Monday, April 28, 2008

Tracy Bernstein is in the Lair!!

interview by Suzanne Welsh

In this industry many times you meet people through connections or friends. Today's guest, Tracy Bernstein, comes to us through a conversation I had with my dear friend, Jo Davis. Jo's debut book of her sexy firefighter series, Trial By Fire, will be released in August by New American Library (NAL). While we were munching away on southwestern spring rolls at a favorite restaurant and discussing PR for her book and the Romance Bandit blog, Jo kindly offered to approach Tracy, her editor, about blogging with us. I was thrilled and jumped at the chance to say YES!! What a great friend!!

So, welcome to the Bandit Lair, Tracy. Have a seat and a cold margarita. Don't mind the cabana boys, they're Joan's Romans and Anna S.'s hockey hunks!

Please tell us a little about your NAL title, your job/workload on a daily basis, and your previous experience in the publishing industry.

I am executive editor of NAL, where I acquire and edit both fiction and non-fiction (my list is slightly tilted to the non-fiction side). I also run the Signet Classics program. In my (ahem) many years as an editor, I have worked at various other houses including Farrar Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt, Pocket and Ballantine.

How do publishing houses like NAL "position" themselves by positioning certain books in the market? Like, do you maintain an awareness of what other publishing houses are doing as part of your assessment of what to buy? Do you try to cover all sub-genres so you have a piece of each "sub-market" or do you have certain "specialties"? Or do editors simply buy what you love and want to read?

Like most publishers we try to publish broadly but not in every single possible area -- no one can be good at everything. You do have to narrow things down somewhat so that we can have a comfort level and expertise in what we do. But that's much more of an issue with non-fiction than fiction. So, for example, everyone knows we publish practical non-fiction but not hardcore "how-to" books (crafts, gardening, etc.). We don't have an official mission statement but NAL is a decidedly commercial house that maintains a mass market sensibility even when publishing trade paperbacks and hardcovers. We definitely think about what competing publishers are doing (we don't consider literary houses our competition, obviously) and talk about what we might learn from it (for example, trends in subcategories or cover design), but in the end a list naturally reflects the personal passions of the editors and publisher.

What turns you off the most in a query?

You'd be surprised how many queries are poorly written! I'm not about to read a submission from someone whose query letter is ungrammatical or fails at the elemental task of a query: explaining what the book is.

We all know the terms, "didn't grab me enough?", "didn't feel strongly about?" mean the story or voice weren't what the editor wanted. Any hints as to how to improve those, and is there ever a time to revise and resubmit?

Those kinds of comments don't tell you anything except we didn't like it, and I don't see how you can respond to that sort of general rejection. On the other hand, you might well take into consideration a more specific criticism, such as "the dialogue seemed anachronistic." But really, the best time to revise and resubmit is when we ask you to. Believe me, we will do that when we think someone is close to hitting the mark.

What trends do you see in the marketplace?

The two big trends right now are paranormal and erotic romance. Publishers are trying any variation of these you can think of.

While a writer shouldn't just write to trends, if she or he has more than one book to submit, what's hot and what's not for them to consider when making the decision on which to submit?

As you may or may not have heard, vampires are hot. :-) The interest in paranormal now extends to every other kind of imaginary being (shapeshifters, werecreatures of all kinds, dragons, faeries, wizards, immortal warriors of all kinds, etc.) Also, English and Scottish historicals still rule while American-set historicals (Native American or otherwise) are not in style. Historical (non-romance) fiction is also doing well. At NAL we have a saying that Henry VIII is ground zero; the closer to him in time period and setting, the more successful the novel.

What are the top ten things that will earn an author a rejection letter from you?

Wow, you're really making me work here!

(You noticed that, huh?)


1. A messy or amateurish presentation, whether of a query letter or manuscript.

2. A lousy letter, e.g. one that lacks a clear, concise description of the book or includes irrelevancies like "my friends all love it."

3. Less than stellar literacy. And don't tell me "that's what editors are for." NO, IT ISN'T. I will help you shape a book, not teach you remedial English. I'm not going to ding you for the occasional mistake, but when a manuscript is littered with basic errors, it's just too hard to read.

4. A plot we've seen a million times--or even once, if it's too close. Despite good writing, we don't want to reuse a premise.

5. Writing that is clumsy or labored--if I can see the seams, it's no good. This is often a problem in historical fiction.

6. Writing that is full of clich├ęs.

7. A voice that is perfectly serviceable but not unique or special. A great voice is one that I would follow anywhere it cares to take me, because I want to hang around it.

