I’m very pleased to have you as February’s Spotlight Author. We have our Valentine decorations out today. And I see many of our audience are wearing red. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. I wanted Sharon to join us today because she writes in the time period of gallantry and grand gestures in creating the sparks of love. So without further delay, Sharon, we welcome you.
Thank you, Eileen. It is a wonderful pleasure to join you and your Booktalk visitors. I am a self-ascribed “happily ever after girl” so February and Valentine’s Day are favorites. In fact, on my blog I have devoted the entire month to romance and love!
What do you enjoy most about writing love stories?
Love stories are empowering. No matter the era or genre, all love stories have the common thread of a woman finding her place in the world, learning her mind and heart, and discovering the best means to secure her happiness. She may be battling aliens or paranormal creatures, fighting bad guys or career decisions as a modern-day “tough chick,” or cleverly navigating the social nuances in a ballroom or country manor parlor. Wherever the heroine and hero are, whatever they are doing, in the end it is the mutual realization that they are stronger, better, more complete people if together. This is what I love.
Secondly, love stories give us hope and brighten our hearts. The reader knows that everything will work out and the ending will be satisfying. We need happiness in our world. We are constantly being told how bad life is. Reading a romance novel isn’t fantasy, as some say. No, these are real people readers can relate to, no matter the setting, who find a way through their troubles and triumph in the end. That is a message people need to hear!
Would you say that women today can still find their Mr. Darcy? Do they have to give up something or perhaps expect less of that gallantry in a relationship, i.e. opening car doors, pulling out chairs, etc?
If one is too literal, then they will probably be disappointed, I’m afraid. We live in a very different world than England two-hundred years ago! If, however, speaking of generalities, then I do believe one can find their Mr. Darcy. Even that, of course, depends upon what one envisions. A “Mr. Darcy” being a man of good character, an honest heart, faithful, gentlemanly, and similar virtues – yes, those men are out there to be sure. Never give up!
I asked my husband why he stopped opening the car door for me. He looked surprised. I saw him hesitate. He answered because you’re driving and I’m the passenger. Any comments?
Do you think that women’s search for independence and freedom of choice has changed what men expect from women in a partnership?
I’ll answer these together. In short, yes I do believe that our gender’s search for independence and equality has gradually led to the other changes. Is this a bad thing? In some respects, sure it is. I wish people in general, male and female, embraced proper manners and decency, as once was the norm. At the same time, women have much better options now than in Jane Austen’s time. All considered, I can happily live with opening my own doors if the benefits are my own choices in career, marriage, and so on.
I’d like to ask a few questions about being an author. What prompted you to feel the need to write a novel?
Originally I was only prompted to write a few continuing scenes to Pride and Prejudice after falling in love with the 2005 movie version starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley. Those scenes ended up short stories, then chapters—all posted in online fan fiction forums—until I realized I had about three books worth! My publishing story can be read in depth on my website: http://sharonlathanauthor.com/about-sharon I also have an FAQ page with more details and my thoughts.
The inspiration to write anything at all was a desire to keep the love story going. I did not want to let go of the characters and world I had fallen in love with. And more than anything, I wanted to realistically and historically delve into the “and they lived happily ever after” portion of all love stories that readers never see.
On Jane Austen’s birthday I see all these new Austen books either published or are remarketed. Did those books influence you?
Indeed so! Jane Austen fan-fiction (JAFF) was a whole new world I never knew existed. Reading other stories posted online gave me the courage to begin writing in the first place. Also, as I read tons of JAFF, I never found the rest-of-the-story as it was swirling inside my head. I looked at that as a sign to offer lovers of Austen sequels something unique!
So you just fell into writing—amusing yourself. That’s staggering. Didn’t you envision yourself as a writer when you were young?
For close to a year my writing was a hobby. I mean, I did lots of research, read Pride and Prejudice numerous times, and never wrote a sentence I didn’t carefully consider and edit. In that respect I was very serious. But, I was amusing myself, as you aptly stated it, in the sense that I did not consider this a career option. I had only, ever wanted to be a nurse. Since I was nine years old, in fact. I was perfectly content in my chosen career as an RN in a Neonatal ICU.
Yet the more I wrote and spent time with the characters, it became a passion I could not ignore.
How did you move from short stories to be novels? How much of a chore/process was it to take all the short stories and make them work as part of the Darcy Saga?
I began writing and posting online in March of 2006. After about four “short stories” I rather organically kept on writing the days of the Darcys’ honeymoon. Those initial days unfolded into weeks, then months, one event followed by another. It was a “saga” as dubbed by a fan way back when, because I wasn’t telling a single story but was telling of life. And life, as we all know, continues on like a stream. Easy flowing sections, mild turbulence, and then the rapids! This is the tale I was recounting in The Darcy Saga.
