Guest Post: Do Readers Cross The Romance/Women’s Fiction Line? By Laura Drake

Thumbnail CoverWhat do my readers want from me? In today’s publishing climate, we’re often afraid to give something new a try, afraid of losing our readers, our followers, our mojo even. Sometimes our publishers are afraid as well, using the word “brand” to help us shape our new books. Staying within genre makes sense, but it’s not always possible. Especially when we have a story we want to tell that falls outside certain industry parameters. (I have a few floating around myself.)

Today we have with us, Laura Drake, multi-published, award-winning, romance author whose first women’s fiction title is releasing today! She wonders if fans of her romance novels will read her women’s fiction. Will the new readers she acquires with this book pop over and give her romance novels a try? Below, Laura shares with us her excitement and her fears for her new journey. She’s also sharing an short excerpt. 

Please welcome Laura Drake to WFW! And tell us what you think, in the comments.

Amy xo

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Guest Post: How Author Sharon Maas Navigated The Pathways Of Publishing

winniecoverHappy New Year! We’re kicking off 2016 with post by multi-published author Sharon Maass, about her publishing journey. Publishing nowadays looks different to everyone. It’s different for everyone. Even authors on the same path encounter different rough patches, different times of great ease (wait, I’m not sure those exist). 

Today, Sharon will share with us her own story. And hip-hip-hooray — it has a happy ending for Sharon that culminates with the release of her latest novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF WINNIE COX. (Here’s another secret: it’s $2.99 for Kindle  and Kobo, and $3.99 for Nook!)

Please share your own journey, or any questions, in the comments.

Amy xo

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Cheers and Beers and Plans for the New Year!

I’m not one of those authors who Tweets, Facebooks, or Instagrams every.single.review of my books. I see those social media outstretched hands from others and rarely click. I know authors with tens of thousands of social media followers and that doesn’t equate to book sales. I’d rather be my own charming self online, share news of the book, the occasional brag, book photos, maybe an industry review if I get one.

But to close out 2015, the year Women’s Fiction Writers was named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers, I thought I would share a review that made me smile because the reviewer is a reader and a writer therefore I got her review the way I don’t always get others. She mentions voice, something a writer understands, unlike the review I read today that had one word: Meh. I was amused, frankly, because there is obviously a reason some of us are writers and some of us are NOT WRITERS. But go ahead, use your cultivated vocabulary as you see fit. (Please note, I rarely read reviews on sites like Amazon or Goodreads because, well, you just shouldn’t.)

So here’s a link to a review that not only encourages you to read The Good Neighbor, but encourages you to drink beer while you do so — and for all the right reasons!

BOOKS AND BREWS by Mary Chris Escobar

As we head into 2016 I’m busy with freelance manuscript editing (yes, even today) and revising my third novel (yes, even tomorrow). I’ve also dipped back into essay writing, which I love, but don’t usually have time for. This piece, about finding a card from my ex after he died, was published on Your Tango in mid-December (the words are mine, the thighs in the photo, sadly, are not).

In the coming year, the blog will be home to more posts about writing, about the intricacies of women’s fiction, the politics of publishing. Want to contribute to the conversation with a guest post? Let me know and maybe it can work out! I’ll also conduct more author interviews with women’s fiction authors who are established, new, and new-to-you!

Keep reading and keep writing — and see you next year (why does that never get old?)!

Amy xo

 

 

 

What In The World Is Women’s Fiction?

globe-clipart-globe_clipart77Round and round and round we go! Where we stop, nobody knows!

Yes, I’m rolling my eyes. Not because there’s a question (or a zillion) again as to what constitutes women’s fiction but because the term bothers some writers. Truly? Paris, San Bernadino, Syria, Trump—and THIS is what is getting under people’s skin?

Let’s get this straight. The term Women’s Fiction does not bother readers. Keep that in mind if you’re lamenting that your book falls somewhere under the WF umbrella. Readers don’t care what you call your book, just that they can find it. In a book store (if you remember those), it will likely be filed under — wait — hold onto to hats — FICTION. It will likely be filed ALPHABETICALLY. Online it may pop up under a myriad of bizarre topics including a few that make sense to you.