8. A voice that doesn't gibe with the content--e.g., sometimes an author's natural wit and levity seems to be fighting a darker storyline.

9. Anything that makes me think the author is going to be difficult to work with. We don't have to be personal friends, but I do expect courtesy and professionalism. Life is too short to work with someone mean, narcissistic, condescending, sneaky or dishonest. I have relatives for that.

10. Unrealistic, super-obvious or naive marketing plans/suggestions.

Can you give us an idea of what a typical day in the life of an editor is like (or why does it take so long to hear back from editors)?

One thing that occupies my time is meetings--some on a weekly basis (editorial, art, marketing, inventory), others monthly (strategy, sales). I also do a lot of writing (editorial letters/e-mails, in-house memos, tip sheets, tinkering with cover and catalogue copy). I talk to agents about possible projects, or to my boss about projects we're trying to buy. I run profit and loss statements. Because my books are at all different stages of the publishing process, in the course of the day I'm likely to talk to contracts, production, managing editorial, publicity or sales. What editors almost never do during the day is read manuscripts or edit! We do all of that on our own time at night and on the weekends. So don't ever think we're goofing off when you don't hear from us for a while.

While Jo and I were talking, she said you've had some odd submissions during your course as an editor. What's your strangest submission story?

The receptionist called and said a package had been delivered for me. When I opened it up, there was nothing but a creepy looking doll inside. The next day, she called to say there was another package. This time it was a tape recorder. Because the packages had been hand delivered, I knew the person was local and imagined all sorts of deranged stalker possibilities. So I gathered some colleagues (I was afraid to listen to it by myself!) and played the tape. It was a cheesy dramatization of a little scene, complete with sound effects. Of course on the third day the manuscript was delivered (and as you may have guessed, it wasn't any good).

What book did you find recently that you believe will be a hit on the shelves?

No question, Trial By Fire by Jo Davis. It combines some of my favorite elements--suspense, romantic tension, sizzling sex, and hunky firemen! And it's the start of a series, so you have a whole little world you can get immersed in and live in for a while.

(Smiling at Tracy over this.) I couldn't agree more. Trial By Fire is one of the best books I've read in a long while and Jo is one of the strongest new voices to come to the world of Romance! Oh yeah, and then there's the whole firefighter thing? Oh, mama!

It always amazes me how much editors have to read for your jobs, and that most of you read in your spare time, too. Who do you like to read for relaxation?

For fun I mostly read women's fiction (I'm a big Elizabeth Berg fan, for example) and memoirs. This is a book I just published so forgive the plug, but it's also emblematic of the kind of book I read all the time in real life: Road Map To Holland by Jennifer Graf Groneberg. It's a gorgeously written memoir of parenting a Down syndrome child.

Thanks for being our guest in the Bandit Lair today and giving us a look into the world of an editor. Now it's your turn. Is there anything you'd like to ask us or our viewers?

Something I would definitely be curious about is what the readers think of all the erotica publishers are putting out. This is a developing field and we want to do it right! Do they see a consistent difference between romance lines and erotica lines? Are there sex scenes they want to see more or less of in erotica?

As a special gift one of our readers will receive a signed copy of TRIAL BY FIRE by Jo Davis. This book is scheduled to be released August 5th.


Jane said...

Hi Tracy,
I'm a fan of paranormals and erotic romances. I've read quite a few erotic romances where the romance was non-existent. I expect and look forward to the abundance of love scenes, but I'm also looking for emotion between the characters.

Sue said...

I love erotica but I also like to see some connection between the hero and heroine. If there is no hint of romance and no plot to carry the story, it becomes page after page of the same thing with no conclusion.

Tawny said...

HI Tracy and welcome to the Lair :-) Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us here! I love the interview and am very intrigued by this comment:

10. Unrealistic, super-obvious or naive marketing plans/suggestions.

Could you tell us a little more of what you mean?

As for the erotica, well its definitely hot, huh (hahaha) but for me as a reader, it almost seems to have hit the saturation point. Its starting to feel like chick lit did a few years back, where at first every third book on the shelf seemed to be chick lit. I get burned out reading them, since after awhile they both have that issue Jane mentioned - no romance.

As a Blaze author, though, I'm thrilled to see the market so open and welcoming to the hot sexy stories!

btw -- Jane, congratulations on nabbing the GR!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Tracy, welcome to the lair! Thanks so much for your insights. I'm always amazed at how overworked editors are. It's certainly a job you can only do for the love of it. What's your favourite part of being an editor?

