Please help me welcome New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster (aka L.L. Foster) to Romance University. I first became aware of Lori’s tremendous storytelling talent through her Servant urban fantasy series. Lori pulled me into Gaby’s painful, dark world from page one and I can’t wait to dive into her third installment Servant: The Kindred, available August 25, 2009.
Please read on to learn more about how Lori successfully writes in two distinctive voices and the many ways she gives back to the community and her readers.
Tracey: Since you were first published in 1996, you’ve sold over 70 books, most of them being contemporary romances. What led to your decision to venture into urban fantasy (The Servant series) and time travel (My Man, Michael)?
Lori: The urban fantasy was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. My favorite movies are scary, whether cheesy B movies or blockbusters. The scarier the better. Action flicks are my 2nd fave. Once I had established a name in romance, it made sense, to venture off to a genre I love. There’s still plenty of romance in my urban fantasy stories, and in fact, my 2nd Servant book, Servant: The Acceptance, was named Amazon’s 2008 #1 Editors’ Pick in romance.
With My Man Michael, what can I say? My muse made me do it. Almost from the time Michael came on the scene, I saw him in a futuristic setting. He was such a macho, sexist type guy, that the idea of him in a world where females ruled and men were protected really amused me. I had such fun with that book, that I wouldn’t mind venturing in TT again, but I don’t have it planned for the immediate future.
Tracey: We hear from time and again that an author’s voice is what grabs her readers’ attention. How does your voice transition from one subgenre to another?
Lori: No matter what I write, I tend to gravitate to non-traditional families and plenty of banter. Humor almost always plays a role, too. It’s my outlook on life that shines through.
The big difference between my L.L. books and my straight contemps is the focus. For romance, the focus is always on the relationship between the two main characters. External plotting is just to enhance the romance either through conflict or resolution. But with my darker, edgier L.L. books, the focus can be divided between the relationship of the characters, and the threat involved. The external plot plays a much bigger role, and there can be more danger, more bloodshed.
Lori: The biggest issue has been in properly representing what the urban fantasy/edgier books really are. Some readers think that I’m writing vampires or shapeshifters, when in fact the paranormal elements in my stories are more cerebral than physical. Mind manipulation, enhanced vision, that sort of thing. Still humans, but with some added ability.
Also, too many readers thought that My Man Michael represented my urban fantasy side. They couldn’t be more wrong about that, because MMM was definitely pure romance, just in a different setting.
Tracey: Can you share your thoughts on the state of contemporary romance? What does it take these days to break in to this subgenre in today’s tight market?
Lori: You know what? It’s always been tough. Before I sold, I wrote 10 complete novels and shopped them around to every publisher I could find. I got rejection after rejection, and it ended up taking me over 5 years to finally make a sale. In some ways, because of the economy, a first sale is difficult. But now, there are so many more sub-genres strongly represented under the romance umbrella. Most notably of course are erotica, urban fantasy, and Inspirationals. Some category lines have closed, but others have opened.
For anyone hoping to break in, I’d give some very simple advice: Never try to follow a trend. You should always be writing what you love to write. That enthusiasm shows through and gives an edge to your manuscript. Forget “rules.” If you write a really good book, the rules won’t matter. And when you’re writing, don’t tiptoe through. Jump into your book with both feet. Holding back, worrying about what is or isn’t allowed, just stymies an author and removes that special something that she needs to get noticed.
Tracey: What do you love best about your agent? Your editor?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some of the very best editors in the biz. Each of them has played a large role in making me a success. I can’t credit them enough for the terrific influences and guidance. Any time I’ve switched editors/publishers, it’s been because of contract negotiations, not personal conflict.
I was with Kate Duffy at Kensington for a long time, and every day was a joy. Kate’s insight into publishing taught me more than I can say. For me, Kate was the best part of publishing. I will always consider her a friend.
I’ve worked with Cindy Hwang at Berkley for quite a while now, and Cindy is one of those editors who knows the biz inside and out. She actually talked me into writing my first single title. After so many years of rejections, and a stable career in category, I didn’t want to rock the boat. But I’d written some novellas for Cindy (The Winston Brothers) and she wanted me to do the 4th brother as a single title. We were in the backseat of a car, at a conference, and she literally talked me into it. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I will always cherish that memory, and be grateful for the nudge she gave me.
After my Feb 09 book with Berkley, I’ll be moving to Hqn and working with Margo Lipschultz. I met Margo recently at the “Reader and Author Get Together,” and I already know I’m going to adore working with her. She young and enthusiastic and candid. 2010 ought to be interesting! I can’t wait to get started with HQN.
