss Erica:

I love Bill...

No sooner had my eyes reached this point than I fainted away from sheer happiness. Say no more, Miss Erica, say no more;, Bill is willin'.

*Bill goes off humming Mendelssohn's Wedding March and wondering if Miss Erica will wear her Bride of Frankenstein costume to her own wedding*

lacey kaye said...

wondering if Miss Erica will wear her Bride of Frankenstein costume to her own wedding

Bill, you always crack me up.

I (heart) Stephanie Rowe! She's everything everyone has already said she is. Wacky, sweet, fun, generous, approachable, and a fantastulistic writer. Thanks for interviewing! And thanks for a great weekend!

Stephanie Rowe said...

Thanks everyone, for yoru comemnts!

Kimberly--The ideas from my paranormals come from the big black abyss that masquerades as my brain... LOL... JK. Actually, all my ideas start in different places, with different inspiration. Two of my series started with a conversation with a stranger who had an interesting background that sparked an idea, which led to another and another...

My favorite character to write about is usually the book I'm working on at the moment. I think it's becuase I'm so immersed in their world and their minds, and I am so desperate to see them get their happy ending, that I can think of no one else until that character is where they need to be.

Stephanie Rowe said...

Erica--thanks for having me! You're a goddess!

Hi Angie! Thanks for your nice words. Hey, you guys, I had the priviledge of reading Angie's new book already and it's AWESOME!! I can't wait for it to come out!

And Kirsten--YOU rock! Gang, I swear I didn't pay her to say that, but she's just the nicest person EVER and would say that about anyone.

Stephanie Rowe said...

Hi Bill

I do take breaks. THey are mostly forced b/c I have a toddler, so I can only work so long before distractions arise. I have, however, concluded that when I start to get tired, I need to break instead of pushing onward. If I push too hard, then efficiency and quality suffers, and then I'm wasting my time. A good pick-me-up is to hop on the exercise bike for 45 minutes and get some adrenaline going.

Stephanie Rowe said...

Lacey, you ROCK! Thanks for the nice words!

Darcy Burke said...

Thanks for the awesome interview Stephanie and for being with us today! If you haven't met Stephanie in person, make sure you do so at the next conference or wherever you may see her. She's one of the most gracious, talented, and fun people I've ever met. And she writes awesomely hot books!

Hi Kirsten and Angie, thanks for coming by! *waves*

Vicki said...

Stephanie, welcome to the Maven's home. :)

What helped you too continue on when you received the rejections? Which, by the way, I'm forever thankful that you did. :)

Jackie Barbosa said...

Wow, Stephanie! I have to say, I'm so impressed that you can write consistently when you have a toddler. When I had toddlers, my brain was mush :)!

I'm curious to know how many of those 18 full manuscripts you wrote before being published have now BEEN published and how many are in the Magical Mulch Pile under the bed? One of my constant struggles is whether I should keep trying to salvage a manuscript I know isn't quite what it needs to be to sell because I went to all the effort of writing it in the first place or whether I should just move on.

And Bill, if Erica comes to your wedding in her Bride of Frankenstein costume, will you come as Viscount Nightshade?

Bill Clark said...

Umm...I'm not sure Viscount Nightshade ever got over his performance problem, which would not augur well for our married life, let alone the patter of little distracting toddler feet around the probably not.

I guess the appropriate garb would be that of the good Dr. Frankenstein himself - who, BTW, is not to be confused (as he so often is) with the monster he created. If you've ever read Mary Shelley's novel, you will remember that Dr. F was a well-intentioned scientist whose noble Promethean experiment went sadly awry.

I think his mistake was in trying to create human life other than by the tried-and-true old-fashioned way. My preference (and I hope Miss E will agree) is to stay with the basics that have served the human race well since the days of Adam and Eve...hmmm...maybe we can dress up in fig leaves and then go off to create our own little race of literary geniuses in our very own Garden of Eden...whaddya think? ;-)

Stephanie Rowe said...

Vicki--My strategy for making it through those times when the rejectiosn pile up and all hope seems lost is to structure things so there are little reward coming through to perk me up. As an unpublished author, I *always* had submissions out there and I *always* had contest entries out there. Lots of both. That way, even when I got a rejection and got really down, there was always the chance that something good would be happening later that day or that week. I always gave myself the opportunity to have hope, and, more often that not, the worst rejections would always be followed by some little tidbit of good news, like a contest final or a request for a partial. I also subscribed (and still do), to making daily writing goals that are easily attainable. Then, every night, I could pat myself on the back and feel good about accomplishing something. Those little feel-good-self-accolades were critical for keeping on.

Jacqueline- As for my stack of unpublished mss, of the 18 fulls I'd written when I sold, only 17 & 18 went on to be published. The others never sold because they were fatally flawed. I tried to rework a couple of them, but it was a waste of my time because, by reworking them, I found it impossible to truly break away from the framework I'd originally created, and that framework was fatally flawed. The reason I had so many completed books before I sold is because I did (and still do) believe that reworking flawed manuscripts is time better spent starting fresh.

Anonymous said...

Hey Stephanie! Thanks for doing this interview. Your first sale story was so inspiring. I'm also very, very glad that you kept writing because I love your books :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie,

I hope I'm not to late. If you could pick one thing you wished you'd known before you published, what would that be?

Stephanie Rowe said...

Hmm... Beverly... tough question... I think I wish I'd known more about the publishing industry so I could have made better choices along the line, instead of trying to play catch up with choices I made with somewhat inadequate information...

robynl said...

Your perseverance astonishes me; you go girl!!! You are a new author to me and I checked out your web site. Love some of the book titles such as If the Shoe Fits.

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