Romance author Elise Rome has been in love with strong, sexy heroes and intelligent, independent heroines ever since reading Gone with the Wind at the age of 13 (even though she will never forgive Margaret Mitchell for the decidedly unromantic ending).
When not entertaining her two young daughters (SuperGirl and WonderGirl) and attempting to best her husband’s culinary talents (Elise-2, Mr. Rome-563), Elise finds immense satisfaction in giving the characters in her own books (unlike Rhett and Scarlett) a simply fantastic happily-ever-after.
1. What was the path to your first publication?
First, thank you so much for inviting me as your guest today, AmyBeth! In the spring of 2006 I was burned out and bored from my university classes and hour commute back and forth to my part-time job, so I decided to take a break from college that semester to see if I could write a book. To be honest, I had no idea how to do anything; I hadn’t taken any writing classes, hadn’t plotted, hadn’t read any craft books. I just sat down and wrote (a romance novel, because that’s what I enjoyed reading). And the result was that it was terrible. Truly horrific. *Big smile.* So I put writing aside and went back to college, found a full-time job, and didn’t start writing again until I was urged two years later by reading a fantastic book that made me think, “Wow, I really wish I could do something like this!” I decided then that if I was going to try writing again, I would do it the right way. I started learning about craft and found critique partners, entered contests and queried agents. A little over a year later, after completing my third manuscript, I found an agent. Before 2009 was over I signed a three-book contract with NAL Penguin, and in October 2010 my first published manuscript, SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, was released.
2. How many novels did you have published as Ashley March?
Two so far—SEDUCING THE DUCHESS in October 2010 and ROMANCING THE COUNTESS in September 2011. Although a third book will come out under the Ashley March name in May 2012, I won’t be promoting it; instead, I’ll be focusing all of my time and attention on establishing my new self-publishing career as Elise Rome.
3. How many stories do you have shoved in the back of a drawer from before you were published?
This is a painful question, lol. Two. I really wanted to delete the first manuscript I ever wrote, but something in my soul just refuses to let it go. With that being said, it will never—never ever—be published. =) The second manuscript, however, was meant to be the book before SEDUCING THE DUCHESS as part of a series. I might one day revise it enough to publish. We’ll see. =)
4. What made you decide to change your pseudonym?
There were several reasons for my decision, but one was that I wanted to be able to start self-publishing books I wanted to write, the quality of which I could have absolute control over, as soon as possible. By changing my name, I avoided the contractual obligations that went along with the previous Ashley March pseudonym.
However, I also have to say that I find it exciting to think that I can build a new name all by myself (without a traditional publisher’s platform). It will be a challenge, but one I’m eager to begin.
5. The name “Ashley March” is recognized by romance fans. What effect do you think your name change will have on sales?
It’s difficult to say at this point, since I haven’t published anything under Elise Rome yet. However, by being able to control my own price point and publication schedule, and by being able to have absolute control over the quality of my work, I believe that sales for Elise Rome will eventually far surpass any sales I have seen through NAL Penguin. I have also made it a point not to hide the name change from my readers, so I hope that many readers who enjoyed my writing under Ashley March will try and fall in love with my writing as Elise Rome, too. In addition, I’ve received enthusiastic support for the new time periods I intend to write, and I believe that readers who might never have tried an Ashley March book will try an Elise Rome book, simply because they’re looking for books that traditional publishers refuse to or are unlikely to sell (such as 1920s romances).
6. What else is changing besides the name?
In addition to the change of my pseudonym, I also intend to write in different time periods for historical romance. While I’ll continue to write Victorian romance (because that’s my first love), I’m currently also working on a 1920s series that I’m very excited about, and I have many plans for other historical periods and places in the future as well. I also want to explore other sub-genres. Contemporary romance is a sub-genre I’ve fallen in love with over the past couple of years, and I’m really excited to write my own and see what readers think of my contemporary romance voice.
