by Anna Campbell
It's my great pleasure to introduce new author Tessa Dare, the overall winner of Avon's FanLit contest in 2006. I was a FanLit groupie which is how Tessa and I met. Her debut book, which sounds like a complete delight, is called GODDESS OF THE HUNT and it comes out from Ballantine in August 2009 as part of a back to back release of a trilogy.
Tessa, congratulations on your amazing success. Could you tell us something about your writing journey to this point?
Thank you, Anna! And thanks to all the Banditas for welcoming me to your lovely lair. I’m so honored to be invited, especially because my writing journey is still in its early stages. My books won’t be on the shelf for more than a year yet. As I told you a few months ago, it feels like I’ve got a long road to publication ahead of me, and my odometer’s reading 000003. Maybe by now it’s 000019. Several months ago, I was looking at a website of a children’s book author (I hesitate to give his name, lest his tender-aged readers google it and find my own completely inappropriate books instead) but his advice to young writers went something like this: if you want to be a published writer, you should, of course, write—every day, if possible. But you should also try very hard—every day, if possible—to be lucky. And that is how I would describe my writing journey thus far. I’ve worked very hard (and continue to work hard) to write good books, but I also tried very hard to be lucky. I quit a paying job to write, forced my shy, introverted self out of my comfort zone, and followed up every contact, lead, and nibble of interest. In the end, it paid off—I got very, very lucky. I had the help of some brilliant people in making my book the best it could be, I found a wonderful agent, and she got me an amazing three-book deal that surpassed my wildest dreams.
Tessa, that was amazingly brave to give up your day job! Kudos to you! Now, we in the Bandita lair love call stories. Could you please share yours with us?
Gee. I’m never quite sure how to answer that question, because for me “the call” was stretched out over a couple weeks. Last summer, I signed with my wonderful agent, Helen Breitwieser, and in early fall she sent GODDESS OF THE HUNT out on submission. After several very quiet, very tense (on my end!) weeks, during which my primary activities were checking my cellphone charge and refreshing my inbox, one day she called me to let me know about two different offers she’d received, and to say that a third editor was interested, and we’d be going to auction the following Monday. So that was an extremely exciting call! I remember, I was still reeling when I emailed my CPs, and the subject line was something like this: “OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!!!!” And then shortly thereafter, there was another call: oops! Monday’s a holiday, so we’re pushing back the auction to Tuesday. Then there was the call that another editor was interested and conferring with colleagues, so the auction would be on Wednesday. Then there were some other calls and delays on Wednesday and Thursday, and the upshot was that the auction did not wrap up until Friday.
And in between these calls were about 83 emails, and lots of long, aimless walks with my children in the stroller and my cellphone at the ready, and absolutely no sleep. I was running on coffee fumes. Then on Friday, my agent called me to tell me Ballantine had won the auction, and after an hour or so of rapturous squeeing and phoning and emailing, I hurried off to complete some of the many errands I’d been putting off all week. And that’s when I actually missed "The Call” from my new editor. *shakes head* But I still have her voicemail saved! And all those 83 emails.
It was an extremely surreal week, and I’m still pinching myself months later. I happened to hit the market at just the perfect time, when interest in new historicals was spiking. Like I said, I got very, very lucky. But my most memorable moment was not actually a call. It was the day I took my signed Random House contract to the post office—the same post office where I’d taken so many contest entries and submissions to be mailed over the past year. That’s when it became real, when I finally felt safe to tell myself, “I did it. I’m a professional novelist.” I was shaking and almost in tears.
Great call story, Tessa! GODDESS OF THE HUNT, your first book, comes out in 2009. Please give us a thumbnail sketch of the story.
It starts something like this. Lucy Waltham has spent eight autumns as “one of the boys”, fishing, shooting, and admiring her brother’s rakishly charming friend. When the object of her adoration plans to marry another woman, Lucy vows to snag him first. She enlists the assistance of Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall--a jaded man with a troubled past and very little patience for his friend’s troublesome sister. He’s always kept Lucy at arm’s length--until the night she throws herself straight into his arms, and suddenly the girl he’s always ignored is the woman he can’t forget. And that’s just the first chapter. I haven’t even gotten to the near-drownings, riots, or hot interludes in wardrobes. You can read a longer blurb and excerpt on my website.
