Guest Post: Stephanie Lawton on The Art of Genre Hopping

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Excited to have fellow Mobilian Stephanie Lawton on my blog today to talk about her new release, Need, which is the follow-up to her debut release Want! Take it away, Stephanie!

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Thanks, Angela, for the opportunity to say a few things about my new release, Need, genre-hopping and nontraditional publishing. Quite a mouthful, that, but I assure you they’re related and relevant to most writers.

In an ideal writing world, we don’t sit down and immediately conjure up the perimeters of a specific genre. Instead, we tell our story the way it needs to be written. Only when it’s finished do we begin to think of its marketability and where it fits in the pigeon holes of the publishing world.

Nine times out of ten, it’s easy to tell where a book belongs. Narrator under eighteen? It’s probably YA. Silk sheets and a red room of fun toys? Probably erotic romance or erotica (or perhaps comedy, but I’ll leave that one alone …)

So what happens when your story genuinely doesn’t fit a specific category, or doesn’t fit well enough to be a sure thing for an agent or publisher to be comfortable selling? Answer: You go indie.

For some, this means hitting up indie publishers, which are doing quite well in this changing market. They’re also generally more open to well-written stories that may not conform to what’s currently popular or projected to be so. The good ones still demand quality, but they often see the value in putting something out there that appeals to specific readers, or readers who are tired of the same big-house tropes.

This is where I lucked out with my romance series. The first book, Want, was published as upper-YA. The story hinges on the heroine being seventeen, but the issues she’s facing are very adult and all the rest of the characters in the book are adults. Is it YA? Not really. But is it adult? Most potential readers would automatically assume it’s not based on the narrator’s age.

A year after publication we’ve seen the rise of a category known as New Adult. Bingo. And guess who pioneered this wildly successful trend? Indie writers (many self-published) and indie publishers.

There were many demands from readers for a second book to find out what happened next to a certain character, so I penned Need. This time, I wrote from the main male adult character’s POV (I can’t call him a protagonist or antagonist and be completely accurate). He’s twenty-eight, beyond New Adult and well beyond YA.

Plus, when his story began pouring out, it was really adult, as in practically erotic romance. When I first sent it off to my indie publisher (right of first refusal and all that) I figured there was no way they’d let me get away with veering so far away from the first book’s genre. I honestly expected a big ‘ole “Hell no!” complete with finger snaps.

But guess what? They loved it. What’s more, readers are loving it.

The moral of the story, boys and girls, is to take a chance, write what you love, and trust that there are options for your story and readers who will jump at the chance to delve into something off the beaten path.

Happy writing and reading!

Need’s blurb:

NeedIsaac Laroche is cursed. All he wants to do is hide out and feel sorry for himself. Never mind that he got caught sleeping with his seventeen-year-old piano student, or that he abandoned her when the truth was exposed.

Isaac’s feisty high school sweetheart has different plans. Heather Swann has returned to their hometown of Mobile, Alabama, to regroup after breaking up with her troll of a fiancé. She’s restless and looking for a diversion, but she bites off more than she can chew when she sets her sights on rehabilitating Isaac with her unorthodox sexual, mental, and physical plans.

The two quickly reconnect, but their happiness is threatened by family secrets, old vendettas and the death of a beloved father-figure.

Can Heather handle Isaac’s baggage, or will her own come back to haunt them both?

Where to get your hands on it:

Inkspell Publishing (paperback and digital) | Barnes and Noble (paperback and Nook) | Amazon (paperback and Kindle) | All Romance eBooks (digital) | The Book Depository (paperback) | Kobo (digital)

Author bio:

photo 3After collecting a couple English degrees in the Midwest, Stephanie Lawton suddenly awoke in the deepest reaches of the Deep South. Culture shock inspired her to write about Mobile, Alabama, her adopted city, and all the ways Southern culture, history and attitudes seduce the unsuspecting.

A lover of all things gothic, she can often be spotted photographing old cemeteries, historic buildings and, ironically, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast. She also has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles.

Links for stalking!

Author website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thanks Stephanie for giving us this peek into indie publishing! Visitors, have you found this to be the case too with indie books? Have you let a story take you where it needed to go and found acceptance? This is definitely an exciting time to be a writer!

Cover Reveal for NEED by Stephanie Lawton

NeedNeed

By Stephanie Lawton

Published by Inkspell Publishing

Release date: May 17, 2013

Want cover wYay! Am super excited to be a part of the blog reveal today for fellow Mobilian and writer Stephanie Lawton! This is the followup to her debut novel WANT, released last year. WANT is a YA set in Mobile, and this sequel, I am told, is most decidedly NOT YA. I think the cover artist did a wonderful job not only matching the first cover, but also showing that this is indeed an adult novel–how sexy is that tie-grabbing?

