Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Struggling With Validation

~Readers who loved the sly fun, humor, and romance, of Ripping the Bodice will be blown away by the sensuality and lushness of Champagne.~

My guest is Erotic Romance author, Inara LaVey.

I admit I have some interesting friends, and have met many fascinating authors Over Coffee, but not many with multiple personalities. When I asked Dana Fredsti if she’d like to be a guest Over Coffee, I wasn’t expecting her equally sexy alter ego to jump into the fray and demand her turn on my blog. Inara is saucy, sly, chocked full of humor. She can also be a demanding wench. I like that about her. :-)

Inara’s topic is one that many writers, published and unpublished, struggle with—validation. What does it take to make a writer feel validated? Is it when you finish a novel or two? When you start getting partial or full requests? Snag a good agent who believes in you? Getting a contract? Selling X number of books? All are forms of validation.

I have a friend, who has finished at least six novels that I know of, and she said, not long ago, So when does the validation come? Am I wasting my time? Do I need the huge advance check and the mansion?

We all struggle with validation on some level or another. We'll let Dana and Inara discuss their struggles:

The last two years have been busy for me as a writer. Both of me. See, I write under two different names: Inara LaVey for my spicy romances and my real name (Dana Fredsti) for almost everything else (I say ‘almost’ because, for several reasons I won’t go into here, I also co-wrote a non-fiction book called Secret Seductions under the one time pen name Roxanne Colville). My co-author and long time friend Cynthia Gentry also brought me in to co-write another non-fiction book, What Women Really Want In Bed, for which I got my first substantial advance. It was a ‘nice’ advance, as they say in the publishing biz. Certainly more than I’d gotten in the past.

What else? I promoted my mystery Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon with blog tours, book signings at stores and libraries, and a fun Northwest coastal Thelma and Louise type tour with fellow mystery writer Jess Lourey (Murder by the Month series). I published two short stories and two novels for Ravenous Romance (my latest RR novel, Champagne, was released this month, woot!) and I’m currently working on my third, as well as the sequel to Murder for Hire.

I have a multiple book contract with Ravenous, including a zombie novel (Dana and Inara both do love the zombies). One of my RR titles, Ripping the Bodice is part of the Escape to Romance package on Home Shopping Network and they’ve been selling really well. The recently released Hungry For Your Love, an anthology of zombie related romance in which I have a story, just had the print rights bought by St. Martin’s Press.

All of these things are good things and when I look at the list of what I’ve accomplished and/or been a part of, I can see I haven’t exactly been sitting back, waiting for the world to hand me my goals on a silver platter. And yet somehow I still wake up wondering when the world is going to discover I’m just a big old fake.

I’ve tried to figure out what my problem is. Why I haven’t been able to just enjoy my successes without constantly questioning my validity as a ‘real’ writer?

Logic and emotions definitely refuse to meet in the middle here. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an agent. Maybe it’s because, despite my best intentions, there are nights I sit with my laptop for the requisite two or three hours, but sometimes no real writing comes out of it. I dunno.

Maybe it’s because when I wrote Ripping the Bodice, I had epic writing sessions of three to four thousand words a day. Now the old goal of five hundred words a day seems paltry. And if you were to tell me you were writing a consistent five hundred words a day, I’d say you were doing a great job. And I’d be perfectly sincere. I’d also tell you it’s okay if some nights you just needed to take a break and watch, So You Think You Can Dance, instead of write. Everyone needs a break. I just can’t seem to cut myself the same slack. I’m constantly comparing myself to my fellow writers and always coming up short. And frankly, I’m irritating the hell out of myself. :-)

How about you? I’d love to hear about other writers and their own struggle with validation, be it from readers, authors, publishers, agents… or themselves.

By the way, if you have any suggestions to get one’s inner critic to just shut the hell up, I’d love to hear that too! Mine’s been a real whiny bitch lately and my muse is on strike until I treat her with the love and respect she says she deserves.

