Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Everywhere Debra Webb Turns She Finds Success!

By KJ Howe



Please welcome talented author Debra Webb to the lair. We're very lucky today to get the inside scoop on Deb's career decisions and what shaped her incredible publishing career thus far. One of the most talented and prolific authors I've met, Deb has been on a fascinating road with many twists and turns, just like her RS heroines!


The Hard Decisions EVERYWHERE SHE TURNS

I can’t believe it has been so long since I was here with the fabulous Bandits! But, as the title of this blog reflects there are so very many decisions about time, career, every-darned-thing and most of them are hard! Not to mention seriously time consuming. When we first begin our journey as writers the decisions are a little easier—just write and keep on writing no matter how many rejections show up in the mail. For me, there really weren't any other decisions at the time. I just wanted to keep writing and one day be published by ANYONE. And, of course, I wanted an agent eventually. Again, the decision wasn’t a difficult one. The hardest thing I had to do was remain persistent through the rejections. Eventually I obtained both. My goal had been reached. I was a published author and had an agent. As far as I was concerned it didn't get any better. I spent the first few years of my publishing career writing all over the place. Kensington Precious Gems, Harlequin Intrigues, Harlequin Americans, Silhouette Bombshells, Harlequin Next and Signatures, and also NASCAR romances.

Then came the first really hard decision: where should I focus? Romantic Suspense/Thrillers appeared to be my strongest niche. So, I jumped in with both feet. I rarely allowed my focus to deviate from that genre. Time passed and all appeared well until I realized it was probably time to move to the next level—single title romantic suspense. Second BIG decision: what publishing house would be home for my single title romantic suspense novels? After much biting of nails and pulling of hair, I landed at St. Martin's Press. It was glorious! I got to write those big books with scarcely any boundaries. Then came a bevy of additional decisions I hadn’t anticipated: cover art; branding; and the most terrifying of all decisions—marketing. These new, very difficult decisions forced me to see that moving to a new agent was necessary to accomplish certain goals. That part was very difficult. I’m not very good at ending relationships in real life. By this time I fully understood what I needed to do was to give the readers what they really wanted from Debra Webb (stand-alone novels but connected sort of like my Colby Agency series at Harlequin Intrigue). This, my fellow writers and readers, was the mother of all decisions. Did I keep writing big stand-alone novels with absolutely no connection/direction or did I do what I knew I did best—a long running series of loosely connected novels like the Colby Agency? After all, this year installment number 36 of the Colby Agency series will hit the shelves. No other author series in the history of Harlequin books has lasted this many installments (at least that's what I'm told by the powers-that-be).

The latter was a truth I could not deny. So, for my next two St. Martin's Press releases (EVERYWHERE SHE TURNS and ANYWHERE SHE RUNS) I loosely connected the stories with characters. And now I'm once again shopping for a publisher who has the same vision as me. At this stage in my career, it simply has to be about what's best for the books and the forward/upward path of my future publications. It can no longer be just about being published…it has to be about a purpose. The purpose of my career. The path. When readers spend their hard-earned money on my books, I want them to not only thoroughly enjoy the story but to look forward to the next book. A book where old characters are revisited along with the new...where a family of sorts is established. I want the excitement to build…and the anticipation for my next release to show increasing momentum.

So, while I struggle with yet another hard decision, I hope you’ll enjoy my upcoming summer releases. First, coming on June 30th, is EVERYWHERE SHE TURNS. This story is very close to my heart because it is set in my hometown in the very village where my family and I live in a house more than a century old (which we are restoring and alternately love and hate). It is loosely based on events I have watched unfold all around me. For those of you who read the book, never fear the village is slowly but surely being restored to a place where families thrive and neighbors look out for each other. There has only been one shooting in the past month and no one was killed—only a minor injury. Then later in July, look for the first in my Colby Agency trilogy from Harlequin Intrigue (Small Town Secrets in July; The Bride's Secret in August; and then His Secret Life in September). Read and enjoy and please know how very, very much it means to me each time you spend that hard-earned cash on one of my stories.

Thanks, Deb, for visiting us again. You're not only one of my favourite authors, you're one of my favourite people...I love the way you approach the writing world with such integrity, like a real world heroine. Wishing you all the best with your new ventures! Be sure to check out all of Deb's books coming out...





Debra Webb wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn't until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain and within the confining political Walls of Berlin, Germany, that she realized her true calling. A five-year stint with NASA on the Space Shuttle Program reinforced her love of the endless possibilities within her grasp as a storyteller. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Debra has been writing romantic suspense and action packed romantic thrillers since.

50 comments:

Nancy said...

Hi, Debra--what an odyssey! Your story seems to illustrate the saying that selling doesn't solve all a writer's problems, just trades them for new ones.

Nancy said...

