Thursday, August 07, 2008

GCC Presents Jackie Kessler and Hotter Than Hell

If you're even remotely hooked into the book biz, then you know that vampire/demon books are the rage these days. Just look at Stephanie Meyers' success! Now that she's wrapped up her series, I can think of no better successor than Jackie Kessler! I met Jackie over at Backspace a few years ago, and seriously, beyond crafting juicy novels, she is such a champion and cheerleader of other writers that I really do encourage you to support her by picking up a copy of her book.

Here are a few details on Hotter Than Hell, the sequel to The Road to Hell. And then Jackie kindly answers my usual questions.

Whose soul do you have to damn to get a promotion around here?

Daunuan was never the ambitious type. There's so much to love about his job just the way it is—mind-blowing sexual prowess, the power to seduce any human, excellent dental plan. But now Pan, the King of Lust, has offered to make Daun his right-hand incubus—a position other demons would give their left horn for. All he has to do is entice a soul destined for heaven into a damnable act of lust. Should take, oh, seven minutes, tops.

Then he meets his target, Virginia Reed. She’s cute. Funny. Smart. Unfathomably resistant to his charms. He can’t understand it. But Daun has centuries of seduction to his credit. He’s the best there is. Sooner or later he’ll transform this polar icecap of a female into a pool of molten desire, and every instinct tells him she’ll be worth the effort.

Meanwhile, he has to deal with a plague of rogue demons Hell-bent on taking him down, sent by an unknown enemy with a serious grudge. And one other problem: the dawning realization that he’s falling in love—that unholiest of four-letter words—with the woman he’s about to doom for all eternity...

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?
Ever since Jezebel mentioned her buddy, the sexy incubus who could make her sweet spot tingle without even touching her, Daunuan refused to be just a minor character. Originally, he was going to be the one who shot Jezebel in Hell’s Belles and then he was going to get killed by Paul. But the book took a completely different direction from what I’d imagined, and next thing I knew, Daun was (shudder) helping Jezebel instead of hunting her. And then in The Road to Hell, his feelings for her became quite clear—to me, if not to him and Jesse. Demons don’t love, after all. So what he was feeling must have been nothing more than indigestion. (No one ever said demons were the smartest creatures out there.) I knew that I wanted to write Daun’s story, but it took a while for me to figure out what sort of story it would be. Daun’s in Hell, and Jesse’s with Paul, which doesn’t do much for a happily ever after for him. Did Daun even deserve a happy ending? He’s a demon—an Evil creature who has sex on the brain pretty much all the time. What would he know of love? What if he had to find out the hard way? Poor Daun. He never knew what hit him. (Hee hee hee…) And thus, HOTTER THAN HELL.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?
I swear up and down, I’m not a demon. No matter what my mother might think.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
I started getting serious about wanting to be a published author in 2003. That year, I worked on what I referred to as my Great American Novel, or GAN. It was a contemporary fantasy—that is, it had characters from Here suddenly appear There, a place where magic was real. Chaos ensued. (I know: strikingly original, right?) By January 2004, I was ready to start the querying process. By January 2005, I had scored more than triple-digit rejections. That’s when I started a new novel, this one a chick-lit story. I wrote it in five months and started querying. I quickly got 40 rejections, but most of them were actually personalized, saying that they loved the first person, sassy voice but didn’t like the story. So I took the fantasy from the first book and the sassy narrator from the second book and merged them, aiming for a “magical chick-lit” style. And I wrote HELL’S BELLES, which is about a demon who runs away from Hell, hides on Earth as an exotic dancer, and learns the hard way about true love. (Sex, strippers and demons; what’s not to like?) And I queried…and wound up getting five offers of representation. I selected one to be my agent, and he sold the novel to Kensington in a three-book deal one week later. (FYI, HELL’S BELLES is getting reissued as a mass-market paperback in September 2008. Smaller and cheaper—life is good!)

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
Usually, I write first thing in the morning, before my day job, and then at night, when my Precious Little Tax Deductions are sleeping. (Yeah, I get very little sleep.) No real rituals, although there are times when I simply must have music playing (like when I’m writing a club scene with Jesse, or if a dynamic character is making a first appearance). Motivation? Well, deadlines are a good one. J Once you’re contracted, you have to make your deadlines. For the stories that aren’t contracted yet, those tend to wait until the Muse moves me. (Sometimes with a crane, but hey, it’s still movement.)

