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Monday, September 17, 2007

Maya Reynolds

I met Maya Reynolds last year on a writers' Yahoo list group. Every time she posted a message to the group, it was articulate, thorough and well researched. ---and you know me. I sat up and paid attention.

As I lurked in the background, I was blown away with her extraordinary understanding of the publishing industry. This was no ordinary up-and-coming author, but a woman who took the business of publishing seriously. I was grateful for the chance to interview Maya and pick her brain.

Maya also has a great blog that you'll want to bookmark too. She has a huge following and her blog boasts a Who's Who of agents and other infamous bloggers who visit there regularly.

Please welcome, Maya Reynolds

Why Erotic Suspense? What drew you to this genre?
I’ve always enjoyed suspense, both in fiction and in movies. I’m especially drawn to edgy and a bit quirky stories.

At the same time, I really like erotic romance because the genre is so wide open. It reminds me of the American Old West--anything goes. You can write a paranormal, a contemporary or a historical. The conventions that usually rule romance are not set in stone in erotic romance. That made the genre a natural for me.

Where did the idea for BAD GIRL come from?
In early 2005, I took an online class in writing erotic romance. Jan Springer, the instructor, wanted us to start our own story during the class. I was sitting there one afternoon, trying to come up with a plot when Rear Window came on the television. I immediately thought, “What would happen if a woman was spying on her high-rise neighbors? And what if she got caught? What would she do to protect her secret?

This is your first published book. Were there any surprises on your road to publication, something that came totally out of left field?
Oh, good question. That’s the first time I’ve been asked that one. Let me think.

Yes, the thing that came totally out of left field was when NAL (a division of Penguin) offered me a contract for Bad Girl--but wanted me to turn a 45K-word novella into a full-length novel. I wasn’t expecting it. Since I had no experience in doing that, making the decision to sign was a scary one.

Other than the degree of heat, is there anything else that differentiates erotic romance from regular romance?
I took a class with Angela Knight a couple of years ago, and she said something that really stuck with me. In a regular romance, the tension is based on whether or not the hero and heroine will ever make love. That sexual tension drives the novel. In erotic romance, the question of whether they’ll make love is answered early. Instead, the tension is romantic rather than sexual. Will the hero and heroine end up together? It seems so counter-intuitive that an erotic romance would be driven by romantic tension instead of sexual tension, but I believe Angela was exactly right.

Justice, the hero of Bad Girl, is very tough with a hint of vulnerability. Did he start out that way for you?
Interestingly enough, Justice was much easier for me to get a handle on than Sandy. He sprang full-blown and was consistent from the start. Sandy was more difficult for me--probably because her peeping on her neighbors was such an unusual thing for a woman to do. I needed to make sure she stayed likeable and that the reader could understand what motivated her.

Your main characters are sympathetic and genuine. Are you a good people watcher? Or does your grasp on the human condition stem from your past work as a social worker?
Oh, another great question. I was born in Queens, New York--the first girl in a huge extended family. My father was Italian, and my mother is Irish. One of my earliest memories is of sitting with my maternal grandmother at a bus stop, people watching. I couldn’t have been more than four or five at the time, but I was fascinated by all different persons we encountered. I suspect my choosing social work was a natural extension of that curiosity about people.

All the writers out there are going to want to know….are you an organic writer or an outliner? What steps do you take when you sit down to write a story?
I’m always a little embarrassed when I answer this question because it sounds so disorganized. I get an idea for a story and usually sit down immediately to write before I lose whatever it is that grabbed me. Of course, since I haven’t thought it through, I usually write pages and pages of backstory at the outset. I’ve learned not to fight it because that’s how I warm up to the story. When I actually reach the point of action, I lop off everything up to that point, put the deleted material in a Word folder and save it for later reference. I delete anywhere from one to three chapters, but find that I often add sentences from that deleted material back in at various points of the story.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started writing?
How long everything would take. I had visions of writing a story in four months, selling it and seeing it in print in a year to fourteen months. The reality is that I started Bad Girl in February 2005 and found an agent in December 2005. She sold the manuscript in July 2006 and it’s now being published in September 2007.

Do you have any tips for writers on landing an agent?
Start early, building your list. Buy a package of 3x5 cards and get in the habit of scribbling the names and contact info whenever you come across an agent who represents your genre. Be sure to Google the agents and check them out on Preditors and Editors. That way, by the time you’re ready to query, you’ll have a qualified list of agents.

You blog a great deal on the business of publishing at . How important is it for writers to understand the nuts and bolts of the industry? Isn't that what agents and publishers are for?
This is one of those chicken-and-egg questions. It’s vitally important that writers understand publishing is a business. Agents and publishers invest a great deal of time and money in authors. If the agent doesn’t get a contract, s/he makes NO money. It’s a form of sales except that the agent may spend months trying to make that sale. By the same token, a publisher invests a huge amount of capital in editing, printing, distributing and marketing a manuscript. Given that, if you were the agent or editor, which kind of client would you want to have? One as ignorant as an egg, or one who understood how the cow ate the cabbage?

I always cringe when I hear a newbie writer say, “I don’t worry about punctuation or spelling. That’s for my agent or editor to deal with.” Well, if an agent has to spend two months cleaning up a manuscript, that’s two months of overhead without any revenue coming in. Which manuscript do you think s/he will be most interested in: the clean ready-to-market one or the sloppy need-to-edit one? It’s simple economics.

What's next on the horizon? Any chance Bad Girl could turn into a series?
Tracy, my marvelous editor at NAL, really loved Sandy and Justice. She asked me to include a subplot or two so that there would be room for the couple to return in a subsequent novel. So who knows?

Any last words?
Just that I hope readers will find Sandy and Justice as interesting and entertaining as I did. I got caught up in their story early and hated to leave them.

Also, thank you for letting me visit your wonderful blog. I’m very happy to be here today.


Heather B. Moore said...

Great interview. I hear the same comment all the time from some writers who leave punctuation to the editors. Those authors become cumbersome, and when the going gets tough . . .

Maria Zannini said...

Given your editing background, I knew you would appreciate that. :o)

There is no excuse for submitting a poorly edited manuscript.