Sarah interviews Rachel Aaron about writing fantasy, her trip to RT as a person who doesn’t write primarily romance, and about the science and data of tracking her writing process. They also discuss world building and romance authors Rachel particularly loves, and offer fantasy recommendations for the romance readers.
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This podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of Ever Night, the sexy new paranormal novella from New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter.
Rose Pascal is swept into a dark, haunting realm every year on her birthday, only to return home the next day. She dreads each visit…even as she craves appearing before the realm’s warrior king, a deliciously maddening man who has spent his life hunting and killing her kind—with good reason. They are supposed to be enemies, but neither can deny the passion sizzling between them. With time running out, can they find a way to be together forever?
Download it May 19th!
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Dear Bitches, Smart Author Podcast, May 29, 2015
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to episode number 143 of the DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me today are Rachel Bach and Rachel Aaron, who are conveniently the same person. Rachel and I met for the first time at RT when she realized that I was there and we’d spoken online and had never met in person and ended up having an impromptu coffee appointment where we talked about fantasy and writing and her presence at RT as a fantasy and science fiction author but not a romance author. We talk about how she tracks the data of her writing process, the books she’s written, space opera with kissing, which I’m sure rings a lot of people’s catnip bells, and we talk about fantasy recommendations for romance readers who might be curious about trying some fantasy or science fiction.
This podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of Ever Night, the sexy new paranormal novella from New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter, on sale wherever your fine eBooks are sold.
The music that you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater, and I will have information at the end of the podcast as to who this is and where you can buy it for your very own.
Rachel and I talk about a good number of books in this podcast, but fear not, if you are looking for recommendations or you miss a title and wanted to come back and buy it, you can check out the podcast entry at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. We will have links to all of the books that we talk about, and if you have any other questions you can leave a comment, and we’ll figure it out from there.
And now, without any further delays, on with the podcast.
Sarah: So, let’s start by having you introduce yourself and tell the lovely people at home who you are and what you write.
Rachel Aaron: Well, my name is Rachel Aaron. I also write science fiction under the name Rachel Bach. My best known series are The Legend of Eli Monpress, which is a rollicking fun fantasy series starring a charming wizard-thief, and again as Rachel Bach, I wrote Fortune’s Pawn, which is hardcore, badass, powered-armor space opera with kissing, so there’s –
Sarah: WOOHOO! Kissing!
Rachel: This, it’s fun, and starring Devi Morris, who is the biggest badass I could ever possibly write –
Rachel: – and she gets described as, like, Ripley plus Starbuck, and I’m like, yes, please describe this more –
Rachel: – and there’s a lot of, and people also compare me to Firefly because it’s, you know, a small ship with a, with intimate crew dynamics, so if any of those are your thing, give Fortune’s Pawn a try.
Sarah: Did that comparison just make you need to lie down on the floor for a minute?
Rachel: [Laughs] I was going for all those things. I was like, yes, make it as awesome as possible. And my newest book is Nice Dragons Finish Last, again as Rachel Aaron, and that is an urban fantasy about dragons, particularly the world’s nicest dragon who is a big failure at actually being a dragon and is thus kicked out of his home and thrown into post-apocalyptic Detroit where there’s magic, and it’s just, it’s crazy and it’s fun, and if you like your urban fantasy just kind of kooky, it’s, it’s a good time. And –
Sarah: I like that one a lot.
Rachel: Oh, yay! That makes me so happy. I love Nice Dragons Finish Last. It’s one of my – I, I shouldn’t have favorites, but it’s the one I’m working on right now, so it’s my favorite.
Rachel: It’s the world that I’m working on right now, ‘cause I just finished the second book, and I’m editing it right now, and I’m really excited.
Rachel: And –
Rachel: – and I also – this is getting long – I also write nonfiction as Rachel Aaron, and I’m, the thing I’m most famous for is 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, which is about dramatically increasing your writing productivity, and that’s been very popular.
Sarah: Has that been selling well for you?
Rachel: That has been my steadiest seller. It has contin- – I don’t do any advertising other than, like, my blog, which I do for all my stuff –
Rachel: – and 2k to 10k is, it’s my little engine that could. It just keeps going and going and going, and I’m actually –
Sarah: That’s fantastic!
Rachel: It is, and it, well, you know, what’s so funny is, like, it was the very first book I self-published, and I just kind of threw it up. I didn’t think very much about it or put much work into it, and it, it’s just been going like crazy, and I’ve actually really cleaned it up and made it much nicer because I was like, oh, my God, these people are buying – it, it’s 99 cents –
Rachel: – so I was just kind of like, oh, whatever, 99 cent eBook, and it’s just, it just goes and goes and goes, and so I’ve cleaned it up, I’ve updated it and – ‘cause that’s what’s great about self-publishing is you’re like, oh, I, I should add this other stuff. You can just go do it –
Sarah: And then people get an updated version.
Rachel: And then people get an updated version, so that’s been really, that’s really nice for me as an author, just ‘cause I want to, I want to have better quality control, and so I do that, and that’s been great, and I’m actually doing a sequel to 2k to 10k this year, hopefully, actually, just the next couple months, which is going to be a, a series that’s called, like, it’s ended up called the Help series, ‘cause it’s all like, help, my plot is broken; help, my characters are jerks –
Rachel: – and they’re going to be just little books that focus on things like plot and tension and character dynamics and how to write really good characters and just sort of stuff that I’ve, that I’ve learned and that I pick up, because I am a giant story-craft nerd. I, I love it. I was an English major. I, this is, like, my jam, and so –
Sarah: One of the things I read about in, in 2k to 10k was that you keep data on all your books as you write them.
Rachel: I do. I’m a, I’m an obsessive-compulsive data gatherer. I love metrics.
Sarah: So what are, what are you studying when you write?
Rachel: Well, what I do, generally speaking, is when I, when I sit down to a writing session, and I don’t track metrics so much anymore, just because I know them so well now, I haven’t really changed in the last couple years, but if I’m having a problem, one of the first things I do is I always gather data, and I started doing this because sort of about the, the middle point of my career, the wake-up call was I had to, I was writing the Eli Monpress series, and I was almost at the end, it’s five books long, and I was on book, I think book four, and I’d just had a baby, and I had to get that book done, and I was so busy and so tired, and the deadline was looming, and I just –
Sarah: ‘Cause babies do that to you.
Rachel: Babies, man, babies ruin writing. I’m telling you.
Rachel: Them babies. And if you’re going to have a baby and you’re a writer, like, get ahead of schedule. Save yourself some time. It takes way more time than you think it’s going to –
Rachel: – all the time. Anyway, but – so I was, I was really desperate, and I was paying for a babysitter for, like, twelve hours a week, and I had twelve hours a week to write, and I had to get a lot of writing done, and that was actually what sparked the big jump of 2k to 10k, where I went from writing 2,000 words a day to 10,000, but the first kind of, talking about the metrics, which is a big part of the efficiency, was that I was, I was like, okay, can I make it? Can I make my deadline on twelve hours a week? And I had no idea, because I had never measured how fast I wrote or how much I wrote, and I had, like, some vague numbers from finished books, like, oh, this book was X number of words long, but I didn’t know dates when I started, so I couldn’t say, it takes me X number of days to write this many words, and I was, I was just kind of appalled, because if you’re in any other business, like, if I was a baker and they were like, how long is it going to take you to make a cake? And I’m like, [I-don’t-know noise], it’s an artistic process –
Rachel: – no one would buy cakes from me.
