Monday, February 06, 2006

First Sale Stories: Kerrelyn Sparks, "How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire"

Lynda: What is the name of your first book?

Kerrelyn: In the Paranormal Universe, my first book is How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire. In the normal universe, which I have apparently left for good, my first book was a historical romance titled For Love or Country.

Lynda: When was it published?

Kerrelyn: How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire zoomed out of the bat cave in August, 2005, and it’s still on the move (in other words, it’s still selling, and that makes me very happy!).

Lynda: Which publishing house?

Kerrelyn: HarperCollins, otherwise known as Avon Books.

Lynda: What's it about?

Kerrelyn: A millionaire vampire! And the mortal woman who captures his heart and fixes his fang. Yes, she’s a dentist, and the poor guy loses a fang one night biting something he shouldn’t have. If she fixes his fangs, will he use them on her?

Lynda: What was the inspiration for the book?

Kerrelyn: I was thinking about embarrassing situations, and I thought it would be really awful (and funny) if a vamp lost a fang and ended up a lopsided eater for all eternity. Oh, the shame! Oh, what fun! And the book was off and running…

Lynda: Is it part of a series?

Kerrelyn: Yes! The next one is Vamps and the City which releases April 25, 2006. A novella in a Christmas anthology follows in November 2006. At this time, the novella is titled A Very Vampy Christmas.

Lynda: What do you like most about your main characters?

Kerrelyn: That even though they are creatures of the night, they’re still so human. Even a vampire can have a bad day, or night, that is. And even a vampire needs to be loved.

Lynda: What's your favorite aspect of your book?

Kerrelyn: Vampires are so much FUN!!! They get to do everything our mothers told us not to do—stay up all night partying, sleep all day, and play with their food!

Lynda: How long have you been writing fiction?

Kerrelyn: I started writing in 1998.

Lynda: Is this your first paranormal manuscript?

Kerrelyn: How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire was my first completed paranormal manuscript. I had other ideas started, but when the Millionaire Vampire came along, he demanded all my attention. What a guy .

Lynda: Is paranormal your main focus?

Kerrelyn: Yes! Normal is just too normal, you know!

Lynda: What attracts you about vampires?

Kerrelyn: They are the ultimate Bad Boys, oh so sexy and naughty. Who can resist them?

Lynda: How long did it take to sell your book, from the time you finished your manuscript?

Kerrelyn: Well, here’s a little lesson in the importance of being marketable. I had several completed manuscripts of American-set historical romances sitting on editors’ desks for a year, and I was still waiting for a reply. (American-set historicals are not selling right now). Meanwhile, I wrote a proposal (three chapters and a synopsis) for How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, and within a week of it being sent out, I received several offers from major publishing houses. My agent was having a field day! I was a nervous wreck. After a few days of bidding wars, the book went to Avon in a pre-empt.

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?

Kerrelyn: Yes, I went through several hard years. I sold my first book, a historical romance in 2000. It took two years for it to get published, and in that time, my editor quit, and the publisher decided to totally ditch their historical romance line. So, in 2002, when my first book made its debut, my career was already in a nose dive. My agent gave up on me, and I thought my career was over before it had barely begun. But I persevered and found a new agent who totally believes in me. Bless her! Still, we had trouble selling my historicals, and I realized it was time to re-invent myself. And boy, am I glad I did! I am having so much fun writing paranormal comedy. I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

Lynda: Did you have an agent when you sold your book?

Kerrelyn: Yes, my agent is the totally fabulous Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas.

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?

Kerrelyn: Finding an agent is very hard, about as hard as finding a publisher. You need to be really ready, and I recommend having some great-sounding credentials in your query letter, for instance your manuscript won first place in several contests.

Lynda: You don't have to mention numbers, but did you get a nice advance?

Kerrelyn: I’m slowly getting there. The trick with advances is that you want a nice one, but you also want one that you can actually earn. If you fail to earn back your advance a few times, you’ll probably be dropped by that publisher.

Lynda: What was the process of revisions/rewrites like?

Kerrelyn: Painful. Tedious. But also a valuable learning experience when you have a great editor.

Lynda: If you had an agent, did she/he suggest changes?

Kerrelyn: No. Michelle never does any editing on my work, and that’s the way we both like it. I have a wonderfully supportive and vicious critique group, and by the time a manuscript survives their scrutiny, it’s in really good shape.

Lynda: What was it like, working with the editor at your publishing house?

Kerrelyn: I’ve learned a great deal from Erika Tsang. She’s very smart and supportive.

Lynda: Do you have any words of wisdom for us about revisions/rewriting, etc.?

Kerrelyn: Your book will be a better one for it, so grit your teeth and do it.

Lynda: Do you get a lot of help with marketing your book, or do you have to do most of it yourself?

Kerrelyn: Avon is giving me a lot of support. For instance, they hosted the Bloody Mary Brunch last year at the Romantic Times Convention, and asked me and Kim Harrison to be the guest authors. They provided me with 400 ARCs to sign, and they fed all the people who came. It was fantastic! I also do a lot of promotion on my own.

Lynda: Did you have input about your cover?

Kerrelyn: Avon always asks for my input, but they go with their own ideas, which is okay because they are the experts at marketing, not me.

Lynda: Have you done any events or book signings? If so, what was that like?

Kerrelyn: Booksignings can be awesome, like the 350 books I signed at RT in two hours. Or they can be boring and lame, without a single book sold. But I’m always happy to get to know the booksellers, so I never count them as a loss.

Lynda: If you could go back and do something differently, what would that be?

Kerrelyn: I would have switched to paranormal more quickly.

Lynda: What's your next manuscript about?

Kerrelyn: I’m starting the third full-length book in my vampire series. It’s called Vampires in Kilts.

Lynda: What advice are you willing to give to all the pre-published writers out there?

Kerrelyn: Believe in yourself. Never give up. No writing, even if it’s rejected, is a loss of your time and effort. It’s all part of the learning curve, and it taught you things you needed to know. Never give up. Join a writing community like RWA so you can enjoy the support and camaraderie of other writers. Keep writing and learning. Never give up. I have some writing tips on my website at the imaginary writing school of Wannamarry U. Website is Best wishes for everyone’s success!


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