Thursday, February 18, 2010

Authors Advising Authors #12 - Delphine Dryden

After earning two graduate degrees, practicing law awhile and then working for the public school system for over ten years, Delphine finally got a clue. She tossed all that aside and started doing what she should have been doing all along, writing novels! In hindsight she could see the decision was a no-brainer. Because which sounds like more fun? Being a lawyer/special educator/reading specialist/educational diagnostician…or writing spicy romances?

When not writing or doing “mommy stuff”, Delphine reads voraciously, watches home improvement shows, noodles around with html and css coding, and plays computer games with her darling (and very romantic) husband. She is fortunate enough to have two absurdly precocious children and two rotten but endearing rescued mutts. Delphine and her family are all Texas natives, and reside in unapologetic suburban bliss near Houston.


How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?

I was incredibly lucky and actually sold my first novel. Before that I had been writing (short stories, fan fiction, etc.) for about three years as a steady thing, but hadn’t tried my hand at any novel-length original works. And of course I’d been writing shorter things off and on all my life. I just never thought I could turn it into a “real” profession!

What was the most surprising thing you learned after becoming published?

Oh, gosh, so much about the whole process of getting a book edited and ready for publication was really surprising and interesting to me. It surprised me that I actually received reviews on well-known web sites (favorable reviews! Yay!) and that I received actual fan mail.

Got any advice or an enlightening story about dealing with revisions or working with editors?

Again, I was soooo lucky because my very first editor happened to be one to ride the river with (I love you, Kelli!). I think the most important things to remember when revising are humility, keeping an open mind, stifling those defensive impulses and remembering that your editor has made a career of improving novels before they’re published. If an editor makes a suggestion it never hurts to give it fair consideration, because chances are they do in fact know what they’re talking about. Your editor can teach you a lot about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, so you should pay attention and treat their comments as a series of little learning opportunities.

What’s your favorite promo tip?

Gosh, I’m the wrong person to ask, I’m a total neophyte at marketing myself, still. Just about all publicity is good publicity, though.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now?

Nope, and nope again.

Do you feel there’s a stigma attached to writing erotica/Romantica™?

Yes, I do think there is a stigma attached to writing erotica, particularly if you’re talking about erotica that includes BDSM or other non-vanilla themes. When asked about my novels by, say, my mother’s friends, I usually make a show of saying the “E” word behind my hand, whispering it and lifting my eyebrows suggestively: “I write erotica, actually.” (Subtext: Ooh, isn’t it just too droll and deliciously outrageous of me to do something so naughty?).

I try to avoid sounding apologetic, because I don’t feel any shame in what I do. But it’s true that I almost never add, “and a lot of it involves bondage and spanking and other similar delights,” because while people might buy my usual assertion that Romantica™ ebooks are the Harlequin™ romance of the twenty-first century, I do think a lot of people still have a very narrow view of what constitutes “romance” and are all too likely to slip into the assumption that anything outside that category must be “porn”. And I think everybody can agree there’s a stigma surrounding that.

How do you handle writer’s block, or do you believe there’s no such thing?

I don’t know if there is such a thing as writer’s block, unless a particular writer thinks of it as a block. I think of it as writer’s stagnation. When your ideas dry up or just can’t get free, you can’t figure out where the characters are heading, and you wonder whether you will ever finish this damn book anyway.

I think the trick is to avoid a “blocked” feeling by shifting your focus elsewhere for a time. That’s usually what helps me the most. Write a different part of the book you’re working on, or work on a different story completely, or brainstorm new ideas and write up any scenes or character descriptions that seem promising based on those ideas (even if you have no place to put them yet). Keep writing, in other words. Eventually you’ll write your way back into your novel. Sometimes with a great new idea for a character or scene!

What lengths have you gone to in the name of research? What wouldn’t you do?

*blush* I have gone to great lengths in the name of research, and that is all I’m gonna say about that.

As far as what I won’t do…water sports, scat, any type of blood play and strenuous and/or predicament bondage. And I feel it’s only fair to admit that the only thing keeping me from trying predicament bondage is a touch of arthritis in my back and hip, and a long history of bad knees. Safety first! There isn’t much that’s less sexy than stopping a scene because of arthritis.

What’s the most importance piece of advice you have for aspiring (not yet published) authors?

Write. A lot. If you can’t figure out what to write about, write about whatever springs to mind. Write snippets of scenes or character descriptions that come to mind (carry a Moleskine™ notebook around like Ernest Hemingway did!). Look at the world around you every day and write about that. Write short stories. Write poetry. Write fan fiction. Find an online group that does challenges, and write challenge responses. Meet with other writers, either in person or over the internet, and exchange feedback about what you’re writing. Try National Novel Writing Month (, which is one of the best trial-by-fire writing exercises ever. My first sale was a Nanowrimo book!

Would you offer any word of warning for aspiring or new authors about the writing profession or the publishing industry?

Research your potential market. Find out what the various publishing houses tend to buy, by looking at their author guidelines and by reading books they’ve published. Find out what the different publishers’ submission guidelines are, and follow them scrupulously. Writing is an art, but if you want other people to read what you’ve written you must also recognize that publishing is a business, and you must research the business aspects of publishing. Your brilliant manuscript will never get through the editor’s door if it isn’t in the right format, or if it isn’t something that particular publisher wants to handle.

My main warning would be not to get discouraged, though. If you’ve gotten enough positive feedback to know you have some amount of talent, go ahead and keep polishing your work and sending it to different publishing houses until you find a fit. A close friend of mine submitted his first novel to fifty-three different publishers before finding a buyer. Now his book is not only published, it’s been turned into a stage play. So keep trying, but in the meantime keep practicing and improving your skills at the craft of writing.

Anything you want to share with readers about yourself, or previous, current or upcoming EC releases?

I love writing for EC, and I’m very excited about the new series I’m working on, Truth & Lies. It’s about a bunch of quirky hometown kids who are all grown up now and trying to figure out complicated stuff like life, love, cybersex and where to buy the best rope for tying up your partner! The first book, How to Tell a Lie, was released on November 27th; another three books are planned and I’m writing like a mad woman, so check back frequently for updates!


Barbara Elsborg said...

And where do I get the best rope to tie up my partner? Damn frisky beast!

Interesting interview Delphine!

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