Megan's first book, A ROYAL PAIN, is coming out from Sourcebooks just a couple of days before the 2012 Southern Magic Readers' Luncheon. Publisher's Weekly gave A ROYAL PAIN a starred review, calling it "A delightful love story… worth reading again and again."
Megan will be joining us at the Readers' Luncheon (featuring Sherrilyn Kenyon) in Birmingham on November 3rd, but she stopped by today to talk about her book and writing. Be sure to leave a comment below, and you'll be entered to win a gift card and a copy of Megan's upcoming release, A ROYAL PAIN. AND you'll be entered to win the grand prize in the Blog Blitz--a Kindle Fire.
I started following you on Twitter a while back when someone retweeted a link to your blog post "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Romance Novel." In the post, you talk about your journey toward loving romance novels, a journey made more difficult because you, like much of society, is trained to think of them as not being "real" literature. So much of what you said, I could have written myself. I think I went through pretty much the same journey toward reading romance (including the early discovery of Amanda Quick), so I wonder, what made you take the leap from devouring Romance novels to creating them?
Taking the leap: after reading all the Amanda Quick, Julia Quinn, and Judith McNaught that I could get my hands on, I felt like there was a world I wanted to read about that had all the attention to manners and modes of dress and social mores that I love in Regency romances, but that would also be modern and steamy. I know the Regency romances can be steamy, but I guess I wanted it sexually liberated…not oh-we've-had-sex-so-I-we'll-have-to-get-married type sex. (Although I love that too!) After that seed was planted in my mind, the manuscript just sort of fell into place. I think after reading hundreds of those books in a year, something happened to me sort of like what Malcolm Gladwell described in Outliers. The structure and tropes and expectations became sort of internalized. I knew what I loved about those books and I wanted to create the same feelings in my readers (easier said than done).
Hundreds in a year? Sounds exactly like what I did a few years ago. Until then, I'd never picked up a romance, and at first I told myself that it was just "research," that I was learning about the genre. I still wasn't thinking about writing yet, but I wasn't wrong. All that reading did teach me about the genre, probably better than any craft book could.
So tell us a little about your path to publication: Once you started writing, when did you feel like you had a book that was ready? How many manuscripts did you go through before you landed an agent and then a publisher for A ROYAL PAIN?
Ready? You're hilarious. Just last week I turned in second-round edits on my second book and I still don't think it's ready. But I guess that's the point. My husband often accuses me of being rash, the phrase shoot-first-aim-later comes to mind. There's a component to all of this that requires the writer to just say, "Screw it." As long as I keep telling myself that my books are no better or worse than what's out there, I seem to move forward. It's about letting go. Also, in terms of endless self-editing, I don't notice much difference between things I've self-edited twice and things I've self-edited ten times. So I'll go with the twice, thanks.
I wrote one full manuscript before A Royal Pain.
I love that--the "screw it" approach. And I think you're right. I always feel like sending your work out into the world takes something between courage and blissful naiveté. But it also takes that willingness to let the work go and to stop believing in perfection.
Speaking of perfection, your debut novel, A ROYAL PAIN, is coming out from Sourcebooks on November 1st. Tell us a little about the book.
Here's the party line: "Bronte Talbott follows all of the exploits of the British royals. After all, they're the world's most preeminent dysfunctional family. And who is she to judge? Bronte's own search for love isn't going all that well, especially after her smooth-talking Texan boyfriend abruptly leaves her in the dust. Bronte keeps a lookout for a rebound to help mend her broken heart, and when she meets Max Heyworth, she's certain he's the perfect transitional man. But when she discovers he's a duke, she has to decide if she wants to stay with him for the long haul and deal with the opportunities-- and challenges-- of becoming a royal."
It's pretty hard for me to see the story objectively because I get lost down the rabbit holes of Bronte's neurotic nature, Max's veiled arrogance, the Duchess's control issues, etc. But that pretty much sums it up. (And beautiful clothes! And jewelry! And kissing!)
