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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Ignore Your Inner Critic: Author Interview with Terri Osburn

Like many authors, you are an avid reader and you write in the genre you read. What motivated you to write your first novel rather than continuing to only be a reader?   
I’ve been reading romance since the mid-80s and during my teens years dreamed of writing my own. I even toyed with an idea when I was 20 or so that I recently found in an old journal. But then life happens and you make excuses not to do that one thing you really want to do. 

Then came 2006 when I stumbled onto the Eloisa James bulletin board. I’ve been an Eloisa fan from her first book and had no idea what a bulletin board was, or even a blog or any of the stuff we have now. On that board, I found fellow romance lovers, several of whom shared the dream of writing their own.

We all teamed up to learn and practice and support each other in the endeavor. Of that initial group, almost all of us are now multi-published authors. If I hadn’t found those amazing women, I’m not sure I’d even be talking to you right now because who knows if I’d have found the courage to ever chase this dream without that push.

In 2012, you were an RWA finalist for your unpublished book, Meant to Be.  What happened with that book?
Being a finalist that year changed my life in so many ways. There is one book that I wrote before Meant To Be, but it has the kind of flaws you make when learning this craft and is securely tucked beneath the bed, so to speak. But that contest final got me to an agent. And then that agent sold Meant To Be to Montlake Romance, which was Amazon’s leap into the publishing world and still quite new at the time. The book launched my career in 2013, and thanks to some great promotion and readers enjoying the story, it shot to #1 in the Kindle store for all books that summer. It’s been a while ride ever since, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity.

From what I’ve researched, it looks like your first book was published in 2013 and since then you’ve written books, not including ones packaged with other authors. What is your writing schedule like? 
Unfortunately, I don’t have a solid routine. This is more unfortunate for me than anyone else. I’m a natural procrastinator and that means I put off the things I really SHOULD be doing until the last minute. Writing books is no exception. I’m working hard to turn this around, but I’ve made a habit of writing the books very quickly in the month or two before they’re due. This means lack of sleep, lots of stress, and lots of gray hair I pay a fortune to cover. When I’m in the deep end in the weeks before the deadline, it’s all writing all day. Or rather, all night. I’m a night owl and can only seem to get the words on the page while the rest of the world is sleeping.

Those first books were done through Amazon publishing. Were those done as indie publications or were you paid with royalties? What did Montlake Romance do to promote your books?
Montlake Romance operates like any other publisher so it’s all the traditional route. They offer a contract with advance, I accept and we agree on a deadline, I turn in the book and they take over from there. They line up editors and designers and have a full marketing team. How they promote the books had changed over the years as the market has changed. What worked five years ago might not work now, but they’ve provided exposure that I couldn’t possibly have gotten on my own.

Your current books are published by Macie Rae Publishing. Is that your publishing imprint? If so, what made you go fully indie?
That is my own imprint (named after one of my dogs.) The sales for my current series dropped enough that I’m having to find something new for publishers, but I also love this series and wanted to finish it out for the readers. So now I’m more a hybrid, meaning I’m still with a publisher (or seeking one) but also publishing my own. The idea was extremely daunting, but I liked the process much more than I expected and am looking forward to releasing more on my own.

Your bio shows that you are represented by an agency? How did that happen? 
 I love my agent. I actually pitched to her boss way back in 2012 shortly after I finaled in the RWA contest for unpublished manuscripts. The pitch was horrid. I’m still amazed that she gave me a second thought. But she requested the book, passed it on to my agent, and she signed me within a month. She then sold that book (and several more) to Montlake Romance. 

I’ve often heard at writing conferences if you indie pub no traditional publisher will look at your work. Yet you are working with an agent? 
I didn’t do anything independently until last year and so long as I’m thoughtful with what I do, making sure that it doesn’t ever reflect poorly on my name or brand, she’s fine with me pursuing both publishing avenues. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to travel this road without her. She’s absolutely amazing, and a friend beyond being a colleague. 

You promote regular contests and prizes to go with your book launches. How long have you been doing contests? 
I’ve had contests from the beginning because I was a reader long before I wrote a book and remember how fun it was to win books and other prizes from authors. But now that I’m on the other side, I also want to give back to those who have given me so much. 

