Dana Marton On The Beauty of Social Media + Her Advice To Authors In A Hurry to Get Published

dana martonName: Dana Marton
Author’s Website, Twitter, Facebook
Education: M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction.
Briefly: Author of 40 novels that have been translated into a dozen languages. Two million copies sold world-wide. Recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence. Rita Award Finalist. Recipient of the Reviewers Choice Award. Currently the #6 suspense author on Amazon.
Favorite Read: Absolutely impossible to narrow down to one book.
Author Crush: Nora Roberts. I love her books more than I can say. Susan Elizabeth Phillips makes me laugh out loud every time. And I’m completely in love with Susan Mallery’s stories. I want to move to Fools Gold, her fictional town.
Fiction How-To Book You’d Recommend: Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman
Pet Peeves: Software upgrades! I’m rushing to deadline at the moment and have been suddenly switched to the new Yahoo email format and Windows 8. This slows me down incredibly. Someday I’m going to write a novel where terrible, horrible things are going to happen to people who roll out new software versions without giving their customers a choice. I might even leave romance and dip into the horror genre for this one!
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…An artist! I love painting. I’m not very good at it, but that doesn’t stop me from ruining any number of perfectly good white canvasses. When I finally got to write an artist heroine (for Deathscape), I had a blast. The first time I told my husband about my painting obsession, he just shook his head. It took me 13 years of writing before my first book was finally published. That first book made me $4,000 dollars that entire year. So when I brought up painting, my husband said, “Do you realize people who paint make even less money than writers?” And then he recommended that if I’m shooting for the ‘most starving artist’ title, perhaps give sculpting a try. [Laughter] Maybe that’s next!
What You Have Lined Up Next: Next is Dangerous Attraction, coming out November 10th. It’s a boxed set with 9 other bestselling authors. 10 romantic suspense novels all in one. We are putting it at 99c for a couple of days, as a gift to our readers. I can’t believe I’m in a set with some of my favorite authors! Marie Astor, Jill Sanders, Toni Anderson, Lori Ryan, Kaylea Cross, Sharon Hamilton, Debra Burroughs, Patricia Rosemoor and Rebecca York. The set was so much fun to put together. I can’t wait to introduce my readers to some of my author friends. I absolutely love the stories included in this set. I’m seriously hopping with excitement as we’re waiting for our release day.

What’s the earliest book-related memory that comes to your mind right now?

When I was in elementary school, a book salesman came to town and went from house to house. We lived in a very small town. He sold sets of books. I just got some new furniture for my room that had a built-in bookshelf. My father asked the guy if he had a set that would fit that shelf. He had a twenty book set that fit perfectly, so my father bought the set for me. Not choosing by book, but which set had the right width! They turned out to be classics: Wuthering Heights and Captain Nemo, Robinson Crusoe etc. I started reading them and absolutely fell in love. I completely skipped the reading kids books stage.

As one of the publishing world’s romance suspense queens, when you’re writing a book in that genre, do you try to space out the ratio of romance versus suspense?

Oooh, nobody called me a queen before. It’s very undeserved, but I like it! About pacing…Sadly, I’m not organized enough to plan out anything in advance. I go where my characters take me. They tend to have a contest that’s called: Who can give Dana more gray hairs? If I even think about some nice easy plot movement, for sure they’ll go in the opposite direction and do something completely unexpected.

Jennifer Porter pointed out how you broke away from the romance-suspense genre for a bit with your book The Third Scroll, an epic fantasy. What advice do you have for authors on switching genres?

That was such an amazing experience. The Third Scroll is a story of my heart. I tried to publish it for ten years without success. Every publisher loved it, but had no idea how to market it. It’s a historical epic fantasy with some sci-fi elements. There aren’t any bookshelves in the stores marked like that! Then I published it myself, and reader feedback was tremendous. The book had a hundred reviews on Amazon within weeks. I get more reader email for The Third Scroll than my other stories put together. Readers tell me that the book changed them. Was it a good financial decision? Not so much. Most of my readers are romantic suspense readers, and the fantasy readers don’t know me. My suspense novels sell much, much better. So if an author is writing to pay the bills, I wouldn’t recommend a genre switch. But if you have a book that’s straight from your soul, and you need to publish that book because it does your heart good, go for it!

