With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Brenda Novak
New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is the author of fifty books. A four-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.4 million. For more about Brenda, please visit www.brendanovak.com.
You’ve written over 50 books and sold more than 4 million copies. To go from being a loan officer with a background in business to a bestselling author is quite the change! What first sparked your interest in writing novels?
I caught my daycare provider drugging my three little kids (I have five now) with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day so that she could watch soap operas. Once I figured out what was going on, I couldn’t trust anyone else to take care of them, so I quit my job as a loan officer to stay home with them myself. But I had to figure out a way to contribute financially. So I was looking for something I could do from home when I was reading a great book—Jude Devereux’s Knight in Shining Armor. I just loved it, and when I closed the book, I remember thinking, “I wonder if I could do this!” That was when the idea first hit me. I set about it the very next day—and have never looked back!
How long did it take for you to build your fan base? What methods worked best for you marketing your work?
This is a touchy question to answer. I think building a fan base is an ongoing process—drip by drip. I’m trying to build it bigger with each new book. Fortunately, authors now have many more tools to help us do that. We have the Internet, with Facebook and Twitter and websites (when I started the Internet was new). So I mostly focus my efforts on social media and spend quite a bit of time interacting with my readers.
As an author, your books can be found in the contemporary romance, romance suspense, and historical romance genres. What draws you to romance in particular? Do you have a favorite subgenre?
I love the underlying theme of most romance novels—that love conquers all. I’m basically an optimist, so that coincides nicely with my outlook on life. I also love a happy ending, and I enjoy watching two people fall in love (getting to experience that magical rush vicariously over and over).
I don’t think I have a favorite subgenre. I’m an eclectic reader, so I’m an eclectic writer. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a fabulous period piece, sometimes I want the chill of suspense novel, and sometimes I just want a good old contemporary romance.
What does your process look like in a day-to-day sense? What is the most difficult part of the process for you? How do you stay motivated?
I work five days a week from eight to eight, usually. That doesn’t mean I don’t take breaks here and there, but I put in a lot of hours. I have tight deadlines, and am now writing for two different publishers, so I don’t really have any choice.
The most difficult part of the writing process is all the juggling. I’m a hard worker, and I don’t like interruptions, so stopping to handle promotion along the way, and writing several different novels at the same time, can be a challenge.
I’m not sure what keeps me motivated beyond a love for storytelling. I feel very lucky to enjoy my work so much. It’s like that saying—something like, “If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Who has influenced you as a writer? Who are the writers you look to when seeking inspiration, and why?
The classics have been my greatest inspiration. I found an entire shelf of them when I was in fourth grade and read every single one. That is when I fell in love with the written word. So there have been a lot of authors who’ve gone ahead and sort of held up the lantern—Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austin, Margaret Mitchell, etc.
What is the Whisky Creek Reward System? How do you think this addition will impact your Whisky Creek Series?
Ah, the famous Whiskey Creek Reward System is something I have yet to devise. Haha. I keep meaning to, but my deadlines have been so tight I keep putting it off. I have some fabulous Whiskey Creek “loot” (like mugs from Black Gold Coffee, aprons from Just Like Mom’s Diner and T-shirts from Amos Auto Body) that I give away. We’ve had so many requests for these items that I thought I’d figure out some way for folks to earn them. So…that’s still coming! (And I doubt it will have any impact on the series—it’ll just be a fun reward for my most loyal fans.)
This Heart of Mine is set to be released March 31st. What inspired you to write this story?
I’m not sure exactly what inspired me to write this particular story. I always start with the conflict. If I have a good conflict, I know I can write a good story, and I remember feeling excited when I came up with this one. I was right, too—this story just poured out of me. It was probably the easiest book I’ve ever written and one of my best, too.
As a crusader to fight diabetes through your advocacy and annual online auction in May, what are some things you wish more people knew about the disease?
Probably the first thing I wish people knew was the difference between Type 1 and Type 2. I’ve had so many people suggest to me that I could cure my son simply by having him eat healthy and exercise (or take a certain supplement). They have no idea that Type 1 cannot be cured that way (although eating right and exercise is definitely the way to minimize its terrible side effects). Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder. My son was diagnosed at five, has never been overweight and has always been a talented athlete—very active. He must battle this disease through no fault of his own.
Actually, I have a problem with placing “blame” on those who suffer with Type 2, as well. I don’t believe in that. (I sort of feel like… “Let he who eats perfectly cast the first stone.” LOL)
Can you share any details about your upcoming projects? Any speaking engagements or appearances?
I have SO much going on! On May 1st, I’ll be selling three limited edition box sets—Sweet Talk, Sweet Dreams and Sweet Seduction—to raise money for diabetes research. These boxes contain brand new novels and novellas from some very popular authors (like #1 New York Times Bestselling Authors Linda Lael Miller and Sherryl Woods!), and they cost only $9.99 for eleven to thirteen stories (depending on which box). That’s less than $1/story and, like I said, all the money goes to diabetes research.
I’ll soon be selling Love That! Brenda Novak’s Every Occasion Cookbook, which contains 75 of my healthiest and tastiest recipes—the ones I used to raise my big, boisterous family. All the proceeds for the cookbook will also go to research.
As far as speaking gigs, I’ll be going to the RT Booklover’s Convention in Dallas in May, Thrillerfest in New York the first part of July, and the Romance Writer’s Convention, also in New York, at the end of July.
Thanks so much for interviewing with us, Brenda!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is currently pursuing her M.A. in English at the University of Idaho, where she teaches composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.