Sarah: [Still laughing] Sorry. I don’t know when I can make you your cake; you’re just going to have to guess.
Rachel: You know, I don’t know, try next Tuesday, but I might have, like, baker’s block, so I don’t know. But it’s like that, you know? I, I’m, I’m a professional writer, it’s a business for me, and businesses run on numbers. Every business, if you ask that business how long does it take you to do whatever it is you do? If they’re a good business, they can tell you, and so I was like, man, I need to start doing this, and that’s when I really started tracking my word counts, not only just to figure out how long it takes me to actually write, but to also, I started using them as a, a gauge, because when I’m happy writing, when Rachel is, the writing’s going well and everything’s happy, and I’m trucking along, I routinely hit about a thousand words an hour. That’s my happy writing speed. If I’m, like, really going gangbusters, I can get up to fifteen hundred, but a thousand words an hour is Rachel’s doing well, and anything under a thousand words an hour is a sign that something’s wrong. It’s a sign that I’m having trouble, and when I see that I’m routinely writing under a thousand words an hour, I kind of back up and say, whoa, wait a minute, what’s going on? Why are we having – we’re clearly having a problem. Is there, like, something that’s unclear? Is someone not acting in character? Why, what’s the holdup?
Rachel: And I use that sort of as a gauge, and I know this because I’ve routinely tracked my writing. I, I also figured out, like, what time of day I write best, and, ‘cause I just, I just, again, I recorded when I wrote, how many words I wrote, and where I wrote, so I could get average words per hour, and what I discovered, ‘cause I would have bet you money I was a morning writer, but I discovered, the numbers clearly showed that I was an afternoon writer, and I got my best hours in the afternoon at a coffee shop with no internet.
Rachel: I mean, I was, I was really trucking. That was when I was routinely hitting, like, twelve to thirteen hundred words an hour, and so I, I, I acted on the information. I changed my babysitting window from the morning to the afternoon –
Rachel: – and just by doing that, I made a huge difference. And we’re not adding more time; it’s just literally being more efficient.
Sarah: Wow. Another thing you talk about in the book, which you can tell I’ve read –
Sarah: – is, ‘cause I was really curious about it from a nonfiction point of view, because I don’t write fiction as my job –
Sarah: – I wrote a novella last year –
Sarah: – but I had a similar experience as you outlined in the book where if I had, I have this habit of – my, my son’s elementary school sends home a zillion Xeroxes that are all on different colored pieces of paper, and they’re only one side –
Sarah: – which just tends to make me bananas, so I cut them up into eighths –
Rachel: I hate that.
Sarah: – yeah, right? It’s like, [wordless noises of frustration] you have a budget cut and you want to get rid of teachers? Try using two-sided Xeroxes, people!
Rachel: Or sending emails.
Sarah: Yeah, that also –
Rachel: Send emails!
Sarah: – is a totally great idea, but no, I get pink and blue and green and orange, and it’s like, oh, my God. So I cut those up into pieces of scrap paper and I keep them in a drawer, so when I need to write something down, we have a limitless, bottomless, never-ending supply of multicolored scrap paper, thanks to my school district. But I noticed that if I wrote down on one of those tiny little eighth of an 11½ by 8, or 8½ by 11 pieces of paper, I wrote down this is going to happen, and this is going to happen, and this is going to happen, and this is what you’re going to write today, I could bang that out at a really great rate of speed –
Rachel: Oh, yeah, and that was my first –
Sarah: – ‘cause I had – right, I gave myself a little map, and that’s something you talk about.
Rachel: Yeah, that was my first big breakthrough, actually. What happened was, again, I was in the middle of Eli 4, I was having a really bad time. I was just lost in my plot, and I, I had it all worked out, ‘cause I’m a plotter –
Rachel: – so I knew where I was supposed to go, but I just couldn’t make it work, and this, and this one particular scene, it’s a scene where Miranda, one of my characters, is having basically an, an argument with Banage that’s supposed to – who’s another character – and it’s supposed to reveal all this information and set up a situation that happened later, and it was, it wasn’t, it wasn’t a bad scene, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make them say what I needed to say, and I got stuck in the scene for, like, three days.
Rachel: Oh, and I was just, I was, oh, I was so mad, ‘cause my time is just ticking away, and finally, I just got so mad, I just closed my laptop, and I pulled out my notebook, and I just wrote down a sketch of the scene, like, what did they say? What are we trying to do here? I said, what’s the goal of this scene? Well, to get them to say X. Okay, how do we get there? And I just sort of did this very quick back and forth, and, and in about, in about 10 minutes – I think actually more like 30 minutes, really – I, I untangled the scene that I had lost three days to, and then when I sat down to actually write it, I knew exactly what I was going to say and exactly where I was going to go and who said what when –
Rachel: – and I finished that entire scene, that two-thousand-word scene, in about an hour.
Rachel: And I was just like, bam! ‘Cause I knew, I knew exactly where I was going, and that’s – you know, everyone’s like, oh, what’s the secret to writing fast? That is the secret. Just know what you’re going to do before you do it. It’s kind of the secret to doing anything fast.
Sarah: And I know that, I know that among writers there’s the plotters and the pantsers –
Sarah: – but even, even though I had, much like any romance writer, I knew the ending –
Sarah: – I had to get there. Once I had a tiny map of the next three steps, I was much more productive, and then those three steps would inform the next three, but I didn’t always know though, so I was always sort of half and half, and I, I didn’t want to take too much of a look at the process of writing, ‘cause I wasn’t honestly sure if I could do it –
Sarah: – and, and for me the big motivating trick was not actually – ‘cause it was self-published – I had, I gave – [laughs] – I gave myself deadlines by hiring people before it was done.
Rachel: Oh, you’re brave!
Sarah: Okay, all right, I’m going to be on your schedule; what’s the deadline? Okay, that’s the deadline I will hit. Because I really wanted to work with this editor and this copyeditor, and they were really brilliant –
Sarah: – but, you know, they are professionals. They have, like, jobs and shit, and they don’t just, like, sit around waiting for me to, you know, make stuff. Can you, can you imagine? Some people don’t sit around and wait for us to make stuff.
Rachel: I know, it’s, what, the nerve of those people.
Sarah: I know, right? So, that is a book that has been doing really well for you.