The problem I've had with some erotic romance is I haven't been invested enough in the characters to care about the sex scenes. No matter what the couple gets up to in the bedroom (or wherever) it doesn't interest me if I'm not interested in them and their conflict. Unless the book is from someone like Denise Rossetti or Dawn Halliday, who I know I'm going to enjoy, I tend to prefer hot romance. Perhaps you might recommend some erotic romance authors who write great characters as well as hot sex?

Congrats on nabbing the Golden Rooster once again, Jane! You are quick off the mark!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome to the Lair, Tracy! Leave it to our Vamp Suz to lure in a real live editor!

I have to agree with Jane and Sue, I want some emotion and plot to go along with all the HAWT s*x in the story. I'll admit, I haven't read a lot of erotica because what I've read seems to be sadly lacking in everything but the HAWT s*x (trying to avoid ugly spam bots here). And excuse me, but must EVERY erotic hero have ginormous "equipment"? (Aunty looks aside with skepticism) I mean, some of the ones I've read it was downright SILLY! Definitely NOT what the author (nor editor) intended, I'm sure.

P.S. Congrats on luring the rooster back to the Big Apple, Jane! I do believe you 2 are becoming quite an item.

Helen said...

Congrats Jane

Great interview ladies i read mostly historical romance and have read a couple of paranormals about shape shifters which I loved and I have read 1 erotic romance by Jess Michaels yes it was hisrorical and I loved it I have just ordered the next one which I am really looking forward to. I am happy to read any story that has me interested in the characters I love them hot but I love a good story line.

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Tracy, welcome to the lair. What a great interview you and Suz have given us! And what a lot of wisdom you've packed into that small space - I know you worked hard, but we appreciate it. Here, have a margarita!

Do you see any emerging trends in historicals aside from the English/Scottish thing? My feeling is the genre is pretty healthy at the moment with a lot of great new voices, after all those prophets of doom saying the historical was dead. What's your feeling on the general health of the historical?

I don't read a lot of 'straight' erotica (now there's a term!). I do however love a really HOT romance. I think erotica's popularity means that there's things you can get away with in a romance now that you couldn't five years ago and that's great. I think of a book like Passion, for example (although, Aunty Cindy, that was one BIG hero!). I find endless sex scenes get really dull if I have no relationship to the characters. It's not my scene - I want the emotional pay-off and if I get some great sensuality as well, it's just icing on the cake.

Mel Haack said...

Hi Tracey,
Great to read about an editors life. I think it must be magic to 'discover' the untapped gold out there in that slush pile!
As a writer of paranormals, I do love them. And I think in this genre we can get away with hot scenes - but emotion, emotion emotion!!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Mel, welcome to the lair! Mel's one of our Aussie contest queens, everyone! Get her a drink and a cabana boy quick!!!

Caren Crane said...

Tracy, welcome to Romance Bandits! We are thrilled to have you here. I'll admit, I find the hectic life of editors fascinating. I am amazed you find time to read anything for pleasure.

I spent years away from romance and came back to it with relief. *g* I then read almost exclusively in the genre for a couple of years. Now, I'm reading everything from non-fiction to fantasy in a nice balanced way. Except erotica.

I had the misfortune to read a really great Emma Holly first. Needless to say, most others are disappointing in comparison because her writing is so good. Sadly, many erotic romances have taken up the paranormal torch and I simply don't find that sexy.

I would rather read about two people with unbelievable chemistry and perhaps off-the-beaten-track wants or needs than demons and things with tails and scales! I have read contemporary and historical erotica that works well. That said, I buy very little of it. I mostly wait for people to loan it to me! Not the case with "regular" books I read, for sure.

I think the erotica market is quite saturated and only the great writers with huge fan bases will be around in five years. The same peaks and valleys ever every other subgenre suffers!

Jo Davis said...

Hi Tracy!

Thanks for a fantastic interview! Yes, I'm blogging instead of finishing Under'll have in on time! Promise. (clearing throat) :)

I agree with what the ladies have said here so far about erotica. I'm reading between the lines, but no matter what genre or sub-genre of romance we're talking about, including erotica, I believe it all comes down to a great story and characters we love, regardless of the heat level.