You mean I get the rooster? Wow. That's, er, a mixed blessing! Will try Anna C.'s threats and see how they work. Maybe a day on latrine duty will produce a greater appreciation for his nice, cozy home in the lair.

Kim, thanks for hosting Debra.

Pissenlit said...

Congrats on getting the GR, Nancy! Latrine duty?? Poor GR. But yay for clean facilities! *GRIN*

Oh boy, more books to add to The Neverending TBR List.

Virginia said...

Congrats Nancy on getting the rooster today! Don't work him to hard he's a traveling bird!

Hi Debra, welcome to the lair! I am fasinated by your book about your home town I would love to read it. Congrat on your new release that coming out. Thanks for sharing with us!

Helen said...

Congrats Nancy he has had a big day today with Jake and I did let him have a few Tim Tams but he should be well behaved

Great post I love the sound of these books Debra I really enjoy romantic suspense and I love books in a series I really love getting to know the characters and learning more about them in up coming books for me it is like a family love them.

Congrats on the new releases and I will be looking out for them.

Have Fun
Helen

Jane said...

Hi Debra,
Congrats on the upcoming release. I love your books. McBride is one of my all time favorite heroes.

Congrats on the GR, Nancy.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Debra - Welcome back to the lair!

Your life is just so darned fascinating, your books can be no different. I love the sound of connected single titles - makes one feel part of the family.

Thirty-six installments in a Harlequin series? Yikes! You truly are prolific. Any secrets you'd like to share on your writing process?

Kim Howe said...

Deb, what advice would you give to writers about hitting crises points and making good decisions while emotionally charged? Sounds like you've had a few of those moments!

Kim Howe said...

Nancy, congrats on the GR!!! It's nice to know he'll be hanging with you for the day. But, latrine duty? Isn't that a little harsh??? :)

Kim Howe said...

Pissenlit, Viriginia, Helen, and Jane, thanks for stopping by to say hello. If you've never read Deb, you're in for a treat. And, the good news is that when you are hooked, there is a HUGE backlist to read!

Kim Howe said...

Donna, I can't wait to hear the answer to your question...Deb, spill those secrets! :)

Debra Webb said...

Hey Nancy! You are absolutely right, selling is just the beginning. But I love what I do so I ride out the downs and cling to the ups!

Debra Webb said...

Pissenlit,
Enjoy!

Debra Webb said...

Virginia, thank you. Of course, it's fiction, but there are glimmers of real life. I just hope my neighbors don't try and run me off!

Debra Webb said...

Helen, I believe you are exactly right and I'm sticking to my guns on this one!

Debra Webb said...

Oh, Jane! McBride is one of my all time favorites too! In EVERYWHERE SHE TURNS I created a character, Adeline Cooper, that I just love, love, love. I think maybe she's my favorite female character so far!

Debra Webb said...

Donna, thank you very much! I think the most important thing an author can do is write every day! (certainly not ALL day, of course) If you can write around the same time and in the same spot every day, that helps. We're creatures of habit so make writing your habit!

Debra Webb said...

Kim, hey! Let's see, you can swear, smoke and drink. I've done all three. Haha! In the beginning, I guess it's a good thing there aren't as many hard decisions because you're so "young" in the business and there is so much you don't know. Like anything else, wisdom in publishing comes with time in the business. One major thing you must do to prevent putting yourself in a bind regarding future career decisions is to keep it real. Just because you're making good money and getting lots of contracts today is no reason to overspend or overextend your finances. Doing so can put you in a situation where you will have to face a decision with "need" as your motivator rather than "want". I want to keep writing. I want the next contract. I don't need it to survive financially. Believe me, the latter is a far better position when facing those tough decisions. Writing takes all your focus and wrings out your emotions--you don't need any other elephants sitting on your shoulders.

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Debra -- It sounds like you've made plenty of good decisions so far! And I too like connected single titles, because the main characters are new to readers (more or less--sometimes they're secondary characters elsewhere), while we get glimpses of old friends.

Waving at Kim!! See you at National, I hope.

Jeez, Nancy. Be careful what you try with the GR. Last time he visited you was pretty crazy, right? He may have some tricks up his... something or other. Wherever roosters hide their tricks, anyway. I'm nervous just thinking about it, and I'm several hours away.

Debra Webb said...

Barbara, yes, ma'am, I love the glimpses of old friends too! I'm going to National this year as well! Last year was my first missed RWA National conference in many, many years.

Treethyme said...

With all those Intrigues you've had published, I guess it's not surprising that I've read several of your books. I'll be very interested to see what happens with your career -- good luck with those difficult decisions!

Angel said...

Deb, Can't wait to see you at Nationals! I didn't realize your next book was set around here. That's going to be very cool.

