Posted On August 31, 2009 by Print This Post

Balancing Two Distinctive Writing Voices

Please help me welcome New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster (aka L.L. Foster) to Romance University. I first became aware of Lori’sLori Foster 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.

Here’s Lori!

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.

Tracey: What challenges have you faced writing under two names (Lori Foster, LL Foster)?My Man Michael

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. ForOut of the Light Into the Shadows 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 eventTails of Love 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.

Servant - The KindredLori 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.

As well as writing a variety of romances in all lengths for multiple publishers, Lori has a successful urban fantasy series under the name L.L. Foster.  www.lorifoster.com  and www.llfoster.com

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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15 Responses to “Balancing Two Distinctive Writing Voices”

  1. Lori –

    Welcome to Romance University! I’ve read your contemporaries for years, but haven’t yet begun the Servant series. The first book is in my electronic TBR pile, however.

    I’m going to ask the question I know many of our readers would love to have answered. How do you choose the authors you include in your benefit anthologies?

    Thanks!
    Kelsey

    PS – I bought MMM at the literacy signing in DC and thoroughly enjoyed it – time travel and all!

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | August 31, 2009, 12:13 am
    • Hey Kelsey,
      Thanks for picking up My Man Michael. I’m so glad you liked it, time travel and all. LOL

      For the benefit books, I try to choose authors who will offer diversity to the anthology, who draw from different audiences, and who are fabulous writers. But I also like to choose women who (whether I’ve met them or not) I admire and respect.

      I really, really hope I can continue with the books and that I’ll get to “work” with even more authors on the project. It’s been very satisfying in so many ways.

      Hugs,

      Lori

      Posted by LoriFoster | August 31, 2009, 7:57 am
  2. Hi Lori,

    Thanks for chatting with us at RU! My comment is a little off topic, but still relevant to this discussion. I read somewhere the number of books you’re either writing or wrote in 2009. Five comes to mind. I remember it being an extraordinary amount.

    Can you tell us how you manage writing a number of books, planning a successful reader/writer conference, giving back to your community, AND spending time with your family?

    Thanks again,
    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | August 31, 2009, 5:29 am
  3. Hey Tracey, thanks for visiting.
    You know, the past few years I’ve been so tired all the time. I blame it on getting older, and on menopause, but I think it’s really just that I stay too busy all the time. LOL
    I’m not a person who does well with a lot of idle time. I’m not as high-energy as I used to be, but I suppose I still am somewhat, because I do manage to get a lot done. Somehow.
    I tend to priortize each day. I know what has to be done and I balance it around other priorities. Sunday is always family day, unless the hubby and I are out RVing. My sons and their significant others, along with my grandson and sometimes extended family, stop by on Sundays and we hang out. We do dinner, (which is sometimes just pizza!) and we catch up.
    If I’m close on a deadline, I might spend all day Friday and Saturday writing to ensure I’m free on Sunday.
    I get a lot of stuff done early in the morning, and then save the rest of the day for writing.
    And I’m lucky that my hubby takes care of the other chores like phone calls to doctors, insurance, banks, he does most of the grocery shopping, and he does a lot of post-office runs for me. 🙂
    — I’m rambling, aren’t I? I guess that’s because I’m not entirely sure how I balance it all. I just do what has to be done as soon as I can do it, and that keeps my life organized.
    Sorry that I don’t have a better answer!

    Oh, and yes, I have 13 book releases this year, 8 of them reissues. One of the new books has 2 novellas for me, so, counting novellas, it’s really 6 new stories I’ve written.

    They are:
    1 single title romance
    1 single title urban fantasy
    1 benefit book novella
    1 regular novella
    2 novellas in one book (one straight contemporary and one urban fantasy)

    Craziness, huh!?
    Hugs,

    Lori

    Posted by LoriFoster | August 31, 2009, 8:05 am
  4. Hey Lori!
    Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I love all your books and sometimes feel bad that I read them so fast after you’ve taken the time to write them so well but I just can’t help myself.
    I am an aspiring writer and I wanted to know how you keep yourself organized when you write so many different stories. Do you use outlines for each different book before you even start writing? And, how are you able to keep your stories straight?

    Keep writing and I’ll surely keep reading!
    Jenn

    Posted by Jennifer | August 31, 2009, 8:17 am
    • Hi Jenn, and thank you!

      I don’t do outlines because if I did, I’d feel like I’d already written the book. Too much prep of any kind makes me feel that way. Mostly I keep stories in my head and when it’s time to write, I just sit down and get started. As I go along, I compile info that I keep in a word.doc file called “Characters.” I name each file by the hero’s name. I list height, eye and hair color, location, time of the story (for instance, fall, summer, etc… or if it’s a holiday) and as secondary characters show up, I list them.
      When I need to, I can pull up one of those files to refresh myself.
      But yeah, it gets pretty confusing sometimes! Especially when I have a series going and the relationships intertwine. LOL
      As to keeping the stories straight… um, sometimes I don’t.
      I’ve reused names a few times by mistake. I’ve given unrelated characters in separate series the same last name which can confuse the heck out of readers!
      But yeah, after 70 or 80 books, it can easily befuddle my brain. Without my character sheets I’d be totally lost!
      Hugs!

