I'm excited to host today's REV UP WEDNESDAY guest, NYT bestselling author Shelli Stevens! Shelli's down to earth and honest about her experiences. It took her all of 11 years to get where she is today, and 6 years before she was published. "Overnight success" - what's that? Apart from what Shelli shared in this interview, I also enjoyed reading the FAQs page on her website - it gives you a little more insight into the author's thinking. With 31 published books under her belt, Shelli has a lot to say. But the wonderful thing is, she can now support herself with her writing - through hard work, determination, and goal-setting, she is in a place she loves, pursuing her dreams.
And now, here's Shelli...
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing probably since I was about twelve. I became serious about writing, getting published about eleven years ago.
When did you decide that you wanted to write for a living (that "aha" moment)?
About eleven years ago I decided I wanted to write and try to publish. I wasn't really looking at it to make a living. Because the motto in the industry is 'don't quit your day job!', because it's not all bonbons and six figure paychecks. It takes a long time to be able to quit your day job. I'm fortunate to be able to support myself on my writing now, but it didn't happen overnight.
What did your family say when you told them you wanted to be a writer?
I'm not married, but my parents/brothers didn't think much of it. Thought it was cool I was trying. I was working full time when I first started out.
What is your preferred genre both for reading and writing?
I think it varies. I love to read early historicals (medieval and such). I don't write them though. Writing, I love contemporaries, but have also delved into paranormal now with my first release in the spring.
Did you start by writing full time or did you have a day job?
I had a day job. I'm a single mom and couldn't quit my job. After I had my daughter I was unemployed and when I became published my checks were nowhere near enough to survive on.
Did you take any writing courses or did you just sit and write a book?
I think I took creative writing in high school, but don't remember much. I really just wrote my first book, joined the RWA and realized I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, I literally had no idea how to even format it (paragraphs, chapters, etc). I opened a Word doc and tried to make it look like a book.
Did/do you have a crit group or mentor to guide you?
Yes! I got a critique group who helped me realize bi-polar, nymphomaniac heroines don't sell well. And there's this thing called POV (Point of View). And over the years I've been fortunate to have the friendship/informal mentorship of Cherry Adair. Now we're in a plotting group together.
Do you use a/several pseudonym(s) and if so, why did you choose to have one/them?
I use just this one at the moment, I chose it because it was fun and fit who I am.
How long did it take you to make your first sale? What was your first thought when you did?
It took me about six years. I was a little worried, but resolved. I sold to an e-publisher when it was considered a sell out or where the people with no talent went. But I built a readership that way, one that put me on the NYT list. I would hope today I have the respect from those who once doubted me.
Did you sell the first story or novel you wrote?
Not initially, but later down the road I did. In fact it's called Foreign Affair and being re-released at Samhain in February!
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?
I wrote several, several drafts of that book. I couldn't tell you how many, honestly. Probably five? Now I write one or two drafts. I really just write a book and go back and fix the parts that don't work.
Do you read industry or writing related blogs? If so, can you share some useful links?
Honestly, very rarely. Some seem so negative and snarky, I just find it kind of a downer. And I'd rather be inspired. The one blog I visit (when I remember) is Jane Porter. I love her honesty and how much heart she has. She was part of my local chapter for awhile and I think she's just fabulous.
Did you get an agent first or did you submit directly to publishers?
I was shopping for an agent when I had an offer from the publisher I'd submitted it to. So I signed with Laura Bradford, who'd already shown interest and had been considering me with another project.
If you signed with an agent, how did you go about the process of finding your agent/publisher?
I basically researched. Talked to people about their publishers/agents. Found out who might be a good fit for me.
Did you ever get rejected? If so, how did you handle it?
Yes, I've been rejected many times. Rejection happens. I think everyone gets rejected at least once. Even if you sell and go for years with lots of success, some day down the road you'll probably get the dreaded R. You deal with it with some tears, chats with friends, chocolate/wine/fill in the blank with your favorite vice. And then you keep going.
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?
I think it's a combination of both, but they definitely want a book that will sell and is marketable. You can have the most awesome book ever, but if they don't have an audience for it and it's difficult to find a market for it, you may not sell it.
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?
Well, for years I've said the trend is digital books, and it seems to be going that way more so with every passing day. I really couldn't even begin to guess what's next...
Do you think writers should consider self-publishing?
I have nothing against self-publishing and have self-pubbed a couple books. That being said, it's a lot of work. Especially if you're starting out with no previously published books. I have an advantage because I have a readership that may go looking for my books and find my self-pubbed ones. If you're brand new, you need to develop a platform and work hard to get your name out there. Plus you're paying for a cover, and editing (hopefully!), and formatting fun. It's a lot of work. But you're keeping the profit in your pocket.