Want to know more? Here’s the scoop:

Synopsis:

Isaac Laroche is cursed. All he wants to do is hide out and feel sorry for himself. Never mind that he got caught sleeping with his seventeen-year-old piano student, or that he abandoned her when the truth was exposed.

Isaac’s feisty high school sweetheart has different plans. Heather Swann has returned to their hometown of Mobile, Alabama, to regroup after breaking up with her troll of a fiancé. She’s restless and looking for a diversion, but she bites off more than she can chew when she sets her sights on rehabilitating Isaac with her unorthodox sexual, mental, and physical plans.

The two quickly reconnect, but their happiness is threatened by family secrets, old vendettas and the death of a beloved father-figure.

Can Heather handle Isaac’s baggage, or will her own come back to haunt them both?

Author bio:

photo 3After collecting a couple English degrees in the Midwest, Stephanie Lawton suddenly awoke in the deepest reaches of the Deep South. Culture shock inspired her to write about Mobile, Alabama, her adopted city, and all the ways Southern culture, history and attitudes seduce the unsuspecting.

A lover of all things gothic, she can often be spotted photographing old cemeteries, historic buildings and, ironically, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast. She also has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles.

Links for stalking!

Author website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Need

 

Congrats Stephanie! So proud of you!

Book Monday: SHRAPNEL by Stephanie Lawton – Excerpt

Stephanie-Lawton-TOURShrapnel
by Stephanie Lawton
Publisher: Evernight TEEN (January 17, 2013)

I’m so excited to host my friend Stephanie for her blog tour of her new YA release, SHRAPNEL. I don’t know if she remembers this, but we first “met” on Twitter over this book in the fall of 2011. I’d just joined Twitter and scoured it for local writers and others to follow and found her, among others. She soon tweeted asking for something quick that could be flammable during the Civil War era. I replied with some suggestions and we struck up a convo. She then invited me to the Mobile Writer’s Guild and we’ve since gotten to know each other. Turns out that tweet was for a scene in this book :) This past fall I Beta read an earlier version of it, and oh boy did I love it! It’s just dripping with voice, y’all, and so deliciously atmospheric. (tweet this) I was on the edge of my seat. Seriously!

Anyway, this is a long-winded explanation about why I’m so pleased to have her on my blog today for Book Monday! First lets give you the blurb, so you know what’s going on:

It’s been six years since Dylanie and her family visited a Civil War site and the place came alive with cannon fire. Problem was, no one could hear it but her.

Now she’s sixteen, her dad’s moved out, her mom’s come out of the closet and Dylan’s got a spot on Paranormal Teen, a reality TV show filming at historic Oakleigh Mansion. She’ll spend a weekend with two other psychic teens—Jake and Ashley—learning how to control her abilities.

None of them realized how much their emotional baggage would put them at the mercy of Oakleigh’s resident spirits, or that they’d find themselves pawns in the 150-year-old battle for the South’s legendary Confederate gold. Each must conquer their personal ghosts to face down Jackson, a seductive spirit who will do anything to protect the gold’s current location and avenge a heinous attack that destroyed his family.

Intrigued yet? I’m now turning it over to Stephanie for more SHRAPNEL!

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Angela and I have many things in common, which is part of why I’m so excited to be on her blog today. Not only do we live in the same city, but we’re on the board of our local writers guild together. We both write quirky, strong heroines, and we both love a bit of humor mixed in with our steamy stuff.

Below is an excerpt from Shrapnel, my upper-YA mutt of a novel set at Oakleigh Mansion in Mobile, Alabama. Dylanie is a foul-mouthed tomboy, but making an attempt at being girlie. Her helper is a smarmy Civil War-era ghost named Jackson. Here, she’s seeing her new look for the first time.

I’m not prepared for what I see. Standing in front of me is … a girl. A noise makes me turn. My Army bag has fallen over and the contents are spread out on the bed, almost like someone rifled through them. Closest to me are my brush and the make-up bag Mom doesn’t know I own. She’d probably break into song and dance if she did.

“Okay, Jackson, I get the hint.” He doesn’t appear, but he’s here somewhere. Ten minutes later my hair’s under control, I’ve managed to smudge on some color without looking like a clown, and I have to admit, I look a little bad-ass. Like a girl, but in a don’t-screw-with-me kind of way. I reach for my red Converses. Just as I’m about to tug on the first one, the door on the right side of the ugly wardrobe swings open on a squeaky hinge. I chuckle when I see what’s inside.

