Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Visit from Nancy Warren

Intro posted by Helen

I "met" Nancy through email, specifically a writer's loop for Superromance authors. I've "met" so many wonderful people over the last year through email and loops and blogs, and Nancy and I were lucky enough to connect one on one. You see, Nancy has a spot I've coveted (that sounds nicer than drooled over) for nigh on a year. She's one of the debut authors in Harlequin's NASCAR series. She's met Carl Edwards and has a cameo appearance of him in her book. She gets to sign alongside him at the Febuary 2007 Daytona 500.

Okay, okay. Nuf said. Here's Nancy.

Writing All Over the Place

First, thanks to the really cool women here at Riding with the Top Down for inviting me here today. I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about and I decided it might be fun to share my current scattershot approach to my career.

The thing is, there’s this ‘rule’ out there that you should find out what you write well and stick to it, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that, especially when you’re starting out. But, after a while, if you are CREATIVE, which writers tend to be, writing the same thing again and again can become a little too predictable. The muse falls into lazy patterns as does your writing.

I suspect this doesn’t happen to every writer, but I found success early writing ‘hot’ books, Temptation, Blaze and Brava and as much as I love writing hot, and I do, sometimes I need a change of pace. So, I find myself smack in the middle of a trio of books that couldn’t be more different.

British Bad Boys, which came out last month, is a Brava. This month I’ve got my first Superromance out, called The Trouble with Twins. It’s a family story, which allowed me to explore some different themes. Then in February I’ve got a NASCAR-themed Harlequin romance coming out. Talk about a change of pace!

The point of all this is that whatever you are writing, if you feel an urge to stray, sometimes it’s a good idea to let the muse wander. I nearly always have a ‘play’ project on the go. This is a book that is unsold, unscheduled, nobody even knows it exists but me. I play with mysteries, screenplays, women’s fiction, whatever I feel like. When I work on a play project it refreshes me from my current sold, scheduled ie: deadlined book. And the beauty of a play project is sometimes you end up with something really good. You just never know.

It’s a bit like exercise. I ‘walk’ my dog every day. I have a Border Collie, which means that walk translates to an hour long hike every day, come rain, sleet, wind, snow. I consider that my core exercise onto which I add Pilates and yoga. However, once in a while I need to shake things up a bit. Maybe go skiing or swimming or ride my bike. In moods of self-hatred I might even run! They are all exercises but obviously different activities stretch different muscles. The same is true with writing.

Now, the downside of this scattershot approach is that it’s easy to confuse readers who might like family stories and not hot, sexy ones. But the upside is that no trend lasts forever and if you’ve built up some strengths writing other areas then you’re in better shape to change directions if need be.

What do you all think?

Check out Nancy's website at


Betina Krahn said...

Wow! Welcome to the convertible, Nancy! Glad to have you here with us.

And it's so good to hear of somebody following her creative urges into varied paths. I've long been a believer in that. . . my own career to the contrary. I've been a historical author forever and mostly satisfied my roaming urges by hopping from one time period and location to another. But eventually, my need to range and explore was cramped by "historical" expectations and conventions. My publishers mostly wanted "historical" from me-- meaning, I hadn't produced anything contemporary that they saw as being as strong as my historical stuff. Plus, the money was good and the readers liked the books. . . so I was seduced/shoehorned into continuing to write historicals.

But, I'm finally branching out and doing a women's fiction book. It's not sold yet, but this is a change I've been making mentally for at least four years. Now it's finally happening in the real world, too. I think it took an idea that was strong enough and contained all the elements I wanted to include to make it happen. I'm happy as a clam writing this.

Ooooh. . . and as for that "play" project, I second that. I've got several projects I pull out from time to time and work on. I do believe it cross-pollinates the work I do for pay/publication.

Welcome, Nancy! And keep those Bad Boys coming!

:) Betina

So yeah, I agree. . . you have to go where the creative juices pool. . .

Helen Brenna said...

Nancy, do you think when an author is just starting out, like me :), is it better to focus on one genre or subgenre?

