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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nickie's Ten Question to Mary Jo Putney

As i'm finishing Sometimes a Rogue, book five in the Lost Lords series, I remembered I once did an interview with author Mary Jo Putney.


1) When did you find out you wanted to be a writer?

As a kid, I was a reading addict who devoured books under the covers with a flashlight, but I grew up on a farm and certainly didn't know any writers, so it never occured to me that being a writer was possible. Still, if I was daydreaming, I always thought  it would be the ultimate cool thing to be a writer - and without defining that to myself, I always knew that meant novels, not non-fiction.

2) How much influence does a writer have on the translations of her work in other language? Would it help when the foreign fans wrote lots of letters to her publisher?

The writer has no influence at all. The best thing would be to write not the book's Publisher but the Publisher who has already released some of her books in the desired language. It can't hurt for a reader to say that she' d love to see more books from whoever. I've had over a hundred foreign editons that I know of, and mostly I cross my fingers that the translators have done a good job and that readers are pleased with the results.

3) Do you get reactions from foreign readers, more especially from the ones in Belgium and Holland?

Though I've received only a handful of notes from Belgium and Holland, the internet has made it possible to get e-mail from all over the world. I'm always amazed at how hard readers will work to find the books they love. Just in the last few days, I've received mails from Denmark, Tasmania and Sout Africa. Exciting! I always anwer e-mail, though sometimes it takes a few days if I'm crazy busy.

4) How does it feel to get comments from far away countries? If that different from reactions out of the States?

I always love hearing from readers, but there is a special kick in hearing from people around the world. It's a vivid reminder of how we're all part of the global community, and how much we have in common.

5) The USA have many romance writers. How difficult is it to make a name for yourself?

This is a complicated question! The simple answer is yes, it's difficult to make a name for oneself. But there are many factors in play. First, there are a lot of romance writers but there are also a lot of romantic books published, so the genre is large enough to support a fair amount of writers.

Next, there is quite a bit of turnover amond authors. Many will publish only a few books, then disappear for any number of reasons; writer's block, and others. The number of writers who produce regurlarly year after year is much smaller. For example, my first book came out in 1987, and I've been published ever since.

I'm one of the lucky ones - I came along when the American romance genre was still growing, and from the beginning I got a fair amount of attention in the form of good reviews and awards. The sort of book I liked to write - emotional, with wounded characters who find love and healing - was becoming popular, and I fit right in.

But - I've also worked hard and steadily. I think that long-term career success in writing is the result of a combination of factors: a passion to write, a voice that resonates with a fair number of readers, a lot of persistence, some talent, and a certain amount of luck. I've known very talented writers who didn't last because they didn't have the temperament to become long time writers. After 26 years, I guess I do. <g>

6) Can you make money by writing romances, as there are so many of romance authors about?

Except for the first few years when I was getting established, I've earned a very good living from writing. This goes beyond luck into nearly miraculous. <g>

7) When you start on a new book, do you still feel uncertain as when writing the first one ever?

Starting a new book is like being at the foot of a mountain I have to climb! When I start, I'll have written a synopsis that my editor has accepted, so I know roughly what the story is and I have a basic faith that I'll be able to finish it. But the early phases of a book go sooooo slowly. I struggle along, grateful if I can do a page a day. I look gloomily at the screen. I find excuses not to work. The deadline is approaching, and eventually panic sets in. But I still don't write really, really fast. It always amazes me that I ever finish anything! As my first editor said of me, I "always deliver in a timely fashion, in a late-ish sort of way".  <g>

8) How do you deal with critiques and how about compliments?

I think carefully about the critique and use it if it seems right. If I don't think the comment is correct, I ignore it. Mostly I exchange manuscripts with another seasoned writing friend. Her critiques are always honest and fair, even if there are some things that I don't agree with. I try to do as well by her.

9) What do you think of the fact that romance novels are considered as 'books for dumb blondes'?

Any fool who says that hasn't read enough romances. <g> Likely they haven't read any at all.

10) Do you write the cover tekst for your books yourself, or does an editor do that for you?

Generally, the cover blurb is written by the editor or someone in the publisher's copywriting department. A lot of authors don't have anything to do with the blurb, bit I did some copywriting in my pre-writing days (I was a freelance graphic designer) and I'm pretty good at it, so I've trained my editors to run the copy by me. I usually tweak it for accuracy and effectiveness. Generally it will go back and forth between me and the editor a few times until we're both satisfied. But as I said, this is not the norm for writers.


I thought this was very informtive, and I thank Mary Jo for being so kind as to answer all these questions. Further more, I can certainly recommend reading her books. They're lovely romances, and will often make you laugh as well.

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