Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Part 2: Tana Lovett Talks About Writing

Today, Tana Lovett continues talking with us about what she’s learned as an indie writer and from writing As Long as There Is Chocolate. She concludes her visit with us by giving advice for writers. Again, welcome, Tana!

When you develop characters, do you already know who they are before you begin writing? I would love to be the writer who has the whole story mapped out ahead of time. I've tried so many methods of plotting, but it all comes down to not knowing what will happen until the characters start talking. My style is very dialogue-heavy. When the characters speak, they surprise even me, and I begin to know who they are, why they are who they are, and what would motivate them to do the next thing.

Why do you write and what do you write? I write because putting my thoughts on paper keeps me sane, or some facsimile thereof. I write funny mainstream fiction with strong romantic elements and, apparently, a few friendly ghosts. I thought As Long as There Is Chocolate was a romance novel. It was a publisher I queried who told me it was "Women's Fiction." As I learned what that meant, I realized why my story felt like a square peg in the romance world's round hole. I write the kind of story I enjoy reading. My kind of story doesn't usually have sexy couples on the cover. It's longer than most romances. It has more segues to the story, a larger cast of characters, more backstory. The focus is on the growth of the main character(s) rather than the relationship itself, although Kate & Gio's romance is fun to watch develop.

How did you come up with the idea for As Long as There is Chocolate? I entered an assigned-title short story contest. What a great title! I wish I could take credit for it. For me, the title meant a funny, romantic story. I won first place in the contest and decided to expand it into a novel. I love Kate's snarky sense of humor and kind soul. I love that Gio can be pretty near perfect and still be relatable. I love what Kate loves about Castle Springs and the Castaldi clan. Strong bonds. Permanence. Stability.

Did you come across any specific challenges in writing As Long as There is Chocolate?
  • Feeling like I didn't know what I was doing. I'm not sure I'll ever get over the imposter syndrome, but I did learn to trust my gut more throughout the process.
  • Perfectionism. It's the enemy of being done. So many writer friends kept nudging me to let my little bird fly, but I couldn't stand the thought of someone judging my lack of skill. It had to be better. As perfect as I knew how to make it. I'm trying to change that with my current projects. Keep moving forward, warts and all, and let an editor help figure it out later. That's so hard.
  • Believing that there's a RIGHT way to write a book. Everyone's creative process is different. I thought that if I bought all the books, went to all the classes and conferences, got all the software and equipment, I'd become a writer. I learned that you become a writer by writing, and your way is likely to be different than the writing book writers and conference presenters. They're only sharing what works for them. Each one of those books says something different, because every writer is different.
What strategies do you use to interact with your fans? Attract new readers? I'm active on Facebook. I do have a newsletter, but I am anything but regular about sending it out. I was an avid blogger before I began writing books. I deactivated that blog because I felt it was unfair to talk so much about my family if I was going to try to become a public figure. My blog is severely neglected. Don't be Tana, writers. Don't be Tana.

How did you become an indie author? I made a goal of getting a minimum of 50 rejections before allowing myself to be discouraged. I think I sent out 27 queries, and got a lot of kind and encouraging rejections, before I got a contract offer. That company changed my title, created a cover, put the book up for preorder, pushed my publication date back twice, then dropped me before publishing the book. 

At that point, I was done with traditional publishing – for now. I hired a professional editor, redid the cover (I was a graphic designer in a former life), took back my awesome title, and RAN to the finish line on January 15, 2018.

What marketing strategies do you find most helpful? How do you reach your readers? What advice do you have for other writers? I have found some marketing success for limited periods by doing a free day on Amazon and setting up promotions to go along with it on sites like Freebooksy, RobinReads, and EReaderNewsToday. I've been told that doing 3 of the smaller sites at once is easier and about as effective as getting that coveted BookBub ad--and less expensive. (I certainly had results the first time I tried it.) I also do AMS ads, targeting the most popular books that are similar to mine in the keywords. I know the ads are effective because, when I decided to turn them all off, my sales disappeared like evil magic. All marketing gives a better return on investment if you have multiple books out. I'm working on that.

And, what’s next? I’m working on a romance novel, first in a series, called Bambi & The Billionaire. Three romance writers from Idaho--who have no love and adventure of their own--go on a European holiday of a lifetime.

What advice do you have for others who dream of writing? My advice to someone who has a book in them waiting to be written? Believe in yourself.

My grown daughter, mother-of-many, once congratulated me on getting my first book contract, saying, “Mom, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know you wanted to be a writer.” And it hit me. That’s a lot of years to want to be something. I hadn’t realized I wanted it so much, for so long, that my children were aware of it. I know I hadn’t been doing what I should to make it happen.

It made me think about others who might face the same situation. If I had one thing to tell them, it would be this:  Do not wait until you are the mother-of-a-mother-of-many to go after your dream. Trust your gut. Believe in yourself. Put your seat in the chair and write.

About Tana Lovett. Tana spent a nomadic childhood, routinely relocating with her mother and two brothers. When she was eleven, they spent the school year in a rural Colorado town, homesteaded, in part, by Italian immigrants. This was potent fuel for her vivid, pre-teen imagination, and the memory grew over time into her first novel. 

Tana now lives in the inland Pacific Northwest with her husband, Captain Awesome Man, surrounded by their great big family.

NOTE: If you missed Part 1 of Tana Lovett’s guest post, here’s the link

If you are in the Spokane area, Tana will be a featured reader  at Stephen Pitter’s Poetry Rising on September 19 at Barnes & Noble, Northtown.


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