      Lori

      Posted by LoriFoster | August 31, 2009, 9:05 am
  5. Hi Lori. Thank you for being with us today. Do you find with your edgier books that the balance between the number of “relationship” scenes and the external plot scenes are about equal? If so, is it something you conciously do? I’m curious because I’m a plotter and often times I will go back and find that my suspense scenes outweigh the relationship scenes (or vice versa), but it’s not something I consciously do as I’m outlining the book.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 31, 2009, 8:45 am
  6. Hey Adrienne, great question!
    I’m not much of an analyzer. I write the book, finish the copy edits and proofs, and then I pretty much forget about it.
    I almost never consciously do anything. LOL. Sad but true. I’m very much a “gut” writer. I follow my muse wherever it leads me, even into TT – which sure infuriated a LOT of readers. But that’s the only way that I CAN write. If I tried another way, I’m sure I wouldn’t be nearly so prolific. It’s that absolute freedom to write the book however the book wants to be written that keeps it fun and exciting, making it easy for me to stay motivated and productive.

    I can tell you that when I started my Servant series, I wasn’t really thinking about having romance in there at all. But I guess my romantic writing tendencies came through, with or without my conscious decision. The 2nd book won Amazon’s #1 Editors’ Pick in Romance – which totally blew my mind. I didn’t realize there was that much romance in there.
    Shows what I know, right? LOL

    I think that with the darker books, my muse is focused more on the plot than the relationship, but I can never totally rule out one over the other.

    Thanks!

    Lori

    Posted by LoriFoster | August 31, 2009, 9:10 am
  7. Lori thanks for the insight on your road to publishing. It really helps aspiring writers to keep going-FIVE YEARS/10MS?!! My heart sank when I read that, but I have read many of your books and I loved them all-if I could be 1/4 of you. You are amazing! I love coming to the Get Together during the summer. I met Margo and she is fantastic. Any one will be lucky to work with her. Good luck!!!!!

    Posted by Tonya Kappes | August 31, 2009, 9:43 am
    • Hey Tonya, wow, lots and lots of compliments. Thank you. LOL
      I really appreciate it.
      Yes, Margo seems lovely. I’ve enjoyed her feedback so far.

      Remember, back when I started (first book sold in 96, so was TRYING to sell years before that) the amazing internet and all the info on it wasn’t so common. Now, it’s much easier to know what you’re doing. Not that it’s easy by any stretch! But at least you can face it all better armed with information. LOL

      Lori

      Posted by LoriFoster | August 31, 2009, 10:29 am
  8. Hi Lori!

    Thanks for posting today – I have your tails of love book – it’s so heartwarming!
    My question is about an agent – what do YOU look for in an agent? What are your expectations for an agent? I’m nowhere near close to looking for one…=) but it’s on my horizon someday!
    congrats on your benefit anthologies..that’s a brilliant idea and for great causes!
    carrie

    Posted by carrie | August 31, 2009, 10:01 am
  9. Hi Carrie.
    First, no one really needs an agent until they’re given an offer. THEN it’s important to get one. Until then, it’s really tough to get a good agent and a mediocre agent is worse than no agent at all.

    This varies for each author. Like a marriage, we’re all looking for different qualities.
    I want an agent who doesn’t require me to sign a long-term contract – book by book is how I go.
    I want an agent in NY, because I still believe a lot of deals are made over lunch or in passing.
    She has to return my calls and emails in a timely fashion, and be approachable should I have questons.
    However, I don’t believe in bugging an agent too often. She has more than one client and has enough on her plate without handholding.
    She also has to have contacts or be part of a bigger agency so that if something comes up – movie options, offer for comics, etc… – she’ll know what she’s doing or can access someone who does.

    That’s off the top of my head. 😉

    Lori

    Posted by LoriFoster | August 31, 2009, 10:33 am
  10. Lori,

    Thank you for taking time out of your VERY busy schedule to blog with us. You were so forthcoming with your answers – we really appreciate it!

    I wish you and The Kindred many sales. 🙂

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | August 31, 2009, 5:50 pm
  11. Lori,
    You are an amazing lady, writing so many books! How do you keep coming up with new stories? Does one ms generate the next or do you have a series of stories in mind when you start?

    I love the idea of Time Travel. Bravo for you. I will have to go out and buy it!
    Nina

    Posted by Nina Johnson | August 31, 2009, 8:57 pm
  12. Hey Nina, thanks. Ideas come from everywhere and I always have at least 10 books in my head. The only issue is sometimes deciding what length they should be – novella, single title, etc…
    Sometimes as I’m writing one book, another comes to mind because of the characters that pop up.
    Surprise characters have turned out to be reader favorites, like Joe Winston. I didn’t know there WAS a Joe Winston until he popped onto the page – and took over. Of course he needed a story. LOL

    Tracey, and everyone else, thanks for having me here. It was fun!
    My best to all of you,

    Lori

    Posted by LoriFoster | September 1, 2009, 6:52 am

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