Happy February to everyone and a very Happy Valentine’s Day in a couple of weeks. This is a first for me. This month I’m proud to bring you two fabulous writers and their interviews. They are my spotlight authors for the month and I want to thank them for their time in answering my many questions.
Tracey Devlyn’s love for historical romances began one winter morning, ten years ago, when she indulged in a “mental health” day from work. Flipping through the television channels, she came across a local talk show interviewing a group of romance authors.
Soon after, Tracey high-tailed it to the local bookstore to check out the romance section, and met an overwhelming number of books staring back at her. Finally, she chose a book written by one of the fascinating authors from the talk show. She’s been hooked ever since.
In July 2007, The Wild Rose Press released, His Secret Desire, a best-selling Regency-set short story. Currently, her first full manuscript, A Lady's Revenge, is available for publication. Tracey is working on her second full manuscript and has targeted April 30, 2008 as a completion date for the first draft.
Tracey holds a Bachelor's degree in Management, and is certified in Volunteer Management, as a Naturalist, and as a CPR/1st AID/AED instructor. Her days are filled with solving complex employee issues as a Human Resources Manager for a local environmental agency, and her evenings and weekends are spent creating a darkly, sensual world for her hero and heroine. Tracey lives in the Chicago land area with her husband.
When she’s not reading or writing, Tracey enjoys visiting Chicago land’s natural wonders, puttering around the garden, riding her motorcycle, or torturing her piano instructor’s ears with her latest attempt at a tune. Did you notice she didn’t mention any winter amusements?
Tracey, I’m so excited to interview you for my website. You’re such a new and exciting voice in the industry. I had the pleasure of reading your first sale and was thoroughly delighted. So, tell me Tracey, what brought you into this crazy world?
Tracey: My love of reading. Unlike many authors, I never had the innate urge to write. Besides, even if I did, I wouldn't have believed words like I had been reading could flow from my fingertips. After years of reading historical romance novels, I began envisioning different endings. And then, interesting interactions between the hero and heroine began to form. Before I knew it, I took pen to paper and sketched out a rough story. I was excited and terrified at the same time. What would happen if I tried and failed? So, I searched for a book that would give me some insight on how to write a novel. A book that would also clue me in on the publishing world. I found Leslie Wainger's Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies. How perfect is that? The book is chocked full of invaluable information and it's written by a woman with nearly 30 years of editing experience. She knows her stuff. The book turned out to be a godsend. It gave me the tools (and the courage) I needed to move forward. I would love to meet her one day to say, "Thanks!" and to give her a big hug.
Dyanne: Tracey, tell us a little about yourself and what work you do besides writing?
Tracey: Well, I live in the Chicago land area with my husband. In our spare time, we love to hike in our local forest preserves and state parks. Also, I own a Honda Shadow motorcycle and can be seen tooteling around the neighborhood on a beautiful summer day. By day, I'm a Human Resources Manager for an environmental agency.
Dyanne: How long have you been writing?
Tracey: I committed to writing a novel in the Fall of 2006 and I've been writing almost non-stop ever since.
Dyanne: Tracey, what made you choose the romance genre?
Tracey: There's something elementally safe about romance books. Author's can physically and emotionally torment their lead characters and, yet, the readers ALWAYS know they will overcome the obstacle set before them. If a book doesn't end or leaves me feeling depressed, it gets a sound cursing from me. Also, in the romance genre, the heroine can be full of flaws and still be loved for herself. This genre empowers women like no other out there. And historical romances take me away from all that's familiar--except basic human wants and needs--if only for a few hours. I like that. I need that. Some of this may sound corny, but this combination of attributes is powerful and engrossing and it has the largest readership of any genre out there.
Dyanne: Do you belong to any professional organizations.
Tracey: I do. Several, in fact. I belong to Romance Writers of America (RWA), Windy City RWA, The Beau Monde RWA, Hearts Through History RWA, and Kiss of Death RWA. The last four organizations are chapters of our national organization--RWA. Each one is unique and fulfills a different need for me and my writing.
Dyanne: Tracey, since most writers do research from time to time and you’re writing historical romances could you give the readers some of your favorite sites?
Tracey: My friends at The Beau Monde chapter are a great source of information. I can post a group on the listserve and receive an answer within the hour. Historical author Candice Hern has a wonderfully informative web site on the Regency period. And, finally, I have tons of books that I refer to.
