Emily Bryan, on Staying Published

A "release mate" of mine from Dorchester Publishing (our books often come out during the same month), Diana Groe, has a brand new historical romance, Distracting the Duchess, coming out this week under the pen name Emily Bryan. I spent some time recently talking to her about the reasons for the name change.

Diana Groe's inventive, intelligent historical romances, MAIDENSONG, ERINSONG & SILK DREAMS (all published by Dorchester)were almost universally well received by reviewers. ERINSONG even earned one of those exceedingly rare Desert Isle Keeper designations from All About Romance. The translation rights have sold to Germany, The Netherlands, and Italy. SILK DREAMS even hit a best seller list for Siren Books in Australia.

Unfortunately, in the US market, for some reason, these "out of the box" viking stories did not sell as well as hoped. Diana/Emily explains: "My agent says it's because the historical market is so skewed to Regency England. My mother thinks it was because my covers were not 'clinches.' My husband says it's because my heroes were all Norwegian (like him!) I'm not sure why it happened, but I can only say how grateful I am for my editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, who stuck with me despite the numbers."

BtO: When did you decide it was time to make a change?
Diana/Emily: I had written 3 meaty, dramatic epics and was ready to try my hand at something lighter. I was already kicking around the ideas that became DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS even before Leah called me with the news that SILK DREAMS did not get the "buy in" from booksellers she'd hoped. I still had another title left on my 2 book contract, but I was afraid that in the light of the disappointing buy in, Dorchester might decide to let the 2nd one go. I pitched the DUCHESS to Leah and she agreed that it was time for something different. She gave me the green light to try to write DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS but since it was such a departure from my previous titles, it would have to come out under a different pen name.

BtO: How did you choose what to write next?
Diana/Emily: With fear and trembling and a sick feeling in my gut. I'd just been told my writing career was veering off course before it even got off the ground and I chose this moment in time to try to write something funny. Sheesh! Plus, I had no idea how difficult comedy is to pull off. I was working 40 hours a week at my day job, writing frantically nights and weekends. But I took a deep breath. I had terrific support from my husband (the man cleaned the house and did the laundry so I could write all day on Saturdays. Now that's my idea of a hero!) I decided whatever else happened, I was going to have fun writing.

So I did. I made my heroine outrageous for her time period. (A widowed duchess who paints nudes!) I made my hero over-the-top sexy. (An accidental nude model with nothing to hide, except the fact that he's Her Majesty's spy!) Whatever it took to turn my story into a thrill ride, that's the direction the plot took. I finished writing it in record time. The result was DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS, a story RT BookReviews calls "a sexy, fast-paced romp!"

I guess desperation works.

BtO: Or maybe it's "letting yourself go" and having fun with the writing!
Though all of your Diana Groe books have been wonderfully reviewed, Distracting the Duchess is off to a stellar start.

Yes, even though it won't be in stores till Feb 28th, the signs are good. DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS is the first of my titles to receive a Publishers Weekly review! (BtO note: And a good one!) Kind of the gold standard in the biz. The buy in has been strong and--here's the best part--the DUCHESS will be sold in Wal-Mart! Now you have to understand that most of my extended family lives in small midwestern towns for whom Wal-Mart IS the only bookstore. Since none of my Diana Groe books were sold in Wal-Mart, some of them still don't really believe I'm published. Of course, since DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS is going out under my new moniker, Emily Bryan, a few of them probably still won't believe it!

BtO: Welcome to the wonderful world of relatives! :) So, did starting anew make a difference in your writing process?
Diana/Emily: I do more pre-work than I used to. I plot more heavily ahead of time, but I'm freer to deviate if I discover something in the process of writing my characters. I've never had the luxury of waiting for the muse. I've always been a fierce devotee of writing whether I feel like it or not. Now that I'm writing light-hearted, fun and ('scuse me while I blush!) sexier stories, I almost always feel like writing.

Have there been any benefits that you've seen to getting a do-over?
Diana/Emily: I've really been blessed by my editor's willingness to take another chance on me. Even though we live or die by the numbers, Leah is a genuine person who's committed to my growth as a writer.

Any time we re-invent ourselves, growth is inevitable. I'm happy to report that I have two more Emily Bryan books on the way, PLEASURING THE PIRATE in August (in time to be your release mate again, Colleen! We can be beach reads together!) and VEXING THE VISCOUNT for spring of 09. Another incredible blessing is that the day job is gone. Now I'm a full-time writer.

BtO: That's fantastic! Congratulations!

Diana/Emily: Thanks. Of course, this means my husband no longer cleans the house or does the laundry, but it's a sacrifice Emily Bryan is willing to make.

