Archive for the ‘Author Interviews’ Category

Tuesday Special Author Interview: Cheryl Holt – Redux

I happened to be reading some of my old author interviews the other day, (Ya know, when the main blog was live)  marvelling over how much my views on Romanceland has changed since I started them, just over two-and-a-half years ago.

Anyway, one of the interviews that amused me greatly was Cheryl Holt’s, so I thought I’d repost it. I think I’ll probably re-visit some of my fave interviews over the next few Tuesdays.

Anyway, enjoy.

Author Name: Cheryl Holt
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
Latest book in shops now: Too Hot To Handle (Sept ’05) , and Too Tempting To Touch (March ’06)

Before we begin this interview, I need to check that you’re still grounded and that your head isn’t swollen from all of your success, so with that in mind, what was the last thing you bought at Target, and do you know how much a loaf of bread costs?

I life in a very small town on the west coast of the US, so the nearest Target store is two hours away. I don’t get there very often. Usually I go in the autumn to shop for school clothes for my 2 kids. You have a very glamorous view of my life, which is — in fact — very quiet and very normal. Where I live, a loaf of bread is anywhere from $1.29 to $2.29.

Why did you choose to write erotic romance books, rather than traditional romance?

I started out writing regular historicals, then the publisher where I was writing shut down the lines I’d been writing for, and I was let go, or “orphaned” as they call it in the book business. My first book wasn’t even out on the store shelves yet. It was very depressing.

I needed to get back out on the market and sell something, and the agent I had at the time advised me to write an erotic historical proposal (this was in 1999) because the market was just opening up and it was going to be very hot. I looked right at him and said “what’s an erotic historical?”

I finally wrote one, Love Lessons, which I sold to my current publisher, St. Martins Press, and it turns out that I not only have a knack for writing great love stories, but also for writing very sexy, very hot love stories. It still surprises me

Books such as More Than Seduction, aren’t for the faint-hearted, do you have a certain audience in mind when you write, and if so, what kind of people do you imagine, read your books?

I don’t think about the audience too much, or I’ll drive myself crazy trying to figure out what everybody wants. I get letters that tell me that my books are too sex-packed, that they’re too tame, that they’re too fast-paced, that they’re too slow, that they’re too action-packed, that they’re too boring

Everybody who reads books has such diverse tastes. I simply try to think up a great story, with great issues and great characters, then I write it down, and hope people enjoy it.

Luckily, my editor really encourages me. She likes me to “push the envelope” with stories, to give people heroes and villains that they can love and hate, so I work very hard to do that. But when you have terrible villains, doing terrible things, it can create situations that aren’t what you’d find in a “typical” romance, so my stories leap beyond the boundaries that you’d find in other romance novels.

When you develop your characters, do you model them on people you know in your life, or do they all come from inside your head?

They come from inside my head.

Do you ever get compared to other erotic romance writers, e.g. Thea Devine? If so, how does that make you feel?

I used to, when I was first starting out. I remember one of my first reviews for Love Lessons said something like “if you love Susan Johnson and Thea Devine, you’ll love Cheryl Holt.” I was so proud! Now, people are being compared to “me”, instead of the other way around, and it’s fun to know that people enjoy my books so much.

With the alleged decline in historical romance, do you think it’s risky business writing within the Regency era?

I don’t believe there is a “decline” in historical romance, and I’m not sure where this rumor got started. I hear from fans all the time, lamenting that they can’t get their hands on many good historicals anymore, so it seems like the publishers are releasing less of them, but I think there are plenty of historical fans out there.

Plus, I’m an optimist. I think fans will read any great books, whether it’s historical or contemporary. The past few years, my sales have been fabulous. So “no”, I don’t think it’s risky to write historicals. I don’t think the rumors about a “slump” are true.

Do any of members of your family read your books, and if so, what kind of feedback do you get from them?

No one reads them. My husband would die before he read a romance, and my kids are too young, so they haven’t had the chance.

What does a typical day as a writer consist of?

I get up at 6:30. I get my kids (ages 11 and 13) up and off to school. I exercise (hard! to keep my stress down), I eat a high protein breakfast and take loads of energy vitamins, I take a shower and get to work. I work in an office in my home, and I try to be at my desk by 8:30. I write till 3:30, when my kids get home.

Then, I play chauffeur, driving them to dance lessons, or soccer, or whatever’s going on, and I race back up to my office to write between giving them rides to the places they have to be. I squeeze in another round of exercise, I cook supper, I get everybody to bed, and I write from 6:30 till 10:00 or 11:00. I work on the weekends, too, usually 12-14 hours per day. I work very hard and I work all the time.

Name your top five favourite books of all time.

I can think of two off the top of my head:
Pride and Prejudice

Which authors are you glomming at the moment? (reading a lot of?)