I find myself wanting to branch out, but also worried about "switching horses midstream."

Michele said...

Hey, Nancy, and welcome from one 'scattershot' to another. I've done paranormal romance, historical romance, fantasy, and action/adventure. And I don't intend to ever stick to just one, because that would seem boring to me. And as long as you've a publisher/editor that allows that, then i say go for it!

I'm looking forward to the NASCAR releases. Erm...not for me, but the hubby. Always trying to get him to read something, but he's just not into romances, or anything with words, really. :-O But he's a Nascar freak, so maybe...


lois greiman said...

Hey Nancy,

Thanks for blogging with us. As for scattershot, I'm all for 'doing it all'. I think as writers it keeps us fresh, stretches our bounderies. Can't be a bad thing.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Hi Nancy!
We're a "scattershot" bunch here, so we get you. For my own part, through historical and contemporary,series and single title, touches of suspense and a little paranormal (if mysticism counts, I do have some consistency going, namely the cultural "bridge" thing, the Western setting, and lots of American Indian characters. Maybe more. Interestingly, readers sometimes identify commonalities that surprise me. I'm conviced that, one way or another, our stories come from our experience. Do you see threads that string across your work's disparate territories?

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

One of my favorite things in the world is talking about process. How we do this mysterious and wonderful thing we do.

Betina, that is so cool that you're working on a contemporary. Do you find your essential voice is different when you write women's fiction or do you simply change the vocabulary from historical?

Helen, I am obviously no expert, but I certainly think you can keep building in Superromance, where your first books are being published, and at the same time write something else that excites you. You just have to figure out that rodeo trick where you ride two horses at once to get across that stream ;-) I think if readers will follow so long as you are writing something they will still like. My example for that would be me and Nora Roberts. I've read everything most of her books and find whether she's doing gritty thrillers or soft, sweeter categories I will always get a Nora read and enjoy it. But her latest trilogy is about Vampires and evil. And I can't follow her there because I hate vampire books. So, out of approximately 200 books she's written, I can't read three. Not a bad ratio on either side.

Hi Michelle. Ah, NASCAR. Like many people, I thought it was an odd partnership, Harlequin and NASCAR. Then in my research I discovered that a huge and growing number of women are fans, so that's one source of readership. And the other is guys like your husband, who may indeed pick up a romance based on their favorite sport. Ostensibly, it will be a gift for their wives, but I wonder how many of those guys will pick that book up, 'just to take a peek?' If your dh is going to Daytona, tell him to come to our book signing. It's going to be fabulous.

Lois, you are a woman after my own heart. I think you're so right about stretching our boundaries. I also find that after I've written something completely different, or even read something outside my usual fare, that I will bring something fresh to the book I need to turn in.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kathleen,

I meant to say, btw, that I am a huge fan of all your work. (Helen, I know already I'm going to love your books just from talking to you!) Kathleen, I love your books. I think for me with an author it's voice. I either connect with the way someone tells a story or I don't. I believe it's because reading puts you in partnership with the author. They put their story out, but you, the reader, pick it up and bring your own experiences, moral compass, life views, wishes, dreams, hopes, fantasies into the mix. Sometimes, like in any relationship, there's no common ground so even though the book is good, it doesn't work for you as a reader. I suspect that's why I don't read vampire books. I just don't connect with that world.

So, my long answer would be yes. I think I do have strands that cross all my work. I believe love is the strongest force there is, which I'd guess all romance writers do. It will always win in my books. And I come from a certain sensibility that is so ingrained I don't think I could change it. Humor pops up all the time, even when I'm writing a tragic scene. It's just how I view life. I also believe that sex is a huge part of who we are and integral to the complicated process of falling in love. So that's another element of how I write. Readers either go along with you or they don't. I respect every reader and know I won't please everyone, but for those who do read me, I want them always to feel like 'that was a Nancy Warren.' And that sounds way more pretentious than I intended, but I can't think how else to put it.

I have to go walk that border collie I mentioned. I'll be back later, exhausted, wet and ready for more mental stimulation!


Kate Austin said...

