I was thinking of doing a ‘super’ blog post, but this interview which I did for Whohub pretty much sums up everything about me in a nutshell.
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I don’t recall reading my first book, but I have fond memories of reading the entire series of Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys when I was little. Then I discovered Mills & Boon at about the age of nine and literally fell in love with them. I still read M&B romances occasionally but only Historical Romance, since Tender Romance has now become like Modern Romance – all about arrogant, foreign billionaires, beautiful English virgins and storylines so similar that I once read four new Modern Romances one after the other and couldn’t remember a single story when I’d finished them.
While at school I loved English Literature but didn’t particularly like English Language. I managed to get good grades, especially for my short stories, but had no aspirations of being a writer. Then about five years ago my older sister told me about a publisher who was looking for short stories of erotica by women of colour. The only erotic story I had written up until then was one page long and written purely for my own gratification. I decided to try writing another story and it was like a dam bursting open. In no time I had written seven stories and was thinking more in terms of publishing my own book rather than have my stories included in an anthology.
My younger sister was the first to read my writing. She read a few paragraphs aloud in a heavily-accented voice and had me rolling on the floor, dying of laughter. But eventually she read it objectively and gave me her opinion. I love the fact that we are close enough for her to be brutally frank with me.
What is your favourite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
Romance is my favourite genre, but I find it harder to write than erotica. I immediately pulled my romance novel Soca Nights off the shelves when I published it in Aug’08 because I wasn’t happy when I read it in print. It is yet to be re-released. Some lucky (or perhaps unlucky) reader managed to buy one copy before I pulled it, so she (it’s unlikely to have been a man) will have one of only five printed copied of that edition of the book. I had no such problems with my erotica. Though they have been re-edited and are all due for future editing, I am quite happy for them to be sold as they are.
Feel free to visit my website to read complete stories from each of my three books of erotica at www.lexyharper.com/
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I dream up stories in my head on my way to work, at the office, during my lunch break and on my way home and then type them up as complete stories or as bullet points depending on my mood.
Nothing specific has to happen before I start, but I prefer to have everything in order so that there are no distractions. Once my computer is booted up I usually play several games of Spider Solitaire before I begin typing.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I find books written in third person generally more palatable, but good writing in first person can be more compelling. I wouldn’t write an entire novel in first person, but occasionally a character will insist on writing her own story like my character, Honey, in Telephone Sex. Like Marmite, you either love her or hate her.
What well known writers do you admire most?
I am in awe of Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy and Zora Neale Hurston. I like happy endings so I don’t read many literary books, but Beloved is my favourite book of all time, followed very closely by both God of Small Things and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Ultimately I write for myself. I write books that I want to read and hope that I will always stay true to this simple philosophy.
Does reader feed-back help you?
The first person to read my book and give me feedback is someone who has become very dear to me, my friend Tania Leigh. She bought and read the first badly-edited edition of my book and sent me an email telling me that she had enjoyed it. I’m still astonished that she was able to finish it because she is a gifted poet and a budding writer herself. For her to have been able to see past the errors to the essence of what I was trying to say is truly remarkable. Kisses, Tania!
Generally, if feedback is constructive I take it on board, but I never take criticism to heart. For example, readers complained that I used Italics too liberally in the black and white editions of my books. Fair point – when I published the colour editions I edited the majority of them out. On the other hand, I ignored comments about the books being too raw, though there are days when even I think they are. I have no doubt that the next editions will be tamer, but for now I will leave them as they are.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I entered one competition and didn't win. On re-reading the story months later I realized that I had rushed the ending after spending weeks creating a dramatic opening.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I once showed a rough draft of an erotic short story to two of my friends. One was scandalized and the other not scandalized enough; neither gave me feedback that I could use. My sister categorically refuses to read an incomplete story, so I finish my manuscripts before she reads them and make changes where necessary.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I don't have an agent or publisher to satisfy, so I try to write only when I'm in the mood.
What is your process?
I’m lazy, so I lie in bed and write on my laptop. I no longer print my work. I do all corrections on the screen, proofing with text-to-speech software. This method is by no means foolproof, but it’s cheaper than paying for professional editing and I’m reasonably satisfied with the results.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I have a full-time job, so I don’t have as much time as I would like for networking. I update my website periodically and occasionally send snippets to my Twitter account. I seldom log on to my MySpace page and even less rarely to Facebook. But networking is essential and I find that my sales dip significantly when I haven’t networked for several months.
What has been your experience with publishers?
I did extensive research and decided to self-publish my books because I wanted to remain anonymous, but largely because I suspected that no publisher would have me!
I received 50 free books delivered to my address in the UK free of cost as part of the US$499 self-publishing deal for my first book Bedtime Erotica. This was not the cheapest deal on the market at the time but I reasoned that I could sell the books and recoup some of the money invested, or give them to friends and family instead of buying birthday and Christmas gifts for the next ten years or so.
By the time the book was published and ready for the market I had already written the seven stories that would make up my next book. Though Bedtime Erotica was selling faster than I had imagined (research showed many self-published books sell less than 100 copies), I waited until the royalties surpassed my initial outlay before publishing the second. I then re-released my first book, giving it a cover more appropriate to the content and correcting a few embarrassing spelling and grammatical errors.
Self-publishing is often confused with vanity publishing, but though they share traits they are quite distinct things. Yes, I had to pay upfront and stood to lose the entire sum if I had never sold a copy. But having the 50 free copies made the deal worth while for me since it wasn’t a sum beyond my means as I had a full-time job. And the joy I felt when I held the first copy of my book in my hand is indescribable - a moment I will always treasure.
The cheapest vanity publishing deal I found in the UK at the time was for the equivalent of USD$3000 - $7500 (GBP £2000 - £5000) to print between 1000 – 2500 copies of my book. This sum was more than I was prepared to pay and I had no way of offloading the books other than lugging them from bookstore to bookstore begging the owners to take a few copies. In contrast, my self-published books were sold by Amazon.com (but sadly not by Amazon.co.uk) and printed only on demand.
There was even a scheme called Talent Acquisition (or something similar), run by the publishers which was a way for self-published writers to gain the attention of mainstream publishers. I enrolled in the scheme, but opted out soon afterwards when there were no calls from eager publishers offering me that magic six-figure deal.
To date I have not been acquisitioned or offered even a two-figure deal, but I have made a tidy little sum and have kept the rights to my work. So, if you have a real burning desire to be published and feel that you have something you want to share with the world, potentially at your own cost, self-publishing is an option you should consider.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my romance novels at the moment. I plan to publish seven romance novels by the end of 2010…if I could just get started!
PS. As you can see I’m really, really lazy! I should have had seven romance novels out by the end of last year – in reality I’m yet to publish the second one. Bad Lexy!