Dyanne: Tracey, can you tell us what project you’re working on?
Tracey: My current project is another Regency-set historical, although not as dark as my first manuscript, it still contains a shocking twist. One rarely found in historical romances, especially Regencies. And, for those of you who aren't familiar with this time period, it's a time in British history where King George III was believed to be insane, forcing his eldest son to act as Regent for the country. This occurred from 1811 – 1820, although the King's mental instability began much earlier than that. A few of us use a slightly broader time frame than this, however. I use the change in fashion as my barometer, rather than when the Prince of Whales became Prince Regent. The Regency era shrugged off the towering wigs, damaging lead-based face powder, layers and layers of clothing, and the notoriously scandalous behavior of the Georgian era. The Regency period was a time of wispy Empire-style gowns, few cosmetics, refined manners, and decided boundaries young ladies mustn't cross. Sound boring? It's not – at least not in a romance novel, where we love to break the rules.
Dyanne: I know that you just received a wonderful review of your work. Could you please share how you felt about that and a link where readers can find it? How did this great review make you feel?
Tracey: In this instance, the reviewer (Kathy) visited my web site, read and liked my blurb for His Secret Desire, and then contacted me to see if I'd be interested in a review. Of course, I readily accepted. The review turned out great, even brought tears to my eyes. Much like the review you gave HSD, Dyanne. Here's the link to Kathy's Review Corner: www.kathysreviewcorner.com/reviews/DevlynHisSecretDesire.html
Dyanne: Thank you, Tracey for sharing. Is there anything you’d like to say that I didn’t ask? Is there any advice you’d like to give to writers?
Tracey: I have three words of wisdom: volunteer, join a writing group, and write. All three changed my life, enabled me to make wonderful contacts, learn about the business (because writing is a business), and complete my manuscript.
Award winning and Best-selling author
of Contemporary Romance fiction, Paranormal Time Travel Romance, and the Fred Vickery Mystery Series
When the doctor gave Sherry Lewis's parents the joyful news that they were about to have a second child, he predicted that the baby would be born at the end of August. The timing was perfect, since Sherry's dad had to be in Detroit for job training two weeks after Sherry's due date. As the date came and went, Sherry's parents tried gently "nudging" Sherry into making an appearance, but all their efforts failed. Sherry didn't decide to arrive until her dad was on a train somewhere between Salt Lake City and Detroit.
Sherry lived in Utah for three whole weeks before the family packed up and moved to Glasgow, Montana. A year or so later, they moved south to Billings, Montana. Sherry loved Billings and will always be a Montana girl in her heart.
By the time she was four, Sherry had learned to read by listening to her parents read aloud. She surprised her mother by reading to herself when mom dozed off one naptime -- probably her all-time favorite fairy tale, TOM TIT TOT. Since Sherry learned to read so easily, it's not surprising that books would become her first love. As a child, she dreamed of being Carolyn Keene and writing Nancy Drew mysteries. As she grew older, her dreams changed only a little and her dream of writing novels never diminished in spite of detours along the way.
Sherry's childhood years were taken up with school, mad crushes on incredibly cute boys, sleepovers with friends, and many a broken heart. She married at 19 and just 10 months later gave birth to her first daughter. A second daughter came along six days short of 12 years later, and though the marriage eventually ended and her ex-husband passed away six years ago, Sherry still counts him as a dear friend.
The career path toward being an author didn't exactly follow a straight line. Sherry has worked such prestigious jobs as manager of a convenience store, Christmas tree decorator, poinsettia dresser, keyboard player/vocalist in a band, secretary in an insurance office, secretary in a bank, and finally secretary and administrative assistant for an attorney who eventually became a federal judge. In late 1993, Sherry sold her first three books to Berkley Prime Crime. By early 1994, she'd sold her first book to Harlequin Superromance. CALL ME MOM was published in January 1995, with NO PLACE FOR SECRETS following in July.
In 1996, Sherry gleefully left the court to pursue a full-time writing career. She lives at the base of Utah's Wasatch Mountains with one daughter, two dogs, and three cats. Her youngest daughter is married to a Senior Airman in the Air Force and they recently made Sherry a deliriously happy first-time grandmom.