“Are you kidding me? What are the odds that they’re my size? They’ll probably crumble into dust if I even touch them.”

“You doubt me?” Jackson’s sudden appearance sends me stumbling backward.

“You can’t just do that! You scared the shit out of me.”

“I wouldn’t have to appear if you were a good girl and did as you were told.”

I grit my teeth while weighing my options. My earlier urge to injure him loses to my need to say, I told you so.

“Fine.” I march over to the wardrobe and yank out the musty, old boots, ignoring Jackson’s lazy grin that sends my stomach into a tailspin. Except … the boots aren’t musty. Yeah, they look old, but they’re in perfect condition. The leather is supple and shiny, and the laces have been replaced with smooth, black ribbons. I don’t know whether to wear them or worship them.

Jackson makes up my mind for me when he scoots me onto the bed and lifts my foot onto his knee. I chuckle, thinking of the old man with a bad comb-over at the children’s shoe store close to our house. He used to kneel and place our feet on his knee, too, when fitting us for a new pair. I’d stare at the top of his shiny head and the greasy strips of hair carefully gelled into place.

“Ticklish?”

“Hardly.”

“Hmmm.” Jackson loosens the laces then tips the boot so I can slip in my toes. He maneuvers it until my foot and calve are perfectly encased in black leather. His fingers linger at the back of my knee.

“Seems like you’ve done this before.”

“Perhaps,” he says as he tugs the ribbons tight. “Other foot.”

He repeats the process, but this time he doesn’t release my leg when he finishes. “Lovely,” he breathes, then shakes his head as if to clear it. “Are you ready to go downstairs?”

I shrug.

“Give them a try.” Jackson takes my hand and pulls me off the bed so I’m standing on two-inch heels, a far cry from the flat Chucks I’m used to. The boots are surprisingly comfortable. “Stand up straight, shoulders back.”

“You sound like my mom.”

He smirks. “Now walk.” I feel like a horse being led around a ring as Jackson keeps me steady. “Don’t lock your knees. Use them to help you walk naturally, heel to toe.”

After a few adjustments, I’ve got the hang of it. “Like this?”

“Mmm, excellent.” I swear his dead eyes just got warmer. Is that possible? Something tells me that isn’t the kind of thing I can ask Riley. His raises my hand to his lips and leaves a small kiss that sends tingles all the way up my bare arm and beyond. “I think you’re ready, sweetheart. Do not forget to pay attention to what you learn today. I’ll be nearby.”

“Yeah? That’s pretty damn creepy, you know.” My heart begins pumping out a cocktail of Oh, crap when he crosses his arms and stares at me. Guess that was the wrong thing to say. As the seconds stretch out, I count my blinks. After six, he still hasn’t broken eye contact. My toes wiggle inside my boots. Then my leg starts bouncing. “Okay, maybe not creepy. Maybe protective is more like it. Or concerned. Or, I don’t know, sweet? You know it was just a joke, right? I always say stupid, sarcastic stuff.”

Still, he doesn’t answer.

“Are you mad at me?”

Jackson takes a deep, unnecessary breath. “Is that how I appear to you, creepy?”

“Well, you are dead.” He nods. “And you can appear and disappear whenever you want.” He nods again, so I keep prodding. “And you can … um, touch me. Even though you’re not real. So yeah, that qualifies as creepy.”

I watch, mesmerized, as a crooked grin slowly softens his face. “And yet you’re not running for the door, pulling out your hair and screaming like a hysterical schoolgirl.”

“No, um, that would be—” I point in the direction of Ashley’s room.

Jackson rewards me with a genuine laugh. “And that is why I chose you, not her. I can’t promise I won’t be creepy, but hopefully I can be a number of other things to you, as well.” He takes a step toward me, while I take a step back. “Intriguing, perhaps? Helpful?” He eyes my boots and takes another step closer. “Educational, even?”

His eyes land on my lips, and even a novice like me can tell where this is headed.

*********

photo 3After collecting a couple English degrees in the Midwest, Stephanie Lawton suddenly awoke in the deepest reaches of the Deep South. Culture shock inspired her to write about Mobile, Alabama, her adopted city, and all the ways Southern culture, history and attitudes seduce the unsuspecting.

A lover of all things gothic, she can often be spotted photographing old cemeteries, historic buildings and, ironically, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast. She also has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles.

