We are pleased to have best-selling author Eileen Dreyer join us for the conference on Saturday, July 11th. Here are Eileen’s answers to some questions I asked:
You have published so many books! How did the first publication happen?
I had been writing and submitting for five years. I had studied the market, considered my strengths and weaknesses, and decided to start by querying category romance lines. And back then there were a lot more lines; not just the Harlequin and Silhouette lines (which were separate then) but the original Loveswept and Second Chance at Love. Well, I tried every one. I sent in a query and three chapters to the very last line I could try, Silhouette Desire.
I'll never forget the day I got the letter. It was just a regular envelope, not even big enough to have my three chapters inside. I was so angry.
“They could at least have sent my chapters back to me,” I groused.
And then I opened the letter to find “We would love to see your entire manuscript.”
And of course, nobody was around to call. So I'm standing in the middle of my kitchen shrieking.
But that wasn't the end of the story. It took a solid nine months before I finally got the call from Lucia Macro. “Do you think if we gave you a contract, you could make some changes to the manuscript?”
And here's the secret. Your answer is always, “Sure. I can do that.”
That was forty books ago.
Were you writing while you worked as a nurse, or when did you begin writing?
As a matter of fact, I was at work as a nurse when I made the decision to get published. I was standing out in the parking lot at about 2AM with my friend Katie Wilson saying something like, “there has to be something better than this,” as trauma nurses are wont to do, and suddenly we'd decided to get published.
As I said, it took me five years to get published. I published I think six books before I retired, all category romance. There's a saying that you shouldn't quit your day job. I believe it. I only retired because I burned out. Fortunately for me, I was married and had a second income. So I was able to focus on my career full time after that.
Why did you start to use the pseudonym Kathleen Korbel for your romances?
Two reasons. One because I knew I would want to publish more than romance. Trauma nurses are restless. I knew I'd want to bounce around eventually. The problem was that at that time there was a very real stigma to romance writing. Even if you began writing suspense or fantasy, you either weren't reviewed in the larger sites, or were demeaned. The review in Publishers Weekly for my first suspense A MAN TO DIE FOR began, “Romance writer Eileen Dreyer tries to write a suspense...”
The other reason is that to be perfectly frank, my daddy was an old-fashioned kind of guy. The idea that I was writing something that had (whisper now) s-e-x in it made him very nervous. So I decided a pseudonym would protect his sensibilities (the funny part is that we have a dear friend who is a missionary bishop in South America, who has read every one of my books and loves them. I told my dad, “Look, Dad. I have an imprimatur. You have to read them.” He didn't think it was as funny as I did.)
Do you have a set amount of time to leave a manuscript alone before sending it out?
I'll find out. It's always been built into the publishing process. My next book, THREE TIMES A LADY will be my first indie publication, so I'll be learning my own rhythms. But I insist on having that time for the book to lie fallow before I do a final read. One of the things I see in indie pubbed books that really bothers me is people posting on line, “Well, I just typed “THE END.” So my book will be out on Tuesday. NO!!! It is imperative to have one, if not two periods where you simply don't look at the book for at least a couple or three weeks. It is amazing what you can see in a manuscript after putting it away. All storytelling is rhythm. And there is a definite difference between people who push a book out too quickly and those who give it time to breathe. The rhythm is off. The characters aren't as nuanced. The words aren't as precise. My advice would be never publish a book without an editor and never put it up without that breather. (But as I always say, you must filter any advice through your own sensibilities.)
What advice would you give to a writer who has a romance written and wants to get it published?
I'll be perfectly frank with you. I don't know. The industry is changing so fast that I really don't know if you should try for a traditional publisher or not. I do highly recommend joining Romance Writers of America. They do have the most current information on what's going on in the industry. If you are interested in indie publishing, don't attempt to do it alone unless you are either wonderfully adept at marketing, digital technology and/or things like metadata. I'm putting my old Silhouette books up on line, and I have a company doing it for me, because I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Also, it takes away time and attention from my writing. And the writing is the most important. I mean, isn't that what this is all about?
It’s obvious from the travel page on your website that you love the history of places you visit. How much do you actually write while in London or Calcutta or another city, and how often do you just make notes for later writing?
I usually just take notes and let the information sink in a bit before putting it to use. Usually setting is part of my initial research, so that what I learn can impact the plot, characters and motivation. In fact, I hope it does. If I'm already writing a story, then I won't have the attention to pick up little nuances and tidbits that can give additional dimensions to the story. So I just take it in and get contact information for if I have questions later.
You have dreams of owning land in Ireland and seeing a book made into a movie. How does having dreams such as these motivate and help your writing?
The funny thing is that they don't. Not really. What motivates me most is the desire to emulate Louis LaMour and be able to write until the day I die. I've done the dance with Hollywood several times, coming excruciatingly close to production more than once. And I realized that the idea of movies can be far too seductive and pull you off your path. Dorothy Parker was right. Hollywood really is the only place you actually can die of encouragement. I realized that I was losing my focus and needed to get back to basics. So I turned my attention completely towards New York(at least figuratively) and figured that if Hollywood wanted me again, they'd find me.
As for my land in Ireland, it will happen. I know exactly where it will be, and usually rent a house when I'm there. My landlady and her family have kind of adopted me, which is really wonderful. She thinks I'm crazy, though, and told me that if I really wanted land, she'd give me an acre of her farm....as long as I'm in Ireland. When I leave I have to give it back. Right now, that's fine.
You’ll be speaking to us about His Brain/Her Brain at the conference in July. Did any of your research on this topic amuse you?
All of it. I admit that like all women I get frustrated by some male behavior, like their inability to find the margarine in the fridge or ask directions. And I get insulted when they question my map-reading capabilities. Well, there actually are reasons behind it all. The behavior isn't cemented in; it can be changed with influence, experience and education. But this is kind of the template from which all else sprouts. There really is a biological reason men can't find stuff in the fridge and women don't read maps (the secret is that we do read maps perfectly well. We just do it in a completely different way).
Thanks, Eileen! We’ll be ready to listen to you on Saturday!