In addition to romantic suspense (the Firefighters series), I also write erotica for NAL. For me, without question, the characters come first. No exceptions. Their motivations must be sympathetic and their internal conflict inherent to the external plot. I always have a suspense/thriller element-- I'm a big fan of the "be careful what you want because you just might get it" twist in a story. Make the reader love the characters, put the characters through hell and back, then redeem them. That's the mainstay of my style.

Historicals-- my two cents is, they're not going anywhere. In fact, westerns are on the rise again (yeah!). LOVE those cowboys! Just read The Loner by Geralyn Dawson and OMG...that's the best historical (or book for that matter) I've read in a looong time. Talk about gut-wrenching emotion, adventure, danger...the whole package. And books by Elizabeth Hoyt, Anna Campbell (waving!), I could go on!


Anne N said...

I agree about the connection between the characters. I mean, that's where the heat really comes from, right?

The author can tell you things like 'his touch burned her skin' but those are just words on the page unless you have felt these characters connect on that kind of level.

Margay said...

I don't like erotica, per se, but i will read it if the storyline is good. I prefer sensual romances that lean heavily on the emotional attachment of the main characters. I don't really like the sex for the sake of having sex or anything that is too graphic or gratuitous. If the characters don't connect with each other, how am I supposed to connect to them?

Margay said...

I don't like erotica, per se, but i will read it if the storyline is good. I prefer sensual romances that lean heavily on the emotional attachment of the main characters. I don't really like the sex for the sake of having sex or anything that is too graphic or gratuitous. If the characters don't connect with each other, how am I supposed to connect to them?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good morning everyone! And welcome Tracy to the lair. As I said in the interview, we're so excited to have you with us today.

I've read a good share of erotica over the past few years and I have to agree with everyone that while I find the sex scenes very hot, I need the connection between the characters and some kind of plot to keep me reading. And while I might buy one book for the sex, I'll only buy a second one by any author because of the characters and plot.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Jane, congratulations on the Golden Rooster!

Do you find there's more plot and emotional connection between the characters in a long erotica than in the anthologies?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hi Sue, glad to have your in the lair this morning! There are a couple of historical writers who write very hot books, too, that have this problem. 395 pages of seduction scenes and 5 pages of plot. As my mama would say, "That just wears me out!"

Suzanne Welsh said...

Morning Tawny! You were either up late or up early from the west coast.

Do you find that when there's a connection between the hero and heroine, the sex scenes can be even hotter?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good morning Christine! How are things over in the land of Oz? Isn't it fascinating all the details the editors have to deal with on a daily basis?

Arkansas Cyndi said...

Fantastic interview. Tracy sounds like a dream editor!

I also love Elizabeth Berg, paranormals and erotica.

Does NAL publish many mysteries (cozy or otherwise?)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Morning AC. Thanks for the kind words, but I really have to thank Jo Davis for helping me contact Tracy. Those weekly lunches are paying off, if not helping my diet!!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Helen! Glad to see another member of the Australian contingent here bright and early. :)

Do you think in historicals both s e xy ones and eroticas there's more opportunity for the hero to be Dominant or even ruthless than in contemporaries? Not mean or sadistic, but just more male?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Anna, I love a good historical, too, but have to confess I'm a little tired of only having English or Scottish ones offered to me by the publishers. I'd love to read some American historicals, not just because I've written a few, and I'd also like to read Joan's Roman series, or books set in czarist Russia, or how about Italy? Spain? France? Oh heck, how about Ireland, we could call it a western.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Caren, I do love Emma Holly's books, too. I believe she, Angela Knight and Jo Davis have set the bar for other erotica writers to try and achieve. (Wait til you read the hot firefighter series...OMG and then there's this new project of Jo's...oh wait, uhm will have to tease y'all about that later!). All three writers bring conflict, emotion and plot to play heavily among the s e x scenes.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Jo!!! Uhm, aren't you supposed to be writing? (that's the whip you hear cracking in the background!! hehehe)

Glad you came to play with us this morning! And thanks so much for helping us bring Tracy to the Lair today. It was great fun getting to chat with her. I owe you one!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hi Mel! We're always glad to meet another Australian on here. We love our girls from down under. Please feel free to kick back your heels and stay a while.

TracyG said...

Tracy, thanks for taking time to talk with us today. When I saw Suz' question about what you read for fun, I must say, I'm amazed you want to read at all after a day at work.:)

I'm with Jane, Sue and the others. Sexy books are great, but sex just to have another hot scene in the book loses my interest.

Tracy G.

terrio said...

Lots of work to do this Monday morning but wanted to ask real quick (and apologies if this has been asked) but when you say "see the seams" what do you mean?