I try to read an assortment of women’s fiction, so that I’m always picking up something new when I’m in the bookstore. I’m so busy that I don’t have much time to read for pleasure. I read with an eye toward the market, to see what’s selling, to see what people are buying.

I also try to buy authors who write for my publisher, St. Martins Press. They put out great books, and I like to support them. I’m just reading a St. Martins Bestseller, Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin, which is very clever and funny. I usually tend to not read romances, simply because I spend so much time writing them, and when I have some free time, I like to do something different

Do you have other close romance writer friends, and if so who are they?

I’ve met a lot of romance authors, but I’m not really friends with any of them. I don’t have time to belong to any loops or groups, and I live a long way from anybody.

When did you realise that you wanted to write books, and who or what inspired you?

I always wanted to write books. From the time I was a little girl, I’d talk about it. I wasn’t ever really “inspired” to get going, but life circumstances pushed me into it. I had my two kids, pretty much back to back when I was 38 and 40 years old, and I was home being a mom, and needing to replace the income I’d lost by staying home. If I had an inspiration, it was money — or the sudden lack of it!

How many times did you get rejected (if indeed you did) before you got published?

I was rejected hundreds of times. The first book I sold was an older romance called The Way Of The Heart, but it was the 7th book that I had written.

I’m a lawyer, so I started out trying to write suspense, which I never sold. I wrote some nonfiction that I didn’t sell, either. I was also constantly trying to find an agent, sending out solicitations and queries. This was over a period of 2-3 years. The most reject letters I ever got in the mail on a single day was eight! This is not a business for sissies!

If you could have a one-to-one conversation with a famous historical figure, who would it be with and what would you talk about?

I would probably like to meet Jesus or Buddha. I’d like to see what was up with them, if I could sense the divinity that has inspired billions to revere them over the centuries. Or, face to face, would they seem like normal men? It would be fascinating to me.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your writing?

First and foremost, I want to keep having good sales and keep my numbers growing so that there are publishers who continue to want me. More specifically, I want to continue lowering my numbers on the USA Today Bestseller list, and I want to break onto the NY Times Bestseller list. I also want to establish myself in a second genre, and I’m hoping it will end up being contemporary erotic suspense.

How has the romance industry changed from when you first started writing, and which of these changes were you happiest/unhappiest with?

The publishers do a lot of reprinting of old books, from people who are famous now, but weren’t a decade or two ago when they were starting out. I understand the financial reasons that companies do this — it’s easier and cheaper to reprint an old book then to go to the trouble of preparing a new one — but everytime a reprinted book goes out on the store shelves, it keeps a new writer from having a book there, instead.

If I’d started writing today, instead of a decade ago, I often wonder if I’d ever have gotten published. It gets harder and harder all the time.

A lot of well known authors who first wrote within the romance genre, seem to have moved away from traditional romance, and are now writing paranormals, suspense etc. (e.g. Linda Howard, Catherine Coulter) Why do you think this is?

It’s all about money. The sad fact of the matter is that romances just don’t pay that well, and people are always surprised when I actually share some numbers. I was paid $2,000 for my first romance. (This is not ancient history. It was in the year 2000!) I was only paid $7,500 for my 10th book!

I’m making quite a bit more than that now, but it just takes a really, really long time to start making any kind of significant income at it. The markets are bigger for suspense and other sorts of books.

While there are so many great fans in romance, there are many, many more women who wouldn’t read a romance if it was the last book on the planet. But they’ll read a suspense, or a paranormal. Which is too bad, because romances are so fun.

I don’t know where romance got such a bad reputation, but it’s so difficult for a female writer to hold on for the amount of time it takes to start garnering significant attention and make a living at it. For many it’s just not possible. I was only able to keep on through the lean years because my husband had a “real” job, with a good salary and benefits.

In your vast experience, what would you say was the most effective method of marketing a romance novel?

I use my web page. It’s an inexpensive way to touch base with millions. It works!

Which of your books is dearest to your heart, and why?

I love Complete Abandon. It’s always been my favorite. I liked how the hero and heroine turned out, and I felt like I was able to capture their differences in such a fun, romantic way.

Which of your books do you feel you’re best known for?

Hands down, my fans’ favorite is my first erotic, Love Lessons. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will. It is so great!

I’ve always wondered about this, but as an author, once your books are published, do you actually go back and read them yourself, and if so, are you able to enjoy them, or do you perhaps see things that make you want to chew your own arm off in frustration?

Yes, I read them. It’s fun. By the time they’re actually out on the shelf, it’s usually been a year or more since I wrote them, so it’s fun to go back and remember. It’s like reading a new book.

Just recently, it was suggested that reader reviews aren’t as credible as reviews by your peers, and that only writers/authors should be able to review books in the first place, what are your thoughts on this? Continue reading