This week's REV UP WEDNESDAY guest is an author who wrote one of my favorite books - Joanna Waugh. As she herself states, Joanna's website is a "treasure trove" of information about the Regency era. I see it as an invaluable resource for my writing. It is evident that two passions burn bright in Joanna's heart - writing and history. Her Regency set novel, Blind Fortune, features one of the most interesting heroines I've ever encountered, and the relationship between her and the hero is so tangible, so heartwarming, so real... they truly are a couple to remember.
Joanna has overcome many hurdles, both personally and professionally, but she proves that one can keep a dream alive no matter the circumstances. We really can carve out the life we desire for ourselves, just by hanging in there. Worldly commitments come and go, but our desires remain, waiting for us to pursue them. I totally agree with her. Thank you for visiting my world, Joanna. It's truly a pleasure.
Oh, and I can't forget...
Joanna is giving away a print copy of BLIND FORTUNE to a lucky commenter! Feel free to ask Joanna anything you wish - and leave your email address with your comment. The winner will announced on the 15th February.
And now, here's a little insight into her journey...
How long have you been writing?
All my life! As a child I was asthmatic so I spent a lot of time indoors, alone. Reading became a way for me to travel beyond the four walls of my bedroom. Writing my own stories was a natural outgrowth of this isolation.
In my early twenties, I took a break from fiction to do some feature writing for my employer’s newsletter. In my forties I got involved in politics and wrote op eds and white papers and feature articles for specialty magazines and newspapers. That lasted into my fifties. Then one morning I woke up with a full blown three book story idea and I was back to writing fiction!
When did you decide that you wanted to write for a living (that "aha" moment)?
Hmmm. Writing for a living— I think that’s a bit of a misnomer. Most authors don’t earn enough from their books to support themselves. In fact, I would caution new authors not to get starry eyed over the prospect of big bucks. That isn’t to say it can’t happen, but for the majority of us, what we earn from our book sales can only be termed as supplemental income. You’ve heard the saying “don’t quit your day job?” It applies to writing.
What did your family say when you told them you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, so as far as my family is concerned, I’ve always been a writer. My mom is my biggest fan and always has been. When my first book was released, I swear she was as excited as I was!
What is your preferred genre both for reading and writing?
Regency romance. My second favorite reading genre is paranormal—vampires and weres. The setting can be contemporary or historical, it doesn’t matter. But my first love is Regency.
Did you start by writing full time or did you have a day job?
I worked for the local gas and electric company for thirty-six years. I started out as an officer worker but by the time I retired, I was installing electric meters – the first woman in the company to qualify as a journeyman electric meterman. (Yes, they called me a “meterman.” It’s a male dominated field. I didn’t care what how they labeled me as long as my paycheck was the same as the men’s.) When I got the chance to retire at age fifty-five, I jumped at it. I’d paid my dues caring for my disabled husband, raising my son and keeping a roof over our heads. It was time for me to pursue my dream — writing.
Did you take any writing courses or did you just sit and write a book?
After a one year stint at a Chicago commercial art school, I went to work at the utility company. It wasn’t until a couple decades later that I took some writing courses at the local university. But in the 1970s, a group of writers in Westport, Connecticut created the Famous Writers School. The correspondence course cost $700, which was a lot of money for someone earning $1.30 an hour. Yet despite the controversy concerning the school (Wikipedia has an article about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famous_Writers_School), I did learn a lot about writing. The most important lesson was not to take criticism personally.
Did/do you have a crit group or mentor to guide you?
I belong to a fantastic critique group of ten women. Formerly, we were a Romance Writers of America chapter. We’ve been together so long, it feels like family. Half of our members are published and the rest are on the brink. What is wonderful about these women is that their criticism comes from a real understanding of my writing. I can count on them to tell me the truth. They want me to succeed as much as I do, and vice versa.
How long did it take you to make your first sale? What was your first thought when you did?
I returned to writing romance fiction in the late 1990s. BLIND FORTUNE was published in ebook format in 2008, so it took about ten years. My first thought upon publication? At last, hallelujah, at last!
Did you sell the first story or novel you wrote?