And my agent…Karen Solem is my 4th, and we have a terrific relationship. Sometimes authors switch agents too quickly. It’s easy to blame an agent when things aren’t going quite as well as you’d like. But for me, I would always prefer to tell my agent what I want, and what my expectations are, before I make plans to switch. So often, the grass looks greener on the other side, but the truth is, finding the RIGHT agent for you is more difficult than making a sale. Unqualified agents pop up left and right. Anyone looking for an agent should do a lot of research first. Make out a list of what YOU want in an agent, and then, if an agent offers representation, go over that list. Twice. With the agent.
You can’t talk to him/her enough, trust me.
Just because an agent will have you, or is nice, shouldn’t factor in. The agent works for you, which means when you have a grievance, you should put on your professional hat and discuss things before jumping ship. If it can’t be resolved, then it’s time to look around.
I’ve seen authors bail without valid reason, and I’ve seen authors stay with an agent when they should have never signed with that agent in the first place. It’s a tricky maneuver to get the right agent. I feel fortunate that I’ve had several really good years with Karen Solem, growing my career, being friends, and enjoying the entire process.
Tracey: For the past five years, you and Dianne Castell have hosted a Readers and Authors Get Together in June. Can you tell us a little about the event and why you started it?
Lori: The event is my way of giving back to the community that has given me so much success. My friend Dianne Castell cosponsors the event with me, and another good friend, Barnes and Noble Community Relations Manager Linda Keller handles the book fair. We have some incredible volunteers who help make it all possible.
With over 300 attendees this year (our 5th event!) we had a fantastic array of authors in every stage of publishing; publishers both big and small; publicity and promotion groups; and New York agents and editors. In a very relaxed atmosphere, attendees can mingle throughout the weekend in the ballroom, take photos, get books signed and trade older titles. Readers can get to know authors, and vice versa. Everyone is very approachable and friendly, and it’s so casual, that everyone is at ease. There are a few presentations put on in boardrooms by our special guests, and editors and agents are available for “pitches.” There’s literally something for everyone.
We make money for our causes with the hundreds of baskets donated to raffle off to attendees. In the early years, we donated the raffle money to the Hamilton Co. YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter. But I wanted to do more for them, so with the permission of my publisher, Berkley, I invited authors who I respect and admire to join me, and we put together an anthology titled “The Power Of Love.” Authors and their agents donated all of their proceeds, including a sizeable advance, directly to the shelter.
My hope is to organize a special “benefit anthology” each year. For 2009, author and agent proceeds from “The Tails of Love,” June 2009, will go directly to the AAF – Animal Adoption Foundation – www.aafpets.com ; a no-kill animal shelter in my area.
The book for next year (I’ve already chosen the authors) will benefit the Conductive Learning Center, a local school for children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy.
It’s fabulous that my publisher allows me so much (unheard of) control with the books, and my intent is two-fold. I love that, through special contracts, the advance and all subsequent authors’ royalties go directly to the charity. But it’s also nice that I can invite brand new authors to take part, and in doing so they get added exposure and name recognition with a well-known publisher, in a book with New York Times bestselling authors. And then of course, the readers get a book they love, that they can feel good about buying because in doing so, they’re taking part in helping a charity.
I’m thrilled with how the “Reader and Author Get Together” has grown over the years. For only $50 registration fee, attendees get a Friday night pizza party, and a Saturday continental breakfast, buffet lunch and buffet dinner. They get to play and have fun with like-minded people, published and unpublished alike. It’s a ton of work, but I love it.
More information is on my website at www.LoriFoster.com under the community link. Registration for the 2010 event will open around January. Everyone is welcome! Hope to see you there.
Lori Foster is a Waldenbooks, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly and New York Times bestselling author of over 70 novels. During her career she has received the Romantic Times’ “Career Achievement Award” for Series Romantic Fantasy and Contemporary Romance; Amazon’s top-selling romance title for Too Much Temptation; Amazon’s Top Ten editors’ picks in romance for Causing Havoc; Waldenbooks’ second “Bestselling Original Contemporary” romance for Say No To Joe; the BGI group’s “Bestselling Original Contemporary” romance for the The Secret Life of Bryan & “Bestselling Romantic Comedy” for Jude’s Law; and Amazon’s #1 Editors’ Pick in Romance for Servant: The Acceptance.
On Wednesday, Kelsey introduces Psychotherapist Dr. Debra Holland, who will discuss whether or not women should hunt the elusive bad boy or just admire him through the trees.
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- Weekly Lecture Schedule for Sept 27 – Oct 1: Merrie Destefano, Elizabeth Naughton, Bruce Sallan & Amy Atwell