I have read some of the Erotica that's on the market but I prefer the Erotic Romance as they seem to have a bit more plot. However, I know there is some very well written, full stories in the Erotica realm. Authors such as Colette Gale and Louisa Burton are good examples.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Tracy & Suz 0 wonderful interview.

I don't read a lot of erotica, though I understand it's a "safe" way for a woman or man to indulge a fantasy. As has been mentioned, the difficulty is that most eroticas don't invest a lot of time in building a relationship and making us care about the characters. I also have a small bit of difficulty with some of the covers. Although definitely hot, I'd be embarrassed to take it to the cashier *g* I think that's way erotica and ebooks go together so well.

Jane - I was in NYC this weekend and saw a little girl hugging a stuffed rooster. I almost asked if it was you *g*. Hope the weather warms back up there this week.

Joan said...

Welcome Tracy!

I could repeat what so many have said already about their erotica, that didn't come out quite right :-)

But I have to have plot and characters that matter to me. It makes the enjoyment of the hot, erotic relationship more enjoyable.

LOL, Suz on counting a story set in Ireland as a "western". Having just been in the west counties of Ireland only last week I can attest to the wonder of that world.

Oh, and I can't wait for Jo's firefighters. There is just something beyond hot about a firefighter striding down the hospital corridor with his boots and his ax and sweeping the tired nurse off her feet, throwing her over his shoulder and taking her down the ladder and....

Oops....sorry. Slipped into my happy place :-)

Suzanne Welsh said...

OMG Joan....what is it about nurses and firefighters?

Nothing makes my night more than when a laboring mother arrives accompanied by the paramedic firefighters, complete with boots, suspender pants and nice, firm....uh bodies...well you get the picture. Doesn't even phase me if she's not really in labor, just so I can see those guys!

Kim Howe said...

Hi Tracy and Suz,

Fabulous interview! Tracy, thanks for joining the Banditas in the lair. Your "day in the life of an editor" description was incredibly helpful in understanding just how overwhelming an editor's to-do list must be. I appreciate you sharing all that info!

Regarding erotica, I'm a big believer that sexual tension is way more important than actual sex. Isn't it the anticipation of what might happen that holds a reader's interest? I like to use my imagination and have an extended build-up to the "big moment". My two cents, for what it is worth.

I do have a question, if you wouldn't mind. I'd like to know more about what editors are looking for in romantic suspense. Where do you think that subgenre is headed? What makes certain RS submissions stand out in your mind? How do you feel about international settings? Any insight you can share would be greatly appreciated.

limecello said...

Hi Tracy,

Thanks for visiting today - this was a great post! I really love NAL books. As to the erotica question - I'm a big fan. But, it still has to have romance. So - I think people have coined the term "romantica"? I need to have emotion and the connection between the characters during the hot scenes, otherwise... I'll just skim them or ignore them completely.

Beth said...

Hello, Tracy! Welcome to the lair and thanks to you and Suz for such a great and insightful interview *g*

To piggyback on Anna C's question: Do you see any emerging trends in the contemporary market? Perhaps lighter paranormals or straight romances or even (gasp) romantic comedies?

catslady said...

I too am of the consensus that if it's a good story and very importantly, you care for the characters, then I'll read it. Unfortunately, I do think a lot of authors got on the bandwagon because that's what was being promoted.

I've been saying for ages that historicals aren't dead. I hate to be told what I should and shouldn't like!!!! I think there's enough readers and authors for any variety of genres.

It was a very interesting blog - thanks!!

Nancy said...

Hi Tracy (and the crew of Romance Bandits)!

As has been said, your interview is terrific! I would echo the questions re: trends and marketing that turns you off. (Other than the extremely bad one you mentioned.)

I have bought erotic/ romantica, because they're books friends wrote. I've not read a one of them yet. Hot love making is fine - in any book - but it can get like anything else that happens over and over in a book. Old. For instance, there are only so many chase scenes I want to see in a book. After a while, it's repetitive.

I read to enjoy the characters and their challenges. A peek into the bedroom now and then is fine, but I don't read a book for the bedroom antics. 'Course, I may be a minority of one. :)

Have a fun day here with the Banditas and their awesome viewers!

Nancy Haddock

Tracy said...

Hi, Tawny,

The kind of marketing suggestions I was referring to are things like "This book would be perfect for Oprah" or "I will approach Bestselling Author X for an endorsement." In the first instance, Oprah is a marketing plan like buying a lottery ticket is a financial plan. In the second instance, anyone can approach Miss X for a quite, so this doesn't help me--if you HAVE a quote from her, then that's something I want to hear. we just want to her genuine and germane ideas.

