Michelle Rowen is author of Bitten & Smitten, a Warner Books publication released in January 2006, and Angel With Attitude, to be released in July 2006. If you haven't already, check out Michelle's blog. She is also a guest blogger at Warner Women.
First of all Michelle, I’d like to congratulate you not only on the sale of your first book, Bitten & Smitten (and subsequent books, Angel With Attitude and Fanged & Fabulous), but also on the tremendous success of Bitten & Smitten.
Tremendous success? What have you heard? Who have you been talking to? I mean... Thank You.
Please tell me how you went from unpublished writer to novelist:
I've always wanted to be a writer. Since I was about 12 years old or so it's been my major dream. It just seemed so glamourous (that has since been disproven). But I never finished anything I wrote. Nothing. I'd just get bored with it and start something else. The first long piece of fiction I finished was my Nanowrimo 2003 novel. And that was less than three years ago!
So, I always knew I WANTED to be a writer, but I wasn't putting in the necessary time or effort. Well, I finally made it a priority in my life. I wrote the novel I wanted to write. I felt it was good (or, at least, it didn't suck enough for me to hide it away forever). So I researched every aspect of publishing I could. Like, I could teach classes on the subject now. Seriously. I probably spent two hours a day for more than six months reading everything on the internet about other authors, publishing houses, how to get an agent, etc.
So I had a manuscript. I knew I needed an agent if I wanted the big publishers to look at it. So I made my list developed from my internet research. I honestly didn't really consider failure as a possible outcome. I just assumed, by what I'd read, that it would take a while...and I'd made my peace with that. I wrote a KICK-ASS query letter (if ah do say so mahself). The letter and my synopsis probably took me the better part of a week to put together. And then I started attacking my agent list. Surprisingly enough, the second agent I queried asked to see the full manuscript, and he offered me representation. Shortly after, I got a two-book contract with Warner Books.
What was “The Call” like for you?
My agent called me at the day job to tell me that we had an offer on the table. This happened only 24 hours after he'd sent out the manuscripts. I was seriously stunned. And I felt a little sick to my stomach. Not because it was a bad thing, but because I felt like I had whiplash. After all my research, I'd expected to have a little time to get adjusted to the whole process. But they say that when major things happen in life, they happen fast. I don't know who says that. But you know what I mean. Anyhoo, we gave the other houses a week to counter-offer, and Warner did, and that's the publisher I went with. Very exciting stuff.
Since selling your first book, Warner has expressed interest in more of your work. Can you tell us how that came about and how you feel?
How do I feel? Incredibly relieved and grateful. When they bought BITTEN & SMITTEN I had already started work on ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE. That was something I was planning on finishing anyhow, whether or not it was contracted. But once that was finished, I immediately started thinking about securing my next contract. When B&S received such good feedback from both Warner and top reviewers like Publishers Weekly, I thought I may as well pitch the sequel and potential series of the same characters. Luckily my editor and I seem to be on the same wavelength and this was something she was very open to. I had to write a proposal (a synopsis and 2 chapters) which went through one revision before it was accepted. The process is somewhat stressful, but rather straightforward. But since I tend to mentally live in the future, I'm already thinking about my NEXT proposal.
Please tell me how you developed Sarah Dearly (main character in Bitten & Smitten) and if and when we get to see more of her:
BITTEN & SMITTEN was developed as my project for the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Course I took over two years ago. Each assignment had to do with a very particular element of writing a novel: 1) Idea, 2) Characters, 3) Setting, and so forth. I knew I wanted to do an "everygal" kind of character. Somebody easy to identify with. But the Sarah on paper -- a shrinking violet who came out of her shell after becoming a vampire -- dissolved as soon as I started writing chapter one. She ended up being way more sarcastic and gutsy than I thought she'd be. She really took on a life of her own and became very "real."
When I first thought of the idea, I'd always imagined it to be a longer story than just one book, and I'm so excited that I have the chance to continue to follow Sarah's story in the sequel FANGED & FABULOUS, and whatever may come after that! It's really a dream come true. Now I just have to wake up and write the book! ;-)
They say humour is very difficult to write successfully. How do you do it?
That's a tough question, because I don't try to write funny. It's not a matter of saying, okay a joke has to go on this page, and two on the next. When I get into the zone, and I'm really in my character's head, it just happens. I'm incredibly sarcastic in real life (sometimes to a fault). I amuse myself with my own humor, so I guess a lot of the humor in my books comes from my own viewpoint on the world.
You are very active in the writing community (Toronto Chapter of RWA, Michelle Rowen Blog, Warner Women Blog, etc.). How does this help you as a writer?
It helps to keep me connected to other people. Being a writer is a very isolating job. When I was working on my first manuscript, it really didn't even occur to me to join a writer's group. I'm easily intimidated, and being around hundreds of women with exactly the same goal as me - to get published - wasn't something my ego needed at the time. I actually didn't join RWA until after I was contracted...mostly because until my book was bought, I didn't even consider myself to be a romance author. I'm still not entirely convinced. ;-) And blogs are great because I've always been one to keep a journal... but the fact that it's public gives it just a little extra something. It's not for everyone, but it works for me, and I've developed some regular readers whom I appreciate big time.
Please take us through a typical writing day in the life of Michelle Rowen.
Typical writing day if it's a day job work day: Brainstorm notes on my lunch hour. Write for an hour before going to sleep (I love my laptop).
Typical writing day weekend: I write all afternoon, with regular Diet Coke breaks. Dinner break. Then sometimes I'll write for a couple hours in the evening.
No music, no sound. I don't like to be interrupted. I can get very cranky if that happens. More so than normal, anyhow. I also keep a parallel journal with each book so I can "talk out" the scene I'm about to write.
I really don't have a typical writing day. If I can get an hour or two in then I'm happy. If not, then I don't sweat it. When I'm in what I call the "zone", I can write almost 2000 words an hour, so it definitely adds up quickly. The most I ever wrote in one day was nearly 8K, and I was feeling a little twitchy after that.
What is the one most important skill/habit/discipline a successful writer must have?
Perseverance. And not just in the pursuit of getting published. A novel is a long, long thing. There are a whole lot of pages in a full-length novel. And they don't all get written in one day. When you get to that middle part where you're saying to yourself: "Okay this sucks. What was I thinking? How about this other idea that looks so much better..." Just keep with it. Once you get to THE END, then the fun really begins.
What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?
Write what you love to read. Tell the best story you can. Don't worry about selling anything, or what your pen name is going to be until you've got something to sell (okay, I didn't take my advice on this one, but it really is a big waste of time). Network with other writers. Go to conferences, conventions. Don't be shy. Learn as much as you can about the craft, about the business, about marketing -- all this information is readily available on the internet through author websites, Writer's Digest online, agent websites, etc. Educate yourself about the business, because writing really is a business. BELIEVE in yourself and BELIEVE in your story. And don't forget to have fun.
Michelle Rowen lives just outside Toronto with an evil cat and a poster of Hugh Jackman. For more info about Michelle and her books, visit http://www.michellerowen.com/.