This week we are pleased as punch to have USA Today bestselling author, Sally MacKenzie, stopping by to answer Novels Alive in association with our sister site, Be My Bard’s “10 Questions With…”
When creating the perfect hero and heroine, do you rely solely on your imagination or do you draw inspiration from other sources (family and friends, actors/actresses etc.) or a combination of both?
I’d have to say I rely on my imagination, which is, of course, formed by my experience—by everyone I’ve met, everything I’ve seen and felt, all my adventures and misadventures. But the characters help, too. After I’ve fussed with them long enough, they’ll start talking and interacting and revealing things to me as we go through the story. I don’t think I’m crazy, but I do find novel writing isn’t quite rational.
Usually I can’t point to anything specific in my novels that’s from my own life. Well, except perhaps in the Duchess of Love books. The duchess’s sons are horrified by Venus’s Love Notes, the pamphlet of marital advice the duchess writes for the ton. I just might have based that on my sons’ and husband’s reaction to my romance writing career. They’re happy for me, but they run the other way if someone offers to read them a paragraph or two.
Which character from your own work would you most like to meet in the real world and why?
The hero and heroine of the story I’m just starting to write. If we could sit down together and have a nice chat, perhaps over a cup of tea—or a pint, the book might come together more quickly. 😉
Which character from another authors work would you also like to meet?
Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet. Well, I’d actually like to hang out with the author herself and find out from her what life was really like in the early 1800s.
If you had to choose between writing a story that would leave your readers LAUGHING out Loud, CRYING from all the intense emotions or with a pressing need for a COLD SHOWER, which response would you prefer?
I do try for some level of heat, and I certainly hope I manage to write characters with depth. But if I had to choose one, it would be laughing out loud. One of my favorite reviews was from a reader who said she laughed so hard reading one of my books, she fell off her couch. They do say laughter is the best medicine!
Living and breathing a cast of characters for months/years while writing a story must make it hard to set that character aside when the story is finished. Which character did you most have the trouble with saying “Goodbye” to?
But I don’t have to say good-bye to my characters! That’s one of the charms of writing series. I’m able to play with my story friends as much as I want. And since all my books are set in Regency England, I can always have a character from a prior series make a cameo appearance in my current story. I just have to keep things consistent.
If you forced me to choose one character, though, I guess I’d have to say James, Duke of Alvord—the Naked Duke—because he was my first hero.
A lot of authors are now using social media websites like FACEBOOK and TWITTER to connect with their fans and promote their new and upcoming work. How much of a difference do you believe that these interactions help in engaging new readers/fans to your work?
From a promotional standpoint, I really don’t know. I have a feeling readers find my books first and then find me on social media, not the other way around. But then, I readily admit I’m not a social media pro. (And perhaps I should say I only do Facebook and, to some extent, Twitter. That’s all I feel I can handle.)
Another thing that makes Facebook less than ideal for promotion is, as far as I can tell, once a reader likes my Facebook page, she still won’t get all my posts. My Facebook data seems to say that even my “best” posts only reach about a third of my fans, though I think I could improve those numbers if I was willing to give Facebook my credit card number. =-)
But promotion aside, I’ve had interactions with readers on both Facebook and Twitter that I wouldn’t have had without those sites, so I do think social media has a place in a writer’s life. And it’s fun. I enjoy hanging out and seeing what my online friends are up to—and watching a few funny cat videos, too.
Now that self-publishing is growing in popularity and even established “Print” authors are choosing to release some of their work outside the traditional norm of a publishing house, do you believe that the added level of control given to the author will ultimately see a rise in the quality of the works available or just the quantity?
I’m very intrigued by self-publishing, and if I had the rights to my backlist or if I was a faster writer, I might give it a go. I think having self-publishing as an option is great for writers, because it gives us choices and another bargaining chip. We don’t have to accept contract terms we don’t like just to get our work to readers, and we don’t have to write only things that fit traditional publishing’s needs.
However, I guess I see self-publishing as giving writers many added levels of responsibility rather than more control. If we want to self-publish well, I think we have to put into place all the pieces that a traditional publisher provides. We have to find good editors to help us develop and polish our stories. We have to find a cover artist and work with him or her to come up with a great cover. We have to see that the book gets formatted and uploaded to the various e-markets properly. We need to decide how or if we’ll make print copies available. We have to think about marketing. I do some marketing now, of course, but my publisher does a lot, too. With self-publishing, everything would fall to me.
So I don’t think self-publishing in and of itself will increase or decrease quality. It has definitely increased quantity, however, which makes discoverability—the ease with which a reader can find MY book (yes, some of this is about me)—more of a problem.
Speaking of control…when it comes to the cover art, when a character or couple are portrayed it’s not uncommon for them to be shown as a perfect model of themselves without any of the descriptive flaws found inside the pages of the story. Do you think that readers prefer the more romanticized version or would they rather see a truer version of the characters being portrayed? AND, which would you prefer?
I have to laugh at this question. All seven of my Naked Nobility books are people-less. Their covers have just the title in a fun font with a fun little graphic like a heart or a crown.
The covers for the Duchess of Love series do have people on them: one person, a partially headless woman. (I think it may be the same woman on all the covers.) They also have an animal, and that’s where things got a little sticky. Through some miscommunication, BEDDING LORD NED initially had a dog tugging on the girl’s skirt. Very cute. The only problem was the character was a cat. So that got changed. Then we had a bit of a disagreement over LOVING LORD ASH‘s cover dog. The main pet in that story is a Newfoundland, but the dog pictured is more of a Jack Russell Terrier. I think—I’m not actually a dog expert. But it is definitely not a Newfoundland. The art department felt that a small dog would look better—and I do have to say I think the cover is great. However, I wrote an author’s note for the book in case readers were scratching their heads.
I have had readers look at my covers and ask if the animal pictured is in the book, so I know at least some people pay attention to that sort of thing.
The NEWS is always doing stories on pirate and file sharing websites that illegally make copies of music, movies and television freely available online, but they rarely if ever include mention of eBooks in these reports. What are your thoughts on the lack of attention being given to this issue?
I’m not sure there’s a lack of attention. Certainly writers and publishers are aware of the problem. But I will admit this is an issue I’ve chosen to stick my head in the sand about. My sense is—and I may well be wrong about this—that going after these sites is like playing Whack-a-Mole. Once you get your book off one site, it pops up again on another—or back on the first site.
Would you care to share something about your latest release or a story that you are working on now?
Of course! Thanks for asking. The last book of the Duchess of Love series, LOVING LORD ASH, is out March 4. It’s about the duchess’s oldest son. Here’s the back cover copy:
Kit, the Marquis of Ashton, is in a sticky wicket. He married young and for love—how naïve. He discovered his mistake the very day of his wedding, but he is saddled now with a wife he’s reluctant to trust. And however much evidence he gathers against faithless Jess, he can’t seem to prove her guilt to the final judge—his foolish heart.
Jess knows she’s bobbled her marriage, however innocently. A fairytale wedding makes no difference if she hasn’t got the marquis charmed to show for it. Well, she’s had enough of accidental encounters with naked gentlemen and near misses explaining things to her husband. It’s time to buck up and go win her man back—even if she has to fight very dirty indeed.
And thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to visit!
USA Today bestselling author Sally MacKenzie writes funny, sexy romances set in her favorite time period (other than the present): Regency England. Her novella, THE DUCHESS OF LOVE, was a 2013 RITA® finalist, and two of her books—THE NAKED KING and BEDDING LORD NED—made ALA Booklist’s top ten romances for their respective years. Many of her books are available in audio format, and her stories have been translated into Czech, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. ~www.sallymackenzie.net