Authors, agents, and publishers use labels so that they can compare books to one another for the purpose of selling, marketing, advertising, promoting.

To me, women’s fiction is a book that focuses on a woman’s emotional journey. Now, you might say that romance does that. Noperoo. A romance novel’s central quest is the Happily Ever After. That’s the point of the story. It may include a strong thread or six of emotional journeys, but the purpose is the romance.

What’s the purpose of your main character? To find love — or to find a way to allow herself to have love? To meet a great guy — or to be okay enough with herself to meet a great guy?

I don’t mean these things are exclusive of one another, but if your POINT is to have your main character meet a love interest and that’s WHY she needs to fix her life, then I’m thinking it’s romance. If your POINT is that as a byproduct of her goal of fixing her life she just so happens to meet someone, but her goal is to be okay with or without someone — then to me, that would be women’s fiction.

There are also novels that focus on solving mysteries, running from bad guys, saving the world, etc. These might very well have elements found in WF. Genres overlap, friends. Lines blur.

Take note — women’s fiction also centers on friendships, family relationships, and sometimes doesn’t have a romantic interest at all, or it’s way on the back burner. And that is OKAY (usually, for some people/agents/editors and not for others).

I  understand why the term “women’s fiction” bothers people. Because if a man writes a story about a family it’s a family drama. If a woman writes it’s women’s fiction or chick lit. But that doesn’t change the fact that my stories appeal to women and that I embrace the WF label because I just do. You do not have to.

Yeah, I know. There’s no “men’s fiction.” I don’t care. This is what I write, and I write knowing and loving that my stories appeal to women. I read widely — but this is what I write. Sometimes I’m made to feel as if I should feel badly about it. Like unless I pen a literary tome that it’s not enough. And it is.

Enough that is.

I do realize that “the others” (meaning non-writers) have no idea what women’s fiction means, nor should they. So if asked what I write I sometimes say family drama with humor, or book club type books, or stories about women and children. No reader wants you to say what you’d say at a pitch meeting.

Really, readers only care what the story’s about, not what you call it. That doesn’t make them run out to the bookstore, big box store, or tap their app to buy the ebook.

Stop worrying so much about what it’s called and just write a really good book. Find a kickass agent who sells to a great publisher. Or do it all yourself. Whatever floats your writer boat is what you should do and it should all lead to YOU writing a really good book.

Believe me, once you do, you’ll have plenty of other things to worry about.

Amy xo

PS THE GOOD NEIGHBOR makes a great holiday gift for your favorite neighbor! Fewer calories than that tin of cookies! Just sayin’…

 

Writing Is An Uphill Battle (Thank Goodness)

Originally posted on Writers In The Storm

I blame it on a lunch date. Or maybe I should say I owe it to a lunch date. Yes, my entire writing career is predicated on the fact that I met someone for lunch whom I’d never met before. I don’t remember his name, or what he looked like. I never saw him again.

Good thing you don’t pay royalties on inspiration.

During our pleasant midday conversation in an Irish pub, the first conversation since exchanging a few emails, my lunch companion mentioned that my email voice was “very well-suited to blogging.”

I thanked him.

Then, I went home and Yahoo-searched “blogging.” This was 2005, after all, and I unceremoniously entered the blogosphere.

After a few months of fervent blog reading and following and commenting, I started my own blog in early 2006. It had a polka-dot background and nary a reader. In my first-ever blog post I thanked Lunch Date Guy for setting me on a journey whose destination was unknown, and noted how that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I’d begun. I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead. Had someone told me, they’d have gotten a head slap.

I am big believer in momentum, that going downhill means you’re picking up speed and getting stronger, readying you for the climb.

My early blog where I wrote anonymously about being a single mom, dating, and life (like the main character in THE GOOD NEIGHBOR–coincidence?), led me to writing essays for photocopied ezines, and then for newspapers and online publications. My essays led me to attempt a memoir (because whose life isn’t worthy of 300 pages?), which led me to try fiction, which led to a book deal. Which led me to start a new blog about the kind of fiction I loved and was writing.

My full circle has a point. It doesn’t matter where or how you start. It doesn’t even matter WHERE you go. It just matters THAT you go, that you keep moving, that the momentum in your writing life mimic the momentum you admire or strive for.

