Join us every Friday as we spotlight various members in the Savvy Authors Community. We'll introduce you to volunteers, members active in the Savvy writing community, recently published authors from our authors, editors, and agents.
This week we are shining the spotlight on multi-published contemporary and paranormal romantic suspense author Virna DePaul. Known for the hot Para-Ops novels, she is premiering another series in a contemporary line, Special Investigations leading off with Shades of Desire in June, 2012. Join us as we talk to the former criminal prosecutor turned best selling author as we cover the business of writing, cheat sheets and an animal lover's anthology for a great cause.
Welcome to the Spotlight Virna, let's jump right in. On your blog you have a wonderful story about your journey to publication, telling what happened and what you learned. In it you mention coming up with a marketing plan for publishers to help you stand out. Can you tell us a bit about that?
It’s a thrill being here on Savvy! Thank you for having me.
The marketing plan detailed current trends in publishing, and what was similar and different about my particular stories. It also gave specific information about what I planned to do to promote my books, before and after I was published (i.e., blogging, sure, but also more creative things like running illustration contests connected to my Para-Ops team). I also provided statistics about how many page views my blog was getting, how many subscribers I had on my mailing list, etc. My main objective was to sell not just my stories, but me—my professionalism, my organizational skills, my creativity, and my drive.
The darker side of humanity was something you confronted daily as a former criminal prosecutor, and something you continue to confront in your stories, albeit with much happier endings. How much of your experience as a prosecutor do you weave into your stories?
My previous experience as a prosecutor helps me depict the criminal justice system and police investigations in a more realistic way. It also enables me to brainstorm different scenarios that haven’t been written about before. Finally, I think it helps me empathize with all my characters, not just the hero and heroine. At the same time, I never forget that my hero and heroine, while redeemable, are flawed. Hopefully, this gives my stories a certain level of complexity and richness.
You had a blog up and running very early in your writing career despite being unpublished at the time. Do you think writers should have a blog while working toward publication, and what sort of content would you suggest they offer?
One of my editors read my blog before she ever bought me. So yes, I would encourage a writer to have some kind of strong web presence even before she’s published. Whether it’s an updated and compelling website, active social networking, or a blog, the point is that you want to put yourself out there in a professional and engaging way. You want people to recognize your name and your brand, so that when your first book comes out, they’re already curious. That said, blogging is time-consuming and an easy way to distract yourself from your writing.
Having published in both print and e-Book, do you plan to continue using both, and where do you see the future of publishing going?
I think publishers are going to be less willing to take chances in print. Eventually, most print runs will be reserved for tried-and-true “big hitters” or new writers that are going to be backed by significant marketing dollars. That said, I believe more writers will have the opportunity to be published in e-Book. Publishers will take more risks in this form, but it will be harder than ever for authors to stand out from the crowd.
I will definitely continue to pursue both traditional and indie publishing. I love the freedom and control that comes with designing, marketing and publishing my own work, but it’s very time consuming and fosters its own brand of insecurity. It has never been harder for me to write than it is now—after I published and, most especially, after I self-published. I not only have to write my stories, but I have to market them. I’m not just a writer, but also a businesswoman. I’m trying to balance a personal and family life, but there just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything I want to do and do it well. My dream is to be a “big” author for a “big house,” so that I’ll have significant support with editing and marketing, and can return most of my focus to writing.
There are some words of wisdom and experience in there, aspiring authors take note! It's no secret that you write your Red Hot Cops erotic romance books under Ava Meyers. Do you see more acceptance for writers who want to openly publish in multiple genres, including erotica?
I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced significant backlash for writing in multiple genres, including erotic romance. Of course, readers react differently to different stories, but erotic romance is a thriving and competitive market. The key is getting in front of the right audience. I chose to write the Red Hot Cops series under a pseudonym because I didn’t want any of my readers to be confused about what they were getting. It’s been fun and liberating for me to write something I never thought I would or could, and to put my own spin on it.
You opted to give Chosen By Sin, the third book in the Para Ops series, its own website. What made you decide to take this step and will you do it for future novels?
I work with a publicist from LitConnect who came up with the idea of a micro-site, a “one stop shop” for readers to get information about Chosen By Sin. Since I indie published this third book in the Para-Ops series, I wanted to give readers an easy way to order it and follow along on my blog tour. I got some great feedback about the tour and readers really seemed to enjoy it.
You are known for your fabulous and free cheat sheets, which are short lessons on various writing topics. In fact there may be a few on my own computer! Some people might ask why do it, why put so much work into something only to give it away. What would you say to that?
I’m so happy people have found the cheat sheets useful. Why do it? One major rule of marketing is to capture people’s attention by providing something of value. That’s a given. But more importantly, most writers are awesomely wonderful people with generous spirits. So many people have inspired me and helped me improve my craft. I want to do that for others, too. I’m an introvert and it’s hard for me to put myself out there, but I’ve always enjoyed condensing information into manageable chunks, and I’ve always loved teaching. I want people to like my cheat sheets, like my books and like me. All I can do is write the best stories I can, make myself visible, take an interest in others, and hope they’ll take an interest in me in return.