Still as much in love with books as ever, Sherry is currently at work on a second mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime and new projects for Harlequin Superromance. She’s a long-time member of Romance Writers of America, where she’s currently serving as President. She's also a member of Novelists Inc.
Bio taken from Sherry’s website with permission.
Sherry, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. My aim is to spotlight authors on my website while at the same time showing the diversity in other careers held by writers. Romance writers and readers have drawn snickers from some in the past. I want to change that in any way that I can.
Dyanne: Sherry, would you please tell my readers a little about yourself and your life before becoming a writer?
Sherry: Sure. I’m a single mom, and have been for more years than I like to think about <g>. I have two wonderful daughters, a terrific son-in-law, and the world’s most incredible granddaughter. Before I became a writer, I worked at a variety of jobs – everything from Christmas Tree Decorator at a florist, to 7-Eleven Manager, to secretary at several different companies. I eventually landed a job as a secretary/office manager/paralegal with a law firm (the seriousness of which I offset by spending evenings singing in a bar band). That legal experience eventually led to an 8-year stint as a judicial assistant to a federal judge.
Dyanne: When did you first decide that you wanted to be a writer and why?
Sherry: Actually, I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else. I can remember being very young and saying, “When I’m a world-famous writer …” Even as a girl, I wanted to write novels. I never wanted to write short stories or articles, just novels.
Dyanne: Why did you choose the romance genre?
Sherry: Actually, I’m published in both the mystery and romance genres, and I like them both. They’re both a lot of fun to work in, both equally as difficult to write well. When I was a teenager, I loved reading Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney. Those gothics were, to me, the best of both worlds. When I got a bit older, I became an avid romance reader. Then, after a really rough relationship and break-up, I reached a point where I avoided romance like the plague.
When I first started writing, I found that I couldn’t put a man and a woman in the same room without one wanting to kill the other so I decided to write mystery first. By the time I finished that first book, I started resenting the fact that I’d let one or two creepy men rob me of an entire part of myself – the romantic – so for my second book I wrote a romance.
Dyanne: Sherry, if you had one wish for the genre, what would it be?
Sherry: First, I wish that parents would encourage their children to read and help them find the magic in books. Then, I wish that the next generation of romance readers will be as excited by the books and loyal to the genre as previous generations have been.
Dyanne: Sherry, if you could not be a writer what other dream job would you have chosen? LOL.
Sherry: Until recently, I would have told you absolutely nothing, that I’ve never wanted to be anything else. But I’ve recently discovered the strangest interest in administration and even, to some extent, politics. I’m currently seeking a cure!
Dyanne: Sherry, so many new writers still feel that they will become rich when they begin their writing career. What would you like to say to them?
Sherry: I’d like to give them all a reality check, I’m afraid. Writing is not only an extremely competitive industry, but it’s an extremely slow one. Advance checks for beginning writers haven’t gone up at all since I sold my first book in 1993 and, in fact, many publishers are offering smaller advances (or no advances) now than publishers were offering when I started out.
Sadly, royalty percentages haven’t increased, either. Some publishers do offer a larger royalty percentage on books that are e-published, but it’s still very rare for most authors to sell enough books to make a good living. There are some, of course, in both print publishing and e-publishing who make a very good living, so I’m not saying that it can’t be done. But it’s not the norm.
A beginning author might hit bit and rake in big bucks, but chances are that she’ll receive somewhere between $0 and $4,000 as an advance, and that money doesn’t even come all at once. It usually gets paid to the author in 3 installments spaced out a 12-24 month period. After that, it might be another year or two that the author earns more on the book, if she ever does.
If someone wants to be a writer, they need to love the process of creating the book and the work involved. They need to love the hard parts because it never gets any easier, and we need something to hang onto while we’re waiting for the money we do get. If someone is pursuing this career only for the money, it’s likely they’ll burn out and become disillusioned very quickly.
Dyanne: Sherry, how many years of writing and how many manuscripts did you complete before you sold your first book?
Sherry: I’ve been writing since I was quite young. I have hand-written manuscripts of novels dating back to when I was maybe 14 or 15, and other stories written long before that. For many years, I got a burst of inspiration twice a year – right before my birthday and at New Year’s. I’d write steadily for a week or two … maybe a month … and then I’d slack off again.