I was lucky enough to read A ROYAL PAIN back when it was still in the edits. One of my absolute favorite parts is your heroine, Bronte. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that she's an amazingly complex character, and one that you can't help but root for. I loved her strengths and the way her past shaped her, and I especially loved her proclivity to use four-letter words. Was there a part of her story that you found hard to write or to make feel authentic?
I was lucky enough to have you read it! Unfortunately, it was far too easy for me to make Bronte feel authentic. I can totally relate to her! When beta readers started coming back with comments like, "I love how screwed up she is." I was sort of like, "Oh! Ha! Right." Shit. I take heart in lofty quotes from writers like Somerset Maugham that good fiction is "emotionally autobiographical" or something like that.
I did have a hard time working through Bronte's issues with her father, because he was such a prick and I couldn't relate to that with "emotionally autobiographical honesty." Turns out most people I know have good dads, but after a little while it wasn't too hard to meet some whose fathers were jerks. As a writer, once you start casting about, you'll usually happen upon good examples of bad behavior pretty quickly.
Tell us a little about Max--Bronte's love interest in the story. Did you have anyone in mind when you came up with him?
I had Fitzwilliam Darcy in mind. And occasionally Clive Owen, when I wanted a bit o' rough. Need I say more?
No. Not at all. *sigh*
I know you're hard at work on edits for the other books in the series. How has writing and editing the second and third books been different for you than writing and selling that first one was?
This has been so on my mind lately. The fast drafts of the first three books in the series flew out of my brain like a hose on full-spray. Up all night. Feverish writing sprints. Then A Royal Pain got a major makeover when I was in the getting-an-agent phase. My agent also happens to be an amazing editor in her own right and really helped make the book what it is today. Then it got another makeover once it got to the publisher. (We want it to sell? Remember?) I feel like it went through several unique iterations.
Now, with books two and three it's more like I write it and send it to my editor and it's much quicker. My agent still reads everything I write, but this time it was like, "Great! Send it to Sourcebooks!" And I was like, "Uh. Okay."
Also, with books two and three, I am dealing with the issues of what my editor calls "reader expectations," or what we've promised the reader. Being edited is one of the best experiences of my professional life. I storm around like a toddler for about ten minutes after the editorial call: "She wants me to what?! I have to change what?! Open the book with the hero?!" And then about an hour later I'm like, "That's such a good idea. Why didn't I think of that?" For book three, I'm probably going to re-write or add about a third of the book based on editorial input. That's the major difference.
Finally, I know we met on Twitter--What advice do you have for new or debut authors for using social media or the web to promote yourself or your books?
Since I'm on a Somerset Maugham kick, here's what he has to say: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” The same could be said about a social media strategy. I am not a strategic person. I have no idea. I just push forward and hope I don't leave too much of a wake in my path. For me, the main thing to remember is that if I think I'm pulling the wool over someone's eyes or being really clever, I'm probably not.
I disagree with writers who say "Turn off the Internet!" or "Go into your writing cave!" First of all, I don't have the luxury of all that spelunking. Two kids. Dog. Husband. (I am humming "Nice work if you can get it…"). I use Twitter as a writing tool. I use the #1k1hr hashtag almost everyday. When I was on the agent search I used the #askagent hashtag and followed lots of agents. When I was on submission I followed lots of editors. These people make themselves available to you! Use them! But mainly, Twitter is a great place to be with other writers. My closest writer-friends are people I first met on Twitter (then met in person at RWA and/or RT conferences). In terms of how promotion and social media actually sell books…I'll have to let you know in November. My primary job is (and always will be I hope!) writing the books. Having an agent and a publisher puts a lot of the major promotional stuff into far more capable hands than mine.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Megan!
Thank you so much for having me at Romance Magicians! I can't wait to meet you in person (finally!) in Birmingham!
Because this interview is part of the Southern Magic Blog Blitz, we're giving away prizes! Leave a comment about how social media has helped you meet authors or readers, and you'll be entered to win a $20 gift card from Amazon or Barnes and Nobel (your choice!) AND a copy of Megan's upcoming release, A ROYAL PAIN. All comments will also be entered to win the grand prize: A Kindle Fire!