Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on Finishing Plus Guest Blogger Bonnie Vanak

Adding to last week’s entry—

I hear people say they cannot get motivated to work on a project they’ve been working on for a while. If you dread your writing session or completely avoid it, it’s clear you don’t want to work on that particular project.

My advice in that case is to put it aside and start another story, one that’s been hammering away at you. If you’ve been beating a story to death and it’s just not right (you know when it’s right, it feels right), then you are probably better off abandoning it.

Other authors might smack me for giving such advice, but I say why punish yourself? Writing is a grueling job. You need to love your characters and love what you write or you’re not going to be able to do it. If you hate the story you’re working on, will you be willing to write twenty more just like it once you’re published?

Ask yourself: Are you writing the story because it sings to you and you can’t get it out of your head? Or because “everyone” says paranormal romance is the only thing selling?

I have news, publishers like to round out their lists with things other than the “hot” trend of the day. In fact, said trend might tank any moment; you never know.

Work on what you believe in, what you want, and what you need. I guarantee it’s much easier to sit down and write something you love than try to write what everyone says you are supposed to write.

Now, I want to turn to Bonnie Vanak, guest blogger, who has some great writing tips. Read on!!

Bonnie Vanak sprang onto the historical romance scene in 2002 with her first Egyptian-set historical, The Falcon and the Dove. Since then she's written five connected novels set in Victorian and Edwardian-era Egypt, will do a couple more in the series, plus has sold two contemporary paranormals to Harlequin Nocturne.

J: Bonnie, you work at a day job which also requires a lot of travel. How do you juggle writing with working and traveling?

B.V.: Good question. Right now I'm juggling very fast and frantically with my first Nocturne deadline and a trip to Guatemala. Are there any sexy Alpha werewolves in Guatemala? LOL!

Usually I take the laptop with me on my travels and try to write at night in the hotel after a day in the field. Writing romance gives me a much-needed break from writing about poverty. I love writing romance because it's an escape into my imagination, whereas the day job deals with the grinding reality of poverty.

J: Your historicals are rich with detail about Egypt in the nineteenth century. Can you offer readers advice on how to get started researching the historical (or any other) novel?

B.V. Thank you! I like to start with basic research first on the internet when I'm starting a book, then narrow down the research with books and periodicals. Pick out interesting facts and tidbits, and for more detailed information, you can get library books and periodicals.

If you can, choose a time period that works well with your characters. For example, The Sword & the Sheath is set in 1919 Egypt. I chose that time frame because it's the period of Egypt's first revolution against the British occupation and it was a perfect backdrop for my heroine, Fatima.

Just as everyday Egyptians rebelled against the British, Fatima rebels against Tarik's arrogant attitude that women cannot be warriors. I used the actual women's march against the British occupation. Organized by Hoda Sha'rawi, the historic march of upper class Egyptian women set the stage for Sha'rawi to pioneer the Egyptian feminist movement.

Just as Sha'rawi courageously challenges British authority, Fatima does the same within her own tribe.

J: You made your first sale unagented, and then acquired an agent. What did you like about being unagented and what do you like about being agented? What are the disadvantages of either route?

B.V. What I liked about being unagented was it forced me to learn more about the business. The disadvantage was I had so much I had to learn and I made mistakes a good agent would catch. I'm still learning.

Having a great agent, like I have now, can open doors you've never dreamed of before... but it takes a while to find the right one. The personalities have to mesh, and it has to be a right fit. I'd advise anyone looking for an agent to find an agent who is passionate about your writing, NOT just the story you submit. Because that story might get rejected in NY, but if the agent loves your writing style, the enthusiasm will be passed on when s/he pitches the book to editors.

I'd advise aspiring authors to go the agent route, but don't stay only on that particular path. Submit to agents and editors and enter contests to grab their attention. Finish the book and start another. The next book you write may be the one that seals the deal.

J: Thank you! and congratulations on your new release The Sword and the Sheath. Visit the very cool series MySpace page for information and the book trailer:

and her blog at


Jen said...

Great interview! I've heard other authors recommend getting an agent before your first submission to a major publisher, and I'm seeing I should be doing some research into that. I've had The Sword and the Sheath on my TBB list for months, and if it's in the book store I go to this weekend, I'll finally have it!

I also liked your advice, Jennifer, on working on something else when a story becomes work that your dread. I think that's true of reading, too. I have postponed starting new books I'd rather be reading in order to finish one that isn't bad enough to quit (yet), or is ok but not great, that I don't look forward to getting back into just yet.

I really believe you should write what you love. Granted, if what you love isn't selling well, and you need to pay bills, you might have to write other stuff (as well, if you're lucky enough to have the time), or get another kind of job (and hope you have enough time to write, too).

Bonnie Vanak said...

I also believe as you do, Jen, in writing what you love. Or at least enjoy writing it. Because in the end, you have to look at it over and over, in edits, in revisions, in galleys, you should at least have some fun doing it! If the market doesn't support what you love writing, you can add a different twist. Cherry Adair, whose workshop I recently moderated, did that when she combined her RS books with a paranormal twist. Now she's a new NY Times best-seller!

Thanks for looking for Sword, hope you like it!


Jennifer Ashley said...

Thanks Bonnie again for posting last week. Sword & Sheath was wonderful! (I'm already done).

Yes, writing what you love can really be the key. I keep my eye on the market, but when I try to write something just because "it's selling," I can't do it. I have to find characters and a story that speaks to me, to make it a book I love. Probably why my books are so weird! LOL!