How do you feel about so many bookstores closing across the US? Do you think this trend is similar in other countries?
I think it's very sad and quite scary. Who doesn't love a bookstore? The smell? The ambience? The world is changing though. Technology is changing. I think writers need to figure out how to change with it, and readers are ultimately guiding that change.
Are your books available in print or in digital format?
While all of my books are in digital format, some are in print as well. Though most of my readers tend to be the ebook readers.
What advice do you think aspiring authors should heed today?
Finish a book and then start a new one. Keep writing basically as you submit. And develop tough skin and good writer friends who'll help you through the rejections.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on a follow up to Negligee Behavior. Sebastian's book!
What is/are your favourite book(s)? Do you read only books from the genre you write in?
I read all kinds of genres. Love historicals. I couldn't say I have an ultimate favorite book. There's too many to pick from.
Do you read when you are plotting or writing a story?
I do, though sometimes it's a different genre. I love historical and will read those quite often if I'm writing a contemporary.
What book inspired you to write romance (or whatever genre you write in)?
It wasn't any certain one, it was just all the romance novels I grew up reading. I wanted to write my own. Though my first book I wrote as a tween was like a cross between Sweet Valley High and a Harlequin Presents :P
What hero/heroine/character was the most fun or challenging to write for you?
Sebastian is a challenge right now. Because in Negligee Behavior he's flirty and off the wall. But with his own book, I have to delve into the emotional side of him, and he's not all laughter and charm. Plus, I need to make sure I'm writing his British side accurately.
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?
Sometimes it's harder to manage (summers). But usually I write when my child is in school. Or at night when she's sleeping. My secret is having a daily word count goal and meeting it. It can vary depending on the deadline (or lack there of). If you're making a daily word count, the book WILL get written.
Do you have a ritual that you follow when it comes to writing?
Not at all. Just write. Most of the time my rule is 'minimum 1k words a day'. I can do more than that, but I need at least that.
Where do you see yourself, careerwise, in 5 years time?
Hopefully in a quite stable writing career, with a loyal fan base, maybe writing for a few different publishers, and maybe under a couple of pen names.
What's your website URL?
Are you on Facebook?
How do you connect with readers?
I'm on Twitter and Facebook a lot and love to interact with people!
Shelli is a New York Times Bestselling Author who read her first romance novel when she snatched it off her mother’s bookshelf at the age of eleven. One taste and she was forever hooked. It wasn’t until many years later that she decided to pursue writing stories of her own. By then she acknowledged the voices in her head didn’t make her crazy, they made her a writer.
Shelli currently lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes various genres of romance. She’s a compulsive volunteer, and has been known to spontaneously burst into song.
Here's an excerpt from my latest release, Seducing Allie:
“This is ridiculous!” She stared out at the blur of trees as they sped down a deserted road. “Where are we going?”Shelli's upcoming releases:
“Away,” he answered ambiguously.
“Away,” she mimicked him. “We’re going away? What the hell kind of answer is that?”
“The only answer you’re getting right now. And watch your mouth. I know your mom taught you better.”
“Didn’t your mom teach you that kidnapping is a felony?” she shot back and slapped the window again.
“If you break my window it’s going to seriously piss me off, Allie.”
“Well, guess what? I’m already pissed.” Slap. Her hand connected with the glass again and again. “Maybe you should have taken that into account when you abducted me, Clint.”
She nearly fell out of her seat as he swerved the car to the side of the road.
Was he going to let her go? Leave her stuck on some random back road? Hell, she didn’t care, she’d hike her way back to her car if she had to.
He climbed out of the vehicle and came around her side, wrenching open the door.
Relief flooded through her. He was letting her go. Finally. She scooted out the door, making the jump down to the ground and smoothing her dress back down her thighs.
“Well, it’s about time you came to your senses—oh!”
He jerked her hard against him, both of her wrists in one of his massive hands.
“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear,” he murmured, his gaze full of determination and something else…something hot. Something that sent a jolt of heat straight from her stomach to between her legs.
Her pulse quickened and she dragged in a shuddering breath, tugging at her hands.
“Have you gone completely insane?” she whispered.
“Maybe.” His lips twisted, his gaze roving over her face. “Or maybe I’m just willing to go to any lengths to make sure you don’t break up Kenneth’s wedding.”
“I’m not…” She ran her tongue over her suddenly dry lips. “Wait, Kenneth’s wedding isn’t until next week.”
“Exactly. And that means we’ll have one whole week to catch up, kitten.”
Clint watched her eyes widen with shock and he almost felt sorry for her—almost. Except he’d warned her multiple times and she needed to be stopped.
