According to Publisher’s Weekly, Nancy Gideon’s latest release, HUNTER OF SHADOWS has, (and I quote!) “Complex new characters, vivid writing, intriguing plot twists, and a satisfying ending will keep readers coming back to Gideon’s magical NOLA.” You heard it here first, folks! Now join me in for this installment of “Interview an Awesome Author,” and learn more about Ms. Gideon and all her wonderful books. With over 50 sales to her credit since her first publication in 1987, Nancy’s writing career is as versatile as the romance market, itself. Her books encompass genres from historicals and regencies to contemporary suspense and the paranormal. Her works have been published overseas in Romanian, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Danish, German, Icelandic and Chinese, among other languages.
A national speaker on writing in general and romance in particular, Nancy is a Western Michigan University Honors grad with a major in journalism and minors in history and communications. She’s a member of Novelist, Inc. and the Mid-Michigan, Greater Detroit, PASIC and FF&P chapters of Romance Writers of America®, and is former vice-president, published author co-liaison, and was also editor of The Mirror.
TB: Nancy, please tell me a little bit about your most recent release and which aspect of this particular story you love the most.
NG: BOUND BY MOONLIGHT, the 4th book in my dark paranormal shape-shifter series with Pocket Books just came out in August. These are the books of my heart. I love these characters and have had a fabulous time developing the same hero and heroine through the first four books. The next two books in the series, HUNTER OF SHADOWS (11-29-11) and SEEKER OF SHADOWS (6-26-12) will continue in the same By Moonlight world but will feature different heroes and heroines, although Max and Charlotte from the first books will be strong secondary characters.
TB: I’ve never contemplated writing a series! It must be fun to revisit the same characters, but more difficult to keep things fresh. You’ve obviously mastered the technique! What are you working on now?
NG: I’m trying some very new! I’m branching out into non-fiction with a digital series on PR and Social Media for Writers. GETTING IT OUT THERE will be released in e-format with a topic a month over the next 18 months then will be compiled into a hardcover. A novel concept developed by Elizabeth Fortin of Tell-Tale Publishing. The first chapter on “Branding: What’s in a Name?” is the debut offering from Wise Words, the non-fiction branch of Tell-Tale and will be available on September 23, 2011. I’ve been a speaker on writing topics for years (over 25 of them!). Finally I get to put all the research together and make use of my college degrees in journalism and communications. And I get a unique Patricia Lazarus cover. She did the ImaJinn Book covers for my vampire series and I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with. I’m busy putting together next month’s offering on Budgeting Time and Money.
I’m also in the process of getting my rights back to my vast backlist (over 50 titles) so they can be re-released, perhaps with new series concluding books that I never got the chance to write. With all the changes going on in the marketplace, it’s a very exciting time.
TB: Wow! That is an impressive body of work! And the digital social media book sounds like something we all need to read! Things are changing fast and it’s hard to know which venues to put your time and money into. Thanks for sharing your expertise about that! You mentioned writing for 25 years, but at what point in your career did you first feel confident in calling yourself a writer?
NG: When I cashed my first royalty check.
TB: Ah, yes. There is nothing quite so validating as getting money for your work! I got a cash prize for the first writing contest I ever won and I made a copy of the check to keep forever. The money, sadly, is long gone! You write paranormals, so I’m particularly interested to know what inspires you?
NG: I find inspiration in the strangest places. A lot of times it’s playing the “What if?” game while watching a movie or TV show. My oldest sister and I used to see who could guess the ending first…and a lot of times, our endings were better. My first hero was inspired by a rock drummer on the back of an album cover. The slick cool feel of Miami Vice and all that ‘80s music was what really kick-started me into writing toward publication. I always have a ‘sound track’ for the characters I’m working with.
TB: Good to know Don Johnson did some good for the world. Although I suppose we should thank Phil Collins, since I know the sound track was heavily influenced by him! I love that you have a sound track for individual characters as opposed to the whole book. And it makes sense because a characters playlist would say a great deal about their personality. What other techniques do you use to help develop your story?
NG: I start with the nugget of an idea. It could be a character, a setting or a scene and I start tumbling it around in my mind to expand and polish it. I never start writing until I have the perfect names and the killer first line. I do a very brief character sketch: name, age, stats, GMC how the character relates the others and how they see him/her. I used to do an agonizingly detailed outline but I let go of some of that rabid plotter mentality with the By Moonlight series and just let it write itself. So far, so good.