During that time I wrote the beginning of many novels and the end of none. I’d write like gangbusters for 100 or 200 pages, then realize the book wasn’t actually about anything, and start over on something new. In 1992, I saw a milestone birthday coming up in a couple of years and realized that I was going to hit that mark still working at a job I didn’t particularly like. I decided that I didn’t want to reach the end of my life never having taken a real shot at what I wanted to do.
I set a goal for myself that I would be supporting myself and my kids with my writing in 5 years or I’d give it up for good. I had no idea how unrealistic that goal was, and it’s a good thing nobody told me J I sat down that day and started writing a book. My only goal was to finish, and I did. It’s a very, very poorly written book hand-written in a spiral notebook, and my children have been threatened about what I’ll do if it should appear in public after I’m gone. I changed tenses while I was writing it, added and removed characters without any explanation, and did several other things that would definitely keep the book from being seriously considered for publication – but writing a good book wasn’t my goal. Writing to the end was, and I made it.
The next book I started was one I took more seriously. That book became my first sale and was the first book in my first mystery series, NO PLACE FOR SECRETS. The publisher offered me a three-book contract from that manuscript, and less than three months later I sold my first romance to Harlequin Superromance. I walked away from my Evil Day Job a little over four years after setting my five-year goal.
Dyanne: Sherry, would you tell the readers a little about each of your works please?
Sherry: Without going into a lot of boring detail ….
I wrote six books in the Fred Vickery mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The series featured a 70-something year-old man as the protagonist. Even though they’ve been out of print for almost a decade now, I still get fan letters asking when Fred’s coming back. These books were traditional cozy mysteries, not romantic suspense.
I also wrote four time travel romances for Jove Time Passages, and I had a lot of fun writing those. A TIME TO DREAM is set in Hannibal, Missouri in 1871 and features two identical houses and a mystery surrounding the marriage of the two people who own them. WHISPERS THROUGH TIME is set in Cortez, Colorado in the 1800’s. It’s about a love triangle made of of two men -- one from the past and one from the current day -- and one woman. AN ECHO IN TIME is the sequel to that book and chronicles the adventures of the loser in the triangle after he travels from the past to the present. And finally ONLY TIME WILL TELL is set in Virginia City, Montana during the gold rush.
Also on my backlist are a dozen contemporary romances published by Harlequin Superromance. The first one was CALL ME MOM, a romantic suspense about a woman who finds love while hiding her niece and nephew from their abusive father, and the most recent, HER SECRET FAMILY, was about a police officer in Oklahoma who learns after 30 years that the man she’s called “dad” all these years isn’t actually her father. Not only does she belong to a family she’s never known, she also learns that she’s half Cherokee. While she struggles to come to terms with this bombshell, she meets and falls in love with a man who is also fighting issues from his past.
Dyanne: Sherry, have you done any other kinds of professional writing?
Sherry: I used to do a lot of legal writing, drafting of motions and briefs and memoranda of opinion back in the Evil Day Job, but that’s about it. Most of what I know I learned from reading … a lot.
Dyanne: I always like to give a word of advice to aspiring writers or even writes who’ve been in the game a while. Do you have any thing you’d like to say to both the aspiring and old-timers?
Sherry: Two things.
Be resilient. It’s harder than it sounds, but I’m convinced that the only way to survive in this business is to be able to bend in the wind without snapping. No matter where you begin your career, you’re going to experience ups and downs, the work will ebb and flow. There will be days when you can’t find the words and your muse may go missing for months at a time. Being able to “go with the flow” is essential.
Be persistent. I’ve seen people with incredible amounts of natural talent, who would probably sell their first book if only they’d write it, flounder by the side of the road for years. They spend a great deal of time talking about writing and very little time actually writing. Meanwhile, I’ve watched people with what I considered less “natural” talent persist and work and struggle and write, and write, and write, never giving up, and most of those people have found publishing success. Talent is important, but persistence is imperative.
Dyanne: Sherry, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. If there’s anything you’d like to say to the readers please do so. Also would you give a link for reader to view your work?
Thanks for inviting me, Dyanne. You’ve asked some thought-provoking questions!
To the readers, I’d like to say thank you! No matter how much any of us love what we do, without readers we’re nothing. Anyone interested can visit me at my website at http://www.sherrylewisbooks.com