Where To Find Stephanie:

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Where to get your paws on SHRAPNEL:

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (paperback) | Barnes and Noble (paperback) | Evernight Teen | All Romance ebooks (digital) | CreateSpace (paperback)

I’ve Been Tagged: The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

This is a meme going around for about a month wherein tagees answer WIP-related questions and pass it along to others.

I’ve been tagged by Janice Hardy, fabulous YA author of The Healing Wars trilogy, and by one of my Beta buddies Linda Morris, whom I’ve had the pleasure of Beta reading two of her works and am so happy they’ve found publishers!

Rules for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:
***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

I have several works in various stages of the pipeline. My current WIP is NOT ANOTHER DARCY, a magical realism/meta fiction romance, which I’m doing for NaNoWriMo this month. Langouring in revision is my steampunk romance STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY. Coming out on December 19th with Secret Cravings Publishing is BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS. But the one I’m going to post about is the one that I shopped for an agent, my time travel romance MUST LOVE BREECHES.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been a sucker for time travel and I’m a Jane Austen nut, so when I was brainstorming ideas for NaNoWriMo back in October 2010, I thought it’d be cool to go back in time to the Austen era and do some kind of tie in. But then there’d been others who’d explored that ground already and so I was noodling around in Wikipedia looking at famous people in that time period my heroine could meet and looking at Lord Byron’s page. It was while looking at that that I saw the entry about Ada Lovelace, and I was like HER. My heroine needs to meet her! So I readjusted the time period to 1834.

What genre does your book fall under?

Time travel romance, and in contests that usually falls into the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal category. I do get dinged by some judges saying they don’t understand why it’s in the paranormal category, which is frustrating, because that’s where it’s supposed to go according to their own definitions.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh man, I’m horrible with actors’ names and who’s who. I know that during revision, when I saw Toby Stephens play Mr. Rochester in one of the Jane Eyre versions, I sat up and thought, hey, that’s the closest in my mind to Lord Montagu! So him, but for Isabelle I have no clue, sorry!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When a modern American girl working at the British Museum finds herself stranded in pre-Victorian London by a mysterious artifact, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her growing attraction for a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I signed with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Associates on October 4th. We were scheduled to start submitting November 1, but Hurricane Sandy has delayed that, but hopefully we’ll be submitting soon.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I think it took me a little over thirty-two days? I did it for NaNoWriMo and passed the 50K mark after twenty-eight days, but I kept writing as it wasn’t finished and I seem to remember that it was a couple of days after NaNo ended. But that was in 2010 and I’ve been revising and polishing it until this past September.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a tough one. For time travel and humor, maybe Sandra Hill’s The Last Viking. In my queries I compared the tone to Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and Katie MacAlister‘s contemporary romances. After querying, a comp did come out: MacAlister published a time travel in September, A Tale of Two Vampires: A Dark Ones Novel. However, I also said that fans of the movie Lost in Austen would enjoy it as well.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

NaNoWriMo looming around the corner back in 2010!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think it’s a little different in that it explores an aspect of 1830s London often overlooked, which is the scientific side of things. Not only is Ada Byron Lovelace a main secondary character (credited as the world’s first computer programmer), but my heroine stays at the home of polymath Mary Somerville, and she attends a soiree at Charles Babbage‘s house, and sees him demonstrate The Difference Engine. She narrowly misses seeing Michael Faraday at the same party.

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Here’s my peeps (these are all Beta buddies–those whom I’ve swapped stories with for feedback):

  1. Kate Meader, who has a wicked-fun sense of humor, so I jumped on the chance to Beta her MS. She then landed an agent a couple of months ago and already sold her first series! Her debut (the one I Beta’ed) is Feel The Heat, coming out in 2013 by Grand Central!
  2. Donna Cummings, who ALSO has a wicked-fun sense of humor, so I also jumped on the chance to Beta her MS I Do… Or Die, which also recently found a home. Look for it December 10th with Crimson Romance
  3. Stephanie Lawton, fellow Mobilian whose gritty and haunting YA paranormal I beta’ed and just loved, recently found a home for it with Evernight Teen. Be on the look out for Shrapnel in January!
  4. Celia Breslin, urban fantasy and paranormal romance author, whose first chapter of a geek novella I critted and can’t wait to read the rest!
  5. Sarah Wesson, whom I’m eagerly awaiting for her to finish revising Full Metal Librarian as it just needs to be published, that’s all I’m saying!

Yes, You Should Blog and Tweet Before You’re Published

funny pictures of cats with captions

Are you an unpublished writer without a blog? Not tweeting? Well, you should! And here’s why.