Rachel: Yeah, and it’s, and you know, it’s not making me tons of money, ‘cause it’s only 99 cents, but I feel that’s fine, because, again, it was a book that grew out of a blog post, it’s only about 30,000 words long, and I really like that it’s 99 cents, because it’s, you know, it’s very easy to recommend, it’s very easy – people feel good recommending it, and I get a lot of amazing email from it of people saying, oh, my God, your book changed my life, I’ve bought all your other titles, I love you as a writer, because my voice in the nonfiction and my voice in the fiction are very similar –
Rachel: – that conversational tone –
Rachel: – and people really like that, and so, I’m, I’m not really, it wasn’t really ever a, kind of a thing to make money; I never saw myself as a nonfiction writer, but it was such a cool idea I really wanted to share it, and I had such a great feedback from it, and it’s done, it just does really well, and, and I’m expanding that now, because I finally feel like I’ve gotten to the point in my professional knowledge and my knowledge of craft where I can actually help people with their own books, because I’ve been writing since, you know, 2004, and it, I mean, it takes forever to get good at this stuff. It is not an easy art. People like, oh, writing, you write dragon books. Oh, that must be fun; you just sit down, bang out a –
Sarah: Oh, come on, anybody can do this.
Rachel: – bang out a sword fight. Anyone can do that! And I’m like –
Sarah: Anybody can do this!
Rachel: – do you realize how hard I work at this stuff and how much I think about it?
Rachel: It’s exhausting!
Rachel: And it’s fun! It’s so rewarding. But –
Sarah: But of course everyone thinks it’s super easy and that anyone can do it.
Rachel: Yeah, and, and I always laugh, ‘cause like, you know, they talked about when there was that, but way back in the day, when there was a, a big Trojan worm that was going around, this was back in the day, and it was stealing people’s files at random?
Rachel: The number one most popular file that everyone had was mynovel.doc.
Rachel: Everyone’s writing a novel. Everyone.
Sarah: Well, I know a lot of people who, who are, work, work in publishing in some way who don’t like to tell strangers at cocktail parties what they do, because the minute you tell someone that you work in publishing, then you’re going to help that person get their novel published –
Rachel: Oh, yeah.
Sarah: – that they’re thinking of writing some day.
Rachel: You, you get besieged. I hear, I’ve heard, I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about people getting, like, manuscripts slipped under the bathroom door and stuff, and –
Sarah: Yes, I, I heard many a horror story.
Rachel: Don’t do that; don’t be that person.
Rachel: No one likes that.
Rachel: I wouldn’t read anything that had been on a bathroom floor.
Sarah: Very bad idea. So, you were at RT.
Rachel: Yes! And you, you, we, you invited me up for coffee, and it was lovely, and you gave me a tiara –
Rachel: – and it was the best.
Sarah: Well, you know – [laughs] – I think I have to explain what happened, because I’m going to sound like the creepiest human being in the world, but I know I’ve spoken to you online –
Sarah: – and I know that, I mean, I, I read Nice Dragons Finish Last, ‘cause I have a little dragon thing that’s actually a very large dragon thing?
Rachel: Who doesn’t have a dragon thing?
Sarah: Like, to give you the –
Rachel: Dragons are amazing.
Sarah: – scope of my dragon thing, I love How to Train Your Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon 2. I love the sort of witty, not terribly physically strong but incredibly intelligent and –
Sarah: – smart-assed, wily hero, which is pretty much Hiccup, and so I play this game on my phone called Dragons: Rise of Berk where you have your own dragons, ‘cause who doesn’t want their own dragons, and I like the banner in the background in this tiny little decoration so much that I took a screenshot of it and had it made into a cross-stitch pattern so that I can cross-stitch my own goddamn dragon. That is how far gone I am. It’s really kind of sad. But anyway, now that I’ve revealed my extreme dorkitude, like, I have raised the dork flag, I knew I’d spoken to you online, and you had said something to me on Twitter about getting together, and I was leaving from the book signing, and it was that morning, and I said, well, I’ve got a pot of coffee, so bring your own cup and come up to my room. I promise I’m not a psycho!
Rachel: No, I’m so glad you did that, ‘cause I didn’t actually realize you were there until, like, that morning, and I’m like –
Rachel: – I’m going to miss her!
Rachel: Oh, my God, and, and for me, and, and to make it clear, like, I went to Romantic Times as an author, specifically for Fortune’s Pawn, and my publisher was lovely and provided me with all these books, and it was great, but I was –
Sarah: But you’re not a romance writer.
Rachel: I’m not a romance writer. I read a ton of romance, I’m a very big romance reader, and I got to, like – and so, so as a fan, I was just freaking out –
Rachel: – ‘cause I was like, I was on a panel with Kresley Cole, where I made a complete ass of myself. [Laughs]
Sarah: I, I have done that on panels; I know that pain.
Rachel: I was just fangasming so hard, I’m like, keep it together. Keep it together!
Sarah: Nope, nope, you’re done. Yep.
Rachel: And, and, you know, I like, I, I had a big talk with Ilona Andrews, and that was definitely a keep-it-together-Rachel moment. Don’t, don’t, don’t terrify them with your incredible levels of fandom.
Sarah: And then your inner thirteen-year-old is like, oh, my gosh!
Rachel: You’re just, you’re just freaking out, right?
Rachel: And I met Patricia Briggs. I, I had dinner with Tessa Dare, who is amazing!
Rachel: And I, I, I’m pretty sure, like, she was just absolutely every bit as lovely as you would think she would be, and, and we actually went out to this, like, Texas steakhouse, ‘cause we were in Texas, and she ordered this plate of, like, country-fried steak and gravy, and they literally brought her this mountain of gravy –
Rachel: – and she was like, she was so excited. It was so adorable. She was like, I have so much gravy! I’m going to eat gravy for dinner. It was really, really – it was very good-looking gravy. I, I had a steak, which was also very good. But –
Sarah: You were there as a science fiction/fantasy writer.
Rachel: Exactly, and, and it’s so funny, ‘cause, like, I was sitting, I’d be sitting on a panel, and it’d be, like, you know, really badass-looking chick in tight leather and, like, a dude with abs, and, like, a clinch cover, and then there’s me with powered armor. You know, I, I was, it was very kind of a strange situation, but I really, really loved it, because romance readers are, are some of my favorite readers, because the romance community is so welcoming of other genres, and, like, ‘cause I, when I put kissing in my military sci-fi, I got a lot of are you sure you want to do this?
Sarah: Oh, no, kissing cooties, man!
Rachel: ‘Cause there’s going to be cooties in your powered armor.
Sarah: You cannot have kissing cooties.
Rachel: And, and, but you know what, ‘cause my readership is about 50/50 male/female, and I had very few complaints about the actual romance. I had a couple of complaints from people who either didn’t think it went far enough or thought there was too much, so it was like the amount of romance was in question, but the fact that there was a legitimate romance was just kind of accepted. Like, I didn’t, I didn’t get nearly – ‘cause I was, I was girding my loins for, like, the true science fiction author brigade, but no, everyone, everyone was real happy with it.
Sarah: No, it’s, it’s a total, it’s a tonal difference, I think, between science fiction and fantasy communities –
Sarah: – and the romance community, especially at RT. I remember when John Scalzi was a guest because he was receiving an award, he came to RT – I want to say it was Kansas City, two years ago – and wrote a post on his blog about how he realized at some strange moment that he was the only dude in, like, a room of several thousand women. No one asked him for his credentials, no one wanted to quiz him on how much he knew about something. It was like, you’re here, there’s a bar, let’s hang. It’s a completely different kind of interaction from what I know of the two different communities.
