Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spotlight Author with Joan Swan

Joan Swan is my guest today. Joan and I go way back… well sort of. ;-) I first met Joan about four years ago. She was actively working to form an RWA Chapter within reasonable distance to herself as well as other writers who were passionate about getting their writing published as well as those who had already made it. Though we have only met once, we have chatted over the years. She has been a pleasure to work with and her hard work and determination has finally paid off!! Her books will finally grace the shelves of the bookstores in 2012. So here she is to share a few things about herself with us.

What is your writing process? Plotter or Panster?

I was a diehard plotter in the beginning—right down to working out scene cards for every step of the story. Then, my critique partner, the diehard panster, wooed me into what she so fondly calls writing into the mist, which basically means you don’t know where the hell you’re going. That’s how I wrote FEVER.

The over-plotting method created burnout from all the work involved and frustration when the story changed directions, as they inevitably do, and all my diligently plotted scene cards from that point forward in the story became moot. The Mist method created a lot of corners and dead-ends during the writing process and revision hell once the first draft was finished.

Now, I employ a little of both, which is how I wrote the second book, BLAZE. I generally have a big picture in mind and write toward the different plot points floating in my. That way, if the story veers, the plot points can shift with the new direction. I’ve also discovered that no matter what system you prefer, some scenes need more plotting than others. For those I’ll do the nitty-gritty bullet points of this happens, then this happens, etc.

In the end, each writer is so unique and the writing process so personal, a writer must find their own system. I’ve tried everything out there—plotting boards, the W, scene and sequel, you name it. I even tried some of my favorite authors’ techniques, like Dean Koontz who writes straight through a book, revising as he goes, each page/paragraph/sentence 20-40 times until it’s just right before moving on. Wow, that really didn’t work for me. But it sure works for him!

How long did it take you to write the first book?

The first book I wrote? Or the first book I sold? Those are very different creatures. J

It’s hard to remember how long it took me to write FEVER now. Plus, FEVER wasn’t a straight forward project where I got the idea, worked out the details and plunged in.

I had actually written FEVER in completion as a straight romantic suspense, which I think took me somewhere between 7-8 months with revisions. After querying about 10 or 12 agents and getting the standard rejections from all, my critique partner had an epiphany. She said that if I added a paranormal element, the story would sell. At that time, RS had really slowed in popularity and paranormal was in the white hot stage. I resisted at first, but after talking it over, I found a paranormal element that I felt comfortable writing and one which fit the story perfectly, one that opened up a whole new window of complexity within the novel. That turned out to be the selling ingredient.

Only, I had to take the risk and invest the time to rewrite the entire novel before I discovered it was the selling ingredient.

So…all in all, I’d have to say FEVER was a long project. Probably 12-15 months with all the revisions and rewriting.

Do you have any advice on writing, getting published, or finding an agent?

· Learn your craft. There is no substitute for good craft: structure, storytelling, voice.
· Never stop learning. You can never know too much.
· Read:
o Within or genre or outside – I prefer to read outside my genre.
o Accomplished, talented authors – learn from the masters.
o Good works – if a book isn’t holding your attention or is holding it for all the wrong reasons (as in, I can’t believe how bad this is), stop and pick up something else. Time is precious, don’t waste it reading lousy writing.

How long did it take before you got “THE CALL”?

I had been writing about 8 years when I got the call from my agent that she wanted to represent me and the call that I’d sold about 8 months after that. I guess 8 is a good number for me.

If you had to pick a favorite character that you have created or one that you wish you had created who would it be and why?

I wish I’d created Dexter! A serial killer who kills serial killers—simply brilliant!

What type of hero do you find irresistible?

Tortured alpha guys with a compassionate streak. I like heroes who are real men with an extra dose of all the things that make women love men—sexiness, wit, intelligence, strength, drive and protective instincts.

What does your family think about you becoming a published author?

Because my books are still intangible, I think the whole publishing thing is mystical to them. My husband has been endlessly supportive of whatever I’ve wanted to achieve, as I’ve always supported his interests and career directions. Our daughters think it’s pretty cool that their mom is a published author. For my part, I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to show them they can achieve their dreams if they have passion and perseverance.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself writing full time – no day job. I see myself writing in several different romance subgenres: paranormal, contemporary and suspense, and for at least two different houses. And I see myself thinking about adding mainstream subgenres of suspense and/or thriller to my writing repertoire.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

Craft Column:

Thank you Joan, and all of my readers. Next week I will have Diane Story visiting the blog. Until then….




lindsey hutchison said...

this was awesome i liked the tips to for writers and finding agents. thanks so much for sharing with us

Alexa said...

Great interview, ladies! Joan, it's good to get to know a little more about you and your writing. I'm looking forward to your books!

Nina Nakayama (nnsakusha) said...

I LOVE Joan -- great interview!

Jessica Aspen said...

Its so hard to know what style of plotting fits you when you are just getting started. I worked into being a combo writer totally the opposite way. I started as a pantser and now I add plotting elements. Everything goes faster with a map to where I'm going, but I can diverge without stress. Can't wait till FEVER comes out! Count down in progress!

Joan Swan said...

Hi Alexa,

You've been inspiring on FB. Love to watch you chip away!

Joan Swan said...

Hi Lindsey,

Thanks for stopping by!

Joan Swan said...

Hey, Nina! XO

Joan Swan said...

Hi Jessica,

I think your way was faster. My plotting techniques are still evolving and going at it the wrong way can really pit your time! But you always were ahead of the curve!

Joan Swan said...


Thanks for having me -- my very first interview EVER. :)

I'll be at the Sept meeting of YRW if you're nearby.

Micole Black said...

Hello everyone. Thank you for dropping in today. Joan it has been a pleasure having you here. I am so happy to be your first interview!;-) I want you to come back when those books come out, so you can tell us all about them!



Sheri Humphreys said...

I somehow missed checking Micole's blog so missed Joan! Darn! Just in case--I wanted to tell Joan I'm really looking forward to her visit to Yosemite Romance Writers in September. Sheri