With an extremely low price point and instant access, ebooks can fill niches quickly without high up-front publishing costs, making publishers more likely to take a chance on new writers in varied markets and genres. It is these very benefits that have left this reviewer, however, often slogging through ebook drivel to find a gem. On the flip side, reviewing ebook originals for Library Journal has introduced me to some great new authors. When LJ sent me Jennifer Seasons’s Playing the Field (the second title in her “Diamonds & Dugouts” series for Avon Impulse, after Stealing Home), I was instantly hooked and telling all of my coworkers and friends about my new favorite writer. Two months later, I had two ebooks in queue for reviewing when I was sent Seasons’s third series title, Throwing Heat, along with Jennifer Ryan’s Chasing Morgan (“The Hunted” series, also from Avon). My editor realized her error a day later and asked if I wanted to turn down the assignments or get an extension, but I had already downloaded the titles and was speeding my way through them. Hearing later from Avon’s publicists of how Seasons and Ryan got their starts, we knew readers and other aspiring authors would be fascinated by what these women had to say.—Heather Lisa Maneiro, Minnesota State Univ. Lib.‚ Moorhead
The publishing world can be overwhelming for writers trying to break in. Tell us a bit about your start?
Jennifer Ryan: My start was a bit unusual. I met an editor at a huge publishing house at a meeting at my local [Romance Writers of America] meeting. She took interest in my work and
even helped me edit my manuscript. In the end, she didn’t accept it but thought it deserved to be published, so she called an agent on my behalf and told him he needed to sign me. I sent him my manuscript, and we spoke. He’d never had an editor recommend a writer, so already he was intrigued. He signed me and sent out my work. I attended the Avon Spotlight [session] at the RWA conference in 2012 and heard Lucia Macro speak about the types of submissions she’d like to receive. She said she had never received romantic suspense and that most people thought Avon didn’t publish [it]. Well, they do. I contacted my agent immediately and asked him to send my manuscript over to Lucia. She bought it three weeks later. The first book in the “Hunted” series (Saved by the Rancher) was published several months later and then the rest of the series. Next year, “The McBrides” will be available. It’s truly been an amazing ride.
Jennifer Seasons: My start was actually more than seven years ago, when Stealing Home was first conceived. I wrote over half of it then, and then my life took a dramatic turn. I went
through a divorce, moved to a new location with my children, and went back to school to finish my college degree. Those years were more about learning and growing, rather than writing, so my manuscript took a backseat to rebuilding my life. Fast forwarding, I remarried, and when I was pregnant with my youngest last summer, I decided to dust off that old manuscript and finish it. Colorado was brutally hot, and my feet were so swollen I was more than a little afraid that they might actually pop, so I spent a lot of time sitting. One day after [the manuscript] was finished I stumbled across Avon Impulse’s online submission form and sent Stealing Home in on whim. Not for a second did I think I’d hear back. But then a few weeks later I received an email from Chelsey Emmelhainz at Avon expressing their interest, and it’s been an amazing ride ever since! I’m very fortunate.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Stealing Home was number four. I have three embarrassingly bad manuscripts hiding somewhere on my hard drive that precede it. And, no, they will never be seen by any other eyes than mine.
Did you consider self-publishing before breaking into the market?
JS: I didn’t, actually. There’s so much to the publishing industry that I didn’t (and still don’t) know that I felt my best bet was trying the traditional route.
JR: My dream was always to be with a publishing house. I’m so glad I signed with Avon. I’ve worked with two amazing editors, Lucia Macro and Amanda Bergeron. I’ve learned so much from them about the business and writing.
Do you have other genres you would like to explore in your writing?
JS: I love a good cozy mystery with a paranormal bent. It’s so much fun to read! If I could write in any other genre it would be that.
JR: In addition to writing romantic suspense, I also write contemporary small-town romances. As much as I love historical novels, I’m sticking with reading them.
Do you think the proliferation of suspense dramas on television has impacted the market for romantic suspense novels such as your own? Do you have a favorite suspense drama?
JR: It’s not surprising that suspense dramas are my favorite and that I write romantic suspense. I think people who watch these shows want more and love books with those same elements because books offer a much richer and detailed story than can be portrayed in an hour-long show. They don’t have to wait a week for the next episode. They can just buy another book to feed their craving. My favorite shows are Revenge, Hannibal, The Black List, CSI, and Criminal Minds.