Rachel: That, that is absolutely true, and, like, ‘cause I’ve done a lot of sci-fi and fantasy cons, and they are lovely, don’t get me wrong. They’re really fun, they’re really nerdy, and it’s very exciting, ‘cause I’m also a big sci-fi/fantasy fan and reader so, again, as a fan, it was very exciting, but there is definitely sort of a geekier-than-thou thing going on, where you’ve got to constantly kind of one-up your geek cred –
Rachel: – whereas at RT it was like, oh, my God, you’re a writer? I’m a writer! What do you write? That’s amazing! Oh, you read romance? I love Regencies! Let’s talk about our favorite Regencies! It was just this really, really warm, welcoming atmosphere, and every, and every interaction I’ve had with the romance community has been like that.
Rachel: It’s, it’s just been fantastic, and I, I hang out on romance blogs just ‘cause they’re freaking fun places to be. I, that’s how I found you! I was a giant reader of Smart Bitches. Back when I had my day job, y’all were, like, my favorite thing to read at work –
Rachel: – and, and I got a bunch of book recommendations from you when I was first getting into romance, ‘cause I didn’t even read romance until I was out of college. I’d never even –
Sarah: Oh, no kidding!
Rachel: Yeah, well, I’d never, I’d – my parents were big sci-fi/fantasy nerds, and they didn’t read a lot of romance, and I’d read, like, some Anne McCaffrey, which kind of blurs the line, ‘cause she’s got a lot of romance in her sci-fi, but I’d never read, like, a Regency, and then one day, I’m like, that sounds really cool, and I picked up, I can’t even remember what the first one was now, but it was, like, a free book, and I just kind of picked it up, and oh, that was the rabbit hole –
Rachel: – let me tell you. Like, couple hundred books later, and, and I love it. I do.
Sarah: It’s true. And the minute you ask somebody at RT, oh, you’re a writer? What do you write? Then you move into the what are you reading? conversation, and then suddenly you have no money in your bank account because you just bought, like, eighty books.
Rachel: And, and, and you just, and you also, you make, you make so many friends at RT, and it’s, it’s, it was really, really fun, and, and I especially liked, ‘cause like, the very first day I was, like, walking around, and I had no idea what to do, and I didn’t know anybody. I’d gone alone –
Sarah: That won’t last long.
Rachel: – and – yeah, and, and I saw this lady who kind of looked like she knew what she was doing –
Rachel: – ‘cause she had an author tag. I literally, like, amoeba-ed onto her, and she was a cowboy romance author, and I am now terrible, ‘cause I’ve just forgotten her name, cowboy romance author, and she was –
Sarah: Can’t remember, you’ll remember at, like, three in the morning.
Rachel: I will. I will, and, and, but she, she just kind of hung out with me for a few hours, just kind of going to the places we needed to go, ‘cause it’s the very first day, and we’re kind of all getting registered and –
Rachel: – whatnot, and, and it was just like everyone I met was like that. Everyone I met was lovely.
Sarah: Yep! It’s absolutely true.
Rachel: I met Carrie S. I met Carrie –
Rachel: – who also writes for you, and she is fantastic!
Sarah: My entire crew was there; it was so fun.
Rachel: That, it was the best, and we just kind of ran into each other in line –
Rachel: – and she’s like, you’re Rachel Bach! I love Fortune’s Pawn! And I was like, yay!
Sarah: Yeah, ‘cause that never gets old, right? Isn’t it the best?
Rachel: It never does. I didn’t think anyone was going to have read me, but a lot of people had, again, because, you know, same thing, romance readers, if you put some kissing in it, they’ll give you a try. Whereas opposed to sci-fi readers, you know –
Rachel: Yeah, unfortunately, there is a – and they’re not all like that. There’s a very large body of sci-fi readers who just want their fun rocket ships and don’t really care –
Sarah: Of course.
Rachel: – they just want you to write them a good book, but there’s definitely a very vocal minority in the sci-fi community that really thinks that these softer emotions do not belong in space, which is just stupid, ‘cause if you have people, you’re going to have –
Sarah: They’re going to have feelings!
Rachel: – you’re going to have feelings! And I think it’s, you know, male or female, I think it is completely unrealistic to have a character who does not have human emotions. Unless you’re writing a book about nothing but androids, in which case I, I think I would have a hard time getting attached to that book unless it was really well done.
Rachel: ‘Cause there’s no connection.
Sarah: So who are among your favorite – who are among your favorite romance authors that you love? I mean, ‘cause you said you started re-, reading romance much later in life than some of us.
Rachel: Yeah. And I’m, I’m kind of sad about that, ‘cause I, I –
Sarah: Oh, don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time.
Rachel: have to catch up so much more. I know.
Rachel: My husband had to put a, a Kindle, had to put a, a limit on my Kindle because I was spending – I, ‘cause I would just buy books at three in the morning –
Rachel: – you know, and I wasn’t, like, thinking about it, and he was like, Rachel, you can’t keep doing this. You’re going to bankrupt us on novels – which is the best way to go bankrupt by my mind.
Sarah: Of course.
Rachel: Obviously. And then –
Sarah: I remember the first time that happened to me, I was home sick –
Sarah: – and I – this was years and years and years ago – and I read a book, and then I immediately bought the next one, and I immediately bought the next one, because I was sick and I didn’t have anything else to do, and it was Meg Cabot, so of course I was mainlining it ‘cause her books are like crack, and my husband got a call from the credit card company because there had been these rapid hits on the credit card from this one particular location, and, and he had to call me, are you buying books from your bed?
Sarah: And I was like, yes! Yes, I am, and it’s awesome! I didn’t even have to get up; I could just do it on the device. This was, this was just amazing to me.
Rachel: Oh, yeah. Well, for, for readers that, for authors that I love, I obviously love a lot of urban fantasy. I mentioned Patricia Briggs.
Sarah: She’s amazing.
Rachel. I love her. She’s amazing. I, I really love Kalayna Price’s Grave Witch [Alex Craft] series? And full disclosure, Kalayna and I are friends, but I liked her book before I was her friend. It was that good.
Rachel: And then I met her, and I fangirled at her like crazy. And her Grave Witch series, and they have a lot of pretty hot romance in them. On the paranormal romance, I really liked, I really like Kresley Cole, all the Immortals After Dark books. Let me tell you how jealous I am of that world and how much I wish I’d thought of it, ‘cause I just love it. If, if she ever needs –
Sarah: Oh, the, the world of the immortals?
Rachel: Yeah, if she ever needs someone to ghostwrite, I have, like, thirty Immortals After Dark books I want to write.
Rachel: You know? Kresley, if you’re listening to this, I swear I’m not creepy. I’m sorry I creeped on you at a panel.
