First Sale Stories: Teresa Medeiros, "After Midnight," "The Vampire Who Loved Me"
Lynda: What is the name of your first book?
Teresa: My very first book was "Lady of Conquest," which was published by Berkley in 1989 and reprinted by Bantam in 1998. I've published sixteen books since then, including three paranormals -- "Breath of Magic" (1996), "Touch of Enchantment" (1997) and my very first vampire historical romance "After Midnight" in 2005. I just put the finishing touches on the sequel, "The Vampire Who Loved Me," which will be released in October 2006.
Lynda: Which publishing house?
Teresa: I've written for Berkley and Bantam, but I'm currently with Avon Books.
Lynda: What are your books about?
Teresa: I like to call "After Midnight" my "Jane Austen meets Dracula" book since it's set in the Regency era. When my intrepid heroine Caroline Cabot discovers her younger sister is being courted by Adrian Kane, a mysterious viscount who is rumored to be a vampire, she's forced to do some sleuthing on the sly. She soon finds herself falling beneath his bewitching spell and some delightful complications ensue when he arouses more than just her suspicions ;)
Lynda: What was the inspiration for the book?
Teresa: The original inspiration for the book was simply one line that popped into my head, "Our sister is marrying a vampire."
Lynda: Is it part of a series?
Teresa: I just turned in the sequel, "The Vampire Who Loved Me" (October 2006). In "After Midnight," Caroline's sister Portia and Adrian's brother Julian make a rather shocking connection toward the end of the book. When "The Vampire Who Loved Me" opens, Julian has returned to London after a five year absence and Portia tracks him down in a seedy gambling establishment to collect on a debt he owes her.
Lynda: What do you like most about your main characters?
Teresa: Portia is the kind of girl who makes things happen. She's nursed this crush on Julian for over five years, but when they meet again, he quickly discovers that she's not the enchanting girl he remembered, but a grown woman, with a woman's heart and a woman's desires. I love Julian because he's that archetypal "fallen angel" of a hero. He desperately needs saving, but he won't admit it--not even to himself. He's also really dangerous and hot! ;)
Lynda: What's your favorite aspect of your book?
Teresa: Definitely the passion between the two main characters. They're always on the verge of either kissing or killing each other. The banter between them came really naturally because they had such strong chemistry and a rich history from the first book of the series.
Lynda: How long have you been writing fiction?
Teresa: I've been writing fiction for 22 years. I started my first novel when I was 21.
Lynda: Is this your first paranormal manuscript?
Teresa: I wrote two other paranormals in '96 and '97. Those were my "time-traveling witch books", "Breath of Magic," and "Touch of Enchantment." They're both still in print.
Lynda: Is paranormal your main focus?
Teresa: I've always loved a touch of paranormal in my stories, even if it's just a family curse like in "Fairest of Them All." For me, the story comes first. So if it's a story best told with paranormal elements, I don't hesitate to use them. But I've also written several straight historicals.
Lynda: What attracts you about vampires?
Teresa: I love that the vampire can be the classic alpha hero. I find the edge of danger he brings into the heroine's life to be very sexy. In my vampire books, there's something truly at stake--even something as precious and eternal as a soul--and I think that gives the story an extra resonance.
Lynda: How long did it take to sell your book, from the time you finished your manuscript?
Teresa: When I finished my very first book, I sent it to one publisher, where it languished for a year. During that time, I learned how to market a book. When the manuscript finally popped back onto my doorstep, I sent a query letter to 22 different publishers and ended up selling the book within three months.
Lynda: Thinking about the notion of "It's always darkest before the dawn," what was the lowest point in the process for you? Was there a time you almost gave up?
Teresa: I left my first publisher after two books over a contract dispute. I knew at the time that I might never publish again, but I felt so strongly that I was in the right that I was willing to take the risk. Obviously, it paid off!
Lynda: Did you have an agent when you sold your book?
