When people list their fears, one phobia tops even death—public speaking. However, that’s exactly what I do to introduce people to my books. I present writers’ workshops at national and regional conferences. I give talks to readers’ groups and speak to library associations. Some writers, by virtue of their heroine’s vocation, have a built in constituency for their books—knitters, teachers, karate instructors—you get the idea. Since I write historical romance, there’s no gimmick or hook for my stories. My brand is myself and my unique style.
So, I decided the best way to deliver that brand is through public speaking. Of course, the immediate problem was “What the heck do I say?” So I took some time and developed three workshops for writers’ groups—one about developing believable characters, one on plotting, and, since my stories have a strong sensual component, one about sex in fiction. Please visit my websites http://www.dianagroe.com and http://www.emilybryan.com to learn more about these workshops.
Readers’ groups and librarians want the backstory. They enjoy hearing about the more esoteric research facts I’ve dug up but not been able to incorporate into my stories. The historical study I get to do is part of why I love writing romance in other times and places. For example, in researching DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS, which is set during Queen Victoria’s reign, I learned that it was only after she became the Widow of Windsor that the Victorian era turned prudish. In the early years of her marriage to her dour German cousin, the young queen had a risque bacchanalia painted on her boudoir walls at Windsor. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert make a cameo appearance at my heroine’s masquerade in DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS, something she would never have done later in life, but fit with the early Victorian years perfectly.
I also share my writing process and what I did that led to my receiving “the call”—that magic, life-changing call that meant someone wanted to publish my manuscript and pay me for the priviledge. Folks have this image of romance writers. They seem to think we sit around with our feather boas, sipping martinis and eating bon-bons while we dictate our prose. If I can show them what a real writer is like, maybe one of them will say to themselves, as I did after I met my first real writer, “If she can do it, I can do it.”
Of course, public speaking is not without its pitfalls. I still get the jitters before each time. I’ve been known to run out of material earlier than I expect and end up vamping for ten minutes. And one time, I wrecked my car driving through an ice storm to make a speaking engagement. For this reason, I make it a point not to schedule presentations in the dead of winter any more. Instead, I’m available to do phone interviews and online workshops when the snow flies.
But the upside is all the wonderful people I meet: the readers who hopefully will now remember me and look for my next title, the booksellers and librarians who know my work and can recommend me to their patrons, and last but certainly not least, the friends I’ve made in writers’ groups.
Writing my books is a solitary activity. Promoting my books doesn’t need to be.
Please look for my newest sexy romp, PLEASURING THE PIRATE (August 2008-Leisure Books) by Emily Bryan. Jacquelyn Wren will dare anything to protect those she loves. Even a prodigal pirate. But she forgot one important thing.
What a pirate wants, a pirate takes!