Friday, October 26, 2007

Gerri Russell on Building a Career

interview by Nancy Northcott


Your first book, The Warrior Trainer, was a January release. Now you have your second, Warrior's Bride, on the shelves. Yet your success was a long time in coming, as you told our own Anna Campbell in the September issue of The Romance Writer's Report. How did you persevere to reach this point?

Partly it was having faith in what I wanted, partly it was being too stubborn to give up. I had to ask myself every day if I wanted to be published. If I wanted to publish, then I had to do what it took to get there—and that was to write every day regardless of the rejections, regardless of the self-doubt that crept in every so often!

What advice would you give the new writer just starting his or her first manuscript?

This will probably sound strange coming from someone who took twelve years to sell, but don’t be in a hurry. Learn your craft, write the best book you can, and take a deep breath. Nothing happens fast in this business, so it is important to send out the very best product you can to the right publisher or the right agent. Don’t waste your opportunities by sending out a product that isn’t ready.

Both of your published novels are set in medieval Scotland. What draws you to that time and place?

The mystery, simplicity, and opulence of the Medieval and Renaissance times have always fascinated me, as have knights and heroes of old who fought for and defended what they believed in.

My family and I are all so captivated by the time period that we have worked as living history re-enactors at the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire in King’s Valley, Oregon, for the past eight years. It’s a wonderful learning as well as bonding experience for us all.

Why Scotland? I love that the woman are not as restrained as their English counterparts. And who doesn’t love a man in a kilt, armed to defend, with a soft burr in his speech?

Both books also have mystical overtones related to stones. How did you settle upon that as a connecting thread?

That’s the funny thing about research. Once you start down a certain path, interesting things happen. I started The Warrior Trainer with no idea it would have any companion books. And as I started to research more about Scottish stones, the more stones I read about. That’s when I decided to do the Stones of Destiny Series. I chose three wonderful stones that each had remarkable histories associated with them. You’ll be reading about the Stone of Scone, the Seer’s Stone, and the Charm Stone in each of the three books.

Tell us a little about the hero of Warrior's Bride.

Douglas Stewart is the bastard son of Robert II, Scotland’s king. His father has forced him from childhood to do his bidding, and he’s earned the name the Black Wolf of Scotland as a result. His latest demand—marriage to a woman of little consequence. Wolf would refuse his father this last demand, except that he’s holding Wolf’s brother hostage, threatening to hang him for treason is Wolf doesn’t obey.

The heroine of Warrior's Bride is Isobel. How do she and the hero clash?

Warrior’s Bride is a traditional marriage of convenience story. Wolf and Isobel clash over their forced union. Isobel wants nothing to do with marriage, watched how marriage drove her own mother to insanity. Fearing the same end, she fights Wolf at every turn. But sometimes the heart leads even the resistant places they don’t want to go. . . .

Your route to publication was a little unusual, with your first book winning the American Title II contest. What advice would you give authors who're thinking of entering a national internet contest?

Advice . . . or more warning . . . Be ready for the contest to totally consume your life—writing and otherwise. In order to succeed in this online venue, you need to be a master at promotion. You’ll need to be creative, willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, push past your comfort zone in ways you never knew you could, all while being an ultimate professional.

You're also a two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart competition for unpublished writers, a contest that's now open to entries. What do you think authors who are entering should know or consider?

The Golden Heart is a wonderful opportunity that gives you lots of exposure if you final. But it is critical to remember that the Golden Heart is just that, an opportunity, one that does not guarantee you will sell. Selling a manuscript is part talent, part perseverance, and part luck!

Your launch party for Warrior's Bride benefited the Early Childhood Programs for the Bellevue School District. How did you decide to do that?

I received so much support from my community while in the American Title contest and I wanted to give something back. Literacy, at all levels, has always been a cause near and dear to my heart, so together with Barnes and Noble we arranged it so that proceeds from sales would benefit Early Childhood Programs in the local school district—programs that supported literacy.

Not only did we raise over $500 in donations from sales, but attendees also purchased books donated straight to the district exceeding the donated amount. It was an incredible evening—a memory I will treasure forever.


Thanks for being here, Gerri! Gerri is giving away one copy of each of her books. To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on the blog. To learn more about Gerri, visit her website, www.gerrirussell.net.

What times and places do you love, and why? Has your reading ever led you down an unexpected road?

57 comments:

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Gerri, great to see you here! Nancy, thanks for doing that great interview. Gerri, thanks for giving such great answers. There's some fabulous advice there! Congratulations on the release of your second book. It sounds fantastic!