What else do you have in store for readers?
Well, GOTH is the first in a back-to-back trilogy of Regency-set historicals, meaning the three books will be released in consecutive months (currently set for Aug/Sep/Oct 09). So if you like GODDESS OF THE HUNT, you won’t have to wait long to read books two and three: SURRENDER OF A SIREN, and the book I’m tentatively calling A LADY OF PERSUASION. All three are sexy, funny, romantic, and fun.
Can you describe your writing routine for us?
Hmm, Anna, I’m imagining you mean “routine” as in “orderly pattern of behavior”. But in the Dare household, the only “routine” we have resembles a circus act. Picture me walking the highwire all day, while my two young children (the darelings) alternately take the parts of clowns, acrobats, and snarling lions. Inevitably, there is popcorn strewn on the floor. Then when the strong man, Mr. Dare, comes within shouting distance, I sort of stuff the darelings into the cannon and shoot them off to him. If executed perfectly, this “routine” allows me to escape with my laptop to a café for a few hours of writing. And yes, we do it all without a net.
The Banditas met through a contest (the 2006 Golden Heart) and I met you through a contest (Avon FanLit). Clearly contests have a lot going for them. Do you have any words of wisdom on writing contests that you’d like to share with us?
Well, I certainly cannot claim the sort of contest success the Banditas have enjoyed! I did enter a handful of contests with GOTH. I won a few and bombed in a few, but absolutely the best prizes I’ve taken away from any contest experience are friends and mentors. I met my fabulous critique partners and made dozens of friends through FanLit, and other contests (even ones I didn’t final in) put me in contact with published authors who’ve been wonderful sources of inspiration and advice. I know I don’t have to tell the Banditas what great networking opportunities can come out of writing contests. However, when people ask me about contests, I try to caution against using contests as a substitute for querying and submitting manuscripts. I received two requests for my full manuscript from final judges in contests I’d entered in the spring of 2007: both came after the book sold in October. So if you wait around for contest results, you could be letting other opportunities slip by.
Have any other writers influenced you? What are your favorite romance novels?
I would not be writing historical romance novels today if it were not for my love of Jane Austen. Her novels are so abundant in brilliance and so heartbreakingly few in number! I eventually turned to Regency-set historicals as a way to keep satisfying my yen for delicious wit and period romance, and then I started writing my own. My first attempts to write historical romance were actually PRIDE AND PREJUDICE fanfiction, which I’ve blogged about recently and written about in the April issue of Romance Writers Report. In the historical romance subgenre, some of my favorite authors are Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Loretta Chase, Julie Anne Long, Elizabeth Hoyt, Laura Lee Guhrke, and on and on from there… As you can probably gather, my preferences tend toward light, witty comedies, although I like to mix it up every once in a while with a dark, atmospheric historical or a snappy contemporary.
Tell us five quirky facts about Tessa Dare.
1. I’m phobic about being trapped underwater. I love the surface of it – sailing, snorkelling, swimming—but scuba diving, no way. 2. Ironically enough, it’s water that gets me going again when I feel “trapped” in my writing. If I’m stuck on a scene, I go wash dishes. Usually, by the time I’m done, I’ve figured my scene out. 3. I live in a 1922 bungalow – plenty of cute built-in bookshelves, but no dishwasher. 4. We had a dishwasher hookup installed a few years ago, but still haven’t bought one. Because that would involve shopping, and I hate shopping. And then how would I get unstuck when a scene’s giving me fits? 5. My grandmother (who does have a dishwasher) still has my first “book” in her filing cabinet– a sort of epic Cinderella tale written over a holiday visit, entitled “Martha the Cranberry”.
Tessa has some important questions to ask visitors to the lair:
Do you own a dishwasher? Are you happy with it? Care to recommend any particular makes or models? Obviously, contests are one way for aspiring authors to go about “trying very hard to be lucky”. I’m curious to know what other methods the Banditas have found successful. Oh, and if anyone has advice for me on how to spend the coming year as I wait for my books to hit the shelves—please fire away! She has very generously offered a $20 Amazon voucher to one lucky commenter!