When I was a newspaper editor, I would push reporters to look for weird, different, interesting things. A lot of them thought I was crazy, but one day I noticed that most of the city management wore saddle shoes. I assigned the city hall reporter to find out why and we ended up with a light piece about their choice of shoes—and a sidebar about a motorcycle cop showing up to work one day in “saddle-boots”. We had fun, many readers liked it and the reporter cemented her relationship with top city management.
As writers, we all need to be aware of and open to the world around us. It was an off-hand remark my daughter made that led to my new vampire romance, “SNAP: The World Unfolds.”
About five years ago, I decided that if I was ever going to write that book I’d talked about and thought about, I’d better do it. I had several starts, none particularly good, but I forced myself to sit down and write and finally had about 78,000 words, which I then shipped off in search of an agent.
Many rejections later, I found a writing coach, a woman who had some publications to her credit but, most importantly for me, had freelanced for a major metro newspaper in California. She told me that my baby was dreck. After a year of hour-long phone tutoring sessions and masses of back-and-forth emailing, I had the skeleton of what would be my first book, a mystery called “Edited for Death.”
The coach pushed me and pushed me and told me to cut the “chat” that many novice writers fall into. I thought she was talking about conversations until she said those mind-numbing paragraph-after-paragraph details that didn’t advance the story—what the characters ate at every meal, every move they made.
Armed with a slimmed-down 68,000 word book, I made the agent rounds again. Got rejections again. Rewrote again.
With the last rewrite, I felt the story had finally emerged from the froth of words. I started the small press route and in February got a contract with Mainly Murder Press. I’d eliminated them early on because they focused on New England writers, and I’m 3,000 miles away. I gave one last pass at their submission guidelines and lo! they said they’d consider other areas. “Edited for Death” will be out October 1, and I’m antsy to see it!
But I wasn’t idle during all those months of back-and-forth, sending, querying, rewriting, desperation. I learned a lot about the craft of writing, so my daughter and son-in-law started telling me to write a vampire novel. I said I didn’t know the first thing about vampires.
To keep them quiet, I read a couple of books in the genre (no Charlene Harris, no Stephanie Meyers) and realized there was a strong romance thread in many of them—another genre I’d never written. I was beating up my brain for ideas when my daughter said, “Look at all the Hollywood celebrities. They only go out after dark, they all wear giant sunglasses, they ride around in cars and limos with tinted windows. They could all be vampires.”
I had a hook! Also, what happens if the celebrity vampires are the stars in a celebrity media conglomerate owned by vampires?
So was born SNAP, a multinational, multimedia conglomerate churning out celebrity gossip 24/7 around most of the world, owned by a family of vampires head-quartered in Hungary. They’re educated, urbane and massively wealthy. They gave up killing for food a few centuries ago and turned to making a killing in stocks and commodities. And when Maxie Gwenoch, a regular with unimpeachable credentials in the celeb gossip world, takes a job with SNAP, the story begins.
Only the first SNAP book is out, but others are on their way.
Now I’m trying to figure out how to market it not as just a vampire romance, but with tie-ins to the Rupert Murdoch debacle that’s taking place. I was even tempted to headline a press release with “Is Rupert Murdoch Your Favorite Media Vampire” but cooler heads prevailed.
Having a headline-grabbing story about a media mogul hit the news just as my media mogul vampire novel goes on sale is serendipitous, but look for other tie-ins to things in the news that will help your market your books. An author I know has written a suspense novel with a plot of abused women disappearing.
I haven’t given up my first love, mysteries, but by developing and writing series in two different genres, I’m working on creating a cross-genre marketing plan—if both the books are up on my ebook author page there may be a small halo effect.
Regardless of genre, regardless of marketing, don’t limit yourself. Be aware of the world around you. Keep an eye out for anomalies. Look for those things that make you go “Huh!”
Most of them are just a flash-in-the-pan, but every so often a chance remark, or something overheard, or a strange fact you read can take on a life of its own and lead you down a new path.
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz, California to a family that migrated west to San Francisco in 1849. Unfortunately, they never found gold, nor did they buy (and hang onto) any California land.
Her mother named her Michael, after author and actress Blanche Oelrichs, who wrote under the name of Michael Strange. After months of saying, “Yes, she’s a girl. Yes, her name is Michael,” her mother finally caved and she became “Michele.” She’s lived in San Francisco, the Bay Area, the Central Valley, the Sierra, Southern California and the North Coast.
Her first career was in journalism, and she spent seven years as a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News. After returning to Humboldt State University to complete school and work on a master’s, she fell into her second career, as a non-profit administrator. She’s also spent time as a reporter and editor for daily papers in California, was a judge for three years for the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association Better Newspapers competition and won two awards for directing Investigative/Enterprise stories
She’s a member of the Society of California Pioneers and Sisters in Crime and lives in California’s Central Valley with a cat, skunks, wild turkeys and an opossum (only the cat gets to come in the house!).