Blurb for Champagne:
  • Jeanette Wilson is an American girl on the trip of a lifetime to the wine regions of France. Unfortunately, she's trapped with her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Darryl, a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, self-styled wine expert bent on swirling, sniffing, sipping, swishing, chewing, swallowing and occasionally spitting his way through the wineries of France. Between his endless lectures and insufferable putdowns, her insignificant other is quickly turning her dream vacation into a nightmare.

    But things change for Jeanette once they come to the zenith of their French road-trip, the Champagne house of Chateau Roux-Dubois. Their hosts, Amaury and Marie-Elise Roux-Dubois, turn out to be both charming and attractive, and go out of their way to extend a warm welcome to her. And they make it very clear that it is she, not Daryl, who is their special guest, particularly when the striking Marie-Elise takes Jeanette down to the wine cellar for a very personal tour, followed by an unusual French lesson from Amaury.

  • When she and Daryl are invited to stay and participate in the harvest festival, Jeanette finds herself caught up in a ménage a trios with the Roux-Dubois, both intent on teaching her many things…

Inara LaVey is the erotica-writing nom de plume of a San Francisco mystery writer and former B-movie actress who has lived many of the experiences she writes about in her sensuous fiction. She has traveled throughout Europe, and worked in the uncharted wilds of Hollywood as a screenwriter, a script doctor, an award-winning documentary producer, a stunt woman (her background is in theatrical sword-fighting), and actress in more than one cult classic.

Along with her best friend, she created a mystery-oriented theatrical troupe in San Diego, which formed the basis for her Murder for Hire mysteries. She's written numerous published articles, essays and shorts, and is active in the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime.

She has a deep passion for all things feline, and for many years has worked with her beloved tigers, leopards, jaguars and other exotic cats at an exotic feline conservation center.

Another love is the sea; she adores living by the beach, surfing, strolling the strand and beach-combing. Her many friends know she can always be tempted by bad movies or good wine, preferably combined. When she is not hard at work writing or preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse, she can be found doting on her cats or sword fighting with her Irish lover.
  • MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon (James A. Rock Inc, Yellowback Mysteries Imprint) RIPPING THE BODICE (Ravenous Romance, as Inara LaVey) Member, Sisters in Crime (National & NorCal Chapters) Events Coordinator, SinC NorCal

    Vist with Inara/Dana: Zhadi's Den


~Sia McKye~ said...

Inara, welcome to Over Coffee. Rules, no messing with my Scot and leave his kilt alone, lol!

There's plenty of coffee tea and goodies on the breakfast bar, except for above mentioned Scot.

Dana, if you can get a word in edgewise with this saucy wench, I'm so glad to have you back Over Coffee!!!

Other Lisa said...

Hmmm, I'd tell your Inner Critic that St. Martin's Press is a pretty damn big deal, so there!

And that's just to start.

Kat Sheridan said...

Inara! Dana! A two-fer! OK, so I've read stuff under both your names, and adore it all! And a deal with St. Martin's? Honestly, what are we going to do with you?

OK, so I'm not one to talk. Too often, I'm my own worst critic, and I have skin as thin as onion paper sometimes. That's when we call on our writing friends to pick us up and dust us off. That's when we dig out the emails that say, "Wow, I like your stuff". That's when we take a break and watch eight straight hours of Lethal Weapon movies (take THAT you inner critic!) (Note: Indiana Jones movies work just as well!)

I'm still looking for that first writing credit. Will it validate me? Nope. I'm not a parking ticket and I don't need to be validated. I only need to remember that I write for the joy of it, for the happiness of creating something. And if someone else likes it, that's just the cherry frosting on my cake!

But I just wanted to remind you, I think you are one HELL of a spectacular person, and a damned good writer!

Kat Sheridan said...

BTW, I'm dying to find out how you make zombies sexy!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I'm wondering the very same thing. Lolol!

Sexy isn't the first word that comes to mind with zombies....

