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AUTHOR VIP

Renee Ryan

 

June 2016

Note - This is Renee's second visit to my monthly spotlight page. If you're interested in reading the interview from her first visit, you can find it at http://winniegriggs.com/author_vip_RRyan.php


WG:   Welcome and thanks for making this return visit into my monthly spotlight. To start off, please tell us about yourself.

RR:   Thanks for having me, Winnie. Not to go overboard with the gushing, but you know you're one of my favorite authors and I consider you a great friend. It's a real honor to be here.

I grew up in a small Florida beach town where I learned how to surf, skateboard and waterski, all with varying degrees of failure. I'm better suited for the mountains, something I didn't learn until I was well into adulthood. My husband and I are empty-nesters. Both our children are happily married and we're enjoying a new season in life as grandparents to a beautiful baby girl. So many joys and blessings ahead.


WG:   What do you do differently now than when you began your career and why?

RR:   I consider my brand. I didn't always, to the determent of my career. Now, whenever I'm about to launch into a new project I consider how the book will enhance my brand. I want my readers to pick up a Renee Ryan book and know what they're getting before they read the first page, at least in terms of tone, storyline, themes, and voice. When I first started out I wrote whatever story called to me. I have a backlist of books written during contemporary time periods, some with western settings, a few other historical settings, and two WWII romantic thrillers. This jumping around has made it more difficult to build a readership. Lesson learned.


WG:   What piece of advice would you give your newbie-writer self, based on what you know now?

RR:   See my answer above. :) I would "pick and stick" to one time period (and setting) from the first ten books and then branch out from there.


WG:   Back when you first started writing books you probably had certain expectations and assumptions about what your career would look like moving forward. How has the reality stacked up?

RR:   I thought writing would get easier and my career would go smoother once I made that first sale. Not so, on either count! The writing only seems to get harder and the sales don't just magically appear once a book is finished. Even after publishing over twenty books I still haven't figured it out. All I can do is write the best book I can and go from there.


WG:   Have you set new career goals for yourself and if so would you like to share them?

RR:   I focus on the writing first, career second. This puts the emphasis on the things I can control. Every career goal starts with my writing. I strive to produce a better book than the last. That means learning new tricks and stretching my skills with every word, page, scene and chapter I write. Only then do I worry about gaining the largest audience possible.


WG:   What changes in the publishing/book industry have most affected your work since you were first published?

RR:   The emergence of ebooks and ebook readers has opened up access to larger audiences. With so many potential avenues for publication there is less need to adhere to tight publisher guidelines and more opportunity for growth as an author. This is incredibly freeing, artistically, and scary, career wise. I'm still navigating the waters but, in general, I find myself writing books with broader universal themes and more complex characters.


WG:   Are you anticipating any future changes in your own career- a new writing venture, a new genre or form, changing your publication format?

RR:   I'm branching out into longer historical romances (90,000+ words). I've loved writing for Harlequin Love Inspired, but I'm finding the longer word counts with Waterfall Press liberating. I'm able to explore theme and character in ways that the shorter books simply won't allow. I'm also starting a new series set during the Gilded Age in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. Researching this time period has been a joy.


WG:   Has your writing process changed over the years and if so, how?

RR:   I used to spend weeks, sometimes months, plotting a new book. With tighter deadlines and a desire to write more books per year, I don't have the luxury of that anymore. One way around this is plotting with friends. We meet weekly via Skype and flesh out any plot holes and character inconsistencies. This has saved valuable amounts of time.


WG:   What is your favorite social media platform and how does it factor into your work? Do you use it primarily to interact with fans or for promotion, or in some other way?

RR:   I'm a Facebook girl all the way. I don't use it as a platform for gaining new readers. However, I do believe it's a great avenue for the care and feeding of my current fan base. I try to avoid too much promotion, unless it's release time. Most days, I simply offer a look into my rather boring life. Both of my cats are Internet stars. At least, that's what they think. No need to burst their little kitty bubbles. :)


WG:   Speaking of which, how do you most like to interact with your fans?

RR:   I love Facebook and email. I have a website, but that's more a place for a reader to get initial information about my upcoming releases and backlist titles rather than interaction with me.


WG:   And what are your go-to methods when promoting a book?

RR:   Facebook, a mini blog tour that I set up myself, a Goodreads giveaway or two and not much else. I keep it simple, primarily because I believe the very best promotion is writing the next book. I take about a week off after a project, clean my very dirty house, and then I dig into the next book.


WG:   Are there any new authors you've just discovered and can't wait to see more from?

