Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Emily Bryan and Reinvention

Today's guest is Emily Bryan (who also writes as Diana Groe) to talk about her road to publication and what she found when she got there.

Her first book under the pseudonym Emily Bryan, Distracting the Duchess, releases today. She and I got to discussing pseudonyms and reinvention, what it means for an author.

Describe your road to your first sale.
EB: This is such a subjective business. I realized I needed to do something to make it easier for an agent or editor to take a chance on a new author. So I entered as many contests as I could afford. As soon as I started winning and placing, I had something to put in that blank spot in my query letters where previous publishing credits should go. The wins attracted my agent and then my editor. Maidensong came out in May 2006—five years after I started writing seriously. I had a lot to learn and contest feedback helped me learn it. I credit contest wins with helping me make my first sale.

What if anything surprised you about being a published author after the first sale?
EB: I was surprised that my editor wanted a second title so quickly. One of my biggest fears was being a "one-book wonder." So I was thrilled when Erinsong followed in November 2006 and then Silk Dreams in July 2007. I was surprised at how supportive my editor was and how much effort she invested in my work. Leah Hultenschmidt walks on water as far as I’m concerned.

You now write with a pseudonym, Emily Bryan. Why did you decide to take a new name and what kind of books does Emily Bryan write?
EB: If you’ve read any of my Diana Groe books, you know they are gritty, dramatic and passionate. They are also set in unusual time periods: the 9th and 11th centuries in exotic locales. The reviews have been almost universally positive. RT BookReviews compared my writing to “the great mistresses of the genre: Small, Henley & Mason.” My work is being translated into German, Dutch and Italian. Erinsong earned a rare Desert Isle Keeper designation from All About Romance and Silk Dreams hit a bestseller list in Australia.
Though interest in my Dark Ages Romances is high overseas, unfortunately, sales in the US market have not kept pace. I’ve been given the opportunity to reinvent myself. I was already toying with the idea of a sexier, light-hearted premise—a departure from my previous work. My editor gave me the green light to write Distracting the Duchess and suggested a new pen name to fit the new style. Emily Bryan was born. Of course, it’s still too soon to know how the reading public will respond to my lighter side, but now RT BookReviews is comparing my work to “Cheryl Holt, Lisa Kleypas and Celeste Bradley.” And I’m happy to report that Distracting the Duchess is the first of my titles to be offered in Walmart!

Personally, this is huge. Most of my extended family lives in small Midwestern towns—places where Walmart is THE bookstore. Since my Diana Groe books weren’t in Walmart, I don’t think some of my cousins ever actually believed I was published. Of course, now the books will be under Emily Bryan, so they still may not believe!

My next Emily Bryan romance will be Pleasuring the Pirate in August 2008 and a 3rd is contracted for spring 2009.

You write historical romance. What do you like about the sub-genre, and what challenges does it present?
EB: I love writing historicals because I love reading them. Nothing takes me away like a totally different time and place. It does require a good bit of research because the historical readership is very sophisticated. If I mess up, I’ll hear about it. But I enjoy the research and I don’t limit it to the library. Before I wrote Silk Dreams, which takes place in a harem, I took belly dancing lessons! Why should my heroine have all the fun?

Distracting the Duchess is set in the very early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. One of the challenges was creating characters who aren’t the usual suspect—you know, the ingĂ©nue and the rake. That story’s been told, often and well. I wanted to tell a different tale, so my heroine is a widowed duchess who paints nudes and my hero isn’t a titled lord. He’s a second son who dreams of serving his country in British India. Trev never expected to have to serve his queen by posing nude, but when the clues to Beddington’s key lead to Artemisia’s doorstep, Trev’s mission becomes . . .Distracting the Duchess.

What advice can you give aspiring authors?
EB: Join your local RWA chapter and attend the meetings. Find a critique group or partner. Set goals and stick to them. Writing is wonderful fun, but it’s also a business. You may as well get used to deadlines now. Above all, WRITE EVERY DAY! Don’t wait for the Muse. She’s on permanent vacation in Maui. Creativity is a muscle. You strengthen it with regular exercise. Please visit my websites (yeah, I have 2) http://www.dianagroe.com/ & http://www.emilybryan.com/ . Check out the Writer’s Corner and my Recommends page for tips and encouragement. If I can do it, you can do it. Good luck!