Teresa: I sold the first two books without an agent, then got an agent that I've been with now for 16 years. She's fabulous!
Lynda: Do you recommend that a pre-published writer focus on finding an agent first, or do you think it's OK to submit directly to the publisher?
Teresa: Since getting a decent agent these days can be very difficult, I think a writer may have no choice but to submit directly to a publisher. The trick is to educate yourself and to not sign a bad contract for two or three books. If they're offering sub-standard terms, then only sign for one book, then go back to trying to get an agent as a "published author".
Lynda: You don't have to mention numbers, but did you get a nice advance?
Teresa: I got $2500 for my very first book. I heard later that even the editor was embarrassed by the offer :)
Lynda: What was the process of revisions/rewrites like?
Teresa: I worked on my first book FOREVER! Instead of writing ten books, I re-wrote my first book ten times. But it got a little better with each reworking. Now I pretty much revise as I go along so there's very little editing or revising to do by the time I finish a book. I've been told I turn in a very "clean" manuscript.
Lynda: If you had an agent, did she/he suggest changes?
Teresa: We agreed from the beginning that my agent would leave the creative end of the process to me and the editor. She does provide those services to those clients who request them.
Lynda: What was it like, working with the editor at your publishing house?
Teresa: I've been very fortunate because I've never worked with an editor who wasn't trying to make my work better. I never mind making any change that accomplishes that.
Lynda: Do you have any words of wisdom for us about revisions/rewriting, etc.?
Teresa: Don't ever forget that revising is a huge portion of the writing process itself. Natural talent is very helpful in this business but writing is a craft and as such, it can be learned and improved, which is where revising comes in. Invest in a copy of Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style," and learn how to write a good sentence. Then learn how to revise it to make it a great sentence. You can have the most unique, wonderful, creative ideas in the world but if you can't communicate those ideas to your reader in powerful and effective prose, you will never be a successful writer.
Lynda: Were there any surprises for you about the contract you signed?
Teresa: I negotiated my first contract myself but I did go over every single clause with a book about publishing so at least I understood what I was signing.
Lynda: Do you get a lot of help with marketing your book, or do you have to do most of it yourself?
Teresa: I've found the most effective marketing tools are my website at http://www.teresamedeiros.com/ and my blog (http://www.squawkradio.com/), which I share with Lisa Kleypas, Christina Dodd, Elizabeth Bevarly, Connie Brockway and Eloisa James. I think a lot of new readers have discovered me through those tools. The publisher is also wonderful about doing targeted marketing. In April they're sending me on the Levy AUTHORS AT SEA cruise, which is a promotional cruise that gives you the opportunity to sail the Mexican Riviera with readers who have paid for the privilege of hanging out with a bunch of authors. I can't wait to meet them!
Lynda: Did you have input about your cover?
Teresa: Avon is wonderful about showing me the cover ahead of time so my agent and I can make suggestions. For the cover of "The Vampire Who Loved Me," I actually sent them an ad for a male cologne and they were able to pattern the cover after the ad.
Lynda: Have you done any events or book signings? If so, what was that like?
Teresa: I've done tons of events and book signings. My favorites are the ones that are romance specific like the Literacy Signing at the annual RWA conference. Those are wonderful because you get to meet so many devoted romance readers and they're just delightful!
Lynda: If you could go back and do something differently, what would that be?
Teresa: I might take a pen name, simply because "Teresa Medeiros" is a little hard to say and spell. I wonder if "Nora Roberts" is available? ;)
Lynda: What would you do exactly the same way?
Teresa: I would write exactly the same books, even the ones that didn't sell as well as the others. I would choose the same agent. And I would hope to make the same friends, because they're definitely one of the greatest blessings of this business!
Lynda: What advice are you willing to give to all the pre-published writers out there?
Teresa: You'll need three things to get published--talent, luck and perseverance. Out of those three, perseverance is probably the most crucial. You can outlast about 75% of your competition simply by not giving up.