Once I decided to publish, I first looked at the average word count for a normal size book, figured where that would fall in the massive tome I already had written, and decided on a logical stopping place for each book. Pretty easy!
Did you have anyone help you find a publisher or help you search for one?
Because publishing was an entirely new business for me, and vastly different from the medical profession, I spent an incredible amount of time researching the industry as a whole. I went through all the typical steps of writing to literary agents and editors, mostly getting rejections. Then, thanks to the recommendation of a friend named Simone, I sent a query letter to an editor at Sourcebooks.
While waiting for something to come through, I pursued independent publishing. In 2007, publishing outside of the traditional format was in the infant stage. I did self-publish my first three novels, but was thrilled to land a publishing contract with Sourcebooks. They wonderfully published all of my eight titles.
Now the independent publishing business has radically changed and matured. I am therefore extremely excited to return to the business of independent publishing with my upcoming novel, Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship.
How does a writer manage to continue trying to publish when they get rejected so many times?
It isn’t easy. I shed many tears, and probably threw a few things! What is fabulous now, in 2014, is that the options are greater. One can strive for the traditional pathway to publishing—which is a perfectly valid, wonderful way to go—or choose to enter the independent publishing path. Or, do both! Authors have power and choices as they never have in history.
Rejection will always be a part of being an artist. If it does not happen at the literary agent or publishing editor level, it will happen with the reviewers and readers. An author must accept that they are going to hear how awful their book is! It will always hurt. The good news is that many, many readers will love what an author writes. And if the author herself/himself is happy with the finished product, at the end of the day this is what matters most.
I understand that your first book, Two Shall Become One: Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy was published on Lulu.com. Could you explain to our audience what that platform is? What other platforms are similar to Lulu?
Lulu.com was one of the early companies to take advantage of new printing processes called “print on demand” or POD. In a nutshell, it is the ability to have a book printed one by one, as ordered, rather than in mass printing press processes as traditionally published novels are. POD made self-publishing—now “independent publishing”—possible. Online retailers, Amazon primarily, provided a marketplace for authors to sell their own published books, bypassing the brick-and-mortar stores.
Lulu.com still exists, and no shocker, there are many other companies who provide similar services. Amazon is one of the giants with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct. Technology has continued to advance so that the finished novels (if printed) are almost exactly like those created from printing presses and not quite as expensive as before. With more and more readers going digital and/or buying books online versus a store, the gap between the two publishing pathways has diminished.
Do you have any plans to write outside the Darcy Saga? If so, what do you consider?
I have started a novel that will be a pure Regency romance unrelated in any way to the Darcys or Austen’s world. I actually have several novel ideas, historical and contemporary, that I have written synopsis and outlines for. One of these days I will write them!
But for the present, my readers want more of the Darcys and their family. So I will keep focused there.
Do you have any words for aspiring writers?
Write. Just write, keep writing, and don’t stop.
Along the way, get connected to other writers. NO ONE will understand your passion better than another writer! Also, by getting connected to other writers, you learn about the industry. Never forget that being a successful author—insert your definition of “successful” in there—must be a balance of an artist’s gift, passion for the art, learning the craft of writing, diving into social media and marketing, and approaching it as a business/career.
I have a couple of questions that I’d love to hear your answers to. I will giveaway one copy of Miss Darcy Falls in Love and 2 e-book copies of my newest book of the Darcy Saga Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship to 3 commenters. Please just step in and let us hear what you’re thinking. You can answer either of these questions or interact with each other with your answers. First question is, can a woman or man romantically love two people at the same time? Second question, how can you tell that the one you love is THE one?
Those are the questions, let’s hear what you have to say. And before we let you go, both Sharon and I wish you a lovely, perfect time with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day. Comments will be counted between February 13 and February 16 for the giveaways. Winner will be announced here and sent an email.
Bio: Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga nine-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Sharon began writing in 2005 and her first novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One was published in 2009. Sharon’s ninth novel is scheduled for released in Spring 2014, Darcy & Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship, the “prequel to the sequel” recounting the betrothal months before the Darcy Saga began. Miss Darcy Falls in Love, Sharon’s seventh novel, was selected as one of the thirty-two titles chosen for World Book Night US 2014.
For more information about Sharon, the Regency Era, and her novels, visit her website/blog at: http://www.sharonlathan.net –
on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SharonLathanNovelist
and Twitter @SharonLathan https://twitter.com/SharonLathan