Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bourne to Write: Interview with Author Phyllis Bourne

The Author

A native of Chicago’s Southside, Phyllis Bourne began her writing career as a newspaper crime reporter. After years of writing about misdeeds, she left reporting to pen her own tales. Nowadays her stories are filled with heart-stopping heroes and happy endings. When she’s not writing, Phyllis can usually be found at a make-up counter feeding her lipstick addiction. Look for her upcoming release Operation Prince Charming in summer 2010.

Check out Phyllis at her website and on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

The Book

“By New Years Day” in The Holiday Inn

Fed up with their demanding adult children driving his exhausted wife into the ground, Devon Masters whisks her off for a romantic New Year’s weekend.

Eva is furious with her husband for dragging her a thousand miles away from their Miami home. Holidays should be spent surrounded by family.

The couple’s grudges have stacked up over the past year, and their marriage is crumbling under the strain. But as temperatures drop, the Masters’ passion heats up melting both their resentments and the sheets. Will a sexy weekend at the Holiday Inn be enough to revive their marriage before the clock strikes midnight?

Click the cover above to purchase YOUR copy of The Holiday Inn today!

The Interview

Talk to us about your journey into publication.
Sigh. I wish I had a great “the call” story to tell. My road to publication was pretty uneventful. I got published by NOT winning a contest.

Before, I wasted a lot of time thinking, dreaming and talking about writing, but not much actual writing. Finally, I sat my behind down in a chair and got serious. I also began entering my books-in-progress in contests sponsored by local chapters of Romance Writer’s of America. The contests were good practice at meeting deadlines. They also provided me with objective feedback. Soon I began to reach finalist status in these competitions, and that put my manuscript in front of editors judging the final rounds.

A Dorchester editor judged the final round of Rose City Romance Writer’s (Portland, Oregon) Golden Rose contest. She read my first three chapters and requested the full manuscript. Again, I didn’t win the contest. However, she bought my book!

Looking back, I regret all the time I wasted dreaming instead of doing.

Today, authors are marketers, promoters. What have you done to promote your work?
Here’s a list of things I did promowise for my first novel, A Moment on the Lips:
- Full-page ad in RWA’s Romance Writer’s Report

- Ad in Romance Sells (a RWA booklet distributed to thousands of librarians and booksellers)

- Profile and book except in SORMAG online magazine

- Bought 11,000 bookmarks

- Distributed over 7,000 bookmarks to romance-friendly bookstores through RT Bookclub’s Bookstores That Care program

- Bought and distributed over 500 pens

- Booksignings (solo and with other authors)

- Monthly website contests

With my novella "By New Year’s Day” in The Holiday Inn, I did much of the same.

Between releases, I started my own blog. However, instead of writing about me-me-me and mybooks-mybooks-mybooks I decided to blog about my second love (next to romance novels) make-up and beauty products.

Folks who stopped by said they not only loved my honest beauty product reviews, but also enjoyed my writing style. Some went on to give my books a try!

Nobody really knows for sure, but I believe my blog has been my most effective marketing tool. It gives readers a taste of my writing in a no pressure to buy atmosphere.

How important is social media (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) in the marketing, promoting of your works?
I have no idea. I don’t think any author does. We just try everything and hope something works. There are no guarantees in this business.

However, I’ve been a romance reader for over twenty-five years. I gobble up books like chocolate. As a newspaper reporter, I even took a romance novel along to cover a riot (to read when things got slow).

So I am my own target market.

As an author, I’d love to believe social media is a magic bullet and a barrage of notes on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace will send everyone running to the bookstore to grab my latest.

Readerwise, I know better. I’ve never bought a book because of something I’ve read on social media. I’m influenced by reviews, back cover copy and the first few pages.

Also, the more popular the social media outlet, the more people are on it trying to sell things. It comes to a point when it’s just a lot of noise.

What, in your experience, the best social media sites to join as an author? Why?
I think the best social media site is the one you actually enjoy - the one you’d participate in regardless of book promotion. Your reader-attracting personality will shine through naturally because you’re having fun.

For me, it’s Twitter. It’s brief, concise and totally addictive!

I'm a writer wanting to be published; what three pieces of advice would you give me?
1- Develop good writing habits NOW. Set up writing hours and stick to them. Don’t wait until you sign a book contract.

2- Don’t get too attached to your words or even your title. More than likely your editor will request changes. Like you, she wants to help make your book the best it can be. Unlike you, she’s objective.

3- Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.

What three web sites would you recommend to those interested in learning more about writing and the publishing world?

1- Blogging in Black

2- Novel Spaces

3- Boxing the Octopus

The above are all multi-author blogs that provide a daily dose of reality about the writing life.

The Excerpt

From "By New Year's Day" from the anthology The Holiday Inn...

Chapter One

Devon Masters glanced sideways at his wife as he steered the SUV along the winding stretch of New Hampshire highway. She still wasn’t speaking to him, and the stoic expression she’d worn since their flight left Miami this morning was firmly in place.

“You can’t stay mad all weekend,” he said, breaking the silence. “This is supposed to be a vacation, remember?”

Eva turned to him, her impassive façade giving way to a full-fledged frown. “A trip you sprung on me at the last minute, when you knew darn well we had plans for New Year’s weekend.”