Taking her out of the equation had been an idea he’d been playing with since she’d threatened to show up at the house this morning. And the more he thought about it, the better the idea had seemed.
He’d been ready, sitting in his SUV parked down the street and drinking coffee, waiting to see if she really had the balls to show up again. Not really thinking she would, but somewhat excited when she did.
“Clint, you can’t do this,” she choked, her body beginning to tremble. “This is kidnapping!”
“Yeah, you said that already.”
“You can’t take me away for a week!” She tugged at her wrists again, and he tightened his hold. “Oh my God. You’ve gone loony, Clint. You’re—argh!”
Her knee connected with his shin and he winced, pushing her back against his SUV.
“Stop it,” he said, irritated now. He tried not to think about how soft her body was against him and how her breasts pressed against his chest. “I’m not the one trying to break up a wedding.”
Her eyes flashed with frustration and fury. “You can’t play God, Clint.”
“And neither will you, Allie. Even if I have to see to it.”
She lowered her gaze and he watched her small pink tongue sweep across her lush mouth again. He bit back a groan. Man, she looked sexy when she did that. And she did it a lot.
“Okay,” her tone calmed significantly. “You’re right. Of course you’re right. Why don’t you just take me back to my car and I’ll just drive home. Deal?”
His chest shook with laughter and he shook his head. How stupid did she think he was? Did she honestly think she could pull out that docile act to convince him she’d changed her mind? He knew her way too well for that.
“No deal. I can’t take that risk. I don’t trust you any further than I can spit, kitten.”
“Stop calling me kitten,” she yelled and tried to—oh hell no she didn’t—knee him in the groin.
He pressed his body harder against her, making sure she couldn’t move. She glared at him, her mouth drawn tight and her breasts rising and falling with each breath she jerked in.
“Besides,” he continued softly, and gave her a slow smile. “A week together means we can take up where we left off last night.”
“If you think I would ever go to bed with you after—”
“I don’t think, I know, Allie. And I’m pretty sure you know it too.”
He reached out and ran a finger down the side of her soft cheek, and she sucked in a swift breath. He watched the heat flicker in her eyes and knew she could—and probably would—deny it until she was blue in the face, but Allison wanted him.
“I repeat. You’re loony.”
He laughed again. “I will bring you back here, but not until Ashley and Ken have exchanged their vows.”
“That’s not until next week,” she said again in a rush. “I have to be at work.”
“No, you don’t, teachers have summers off.” He watched her eyes round with shock.
What, did she think he’d forgotten about the teaching job at a private school Kenneth had gotten her a couple years ago? Whether she was the most qualified candidate or not, just the recommendation from a Williams’ family member—and money donated—was enough to guarantee her the position.
His thumb slid inward to stroke over her bottom lip. Her body trembled in the response. God, he wanted her.
“You have no right to do this to me, Clint. None. You’re being a total jerk. This is just—”
He pulled his thumb away and replaced it with his mouth. Crushing his lips down on hers in a kiss to stop her tirade, and because he couldn’t resist her any longer.
Her angry gasp parted her lips enough to let him slide is tongue into the moist cavern of her mouth. He tasted her. Warm, succulent and the spicy taste of cinnamon gum.
She struggled against him, each twist of her body brushed her breasts into contact with his chest. He slowed the kiss, rubbing his tongue against hers. The friction had his dick pulsing against his jeans and he ground himself against her stomach.
The fight in her seemed to disappear and she went slack in his arms. Her small moan sent a jolt of triumph through him and he released her wrists so he could grab her ass.
The swell of her bottom spilled over into his palms, and he squeezed the soft flesh, pulling her harder against him.
Allison. God he wanted her. Had been wanting her for so many years now. He was tempted to take her here on the side of the damn road.
Crack. The sound reached him before the sting of her palm glancing across his cheek.
She wrenched her mouth away from his, and glared up at him, her gaze both hot and skittish.
His fingers dug into her ass cheeks and his jaw clenched. Okay, maybe you deserved that. Taking a deep breath, he counted to ten.
“You know what, Allie?”
“You’re going to come to your senses and let me go?” she suggested with tight sarcasm.
“Oh, hell no, I’m gonna keep you.” He slid one hand up her back and pushed her close, until her tight nipples rubbed against his chest. “And I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together this week.”
My upcoming releases are Foreign Affair and Savage Hunger. Foreign Affair was the first book I wrote that I mentioned above. It's a bit of Americans falling in love while traveling Europe. A lot of fun, a little lie. Love the cover for it. Savage Hunger is my first big paranormal (shifters)! There's no cover yet.
~ Natalie ~
No Rules. No Formulas. Just Love.