Just sayin'

Judi Fennell said...

From your bio alone, I want to be you, Dana. Does that count as validation????

And what Lisa said!

Jamie C. said...

I think you're being too hard on yourself.

I know where you're coming from. Driven people (like you) have certain expectations for themselves and when those expectations are not exceeded (yes, you're not happy with meeting goals, you want to exceed them... I share your personality type), you feel like you're falling short. So instead of focusing on all your fantastic accomplishments, you've got your eyes on the brass ring and you're missing the fun and excitement of taking another turn on the carosel of success.

If you read my journal you'd see how hard I am on myself. The celebrations for successes are miniscule compared to the pages and pages of "you're never going to succeed at X if you don't stop making Y mistake or applying more effort to Z". I'll tell you what's fun though: to succeed at X, despite Y mistake (which isn't usually a mistake just a process) and not enough effort to Z and go back and read all the bogus self-negativity. It really is bogus. I wish I didn't do it to myself. I wish you didn't do it to yourself. You are a success.

Journaling helps me. Not when I'm doing it. I'm sitting there weeping and writing all these negative feelings about myself, but later, when I go back and reflect and decide I'm full of crap. Things are pretty dang good. I have plenty of success. And so do you.

I still don't have the mansion, though.

VA said...

Dana, I have no good advice. Like you, I know that I should be pleased with what I do accomplish, but for some reason I always place more attention on what has not been achieved.

There is an evil hamster wheel I get stuck on, and frankly, there are times when life feels like a penance and not a joy. That is when I look to the few people I trust to make me laugh again and reorient my mind. It isn't easy, but the daily grind shouldn't feel like a life sentence.

Sounds like you're doing pretty well to me. Most importantly, are you enjoying your life? Then smile, and keep on keeping on. Love that coat!

Dana Fredsti said...

Hi, everyone! Inara AND Dana here (currently sharing the keyboard quite nicely together, although I expect trouble later on..) helping ourselves to some coffee! Sia, I have my own kilted fellow at home, so I promise to keep my paws off of yours!

First of all, thank you, Sia, for having us on Over Coffee today! Second, thank you everyone for your really kind comments and for sharing your own feelings about this validation thing and your tips for how to deal with it. It really does help to know other writers go through this sort of thing and both the brass ring/carousel and hamster wheel (evil hamster wheel!) analogies are SO dead on.

Lisa, I agree the St. Martin's Press deal is awesome for all the authors involved and also for RR as a whole. Is it greedy of me to want my very OWN St. Martin's Press deal? :-)

I don't think zombies are sexy. However, sex and love can certain happen in the midst of fighting for one's life against hordes of hungry undead. Other writers and filmmakers have managed to take the zombie mythos out of the shambling, mindless walking appetite zone, however, and have done some very interesting, touching and, I daresay, sexy stuff with zombies as their main characters. HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE really is an outstanding anthology.

I think I'm gonna print out all of these comments to keep on hand when I start getting all mopey and feeling like I'm a failure again... Honestly, you guys/gals are great!

Kat!! Lov

Terry Dubbs said...

What a wonderful interview. Thanks Inara and Dara and thanks to you Sia for hosting! I do love reading these!! :)

Dana Fredsti said...

Hi, Terry, and thank you so much for stopping by! I love Sia's blog and not just 'cause she always serves up such a great feast...

Dana Fredsti said...

Hmmm...just noticed I started a sentence with 'Kat, love...' and never finished it. Kat, you may fill in the blank with whatever you like there! :-) It's what i get for doing this at work!

~Sia McKye~ said...

And a sexy kilted man at that, Dana. And he knows how to use a sword. Can't get better than that.

Dana, I'm always in competition with myself. But a lesson I've learn is celebrate each success you have. It's celebrating life. By all means, keep an eye on your ultimate goal, but don't discount the value of what you've already accomplished, which is quite a lot.