And thank you for contributing to that article on people who had to wait more than ten years to sell. I've had great feedback on it - the quotes from people like you really hit a chord with AYUs who felt that they were the only people in the universe who were taking forever to get published.

Oh, my whole life has been a result of reading taking me down the garden path! Where do I start? I think one of the wonderful things about reading is that it expands your world in directions you'd never guess. I know all sorts of weird facts as a result of reading romance - which is one of the reasons why I grit my teeth when people get superior about my reading tastes.

Anna Campbell said...

The ROOSTER is MINE!!!! Bwahahahahahaha!

Keira Soleore said...

Gerri, a hello to you from Seattle. I was privileged to attend your talk at the local chapter meeting on marketing. You're amazing!!!!!! Looking forward to seeing you at the book signing this Saturday.

Keira Soleore said...

Bach away Foanna, atleast one cantata.

Anna Campbell said...

You can be mean to Anna but you Cant-ata (can't hurt her? Geddit?). Oh, dear, I think I'd better go away and feed Debussy. I promise this blog is a pun-free zone from now on. Well, till tomorrow...

Helen said...

Great post loved it.
Medieval and Scotland you have won me these two books sound terrific I love men in kilts and will defiantly be putting in an order for them. Thanks for the heads up Guys.
My reading has taken me to some wonderful places and the list of places that I want to vist just keeps getting bigger and I have learn't more about history than I ever learn't at school.
Anaa you must have the most Rooster award now good on ya.
Have Fun
Helen

Helen said...

I should really check my spelling before I post.
Helen

Christine Wells said...

Hi Gerri! Thanks so much to you both for that interview. I love the sound of your series. The Scottish historical has so much going for it, doesn't it? Men in kilts. Ahh.

I like just about any period if it's done well, even the Victorian.*g* (and Donna, before you get mad, let me say you do it EXTREMELY well!!!)

I remember when you won American Title, Gerri--congratulations! All that promotion must have been great training for when you sold.

Of course, American Title is a subject dear to the Bandita heart with our Trish in this final and two former finalists in KJ Howe and Kate Carlisle. Everyone, if you haven't already, VOTE FOR TRISH!

Oh, and Foanna, I think you're getting a bit COCKY with all these golden roosters, m'dear. Thank goodness, no more puns until tomorrow.*g*

Stacy S said...

Welcome Gerri! Scotland is my favorite place to read. Someday I'm going to visit there! Your books sound great.

Buffie said...

Hello Gerri! What a fabulous interview!!! And I have to say that I saw your book in the store yesterday and thought "yeah, another great Scottish book." Can't wait read it!! But since I'm such a stickler about reading a series in order, I need to find the first one.

Gillian Layne said...

Yesterday I said keep bringing on the "call" stories!

Today I say keep bringing on the "how long did it take..." ones as well :) It is such an inspiration, and as I tell my girls constantly--it's never ONLY a matter of intelligence or talent--it's hard work! Thank goodness loving writing makes all the hard work worthwhile.

What do I love? Variety! Bring on the infinite possibilities available in all of these time periods. As I adore Elizabeth Peters, I'm always up for a Victorian. And I wish publishers would expand their willingness to publish more westerns as well--I think that market will only continue to grow.

Wish I had your Rooster here, dear Anna, I'd let him chase these kittens of mine off the keyboard...:)

Decadence said...

These books sound really good. I will have to pick them up. I love reading about Scotland and thier legends. Reading about these stones sound very interesting.

Bonnie Ferguson said...

Thanks for the great interview! I love the English Regency, Victorian England, Medieval Scotland and England.

Caren Crane said...

Gerri, welcome to the Bandits Lair! I adore medievals and Scotland, so your books are right up my alley.

Books have shown me many places I would love to explore. I've been fascinated by Tahiti since I was a teenager, because I read a Harlequin Presents set there. Presents books also gave me a real longing to explore England. Alas, I haven't made it to either place yet. Nor Scotland! But eventually, all these will be ticked off the list and then some.

Stacy, I adore Elizabeth Peters! Of course, she has such fun with the Victorian era, how could one resist? And our own dear Donna showed us a whole 'nother side to the Victorian era. Oh, my!

Gerri, thank you so much for reminding us AYUs to slog through. Onward and upward!

Donna MacMeans said...

HI Gerri -
As another who took the scenic route to publishing, I agree wholeheartedly with your excellent advice. Luck is a part of publishing, to be sure - but craft is an even larger part.

