Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Writer’s Life Is Never Dull, Especially with a Global Romance Market

My guest today, is the wonderful Annie West. I'm so glad to have her again on my blog. I asked Annie West if she would explain a bit about the global market as an author for Harlequin.

I remember reading many more Harlequins when I was younger and Presents, at the time, were my favorite of the Harlequin line. The thing I enjoyed the most was reading books by authors not from the United States. I loved the expressions native to their country, the scenery, the way they used the English language.

I'll admit I was in love with all things Australian—so much so that I visited and actually considered moving there. Then love got in the way. I read many Australian authors, not just Harlequin. It's a wonderful country and like ours, there is so much variety in people, landscape and in its vastness.

Annie shares what it’s like to have her books released to various foreign markets.

There are several distinct sides to my writing life. There’s Annie as hermit, head in the clouds and fingers on the computer keys, typing in the new story. We’re all familiar with that one, right? That’s what writers do – they write.

Well, yes, but they do other things too. Like right now. Even as I type I’m itching to revisit my draft manuscript as my crit partner has raised some issues about it and I want to check out the details. Can I really shorten that first chapter? How on earth am I going to work the change I need in the second half? I’m torn…I want to write this (and since Sia was kind enough to provide a date to post my ramblings, I have to deliver) but part of me wants to get on with the book.

I’ve discovered in the 3½ half years I’ve been writing for Harlequin that spreading yourself between multiple tasks is part and parcel of what writers do. On an average week I’ll have the book to write, a blog or two to prepare or an article to research, sites I want to visit, maybe proof copies of my previous book to check, a little work to critique for someone else, prizes to send out, promo to do, a competition to read for, research that may require contacting some experts or researching on the net or in a library, sundry queries to answer (the ones from my editor get priority) and maybe notes to jot down on the next story brewing in my head. In between that, if there’s time, I do like to read as well, and spend a little time with my family. As I still have a day job life can get very busy.

But life gets even more interesting when you write for a global market.

One of the joys of writing for Harlequin is finding out that your books are bought and read all over the globe, from the English language markets of the USA, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada to South Africa, the Philippines and India.

Then there are the translations. I found out the other day quite by chance that I have two books out in Brazil, with very hot covers indeed. I recently received a translation into Polish, another into Czech (complete with name change – in Czech I’m Annie Westova), as well as Russian, Greek, French, Korean, Japanese (including a manga comic book edition) and numerous others.

Wow! I sit in my home in Australia and am stunned by how far my stories travel. Most of the time I have no idea which book has been translated or when. I find out when a foreign edition lobs into my post box.

But writing for readers who don’t necessarily share the same cultural background can be interesting too. I still find it fascinating that so many readers find Aussie heroes hot! Well, yes they are, but to me they’re not exotic at all.

There are Issues of language. I tend to stick to Aussie English which is almost the same as British English, so if you see ‘colour’ instead of ‘color’ or ‘grey’ instead of ‘gray’ in my books and you’re used to US English, they’re not typos, that’s just the way we spell.

There decisions on what phrases to use. In a recent book I described something as ‘big as Uluru’. I could have used another simile (as big as the Empire State Building, or the Eiffel Tower) but as my character is Australian I figured I could be excused from using something typically Aussie. By contrast, in a book later this year, where the heroine is half Greek, half Australian, she describes something as being ‘as rare as snow on Santorini’, since she knows Greece well. I like to use some Australian phrases if I have an Aussie character, but I’m always conscious of the fact that a lot of readers won’t understand a really local phrase. I aim to make the story understandable to as many as possible.

I don’t have much swearing in my books, but are times when a hero has been so upset by something he’s exclaimed with frustration, fury or fear. Times when ‘oh, bother’ just doesn’t ring true. At such times my heroes have been known to curse, rather mildly. But not all readers appreciate the use of certain phrases. What characters can get away with in Australia may not be so acceptable elsewhere. It can exercise the mind, finding ways for them to express their feelings in a way readers will relate to.

When you write for a global market your readers, fellow authors, reviewers, staff from your publishing house etc, are bound to be awake when you’re not. My editor is in London and we have a 9 hour time difference. That means we have to tee up discussions, not just pick up the phone when we feel like it. I recently worked on a project with writers in three different time zones so it was rare to get answers to questions straight away. Often they arrived in my inbox when I was sleeping.

When I’m following a blog that’s based on US time, I have to stay up late to talk to people as they wake in the morning, and then get up very early to chat with others at the end of their day. Public holidays are completely different too which means some questions go unanswered when you least expect it.

Then there are release dates. I thought when I was published I’d see my books on the shelves and that would be when my book was ‘out’. End of story. But no. Different continents get different release dates. Forget the foreign translations, just the English language editions are enough to make my head spin.

April saw ‘The Desert King’s Pregnant Bride’ on sale in North America. In June ‘The Greek’s Convenient Mistress’ was released in the US. But this was my 2nd book out of 10 so far. It was on sale in the UK and Australia ages ago but the schedules across continents don’t always match. Meanwhile I was trying to promote my May UK release ‘Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife’, which is also out in June in Aus/NZ (at the same time as my Greek title in North America). Then in August my ‘Savakis Mistress’ is released in the UK (but actually it appears in July because they’ve changed the release schedule) and in August in Aus/NZ. I don’t know when that book will be released in North America and I’m already fielding queries from American readers on that one. Meanwhile August sees a re-release in the UK of my first book for Harlequin, but in an anthology, which naturally has a different title. In December ‘Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife’ makes it to North America and the following month a brand new title in the UK, and so it goes on.

Working out what book to promote when is a challenge, especially as they’re available on the web before they’re in bookstores, and even earlier to readers who subscribe to Harlequin. Australian—so

I adore writing for a global market and knowing people all around the world have an opportunity to discover my stories. But staying organised is a massive challenge. Thank goodness for my wall planner reminding me what I have to do next. And my diary. And those post it notes and scrawled messages…

Aussie author Annie West is a bestselling author for Harlequin Presents/Modern/Sexy (depending on which country you’re in). She gets a kick out of going to Australian writer and reader conferences where she gets described as ‘a Sexy author’! She’s won and been shortlisted for several reader awards and is just about to start work on what she hopes will be her 11th book for Harlequin. Annie loves her work, spending days fantasising about gorgeous men and their love lives. It’s a hard job but she has no regrets. Annie lives with her family on the east coast of Australia between the Hunter Valley’s world class wine country and some of the state’s best beaches.

Annie’s current releases are THE GREEK’S CONVENIENT MISTRESS (Harlequin Presents in North America), plus BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INNOCENT WIFE (June in Australia/New Zealand and December in North America). You can read excerpts of her books or enter contests to win new releases on her website.