"Davidson’s chick-lit series featuring a shoe-obsessed vampire, claws its way to No. 15 on the hardcover fiction list this week. Davidson’s titles are relentlessly negative — “Undead and Unwed,” “Undead and Unemployed,” “Undead and Unappreciated,” “Undead and Unreturnable” — but the author herself, who lives in Minnesota, comes off as unflappably undepressed, not to mention just as feisty and foul-mouthed as her characters. A few years ago, Davidson had some choice words in response to an interviewer’s question about the stigma attached to romance novels: “Look, you’ll never ever see a man apologize for what he’s reading. Ever! He could be reading, oh, I dunno, yet another book in the Executioner series” — the hardware-heavy pulp series that has sold some 200 million copies worldwide since 1969 — “and he’s certainly not going to apologize to the gal sitting next to him in the subway. And why the hell should he? He’s reading a book, he’s not hurting anybody. So why do we feel like we have to explain ourselves if a panting, heaving, naked-to-the-waist Fabio is on the book cover?”
Monday, July 26, 2010
With the uproar over UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED, I've been wondering what to blog this week. Something soothing, sure. "There, there. You're getting sleepy...sleeeeepy...soon it will be July 2011..." Something polite: "I'm sorry you set your house on fire to get away from my book, would you like a free bookmark?" Something snarky: "But you realize that my book didn't move under its own power. You could have burned U&U and spared your house, asshat."
Finally, I just figured I'd break-down the process of writing a successful paranormal series. Many, many people have e-mailed me explaining that they could write a much better Undead book. Or that my work isn't good enough for them, but it once was, so I should get my thumb out of my ass and get back to writing good. (I didn't bother correcting them on "writing good" but boyyyy, it was tempting.) Or I owe them an apology for the epilogue from UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED...them, and all their friends and family and neighbors who got hooked on the Betsy series. Or because they didn't like 2 pages out of 3,000 from the series, I should hang up my laptop forever. Or I owe it to them to write faster, so they don't have to wait a whole year to find out how I fixed things.
Any writer has to take the good with the bad, and most of that rolls off my back. (Hmm, write faster...how could I not have thought of that one? Write faster! It makes so much sense! Here I've stupidly been writing as slowly as I could, but that Write Faster idea might just be the ticket! My God, it's brilliant...) But the ones that crack me up the most are the ones who tell me they could write a much better book than Unfinished, and/or a much better series than Undead. Weirdly, when I ask why they haven't gotten around to that, I just get various mis-spelled swear words as a reply. (It makes me miss my late, alcoholic grandpa.)
So I figured I'd help out the disgruntled readers by breaking down what I've done. They can look at the list, and then they'll know exactly how to write better books than me.
1) Invent a new sub-genre. It's helpful to be the pioneer blazing the blah-blah trail...if you're the first one writing in, say, paranormal chick lit, nobody can tell you you're breaking the rules. Well, they could, but that gives you license to explain to them just how asshat-esque they are.
2) Come up with a simple concept that would be fine as a single title, but which down the line could become a popular series. But come up with the concept having NO idea it will become a popular series. Thus: UNDEAD AND UNWED.
3) Once your editor has offered a contract for more Undead books, think up a couple more and write them while juggling a husband, 2 dogs, 2 kids, and various SDJs (Stupid Day Jobs) you hate. Learn to love the phrase, "It's 10:00 p.m., kids are in bed, everybody's been fed, and I don't have to get up for six whole hours! So I'll write 20 pages tonight."
4) Write the series so well, and get so many book sales, that your publisher starts printing your books as hard covers, not paperbacks. This will be huge for your career, because there are readers who ONLY buy hard covers. An entire reading audience who didn't know you existed will now start buying your stuff. Another part of the reading audience will assume the change was your decision and it's just a greedy grab for more money. It's best to get used to that; it won't be the last time readers assume a change in your series is all about you being a greedy, lazy cow. (God help me, when the In Death series went to hardcover, I had such nasty things to say about J.D. Robb, who is trillionare writer Nora Roberts. "Jeez, Robb, did the pool room need a pool room? What's wrong, the eighty-six mansions you've got just aren't enough anymore?" I honestly thought it was her decision. So two months later when my agent told me UNDEAD would be going to hardcover, I was all, "Touche, J.D." That'll teach me to piss and moan. Well. You'd think it would, anyway.)
5) Make the USA Today best-seller list for the first time.
6) Make the NYT best-seller list for the first time.
7) Make them both with your next book.
8) Now make them both with every book you write, in all series, and all anthologies you're in, without fail, all the time.