I'm glad to see you doing so well. Thank you for passing along these bits of wisdom. So often for us unpublished, the focus is just on selling. But keeping that future in mind is a great reminder.

Danniele

Debra Webb said...

Thank you so much, Treethyme. I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying my Intrigues. I hope you'll look for this summer's trilogy!

Debra Webb said...

Danniele! I can't wait to see you! I missed going to conferences last year. I'm so psyched about National! RT was a blast in Orlando.

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Debra -- great to see you back in the Lair! And thanks for sharing your insight and personal journey with us. What a life you're having!

It's also really nice to hear the honest truth about what you're going through and the many decisions that have to be made if one wants to make this a career.

Wow, 36 Colby stories! That is amazing!!

Hey KJ, great to see you, too!

Go Nancy! Wait. Latrine duty? Ouch!

Anna Sugden said...

Ooooooh Major fan girl squeal!!! Debra, you're my hero and inspiration! I absolutely love the Colby Agency. And Lucas Camp is just yummy - he ranks up there with JD Robb's Roarke!

I'm saving up your latest series to read in one go - having finished your last trilogy only recently. Can't wait!

Your post really struck a chord with me and I'm sure with many other writers. Even though I'm not yet published (trying hard to get into Intrigue), there are so many things I've been doing to help me get there, and help me sell books once I get there.

Recently, though, I realised I need to be more ruthless with my time and what I write. I also need to make sure that I'm the one driving things forward, instead of waiting for things to happen. Somehwere along the line, I'd forgotten that.

And I've had to learn to say no ... again. Since we moved back to England, I've let other things - admittedly important things - dictate my time. The emphasis now has to shift back. It's hard, but to succeed, as you say, you have to make tough choices.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi Deb, Welcome back to the Lair!

So great to have you back with us and BIG THANX to KJ for inviting you!

Thanx a bunch for your comment about letting "want" rather than "need" be your motivator. WOW! What a great piece of advice, and something I will definitely be thinking about when it is time to negotiate for a new contract.

I KNOW your new series will be awesome,
AC

Nancy said...

Debra, I forgot to say that I love linked books. These look wonderful, and I congratulate you on your continued success.

Are you sure your middle name isn't "Adaptable?"

Nancy said...

Kim wrote: But, latrine duty? Isn't that a little harsh??? :)

Turns out rooster physiology isn't designed for holding a toothbrush and peering under something he's standing on. He and the dog are guarding each other. In between trips to the fridge.

I've heard repeated growls and squawks that sound like demands for sugar, but I'm pretending not to notice.

Nancy said...

Anna Sugden wrote: Recently, though, I realised I need to be more ruthless with my time and what I write.

Me, too, Anna. I'm trying to make the summer be about that since I'm not teaching. My hope is to create a pattern that can carry over into the fall semester.

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Ah, more things to worry about. Thanks for the heads up!

Joan said...

Debra,

Welcome back!

I really, truly appreciate your sharing of perspective about the course and decisions you've made with your writing. Ruthless? YES! That's what I have to tap into to BICHOK. And I should have plenty of ruthless left over since I'm not a charge nurse anymore :-)

Hope to see you at National!

Debra Webb said...

Kate, thank you so much. It's wonderful to be here! Yep, 36. And I'm working on #37 right now!

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Debra! You're utterly amazing. Can I be you when I grow up? Thanks, KJ, for bringing Debra back to talk to us.

Oh, those career decisions are so hard, aren't they? And it's particularly difficult in the writing world (or perhaps it only seems that way because I'm in it and can't see the horizon for the forest) because you can't predict what's going to happen. Things can change on a sixpence. You've done marvellously well so far and I'm sure your career will continue to grow and prosper because you've got such a handle on what you want and where you're going.

Wow, the longest series ever at Harlequin? That's a Guinness Book of Records moment!

I'd love a glimpse into your day. Are you very businesslike with how you write? I get the impression you are!

Debra Webb said...

Anna! I'm so glad to hear from you. I do love writing for Intrigue so keep at it. A whole lot, besides talent of course, is persistence! And there are many difficult choices but all careers have them. I've really had to learn to step back and look at what's right for the books and the career. Not an easy thing to do when you want to earn a living.

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, congratulations on the chook. I bet he's got Tim Tam crumbs in his feathers!

Mention chicken cacciatore and he becomes amazingly docile (although I suspect he's plotting a coup or perhaps even a coop!).

Debra Webb said...

AC, that was the most challenging aspect to come to terms with. Although all careers have their challenges and their ups and downs, the stress of making those decisions can work against our ability to write. My husband is painting the house. He can paint whether he's stressed or not. Creating characters and their world is not so easy to do when you're stressed. That is exactly why I stepped back and reassessed my lifestyle. Who needed the big house on the hill? My little century old four-square is all I need. Who needs a new car? My seven year old SUV is still chugging along just fine. I made a conscious decision and effort to streamline my finances so I could do the right thing for myself, my stories and my future career. Now my decisions regarding my career are about "want" not "need."