There are so many books out there today. A reader could pick a thousand others instead of mine. That choice means a lot to me so giving away a book a week or something a little more special once a month is the least I can do.

Your website has a link to Writerspace News when you sign up for your newsletter. How can an author sign up for that?
Writerspace is a lovely group and they have their own website. I’m not sure of the direct link, but they’re always happy to chat with and connect to new writers. It’s a close knit bunch of women who run the company and I’m sure there’s a direct link on the site to contact them and learn what they have to offer.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? 
The success I’ve achieved is the most surprising. Not because I don’t have faith in my own talent, but as I said before, there are so many of us trying to make a go at this dream. So many books the readers have to choose from. Standing out in that crowd is immensely difficult and I know I’ve been beyond fortunate.

What frustrated you the most?  
The most frustrating is how quickly things change. I struggle to keep up with the latest marketing this or that, and sometimes it feels like trying to run a marathon while stuck in quicksand. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and remind yourself to do what you can do. There’s simply no way to do it all. Not if you want to keep your sanity.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
I know that I have to put more thought into new ideas than just “Hey, this would be fun to write.” I was na├»ve in the beginning and went with whatever popped into my head, but there’s more to it than that and I’m still learning, six years in, how to navigate those waters. 

At the same time, I’ve learned to trust myself. When I’m in the weeds and convinced I will never get a book finished, or that it’s a complete piece of crap, it always turns out in the end. And then, when the book finally releases and the readers enjoy it, I look at those pages and wonder how the in the world I pulled it off. I’m pretty sure there are a ton of authors who know this feeling, and no matter how many you write, it never seems to go away. At least it hasn’t yet for me.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
I read a blog by Sherrilyn Kenyon years ago in which she said to trust your characters. They know the story better than you ever will, so listen to them. Pay attention to them. Let them help you tell the story. Once I understood what this meant, things didn’t necessarily get easier, but the stories made more sense and I’ve spent less time banging my head against a wall. It’s tough to do this when you’re starting out, but it’ll come.

The best advice I can give, especially to newer writers, is to ignore the rules. When I first started, rules were flying at me from every direction and it got so bad that I was paralyzed. I couldn’t write a word. There are no rules to this. There are guidelines and suggestions, and even best practices, but no hard set rules you can’t either learn to use in your favor or work completely around. 

If I had believed all the folks who said you can’t write a romance novel in which your heroine is engaged to the hero’s brother throughout the entire story, I never would have written Meant To Be, and that means I wouldn’t have a book that went to number one and has sold over a quarter of a million copies.

Seriously. Write your story and ignore the rules.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add? 
There is one more point. Ignore your inner critic. This is BY FAR the toughest part. I have friends who couldn’t do it. Fabulous writers who have stories that deserve to be read but they just can’t shut down that voice in their head saying all those hateful, negative things. Push through. Shut her up. Do whatever you have to do, but don’t let that inner voice keep you from doing something you love. Don’t let it deprive those eager readers who can’t wait to read your book.

You just released Ask Me to Stay last week. Can you give me a short synopsis?
Liza Teller has been hired to ghostwrite the memoir of Ray Wallis, an elderly stranger eager to share a very personal and surprising life story. The moment she arrives on beautiful Haven Island off the South Carolina coast, she has to ask: Out of all the semi-successful writers with stalled careers in the world, why her?
Kendall James, the dedicated ex-military man in Ray’s employ, has the same question. Why is this New Yorker in a frilly blue dress so important to Ray? But as protective and suspicious as he is, Kendall can’t help falling for the tempting outsider. And he isn’t falling alone.
As Ray’s life story unfolds, Liza and Kendall’s chemistry ignites. And all of it could be explosive. On an island this small, Liza soon discovers that there isn’t much room to hide—from the secrets of Ray’s past, or from her desire for a man unwilling to give her the one thing she truly wants. 

Sounds intriguing! If you'd like to learn more about Terri's writing, here are some links to get you started.

Here you'll see lots of inspiration images for her books. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you shut her up Terri, otherwise we wouldn't have your books, and that would be sad. Great interview. :)