Heavens no! I wish I had the stories and novels I wrote as a child and teenager. A few years back, I reconnected with my British pen pal. He’d kept a manuscript I sent him during the heyday of the Beatles. It was a treat to read it again and remember the girl I was.
When I returned to romance fiction in the 1990s, the first book I wrote had a nautical theme. But when I joined the local RWA chapter, I quickly learned the difference between a story with romantic elements and romance fiction. My book was not a romance. After three attempts to edit it into one, I gave up and started BLIND FORTUNE.
How many drafts did you write of your first novel before you felt you got it right? What about now - do you still write several drafts of a story?
This is a hard question to answer because I don’t write a first draft per se. I’m a control freak so I have to know the entire story before I even begin. I write linearly; I can’t hop around. And every chapter has to be editor-ready before I move on to the next. This process makes for very slow writing and I certainly don’t recommend it. But it works for me!
Did you get an agent first or did you submit directly to publishers?
Everything I’ve accomplished professionally, I’ve accomplished on my own. I did have an agent for a while but we agreed to part. Perhaps it’s my age, but I’m not as “hungry” as younger authors. I’m content with where I am in my career. I’ll never be a New York Times Best Seller nor do I want to be. I enjoy the process of writing as much as seeing my work in print. That might sound as though I write for a hobby, which isn’t true. I work every day, whether it’s on my blog or website, an interview like this or on a new book. Writing is fundamental to me. It always has been and always will be.
If you signed with an agent, how did you go about the process of finding your agent/publisher?
I entered a partial of BLIND FORTUNE in a writing contest conducted by RWA’s Beau Monde chapter. I finaled in the contest and my entry was judged by an agent who made some suggestions about how to improve the story. I did those changes and sent the full to her. She offered to represent me.
Did you ever get rejected? If so, how did you handle it?
You bet I’ve been rejected! Lots of times. The important thing to remember is that the submission process is a subjective one. All kinds of things come into play when editors read your manuscript. After all, they’re people too. Rule #1 in the writing business: don’t take criticism personally. Rejection is not a statement about you or your ability to write. Editors can’t take chances on books they think won’t earn enough money to pay for the cost of producing them. BLIND FORTUNE, was rejected by every major print house in New York because editors said their customers didn’t want to read about a blind heroine. Fortunately I found a home for the book at Cerridwen Press, now Ellora’s Cave’s Blush line.
What, in your opinion, do agents/publishers look for in a new author in the current market? Is it all to do with talent or with trends?
Frankly, it’s all about money. In this economic climate, it’s harder than ever for new authors to break into print. The New York publishers are sticking with their already contracted authors and taking few risks on new ones. (I’ve found it ironic that editors say they’re looking for fresh voices when their employers are reprinting books written in the 1990s.) But there’s been an explosion in the popularity of ebooks, which has created a fantastic opportunity for authors. Especially given that New York print houses regularly peruse the reputable epubs. I know of two published authors that editors from NY approached and offered to look at anything they cared to submit.
What do you think of the changes going on in the book industry (e.g., e-books vs. print books, and big publishers getting involved in digital publishing)? Where do you see the industry going?
There will always be a place for print books, but the electronic trend will eventually dominate. It’s just too convenient and the profit margin is too great. Sure there are still publication costs with electronic books, but they’re much lower than print publication. That translates into cheaper books for readers and higher earnings for authors and publishers.
Do you think writers should consider self-publishing?
Because of the costs associated with self-publishing, I think it works best for authors who already have a loyal following. Once a book is published, an author has to devote a lot of time and effort to promotion. That’s where a publisher comes in. The more help they can give with advertising, interviews, reviews, etc…the more time an author has to write the next book.
Then there’s the issue of editing. A reputable publisher provides this service. And, let’s face it, even the best writer needs another set of eyes when it comes to polishing their work. An author who self-publishes must decide whether to hire an editor—which is more money out of pocket—or not. Unfortunately, many of them choose not to and the quality of their book suffers for it.
How do you feel about so many bookstores closing across the US?
It’s a direct result of the trend toward digital publication. And, sad to say, it’s likely to get worse. The same goes for public libraries. It won’t happen overnight but as more and more books become available electronically, the less there will be a need for brick and mortar structures.
