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Bestseller Series, An Interview With Stephanie Laurens

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We are back again, part three in the bestseller series. Do you have what it takes to be a bestseller? Let's find out! Right now we're speaking to bestselling author Stephanie Laurens in advance of the Romance Writers of America event coming in July in Anaheim, California.

With all of the books published it seems like more and more people want to become an author. What does it take to be successful these days?

Stephanie: I think the genre fiction anyway is all about telling a really good story and doing it again, and again, and again. Readers really want to come back to an author; they do not want a one-book wonder. That is all very well, but to be career author you have to be prepared to write one really good book and then write another really good book and keep feeding your readers. You build your audience over a long time.

So it is true then, because many times authors will get the advice the minute your first book is finished you should get started on your second. Would you even say this while they are trying to find a publisher or agent?

Stephanie: Oh yes, absolutely. It is really all about generating the energy and telling a really good story engagingly, thrillingly, so the audience is drawn in. The more you write, and the more stories you tell, the better you are going to get at that.

Right, right exactly. I am sure you have been asked this a million times; you are the author of 50 books and 28 bestsellers. Amazing, but not surprising because your books are really terrific. What is the secret, if there is a secret, to becoming a bestseller?

Stephanie: It is knowing, and again this is for genre fiction, it is realizing that it is all about the readers responding to your work. That you are an entertainer and that is what your books are, that is why they read your books. They read your books for fun. So you have to churn that out again and again into that other world. You have to hit that spot again and again and again. You are delivering to your readers. Your readers learn about your brand, it is about branding, just like any other form of entertainment and your readers coming back to you. For your brand and what your brand delivers, so you have to keep delivering that. First, you have to figure out what the stories you really want to tell are, so that you can tell them with passion and you can be believable and convincing. So that you can grab the reader and take them into that other world, because that is what they are wanting, they are wanting you to take them into this other entertaining world and deliver that to them again, and again and again. That is, to me, what it takes to be a bestseller. It takes doing it again, and again and again.

Obviously writing an exceptional story. I was at a conference recently and there was this publishing track about how to get published. They asked the guy, the speaker, which is a horrible question to ask any speaker, "What is the one marketing secret to get noticed?" He thought about it for a minute and then he said, "Write a really, really good book," which is essentially exactly what you are saying -- and maybe even take your eye off the bestseller list and focus on writing a really good book.

Stephanie: Absolutely, that is it in a nutshell. You do not know, and the readers cannot tell you, what they might like until they have it. It is one of those things that particularly if you want to be the next wave, well the next wave is not already on the bestseller lists. The next wave is in somebody's head. They will sit down and write that really, really good book and then they will put it out there. Then they will sit down again and write the next really good book that is in the same vein and they will build an audience and they will be the next great thing. That is how it happens. I mean, if you can't tell what audiences are really going to go for until it is already out there.

Yes, that is very true. Who could have predicted the wave of vampire romance paranormal?

Stephanie: You can't.

We have been riding his wave for quite some time now.

Stephanie: Oh, a long time. I mean, real storytellers are the older profession bar none. We really have been around for millennia upon millennia. Nowadays we write our books that originally was an oral story form. We were the people who sat around the campfire and entertained the other people by telling stories. Now we just write them down and reach to a bigger audience.

Right, exactly which is really a wonderful thing. Speaking of which, many authors want to get published today and they are a lot more opportunities with ebooks and not all of it may be great but what do you recommend... if an author comes up to you and says, "How do I get published?" what would you say to them?

Stephanie: I probably would say go and get up first, and then get your next book up and get your next book up and see where you go with it. Someone told me this story when I was first starting out, they said a good story will always find its audience. It happened that the guy that told me this was himself was a career author; he had been making a very nice living for a long time. He was writing his story sent in the Australian outback, which is a really hard sell any time. It was an adventure, from a man's point of view, with a tiny touch of romance. Set in the Australian outback, he was selling them through Germany. That is what it takes, a good story well told, and this was twenty years ago. He had to have been sending the manuscripts over there secretly. There was no Internet. So you know, that can work, a story that was so esoteric can find an audience, and this guy had a perfectly good career going on, way back then. You certainly can find your audience now.

Certainly, because if the writing is good it will find an audience.

Stephanie: Yes, exactly. The audience will find you. If it happened to him, and that was just weird, from Australia to Germany, and it can happen even more easily these days.

Yes, absolutely. You have The Lady Risks All coming out. the end of September. What else do you have coming up?

Stephanie: Book-wise that is it. There are a couple of little things going out between now and then. In mid-July there is a, two other authors and I did a series of shorts about Royal Weddings. We did one of them for the Royal Wedding and the next one is about the bridesmaids, the ones that did not get the prince. That one is called Royal Bridesmaids surprisingly; it is an anthology of shorts and is just something to be sold at 1.99 as an ebook everywhere. So that is mid-July, and then comes my main book, The Lady Risks All. I had a book out in February; I usually have two books out per year. That is what I said about continuing to give your readers what they want. They want more.

That must be an incredible schedule to keep with, too.

Stephanie: I actually find it, this is going over 20 years of writing, I enjoy it and I am literally more productive the more I do it. I get into the story rhythm much more easily these days because I have done it again, and again and again. It is not that it grows old, because you always have new characters and you always have new stories. It is just that the mechanics become more familiar to writing. You have a confidence that, "Yes, I did that, I know I got that scene right." That keeps me going right to the end of the book, just like when I am reading a book. So yes, I always get there.

Do you ever find, because it is very gratifying to finally finish writing the book, but do you ever find that you miss the characters once you are finished? That you miss writing the characters.

Stephanie: I am usually already mentally moving on. I have my books lined up, I know what the next four books are, and I know the basic elements of the stories. So I am always hanging out to get to the next book, despite always wanting to finish the one I am writing to the best possible standard. As soon as it is done, it is done. That is one thing that comes with experience, you know when you have got the book to the right point and hanging onto it is not going to help it. You just have to send it off, you have go to hit that send button and get it on to your editor and getting to the next one. I find I cannot take more than a week in between; I have to get straight on because the characters for the next one are in my head and they are wanting me to sit down and get going.

That is the funnest part, getting those characters onto the page. I want to thank you so much. Your website is www.stephanielaurens.com and your next book is The Lady Risks All coming out in September. It is going to be fun to see the ebooks on the Royal Family because there is so much interest in royalty, and of course the renewed interest from William's wedding and the anniversary and all of that. I want to thank you again so much for spending time with us and for helping other authors to get hopefully someday to where you are. We will see you at RWA in Anaheim and a very safe trip.

You can find out more about Romance Writers of America by going to: http://www.rwa.org/