You contributed to the Love Bites anthology (June, 2012) with your story, Molly Wants a Hero. What's really special about this anthology is that all the proceeds will be donated to a no kill dog and cat shelter. What inspired you to participate, do you have pets of your own and where did you find the adorable Yorkie on the cover?
It was a huge honor when Lori Foster asked me to write a story for her latest charitable anthology. I’ve read Lori’s stories for years, long before I decided to give writing a go myself. Turns out she’s not just a fabulous writer, but she’s devoted to various charities. She’s a big advocate of “giving back” to the community, and that’s something I’d like to do more of in the future. I tend to write darker stories, so I liked the idea of a pet-themed story that could be slightly lighter. I have a devoted dog named Sprite, but she’s not a Yorkie (she’s a King Charles Cavalier)—HQN’s art department takes full credit for the adorable anthology cover!
While we have the utmost respect for your busy schedule, there has been a significant spike in VWS (a/k/a Virna Withdrawal Syndrome) here at SavvyAuthors. What are the odds you'll be hosting another chat or workshop for us anytime soon?
Thank you! LOL—that’s a hilariously worded and much-appreciated compliment. I’ve missed being active with SavvyAuthors. I’ve made some wonderful connections here and I’d be happy to visit and contribute in the future.
Well you've done it now Virna, because you know we'll hold you to that one! Your next Harlequin romantic suspense novel, Shades of Desire will debut in June, 2012. Can you give us a peek inside the story and some juicy tidbits about the main characters?
I’d love to! Shades Of Desire is the first book in the Special Investigations Group Series for Harlequin. The story details have morphed over time, but the main premise—a famous photojournalist loses her vision but must assist a homicide detective in solving a crime—has remained the same since I first came up with the idea. I love writing for Harlequin because, although this is a romantic suspense, the main focus of the line is always on the romance/relationship of the characters. I really wanted to explore the idea of a woman losing her entire sense of self along with her vision, but only after she’d endured years of knowing blindness was inevitable.
Natalie Jones is a strong woman who’s handling her disability her own way, and when Detective Liam “Mac” McKenzie literally crashes through her door, she instinctively resists the attraction between them. The last thing she wants is to be a burden to someone who already has so many responsibilities. And truth is, the last thing Mac wants is another “needy” woman. But in the midst of solving a murder investigation, these two truly learn the difference between needing something and wanting it.
I fell in love with my group of special agents. In a way, they remind me of my Para-Ops team—so many different personalities and torments to contend with, but so many possibilities for love and healing, too. I introduce a couple in Shades Of Desire, Jase and Carrie, and their story, Shades Of Temptation, comes out in September of 2012.
Here’s a small glimpse into Shades Of Desire:
“With absolutely no make-up and her hair plastered away from her face, she was all eyes and lips. Big caramel colored eyes with a green ring around the iris, the color still compelling despite the ocular blood hemorrhages that were common in victims of attempted strangulation. Long lashes much darker than her hair. Bare, pouty, swollen lips, slightly parted to reinforce the impression of confusion and vulnerability. And bruises. Cuts and bruises scattered across her face, fresh and old.
He saw other things, too. Subtler things. He saw the small creases beside her mouth, which hinted that she liked to smile, and the deep, impenetrable wall of sadness in her eyes that told him she no longer knew how. Everything about the woman was a contradiction, as mysterious and uncomfortable as the intense desire throbbing through him. For a crazy second, he wondered what she tasted like.” --Shades of Desire (HQN, Special Investigations Group 1)
Thank you again for having me here today!!
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! You can learn more about Virna by going to her website. You can also follow her on Twitter, and you can subscribe to her newsletter for free monthly cheat sheets.
For more information on our Spotlights, feel free to leave a comment or private message me from my profile page.
A former prosecutor, Virna DePaul writes about flawed individuals who find redemption through courage and love. Whether you're looking for paranormal or contemporary romance, Virna’s books provide lots of action, emotion, and thrills! She is a national best selling author for Berkeley with her paranormal romantic suspense series, for Harlequin single title romantic suspense and for Harlequin category romantic suspense. She teaches online workshops and craft chats.
Natalie Jones is the lucky survivor of an elusive killer who preys on young women and then disappears from view. And since her harrowing ordeal, the once gutsy photojournalist has remained isolated in her home, paralyzed by fear and her failing vision. Special Agent Liam “Mac” McKenzie has scars of his own. But despite his efforts to ignore the attraction that simmers between him and Natalie, he needs her help to catch a predator. Soon, they will forge a tentative alliance—charged with desire. Through a soft-focus lens, Natalie dares to envision a future with Mac beyond the investigation...never guessing that the clues hidden within her photographs are drawing them into an explosive confrontation with a madman.
Ria Boulay, Spotlight On Editor, writes paranormal romance and young adult. A former paralegal working as a judicial secretary, she previously spent six years as the general manager of, and writing for, a large metaphysical website. With her husband and two utterly impertinent Italian Greyhounds, she divides her time between New Hampshire and Cape Cod. When not writing, she spends her spare time rescuing homeless gargoyles and relaxes by riding her Harley.