About Marcia James:
Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven Romance Writers of America contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command. Her releases include Sex & the Single Therapist (a comic romantic mystery) and Heating Up the Holidays (a sexy novella). In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, she is enjoying “researching” and plotting her novels’ steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years.
What inspires you to write?
I love romance novels and their guaranteed happy endings, so when I began writing fiction, I wrote contemporary romance. Thanks to my sometimes offbeat humor, I have a comic writing “voice,” and enjoy putting my heroes and heroines into funny situations. I support animal shelters and pet rescue groups, so I always include dogs and cats in my books, and they’re always adopted vs. bought from puppy mills, for example. As a reader myself, I know that romance novels can bring upbeat and heartwarming entertainment into people’s lives. I’m proud to be part of the romance community.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a plotter, not a seat-of-your-pants, character-driven author — although I envy those authors who have characters talking in their heads. I don’t plot out the entire book ahead of time, but I do note the main points in my manuscript — such as the first meet of the hero and heroine and the dark moment when all seems lost. Each day I start by reading over and editing what I wrote the day before. Since I enjoy word play, I like for my sentences and paragraphs to build on each other, so I definitely write in chronological order. (Although when I first started out, I wrote scenes as they came to me, and that was often out-of-order.) I always have a notebook with me when I’m out of my home office, so I can jot down ideas and dialogue when I think of them. Then I type my notes into the manuscript and expand them until they’re polished pages. I don’t use any software beside Microsoft Word. And I don’t write character sketches. I do, however, have a continuity document that I use to copy-and-paste important facts into from my manuscript. For example, when I write that my heroine has chestnut brown hair that she wears in a long braid down her back, I passed that information into my Story Notes document under the heroine’s subhead. That way, I don’t accidentally change her hair to strawberry blonde halfway through the story.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
The way I usually work with my characters is I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine how they would react in different circumstances. So I don’t talk to my characters, although sometimes I’ll think of dialogue that seems to have come directly from the character himself/herself. For example, in my comic romantic mystery, SEX & THE SINGLE THERAPIST, the hero is frustrated by not understanding the heroine’s Southern sayings. In the middle of an argument, she says, “Don’t pee down my back and tell me it’s raining.” And he looks skyward and says, “It’s like a f-ing foreign language!”
What advice would you give other writers?
Most writers begin their careers by focusing on the craft of writing, which is vital, of course. But it’s also very important to learn the business side of publishing SIMULTANEOUSLY to learning the craft side. So many authors are spending all of their time writing and submitting to agents and editors. Then, when they do sell their book, they have incredible pressure to have the perfect website, to build their social media contacts, to have print or logoed giveaway items, etc. There’s no time to learn about those things after “The Call.” But there are a lot of things an author can do before selling to establish their brand, create their website and social media pages, etc.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My first book and several novellas were traditionally published before self-publishing really took off. I was published by several small presses, as well as in a Berkley anthology. However, I wanted the control over every aspect of my books that self-publishing offers. I can create the covers, choose my own titles, publish when and where I want, etc. Self-publishing means being the CEO of your own press, which comes with a lot of responsibilities. But the rewards outweigh the workload. However, I do think that some pre-published authors would benefit from being small-press-published before they go out on their own. That way, the publisher can handle certain jobs and allow the author the time to learn about self-promotion and other things it’s good to know before self-publishing.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Things are evolving so quickly, I have no idea what publishing will be like in the future. I can’t believe how much it’s changed since I sold my first book nine years ago. There are so many talented and creative authors who are leading the way — self-publishing, working as hybrid (self-pubbed and traditionally pubbed) authors, handling their own foreign translations, etc. And they share what they know with others. For example, I was invited to be part of a ten-author ebook boxed set last fall (ROMANCING CHRISTMAS), and it was such a great experience, I’m part of another one (SPRING INTO LOVE) this May. Romance authors are particularly good about helping fellow authors, so networking will continue to be an important part of authors’ careers in the future.
What do you use?: Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: Funny, sexy contemporary romances, comic romantic mysteries
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print