Rachel: I’m kidding. Anyway, but I just think it’s the, I just think it’s the coolest idea, and I think Valkyries are just the best, and just so funny, and the, the, the romances are so hot, and I just love them.
Sarah: I remember when I read – I don’t remem-, I can’t keep the titles of those books straight in my head, but the one with the –
Rachel: The titles are actually really bad. I don’t know who does her titles, but they’re just impossible –
Sarah: Well, they, I, I think the idea was that they would take one word from the previous title and use it in the next one, but for me as a reader, it ended up that I can’t keep them all straight, and I have repeatedly grabbed the wrong one off the shelf, only to grab a different one, and it’s still not the right book.
Rachel: I wish – and they don’t number them, either, so you can’t even remember the number.
Rachel: It’s, it’s – publishers, don’t do this. Please give us numbers.
Sarah: Numbers are hot; we like numbers. But –
Rachel: We do.
Sarah: – I was reading the one with the, with the immortal version of the Amazing Race, basically –
Rachel: Oh, yeah, that’s the second one.
Sarah: Right, and the –
Rachel: With Kaderin.
Sarah: Yes, and, and she’s filing her claws; like, she is just sitting there, chilling out, filing her claws, and I was like, okay, I officially love this character. She’s so rad.
Rachel: Oh, it’s so awesome. Well, there’s a, one of my favorite, well, my favorite character in the series is Regin, who I think is everyone’s – Reginleit – I think is everyone’s favorite, and there’s a scene where she, like, throws a car into a building, ‘cause she’s a Valkyrie and she’s super strong, and she’s really pissed off, but she throws the –
Sarah: Who doesn’t want to throw a car into a building sometimes?
Rachel: Exactly! And she throws, but she was trying to throw this specific dude’s car, but she got the wrong car, so she threw some random person’s car into the building –
Rachel: – and the other character’s only response to this is, wrong car, Regin!
Rachel: And then she throws the right car. She doesn’t, like, not throw a car; she throws the correct car, and I just, I lost it. I just, I just laughed. And she’s, and sometimes Regin’ll make, she went through a phase where she made demons eat things, like radios and stop signs and spare tires, and I just thought that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. I laughed for a good thirty minutes straight about that. It was awesome.
Sarah: That is very cool. So –
Rachel: Although for Regency, I think my, again I’m going to say Tessa Dare, and, but I, I really loved, I just read What Happens in London by Julia Quinn, which I fell in absolute love with. It is an adorable book.
Sarah: I know a number of authors who have talked about how there is, there is a, a similarity of skill in worldbuilding in urban fantasy and worldbuilding in historicals.
Rachel: Yes, actually. Well, actually, it’s so great. Tessa Dare, [smugly] Tessa and I –
Rachel: – had this, we just had this exact conversation where I talked, we talked about worldbuilding, and she’s like, you know, the Regency, in a lot of ways, is a fantasy world, and –
Rachel: – it’s got these rules that everyone understands that are based on historical fact, but they’re, it’s different; you’re in Regency Land, and – but it really is, you have to do this entire worldbuilding, ‘cause it’s a secondary world, just like fantasy is, in that you have to inform the reader. You can’t just say, like, you know, oh, he got into his Honda. You have to describe the carriage. You have to explain to the reader the difference between, like, a phaeton, a phaeton, and, like, a barouche box.
Rachel: You’ve got to tell us these things, ‘cause we don’t know, it’s not our world, and so in a lot of ways, how you think about building a Regency and how you think about building a fantasy, it’s the same thought process, you’re just with different, you know, Empire waist dresses.
Sarah: And at the same time, when you have a reader that has immersed him- or herself in that world, you know that reader is familiar with all the shorthand –
Sarah: – but you still, in a good book, have to provide it in some way to (a) make your world unique and (b) bring in the readers who haven’t read that type of fantasy before.
Rachel: Exactly, and I, and this is where author skill really comes in, because there are some authors, and I actually have a, I actually have a chapter about this, I think, in 2k to 10k called “Teaching Your Reader Magic,” or maybe it’s a blog post. It’s somewhere. But anyway, in this, in the site –
Sarah: There are some words; somewhere are the words. [Laughs]
Rachel: – there are some words somewhere about this. But basically, my kind of philosophy on this – and I think about this a lot as someone who writes fantasy and science fiction and deals almost exclusively with secondary worlds – is you have to teach your reader magic, and a big part of being a good author is teaching the reader without ever letting them know you’re teaching them? You can’t just infodump; you can’t just say, this is how stuff works. You have to weave it into the story naturally so that they don’t know, they never realize they’re being explained, that you’re teaching them something, until it comes time for them to know it, and the trick of balancing all that – I actually call it info-filling; as opposed to info-dumping, you’re info-filling – you’re filling in all of the little cracks in your story with information –
Rachel: – that the reader’s going to need for the rest of your book to make sense, and that’s how you kind of get around, especially in romance, the problem of, you have these readers who know everything and these new readers who know nothing, and your book has to work equally well for both of these groups.
Sarah: And that is a challenge.
Rachel: And that’s a challenge, and so it really comes down to how clever you can be as an author with your descriptions and with when you introduce concepts, because, I mean, one of the things that Regency doesn’t have to do – actually, no, take it back – they kind of have to do is that with, like, I have to deal with magical systems a lot, all my books have their own magic systems for how does magic work. Even in sci, even in my sci-fi, I’ve got some, well, they call it plasma, which is psychic energy, but it’s magic. And – but in Regency, you have to, the magical system is kind of replaced, in a lot of ways, by the peerage, and, with the social rules, because that’s –
Rachel: – an entire rule-based system that you have to master and know that is often the device of the tension in the book. You have a girl, and society’s making her do something, and that’s where the problem of the book lies, and so it’s, it’s the same sort of thing. You have a rule system that you have to teach the reader, and part of being a good author is doing that in an entertaining and delightful way.
Sarah: Absolutely true, and also, when you have a, a system that you must be, as a character, must be fluent in in order to navigate, you either have readers who are already fluent, like you said –
Sarah: – or you have a character that isn’t fluent and has to hurry up and get there without it being too, as you said, infodump-y.
Rachel: Yeah, and the, as an author, the outsider character is one of your, one of your best tools, because they’re the person who doesn’t understand what’s going on and has, they have to have stuff explained to them, and that’s where the reader can learn a lot about what’s going on, and so you have an outsider character, but one of the challenges of Regency fiction and one of the places where I see bad Regencies really kind of flopping is when you have a character who is specifically an insider, like a debutante, you know, who is already in the middle of her first season, so she knows everything, she’s been raised to this world –
Rachel: – she’s an expert. How do you take that expert mindset and translate it to the reader who has no idea what’s going on? And a lot of times you’ll see sort of authors who aren’t as good just have a giant paragraph where they explain it, like she goes to a dancing lesson and you get kind of an as-you-know-Eloise kind of section –
Rachel: – where they just kind of explain things to her versus, again, to bring up Tessa Dare, who I, legitimately is probably one of my favorite authors – I’m not just name dropping, I, I really love her, and I think she’s fantastic – she actually wrote one of my absolute favorite Regencies of all time, which is The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright, and it’s a novella, and it’s not very long, but in these 30,000 words, she created an entire world, an entire social situation, and probably one of the most beautiful romances I’ve ever read, and I’m, by the time I finished, I was actually kind of mad, because I was like, this woman has done in 30,000 words more than I did in three novels –
Rachel: – with her emotional connection. That’s not fair! It’s not fair! And, ‘cause she’s just a master at that, and, but it was, it was beautiful, and so in the hands of someone who really takes the time to think about it, you can really come up with something that’s very beautiful, because, I mean, I went into the, the,The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright was my very first Tessa Dare novel. I, I had never read any of her stuff, I didn’t know any of these characters, I actually don’t even know if they are repeating characters in that one, but anyway, I, I, I was dumped into this world, and I was not familiar, very familiar with Regency at that point, so, and it worked perfectly. I, I wasn’t confused at all.