9) Keep to your contract, make your deadlines, help your publisher help you: if you're invited to a marketing meeting, go. If they want you to come to a Book Expo, go. If they want you to go on book tour, go. MSNBC to talk abou Twilight? Go. ABC, for same? Go. If they want you to play the fiddle on Park Avenue while reciting passages from your work-in-progress, you better call Schmitt Music and arrange a rental.
10) Keep writing best-sellers.
11) Keep writing books that sell better than the last book.
12) Keep writing books that the majority of readers like.
13) Cover new ground and introduce new characters without upsetting your readers...while at the same time making readers feel comfortable with what you've already established.
14) Don't get stagnant.
15) Don't shake things up too badly.
16) Find a way to summarize the previous 9 books in a way that will help a newbie tackling book 10, without massively irritating readers who've been hanging in there for all 10 books.
17) Do all this in six years.
So! I've explained how to do it...piece of cake, right? So go on, you l'il whippersnappers! Show me how it's done. :-)
Oh...I leave you with the New York Times Review of Books, who outed me as unapologetic. What can I say? You can take the girl out of the trailer park...
From the New York Times Review of Books:
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED is making a splash. It's number 15 on the New York Times best seller list, and has made lists for USA Today, Barnes & Noble, and BGI so far. This was a great relief because, like all writers, I'm obsessed with sales numbers. (It's true...all writers are. I'm just one of the few who will admit it. Future contracts, marketing budgets, advances, etc. are ALL based on how the last book did.)
But that isn't why UNFINISHED is...well...unfinished. I've written nine UNDEAD books in six years (not counting novellas, Fred, Alaskans, Jennifer Scales, the Magicka novellas, the demon novella, etc.), and explored a lot of territory in those books. It was time...past time, I think...to shake things up.
So I did. (Or Betsy did. Or we were in cahoots. Sometimes it's hard to tell where my subconscious leaves off and Betsy hops into the driver seat.) And some readers love it. And some hate it. One actually barfed. (I felt real, real bad about that one. Barfing was not the plan.) Either way, things have officially gotten moving again. I felt (and many readers agreed) that the last couple of Betsy books were almost in a holding pattern, as things got set up for book 9.
We're officially out of the holding pattern right now, and things have definitely gotten moving again. As above, some readers are thrilled, and some...not so much. I'll tell you what I told them...
...everything will be all right in the end.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Book tour rocks. I'm not gonna pull the delicate-flower-author thing and bitch about what a trial it is to be flown to beautiful cities, stay in nice hotels, and tell people how terrific my books are, for free. Because if I did, I'd smack the shit out of myself.
Which brings me to the subject of drivers. My publisher arranges for a driver to pick me up and tote me around in each city of the tour. This is awesome, and awkward. (Remember: base houseing. Trailer parks. This was my upbringing. I didn't know there was any kind of lettuce except iceberg until I was voting age. Voting! Not drinking.)
They tend to be older men, very fit and polite. So far this week I've met a former Marine, former Air Force, and former FBI. ("You are? You're retired FBI? Oh my God! Where the hell is my notebook...take the long way, big guy. I've got sooo many questions...what was the prettiest dress you ever saw Hoover wear? Sir? Sir? Why are we stopping on the freeway?")
They like to open doors for me. Car doors and bookstore doors. Occasionally restroom doors. And I resist this. Mightily.
First off, it's just so odd to me to have a man in a terrific looking black suit hold the door open for me...the door to a gorgeous, sleek, black Lincoln. I feel like the cops are going to arrest me once my butt hits the upholstery. The clean, luxurious upholstery.
Second, I'm at a weird age. I'm young enough to feel like I should be opening THEIR doors. (Don't even get me started on the carrying luggage angle.) And old enough so that I'm comfortable nagging them into leaving my damn door alone.
So, I have a power struggle with a driver in every city. That's a power struggle with a well-dressed man who isn't my husband at least once a day for almost two weeks. "I'm not going to give you time to get out, circle the car, and open the door. So don't even bother." Sone of them take this as a challenge. Which is why I will be frantically fumbling with the door handle while the driver jogs around the side of the car. One of them locked me in. That foiled me, big-time. I am not an animal! Though I totally deserved it. It's not the first time they've outsmarted me. It wasn't even the first time that day.
One of my favorite drivers, a mega-cool guy named J.W. (we sounded like something out of a spy movie: "J.W., this is M.J. The piglet is in the basket! I say again, the piglet is in the basket!"), was giving me an impromptu tour of Omaha, and we were shooting the shit back and forth and having a good time. As he pulled up to the bookstore I said, "Now remember, Jay-dub. You stay there. I'm getting out by myself. Your butt better not leave that seat."
He cocked an eyebrow at me in the mirror and said, "I don't tell YOU how to write books. Now do I?"
Dammit! Screw it, I let him get the door.
Touche, J.W., you magnificent bastard.