Today’s featured writer in my Debut Author Q&A series is Jesi Lea Ryan whose new romance novel, Four Thousand Miles, was published as an ebook in October. After spending 28 days working around the clock on novel revisions, I can probably use a good love story to snuggle up with.
Name of book: Four Thousand Miles
Book genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance
Date Published: October 7, 2010
Publisher: DCL Publications
What is your book about? When Natalie Spencer loses both her career and marriage in the same morning, the emotional shock sends her on a spontaneous journey to England. There, she is nearly mugged in a Tube station, but an introverted songwriter named Gavin Ashby scares off her attackers. Recognizing Natalie’s fragile state, Gavin offers help and invites her to recuperate from her trauma at his country home. As she adjusts to her new role and surroundings, Natalie finds healing by helping others. Gavin and his family begin to accept Natalie into their hearts, leading her to a choice: abandon her old life in the States and trust in a new chance at love, or flee once again.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? The hardest part for me is coming up with titles. I don’t think there was anything in this book that I agonized over more that what to call it. In the end, I was thinking about how this was really the story of a journey—both geographically and emotionally. The actual distance between Natalie’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Pluckley, Kent, where she ended up, is almost exactly four thousand miles. I figured the title could be a symbol for the lengths we have to go to in order to find healing.
What motivates you to write? I’ve always written in some form or another, usually just for myself. I never thought I dreamed anyone would pay to read something I wrote though. When I was laid off from my job in 2009, I decided to write a novel in order to stay productive. I like being busy. About halfway through the first draft I started to get an idea that it might be good enough to publish.
Did you experience writer’s block? Yes, although never for too long. I spend a lot of time writing in my head. I daydream about my characters and the situations they are in. I replay conversations of dialogue over and over until I’m happy with it. (I rarely ever take notes. I have a good memory.) I don’t sit down to the computer until I’m satisfied with the scene in my head. It just flows out of me naturally. If I get blocked, I walk away from the keyboard and do something else. I think to obsess over a block is the worst thing a writer can do.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I love writing beginnings! Once I conceive an idea, envision the characters and work out the details of the setting, it all comes out of me in a rush. That’s when writing is fun!
How difficult was it to find a publisher? Finding a publisher was easy; it was getting an agent’s attention that I found impossible. In fact, after forty agent queries and not even a nibble, I decided to approach a publisher. I pitched to Jean Watkins, an editor for DCL Publications, at the RT conference in May 2010. She requested I send her the first three chapters of my manuscript. I did, and she offered me a contract before she even read the full manuscript. I can’t say enough how great it was working with DCL.
The book is published as an ebook. DCL Publications primarily publishes in ebook. Only if a book sells well in electronic form will they take it to print. It makes a lot of sense to me, because ebooks require a much smaller investment and therefore less risk to the publisher. My goal is to generate enough sales so that they will want to release it in print form.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That writing the book is the hard part. Trust me, writing it is easy compared to the process of finding an agent or publisher. The agents I have spoken to are all very busy, overworked people. Some get a couple thousand queries from writers in a year. A manuscript has to rise above the rest of the pack to get noticed. Many writers give up because they can’t take the rejection.
Do you plan to do this again? Definitely! I am working on a YA paranormal romance right now. It is shaping up pretty well. I also have a couple of other ideas that I’m holding on the back burner. Now that I have my foot in the publishing door, I intend to make the most of it!
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I completely agree! I can’t stress enough that if a writer wants to get published and sell books, they need to network. I use Facebook and Twitter extensively for this purpose. There is nothing accidental about it. If they don’t know how to utilize these tools, they could benefit from seeking out courses or someone who is social network savvy to teach them. A couple of business classes in marketing and basic money management would also be beneficial. I am currently in grad school working on my Masters of Business Administration. It surprises me all of the time how often I draw on my business knowledge in my writing career.