Writing THE EDUCATION OF MRS. BRIMLEY took me to the Victorian period, not the other way around, and I'll be eternally grateful. However the combination of medievals and Scotland is a dynamite one not to be missed.

Congrats on giving back to the community with your launch. Good Karma there *g*

Donna MacMeans said...

And Anna - when you're not the first person posting, something just doesn't seem right with the world in general. An awesome responsibility, that *g*

Kirsten said...

Gerri, thanks for the inspiring interview! We are so grateful to have fabulous authors like yourself visit the Lair! :-) And I'm so impressed with your fundraising efforts. What an incredible way to give back to your community.

Your books sound fabulous! There are few things quite as sexy as a Scottish burr.

My favorite places that romance has taken me are the Middle East (old Ottoman empire) thanks to Bertrice Small, and on numerous pirate ships, especially Jean Laffite's.

I have a couple of pirate books in me that I may bring out some time in the future. Though first, I'll have to get over this pesky addiction to YA. :-)

Kirsten said...

Just you wait Anna...I'm comin' for that rooster...

Kirsten said...

Keira, did you have to get her going on the puns? And look, you've infected Christine now, too!

pearl said...

I thoroughly enjoy reading about England, especially during the 19th century and early 20th century. I love Victorian England as well these novels have transported me to other realms which has been an experience of a lifetime.

Christine Wells said...

Sorry about the puns, Kirsten, but aren't you just a leetle tired of Anna's constant CROWING over her first commenter status?

Oh, and how could I forget Elizabeth Peters and the wonderful Amelia? Well, I said I like Victorians if they're done well:)and Peters is a genius.

Caren Crane said...

Pearl, do you have a favorite Victorian author? I am always looking for a new addiction...er...author. *g*

Kim Howe said...

Gerri, welcome to the Bandit Lair! It's wonderful to watch your star rise. You were incredibly helpful to the ATIII group last year and your efforts were greatly appreciated. I hope your leg is healing well. No more crutches! Hope to see you in Pittsburgh.

doglady said...

Hey, men in kilts! What's not to love. Reading has taken me all over several worlds and kept me sane through life's ups and downs. I love to read books where I learn little things I did not know. Things like what a mudlark was what a piece of mourning jewelry was. It is the little bits of information that fascinate me. I also love books that describe places I have been before - Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland. Any story set around Suffolk makes me go all misty as I lived there for three years. Thanks so much Gerri for giving those of us that have just started this writing journey a picture of what it takes and the news that if you just keep doing what you love, you will get there!

CrystalG said...

I like reading about Scotland, Regency England, the American West. I love historicals. Your books sound fantastic.

AndreaW said...

Hi Gerri! Great interview. Congrats on your second release!

I love all types of times and places, but if I had to pick, I'd say Regency and Victorian England. I love the clothing, language and architectures of those times.

~Andrea

Nancy said...

Gerri, thanks for encouraging all us AYUs. Anna, you get the rooster, but between you and Keira, and Christine--ow! Very punny!

Helen and Kirsten, books have taken me to all kinds of fabulous places, too. I recently read a biography that was a fascinating study of Iraq at the turn of the century, and I love going to distant worlds, even ones that don't really exist.

Buffie, I'm an "order" stickler, too. I hate reading Book 1 before Book 2 of anything.

Helen, Bonnie, Caren, Pearl, Crystal, and Decadence, our tastes overlap a lot. I love medievals. I wish they had a bigger market niche, 'cuz then there'd be more of them! I also love England. Anything about England! Well, maybe not the Industrial Revolution, but the Divine Georgette did that so well, if obliguely, in The Unknown Ajax.Helen, don't worry about the spelling. We all post bloopers from time to time!

Gillian--you have a lot of AYU company here in the lair. Hang in there!

Doglady, I spent a summer in England as a student and have been lucky enough to go back a couple of times. In between, I live on fiction and movies. I found Dick Francis because PBS aired their "The Racing Game" series, based on his books, and I was so nostalgic about that summer that I watched it.

Kate Carlisle said...

Gerri! Greetings from another AT survivor! LOL.

It was such a thrill to have Gerri as our Mentor and Contest Goddess when Kim and I went through AT-III! She was our calm center throughout the storm. *g*

Gerry, I'm so impressed and intrigued that you had a charity benefit as your first booksigning. As Donna said, good karma! But I'm wondering if you have a background in charity work or you just jumped into it. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Also, Scotland is one of my favorite places in the universe! I'm so glad you set your stories there. They're wonderful!

Thanks so much for visiting us today!

Kate Carlisle said...