Those successes fuel your creative side to reach for the next rung in the ladder. they are a yardstick to look back on and realize you are moving forward. Use them to see what you HAVE accomplished, sweetie.

You want St Martins, you have the skill, the name built up, reach for it, while maintaining the flow of work you have now.

I need to take off, so I won't be around much today, but I wanted to give you some encouragement.

Dana Fredsti said...

Sia, you are the best! And, as with all the advice given today, you have given me words of wisdom to live by!

I'll hold down the fort while you're gone... I think I know where you stash the coffee, tea and goodies...and I brought in a bunch of champagne and wine just because I'm bad...

Kat Sheridan said...

It's all good, Dana/Inara. I filled it in with "Kat, love Mel Gibson, love Harrison Ford, and love that you love my work!" (This is why I enjoy writing--I get to make stuff up all day long and shape my world the way I want it to be!)

Dana Fredsti said...

hee hee... that's a good way to look at writing, Kat. That's why I like lucid dreaming! :-)

Susan Gable said...

Actually...I'm with you. I have frequent bouts of self-doubt. (Ask Sia. I've called her in to help slay doubt demons.)

There are so many "fingers in the pie" when it comes to dicing on our work. And even though most of those are well-intentioned, and it's what we need to make our work stronger, it does make for doubts.

So...for me...I don't know if validation will ever arrive. Not in permenant form, anyway. I have moments when I feel "real." But...then the doubt demons come back.

So I just have to accept that this is my process. This is what writing does to me. LOL. I just have to deal with it.

K. A. Laity said...

Well, the only advice for me is the note I've got pinned to my bulletin board that says, "Shut up & write!" Yeah, kind of rude to myself. But the aim is to keep me from drifting away from the *process* and getting caught up in results. I am for the results, I expect to get some, but in the end, all that matters is the writing.

I do allow myself the occasional whinging session, but I try to curtail it by focusing on NOW. I fume and despair and then I start writing again because there's no guarantee that any of it will pay off in any significant way (monetarily or otherwise) so there's only the story -- YOUR story -- to keep you going.

K. A. Laity said...

Er, that should have been "I am working for the result" above.

Other Lisa said...

I will admit that I really really struggled with this issue for most of my life to date. What made the difference? Getting an agent. It's true. As tough as the submission process was, I still had the knowledge that someone was professionally invested in me and my work.

So, I would definitely take some validation from the knowledge that you have professionals who support you and your work, who are counting on you. That's one form of external validation that I think is valuable.

Another is that you have readers who love your work. That's what it's really all about, right?

The other kind of validation is the one that really counts, and that's how you feel about what you're doing. Admittedly, I needed someone else telling me I was good to get to that place. But the rest of it, for me, it's about doing as good a job as I possibly can. Really digging in, working on craft, taking some pride in what I've created that has nothing to do with what anybody else thinks about it.

Dana Fredsti said...

Susan, I think I share your process. Or at least have some doubt demons in semi-permanent residence!

Kate, I so agree with you re: trying to focus on the writing and not the results, but dang me, it's a constant battle. When the writing is going well, it's easy enough to do because it's fun. But I think everyone has those writing sessions (or weeks) when every word is just a chore to get down on the computer (I wanted to say 'on paper,' but it dates me so) and then I start thinking about the results because damn it, I'm not having fun! But thinking about the results during those times is so counter-productive... I want switches in my brain to turn on and off, that's what I want!

Anonymous said...

If you want to be A list, aspire to get on it. Write something that has a chance of getting to that goal.

Dana Fredsti said...

Lisa, I have TOTAL agent envy, as you know! He's even cute!... :-)

It's funny, I get more self-validation out of taking care of the cats and doing my little driftwood art pieces than I do with my writing a great deal of the time. That being said, there are moments when I read something I've written and it makes me laugh (in a good way). And those moments do keep me going because as much as I love having readers who love my work, I need to love it too. And every now and again, I do.

Dana Fredsti said...