TB: Hah! I am also a rabid plotter. I can’t start a book until I know how it ends. But I’m trying to let go of that as well. When you sold your first book, who did you call?
NG: My mom. I probably was incoherent. I didn’t know any other writers back then and she was my biggest supporter.
TB: You know a few writers now! What did you do to celebrate your first release day? And your most recent release day?
NG: I never celebrate on release day. Usually I’m too busy promoting the book that just got released. I celebrate first advance check day. The first one, from the mid-‘80s, bought the bedroom furniture I still have and the most recent went toward a new red Dell laptop, a virtual assistant (yeah My Girl Friday!) and my grandson’s preschool. Do I know how to party, or what?
TB: You are very practical for a woman who writes fantastical stories! But a red computer is a fun treat. I’m sure you’ll get lots of use out of it. And it’s great to see you on the web. Here’s another shout out for My Girl Friday virtual assistant! If only she did laundry. Describe a perfect writing day.
NG: 5:00 a.m. with first cup of Keurig coffee. Social Media out of the way, and an entire day of no interruptions (And neighbor with his very loud stereo working late)! Ahhh!
TB: Love the Keurig – until I realized I was drinking about 6 cups of very strong coffee every day. Thought I was having a panic attack and it turned out to be caffeine! I have since decaffeinated. But if I was up at 5:00 a.m., I’d have to go back to fully leaded. Who are some of your favorite authors/books?
NG: How long is this article supposed to be? I’ll try to narrow it down to my always go-to authors: Dean Koontz, J.D. Robb, Lisa Gardner, Sandra Brown, Kresley Cole. I have hundreds of other favorite authors but these seem to dominate my shelve space. Oh, and I just bought up all the old Georgette Heyers on my Kindle app.
TB: Do you have writing rituals? Habits?
NG: I’m ADD with OCD rising and you ask me that? All my chapters used to have exactly the same number of pages…without even trying. My best writing habit is consistency. I always put in my time, every day. My desk area is a rainbow of Post It notes. I usually allow myself an hour to clear up obligations re: FB, Twitter, e-mail (and that time keeps trying to expand!) then by that time I’m on my second cup of coffee and I’ve settled in to write. Since I work full time, I have to make that stretch between 6 and 8 a.m. really pay off. I’ll work evenings when I have to and usually all weekend.
TB: ADD with OCD rising? Hilarious! But you’ve decided to use those powers for good instead of evil and look at all you’ve accomplished! One thing I hear over and over from published writers is “You must put in the time and write every day.” I agree that’s true, but it’s especially impressive when writers such as yourself also work full time. It just goes to prove that if you want to be a writer, you can be one, even if you have to carve out the time. (Note: That doesn’t mean you can be as wonderful and prolific as Nancy! But it’s a place to start.) Do you have critique partners and if so, how do you ‘work’ together?
NG: I have the most fabulous critique group in the universe! There are eight of us. We all write in different genres, some published, some working on it, some even living in different states! We try to meet monthly for a weekend session at one of our houses to gab, wine and whine, brainstorm and critique. We do a lot of quick reads via e-mail when we can’t get together. Our main job is support and we are darned good at it. I don’t think there’s any crisis we haven’t weathered over the years, either professionally or personally. I wouldn’t still be writing if not for them…seriously. They are THAT good! We’re extremely proud of three of them banding together to form their own publishing company: Tell-Tale Publishing.
TB: I’ve been hearing more and more about Tell-Tale Publishing! Writers should definitely check that out! Tell me about your first writer’s conference experience. How are they ‘different’ for you now?
NG: My first conference was RWA in Seattle. Because of the $$$ investment, I felt obligated to fill every second with workshops and events and I was nearly overwhelmed into a coma. My biggest thrill was having one of my Golden Medallion (the former RITAs) judges track me down to tell me if it was up to her, I would have won. Her name was Debbie Macomber.
When I go to conferences now, it’s mostly business: meetings with agent, editor, publishing parties and signings. I approach them with a What’s In It For Me prioritizing: 1) Things I have to do, 2) things I want to do (meeting with friends and getting out to see the sights) and 3) things I’ll do if I have time (usually the workshops). I wear comfortable shoes, hydrate often, and let my ears rest when my brain gets full.
TB: Debbie Macomber? Seriously, that gave me a little chill. What does your family say about your career success and your professional journey?
