Joanne has been writing romance for over 20 years but is a newcomer to the world of indie publishing. She is a founding member of Romance Writers of New Zealand and has served a two year term as President.
Welcome Joanne. To start with can you tell us a little about yourself.
I live with my family (three sons and one daughter) in Auckland, although the kids are at varying stages of teenage and young adulthood. I've got two part time jobs at the moment. I work for my church office a few hours a week, but my main job is for the heritage arm of a public library where we focus on family history and local history. If you were starting to look at your family tree and needed help and resources, you'd come to us, and we'd get you started and point you to the resources available. A lot of potential story ideas pop up during a work day, I can tell you!
What was behind your decision to to e-publish?
The main reason was realising it has become a very viable alternative to traditional publishing. I've been writing and submitting novels for nearly 20 years, mainly to Harlequin, and a lot of times over the years I've got fed up with the whole thing and given up. I was never able to get an agent interested in my work, had massive bouts of self doubt, but I always ended up getting back into it. It was when two fellow RWNZers Kris Pearson and Diana Fraser shared their experiences of e-publishing that I realised they were actually selling books and taking charge of their careers so I got my first book together, an anthology of short stories I'd written over the years, titled Love the Commute, designed a cover, had the stories edited, and released it on Amazon. To be honest, it's barely sold any copies, but I'm very proud of it and I've used elements of the cover image on my website (lots of pink which I love to bits.) Then last month I released my first novel, Daniel's Bride, on both Smashwords and Amazon, and I'm planning for my second novel, Falling for Jack, to be up by the end of January. It's a 50,000 word romance as well.
I'd have to say being able to plan the year out, to have a business plan beyond how many pages I can produce in a week which as an unpublished author is all you can really do - its all out of your hands as you wait and wait and wait for editors. I have very real goals of getting books edited and up for sale and designing covers, so that feeling of control is great. It's the first time I've been able to have real business plans for my writing so it's exciting. At the same time, it is daunting as a lot of books don't do well, so I'm always looking into promotion opportunities (such as this!)
You recently graduated with a Masters in Information Studies (MIS) which involved researching Mills and Boon romances in libraries. Tell us more about that.
I chose a topic on how Mills and Boon novels are treated in New Zealand public libraries. It was a small survey of public libraries but I think it was pretty accurate and that a larger survey would have revealed the same result. Basically librarians think they are supportive of Mills and Boon (and I did specify Mills and Boon as against single title romance a la Nalini Singh) and to an extent the libraries are supportive, in that they have good collections and know they will be read - the "bread and butter" of a collection as one librarian put it. But there was also a negative attitude in some that seeped through in the interviews. One of the participants, a librarian, even said she felt sorry, not only for Mills and Boon readers, but for the writers as well, which left me (a Mills and Boon wannabe!) speechless. Most barely knew who our NZ Mills and Boon authors are and some didn't think any were currently being published (I counted 17 who had been published over the last five years). It was interesting in terms of the knowledge of a collection which is the "bread and butter." Interestingly, all the librarians mentioned Nalini Singh although most didn't realise she'd had a Harlequin, a Nocturne, out recently.
What authors do you read?
In romance and women's fiction, the most recent books I've read have been The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers The Silver Rose by Rowena(!) and The Good Wife by Jane Porter (all similar-ish titles!!) but I also like thriller writers like David Baldacci and Brad Thor. Some of my all time fav books have been written by Jenny Crusie, Nora Roberts,, LaVyrle Spencer, Jane Porter and Kiwi authors Fiona Brand and Abby Gaines. There are a whole heap of indie authors books I've yet to read - am waiting on the e-reader for that, which Santa did not deliver to me!
Daniel's Bride is your first e-published novel. What was the inspiration for it?
It was actually a setting that inspired the story. I was with my daughter on a camping trip at Shakespeare Regional Park north of Auckland. It was a beautiful weekend and our first time camping (fantastic location), and we were just lying on the beach, when I got the idea for the cute meet scene between the hero and heroine. It took a while to figure out the plot though, so it was a few years before I actually wrote it, inbetween other projects.
Tell us about the story.
The best way to describe it, is that if it were published by Harlequin, it would be a Sweet/Cherish - definitely not a Desire or Presents. It's a marriage of convenience story about an old money Aussie, Daniel Christie, who decides he needs a wife, so that his dying grandfather will die a happy man knowing Daniel will carry on the family line. Mel is a school counsellor whose own life is a mess; she's just been jilted, had left her job to start her new life, which has gone down the gurgler, but she'd devoted to her mother who is semi-disabled. She's flat broke, and when Daniel offers her this marriage deal, she can't turn it down. There are lots of cute elements in the book like the granddad's Jack Russell terrier, Daniel's lawyer Hugh, and Mel's mum. It's on Amazon and Smashwords as an e-book.