Sarah: So if someone is a, a romance reader and they’re curious about fantasy or science fiction, other than your own books, which obviously is a given, who would you recommend, or what books do you recommend?
Rachel: Well, I, I actually really like N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. Very beautiful, they’re, they’re just beautifully written books, they’re beautifully, the world is incredibly unique. The, the main characters are characters of color, and N. K. Jemisin herself is such a talented, talented writer, and some people have called out the books as being gimmicky, you know, because they have a black main character, and I’m like, how is that a gimmick? The, the author is black; she wrote a black character. There is no gimmick.
Rachel: I’m white; I wrote a white character. Would you call that a gimmick? No. It’s dumb. Shut up, person.
Sarah: People of color as main characters are a gimmick. That’s a new one!
Rachel: Yeah. I, I’ve heard that one, and that, I’m just, I just want to smack someone through the internet. There should be a smack button instead of a like button.
Sarah: Is there a – there should be. Is there a romance in the Jemisin series?
Rachel: There is! So there’s a romance in each book, actually. It, they’re kind of secondary? So the, the main story is always the fantasy and what’s going on, but there’s definitely romance, especially in the second one. The second one is actually all about a relationship, like, that’s actually the main plot, and in the first one, there’s actually a very kind of hot relationship that’s pretty hot. The, the dude is really hot, so I really like that one. I also, in terms of, like, more romance-y fantasy, I like the G. A. Aiken’s, the About a Dragon [Dragon Kin] series?
Sarah: I love those books so – I’m sorry –
Rachel: Because dragons –
Rachel: – obviously.
Rachel: And those are hilarious, sexy, as we – we talked about this at RT – hyper-violent. They’re –
Sarah: I have the hardest time describing those to people. They are campy, hilarious, extremely violent, super-amazingly-cool fairy tales that are super sexy and extremely hot and also hilarious but also bloody –
Sarah: – and there’s gore, and battles and intestines, and it’s hilarious.
Rachel: It’s great, so on the, on the high-brow side, we have N. K. Jemisin, and on the absolute rollicking fun side, we have About a Dragon –
Rachel: – and G. A. Aiken –
Rachel: – and also, again, other fantasy, like, in terms of sort of more traditional fantasy that still has romantic elements, Jacqueline Carey’s Banewreaker was one of my – it’s, it’s very dense, but it’s basically The Lord of the Rings tord, told from the perspective of the bad guys.
Sarah: Whoa, hello!
Rachel: It was so cool, and it was beautiful and had some of my, like, favorite lines in it, lines that I still quote, just like, one of the characters, and one of them says, death is a coin to be spent wisely, and that’s become, like, one of my mottos in writing. Death is a coin to be spent wisely. But it’s beautiful, and it has, actually, a very beautiful romance. It’s not, it’s not very graphic, but it’s just, just true emotional connection. It was a heart-wrenching, heart-wrenching book. Pair of books; it’s a duology. But if you like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, it’s, and you’re already kind of familiar with her very dense prose and you like that, then Banewreaker was really good. It’s one of her less-known titles, but it’s my favorite. I love it.
Sarah: Cool! So you mentioned earlier that you were working on dragons –
Sarah: – which of course is the thing that I like most.
Sarah: What are, what are you working on, book two?
Rachel: I’m working on, I just, I finished the, the second book about a month ago, which is called One Good Dragon Deserves Another, and – ‘cause we got a theme here –
Rachel: Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another –
Sarah: Of course.
Rachel: Dragon theme, and this book is really fun. It was kind of a bear for me to write because I, I would just, I just had a, I just had a wrong-headed idea about the series and I kept trying to make it work, and it didn’t work, and I can be very stubborn. I kept trying to make it work, and eventually I just had to say, okay, this plot is clearly not working. Let’s back it up and try something totally different –
Rachel: – and that’s when I fixed it, but it took me a lot longer than it should have because of that. But we’re on, we’re on track now, and I’m very excited about the book. It’s all about sort of – you know, in the first book, it was all about Julius gets kicked out – Julius is my nice dragon – gets kicked out in the middle of Detroit, in the DFZ, which is the Detroit Free Zone, which is ruled by a, by a spirit who has ordered all dragons kill on sight, and his dragon form has been sealed, so he’s stuck as a human without all his powers, and he’s really just –he spends the whole book just desperately trying to survive and keep his head above water –
Rachel: – and in the second book, he’s really got his feet under him more, and you really start seeing him kind of come into his own, and it’s, the books are, you know, Julius is twenty-four, so he’s, he’s definitely an adult in these books, but they’re really almost a coming-of-age story, ‘cause Julius was this big slacker. He was, you know, he lived in his, he lived in his mom’s basement of her mountain, basically, and hiding from all of his more powerful siblings, and it’s the story of how this dragon whose motto used to be keep your head down, don’t draw attention, shut up, and hope they go away, started, becomes, starts really coming into his own and standing up for what he believes in, and he is a very nice, nice dragon. He’s a very good person in a world where niceness and goodness are seen as unforgivable weaknesses to be exploited, and so he has to kind of be almost, almost aggressively nice, if that makes sense, and I have a lot of fun with that, ‘cause I really love, I really love the idea of compassion as a, compassion as a strength, because it gets shown as a weakness so much.
Rachel: And so I loved, I love working with that. And also in this book, the secondary character, Marci, who’s the love interest, ‘cause there’s a little romance between Julius and Marci, and she’s a mage, she really comes into her own in this book. Marci is just amazing, and she is so too short for this ride, but makes it work. Oh, it was so fun. Her stuff is so fun to write, but this, I mean, it just goes crazy, and, yeah. I don’t believe in, like, small stories. All my stories always get enormous, and, like, not in terms of word count, but in, just in terms of the scale and the scope. I like to go big or go home, and that definitely happened in this novel, Sarah. It’s going to be really fun.
Sarah: [Laughs] So, you’re work-, you just finished that.
Sarah: And what next?
Rachel: Well, next, actually, I’m going to take a little break from fiction and write this nonfiction followup to 2k to 10k –
Rachel: – because I, I just need a little breather and something different to do –
Sarah: Of course.