Hi, Nancy and all - nice to "see" you. I'm totally with you - as you know - about writing across boundaries. Lucky for me, though I write women's fiction, my editor lets me write all kinds of different things - romance, "pure" women's fiction, paranormal, mysteries - so I get my fix doing that.

But, like you, I'm always working on something I haven't sold and maybe never will. Doesn't matter, though, because I love doing it and - because I'm not worried about selling it - I can go to all kinds of extremes and let my imagination go even wilder than usual.


Debra Dixon said...

Hey, Nancy--

Welcome to the car! Always room for another, especially when that someone is packin' an excellent bag of tricks.

I agree that trends are tricky business, both in jumping on the bandwagon and then in getting off before the trend trickles away. So finding your voice and what you can bring to stories of *all* kinds is an excellent way to add depth and longevity to a career.

Writing for Bantam in the early years was fortunate for me because they let me write a western, a paranormal, family, hot, suspense... They were all "Debra Dixon books," all short category romance, but still allowed me to bring something new to the party each time. That's great for a writer.

It does feed the muse. However, I've never been able to work two projects at one time. I'm a one-book/story/novella-at-a-time kind of gal. My brain just works that way and I'm always most jealous of folks who can keep a couple of projects going or who can put one aside and then come back to it. We always want what we don't have, don't we? LOL!


Candace said...

Welcome, Nancy. You can squeeze in here next to me in the back seat so we can chat...

I'm one of those authors who hasn't jumped around. Not because I felt I needed to stay with my original auidence but because I've never felt the need to do anything else. I started writing for Temptation, then went on the Blaze. My voice seems to fit there naturally.

Although, now that I think about it, I do have the first couple of chapters of an historical in a file somewhere... it's still hot, though.

Anyway, I think I must get my need for writing variety satisfied through my other, non-fiction writing projects--grants, business plans, marketing material, and the like.

Tiana said...

I'm half way through "The Trouble with Twins" and loving it. The best thing when reading a Blaze, Duet, Brava or Super Romance by Nancy is her voice shines throughout.

Nancy, You can be as Scatter Shot as you want and I buy tham all.

Now as for writing, I'm not doing well there. I told myself I was going to use my lunch hour to write but now with 3 boys under 3 at home I just want to take a nap at lunch. But with my new experence being a foster mom I want to tell stories I'd never thought I would before. I've decided for now the best thing would be to journal everyday. So later I remember the exctied and terrified emotions got a late night phone call asking if could take a three week. Or the heart breaking feelings when I had to give kids back.

Until than everyone keep writing and I'll keep buying.

:) Tiana

Helen Brenna said...

Bless your heart, Tiana, for taking on that monumental roller coaster ride of foster parenting. This world wouldn't be half as nice a place without people like you!

Anonymous said...

Oh, boy. I'm back. Made the mistake of going with my sister on a mountain trail I don't know and of course, we got lost. After seeing the same lookout point twice, I wondered if I'd ever get back. Luckily, another hiker pointed us home (and no, my Border Collie isn't one of those who could rescue a lost sheep in a storm and bring it on home! He kind of looks at you with his tongue hanging out as if to say, haven't we been here before? What kind of loser dog owner are you!)

However, I'm back. Safe. Tired! Had to stop on the way home for a latte and a cinnamon bun because I believe in keeping the calories balanced ;-)

Tiana, I am as always in awe of your generosity. It's got to be so hard to give those kids back, but at least you get to love them at a time when they really need it. I think journaling is an excellent idea. And thanks for your nice comments. Glad you're enjoying Twins. You made my day.

Kate, yes, I do indeed know how you like to wander as a storyteller, but your books also have a similar tone to them, and I think often have a unifying theme.

Candace, Hi! When I was first writing Blaze Susan Sheppard sent me a couple of your books as a 'this is how it's done' model. I can see how fiction makes a nice change from corporate writing, and vice versa.

Hi Debra,

I took your GMC course in Victoria. It was great. I consider our Goal, Motivation and Conflict, Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer and Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey to be the three books I've learned the most from as a writer. So thanks.