But I have to confess that part of me is hoping that readers who like my Emily Bryan books will look for my Diana Groe stories, too. And for those of you who enjoyed my Vikings, please give my Victorians a try. They aren't the usual suspects. Light or dark, serious or silly, we need both to stay balanced. I hope Diana Groe and Emily Bryan will both find a home on lots of readers' keeper shelves.

BtO: Do you have any advice for writers facing adversity?
Diana/Emily: I first met NYTimes Bestseller Bobbi Smith in May 2006 when MAIDENSONG first hit the shelves. She gave me some advice that has stuck with me.

"Stay published."

BtO: Great advice. People underestimate how very, very important that is. And how difficult.

I was green enough at the time not to realize how profound this statement was. But if you're building a writing career, the goal is to always have another book coming. To do that, you need to keep writing. Everyday. Whether you feel like it or not. I've dashed a few paragraphs in the car before my workday began and I've written on an envelope at my grandmother's hospital bedside while she slept. As writers, we need to be able to slip into that vivid dream that is our fictional world. Especially when we're facing adversity.

Surround yourself with people who build you up. Find critique partners you trust. Have a plan. but don't be afraid to try something totally new. You never know when you're going to find the joy you started writing for in the first place. Please stop by my websites (yeah, I've got 2 of them!) www.dianagroe.com and www.emilybryan.com. There's usually a contest going and check out my Writer's Corner!

Thanks, Colleen, for the opportunity to talk with your readers. You rock!

BtO: Thanks for joining us, Diana/Emily, and for having the courage to talk about what all too often is publishing's "dirty little secret." As we've discussed here on previous posts, there are many, many authors who have flourished in their second or third (or more) tries as publishing success. "Adapt or die" isn't just a Darwinism, it's a reality in any business.

I can't wait to read your new book!


Emily/Diana, What an inspirational story! Thanks so much for sharing it. Kudos for your courage to take your career in a different direction. (And I love the Victorian time period ;})
ilovemyman70 said…
I look forward to reading Distracting, and I am amazed to learn that the buy in was low on Maidensong and Erinsong. Your first three books were so excellent, everyone is missing out. I'll continue to throw books at them LOL.
Joni Rodgers said…
Common sense and a terrific attitude. I'm in the process of doing the "like a virgin" thing, too. There's a lot of wise advice here, and I'll be taking it to heart.

Thanks for stopping by, Diana. And Emily, rock on!
Bonnie Vanak said…
Great blog, Emily/Diana! Thanks for sharing your inspirational story. I wish you tons of success with your new pen name and many more books to come! And congratulations on being able to quit the day job. woo hoo!
Thanks, ladies. I've felt a little exposed today. I know the whole world says "fake it till you make it." But a wise Man once said, "The truth will set you free."

Think He was right.

Thanks for the kind words about my work. I still hope someday I'll be able to have the 3rd 'song' book published. DRAGONSONG. It's Moira's story and it's already finished. Who knows? Everything's cyclical. When Vikings come back in fashion, I'll be ready!
I have an American historical proposal ready to go when the market turns, too, so I can relate.

Really glad you shared here, Diana/Emily, and I appreciated everyone who's dropped by!
Gillian Layne said…
I have this creepy-in-a-good-way, goose-bump feeling that this is one of the most important blog posts I'm ever going to read.

I've always heard "ignore the market! write what you love!" or conversely, "the market is everything!" but you've presented the best of both, and dealt with your publishing challenges in a very professional manner. Jennifer Ashley seems to approach her career much like this as well.

I'm totally buying your books! ;)

And thanks for giving me so much to think about, as I get ready to send out my first queries.
Kelli Estes said…
Emily/Diana, your story of reinventing yourself in order to stay published reminds me of Jayne Ann Krentz who has done it twice. Look at her success with all three of her names!

I can't wait to read your latest, and I look forward to seeing you at the conference this summer. You'll be there, right?
Thanks, Gillian! This post has felt like I'm taking my bath in public, but I'm glad I've helped you in some small way.

Yes, Kelli, I'll be in San Francisco for RWA Nationals and I'll also be in Pittsburgh for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. I'll be giving a workshop and a panel as part of Bobbi Smith's Aspiring Writer's Workshops. This year seems to be my year for public speaking. I post my calendar on my websites, so if you're near where I'll be I'd love to see you!
Christie Craig said…
Love the story. Thanks so much for sharing and thanks for doing the interview Colleen!

Great interview Colleen! Countless authors have reinvented themselves and moved on to fantastic careers, including:
Janet Evanovich
J.R. Ward
Sherilyn Kenyon
Lara Adrian
Colleen Thompson

and many others.

Congrats Diana for having the courage to start again. I'm always comforted by the fact that reinvention is available for us--in other words, if I tank and die, I still have a chance! :-)

Diana talks more about this on my writing blog as well: www.jenniferonwriting.blogspot.com

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