Does that make sense?

Tracy said...

Dear Arkansas Cyndi,

We publish lots of cozy mysteries by terrific writers, from Tamar Myers to Nancy Martin to Elaine Viets. My favorite series--to the surprise of no one who knows me--is the Chocoholic Mystery series by JoAnna Carl. Yum!


Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Tracy & Suz--

thanks so much for putting together a great blog today. I have to weigh in with the not-my-cup-of-tea crowd when it comes to erotica. It's that immediate leap into bed, then staying there for hours. After ten or so pages, I'm thinking, "Okay these people have to be a)tired, b) cold, c)hungry or d) chafed. Possibly all of the above."

but I'll admit, I'm not widely read in erotica, so there could very well be some wonderful authors doing it (ha) extremely well. But with a TBR pile reaching into the strasosphere, I just don't have the time (or book buying budget) to track them down.

And this is totally in my own self-interest but I'm with Beth! Bring back the contemporary! I'm dying for a good romantic comedy! SEP writes so slooooowly & I'd love to read more in that vein.

Tracy said...

Hi Terrio,

When I say "see the seams" I'm thinking of a manuscript that jumps abruptly from one mode (storytelling) to another (e.g. historical background). It's very jarring and ruins the reading experience. Beginning writers tend to have trouble incorporating the research they've done in an organic way, for example, sticking ridiculous amounts of exposition in a character's mouth. A wonderful book called How Not to Write a Novel has hilarious examples of this and many other mistakes. Check it out!

Wendy said...

Hi, Tracy! Really great post, I'm actually sort of picky when it comes to Erotica. Mostly because I don't want it to be the main focus of a story, and the sexual tension is a lot better. ;)

Tracy said...

Dear Beth and Anna,

Trends are so hard to call, but I have to say I see no light in the tunnel concerning romantic comedies. The contraction that has taken place in everything chick lit-related is not in reverse yet. Both contemporary and historical romance are healthy genres, but that's based on the "new normal." They're way down compared to the golden age of the 1980's when a non-lead romance could sell 100,000copies!

But no use crying over the old days. Romance is still a huge business! It's a pretty conservative business, though. Although I hear people say "Why don't you publish historicals set in China or Russia or Brazil," when we do, no one buys them!

terrio said...

Tracy - thanks for the answer and the insight. I don't write historicals but that doesn't mean I couldn't use that book. Making a note, thanks.

Tracy said...

Dear Kim,

Where is romantic suspense heading? I'm waiting for the authors to tell me that! As I said before, predicting trends is not my strong suit. I can give you generalities, like in romantic suspense every male is an Alpha male, but then an author will come along and prove me wrong (thanks, Jo!). As in all genres, the best romantic suspense seems to come out of whatever a writer is passionately excited about. That could be a geographical setting, a certain professional world or a particular type of dilemma.

What makes romantic suspense stand out for me is the calibration of the suspense and the romance. This may sound obvious but actually many submissions fall too much on one side or the other for me.

Tracy said...

I just want to thank everyone for their comments about erotica. We're feeling our way here, and it's good to get the feedback. I'm curious if you have ever bought a book thinking it was one thing and it turned out to be something else (i.e. romance that turned out to be erotica or vice versa)? Where was the disconnect--in the cover copy? The cover design?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hi Tracy! Recently I read a historical with a very steamy cover, the hero's face is laying against the heroine's abdomen as he held her by the hips. To me that suggested the story would be very steamy even though it was a historical. However, the first real intimate scene between the couple didn't take place until nearly page 300. I enjoyed the story, but felt mislead by the cover, which was really why I bought that particular book.

Trish Milburn said...

Tracy, thanks so much for being our guest in the Lair today. We're honored to have you, especially since you have such an incredibly busy schedule.

Have to agree about hunky firemen. My first book out this September has lots of firemen and a female firefighter as the heroine. BTW, I LOVE Jo's cover up there toward the top of the blog. HOT!

I have friends who write erotica, so I'll be reading my first one soon. As a general rule, it's not the first thing I reach for on a bookshelf though. I agree with the others that any sex scenes have to be a direct result of the emotional bond between the hero and heroine. I don't want to read sex for sex's sake. -- Say that 10 times fast. :)

I'm sad to see that American-set historicals still don't seem to be incredibly in fashion. I do love Colonial and Western historical romances.

