Saturday, August 27, 2005

Q&A free-for-all

This will be an ongoing project, so I'll toss a link in the sidebar.

Yes, these are actual questions from actual readers of "No rules. Just write." If you'd like to ask a question, please add it to the comments here. As you are about to see, pretty much anything goes.

What's a smart woman like you doing writing romance novels?

I'm afraid my hands aren't steady enough for brain surgery. And although I'd love to do rocket science, I don't want to leave my family and move to California, which is where The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located. So I just content myself with writing romance novels.

Does your husband know about you and Terry Teachout?

Yes. Not because my husband reads this blog, but because I'm always gushing about Terry at the dinner table. If you're new around here, you'll soon figure out that Terry is my blogging hero. He once thrilled me almost senseless by quoting me and linking to my blog. [Update, October 2, 2005: He just did it again. Woo-hoo!]

Why do you hate Harry Potter?

I don't hate Harry Potter. I don't even know Harry Potter. I haven't read any of the books about him, either. But one day when I posted that the J. K. Rowling books just didn't interest me, a couple of rabid HP fans got a little nasty. I fended them off, but because I'm a dreadful tease I just can't resist chanting, "Harry Potter, Harry Potter" at every opportunity.

Why do you use Blogger?

Because that's how I started, on December 27, 2004. I wasn't sure blogging would be right for me, so I chose Blogger for my test drive. Now that I'm a dedicated blogger with a bunch of loyal readers, I don't want to upset the apple cart. Since is my website, seems to make sense for the blog. I guess I could host it on my own site, but I don't believe would be a more memorable address than the one I already have. Everyone knows "blogspot," right?

Do you really drink as much coffee and tea as it sounds like?

Probably more. I make a full pot of Earl Gray tea (Twinings brand, loose) every morning and slurp down 4-6 cups. For some reason, my husband and I never fell into the morning coffee habit, although we order coffee for breakfast in restaurants and we sometimes make it on Sunday morning. To us, coffee has always been an after-dinner treat, something to put lots of milk in and enjoy with or instead of dessert. I don't have a problem with caffeine, so I can drink the "high test" stuff even late at night. And I do. We live within easy walking distance of both a Starbucks and a traditional coffee house, and there's a Caribou Coffee just one mile away. Life is good.

Why do you call your husband your hunka burnin' love?

That's "hunk o' burnin' love." Don't you remember Elvis? Actually, I never cared for that song, but one day I was kidding around and addressed a birthday card to "My Hunk o' Burnin' Love." Soon he was signing notes and cards to me, "Your HBL." Our boys were teenagers when they caught on. They would often answer the phone and then bellow, "Mom! It's your hunk o' burnin' love!"

How much has your average advance been? What percentage of a book's asking price do you recieve as your portion of the royalties?

Harlequin is fiercely competetive in the publishing world and they get really steamed when their authors discuss advances and sales figures in public. But I can tell you that royalties are a percentage of the cover price, regardless of whether the retailer discounts the books. So it doesn't matter to us Harlequin authors whether you shop at Barnes and Noble or WalMart.

For a more detailed discussion on what romance novelists make and why "averages" are profoundly meaningless in this business, check out this page of my website.

Why do you hate country music?

Well, it's all those twanging guitars and whining singers. And I could never get into all those story-songs where some lovesick cowboy's ex-wife swipes his brand-new truck and his last bottle of good whiskey and runs off with his best friend's dog. Just a flaw in my character, I guess.

When is your next book coming out?

A Family Forever, my second inspirational romance novel, will be a March '06 release from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. You should see it in stores by the tail-end of February. Check my website for details.

If a train leaves Cincinnati at 4:30am heading east at 45mph, uphill and into a 15 knot headwind, and a prisoner weighing 207 lbs with a harelip, mousy brown hair and a permanent limp escapes from the Fairfax County jail at 11:17am, straps rocket skates on his feet and zips north up the interstate at a rate too fast the Highway Patrol's radar guns to measure, what is the reason we were given these inane word problems in math class? Show your work.

Oh, come on. That is absolutely the stupidest thing I've ever

Dear friend, your highly imaginative question and your vivid description of the escaped prisoner suggest that you missed your medication today will be a great novelist one day. Congratulations!

Do you believe there is EVER a situation when chocolate is not called for?

I can't think of one.

Who are your very favorite contemporary romance authors?

I was hoping nobody would ask that question. I usually fudge and say that I don't really have favorites, but that's not strictly true. I never miss new releases by Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips because both of those women hit my funnybone hard. But they don't share my Christian worldview, so I often squirm at some of the situations and themes I find in their books. I'm afraid I haven't yet found a Christian author I like nearly as well.

Who pays for all of your book touring/conventions/hotels/flights/signing expenses?

Yours truly. My biggest expense is the Romance Writers of America Conference, which I make a point of attending each summer. That can run up to $2,000 for registration, air fare, hotel, meals, and taxis, but of course I write it off as a business expense. I don't do book tours and I've done only two signings because I don't particularly enjoy them.

When you were writing A Family Forever, what did you learn about yourself and God? How has that impacted your life since?

I write for my own entertainment, but also in the hope that my stories will give others a few hours of wholesome reading pleasure. I am neither searching for nor trying to teach spiritual lessons in my stories. In my mind, writing romance is simply good, clean fun. So you might as well ask what I learned about myself and God when I completed a Sunday crossword puzzle or went for a walk or baked a birthday cake for a friend. Sure, we can find spiritual lessons everywhere. But the act of writing this book wasn't a unique opportunity for spiritual growth.