Where do your best ideas come from?
JR: I love country music. Sometimes I’ll hear a song or a line and something sparks an idea. I’m not a plotter, so most of my ideas come in the form of just the opening chapter. My books usually open with a catalyst that turns my characters’ lives upside down. From there, it’s a journey to discover how they’ll overcome the obstacles and find their way to each other and forever.
JS: Ideas come from everywhere. But, most often ideas spark when I’m doing something mundane—like the laundry. That’s when my mind wanders most. I’ve had more ideas come to me while sorting the kids’ socks than at any other time.
Jennifer, you write romances involving sports. Are you a fan, a participant, or both?
JS: Definitely both. I grew up the only daughter in a house full of boys, so there was always a ball game of some sort on the television, or a Friday night football game to attend. But I also played several sports in high school, including softball. I can still be found playing ball in the backyard with my kids on a pretty regular basis. They’re much more easily impressed by my skills.
Do you have an all-time favorite sports story?
JS: See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson, hands down. It’s the book that inspired me to try writing my very own sports romance—the novel you all know as Stealing Home. I just had to create my very own delicious, sexy, and cocky athlete after nearly blowing a fuse over Luc Martineau. Whew. That Rachel; she sure knows how to write ’em.
You have both been very successful in the ebook market. Do you think this has helped to expand your readership?
JR: Not only do I think it has expanded readership, it’s allowed authors like myself to find an opening with a publishing house because they have more flexibility to buy novels that may not have fit the mass-market mold. Readers can download a book for less than a Starbuck’s coffee without ever leaving the comfort of their chair, wait for it to arrive in the mail, or drive to the one or two remaining bookstores in their town. Accessibility and pricing also make it easier and more enticing for a reader to try a new author.
JS: Absolutely. Ebooks are so readily accessible for so many people, and the convenience of purchasing instantly to a device that holds thousands of titles is a big lure. Plus, ebooks are generally less expensive. It makes giving a new author a try a low financial risk, so more people are willing to give them a try compared to the paperback version at a higher price.
Kindle, Nook, iPad, Surface, paperbacks, hardcovers. How do you read?
JS: I’m a print girl first and foremost. I always will be. But my son wanted a Kindle for Christmas, and I quickly discovered its virtues. Now I have my own.
JR: I still love my paperbacks, but I do take my Kindle on trips, loaded with my favorite authors and those who’ve enticed me to give them a try and find a new favorite.
Romance is still considered a guilty pleasure for some—what are some of your guilty pleasures, in terms of reading and otherwise?
JR: With my writing schedule, just finding the time to read is a guilty pleasure these days. I’m always looking forward to anything new from Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Julie Garwood, to name a few of my favorites. I’m a historical junky. Love them. Give me a hot Duke or Scottish Laird and I’m lost.
I love to be with my family, garden, and watch TV. I admit, I’m a TV addict. Doing any or all of these things also requires copious amounts of chocolate.
JS: Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, in literary terms. So is her “Highlander” series, come to think of it. I’ve reread The Dark Highlander more times than I should probably admit. That Dageus MacKeltar….
On the nonliterary front, I’d have to say napping in the hammock is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Especially when it’s preceded by a cup of tea and a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie or two. Or three.
Is there anything else you would like to share with aspiring writers or your readers?
JS: To all you writers out there: keep your head down and plow forward. If you want it, then you have to ignore the static, ignore the mess, and ignore the doubts. Most important, you have to ignore the clock that just won’t stop ticking, because that big break happens for everyone in its own time. No matter how much you would like to, you just can’t force it. Hence, the above advice…. It’ll come.
And to my readers, thank you. You went out on a limb and gave me a shot, and for that I’m sincerely grateful. It’s humbling. You all are the best—every single one of you.
JR: For writers, never give up on your dream. That editor who helped me get my agent turned me down—several times—but she offered constructive criticism that I used to make my book better. I resubmitted it to her three times. While she didn’t buy it, she saw my potential and willingness to learn and improve. I turned a rejection into an opportunity. Do that whenever possible.
To my readers, thank you so much for buying my books. I appreciate all the comments, reviews, and emails. It’s because of you I’m living my dream.