7. How does one become an expert in historical romance? I’ve read a lot and I still can’t keep track of the little season and all the picky, yet important details.
Lol. I definitely don’t consider myself an expert in historical romance. If you’re referring to the label for my status of regular contributor at the Fiction Groupie blog, that was a title that was conferred upon me. 😉 The truth is that one of my goals with my new books as Elise Rome is to include more historical details. I’ve always been a character-driven writer, but I really want my readers to be swept away not only by the love story, but also by the time period and location.
8. Besides your own website, what other blogs or romance sites are you involved with?
As mentioned above, I’m a regular monthly contributor at the Fiction Groupie blog run by amazing romance author Roni Loren. I’m also a member of a fantastic group of authors known as the Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills, and blog there about twice per month. In addition, I’m part of another group of romance authors who are planning to start a blog this spring that focuses more on our lives as mothers than writers (although that will still be a part, too).
9. How do you use social media to promote your writing?
One of my favorite things to do is to engage with readers and other authors, and social media allows me to do that. Sure, I understand that promotion is supposed to be the underlying goal for social media, but I try to balance book promotion with tidbits about my family life and other topics I find interesting. To be honest, it’s sometimes hard to do. At some point I feel that people online really don’t care about my toddler’s successes in potty training. But my end goal with all social media—whether we count Twitter or Facebook or blogs—is to interact and engage. My readers encourage me, and they’re quite honestly fun to talk to. Other writers help to keep me focused. Social media as a promotion avenue without community would be worthless, in my opinion.
10. What is your best anecdote from a writer’s conference or convention?
Since I’ve only been to one so far <grin>, I guess the best anecdote would be from when I met Lisa Kleypas this last summer at the national Romance Writers of America conference in New York. She’s without a doubt one of my favorite authors, and while I met other favorites at book signings that week, she was the only author that I actually became nervous about meeting. Yes, I was a fangirl. Yes, I squeed. And she was amazingly kind and generous—I’ll never forget that she was the only author from all the signings I attended who stood and shook hands with each of the readers. It was a great experience. =)
11. What is the process of choosing a title for a novel?
Oh, fun question! I don’t know about other writers, but for me choosing a title means that I’ve really come to the stage in the writing process where I “get” what this book is going to look like/be about. I can plot a book part of a book without a title, but I always feel much more comfortable when I have a title in my head. It helps me to visualize the characters better and get a sense for the tone of the book.
To choose a title, I first have to understand what sort of titles usually appeal to my target readers. For example, THE SINNING HOUR, the title for my first self-published Victorian novella, isn’t going to appeal to contemporary romance readers the way it would to historical romance readers. Even so, it might not appeal to all historical romance readers; it will most likely appeal to those who like darker historicals. So even though I don’t fully understand what the story is going to be about when I choose the title, I do have some sense of who my target reader is and what the tone of the book will be.
Next, I identify words that might trigger my target reader. For example, “sin” is a word that acts as a positive trigger for many historical romance readers, which is how I came up with the “sinning” in the novella title mentioned above.
Finally, I try to come up with a title that is original and also somehow relates to the storyline. If I come up with the title first (which sometimes happens), I still try to figure out how the story can relate to the title. If push comes to shove and I have a title that might not be very original but is related to the story, I’ll keep it rather than choosing something that’s not related but original. As a reader, I find that titles of books that relate to the story stay in my head longer, and I want my readers to remember my books the same way, too.
12. Has a beta-reader or editor ever suggested a change you were reluctant to make?
This question made me smile when I first read it. Yes, definitely! And I’m pretty sure that my beta readers and editors will continue making suggestions for changes that I don’t want to make. But as I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve found that I trust my first readers more; I’m not as protective over my words as I once was, because I’d rather have the work be the best it can be in the end. It might mean in the moment that I fear the suggestion doesn’t stay true to my original vision for the story or characters, but I often find later that I’m grateful for having my vision changed.
13. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
At the moment, Microsoft Word. I know that doesn’t sound like very much fun; after all, it’s just Word, right? But although I’ve tried various online programs for plotting and sorting out details of characters, I find it more intuitive for me to use Word. I can freewrite anything I want and then change it later. This might be because I’m a control freak, though. While I’ve liked other writing software programs, I prefer having the ability to not keep to a certain structure. The blank slate of Word allows me to do this.
14. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
I don’t know if I have one! I never write by longhand, and I don’t use timers, etc. I guess I’ll manipulate the definition of “writing tool” and say that books about craft are my favorite. The more I write, the more I realize how much I have to learn. I also enjoy my research books, but they don’t strengthen my writing as much as enhance it.
15. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
The Internet. Without a doubt. Today my husband sent me away from the house because he knew I needed to get some work done, but he made a condition that I couldn’t access the free Wifi at Starbucks. I had to *write*. And I got more accomplished in those three hours than I have in any three hours for the last year or so. Because we writers are also business people who must respond to emails in a (relatively) timely manner and engage in social media, it’s much harder than one would think to cut off the business side of our brains. But I must. I need to. I read recently about a writer who had two computers, one with the Internet and one without, and I’m thinking that I’m going to have to go that route soon. Even with being able to disconnect on my own and installing Freedom software, I still don’t have the discipline to stay away. It’s how I procrastinate without feeling that I’m actually procrastinating, because even if I’m not writing, I’m still working on the business side of writing. Yes, this is my biggest goal for 2012: stay away from the Internet!
16. What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
I’m most awake and creative at night, when I know I’ll have long stretches of time that go undisturbed by other obligations. I sit on my couch in my living room with my feet propped up on the ottoman (which is what I’m doing now, actually) and have the laptop on a laptop desk. I work from 8pm (when my toddler goes down) until whenever I’m done (right now it’s 3:25am; I usually go to bed no later than 4am if I can help it). This is my ideal writing environment, when everything is quiet and everyone else is asleep. However, as happened tonight (and at this very moment) the ideal is often disturbed by crying children. 😉
17. Do you have rules for how steamy you write your sex scenes?
My only rule is that the sex scene has to feel organic to the story and the characters. I’ve written at least one sex scene that I wish I hadn’t; I was on a deadline and had to rush to get the book finished. As a result, the sex scene felt very different in tone and style than the rest of the book, and I wrote steamier when it was called for, only because sometimes steamier is easier to write. This is another reason why I’m thrilled to be self-publishing now; since I can control my own publication schedules, I never have to worry about rushing to make a deadline again.
18. What do your daughters think about what Mommy writes?
Lol. They have no idea! My oldest is only two and a half. Although she’s seen my books and book covers in my office, I don’t think she even realizes that I write books. But I do hope that when they grow old enough (yes, 18+, although I was much younger when I first began reading romance), they will enjoy reading my work and discussing other romance novels with me. =)
19. Did you ever find out what your husband says about you in his stand-up comedy routine?
Lol, no. He practiced a few of his routines in front of me, but I have a feeling there are some he’s holding back. 😉 I’m not worried, though. He’s been so supportive of me through everything with my writing career; in fact, I think it would be great if he started making jokes about being married to a romance novelist. 😉
20. Who shot first? Han or Greedo?
I have absolutely no idea who Greedo is, but since Han Solo is a rebellious underdog hero masquerading as a young and very handsome Harrison Ford, there’s no way I can say Greedo. Han shot first, and he won, and um…maybe I need to go watch Star Wars again. 😉
Elise is giving away a digital copy of her upcoming novella, THE SINNING HOUR (open to international residents), which won’t be available until February 14th. On Friday, January 27 (One week after this interview is published) I will randomly draw the name of one person who comments on this post to win. Please include your e-mail, twitter handle or blog address so we can contact you. Remember… both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have free versions of their software so you can read e-books on your computer even if you don’t have an e-reader. 8)
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