NG: Usually, what’s for supper? My sons are incredibly blasé about my writing since I’ve been published since my oldest was two. It’s just Mom’s job. They did think it was very cool when I got listed on the International Movie Data Base as a screenwriter and movie actress for my five minutes of fame as ‘bar extra,’ and when my oldest got to visit that indie horror film movie set. My sisters are very proactive about getting my name out there. My ex pretty much hated the whole idea which is kinda why he’s my ex.
TB: My kids say that me writing a book has ruined our lives because now I’m always on the computer. I figure it will give them something to complain about to their future therapists– because other than that, I have been the perfect mother. (Cough, cough.) What is your favorite board or card game? Are you competitive?
NG: At the moment, Mahjong. Competitive? I’m OCD. Are you kidding? As part of my OCD 12-step program ;-), I try to limit it to being self-competitive, otherwise I’d drive myself crazy.
TB: During board games, my OCD manifests itself as the need to keep the piles of money straight. Perhaps I should try your 12-steps! Let’s say you were stranded for a year on a desert island (with plumbing and electricity). What five things (not including live beings J) would you take with you?
NG: 1) 4G/WiFi access, 2) my IPad so I’d have tunes, Kindle, Netflix, e-mail and Internet, 3) my laptop, 4) outlet to recharge IPad and laptop, 5) my travel-sized suitcase with changes of clothing and sunscreen because I burn easily. I’m good for a year. I’m assuming my son will take care of my cat. When do I leave?
TB: You know, the concept of the desert island is to get AWAY from technology. I bet you take all that stuff on vacation with you all the time, don’t you. I’m starting to think these OCD jokes are no joke! J Let’s get back to writing. What advice would you give to an aspiring, newbie writer?
NG: Learn your craft and sit butt in chair to practice it. Pretty simple, but highly effective.
TB: Short and sweet. And practical. What, if any, advice have you received that has been particularly helpful?
NG: See above. I do both things every day. Thea Devine’s “Suck it up!” and AC/DC’s “Let’s a long way to the top if you want to Rock’n Roll” are my mantras.
TB: Where/how do you do your research?
NG: When I started writing, I was doing historicals which required a LOT of research. Thankfully, that was one of my favorite parts of writing. I had more cards to local and university libraries than I had credit cards. Now, I depend mostly on the Internet but am not above the personal interview. I researched the plot for one of my books by bumping into one of the hotel employees in an elevator at an RWA conference in Chicago and setting up an appointment in her office. I did tons of on-site research for my BY MOONLIGHT series in New Orleans. That was a dirty job!
TB: I love the pictures you posted for New Orleans! Very spooky and intriguing! What are a few ‘myths’ about being a writer that you’d like to dispel?
NG: That we can sit back on our laurels. Pfft! I wish. If anything, you have to work harder with each book to do better and reach farther. And earn out. That there’s nothing more you can learn. That’s sooo untrue. I discover surprising new information all the time from the most unusual sources, so you always have to be receptive to it. Social media. Need I say more?
TB: Just a little bit more! Tell me something most people don’t know about you and would be surprised to learn. (Like maybe you play the ukulele or accordion. Or maybe you have a photographic memory, or something like that.)
NG: Actually I DO have a photographic memory. I used to read five chapters of material the night before a college exam and be able to recall it almost page by page. And I can tell my boss where every file and piece of paper is in our office when he calls while I’m in the middle of a luncheon with my editor in Orlando. I’m the go-to for entertainment trivia. I’m also ambidextrous.
TB: Geez, Nancy! You are making me feel quite average and inadequate!! But I’m sure that memory would come in very handy! I can hardly remember where I left my purse. Switching gears again. What is your all-time favorite movie?
NG: I’m a movie-aholic! I love a smart, well written script and jaw-dropping cinematography. Some of my favorites are: L.A. Confidential (what a cast!), 300 (the aforementioned jaw drop!), Constantine (slick and entertaining), American President (my two hanky movie), Once Upon a Time in the West (Henry Fonda made the most memorable villain!), Lord of the Rings trilogy (Sam was the REAL hero!) just to name a few. DVD and BluRay cases are taking over my apartment!
TB: Two words for you: Apple TV. Okay, so that’s one word and two letters, but my point is, you can burn all those movies and get rid of the copies. My husband will be so proud of me for saying something about technology!
Nancy, thank you so much for sharing your story and your wisdom! You are the model of a great career and I hope you have continued success! (I know you will!)
Readers, be sure to visit Nancy at her website: http://nancygideon.com/ and check out her new releases, as well as revisiting some of her previous work! She writes under her name, as well as Dana Ransom and Rosalyn West!