RR:   I've recently discovered Loretta Chase. I read a few of her titles in the past, but now...I'm hooked! I've been listening to her backlist on Audible and am savoring every delectable word. She has a lovely writer voice and is brilliant at character development. I just love her work!


WG:   Do you believe in writer's block? If not, what is it that causes those tough writing days? If you do, any tricks to get past it?

RR:   I don't believe in writer's block. I believe in writer's burnout. Every time I find myself "blocked" or avoiding the keyboard, it's usually because I've been writing too many projects back to back, or coming off a difficult revision. Once I admit I'm burned out, I take a few days to be kind to myself and then force myself to sit back in the chair and write. Once I get into a rhythm, the words start flowing again.


WG:   Do you find it useful to talk to other writers? What does having a community of fellow writers do for you?

RR:   I absolutely could not do this career without being in community with other writers. This is a solitary profession that no one but other writers fully understand. I wouldn't want a world without gab-time with fellow authors.


WG:   Did you ever receive a piece of advice- on life, love, writing, anything!- that really stuck with you and informed any aspect of your writing career?

RR:   Early in my career, I went to a booksigning for Karen Robards. She told me to, "start and finish projects." It was good advice, a reminder to act like a working writer even before I was a working writer. In today's publishing climate, this advice is even more appropriate. Finishing projects means more books for my readers. Win-win!


WG:   What question do you get from your readers over and over and over again? And how do you respond?

RR:   "Where do you get your ideas?" That seems to be the question I field from every new person I meet, not just readers. My short response is: Everywhere. My longer response is: EVERYWHERE! In all seriousness, I have absolutely no idea where the ideas come from. I think creative writers' brains work differently than other brains. We see a scenario and immediately start thinking…What if?


WG:   Everyone gets negative feedback from time to time- from reviewers, editors, readers. Has your reaction to these changed over the years?

RR:   I would love to say I have a thicker skin, but that wouldn't be accurate. I still get upset over negative feedback. The day that I don't is the day I'm done writing, because it means I'm no longer striving to write a better book each time I sit at the computer. What's changed is my perspective. Instead of allowing negative feedback to wipe me out for days (weeks!) at a time, I'm able to put the criticism into a more workable scenario. I take what seems helpful, wallow in self-pity for a few hours and then I move on. Or as a good friend says, I "suck it up buttercup" and get to work.


WG:   On the other end of things, what is one piece of positive feedback you've gotten that really stuck with you in a good way?

RR:   I've been told I'm a professional and a joy to work with. This compliment has influenced every aspect of my career. I do my best to turn in manuscripts on time. I try to be open to revisions and other suggestions. I give editors the best product I can. I answer email promptly and return edits before their due date. Do I manage these things all the time, every time? No, but knowing that I have a reputation to uphold makes it easier to live up to those high expectation.


WG:   Is there a book that's been knocking around in your head that you've never gotten around to writing? What would it take to get it down on paper?

RR:   There's another WWII book I would love to write. Not a thriller, or an Inspirational, but a straight Women's Fiction with a German heroine married to an SS officer who ends up saving hundreds of children from inside her homeland. Right now, the research involved for this kind of project is time prohibitive. One day…


WG:   What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?

RR:   I had dinner with Oprah. Yes, that Oprah!


WG:   Tell us about your upcoming plans.

RR:   My current release is Journey's End. It's the first book in my new series, Gilded Promises. The story is about Caroline St. James. Having grown up on the mean streets of nineteenth-century London, Caroline is used to fighting to survive.

So when her beloved mother-abandoned and ignored by her wealthy family-suddenly dies, the scrappy twenty-two-year-old devises a plan to right this terrible wrong. With nothing to lose, she sails to New York to find the man who turned a cold shoulder to her mother's suffering: Caroline's grandfather. To settle the family score, Caroline infiltrates her grandfather's privileged world, hoping to sabotage his business from the inside. But as she sets her plot in motion, she meets Jackson Montgomery, a virtuous man who is struggling to recover from a family scandal of his own. As their friendship grows, and Caroline begins to piece together the motives that led her family to turn its back, she is forced to make a decision: Should she risk everything in the name of justice? Or can she look toward the future and let love and forgiveness guide her instead?


WG:   And before we close, tell us how readers can get in touch with you.

RR:   I'm on Facebook as Renee Ryan. My Twitter handle is @ReneeRyanBooks. My website address is: www.reneeryan.com


WG:   Thanks so much for coming back to update me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!

 

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