Trish Milburn said...

Pardon me for the non-related comment, but I see catslady posted a comment. I've been looking for you for awhile. Can you e-mail me at trishmilburn AT yahoo DOT com? Thanks!

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog. :)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Jo, waving right back at ya! Not long now till August and those sexy firefighters on a bookshelf near you! Wow! And thanks so much for bringing Tracy to us today. It's a fantastic interview, isn't it?

Tracy, I was wondering if you have trouble turning off your 'editor' mind when you read. Is it still easy for you to be swept away into the author's world or are you itching to get your pencil out and tighten sentences and get rid of dangling modifiers?

Helen said...

Yes I do I also love the fact that the males in historicals are gentlemanly if you know what I mean opening doors for ladies pulling out chairs that sort of stuff that I really like I have read some contemparies and I enjoyed them but I find the gentlemanly thing missing in them and to me I think that men were more manly back in the days.
I agree with just about everyone else no matter how hot and good the sex is there has to be a story a romance you have to get to know the hero and heroine.

Living in Australia I buy my most of my books on line from a romance bookstore in Melbourne so I know whether they are erotic historical comtempary etc before I buy them. As long as they keep coming I will be happy I love my reading.

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Tracy, thanks for that answer on historicals. I must admit I'm in the "I'd like a different setting now and again" camp. I started reading historicals back in the golden age (oh, if only it would return LOL) when books were set any time and anywhere.

Joan said...

I can't think of a specific instance where I felt misled. I'm drawn first by the cover. If that passes muster I go for the back blurb. Blurb ok? Well, then I read a few pages. (Ahem, I've been known to become absorbed in a few erotica titles there in the aisle....)

There have been books who passed that initial criteria only to disappoint when I started to read. And believe me, there is nothing more disappointing as a reader and an author than not finishing a book.

A good story is a good no matter the time or the place.

Tawny said...

Morning Tawny! You were either up late or up early from the west coast.

Do you find that when there's a connection between the hero and heroine, the sex scenes can be even hotter?

Late, baby... always late ;-) Which was a good thing since I got up to NO INTERNET!! ACCCCKKKKK.

For me, I think the heat of the sex scenes between the h/H does depend on their emotional connection -- or at the very least on the conflict between them. What's at stake? Why do we care? How emotionally involved are we, as readers, in the emotional risk the characters are taking by having sex? If we care about them, the sweetest love scene can be flaming hot. If we don't, the hottest sex can fall flat.

Jo Davis said...


You're very welcome! I love those Alpha heroes, but every once in a while I love a sweet Beta who has a strong inner core he must grab hold of to prevail. (Zack's story, Under Fire) :)

Tawny said...

we just want to her genuine and germane ideas.

Does that make sense?

Thanks, Tracy! This makes total sense :-)

Jo Davis said...

Thanks, Trish! I LOVE Trial's cover, and can't wait to see the next one!

Hey, we were in the same 2004 Golden Heart class together! Don't know if you knew/remembered that. :) I'm thrilled to hear of all of your success. Tell me about your September release!

Jane said...

Hey Suzanne,
There's no guarantee that a lengthy erotica will have more of a plot than some anthologies. With anthologies I expect a rushed story and less substance.

Hi Donna,
That wasn't me with the stuffed rooster, but I would love to have one of those? Did you ask the little girl where she got her stuffed toy?

Jo Davis said...

Hi Anna!
You know I can't wait for August! I've waited for over a year, but 3 months has never seemed so long!

You're very welcome, but it was Tracy and Suz who put together a fabulous interview. Thanks you, Tracy, for agreeing to come on today! :)

Jo Davis said...

In response Tracy's question about the disconnect with erotica: Unfortunately, I've bought several erotica/erotic romances over the last year I believed were not what the package advertised (cover and back copy).

I read quite a bit of erotica (all genres, really), but in particular I've noticed a real swing toward using deliciously steamy covers, tantalizing back cover copy...only to get the book home, start reading, and I find that 1)it's NOT erotic, just sort of luke warm (how very annoying!) OR 2)it's totally one sex scene after another with no other plot whatsoever or emotional stakes/conflict for the characters.

I even had one awful instance where the back cover copy, upon reading the book, I found had a plot error in it! In other words, something the back cover copy outright said never happened in the book!! I can't imagine how the author felt, and I was annoyed because I kept waiting for the event to happen. Grr.

My. 02!

Anna Campbell said...

