How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?
I started writing books about age eight. I started writing seriously for publication in 1999 (won’t say how old I was then). I wrote seven romances and one mystery before my first acceptance. Sold romance ms #7 early in 2002, and mystery ms #1 later that year. Romance mss #1–#6 are best left gathering dust under the bed. I’ve sold about thirty-five or so books and novellas since then.
What was the most surprising thing you learned after becoming published?
1. That you really can make money being a full-time author; and 2. How books become USA Today or NY Times bestsellers (being a good book that readers like is only one part of it).
Got any advice or an enlightening story about dealing with revisions or working with editors?
I’ve been lucky to work with some terrific editors. I’ve had mss with very light revisions (one or two questions) all the way up to rewriting a third of the book.
A rule that’s helped me enormously is one I got from a college English professor. When he returned our papers, we weren’t allowed to contact him about them for 24 hours. He knew that we’d have a knee-jerk reaction to his grade, but after thinking about it for 24 hours, we’d be calm enough to either see what we’d done wrong or argue reasonably. So I employ the 24-hour rule for myself. I read through my editor’s suggestions, then think about it for 24 hours before contacting her with any questions. This has saved me from much embarrassment.
Working with editors is like being married—there’s a lot of give and take. If I’m convinced I’m right about a point, I will argue. Sometimes I win; sometimes the editor makes me understand her POV. I don’t think editors are always right (sorry, Kelli!), but I know I’m not always right either.
What’s your favorite promo tip?
Do what works for you (and what you can afford), and don’t sweat the rest. Keep your expenditure reasonable. Don’t spend $20K promo-ing one ebook that might make only $6K.
Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now?
I did not have an agent when I sold my first romance (Perils of the Heart, to a NY pub). My agent came on board after that and sold my first mystery series and a bunch more romances after that.
Do you feel there’s a stigma attached to writing erotica/Romantica™?
I think there is a stigma, but I can’t be paid to care. I enjoy writing erotic romance, the readers love reading it, and erotic romance readers are the friendliest bunch around. If someone doesn’t approve, tough darts. They can read something else.
How do you handle writer’s block, or do you believe there’s no such thing?
I have experienced writer’s block, which I call Writer’s Attitude or Writer’s Panic. I deal with it by making writing a habit. I can sit down for an hour, lock out all distractions with music on my iPod (no Internet allowed during the hour!), and write. I’ve trained myself over the years to crank out 1500 words an hour without realizing I’m doing it. If they’re terrible words, I’ll fix them later. The main thing is to get it down. If the novel turns out to be a very, very bad idea, I have no trouble throwing the whole thing away and starting again. Even if I’m in Writer’s Panic. Because I know I can crank out the words, because I’ve made it a habit.
What lengths have you gone to in the name of research? What wouldn’t you do?
My research tends to be the dull kind, sitting in libraries reading (well, I don’t think it’s dull, but anyone watching me would). I like to travel to the setting when I can or take up something to get into the mind of the character (I’ve learned how to oil paint, belly dance, and fence [with swords]). I’m a big chicken, so I doubt I’d skydive to write about a skydiver. I think I’d just interview people who’d done it. Nor will I attempt bank robbery to see how that feels. Of course, I’d probably get a lot of writing done after I was caught.
What’s the most importance piece of advice you have for aspiring (not yet published) authors?
Don’t. Give. Up. Ever. You really can get published (at a reputable publisher, for money). You really can have a career and make money. You just have to do it and never, ever, ever—even when it seems it’s frigging impossible—give up. And hone your craft. It does you no good to send in book after book that isn’t your very best work.
Would you offer any word of warning for aspiring or new authors about the writing profession or the publishing industry?
There are scammers everywhere, many with honest faces. Don’t EVER pay an agent or a publisher. They are supposed to pay you. (The money flows toward the author.) It’s terribly tempting, and they’ll spin you all kinds of tales, but the rule of thumb is—if they ask YOU for money, you walk. No negotiation. (If you’re thinking but…but…but… go back and read my first sentence again.)
Anything you want to share with readers about yourself, or previous, current or upcoming EC releases?
My most popular series at EC is the Tales of the Shareem series. The Shareem are big, bad gorgeous guys who were genetically created in a factory to do one thing—give sexual pleasure to women. They come in one of three flavors. Level 1, slow sensuality; Level 2, fun and wicked games; Level 3, the complete Dom.
I’ve done six of these tales—the first one is Rees, about the Shareem that never should have been made, one the researchers feared. The 5th book, Calder, was released in September 2009, and Eland, a short story, will be a free read (Naughty Nooner), released December 14 (2009).
The Shareem have their own page on my website (along with visuals) at http://www.allysonjames.com/ShareemSeries.html