Rachel: – and, and then I’m either, I’m waffling –
Rachel: – between going ahead and starting the third dragon novel, because I’m all pumped about it and I want to get the series out, or taking a break from dragons completely, ‘cause I’ve been writing the second one for a year, which is huge for me. I normally write a book in about four months, so – because I messed up so bad, I’ve really burned up a lot of time, and I’m just kind of – I, I was tired of the world. Now I’m all excited about it again, ‘cause that’s how it goes in writing.
Rachel: Very mercurial. But I also have entirely plotted out a new trilogy set in the Paradox world, where Devi, where the Devi Morris books were set, and so it’s more powered armor, and it stars a lady named Bex who is the captain of the largest, craziest crash team in the Blackbird Mercenaries, and so it’s this extremely badass, extremely hardcore female mercenary and all her dark secrets and how she gets into all this trouble and the, the Sainted, it’s all about the Sainted King and the secrets of Paradox, and so that’s going to be really cool. If you liked Fortune’s Pawn and you like the Paradox series it’s going to be a real treat, or if you haven’t read those books, this series will also stand on its own, and it will have a romance, and it’s just going to be super fun.
Sarah: Yay! Awesome!
Rachel: More powered armor and kissing, that’s, that’s my thing.
Sarah: Powered armor, kissing, dragons.
Rachel: I think we just wrote a hit series.
Sarah: Yeah, I, I think that probably would easily make a bestselling trilogy, if not a set of five.
Sarah: Very, very easily. Well, this has been really fun. Thank you so much!
Rachel: Thank you so much for having me on, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that you liked Nice Dragons Finish Last.
Sarah: Oh, dude, seriously. I – dragons.
Sarah: What I particularly like about that book is, is the fact that (a) compassion is a strength when everyone in his family thinks that he’s nuts for actually caring about humans and (b) that he handles Marci’s fascination with him with so much embarrassment. Like –
Rachel: [Laughs] He’s, so she’s like, oh, my God, you’re a dragon.
Sarah: He’s like, yeah.
Rachel: Can you breathe fire? Have you ever eaten a person?
Sarah: Like, yeah, I’m a dragon, sorry.
Rachel: And he’s like –
Sarah: It’s, it’s almost like a twist on the hiding in plain sight celebrity story.
Rachel: Yeah, well –
Sarah: ‘Cause to her, he’s a rock star.
Rachel: Exactly, and, well, what I did was, again, ‘cause I read a lot of paranormal romance, and I specifically kind of set out to make this, like, not an anti-paranormal romance, but just sort of, it missed being a paranormal romance by a little bit?
Rachel: And, ‘cause Julius is not, is not this alpha male dragon. He’s this –
Sarah: He’s totally a beta, and I love –
Rachel: He’s totally a beta –
Sarah: – betas!
Rachel: – he’s totally embarrassed. Like, he, he has this huge crush on Marci, he doesn’t know what to do about it –
Sarah: And instead of I can’t kiss you ‘cause it’ll ruin the friendship, it’s this human is nice to me, and I don’t actually have friends, and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that, because having a friend is weird, but I really like it.
Rachel: It’s, like, the most important thing to him, ‘cause he’s never really had a friend before, because you can’t trust dragons, and all the dragons who would seem to want to be his friend were just using him, and so to have a person who legitimately likes him for friendship, that’s incredibly precious, and even though he really likes her and is very attracted to her, he’s incredibly terrified of ruining this beautiful thing he’s found that he thought he would never have, which is his friendship –
Rachel: – and, and I love that. I love that idea, and I also really like, but I, I get, I joke, you know, if you were to tell the story from Marci’s perspective, she’s totally in a paranormal romance with, like, the most reluctant hero ever, and – [laughs] – but I always joke that I made Julius 5’11” ‘cause he’s one inch too short to be a romance hero. He’s one inch too short –
Rachel: – for that ride.
Sarah: To, to be honest, I have such a thing for beta heroes, so Christ, a beta hero who’s a dragon, I just need to go lie down.
Rachel: And he’s such a, and, and, and I love Julius as a character because he’s such a sweetheart –
Rachel: – and the world is so mean. Like, it’s a, it’s a nasty, nasty world that he’s in, and he’s just, like, nice-ing his way through it, and winning – I always joke that the, the unwritten subtitle of the books is Friendship Is Magic. You know? [Laughs] He goes around, he’s legitimately nice to people, and all these growly dragons kind of start being less growly ‘cause he’s just so gosh-darned nice.
Sarah: [Laughs] Yep.
Rachel: He’s a good kid.
Sarah: And, and his niceness is a liability to him –
Rachel: Oh, yeah.
Sarah: – anywhere else but in his present situation.
Rachel: Yeah, one of my, one of my kind of like mottos in writing is nothing for free but trouble?
Rachel: If, if you’re, if you’re going to get something, you have to either pay for it, or it’s a trap, and you’re going to pay for it later, and so with Julius, you know, he is nice, and every time through the book I gave, there are so many easy outs where he could have just been a mean person, taken advantage of someone, done something that he didn’t believe in, and gotten out with his skin much more easily, and every time I made him stick to his guns, and I just kept testing him over and over again, and it really makes a strong character when you do that, so –
Rachel: – I was very happy with how that came out.
Sarah: Oh, well, I, I really like that book a lot. It’s really weird to say that to the author and be like, oh, my God, beta hero dragon, I’ve got to go, like, take a moment, but yeah.
Rachel: I, I’m so glad you love it, ‘cause I was so worried that no one was going to read this book, ‘cause it’s kind of a weird animal.
Sarah: It is we-, it is –
Rachel: A weird dragon.
Sarah: It’s, it’s a, it’s a weird place between two genres.
Rachel: And that’s kind of the story of my career. I always write –
Rachel: – I always write things that are in the middle. Powered armor and kissing!
Sarah: Oh, uh…
Rachel: And epic fantasy that has urban fantasy pacing and is funny –
Rachel: – but is not really a comedy. You know, it’s, I’m always in the middle, and, and a big reason for that is because I always write what I want to read, and I write what I find cool. I don’t try to write to a genre, I just write whatever I think is awesome. That’s worked both really well and kind of badly for me, because in traditional publishing they really want you to be in a genre, because they –
Sarah: Well, it’s –
Rachel: – they want you to be on a bookshelf.
Sarah: Well, of course. My first book that I coauthored with Candy, who founded the site with me –
Sarah: – Beyond Heaving Bosoms is tagged on the back for book-shelving purposes? Women’s studies/humor. That’s not a shelf.
Rachel: Yeah, that’s –
Sarah: That’s, that’s not a, there’s nobody on that shelf but me, I think. I mean, come – that’s not a shelf. And that book was found everywhere in the bookstores. Some places people put it in romances, in Westerns there was one, technology, blogging, nonfiction, literary criticism? I mean, it was everywhere, because it wasn’t an easy blook, book to shelve, because it’s not clearly one specific thing, so when you straddle two, it’s great for readers but harder to be shelved.
