Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interview with Roxanne Rustand

Today we are interviewing author Roxanne Rustand. Her most recent book, Final Exposure (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense), is available through Harlequin Enterprises.

Roxanne lives in the country with her family, and a menagerie of pets that frequently find their way into her books. If not working at her day job as a registered dietitian, writing at home in her jammies, or spending time with her family, you'll find her riding one of the family's horses, playing with her camera, or hiding with her nose in a book.

She is the author of twenty-three romantic suspense and heart-warming relationship novels. Her first manuscript won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart, and her second was a Golden Heart finalist. More recently, one of her books won RT Bookclub Magazine's award for Best Superromance of 2006, and she was nominated for RT's Career Achievement Award in 2005.

She loves to hear from readers, and can be reached through http://www.roxannerustand.com/ or www.shoutlife.com/roxannerustand
Roxanne took a few minutes to talk about publishing from a writer's perspective with Writing Career Coach.

Writing Career Coach: What are some ways you prepared to market your book before you were published?
Roxanne Rustand: When I first started writing, I had no thought about becoming published. It seemed so impossible that I just wrote for pleasure. And then I found out about RWA (Romance writers of America) and the education about writing and the writing business that I got through that organization was worth its weight in gold.

For those of you who are starting out in inspirational fiction, instead of secular fiction, I can't recommend American Christian Fiction Writers enough. It's a wonderful resource, and the annual conference is simply amazing. I belong to both ACFW and RWA now, and their value is far beyond what costs to belong. Armed with the knowledge you gain, you'll be far better prepared to move from aspiring writer to author, and to do the best job of marketing your first book!

Part of marketing is to build your name, and thus the potential readership for your book, long before you sell. In that vein, I wrote articles for chapter newsletters and for the Romance Writers Report. I entered contests. I volunteered in every way I could. And when I finally made my first sale, I did everything else I could think of, within a very limited budget.

I made my own business cards and bookmarks. Developed a simple website. I joined a group of newly published authors who bought group advertisements in Romantic Times Book Reviews magazine and the RWR. I took part in book signings, and signed stock in bookstores. I spoke at schools, organizations, and libraries. And I also sent out my book to many online review sites. Not only did that yield quotes for my website and promotional materials, but then all the visitors at those sites, who read the reviews, had a chance to decide if they wanted to buy the book or not.

Times have changed since then. New authors now have a whole new world out there--and so much more of it comes at a reasonable cost, or free!

The wonderful Romance Sells advertising magazine, for instance, which goes out to many thousands of booksellers and librarians quarterly, is a bargain--one couldn't personally mail all of those people for that amount. There are many inexpensive places to buy professional bookmarks and business cards that you can design yourself. You can find easy publishing software for creating professional quality newsletters, though these days, with the cost of ink, paper and postage, using the Internet is probably far more cost effective than mass mailings of postcards and newsletters. There are hundreds of writing blogs out there, and most owners are eager to host guest authors--which opens up a chance to share information about you and your book to a whole new population of followers, every time you agree to participate.

Listing your personal website and blog when doing those "guest appearances" is a way to draw some new people to your own site, where you can market your new book. People may be more likely to buy your first book if they've gotten to know you!

Thanks to Lyn Cote's patient urging, I recently started something that has been such fun. I wanted to start a blog, but didn’t have any focus for it until she reminded me that many of my books have been romantic suspense, but they've also had a warm, touching, emotional element--often with quirky animals in the subplots. So I started the "All Creatures Great and Small Blog" where authors and readers can exchange stories about their pets, and I can also run articles about an old-time horse traders. It's fun for both the followers, and me and it ties in with my books and my brand. Which is something else for you to think about--developing a blog that means something to you, not just something generic, and one that will hopefully draw the type of readers who might enjoy your books. Oblique marketing? Maybe...but it's a good thing to try.

So....marketing your first book can start well before it hits the stores, and there are many options now for getting that title out in front of potential readers. It's an exciting journey, and I wish you all the best1

WCC: Tell us about your current release.
RR: FINAL EXPOSURE is the first book in the "Big Sky Secrets" trilogy, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. The series is set in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, and involves three women who shared a tragic loss as children--the murder of their close friend. They've all been away for years, but now they are drawn back to Montana, one by one, to a place that offers healing, new beginnings and unexpected danger...

WCC: How do you plan and write your book?
RR: People talk about being a "seat of the pants" writer, or a plotter...as if it is something permanent, like red hair or blue eyes. I think that many of us evolve over time, as we internalize the process of writing, learn from each other, and put a lot more miles on the computer.

Most authors need to be plotters...at least, to sell a book. There are some who can sell on a concept. Sometimes, we're asked to write a certain story, and that's that--off to contract. But usually, authors have to come up with a coherent synopsis that makes good sense, and that in itself involves being a plotter...at least at the outset. After that, all bets are off!
I started out being an avid maker of charts. Graphs. Lists. W-plot graphs. Charts with the hero's journey. I did personality charts, not knowing if my hero really did like chocolate ice cream, but dutifully filling out his favorite flavors. You name it, and I probably did it--needing every crutch in the book. I still get teased a bit about being--quite possibly--the most left-brained person on the planet!

But as time went on, and I starting selling, there was less and less time for all of that. And, as I wrote more, I needed it less, because the sense of rhythm in story telling became easier. I gradually developed a better sense of what had to happen when (which is probably inherently part of true pantser's psyche, but I think I missed that gene!)

Now, my process is simple--and it has saved me a lot of work. Yep--I still have to write a synopsis to sell. But once I have that in hand, I break it down into subplots. Sit down at the computer. And then start to brainstorm with myself--writing "lists of twenty" (or thirty) things that could or should or might happen for each subplot. I just let my brain fly, and type fast as I can. When that's done, I look at my lists and pull them into logical order under each subplot heading...discarding the silly things and keeping the best.

Now, I may not use half of these scene starter or turning point ideas. A subplot may veer off in a different direction, and change completely. But I've got ideas listed, in a semblance of logical order...so I'm less likely to end up in a muddle. Referring to those lists can spur even better ideas, once I know the characters more fully. Nothing is planned scene-by-scene, chapter-by-chapter, but my lists always give me an idea of where to go next!
So...is this being a plotter? Pantser? I don’t know...but for now, it works for me!

The other thing I do which is of immeasurable help to me, is that I do my bookkeeping as I write. Doesn’t that sound boring? It isn't--it's a great tool that helps prevent the need for major revisions. I don't plot in detail ahead of time. But as I finish each scene, I switch to my "Subplot Tracker" file and type in the main things that happened for each subplot. My form is set up in columns and rows. If I neglect a subplot for too long, I'll see a lot of white space. I can also see if something isn't developing well enough. It's kind of hard to explain, but I've got copies of my forms on my website under "articles" at http://www.roxannerustand.com/. Take a look!

Roxanne Rustand
"The All Creatures Great and Small Blog"

Leave a comment on this posting and you could win a copy of FINAL EXPOSURE. The drawing will take place on Sept. 15, 2009. This give away is for US residents only. There is no fee to enter.

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at http://www.writingcareercoach.com/
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