Anon, I don't think being on the A list is the point. It would be nice to be making A-list money, but as you probably know (I'm assuming you're a writer), the stuff that makes it runs the gamut from great to good to crap. It's a crap shoot, point of fact. I write what I write because a: it's subject matter that interests me or b: someone is paying me to write it or c: both, if I'm lucky! :-)

Anonymous said...

The A list has a lot more to do with the zeitgeist than it does with quality or intent. You can go back afterward and say, "ah yes, of course, this book caught fire because of the specific political/cultural/economic situation" but without a crystal ball or your own Cassandra, it's tricky to do.

You're lucky, Dana/Inara -- you can do other things. I can't, LOL. I'm pretty hopeless with just about everything that's not writing (and not too successful with that, either). But it's what I do. Yeah, you're right. There are days where you really need to have someone say "this is brilliant" or "that made me cry" or "I tried it out at once with my lover" (my favourite). But then I think of William Blake and how he struggled and how he had to find all that validation in the belief that he was touched by god. Well, I can't claim that, but I do have an inherent faith that what I do is good -- I just hope one day someone else will realise it, too!

Other Lisa said...

I'd also remind you that selling 5K copies of RTB is no small feat!

Dana Fredsti said...

Margery, re: the A list - exactly! Setting out to create a bestseller or a blockbuster, especially if you're basing it on what else is successful, is generally not the way to go. By the time you finish, that particular fad is on its way out. Except for zombies. There will ALWAYS be a place for more zombie books/movies. ALWAYS. I say it is so. And btw, I have read your stuff and you are a fantastic writer.

Lisa, I'm really happy about that, but I also can't say that it's because 5k people wanted to specifically read my book. They were buying a set and RtB was included in the set. Not knocking the numbers, just being realistic about my current 'sell' appeal. :-)

Anonymous said...

Dana, just tell your inner critic to shut up. Less than 5% of authors have achieved the success you have. Of course you want more, but the fact is, whether you believe it or not, you are a writer. Five hundred words a day? What's wrong with that? It's a respectable number, and anyway, word count never made a writer. Writing makes a writer, having written makes a writer, being read makes a writer. Seems to me you make that particular "A" list 100%. Of course, truckloads of money would probably be nice.

Dana Fredsti said...

Pat, put like that (the 5% part), I feel like a VERY whiny bee-itch about now. As I said, if anyone else told me they were 'only' writing 500 words a day, I'd tell them that was perfectly respectable because I know it is. Maybe i need to look at my writing self (especially since I have two personas) as a separate person to actually be able to extend the same admiration and slack I have for everyone else in the world to myself. And yes, truckloads of money WOULD be nice!

K. A. Laity said...

My next goal -- be like Lisa and get an agent. Research, plan, focus, WRITE.

When I was writing my way out of a tough situation, I focused on my academic publications, but I knew I couldn't bear to give up the fun stuff altogether. So I made a 500 words per week goal, just so I kept that flame alive. That 500 words/week story is now (a few years later) an 80k novel. I always use the example of Tomas Tranströmer with my students, who only writes about fifteen minutes a day, but is one of the most respected poets in the world. It's all about the persistence.

Anonymous said...

And about being as kind to yourself as you are to others. Step outside that taskmaster and let yourself off the hook!

Isabel Roman said...

I don't think it's selfish to want your OWN St. Martin's deal. :) As for validation, I have no advice for you. I admire your work ethic, and your drive, and frankly, you can only do your best, right?

Dana Fredsti said...

Yeah, Kate, I'm with you on the agent!
How many years did it take you to write the 80k? That was a smart move on your part, keeping the 'treat' writing in there...
I'm working on the being kind to myself. Really!

K. A. Laity said...

It's been just about three years. The story, a very silly comic gothic tale called The Mangrove Legacy, is available both as a blog and as a textnovel (sorry, commercial done). I will be pitching it for publication soon (before it gets too long, LOL).