Would you/could you please give us a hint of the book(s) to come?

I would if I could, but I can't. As of this writing (April 4, 2006) I have not yet sold my third book. Thanks for asking, and please be assured that when I make another sale, I'll splash the news all over my website and probably this blog, too.

When writing romance novels, is there a standard word/page count that is recommended (amount of words/pages), or does the length matter much for this genre?

Length matters a great deal. Many publishers have very strict word-count guidelines. You can often find that information at publishers' websites, but if you don't, just send 'em a self-addressed, stamped envelope and ask for their guidelines.

Yes, this means you should probably have some publishers in mind while you write. Otherwise you might paint yourself into a corner.


Anonymous said...

Harlequin is fiercely competetive in the publishing world and they get really steamed when their authors discuss advances and sales figures in public

Been writin' for 'em for 15 years and never heard that one before!

Brenda Coulter said...

Anonymous, try posting how many books you've sold over at eHarlequin and see if you don't get an e-mail. It has happened.

Anonymous said...

That was a good answer, you got me there on the songs, but I'm still going to razz you about it !

Anonymous said...

Okay, whoever submitted the word problem should get a complimentary snazzy purple Brenda-pen post-haste, cause that cracked me up big time! And then the answer made me make a rude snorting noise.
Still guffawing and gurgling....

Anonymous said...

If anyone is interested in the kind of money that you might--MIGHT--make in writing romance, head on over to Karen Fox's website and click on the sidebar for SHOW ME THE MONEY, by Brenda Hiatt. Any google search will give you a link there.

Brenda Coulter said...

The word problem was submitted by that inveterate troublemaker Chris Mikesell.

As for Brenda Hiatt's "Show Me the Money," Mir, I'm glad you brought that up. I understand it's a fairly good guide for some lines/publishers and laughably unrealistic for others. That's not Brenda's fault, of course. As she always says, she's just reporting the figures she has been given. The problem is that she's not throwing out old reports, but still averaging them all in, which is really skewing some of the results. Steeple Hill Love Inspired, for instance, has seen phenomenal growth in the last five years, but that's not reflected in Brenda's report because only a handful of the authors have sent her figures. Again, I'm not going to get myself into trouble by giving real numbers here, but I'll say that the "average earn-out" listed for the LI books is absolutely hilarious. This year, 61 titles have been averaged. Only 12 titles were added this year; last year a paltry 5 titles were added to the average. So the SHLI sampling is mostly for old books. I suspect that's true for many other lines, as well.

Anonymous said...

After following a few links, I have this to say to Chris "Word Problem" Mikesell: Rugby McQuinn???

That's just altogether too butch and too romance-hero-from-a-Silhouette-category-novel-from-the-80's.

But hey, it screams testosterone. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Mir--part of the estrogen brigade, but in cooperative relationships with the testosterone troops...

Brenda Coulter said...

Rugby McQuinn? I had to Google that one. Rugby? Is that a reference to a rough-and-tumble sport, or is he telling us he wears a hairpiece?

I once dared Chris to read a romance novel. Seriously. He squirmed quite a bit at first, but I think he kinda dug it once he got started. (Chris, if you see this, toss us a link to those pages on your blog.)

Chris said...

Brenda, Rugby McQuinn is a manly manly-man.

Here's a post about the first Romance I tried to read. As the post indicates, it wasn't the idea of reading a Romance that made me squirm, it was some particulary tacky storytelling.

Here's an interim post on the next Romance I tried. (Here's a post where Brenda responds to my interim post.)

Here's a post after I finished the Romance.

--Chris (dFm)

Anonymous said...

Chris, you manly-manly-man (and I do remember those SNL skits with the effeminate manly men, in case you're wondering, heh),

You must read my fave romance: THE SHADOW AND THE STAR, a Victorian romance with a "ninja" kind of guy. :)

You can feel all manly with the parts with swords and sharks and combat training.


PS--Mike is giving away a cheese prize. No, not CHEESY (well, okay, yes, "cheesy" in the literal sense)

Val said...

Who pays for all of your book touring/conventions/hotels/flights/signing expenses?

Believe it or not I am not all about money, just curious is all.

Gina Burgess said...

Brenda, may I please use some of these Q&As when I gush about your book on the Blog Alliance Tour? Several of my readers love the interviews and I think these are great questions!

Here are my questions...

When you were writing A Family Forever, what did you learn about yourself and God?

How has that impacted your life since?

Brenda Coulter said...

Sure, Gina, you can use any of this stuff. Thanks for your interest.

I'll answer your questions and add 'em to the list.

Chris said...

I enjoy your blog and really loved both of your books. In fact, I'm now an inspirational romance fan and reader since reading yours.

Q. Would you / could you please give us a hint of the book(s) to come?

Brenda Coulter said...

Chris, many thanks for the warm fuzzies. I've just added your question (and my answer) to the bottom of the post.

Angela Breidenbach said...

I meant to add a link to my sidebar to your blog, in the meantime, I linked in my postings. I hope you don't mind. This is a fun and interesting Q & A. So, how do I add sidebar links? LOL, no really, I'd like to get that right:-)