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
Ooh. Anyone other than Demi Moore can be Jezebel. And as for Daunhmm. I just saw The Dark Knight, and let me tell you, Christian Bale is seriously doing it for me. Hee hee hee

6.) What's your favorite part of writing? Starting something new? Revising what you've already got drafted? Developing characters? The plot? Something else all together?
Getting lost in the writing, where a scene just sucks me in. Man, there’s no rush like when you’re on a roll, and you know every single word you’re crafting is exactly right. When I’m doing it right, it’s almost like the characters are the ones doing the writing, and all I’m doing is transcribing for them.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Spreading the Word

Question of the day: I would like to increase the readership of and was wondering how I could get it added to the "blogroll" of an online magazine. One of the Conde Nast publications would be great (ha! wouldn't it!) but maybe there is a better place to start? How do those publications choose blogs for their sites?

Well, this is a toughie. The Conde Nast pubs, for example, hire bloggers to write for them...for example, I have a few friends who write blogs for Glamour, and these are paid gigs. They're hired in the same way that a freelancer is for the magazine: it's a contracted position. From what I can glean, these folks have earned these lucrative slots by proving themselves to the magazine it's not as if an editor at, say, Self, is going to stumble upon your blog and decide to link to it.

I imagine that some of the other blogs/sites they link to are sponsored links. In other words, advertisers pay to link up with them OR there's some sort of cross-promotion going on. So, that's not gonna help you either.

If you're interested in hooking up with smaller blogs, the best way I've found is to simply send the blog proprietor a note and ask if you can link to them and vice versa. In most cases, a blogger is happy to add you to their blog roll. (Though I've also found that a blog roll, like mine, can get a little too long and cumbersome. I've been meaning to go through the links to make sure they're all still up to date and current, but just haven't had the time.) Of course, you can also endear yourself to a blogger by leaving comments on the blog and hope that he or she will simply add you out of the goodness of her heart.

Readers, do you have any tips to get in good with the biggie blogs like the Conde ones? Or other tips on getting in with bloggers period?

Monday, August 04, 2008

From Blogging to Book Deals

Question of the day: I have this idea that if I can get a real readership on my blog then I can use that as part of my pitch to a publisher for the book I am writing. As in "See? I already know x amount of people who loyally read and would buy my book (in hardcover, even)." Is this a completely off base train assumption?

Yes and no. I've discussed this briefly in the past (you can search the archives, but I wrote it right after the NY Times covered a $350,000 book deal for a blogger), but I'm happy to revisit. Here's the deal with bloggers and book deals - and others, please feel free to chime in with your thoughts: DO. NOT. START. A. BLOG. TO. LAND. A BOOK. DEAL. This might be one of the most fruitless and excruciating wastes of time and effort ever. Start a blog if you have something interesting and unique to offer the blogging world. Start a blog if you'd like to have an outlet for your writing. Start a blog if you want to keep your mom in the loop of your life and not have to pick up the phone to speak with her. There are a lot of reasons to start a blog - landing a book deal isn't one of them.

Why? Because, to begin with, these days, you hear about the exceptions: the few bloggers who nab these amazing deals, but you don't hear of the millions - literally millions - of other bloggers who don't. And these bloggers who DO land book deals do so because they really offer something unique that can then be turned into a book. It's not like they just package up their posts, bind them, and voila, they're published. Take, for example, Julie and Julia, in which one author chronicled her attempts to cook a Julia Child recipe every day for a year. There was a story behind the blog, and the book, which many of you might have read, wasn't just made up of blog posts - it was a memoir that chronicled Julie Powell's life transformation. This was a book with or without the blog. The blog just helped get her noticed.

So...yeah...a blog CAN get you noticed, and certainly, if you have a big enough audience - but we're talking about at least thousands of readers, which isn't an easy thing to achieve - it can help make you more attractive to a publisher. But it's really a shot in the dark...or at least a shot into cyberspace, and, in my opinion, it's not something really worth concentrating on. In some ways, taking a more traditional route - pitching, querying agents, etc - might be the easier way to land a deal. And we all know that this way ain't so easy either.

But that's just my opinion. Readers, I'm sure you have thoughts on this too. So weigh in: blogging - helpful or not in landing a book deal?