Today’s post was inspired by the guest post by Heather Kopp last week at agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog, 7 Reasons to Quit Balking & Start Blogging. She makes some very good points and I’d like to add some more to them from my own experience.

I’d meant to do this post months ago when I ran across a blog post from a writer who posted that tweeting and blogging, she discovered, was not beneficial. The problem was her reasons for doing it and her methodology. See, she’d just published her first book and wanted to get the word out and heard that blogging and tweeting helped. So she set up a blog and a twitter account and went at it, and got no results. The problem was not only her timing, but the way she went about it. We all know those tweeters, who only send out auto-tweets promoting their book and you’ve never heard of them and they don’t engage you on twitter. I think at her stage, her audience was readers, and only readers who’ve found her book through other means would seek her out and follow her. But would a reader only be interested in Buy My Book tweets? No. Anyway, let’s move from that example, as I think enough has been blogged about the perils of this type of approach by others more articulate than me.

Let’s just use the above example as Reason #8 (picking up from Gardner’s post)…

8. You need to build your audience BEFORE you’re published. True, at this stage you’re not targeting readers because they have nothing to buy and read, but there are plenty of examples of folks who did this who benefited when her book came out. I think Jody Hedlund is one, am I remembering right? She’d built up a tribe of supporters who then wanted to help promote her when she published.

9. You are missing out on a whole passel of contacts that can help you. I started blogging and tweeting in September and felt really, really self-conscious, since I hadn’t published anything. It felt very strange and I really thought I wouldn’t last past two months, because who would want to visit my blog?? And for what reason?? I forged ahead anyway, and boy, I can’t tell you how much I don’t regret it. I’ve made SCORES of friends who have helped me learn so much more about my craft, who have given me encouragement, you name it. I’ve also found my Beta readers this way. I can’t honestly imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t started in September, but I can tell you, I’d be a whole lot further behind on my learning curve.

One of them, Jami Gold, I connected with back around Thanksgiving when she needed some quick Betas. I stepped up and we struck up an email correspondence, helping each other with pitches and queries. I then Beta’d her full and she recently Beta’d mine and really truly helped me see just what I needed to do to make my piece stronger. She’s been so helpful and supportive she even let me call her to hash out some writerly stuff and we’re going to be roommates for RWA.

I also wouldn’t have met Stephanie Lawton (via Twitter) and learned about the Mobile Writer’s Guild, which I’m now Vice President of and have met other wonderful writers in my local area. I also can’t always attend my local RWA chapter meetings because of my day-job work schedule, but tweeting helps me keep up with my fellow members.

And where would I be without my Six Sentence Sunday buddies? I’ve made wonderful friends through it, and discovered some new fave authors whose books I’ve bought.

None of this, none of the knowledge I’ve gained, none of the friends I’ve made, would have happened if I hadn’t started. Plus, I’d be a month away from going to my first national writers conference (RWA) and not know a soul. I can just picture myself (cuz I’ve been there) wandering around, watching others greet people they know. But now I’m a month away from not only learning a bunch of stuff, but a month away from meeting all the people I only know by name and their profile pic!

10. It CAN help in your actual writing output. I know it can be a time sucker, constantly checking Twitter, but once you get over that need to stay on top of EVERYTHING (because you finally realize you can’t), it’s wonderful for not only making new friends and learning about writing, but it can also help you with your output. Just hop onto the #1k1hr thread and you’ll see. You’ll meet other writers who are wanting to sit down for an hour and just write. You agree on a start time and you don’t come up for air until the end of the hour, when you report your output. This has helped me tremendously in meeting my daily goals and to stop me from obsessively checking all my online stuff.

11. Potential agents can find you. I personally haven’t had agents find me this way, but I have heard of it happening. I have had an agent who requested a full who commented in her email that she loved my Monday Hunk Who Reads. They ended up passing, but still, that was cool :) By having a blog, you are showing your brand, what you are like as a writer and person, and it can help them decide.

12. You’ll be stronger when you do publish. This is rehashing #8 somewhat, but I think it’s important enough to circle back to after showing all the other benefits. Now, when you do publish a year, two years, three years later, you’ll not be one of THOSE on Twitter who is only me, me, me and no one’s ever heard of you. No, instead you’ll have writer friends who support you and want to see you succeed. THEY’LL promote you. I know, because I help promote those that I’ve met since September whose work I’ve read and liked. Writers read, and they have family and friends who ask for recommendations all the time.

What do you think? Are you a writer worried about jumping in before you’ve published? Are you already blogging and tweeting like me? Do you have any other reasons why it’s a good idea? Please share!