Thanks so much Diana/Emily for your insights.

Because writing can be a long-term career, reinvention is an extremely important skill to learn. The book market changes very quickly (say about every 2-3 years)--the climate is different and readers want something with a different mood.

Reinvention can help in several ways: 1. if your sales are not what the bookstores and publisher want them to be, or 2. if you personally find yourself wanting to go a new direction and try something new.

It's a topic that should be explored in-depth, food for a future blog!


Kathryne Kennedy said...

I agree, Diana, Leah walks on water.:} And Jennifer, I look forward to reading your future thoughts on reinventing oneself as a writer. You have a fantastic blog!

DianaGroe aka Emily Bryan said...

When I hear some of the horror stories from other authors about being cut with no warning, I'm thankful afresh for Leah and Dorchester. They really are interested in building writers up and I'm so appreciative of this second bite of the apple.

Since I've "come out," I've been reminded of the well-known authors who've experienced similar reinventions, like the incredible Jayne Ann Krentz who's been very forthcoming about her three names. It gives me hope that I'll find my niche. Or maybe two of them! LOL!

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Quite a few seccussful authors are on their second (some even third) incarnations: J.R. Ward and Janet Evanovich are the two that spring first to mind. Charlaine Harris, while she didn't change her name, wrote two series before she took a different tack and wrote the Sookie Stackhouse series with great success.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Talking of how wonderful Leah at Dorchester is--brings up the point of how editor support is so crucial. You can be at "the" top house with "the" top editor, but if that editor is interested in his/her star authors and bought you to fill a slot, it does you very little good. Seek an editor who loves your work and your voice and will work his/her buns off to help you succeed.

Do you always know you've hit gold with an editor? No, unfortunately. It's trial and error, just like it is with agents. Wish I had the magic answer to that one.

I've been extremely lucky with editors so far is all I can say.

Emily Bryan said...

I was thinking of the amazing Jayne Ann Krentz the other day. She's managed to find success with three of her incarnations. Her work ethic is incredible and I love her stories.

I'm sure if we scratched our heads awhile, we'd think of other romance luminaries who rejoice in more than one name.

About being blessed in my editor, I think that falls under the heading of "God protects children and fools."

I'm no kid anymore.

lacey kaye said...

Great history, Diana! I am always amazed at your success. So glad Dorchester wants more...we do, too!

Gillian Layne said...

Hi Emily/Diana--

As I said on another blog, I love your practical approach to your career, and I can't wait to read the Duchess.

Thanks for sharing your journey with us. :)

Bonnie Vanak said...

Very inspiring Diana/Emily. Good luck with Distracting the Duchess!


EmilyBryan said...

Thanks so much for your kind words. So far so good for my DUCHESS. I just learned my hero, Trevelyn Deveridge was tapped for a K.I.S.S. Award by RT BookReviews. (Guess it pays to have a guy naked for half the book!LOL!) The reviews have been good, but I know the readers have the final say.

Guess I'll have to wait for their verdict! In the meantime, I appreciate your support more than I can say. Thank you!

Lily Rose Moon said...

What an unusual and very create story premise, Diana/Emily! As an artist in my spare (oh sure!) time, I applaud you and wish I'd thought of it both at the same time, LOL! At the April Desert Dreams Conference, I'm on the list to meet with Leah H. and am looking forward to it.

As usual, I love your blog, Jennifer!

Lily Rose Moon

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Lily Rose.

Leah is a delightful person. You'll enjoy meeting her.

It's always hard to come up with a new premise that's fresh and yet not so weird the market will reject it. My heroine Artemisia is unusual for her time, but she was raised in India by a rather unconventional father. And being a widow, she is afforded more personal liberty than married women or an unmarried girl. And it never hurts to have "Your Grace" before one's name!

Happy writing!

Anna said...

Leah is wonderful; I would love to work with her someday. She even gives encouraging "good" rejections.

Reading Duchess right now, and looking forward to Pirate.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Anna. Please let me know what you think of the Duchess!

Happy Reading all!

Be sure to visit http://www.emilybryan.com to enter my DOUBLE DELIGHT CONTEST. The winner receives signed books from me and the incomparable Jennifer Ashley!