This week, bestselling author Rebecca York joins The Chicago Contingent. She is the author of over a hundred novels and her latest, DRAGON MOON, was released yesterday by Berkley.
Dana Kaye: Tell us a little about your writing process. How has it changed over the years?
Rebecca York: Every book I write begins with what I’d call a “cool idea.” For DRAGON MOON, the germ of the book comes from the idea: What if a frightening dragon-shifter monster from my parallel universe planned to invade our world? What if he sent a spy here–and she had to figure out how to free herself from his hold on her?
I always get as much of the story down in outline form as I can before I start to write. And I try to develop plot and character together–because they are so intertwined. The characters must fit into the plot, and the plot must keep the reader interested and illuminate the characters.
I always plan to start with a gripping first scene that will plunge the reader into the action. In DRAGON MOON, Vandar, my dragon-shifter monster, flies over his domain, lands and gathers his slaves so he can execute one of them by drinking his blood. Then he thinks about his current project–invading our world and how he’s going to accomplish it.
When I write the first few chapters of my book, I get to know my characters. Although I have an outline, I’m free to abandon any part of it if I think of something better. As I said, I try to write ten pages a day. I always start the next day by editing what I wrote the day before, which gets me back into the story. I try to write fast. Then I spend a lot of time editing my manuscript. Each book I write gets edited on the screen at least once. Then I edit on paper two to four times. I also try to write fast to give myself time to put the book away for a few weeks or months. When I get it out again, it’s like someone else wrote it, and I can be very objective about what works and what doesn’t.
Really, my writing process hasn’t changed much over the years. I just understand it better. When I wrote my first novel, I said to myself, “Let’s see if I can outline part of this book before I start writing.” When I’d come up with part of the plot, I felt comfortable starting the chapters. I wrote the first part of the book while working on the outline. And just as I do now, I edited over and over to make the story better.
DK: What inspired you to write a mix of paranormal, romance and suspense? How does each genre inform the other?
RY: My chief reading material when I was young was science fiction and fantasy with some mysteries and adventure novels scattered in. I didn’t even know that “romances” existed. So it was natural for me to start off writing science fiction. My first published novel was a kids’ science fiction story. Then the romance field heated up, and a friend asked if I wanted to write one. When I told her I’d never read a romance, she brought me shopping bags full of paperback romances. I LIKED them. I’d always loved reading about the development of a relationship between a man and a woman (like the strong romance element in THE PUPPET MASTERS, by Robert Heinlein, for example), and romances were all about that relationship. I wrote a few, but I wanted more plot with my stories. So I was one of the early modern writers of romantic suspense, beginning with the Peregrine Connection series for Dell in 1986-87. In my first books for Harlequin Intrigue (in the early 90's), I started sneaking in paranormal elements. At first I wrote what I call “stealth paranormals” because I had to hide the weird bits until well into the story. The reader didn’t know the hero was a space alien or a clone being trained for a suicide mission until she’d already gotten to know and like him.
As paranormal became more acceptable, I got more overt about using it. I wanted to use those elements that I’d liked so much in my own reading. One book that stuck with me for years was DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson, about a man discovering his werewolf powers. It made me want to BE a werewolf. Later I read THE WOLF’S HOUR, by Robert McCammon, and that rekindled my interest in the subgenre. I wanted to write my own werewolf story, but I was sure I couldn’t sell one unless I wrote the whole book. It was hard to make myself do that since I was selling to Harlequin Intrigue on short proposals. But finally, I HAD TO write KILLING MOON. That was my first single-title paranormal, and I’ve been deep into the weird ever since. DRAGON MOON is the latest example.
The heroine of DRAGON MOON, Kenna, is a slave from my alternate universe, sent here to help Vandar, her ruthless dragon-shifter master, invade our world. She meets werewolf Talon Marshall, is drawn to him, and desperately wants to tell him the secret she’s been commanded to hide. But every time she tries to reveal her plight, excruciating pains stab into her head. Even as Kenna and Talon fall in love, he knows he can’t trust her. And she struggles to break through the barriers that control her mind. It’s classic romantic suspense, with the paranormal twists that add so much to the book for me. I love writing stories about men and women falling in love against a background of suspense and danger, so I always have a fast-paced plot with plenty of frightening incidents that my hero and heroine must deal with. But the most important thing about any plot element is how it affects the hero and heroine emotionally. Like when Talon comes home from a wilderness expedition to find Kenna attacking a man who came to Talon’s lodge to burn it down. Or when Kenna’s programming forces her to rob a nearby house, and Talon watches her in wolf form. Knowing she’s a thief sends him off on a near disastrous course.
DK: In this economic climate and with the world of publishing drastically changing, how are you shifting your marketing efforts? Are you doing anything differently this time around?
RY: I’ve been looking for more ways to bring my books to the attention of readers. Several books ago, I decided there was value in having a book trailer made because it’s something you can “show” people. Circle of Seven, which produced all my book trailers, is offering more services to go along with the trailer (like podcasts), which I’m taking advantage of. I’m also doing more guest blogging, and I’m taking more advantage of Facebook and Twitter, and trying to increase my followers.
DK: What piece of advice can you give aspiring writers?
RY: Don’t think that because you’ve written something, it’s set in stone. Be prepared to revise and improve your work. Shoot for the best markets first. Don’t try “easier” publishers until you’ve struck out with the bigger ones.