I get a lot of questions tossed my way. For today’s guest blog, I decided to answer three of them, along with three connecting snippets of writing advice.
Why do you set all your books in fictional Texas towns?
Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a native Texan. However, I was only here a few weeks when I knew this was where I’d hang my hat. Texas and Texans are just . . . well, unique. I mean, where else is it illegal to put graffiti on someone else’s cow, shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel, or own more than six dildos? Yup, those are real laws in this fine state; I know because I checked when I decided to live here. (Not that I’m into graffitiing cows, shooting buffaloes, or stockpiling dildos. I just like to know the laws of the land, so I can poke fun at them in my books.) So I guess what drives me to base my books in Texas is that this place is one of a kind. And since I try to write one-of-a-kind books, it fits. And for what drives me to use fictional towns, that’s easy. I don’t want to worry about getting geographical facts incorrect. Okay, I’m lazy and hate research.
Writing tip #1: Using fictional towns equals less research and less hassle. You won’t get readers emailing you notes like: There isn’t a fifty-foot-high bridge in Spring, Texas, like you used in your book.
Why do you add suspense and humor to your romance novels?
Years ago, I published a sweet Silhouette Romance. Unable to sell a second book, I focused on my freelance career. I wrote words to feed knowledge-hungry individuals. I wrote about China, calligraphy, window fashions, tomato horn worms, and ugly shoes.
Basically, if an editor would pay for it, I wrote it. After an eight-year sabbatical from fiction, I was desperate to return to writing novels. I announced my intentions to my family, my friends, and to the innocent bystander at the post office: I, Christie Craig, was going to publish another book even if I had to kill somebody to accomplish it.
What I didn’t realize was that’s exactly what it would take. When I whacked my first person, guilt sat on my shoulders like a fat gorilla. But as soon as I washed the imaginary blood off my hands and reread my deadly scene, I had an epiphany: Nothing can liven up a party or a plot like a dead body.
Since then, mystery and murder are prevalent in my work. Yes, there’s other stuff like romance, but I’m not sure I can write a story without having one person kick the bucket. Or at least having someone try to kick someone else’s bucket. Death or someone facing death excites me, and that comes across in my writing.
As for the humor? A writer needs to stay true to their writing voice, and my voice is humorous. When I first started writing my funny suspense novels someone warned me that murder wasn’t funny. They’re right, but how people respond to it under duress can be a real belly-roller.
Take Nikki Hunt’s situation in Don’t Mess With Texas: Nikki thought her night couldn’t get worse when her no-good cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the expensive bill. Furious, she tells anyone who will listen to her that she’s gonna kill that man. Then she found his body stuffed in the trunk of her car and lost her two-hundred-dollar meal all over his three–thousand-dollar suit. Now not only is Nikki nearly broke, she’s a murder suspect. See, that’s kind of funny.
Writing tip #2: Find what excites you, what sparks your emotions, and stay true to your writing voice. Be prepared to ignore well-meaning pieces of writing advice when your gut says it’s not right.
Why did I choose Kim Lionetti as my agent and why I’m still with her?
I’d heard some good things about BookEnds, and I liked the fact Kim had been an editor. I submitted, not knowing of her upcoming maternity leave. Months later, one of Kim’s clients judged my work in a contest and recommended me. Kim recognized my name as someone from her post-pregnancy slush pile. And the rest is history.
Why I stay with Kim is another matter. Contrary to what Kim probably believes, it’s not her wit or sparkling personality. This is a marriage. And it holds a lot of similarities with regular marriages. There’s a honeymoon stage where everything is blissful: i.e., I love her because I’m sure she’s going to sell me to some big rich publisher; she loves me because she’s sure she’s going to sell me to some big rich publisher.
Ahh, but the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. Revisions are requested—rejections come in, and the initial bliss wanes. (Kim and I were together for a year before I sold.)
Just like in regular marriages you learn your partner doesn’t lower the toilet seat lid and they stop telling you they love you every day. Now, I’m not accusing Kim of not putting the toilet seat down and I’m not sure she’s ever told me she loves me. My point is that you start learning how you and your agent are really going to get along, how you communicate—or don’t communicate—and how you will have to compromise to make the marriage work.
This is actually the most important stage in an agent-author relationship. If you can’t learn to respect, communicate, or compromise you’re likely headed for the Big D. It may even be after you’ve sold several books. Over seventy-five percent of published authors who divorce their agents do so due to a lack of one of the above elements. Sometimes the personalities never meshed, and sometimes it was a breakdown in communication on the side of one or both parties.
So exactly why am I still with Kim after six years? Two reasons. One, agents wear many hats. A good agent will wear different hats for different clients. And Kim Lionetti wears all the hats I need her to wear: editor, adviser, cheerleader, contract negotiator, big bad agent who fights in my corner. All good agents in some instances wear these hats, but if you get an agent who prefers wearing the editor hat more than you want them to wear that hat, then you may not be a good fit. If they excel at wearing that adviser hat but you’d like them to wear the cheerleader hat more often, this can cause friction. Kim’s preferences for the hats match all my needs.
The second reason goes back to the respect, communication, and compromise issue. She respects what I want to achieve in my career. I respect her knowledge of the business. Her style of communication and mine fit well; neither of us are intimidated by the other, and when we don’t agree on something (and that’s not that uncommon) we debate until one or the other changes the other’s mind, or we compromise.
And much to Kim’s dismay, this doesn’t mean she’s the perfect agent, any more than I’m the perfect client. I don’t think those birds exist. Again, it goes back to the whole marriage thing. I’ve been married to my hubby for over twenty-five years. Some of you couldn’t live with that man for twenty-five minutes. But our personalities work and we’re almost perfect for each other. And the same goes for Kim and me.
Writing tip #3: Before you sign on the dotted line for any agent, ask enough questions to know if your personalities will fit together and be prepared to communicate and compromise. Know what type of hats the agent is mostly likely to wear and compare it to what you need them to wear.
Thank you, BookEnds, for having me and a huge thank-you to the readers for letting me share a few of my Why answers. I hope something I’ve said is helpful, and if it falls into that category of not matching what your gut says, then toss it out like last week’s leftovers.
Have a great day.