One of the things I love most about the romance community are the incredible friends I've made. It's like this win-win situation. Great books, great people, great fun. (is that win-win-win?) So it's with a huge smile that I'm welcoming an awesome author and great friend, Virna DePaul, to the Lair today. I met Virna through one of my local RWA chapters and through the years we've not only hung out together, our kids have become super-tight friends (ahhh, the joys of Pokemon) and most recently, Virna invited me to collaborate on a non-fiction writing book with her. I won't mention the time we slept together. Cuz, you know, I'm shy and stuff.
I was beyond ecstatic when Virna received a two-book offer for her debut paranormal suspense series, The Otherkin. Her first book, CHOSEN BY BLOOD, will be out in April of 2011. And I'm thrilled to have her here with us today - so please, join me in doing a little happy dancing boogy to welcome Virna to the Lair!
First, I want to thank Tawny and all the Bandits for having me here today. I know the Romance Bandits are a tight group with a loyal following and I’m so honored to be a guest. Second, I want to ask you a question--did the title of this blog post make you a little uncomfortable? If so, why? Is it because “to challenge” means “to take exception to; call into question; dispute”. Or is it because the word was being applied to an agent and editor? Luckily, this post isn’t really about challenging an agent or editor, it’s about speaking up when you need to and knowing the difference.
Making waves. Rocking the boat. Disturbing the status quo. Being the squeaky wheel.
However you want to describe making a fuss, I generally avoid it.
I like civility. Courtesy. Fair negotiation and open mindedness.
Which is why I didn’t make a very good trial lawyer. I did fine when it came to making persuasive legal arguments, but as soon as things got “ugly” and opponents began to hit below the belt, I floundered. I didn’t expect it or see the need for it (I still don’t!), and I didn’t know how to respond to it. Truthfully, what others often saw as professional calm and enviable composure was actually stunned silence or quiet confusion. Thankfully, I was a much better appellate prosecutor. Even better, I love writing romance so much more than practicing law.
In my personal life, I can be more tolerant of my desire for peace. I like to nurture people and make them feel comfortable, plus I’m generally easy going. Where to eat or what time to be somewhere or how long to wait for something doesn’t usually matter to me so long as I’m in the company of people I like.
There are, however, several things I care deeply about, and when it comes to those things, my “easy going-ness” tends to fly out the window. Ironically, it’s during these times that the idea of being confrontational becomes even less attractive to me. First, because I’ve usually established a precedent—wouldn’t making demands seem a bit out of character now? Second, since I now truly care about the outcome, I fear that instead of just making waves, I’ll lose control and make a tsunami.
So what do I do? Usually, I’ll suffer in silence for as long as I can. Sometimes, if I wait too long, I’ll blow (and believe me, that’s not a pretty sight). Otherwise, I’ll finally get sick of suffering and I’ll do what I should have done in the beginning. I’ll problem solve and do the difficult thing in as respectful a way as possible.
With respect to my budding writing career, I’ve been fortunate to work or interact with wonderful, professional agents and editors. However, there have been a handful of uncomfortable moments over the years when I’ve had to decide whether to speak up for what I wanted or let things remain the way they stood. Each time, “speaking up” seemed tantamount to “challenging” a publishing professional. And because the other person was experienced and knowledgeable, and because I desperately wanted to be published and didn’t want to somehow ruin my chances, I had an even harder time speaking my mind.
Who was I to challenge (i.e., contradict, oppose, question) them?
Well, the answer was (and is) this: I was the person whose career was in question.
I was the writer of the book that the agent was submitting or the editor was interested in.
Moreover, I was the person who didn’t generally make demands, and that told me that my desire to make one now was something I needed to listen to.
Finally, I was the person who liked civility, so what made me think I couldn’t express myself in a civil way?
Whether it was nudging someone who hadn’t done what they’d said they were going to do, or expressing an opinion that was the opposite of someone else’s, or coming up with an alternative to something someone else had suggested, I had to accept that yes, expressing myself could be viewed as challenging another person…or it could not.
Instead, it could be viewed as being invested enough to care, observant enough to respond, and respectful enough to share. It all depended, of course, on the delivery.
Huh. What a concept.
I force myself to view it this way, even if my first instinct is to cringe away from speaking up. Because I don’t want to suffer in silence. I don’t want to blow. And I don’t want to let other people direct my journey with only myself to blame if I don’t like where I end up.
Now, when I’m feeling like I want to say something to my agent or editor but am afraid of “making trouble,” I: 1) sleep on it; 2) talk to friends; 3) write out my concerns and what I want to say; 4) sleep on it again; and 5) if I still feel I need to be heard, I communicate my concerns. I think if a person strives to be honest and respectful, most of the time she’ll get those things right back.
Be selective. Speak up when it’s important. Know you won’t always get your way. Trust that your agent and editor want your book to be the best it can be. Keeping this in mind will insure that when you do speak up, it’s warranted.
The good thing is, the more times I speak up for myself, the easier it becomes. But still, I know when to stand back and let others take the lead, and thankfully, I work with people who know how to do it and listen to my concerns. To me, that’s the biggest sign that I’m where I should be.
Is it hard for you to speak up? Does it matter if you’re in a personal or professional setting? How do you respond when something’s bothering you? Do you ruminate or respond right away?
To celebrate my sale, my appearance today, and my new craft book (co-authored by none other than Bandit Tawny) I’m offering a prize to one commenter.
1 red Heart Truth tee with swirl glimmer heart on front (M or L, winner's choice)
1 box of Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles
1 Red Poppy 2be Journal
1 2010 Photo Album Calendar (that you customize with your photos)
Also, sign up for my mailing list at www.virnadepaul for a chance to win weekly prizes, including a Savvy Author membership and a $20 Amazon gift card! Thanks so much for your support!
Virna De Paul was an English Lit major who practiced law as a criminal prosecutor for over ten years. In March of 2009, Virna was challenged by her agent to write a “big series” that would increase her chances of selling. As a long-time reader of sexy paranormals, Virna decided to try adding a paranormal element to her suspense novels. What she came up with resulted in her first sale. In November of 2009, she was offered a contract by Berkley Publishing for the first two books in a paranormal romantic suspense series. The series, which features a unique special ops team whose members include a werebeast, a wraith, a mage, and a vampire and the human female he's forbidden to love, launches in April of 2011. In the first book, Chosen By Blood, the team must recover an antidote needed to save the vampire race.
Virna conducts monthly “craft chats” at www.savvyauthors.com. She will be presenting her workshop, “Five Ingredients For Crafting A Big Book, High Concept, Same But Different Story,” at the RWA National Conference in Orlando this year. Finally, she and Blaze author Tawny Weber have a new craft book, “Love Writing: A Guide To Writing And Getting Published Without Losing Your Perspective, Passion, Or Sanity.” www.lovewritingbook.com