Debra Webb said...

Nancy, thanks so much. I am so indebted to my Colby fans. I hope that in a couple of years I'll be writing #50!

Debra Webb said...

Gwynlyn, oh don't worry. Like I said, all careers--heck, life itself--has difficult choices. Better to be aware early on than not!

Debra Webb said...

Joan, I look forward to seeing you too! And my youngest daughter (19) is just starting nursing school. I've begged her to try writing but she refuses! My oldest daughter (34) hopes to one day be the next Stephen King but she has to get focused first. She's at that age where life is always in the way somehow.

Debra Webb said...

Anna Campbell, well I don't know about records, but I'm very thankful for the success of the Colby series. A glimpse of my day...hmmm. Before moving into this old house I got up every morning (except Sundays) and worked two to four hours. This kept me on track with my schedules and left the afternoons and evenings for whatever I wanted. Recently I've fallen off the schedule wagon. But I'm climbing back on! It's too hard to play catch up once you get behind (on your personal writing schedule).I try very hard to conduct my writing schedule the same way I would have back when I ran a project office for NASA. It's hard since I'm at home doing it, and I have to remind everyone else to respect my work space and schedule! Remember, we humans are creatures of habit. So form a good writing schedule habit and stick with it!

Susan Sey said...

Hi, Debra--

What an amazing journey! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I think it's so easy for unpublished writers--or newly published writers--to think it's all pixie dust & champagne receptions once you've sold. I really appreciated such a clear-eyed look at the decisions a writer needs to make to groom & prune a career.

Any regrets, or decisions you wish you'd made differently in hindsight? Or on the flip-side, any decisions you made impulsively that turned out to be wise & prudent?

Thanks so much for visiting with us today!

Debra Webb said...

Susan, in hindsight I would certainly have focused my writing a lot earlier rather than writing all over the map. If you're really good at two genres, stick with two. Build that audience/s and go forward. Also, when you're ready for an agent, really pay attention. Look for one who is not only really good with an excellent reputation in the business, but really good at selling/managing authors who do what you do. As for the impulsive decisions, I made one that could have gone either way right from the beginning. When I decided to submit to Harlequin Intrigue I went with a proposal for a multiple-book series. That was in the late nineties and EVERYONE in the know (already published, etc.) warned that I shouldn't do that because a publisher likely wouldn't want to commit to a series from a newbie. That series was the Colby Agency.

Debra Webb said...

Thanks everyone! It was great to be here again!

Pat Cochran said...

Thanks for sharing your story with
us! I've enjoyed several of your
books but also have to say that I
like your covers also!

Pat Cochran

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey Debb! I'm late to the party, as I had to WORK all day at our local Wal-Mart. For anyone who hasn't seen Deb's talk on the daily life of a writer you have missed something. She spoke at one of our Southern Magic Luncheons and brought down the house with her hilarious presentation of the daily life of a write complete with pajamas!

I am in complete awe of the sheer numbers of books you have written and the amazing stories and characters in each of them.

I am an aspiring AYUP historical romance writer, but I think the idea of settling on a genre (or two) and sticking with it strikes a real chord with me. I only write historical romance, but my first was more a romantic comedy and my second was VERY old style Gothic. My current WIP is turning out to be a mixture of both to a certain degree.

I'm going to remember the advice about keeping it in perspective enough to write because you want to and not have to give it up because you NEED to. If I can just get that contract I will live so frugally the only time I will go back into Wal-Mart is to buy toilet paper!

Philip O'Mara said...

Congrats on big day.

It’s time to read a great new romantic comedy, entitled Classes Apart.
This is an adult sporting comedy that follows the fortunes of Paul Marriot, the secretary of the Barnstorm Village Sunday soccer team and coach of a school cricket team in Yorkshire, England. The story describes the remarkable camaraderie between the players and supporters of this little club and their desire to achieve success. The team had previously been known more for its antics off the field, rather than their performances on it.

During his time at the club he meets and becomes involved with Emma Potter, who is the sister of James Potter, a major player for their bitter rivals Moortown Inn. Thus, begins an entangled web of romance and conflict. He also begins working at Derry High School, a school with a poor reputation of academic success, where he becomes coach of the school cricket team. Here he develops an amazing relationship with the children and they embark on an epic journey.
www.eloquentbooks.com/ClassesApart.html

Debra Webb said...

Thanks, Pat! I'm pretty excited about the covers!

Debra Webb said...

Louisa! I hear you. Keep on keeping on, girl! Persistence is a major key!

Debra Webb said...

Thanks for stopping by, Philip! The book sounds intriguing!