I’m very pleased today to bring you an interview with New York Times Bestselling Historical Romance Novelist Nicole Jordan. Many of you may be familiar with Nicole’s fantastic body of work. She’s written so many awesome books from Western to Regency, and even some Medieval romances in there as well. Her latest novel, Princess Charming, is out today! It’s the first in a new Regency series that I know I am very much looking forward to reading. I’ve always been so impressed with Nicole’s work and when I asked her a few questions I was delighted to see that she’s also a very cool person with a lot of insights that writers in all stages of their careers would appreciate….
What prompted you to want to be a writer in the first place?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, but I never expected to become a writer. I started dreaming up an historical romance story to escape the stress of my 60 hour/week, high-pressure job as an engineering manager. Back then my biggest claim to fame was that my manufacturing lines made the first disposable diapers in history with elastic leg bands (an enormous contribution to society, don’t you think?). But I desperately needed a creative outlet. And with absolutely no writing background (my degree is in civil engineering), I had to teach myself to write from scratch. Everything about writing – the craft, the art, the business – was a big deal for me, since I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!
Even now it’s hard to describe the mental and emotional exhilaration I get from writing. Of course, there are times when I want to rip out my hair, but on the whole, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have discovered work that’s also a passion.
What is your favorite historical era to write in?
Regencies have always been my first love, but for a number of years I alternated Regencies with other settings and time periods, since it gave me a break and a fresh outlook for my writing. I would have been happy to continue alternating, especially since I’d love to finish the third book of a Western trilogy I started. But the Western market tanked because readers quit buying them in large numbers (possibly because they just got tired of them?) My editor’s theory then was that many Western readers would pick up a Regency, but Regency readers wouldn’t necessarily pick up a Western. And publishers have to sell lots of books to stay in business, so we decided I would write Regencies exclusively.
I personally doubt we’ll ever see the return of the sizzling hot Western/Native American/ Americana market again like we had in the 80’s and early 90’s. But historicals seem to be on an upswing now, and I think we’re getting to the point that readers are tired of being offered only Regencies, which means more varied settings will come back if readers vote with their pocketbooks. And regardless of the setting, at the core, readers will always want riveting, engaging stories of love and relationships between great characters.
One of your Paradise stories was set on a made-up island in the Mediterranean. Did you run into any problems with your publisher about such an unorthodox (for Regencies) setting?
Actually my publisher and editors jumped at the idea when I first suggested it. We thought the additional locale would provide more scope for imagination and romance, besides offering jaded romance readers more intriguing plots and fresh elements that couldn’t usually be found in a strict English/London social sphere.
In hindsight, though, I wish I’d lightened up the tone of that series sooner (it would have been more fun for me and my readers) and that I’d set my island much closer to England. It took way too long to get my characters back and forth, and there’s only so much action you can have on board a ship.
What was your journey to publication like?
Take heart, dear writers. It took me nearly five years of part-time writing and rewriting and enduring crushing rejections – and that was back in the mid 80’s when it was much, much easier to make a first sale. You can imagine I was dancing on the ceiling when Zebra Books bought my first manuscript. The only feeling that has ever come close was making the New York Times bestseller list the first time.
And I was extremely fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive husband who let me quit my lucrative high-stress job to pursue my writing career, and who stuck with me all those many years when I was making a nickel an hour.
As for moving to bigger books, I never really had to make the switch since I started big in the first place. My first book was 150K words long, and that was after I cut 30K words for my editor. Now they’re about 100-120K long, with probably the same amount of subplots as the longer books. I just make the resolution come earlier and strive for tighter writing. Every word has to count.
Any wisdom you’d like to pass on to aspiring authors about agents, publishing and the business?
Oh, I’m full of advice! But you’ll have to judge how wise it is. In my opinion, the secret to great sales is writing books that a large number of readers want to read. But what readers want to read changes quite often. I also think you have to write something you have a passion for. Otherwise your lack of interest will show over the long run.
I think it’s really important to find an editor who loves what you write. A good editor not only can improve your work and help make it more appealing to a wider audience (I’ve been fortunate to have some really good ones), but can champion your career inside your publishing house. A good agent can also benefit your career enormously (I frankly think my agent, Karen Solem, walks on water.) But the bottom line for an author’s success is market demand. Over the long haul, what counts is whether or not readers buy your books and keep buying them.
I also think that staying in this hard, hard business requires discipline, drive, dedication, determination, and maybe a measure of talent… but so much of it is just sheer luck. So it’s important to focus on the things you can control and not let the rest make you crazy or suicidal.
Some more advice? Build on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Keep growing and learning. Write faster if you can keep up the quality. Develop your voice. Create a niche for yourself and stick with it to develop a readership (that includes genres and settings). Enter contests to get your work out in front of people who can buy or sell it. Never bug an editor. Be professional. Never stab another writer in the back. Spend time thinking about how to make your work fresh (example: a new twist or hook or saying something in a new way) so that you differentiate your book from the countless others out there. Set small goals and feel good about achieving them. Count your friends as your most cherished accomplishments. And probably the most important, keep going; never, never, stop!
I can’t tell you how many times I almost gave up, both before and after publication. One thing is certain: for one reason or another, you may never meet the goals you set for yourself (getting published, getting a large advance or a hard/soft deal, making the NY Times list, etc.), but you most certainly won’t meet them if you give up.
Wow! Those are some fantastic words of advice. Thank you, Nicole!
Many thanks also because….
Nicole has very generously offered a signed copy of the first book in her Courtship Wars series, To Pleasure A Lady to one of my readers. All you need to do to be entered to win this great book is to leave a comment to this blog post. You have until Saturday morning, when I’ll announce the winner in a special blog post, to comment.
And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Nicole’s newest treasure, Princess Charming, today!