My main intent at present is to get rid of a lot of work: fortunately, I got rid of one thing today! That habit of driving yourself too hard is difficult to relinquish. It's taken me a few years. I think tenure looming very soon has given me a wake up call that a lot of this is not necessary. I can kind of understand how my grandparents couldn't quite get over the Great Depression. Hard times leave a mark, but you have to recognize when they're over if you're to have any real quality of life (off soapbox now, too).

Shut me up with a drink -- I'm off to my meeting.

Ken Coffman said...

You're on my A-list!

Dana Fredsti said...

Awww, Ken, thank you!

Kate, a drink for the road!!!

Lisa Lane said...

Great post, Dana! I am right there with you where author validation is concerned. It's a tough place to be, and getting published doesn't make it any easier. I suppose I'll never consider myself a "real" author until my books bring in a self-sustaining amount of $$ ... in the meanwhile, the roller coaster has been fun.

Dana Fredsti said...

Lisa! So nice to see you! I like your view of it all as a roller coaster ride - fun, but kinda scary at times... :-)

Houston A.W. Knight said...


I'm amazed by the blog today! Very interesting and insightful!

Hon - you and Roland are in my thoughts and my prayers.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Cyber hugs

aries18 said...

Great topic and some really great comments! Validation is hard to come by, sometimes, if you're looking from without to obtain it. But finding it within is the best way to assure yourself a continuous supply.

Having said that, selling 5K books is pretty solid validation as is a contract with St. Martins. Face it, both of you are the real deal, authors.

Thanks for the topic. It makes for good pondering.

Sia, my thoughts are with you today. Peace dear.

Dana Fredsti said...

Aries, I think I am truly my harshest critic... Thank you for your words.
Houston, I'm glad you liked the post.

Sia...huge hugs.

Netti said...

Had to drop in & say hi, great post! I'm not a writer, but I'm probably as harsh as you are on yourself w/ that inner critic. If you find a way to muzzle her, be sure to let us all now :D

K. A. Laity said...

Dropping in for a mo after dinner with my colleague and before I try to finish writing my weekly column -- glass of red would do nicely, Dana.

Have to agree with aries18: it's finding that peace within which makes it possible to weather the outer tribulations. But it's not only finding it, it's also not losing it and all kinds of things make that possible. Take your eyes off it for a minute and poof -- it's gone. But you can always get it back with concerted effort. Sometimes you just need a reminder.

James said...

Dana, I'm very impressed with the results of your writing career so far and wish you much continued success.

Sia, my thoughts are with you on this day.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh, what a wonderful discussion to come back home to!

Netti, writer or not, we all have inner critics that do their best to rob us of the joy of our accomplishments.

Hawk, thank you so much for the prayers and thoughts. It's been....rough, and emotionally draining, as it is with dealing with dying. Thank you.

Kate, how wonderful to see you here. I always like your brand of wisdom. :-)

K. A. Laity said...

Sia -- I didn't know what it was you were going through, though I saw the expressions of sympathy and thoughts. Let me add mine -- I know there are no real words of comfort for times like this. Some pains must simply be borne. It's good that you can share the sorrow with friends.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Kate. It means a lot to hear. Kate, as I said to another friend tonight, we NEVER know what to say at times like this. Still, the concern, the caring, and the love I have received tonight, has brought me to tears. In a good way. We do what we can to help the living cope.

He had his family and his animals, around him this afternoon when he left us. He was a good man, a loving brother and son, and my friend. He will be missed. He is at peace now.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Dana, so much of what you said hits home. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my little writers cave...and others are feeling the same as me.

Sia, darlin' I don't have your private e ... there's so much I want to say to you...private e me when you can so I can respond.

I'll be leaving tomorrow for a writers retreat- I'll be gone for three days but I'll check back in with you when I get home!

Keep the strength and love, darlin' then hold on for this rough ride, but know in your heart - I AM HERE FOR YOU to the end!

Cyber hugs and love