Did you jump up and down when you found out you had won the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence? After all, it’s a pretty prestigious award!

Yes! I didn’t think I stood a chance. I was at the conference where the award was announced. The award ceremony was in the evening, after a loooong day of workshops. I almost didn’t even go down to the ball room. The very last second, I tossed on a nice dress and took the elevator downstairs. They had tables up front for the nominees, but I didn’t think I’d be on stage, so I just took a chair in the very back. I nearly fell off that chair when they called my name. They play music, like at the Oscars, as you walk up to receive your award. Except, I had to go up all the way from the back door, so they had to replay the music!

As an author with a considerable track record…do you think there’s a formula to a successful book?

If there’s one, I haven’t found it yet. I try to write the kind of book I’d like to read. Luckily, there are people who share my taste.

Now about the editing process…when you’re working with an editor, and he or she makes a suggestion on the direction of the book, how do you handle it if you differ on the said suggestion?

The final word is mine. I can usually be talked into seeing reason and end up taking 80% of suggestions. But if it’s something I don’t agree with, I stick to my guns. I have a wonderful editor, so we haven’t had any major disagreements yet.

What do you do when writer’s block looks you right in the face?

I keep writing. Even if the scene is not perfect, I know I can come back to it later and fix it. I don’t wait for perfection. My first drafts are bad. I mean, I wouldn’t show them to anyone if they offered me money, bad. The magic tends to happen in revisions. Knowing I don’t have to get anything right at the beginning really frees me up and prevents writer’s block.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve had to learn over the course of your career?

Never give up. It took me 13 years before I sold that first book. Then in the 10 years that followed that, I published over 40 titles.

How did you initially get the idea to write your Broslin Creek series?

I had this thought about a truly tortured hero, somebody who is so obsessed with catching the bad guy that he’s crossing too many lines. Jack Sullivan was a teen when a serial killer took his sister. He spent his entire career in law enforcement with trying to track the killer down. He followed the cases, tried to put himself in the killer’s head so he could understand the man and catch him. But if you spend too much time in a serial killer’s mind, it changes you. Jack makes some questionable decisions. He has a lot of darkness inside him. He’s a lone wolf. But what if he meets the woman who could bring light into his world, just when he catches up with the killer? Can he grab onto that light, or will he play out his revenge, crossing the final line as a law enforcement officer? I had to write Deathscape to find out. Then, while I was writing Deathscape, I met the other guys at Broslin P.D. I knew I would have to tell their stories next.

Do you think that social media can work wonders for a book?

I think social media is a great sales tool, but what I didn’t expect was the friends I would make. Real and true friends who came to count in my life. I feel so blessed that I was able to connect with them. I have a lot of regulars on my Facebook page and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well at this stage. I know the names of their grandkids and pets, etc. We give each other a boost on hard days. That, to me, is the best thing I’ve gotten from social media.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Don’t rush to publish. When I started, I couldn’t get books in front of readers until a publisher bought it. So I went through a looooong learning period and a number of books that never got published. With each new book, I got better. Then I had Diamonds in the Snow. That book won or finaled in at least nine Romance Writers of America contests. It won a scholarship from MIRA books. And it still didn’t get published. But I learned enough from it so the next book did: Shadow Soldier. If your first book is rushed to market and it’s not 100% ready, readers will remember your name and won’t buy the second book. It’s better to wait, so the book you do end up with as your first book is top quality, and readers put you on their auto-buy list. With Kindle and self-publishing, it’s so easy to put a book up and think, “Let the reader decide if it’s any good.” But if they decide it’s not, you might have lost that reader forever. They won’t buy book two just to see if the writing improved.

When you sit down to write a book, how do you know when it’s truly, truly completed?

When the deadline is up. Seriously, I never sent in a book that I thought was finished. I could edit a story until the end of time. Luckily, I have strict deadlines even with my indie books. I reserve the freelance editor and copy editor as soon as I start a book, since they have to be booked in advance. If I’m not ready for them, I lose my spot. So I still have to keep deadlines. And thank God for that, or I’d never let go!

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