I once dreamed of having an English library. You know, with dark paneled walls and floor to ceilin shelves you have to access with a rolling ladder. Today I have that library but it exists on the internet and in the memory of the laptop on which I am currently typing. Anything I want to know, all the information in the world, is literally at my fingertips.
Are your books available in print or in digital format?
BLIND FORTUNE is available in print and all forms of digital format. It can be purchased on the Ellora’s Cave website, at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc…
What advice do you think aspiring authors should heed today?
It’s okay to follow the trends, but write what’s in your heart. You will find a home for the book if you work hard enough. I’ve watched so many authors bounce around genres trying to find the magic bullet to success until they’re so discouraged they just give up. Write what pleases you as a reader.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing a Regency paranormal set in 1816 along the border between England and Scotland. My hero accidentally sets loose a 6th century pagan king from a well. The spirit follows him home and starts wreaking havoc with the heroine.
Do you read when you are plotting or writing a story?
Absolutely. A lot of authors claim that reading their genre while working on a book interferes with their voice and creativity. I find just the opposite. If I’m stuck, I can get the juices flowing by reading my favorite Regency authors. They reenergize me.
What book inspired you to write romance (or whatever genre you write in)?
My mother belonged to Book of the Month Club and I grew up reading the likes of Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier. By junior high I was sneaking into the grown up section of the public library. I couldn’t borrow the books so I’d sit and read all day, every Saturday. When I was in grade school, our local Kroger store had a special promotion on YA biographies of famous Americans—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton. Every week, mom added another book to my library. Through those biographies I fell in love with American history. But it was when Disney introduced the Swamp Fox series on its weekly television show that I got hooked on the American Revolution. And because America’s history is tied closely to Britain’s, my interest gravitated toward English history. I fell in love with the Regency which I discovered Georgette Heyer.
How do you juggle work, writing, chores and family/personal life? Do you have a secret to time management that you want to share with readers?
I’m retired so my time is my own. None of my family lives close by, but I do have friends — most of them retired as well — that I stay in touch with. I really sympathize with young writers. They have day jobs and families and all kinds of pressures on their time. Especially women. Their writing often has to be put on the back burner for several years. My advice is to hang in there. If writing is an integral part of you, you will find a way.
Do you have a ritual that you follow when it comes to writing?
I’m up every day by 7AM. I make a pot of coffee and, mug in hand, go over my email and work on Facebook, my blog, my website and book promotion. By 8AM I’m ready to get down to work. I write until 1-2PM, at which time I break for the day. I live alone and maintain my own home so there’s lots of chores! After dinner, I curl up with a book and read until bedtime unless I’m getting together with family or friends. It isn’t uncommon for me to go a whole week without leaving the house. Just as I did when I was a child, I have a habit of getting lost in my own world.
Where do you see yourself, careerwise, in 5 years time?
God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be right here doing what I’m doing. As far as I’m concerned, it don’t get any better than this!
What's your website URL?
Are you on Facebook?
I also have a fan page at
How do you connect with readers?
I stay in touch mostly via Facebook. It’s a wonderful medium! I also belong to several yahoo groups. My website is a treasure trove of Regency research links and information which keeps me connected with readers as well.
Joanna Waugh lives near the Indiana Dunes on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. When not writing, she collects Russian nesting dolls and antique nautical prints.
About BLIND FORTUNE:
They say love is blind, but Lady Fortuna Morley doesn’t believe it. Sightless since birth, she can think of only one reason a gentleman would wed her—for the dowry and three thousand a year her father will provide. She’s in London the spring of 1814 to launch her younger cousin into society, but prefers living quietly in the country with her music. The last thing Fortuna wishes is to cross swords with the arrogant Marquess of Granville.
Charles Lowden, Lord Granville, has decided to take a wife. The bride he’s chosen is thirteen years his junior, but meets all criteria. What he won’t abide is interference from the girl’s impertinent cousin, the outspoken and opinionated Lady Fortuna Morley. The woman is determined to thwart the match. Charles is just as determined to charm Fortuna out of her disdain for him.
What neither expects in the ensuing battle of wills is to fall in love.
~ Natalie ~
No Rules. No Formulas. Just Love.