Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Romance New Orleans Style, An Interview with Author, Dana Page

Working in journalism where you have an outlet for creative expression, what made you decide to take the plunge and write a novel?
Writing a novel has always been my goal.  To put it bluntly, I just didn’t have the guts to do it for a long time.  I have a lot of respect for writers, and I wanted to do it right.

When I was in college, one of my journalism professors had an author speak to the class (I’m sorry I don’t remember the author’s name...shame on me).  He was a gruff, Texas cowboy.  He came in wearing old, beaten up boots, and said, “If you want to write a book, write what you know and write like you talk.”  Then, I’m pretty sure he went back out and roped some cattle.  I loved how succinct and to the point he was.  I thought if it’s that easy (which, of course, it isn't), I need to start doing it now.  But I didn’t.  No guts.  And I’m glad I didn’t.  I needed some life experiences to be a more interesting writer. 

I think I eventually took the plunge, because I was in need of some laughter and levity in my life at that time.  Writing this book was an uplifting experience for me.

Is this your first novel or have others been started and stopped along the way?
I wrote another novel before I wrote Pass the Hot Stuff.  It shall remain nameless and in seclusion.  If you read it, you would thank me for dumping it.  It sounds like the ramblings of a mad woman.  In all seriousness, I don’t regret writing it.  I found my voice through it.

How did you come up with the idea of your current book?
As I mentioned before, I wanted to write something uplifting.  My intent was to leave the reader feeling like they just fell in love, danced down Bourbon St. and laughed all night long.  My settings became my muse for this novel.  It takes place primarily in New Orleans and a bit in Memphis.  My characters took on the qualities of those cities – sexy, southern, quirky and with a raucous sense of humor.

Could you give me a short synopsis on the story for my readers?
Blythe Townsend has dated every nutcase along the Mississippi Delta.  She was certain she would live the rest of her life with her true soul mate – her dog, Lady Marmalade.  That is until she met Robert, who seems like everything she’s never dated before:  hardworking, stable and oh so very dull.  

She’s willing to settle in until she starts to see a sexy stranger around town.  When she’s tempted by this hot but cocky New Orleans guy, her life and libido get turned upside down and she starts to struggle with who she is and what she wants out of life. 

Obstacles are about to be hurled at her like doubloons from a Mardi Gras parade.  Her crazy, mouthy family and friends will help her sort through it as deceit, insane foot chases through the French Quarter and inexcusable dancing in blues bars light up the night for these sassy belles and sexy men. 

How would you define the difference between chick lit and romance writing?
I love this question, because genres can blend, cross over and bump into each other.  It gets confusing for the reader at times, I think.  Everyone has their own opinion about the differences.  I define chick lit as having a good deal of humor mixed in with some romance.  But there can be other themes, such as a mystery. There’s a light touch, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some meat to it.  There is less hearts and flowers and more witty dialogue.  When I think of a full-on romance novel, the romance itself is the main focus.
How long did it take you to write this book?   How many rewrites did you do on it?
 You will either laugh at this answer or think that I’m a box of rocks.  I’m not really sure how long it took; I wrote sporadically because I work full time.  All in all, I probably wrote it in about five months and did rewrites for five years.  I’m kidding.  Although, I did do rewrites for a much longer time than I spent writing it.  I probably did three rewrites and then piecemeal here and there.

Who helped you with the editing?
I did the editing.  Of course, every writer has their go-to person who helps them, tells them when they’re losing it and tells them like it is.  My mother is that person for me.  She pulls no punches and is the smartest person I know.  Yes, I guess I’m a bit biased.

Did you try the normal route and try to find a traditional publisher to handle your book? How many sources did you pitch? Did you pitch any agents? When did you decide to self-publish?
I didn’t pitch agents or traditional publishers with this book.  I did pitch countless agents and publishers with the first book.  I couldn’t get anyone to read it.  Getting rejected is hideous, but getting ignored leaves you feeling invisible.  In the end, I was glad it didn’t get published, but it was still painful.  When I wrote Pass the Hot Stuff, it was important to me not to ruin what started this book in the first place – being uplifted.  Right or wrong, I didn’t want to go through that long process of submissions not being read and ruin what had been an extraordinarily happy experience.  I simply wanted to get it out there and share it.

How do you write? Did you do an outline first? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
I am constantly writing down plots, thoughts and characters in a journal.  This isn’t just when I’m writing a book; it’s ongoing.  I hone in on the characters before I get the plot in my head.  My stories are very character driven; they dictate the plot to me.  I get to know every detail about them – from the cadence of their voices to their favorite colors.  I don’t outline in the beginning.  But several chapters in I start plotting on a whiteboard to make sure everything is consistent.

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book? What has worked best for you in generating sales?
I’ve done Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blog tours and book clubs.  I’ve been most satisfied with Goodreads.  It’s really the best way I’ve found for an independent writer to connect with readers and let them know you’re out there.  Casting a wide net has been the key.  One thing might not reach as many readers, but it could lead to other things that do.  I didn’t get a lot of readers from my blog tour; but Sophie Sansregret, one of the reviewers on the tour, has been very helpful to me as a friend and in promoting my book.  I recently taped an interview for her podcast:  Sophie Says.  I have also had some luck in reaching out to media.  I have a blog post coming out on February 12th to celebrate Mardi Gras for the USA Today Happy Ever After Blog.  Both of those things have wider audiences, and that’s what is most helpful.
What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
Regardless of whether it’s a self-published book or traditionally published, taking control of a marketing plan is important, and it must be implemented before that book ever sees the light of day.  Know how much you can spend and do the research on what outlets are right for your book and on what has worked for others in the past.

Is this a stand alone book or are you planning a sequel or prequel for any of your characters?
This is a stand alone book, and I never planned a sequel.  However, I have had a huge reaction to Tricia and Jonah, best friends to two the two main characters.  I’ve had some requests for their story.  Their humor and go big or go home attitudes put part of the spark in the hot stuff.  They do take over a room...or should I say a page.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
I’ll go back to what that cowboy told me.  Write like you talk.  He didn’t mean every character needed to sound like me, but good dialogue needs to sound real.  Because my books are so character driven, dialogue is the cornerstone for me.  I wish I could thank him, wherever he is, probably still writing and...roping cattle.

Thanks for the interview, Chris.  I really enjoyed it!

If you would like to learn more about Dana and her writing, here's some ways to do it.

Amazon link for the book           Goodreads page                  Blog                         Facebook









2 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting me on your lovely blog, Chris. Thanks for the interview!

    ReplyDelete