Rachel: Exactly, and, and I, I as a reader, and I know hearing, from hearing from my readers that a lot of readers don’t really care; they just want a cool story with awesome stuff in it, so they don’t really care about what genre it is beyond, you know, I like fantasy, or just, just as a way to label it, and so when I decided I really wanted to try self-publishing some fiction, because I wanted to try it out, and I wanted to make my own covers – I was so excited about that. I really love all the Dragons covers. I think they’re just great.
Sarah: Well, you hired a good illustrator.
Rachel: Oh, I, I was like, this is where my money’s going. I am going to get the cover I want, and I did, and I was very happy. I hired a really good illustrator, ‘cause I wanted them to look indistinguishable from my New York books. I wanted people to just look at them and be like, that, that looks awesome, and not that’s the self-published one.
Sarah: Right, of course.
Rachel: And I think I really achieved that, but I knew I was going to, I knew right off the bat that I was going to try some self-published fiction, and so I was like, what should I write? And I’m like, well, I’m going to write the dragon story, ‘cause there’s, I don’t know, like, if I, if I wrote and I tried to sell it to New York, I think I’d get a, just get a lot of head scratching –
Rachel: – because it’s kind of urban fantasy, kind of post apocalyptic, kind of a romance, kind of a family drama about dragons. You know, it’s just, it’s, it’s a lot of kind-ofs, and that doesn’t really shelve well.
Sarah: Nope, and it’s, it, it’s harder to, to communicate quickly to a bookseller –
Sarah: – what this is, because with all of the books coming –
Rachel: ‘Cause they’re, ‘cause they’re dealing with a giant catalogue.
Sarah: Of course, and they’re dealing with this enormous list of books that are coming out that they need to know what to do with. Librarians, too. Like –
Sarah: – okay, well, it’s kind of like this, and it’s kind of like that. One of the things that I thought was so interesting about 50 Shades of Grey was that it gave a language for people who weren’t familiar with romance to understand what that was. This is contemporary, erotic romance.
Sarah: It is a contemporary novel with erotic content, and then you can say, well, it’s like 50 Shades, but it’s more contemporary, less erotic, or you can say –
Sarah: – this is all of the sexy times. It gave people a language to talk about books that previously they didn’t necessarily understand the differences between contemporary romance and historical romance and romantic suspense and, well, this is contemporary, and this is contemporary, yes, but that is Debbie Macomber, and that is Tiffany Reisz, and those are two different kinds of contemporary romance. One has –
Sarah: – BDSM, and one does not. [Laughs]
Rachel: Yes, and, and I think that, you know, we in the publishing industry are much more concerned about genre than your average readers.
Rachel: I actually always kind of run into a funny problem when I’m you know, if I tell someone, oh, I write books, and they go, oh, what do you write? And I say, oh, I write –
Rachel: – I write fantasy, and they’re like, oh, like Harry Potter.
Sarah: Like elves! Like elves and Harry Potter.
Rachel: …it’s always, it’s always, for me it’s always, oh, like Harry Potter? And I’m like, no, I write adult fantasy. No, not that kind of adult fantasy!
Rachel: Every time! I make the same mistake every time.
Sarah: [Still laughing]
Rachel: And I always, like, yeah, we need – but, you know, a lot of the, you know, ‘cause you can find genres that are broken down so micro they only have, like, two or three books in them. Steampunk Western erotica –
Rachel: – with, that’s set in, you know, the future.
Sarah: Yep. One of the reasons I really like All Romance eBooks when I’m looking for something to read and I don’t know exactly what I want –
Sarah: – is that they have a much more, both All Romance and OmniLit, which are the same company, have a much more –
Rachel: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Sarah: – they are, and they have a – and OmniLit, OmniLit does, like, stuff other than, addition to romance.
Sarah: Omni and All Romance both have a very robust tagging system that has a lot more descriptive terminology for different books, so if you are looking for interracial erotica that’s historical featuring two men –
Sarah: – you can find that very quickly.
Rachel: Absolutely, and I, I really wish that more booksellers would adopt the tag system –
Sarah: I know –
Rachel: – because it’s, it’s much more –
Sarah: – it would be so great.
Rachel: – it’s much easier to find stuff that way, especially if you’re into something that’s not really a genre and is more kind of a feel. Like, you know, I, I like, I really like beta heroes, and if there was a beta hero tag –
Sarah: Oh, God.
Rachel: – on Amazon, I would click it, and I would read sci-fi, and I would read contemporary, and I would read all these things, just ‘cause they had a beta hero in them, not because of the genre, but you have to categorize it somehow, and I, I totally understand the purpose of genres, but as someone who doesn’t color inside the lines, so to speak, I have found that self-publishing is much, has been much more forgiving of that than – and I’m able to price my books a lot cheaper, which is a giant deal for me, because again, I, I, I buy a lot of books. I’m a big book buyer, and I buy a lot of eBooks because that’s kind of my primary entertainment that I, that I have. I, I read all the time, like when I’m sitting on the couch with my kid and he’s watching SpongeBob for the thirtieth time, I’m, I’m reading a novel. The ability to price my book at $4.99 was huge for me, because as a reader, I, it takes a lot for me to buy a book that’s over five bucks.
Sarah: Yep, totally true.
Rachel: And my own books, through Orbit, and I love Orbit, don’t get me wrong, I think they’re a fantastic company, but they’re all priced at $9.99 eBook, and I’m like, the list of people I buy for $9.99 is very short.
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Rachel: And I don’t want to have to be on someone’s short list, ‘cause I don’t think, I, I personally, as reader Rachel, writer Rachel completely aside, Rachel the book consumer wants novels to be in the, you know, five to six bucks range or lower. That’s what I love. That’s what I buy.
Rachel: I have not bought books I’ve been interested in because of price, and I very much disagree with the current publishing pricing strategy for eBooks. Being able to do my own pricing on Nice Dragons and give my fans a book at half the price of my normal books was a really, really, really big thing for me, and I was very happy to be able to do it.
Sarah: And that is all for this week’s podcast. I want to thank Rachel Aaron for hanging out with me and talking about all of the things, and if you’re thinking to yourself, I wish to read many or all of those books, you can visit the podcast entry at Smart Bitches, and we will have all of the books linked so you can find them and buy them for your very, very own.
This podcast was brought to you by InterMix, publisher of Ever Night, the sexy new paranormal novella from New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter. You can download it wherever eBooks are sold.
And as always, the music is provided by Sassy Outwater, and you can find her on Twitter @SassyOutwater. She is facing brain surgery imminently, so, dude, kick the brain tumor’s ass, please. This is “The Naughty Step,” and it is by the Peatbog Faeries from their CD Dust. You can find them on their website or on iTunes or wherever all your good music is sold. You should just definitely have Peatbog in your life, however. It’s just a requirement at this point.
Future podcasts will include me talking to really interesting people about things that are interesting, because, well, that’s how we roll. I also have an awesome number of listener mail, and if you’re thinking, I want to ask questions to me or Jane or any of the guests that we’ve had, you can email us at[email protected].
But in the meantime, on behalf of Rachel Aaron and Jane and myself, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a great weekend.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.