I've been caught out buying books that have been marketed as romances here in Australia and actually weren't anything of the kind. Even if they've been reasonable stories, I've still felt cheated. I mean, when I pick up a romance, I want the concentration to be on the central relationship and I'd love a happy ending.

Cheryl Brooks said...

Thanks Tracy!
It's great to hear the other side of the story!
As a reader, I like a fast-moving plot, lots of sexual tension, and when the deed finally happens, I want it all--not just a one-time thing and then the rest of the book only suggests what's going on between the two lovers. I want to fall for the characters and then watch them fall for each other. I want a hero I can like, too, not just drool over. If he has no personality, it doesn't matter how sexy he is!
As a writer--that's what I aim for.

Kim said...

*waves* hey Banditas!

Okay, I'll admit it. I don't read erotica. I'm a notorious prude when it comes to sex scenes and do skim them.

And I just have to say that I CANNOT WAIT FOR TRAIL BY FIRE!! Hi Jo!!!

Kammie said...

I love that cover on Trail By Fire. That's one to stand face out on my bookshelf just so I can look. Adding it to my wish list. Can't resist a firefighter.

I like to read erotica, but not all the time. I mix the hot ones with the sweet ones just to keep things interesting. lol I would like to see more storyline in the erotica books. Often times I'll finish a book and never feel that the heroine and hero connected in any other way but for having sex.

Jo Davis said...

Hi, Kim!

Thank you for your kind words. I hope you enjoy the book! I can't wait for it to hit the shelves. :)

Jo Davis said...

Hi Kammie!

Thank you! I love the cover, and I do believe the Cover Gods have smiled upon me. :) I'm a sucker for a hunky chest and strong jaw. This guy is SO Howard (my hero), they couldn't have pegged him any better!

Mary Marvella said...

Tracy, it takes a brave person to step into this lair but you did a good job and gave good information.


Mary Marvella Barfield

doglady said...

Hey Tracy! Sorry I am late to the party. I had to spend the day at the DDJ (dreaded day job!)

I have read a few erotica and so far have found them to be rather boring. No matter what I read I want to have a strong reaction to the characters and to be swept up in the story. If the characters are people I react strongly to - hate/love and their story makes me want to devour every word to see what happens next I am hooked no matter what the genre. La Campbell (the Diva of the Romance Opera) does this incredibly well.

I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. I mean I spent a day in the Museum of the History of Sex in Amsterdam. I've seen it all pretty much. I just want some meat and potatoes with all of that sugar and spice!

The paranormal market seems saturated to me. Fortunately there are some really great authors out there to which I can return when I find a new author and am disappointed. Mary Janice Davidson, Katie MacAlister, Charlaine Harris come to mind. What I would really love is for someone to make use of all of the research available into the history of these legends - vampires, werewolves, etc. If someone could write something original incorporating all of this really fascinating information I would definitely buy it.

Anna Campbell said...

Mary, we're not THAT scary, are we? Underneath out Bandita gear, we're marshmallows, truly! Pam, your cheque is in the mail! ;-) Rather like the idea of being operatic! Especially if there's a hunky baritone involved!

Anna Campbell said...

Tracy, thanks so much for gracing the lair with your presence today. And Jo, huge congratulations on the book about to hit the presses. I already know you've got a (hot?) hit on your hands. Suz, thanks so much for a wonderful day in the lair!

Nancy said...

Tracy said: We publish lots of cozy mysteries by terrific writers, from Tamar Myers to Nancy Martin to Elaine Viets. My favorite series--to the surprise of no one who knows me--is the Chocoholic Mystery series by JoAnna Carl.

Ooooh, Tracy! You've listed a handful of my all-time fav mystery authors. I love JoAnna Carl, and Tamar, and, well, you get the idea.


Trish Milburn said...

Jo, will you hate me if I tell you I forgot we were in the same GH class? Eek. Sometimes I think I'm leaving a trail of brain cells behind me.

My September book from Harlequin American is about a gal who was a firefighter until a mistake led to tragic consequences. Now she's an arson investigator for the state. She's called back to her hometown to investigate a fire, and while there she also has to face a past love (who some think could be a suspect in the fire) and her estranged family.

Nightingale said...

Erotica covers such a broad spectrum. I enjoy erotica if there is a story and the couple(s) aren't jumping from one bed/kitchen counter to the other. Rather like rabbits. As someone else commented, a story with erotica blended into the plot intrigues and (dare I say) satisfies. What was that about cliches?

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