Oops, forgot to add a thank you to Nancy for bringing Gerri to the Lair today. Thanks, Nancy! Great interview!

diane said...

Reading historicals has always been my favorite, but I love ones that are set in The American West. I am now reading a novel set in Leadville which I visisted this summer.

ruth said...

Welcome Gerri,
Your books sound great. Since I never travelled I read and this had brought me great pleasure. I read about Scotland, Ireland and England and loved every book. Now I am reading a book set in Renaissance Italy which I an enjoying greatly.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Gerri! Welcome to the Lair! And thanks so much for sharing your wisdom about traveling the long, twisty road to publication. I particularly loved the advice about focusing only on writing your best book & taking your time. That really resonated with me today.

As for locales that really speak to us, I have to be lame & say England. I'd never been, & ATE UP regencies as a teen ager. I didn't get to London until I was an adult, & was a little disappointed at how much it was like any other enormous city. In my mind it was this magical place & I liked it that way. :-)

Susan

Maureen said...

Congratulations Gerri on your latest book. It sounds interesting and the marriage of convenience plotline is one of my favorites.

jo robertson said...

Great interview, Nancy. And Gerri, welcome to the Bandit Lair. You books sound wonderful and I applaud your donations to literacy.

Thanks for the timely advice about the Golden Heart and other contests. Sometimes we writers pin too much hope on such awards.

I love almost any historical period and would love to see more 19th century American history.

Keira Soleore said...

Gerri, how much hands-on, er, on-site research did you do for your books? Did you have to go back and do more for the second book, or did you plan in advance for both the books?

Nancy, yes, I did wish more medievals would be written and published. There's just something about that time period that's so mythologically alpha. I love it!

Kirsten, I accept no responsibility, because Foanna is a self-starter, a combustible mixture. And you to cure Christine of her infection just make her eat, er, crow.

Besides, I really want to see the T-shirt Donna is having made for Foanna with a remote-controlled crowing rooster.

Anna Sugden said...

Hey Gerri! I'm so glad Nancy brought you over to our lair - welcome!

I'm thrilled to see so many lovers of my home land - England! (no comment on the men in kilts or those heathens north of the border *grin*) ... your books excepted, Gerri (Janice Lynn would never have forgiven me if I hadn't made an exception for you!)

For me, the resident Brit Bandita, reading American historicals is fascinating. I love the Wild West and the frontiers. I also like reading about late nineteenth century America (American Victorians?) and seeing how similar and how different it was to England at the same time ... not that I was around then.

I'd really like to see more early twentieth century romances (and write them *grin*) - such a romantic time!

Helen said...

I must read books in order as well thats one of the reasons I love debuts because I have the first one and then can order them as they are released but that doesn't stop me from picking up a new author reading it loving it and then trying to find all the backlist that I don't have.
Have Fun
Helen

Joan said...

Anna! Look! Behind you! Isn't that a Caramelo Koala! (Joan, snatches Golden Rooster and runs like the wind)...ahem. Only because MAYBE at 5 pm EST it MIGHT be night in Australia! Don't ya'll ever go to bed?

Back to business. Welcome, welcome, welcome Gerri to the lair! Great, down to earth advice and always a balm to the AYU to hear that it can happen.

I think Warrior's Bride sounds fantastic and you have my fav cover model don't you? John DeSalvo? Purrrrrrr.....

Good luck and much success.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Gerri,

Welcome to the Bandits! Your interview was great. And your books sound wonderful. I can't wait to read them.

Your advice to new writers is perfect. It's so hard when you have the excitement of your finished manuscript but taking your time is so important.

I love the 19th Century. Whether it's Regency or Victorian or something in America. And yet there's nothing like a good Medieval to really take you back in time. Okay, I'll read just about any time period except futuristics.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I have to tell you all, you are killing me over here, everytime I look at Romance Bandits I have to go buy more books!! I am telling you I am addicted and you all keep feeding my addiction. LOL

Joan said...

Hrdwrkdmom,

Just doing our job, ma'm, just doing our job :-)

Anna Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Campbell said...

Dianna, you are a victim of our evil plot! Fellow agents of book-buying addiction, our plan for world domination is coming to fruition! Bwahahahahahahaha! And, Joan, that's the decoy golden rooster. I have the real one locked up in my henhouse! Send over a gladiator or two and I MIGHT let him out. But only if the gladiators are GOOD!

Nancy said...

Anna, I love WWI, but the market doesn't seem to. I did see a mystery series set in the 1920s recently, but of course I can't remember the name. If I remembered everything, I'd be like Dianna, feeding my addiction all the time *g*.

