First Sale Stories: Robin Owens, "HeartMate"
Lynda: What’s the name of your first book?
Lynda: When was it published?
Robin: December, 2001
Lynda: Which publishing house?
Robin: Berkley Jove (which became a part of Penguin Putnam during the time I submitted and sold).
Lynda: What’s it about?
Robin: A man meeting and courting his HeartMate, along with his telepathic animal companion, an alley cat with attitude.
The prophecy: Today you will meet your HeartMate. T'Ash survived the slums then avenged his family's death. He knows Danith is the future of his clan. Danith knows T'Ash is noble, powerful and dangerous. Not for her. The second prophecy: A woman surrounded by peril...
Lynda: What was the inspiration for the book?
Robin: I had a bloodstone pendulum I was playing with, and I’d always wanted to write another world with a Celtic (hey the name is Owens) background and a pagan society. I just started writing. “Today you will meet your HeartMate,” says T’Ash’s Divination Dice as he rolls them. Then I had to make a world where a guy could do divination and BELIEVE it and not be thought of as weird or a wimp.
Lynda: Is it part of a series?
Robin: Yes, the “Heart” series from Berkley.
Lynda: What do you like most about your main characters?
Robin: Their vulnerabilities. They all have a blind spot they must recognize and overcome.
Lynda: What’s your favorite aspect of the book?
Robin: Like my readers, I like the telepathic animals with attitude. I use them in several ways, but mostly for comic relief. The cats can be tricksters and occasionally mentors.
Lynda: How long have you been writing fiction?
Robin: Mumbledy-mumble on seriously writing. Over a decade.
Lynda: Is this your first paranormal manuscript?
Robin: “HeartMate” wasn’t. It was my fourth completed book. Books 1 and 2 included paranormal.
Lynda: Is paranormal your main focus?
Robin: Fantasy/magic is my main focus.
Lynda: What attracts you about the characters you write about?
Robin: Magic enriches and complicates their lives and can’t solve their problems. But they have a true love out there, a HeartMate and usually one of the couple goes searching for them.
Lynda: How long did it take to sell your book, from the time you finished your manuscript?
Robin: My fourth book? 4 Years. To sell after I seriously started writing? 8-9 years. I wrote my first book during five months.
Lynda: Did you have an agent when you sold your first book?
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?
Robin: Both. A good agent is priceless. Keep your manuscripts out there, circulating. Always.
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?
Robin: A couple of times. There was only one publisher releasing stories like mine and I took first and second place judged by the senior editor for “HeartMate” and “Heart Thief.” They rejected “HeartMate.” That crushed me for about six months. Then, in November 2000 I decided to cut down on my writing time since I was getting nowhere and did, until I sold in January 2001.
Lynda: You don’t have to mention numbers, but did you get a nice advance?
Robin: I liked it at the time.
Lynda: What was the process of revisions/rewrites like?
Robin: For “HeartMate,” not bad. I sold on the complete ms. so she knew the story and my writing.
Lynda: Did your agent suggest changes?
Robin: I was between agents. I revised for a previous agent.
Lynda: What was it like, working with the editor at your publishing house?
Robin: Good. She knows her stuff.
Lynda: Do you have any words of wisdom for us regarding rewrites/revisions?
Robin: I usually polish several times before submission, and give to my friends to read. If more than 1 person makes a comment or if my friends or editor says something won’t work, then I change it.
Lynda: Were there any surprises for you about the contract you signed?
Robin: The whole contract was a surprise. I went over it with a published author. Most particularly that it was fine print on legal sized paper. You don’t see a lot of legal sized documents anymore.
Lynda: Do you get a lot of help marketing your book, or do you have to do it yourself?
Robin: Not a lot of help.
Lynda: What’s your best marketing advice?
Robin: Write a good book and send out Advanced Readers Copies.
Lynda: Did you have input about your cover?
Robin: Yes, always. They didn’t always listen to me and I’ve often had to write something from the cover into the book.
Lynda: Have you done any book signings? If so, what were they like?
Robin: Yes. The first is always great. The multi-author ones can be good. Others can be horrifying and humiliating.
Lynda: If you could go back and do something differently, what would that be?
Robin: I think I’d make the world easier to understand in the first book. Let it filter more gradually.
Lynda: What are your writing plans for the future?
Robin: To keep selling. I have 2 more Heart books and hope to sell the last 3 books in my Luna series.
Lynda: What advice would you give to all the pre-published writers out there?
Robin: Don’t do it if you don’t love it. Make your book shine. Never quit.
Lynda: How can readers find out more about you?
Robin: I have a daily blog about Writing and Publishing (including sample copy edit pages) at http://www.robindowens.blogspot.com and my website is http://www.robindowens.com
Thanks for the interesting questions. Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!