Even as a brand new blogger in 2006, I always wrote, rewrote, and edited my blog posts. They became writing exercises, stretching muscles I’d not used in years. I read many blogs daily in those days before quick life updates on Facebook and Twitter, and dreamed about having comments on my posts. And I got them eventually, and a solid following of bloggers and blog-readers. Some of whom now read my novels.

I learned from my lunch date that we don’t find our inspiration, we choose it.

We choose to look up blogging and take a chance on something new. We choose to use our observations about the blue sky to write an essay or a poem. We choose to tell a story that makes us laugh because we want others to laugh. We choose to spend a year, or two, or six, writing a book.  Maybe writers are compelled to write, but we choose to do it. How many people have you met who say they want to write a book? My answer is always the same. “You should.” And I mean it. If you want to write a book, you should write it. Without a degree, without classes, without feedback. You have to start going if you want to go somewhere, anywhere. (I’m not suggesting that this is a good idea forever, that craft isn’t important, that knowledge isn’t king (or queen)).

I don’t mean you can always decide what you want to write about but you can choose to embrace the inspiration that is presented to you, to cultivate the ideas that rattle around in your head, to embrace curiosity without hesitation, and to move forward despite uncertainty and fear.

And if you get lunch out of it, all the better.

Amy xo

The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket, & Commercial Fiction (an infographic not made by me)

I have no infographic skills, but Carly Watters does. Writers ask me all the time to explain genre differences, and I do. Carly does it better. 

You’re welcome. (Now you can go thank Carly by clicking here.)

So tell me — is this what you thought? And if you’re being honest, where does your book fit (not where do you want it to fit — although maybe that’s a fair question as well, because then, go write it that way.)

Amy xo

Guest Post: Author Bette Lee Crosby Says “Write Where You Are.”

WHR - Ebook SmallWe’ve all heard it before. Write what you know. I’m not sure that always means what we think (a post for another day) but today, USA Today bestselling author Bette Lee Crosby puts her own spin on things with Write Where You Are. She was unintentionally inspired to write her new book, What the Heart Remembers, Book Three in the Memory House Series during a trip to Paris. 

How do you take advantage of where you are? And when was the last time you were unintentionally inspired?

Please welcome Bette Lee Crosby to WFW!

Amy xo 

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Writers, Stop Apologizing For Not Being Published

After visiting with friends and family and launching THE GOOD NEIGHBOR in Philadelphia, I headed to the James River Writers Conference in Richmond, Virginia (check it out, no lie, I will shrivel up if they don’t invite me back). I had a ten-minute turnaround after a 5+ hour train ride, and then it was off to the speakers and volunteers welcome party.

I’m like most writers I know, a friendly introvert. So when I walked up to this mansion, with my car mates nearby, all I could think of was HELL NO I HAVE TO MINGLE and WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA FOR WRITERS?

But I prevailed. In situations like these I simply pretend I’m comfortable. I headed toward the crab dip and made a new friend; the bar where I made another. I met people I’d never known and I met people I’ve known for years. (You know how it is with internet friends.) I was social in intimate groupings, and have come to a place where I am also okay, if needed, being on my own in a large group. One good thing about being a writer in a group of writers, if you’re alone and minding your own business, no one thinks you’re antisocial or weird. They just think you’re plotting a chapter or taking notes for an article.

Awake and with lipstick on before 8 am the next morning, I was off to the conference where I’d be on multiple panels for the next two days. And it was off to a helluva start. Friday night to Saturday morning by 9 am I’d met award-winning journalists, multi-published novelists, acclaimed poets, and tenured professors. I was in awe of the level of talent around me, of the accomplishments of these people who also had the word “author” under the name on their badge.

For a moment, I felt small. Intimidated. And very much as if I didn’t belong. I’ve always felt at home in my writer skin and never like an impostor. Until then.

But people started talking, asking, laughing, collaborating — and I realized, there was no where I belonged more. Being completely at home among familiar strangers is really a wonderful thing.

Among this diverse group of working writers, were people who spoke my language before I’d said anything. There were journalists who wished they were novelists and poets who wanted to save the planet. There were professors who were authors and authors who’d written one or twenty books. There were writers of every genre talking and laughing and nodding.