As for you rooster people, you just better watch it. I know where the teleporter is, and I'm not afraid to use it!

I don't think people in Australia sleep. Someone's always online!*g* Speaking of which--Anna, I don't put up with snarkiness about what I read. If romance were written by and for men, no one would snub it. No one snubs Mike Hammer, for example, and no one snickered about Mickey Spillane. Except, of course, the "literary" establishment who snicker at everything outside their realm. Of course, I also read comic books and have for decades, so I've had lots of practice with snarkiness.

I loved Amelia Peabody, though Ramses did begin to wear on me.

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, my crit partner Annie West loves a 1920s mystery series featuring someone called Phryne Fisher. Kerry Greenwood? I'm sure you could find them if you googled PF. I haven't read them yet although I love cosy mystery series (Kate, yours sound awesome). All jokes aside, I hear Dianna on how hard it is to keep up with all the good books!

anne said...

I enjoy reading novels set in England pre WWI. They are utterly riveting and great. This mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear has me hooked. I believe I am in a nostalgic craze right now since I am pining for the past and reading then and not now.

Cherie J said...

Wonderful interview! My favorite historical period is Regency England.

Gerri Russell said...

Thank you so much, everyone, for the delightful comments and for allowing a little time in the lair with you! You are all so much fun. :-)

It is great to see so many bandits with "recent" sales. Congrats! And don't forget to send in those first sales notices to the RWR. It's important to celebrate every moment of your long-awaited success.

I wanted to take a moment to address a few of the questions that came up. Well, the first really isn't a question. The Warrior, Trainer, Warrior's Bride, and the final book, Warrior's Lady are not linked in any way other than by mystical Scottish stones. So it doesn't really matter in what order you read them. Before I was published, it made better sense to treat the books as stand alones. Less risk that way.

Research . . . in order to be a historical writer you really need to love research, and not just internet research. Books, especially first sources, and real experience give your writing so much more texture and realism. That's why I'll be heading to Scotland in June with plans to research another trilogy--this time with linked characters.

And Kate wanted to know about charity . . . No, I have no background in charitible work other than being a huge believer in giving back on the blessing I've received. I might not be able to move mountains with my little efforts here and there, but it does affect someones life, and that's good enough for me.

Thank you so much Nancy for interviewing me, and everyone else for the warm welcome.

Trish, hang in there for the ride of your life with the AT IV contest.

Anna, congratulations on the 4 1/2 star Romantic Times review! Well deserved!

Keira, hope to see you at Emerald City.

Kim, me and my new knee are getting stronger every day.

Wishing all the bandits much success with your writing endeavors!

--Gerri

Helen said...

I am with you Dianna my TBR pile and wish list just keep growing not that I really mind, being addicted to romance reading is also lots of fun can be expensive but lots of fun. Nancy we do sleep sometimes LOL
Thanks Guys
Helen

Nathalie said...

Hi,

Those covers are great and I love medievals!! and I just visisted your website... congrats!

Joan said...

Oh, Anna....

My gladiators are good...very, very, VERY good :-)

Lily said...

I love early 20th century... wher there was suffragettes who were fighting for women's rights... how inspiring!

Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Waving at Gerri!! Sorry I'm so late to the party today. It's been a busy, busy day. Great interview. I still remember when you won the AT contest. I was so happy. I love seeing people who have worked so long and hard finally achieve their dream of getting published.

Christine, you are SO sweet! Thanks for the AT mention. We find out Monday whether I manage to make it to the second round.

Add me to the list of people who have to read series in order.

Like Gillian, I like variety. Among historicals, my favorites have always been the American-set stories, but of the European-set historicals Scotland is my favorite. Kilts, brogues, the rugged Highlands.

LOL! You all are cracking me up with the Golden Rooster!

Anna Campbell said...

Gerri, thanks for the congrats (no secrets in Romancelandia, are there?). Must say I'm stoked. A Top Pick from RT for my second book is pretty spesh!

It's been such fun having you visit today. Come back and see us again!

KimW said...

Aye. I want to read more about Wolf. I'm a big fan of those strong Scottish heroes. My first romance book that I read was a medieval and I've been hooked ever since.

Great interview. Congratulations on your success!

Keira Soleore said...

Foanna, sending you a bottle of virtual champagne. A Top Pick and 4.5 stars from RT!! Woo Hoo!! That book's gonna fly, fly, fly off the shelves and into the lists.

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks...Hic! Keira... Hic! Um, might have - hic! - opened the champagne! Hic!