Plans? Devon nearly laughed aloud. Their so-called plans were the same every weekend and the majority of evenings, he thought. Babysitting. Their daughter would drop by unannounced with her two kids in tow and make a hasty exit without them. His fingers tightened around the steering wheel. Their oldest wasn’t the only one taking them for granted. Her sister and brother were just as bad.

Devon swallowed hard, forcing the anger threatening to surface back down his throat. He hadn’t whisked Eva fifteen hundred miles away from their home and family to get into the same old argument.

After thirty-years, four kids and two grandchildren together, their relationship should be solid. Instead, they squabbled constantly over their children, and even worse, they hadn’t make love in months.

Now Devon was on a mission. He’d booked the weekend at the Snow Splendor Ski Lodge with one thing in mind - getting his marriage back on track. It didn’t matter that neither of them skied, it was the seclusion they needed.

What better time than New Year’s to resolve their disagreements and start fresh, he thought, looking through the windshield at the snow-covered landscape.

He flicked on the wipers to brush away the falling snowflakes. It was only flurries now, but the weather forecast promised more of the white stuff over the weekend.

“Snow’s a big change of pace for us, huh?” Devon offered a not-so-smooth segue to a safer topic. He held his breath hoping his wife would bite. The sound of his watch ticking off the seconds was deafening inside the vehicle’s quiet cabin.

“It’s beautiful all right,” she finally said. “Our grands would love it.”

Devon chuckled imagining the kick their three and one-year old grandchildren would get out of seeing snow for the first time. “Yeah, they would. Thomas actually asked me to bring some back,” he said, referring to the oldest.

“I imagine the baby would just want to eat it.”

“There isn’t much that girl won’t put in her mouth,” Devon laughed.

“Maybe we should have brought them along.”

He reached across the armrest for Eva’s gloved hand. “Next time,” he said, squeezing it. “This weekend is ours.”

She squeezed back. The tiny gesture infused him with hope for both the trip and the future of their marriage. For two people as much in love as them, there had to be a middle ground.

All he had to do was find it.

“Eva, I want this weekend to be a new start…,”

A cell phone belted out a tune, cutting him off mid-sentence. Eva’s, he thought, once again swallowing his frustration. Devon hadn’t switched on his mobile, because for the next few days he was unavailable to everyone except Eva.

He glanced at his wife who was busy clawing through her purse. The woman seated next to him, while still beautiful, looked older than her forty-nine years. Her brow was furrowed, and he noticed fine lines prematurely creasing her make-up free, mocha skin. Though her shoulder-length hair was tucked beneath a hat, he knew it was pulled back into a bun or slapdash ponytail.

Devon wasn’t sure when the feminine touches of lipstick and perfume had ceased being part of Eva’s daily routine or when she’d stopped going to the beauty salon.
In the year since he’d sold his successful construction business and began spending more time at home, he’d become aware of many things he’d missed that were going on under his own roof.

“Hi honey,” Eva said into the phone. “Is everything okay? Are the kids all right?”

It was their oldest daughter. Devon tightened his already firm grip on the steering wheel. What did Mallory want now, he wondered, silently cursing modern technology?
In the close confines of the SUV, it was impossible not to overhear Eva as well as their daughter on the other end of the line. Devon rubbed the knot forming at the base of his neck. Over a thousand miles away, and Mallory’s demanding voice came through like she was sitting right next to them.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” Eva said. “I know our leaving unexpectedly left you in a bind.”

His wife listened calmly as their daughter continued to belabor the same point.

“Yes, I’m sure it’s not easy locating a sitter at the last minute.”

Eva’s voice seemed to get smaller as Mallory heaped on the guilt. “But I didn’t know we were leaving until yesterday. I was shocked too. I’m really sorry, honey.”

Devon placed both hands on the wheel, resisting the urge to snatch the cell phone from his wife and chuck it into a passing snow bank.

Eva flipped the phone closed. She sighed wearily as she sunk back into the leather passenger seat.

“I told you we should have rescheduled this trip. Poor Mallory is beside herself,” she said. “Her boss is having his annual New Year’s party this weekend, you know?”

Devon frowned. How could he not know? Mallory had been whining about it since they’d told her they wouldn’t be available to baby-sit. Not that she’d bothered asking them to look after the kids, as usual, she’d just assumed they would.

“Maybe she should skip it this year,” he suggested. “It’ll be good for the kids to spend a little time with their mother.”

“But this party is critical to her career. The senior partners from her law firm will be there, and there’s bound to be shop talk.”

“Hmmm.” Devon pressed his lips together to keep from saying something that would surely lead to an argument. Their kids had Eva wrapped so tightly around their collective finger; nothing he could say would make a difference anyway.

If only he had spent more time at home instead of on his construction business, he thought. He would have figured out his wife had never really gotten over the fire that swept through their house years ago and nearly killed their young children. The passage of time had done little to move her beyond her guilt for not being at home.

In hindsight, he wished he had focused more on Eva instead of work and rebuilding their house. He should have helped her deal with things before fear and guilt drove her to spoil and overprotect their kids.

Devon stole another peek at his wife. He was here now, and over the next few days he’d find a way to make her realize she had to let them go. For their sakes as well as hers.
He also intended to show her that in addition to being a wonderful mother and grandmother, she was a woman. A remarkable and still very desirable woman.

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