And then, there were the aspiring authors of every kind.

These were the people we were there to serve and inspire.

I spoke to large groups and I spoke one-on-one, and one thing I found these dedicated writers had in common was that when I asked, “What do you write?” their answer almost included…”but I’m not published.” My reply was always the same. “Don’t say it that way.” Truly, folks. Stop it already.

It got me thinking about how writers apologize for where they are or aren’t in their writing journey. No other professions do this. You don’t hear someone say, “I want to be a heart surgeon but I’m not one yet, I am so sorry.” You never hear someone mutter, “I’m working really hard to become an accountant, but I’m not quite there yet. Ugh.”

But writers?

“I write middle grade fantasy. Oh, but I’m not published.”

“I write women’s fiction, but I’m not published or anything.”

“I write historical non-fiction but I’m not ready.”

The tone was always apologetic, the eyes looked away or rolled as if to offset the implied disappointment felt by the writer — perhaps what they imagined I was thinking.

Stop apologizing for not being published. 

These were people who wanted to be published, some who were close (and if you don’t want to be published, that’s fine too, but most of these writers were working toward that goal). Some had agents, many did not. Some were pitching, some were not. Some had books and work piled under their figurative mattresses, some did not. But they were all at a freaking WRITERS CONFERENCE where they belonged because they were with hundreds of other writers, published and not, all connecting and talking and learning things they’d never known before or being reminded of things they’d forgotten or cast aside. I learned so much that weekend simply by being there. Through listening, through talking, answering, and maybe through a little osmosis.

Just because you’re not published doesn’t diminish the value of your writing. Most of us don’t get rich at this stuff, face it. So anyone who’s working his or her ass off (and you know you do that by sitting all the time) deserves to use a period at the end of the declarative sentence that answers the question, WHAT DO YOU WRITE?

I write women’s fiction.

I write middle grade fantasy.

I write essays.

I write political satire

I write poems.

Because that’s what I was asking. WHAT DO YOU WRITE?  And that’s what I wanted to know. There were no assumptions, just curiosity. As a women’s fiction author, blogger, reader, and devotee, I’m usually surrounded by women’s fiction writers who are usually women. Here I was at a writer’s conference with men! With poets! With romance writers! With journalists! (I’m not even mentioning the racial and ethnic diversity, that’s another post.) Here I was, rubbing shoulders with people who wanted to talk about the pitfalls of publishing even though they had seventeen published novels; people who wanted to talk about plots, networking, technology, querying, character arcs, research, and anything else closely or remotely related to writing and publishing — big publishing, small publishing, self-publishing — whether or not they had a byline or book credit. This was a group of people dedicated to the idea that words matter, and that getting those words to the public, matters.

There was no bickering that your publishing is better than my publishing. There was no fighting that your genre is better than mine.

There was a sincere generosity of spirit, a sharing of information, and a seriously awesome vibe.

And no apologies necessary.

So, WHAT DO YOU WRITE?

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Author Patti Callahan Henry Interviews Amy Sue Nathan About THE GOOD NEIGHBOR

thegoodneighbor_mockup1It’s publication day for my second novel, THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, and today, multi-published, New York Times bestselling women’s fiction author, my friend Patti Callahan Henry is flipping us all upside down and interviewing me on my own blog! (Eleanor Brown interviewed me for THE GLASS WIVES. Am I lucky, or what?) 

I hope that after continuing on this journey with me that you’ll take a chance on THE GOOD NEIGHBOR and that you’ll encourage all your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same! 

Amy xo

Want your copy before you read the interview? Click here!

Author Patti Callahan Henry Interviews Amy Sue Nathan About THE GOOD NEIGHBOR

thegoodneighbor_mockup1Patti: As a writer, I am always fascinated about the inspiration behind a story. You know, the real story behind the story. Can you tell us how this book started? What made you say “Now, this is a story I want to tell.”

Amy: Believe it or not, it all started with the 1945 movie, Christmas in Connecticut. My friend Christina Gombar encouraged me to watch it, knowing my penchant for romantic comedies and old movies. She also suggested it was a modern story cloaked in a black and white, war-era film. And she was right! In Christmas in Connecticut, Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane (I totally named Izzy after her, and you’ll see why)who is a popular columnist at a New York women’s magazine (remember those?). She shares recipes, household tips, and pontificates on her Connecticut farmhouse life with her husband and baby. Sounds great, right? It would be if any of it were true. This Elizabeth Lane is a single woman who lives in New York and can’t even boil a pot of water.  One day, Elisabeth’s publishers asks (demands) she invite a huge fan and injured soldier to her home — her Connecticut farmhouse home — for Christmas. Elisabeth has just days to find a house, a husband, and a baby. Mayhem ensues.

What struck me about this hilarious movie was the potential for a modern twist, the what-if this happened now. Then I realized, as a blogger since 2006, how I’d really laid everything on the line and was honest. What if I hadn’t. What if I’d made up everything I shared when I was “mommy blogging” back in the day? What if I did that now? (I don’t. I’m an open book, forgive the pun.)

The thoughts of what’s shareable and what’s not came to mind right away. Is there a difference between a lie and a secret? How about privacy? Does that come into play? We all love the internet but it can really get it into trouble. How would someone get out of that kind of trouble?

That’s when my Elizabeth “Izzy” Lane was born.

I also yearned to write a story set in a Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood like the one I grew up in, without having it set in the sixties or seventies. Thanks to fiction, I had the pleasure of inventing a neighborhood like mine that was right for Izzy right now.

Patti: Izzy is so witty, so full of ideas and fun (even as she ‘lies’ in her blog). And you are so funny and witty, so full of ideas and fun. How much of you is in Izzy? And if any of you hides in Izzy, was it on purpose or did you only see it in hindsight?

Amy: You are very generous, Patti. Thank you! When I started writing The Good Neighbor I was actually relieved there was such a distance between me and Izzy. I knew enough about her to write her, but it wasn’t so close that I had to remind myself it was fiction. I never got the two of us confused. Then one day I was saying as much to a friend who has known me for about 24 years — how Izzy is a decade or more younger than I am, how her experiences don’t mirror mine at all, and how much of a relief that was to be in a different place in life than a main character. Then this happened:

“So Izzy doesn’t have any of your experiences?”
“Nope. Not really. And she’s a lot younger than I am.”
“How old is Izzy in the book?”
“Thirty-nine.”
“And she just got divorced?”
“Uh huh.”
“How old were you when you got divorced?”
I hesitated. Then said: “Shut up.”

So to answer your question, Patti? Hindsight.

Patti: What was the biggest surprise when you were writing this book? Often, I find that just when I think I have a hold of the story, it gets a hold of me and BAM, surprise. Did this happen to you at all?

Amy: It always happens to me and I love that. Someone comes around a corner you didn’t expect and everything changes. It’s hard to explain that phenomenon of the characters taking over the story to non-writers, but it totally exists! In The Good Neighbor I was totally shocked at things surrounding Mrs. Feldman (can’t say what, because spoiler alert). She told me her part of the story. I was merely the scribe.

Patti: Mrs. Feldman is a voice of wisdom and advice, a woman we all wish we knew. Do you have someone like this in your life? Was Mrs. Feldman based on anyone you knew?

Amy: Mrs. Feldman wasn’t based on anyone, and honestly, I’m not sure where she came from. I grew up with wonderful neighbors, had two grandmothers (one until I was 14 and one until I was 40), and some teachers I admired. I guess Mrs. Feldman has tidbits of all of them but it wasn’t intentional, I mean, that makes sense, right? She also has things about her that I can’t attribute to anyone else but her. She’s her own woman for sure (and I think she’d agree).

Patti: What is next for your beautiful storytelling voice?

Amy: ❤ I’m steeped in writing my third novel right now, about a woman named Teddi Lerner who, after six years, goes back to the hometown she abandoned during her best friend’s funeral. Needless to say, Teddi’s got a lot of explaining to do to a lot of people.

Thank you for to all my WFW blog readers!

You are a huge source of support (yes, even when you’re lurking)!

Click here for ways to purchase the book. Also available at your local Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s! If you see TGN out in the wild, take a photo and share it with me!