I’m thrilled to host Juli Page Morgan, a former rock deejay, who writes rock ‘n’ roll romances that transport readers to another world. Her most recent book, Crimson and Clover, takes readers to the Summer of Love, where heroine Katie Scott tries to blend counter-culture with traditional family life.
In this interview, Juli shares honest insights into her experiences working with a traditional publisher and publishing independently. If you’ve ever thought about writing and publishing a book, you will find her comments invaluable!
What made you decide to write romance novels?
I read my first romance novel when I was in high school and I was hooked. I’ll read almost anything, but I prefer romances. So when my muse whacked me over the head and said it was time to quit dithering around and write something it was a romance novel that came out. I love how romances delve into the growth of the characters as well as their relationship, and I’m a sucker for a happy ending. [I feel the same way! I just wish I could have articulated it this well :)]
Describe your writing process.
Usually I’ll get some random idea about a character that takes over my thinking for a week or so. My husband is quite familiar with me wandering around with a blank look on my face when I’m thinking about a new book. Once I know the character’s backstory and have some idea of where his or her story will go, I open up a blank page in Word and have at it. I’ve tried using Scrivener and a few other writing software programs, but I just never felt comfortable with them. Word is my old, trusted friend and it works best for me. I never write in a linear fashion, either, but skip around as inspiration strikes. Then I go back and put the pieces together, throw out things that don’t fit, and start revising. That can take some time because I’m not a plotter. However, I’ve recently read “Take Off Your Pants” by Libbie Hawker, a great book that tells how to outline without really outlining, and “Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure” by Janice Hardy, another great book that shows how to plan your story without getting bogged down by outlines. I’m using these as I write my next book, and hope it will help when I begin to put all the bits and pieces in order.
What was your biggest challenge when you were trying to publish your debut novel?
The biggest challenge was that the book didn’t fit into most romance publishers’ formulas, ie: the main characters must meet by page five, there must be X number of conflicts, word count, etc. Too, the book was set in 1968 and that brought up a whole new host of problems. It wasn’t contemporary, but it wasn’t historical, either. I also didn’t shy away from presenting my characters’ lives as they would have been in 1968. It was the era of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, and I included all of it, including things that made most publishers clutch their heads and say, “You can’t leave that in there!” I finally found Crimson Romance, and they understood the book and story, and were willing to take a chance on something different.
How have you dealt with that challenge as you have published more?
I took a leap of faith and went Indie. Now the only rules I adhere to are the ones I make myself.
What would you have done differently if you could start all over again?
Not a thing. Seriously. I’ll be forever grateful to Crimson Romance for publishing my first book, because it gave me the confidence I needed to continue on my own. It was an invaluable experience, and I learned so much from it.
How has the process of publishing with a traditional publisher compared with publishing independently?
With a traditional publisher most of the control was taken out of my hands. I really had no say over the cover (which I didn’t like), the pricing of the book, or when it would be published. I had to change the title, too. I’m lucky in that my publisher didn’t ask me to make wholesale changes to the story, and the changes they did suggest were ones that enhanced the book. But the changes suggested for my second book were … well, let’s just say they weren’t good, things that would have made the characters completely unlikeable. Needless to say I turned down that contract and made the decision to publish it myself. But being Indie? I love everything about it. I don’t have to follow a formula. I can make the book as long as it needs to be. I can tell the story they way I want to tell it. I love that I participate in every facet of the book’s creation, from formatting the interior to working with a cover designer to get the look that’s best for the story. I set the price for my books, and can put them on sale when I want. And, let’s face it, as an Indie author I keep more of the money. As for promotion and marketing, I was responsible for 99.9% of that with my traditional publisher, so doing 100% of it now isn’t any different. Plus, since I no longer have to jump through publishing hoops I now have more time to connect with readers, and that’s the best part. It was exciting getting that publishing contract, but I can’t see going traditional again. I love being an Indie author and publisher. In fact, today I’m re-releasing the book that was previously traditionally published. I’ve re-edited it, polished it up, and it has a smashing new cover that I love!
How has your life changed as you have published more books?
I’m a lot more confident now, for one thing. At one time I’d just duck my head and mumble when anyone asked about my writing, but now I look them straight in the eye and tell them I’m the author of romance novels. I’ve also learned a whole lot more about the business side of things. I publish under my own imprint now, Carey On Publishing LLC, so I have to keep up with all the things that go along with that. Other than that, though, my life is pretty much the same – laundry, making grocery lists, cooking, housework, all that glamorous stuff. 🙂
What is the single most important thing an unpublished writer should do to get published?
Write the best book you can. Do that by learning everything you can about writing. Take classes (I recommend Margie Lawson’s Writer’s Academy and WANA International), read books on writing, and strive to make what you write tomorrow be better than what you wrote today.
What is the single most important thing a newly published writer should do?
I know you’ve heard it before, but write the next book. And the next, and the next.
Where is the best place to go for writing advice?
Besides the classes I mentioned above, there are excellent blogs for writers online. I never miss a post from Writers in the Storm, Kristen Lamb, Jami Gold, Jane Friedman, Writers Helping Writers, Marcy Kennedy, and Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. Look around the web and find the ones that resonate with you and help you with your writing, and keep up with them. There’s always something new to learn.
What is the best writing advice you have ever gotten?
It’s a quote from Tom Clancy: “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
Do you have a favorite debut author? If so, who?
Two, actually. The first is Debi Matlack. Her debut novel, Old Dogs, was published a few years ago, and it’s amazing. You know how some people paint pictures with their words? Debi paints murals. She’s had some upheaval in her personal life since she published her book, but she’s working on another one now, and the parts of it I’ve read are just stunning! My other favorite debut author is Elizabeth Corva. Her first book is A Million Miles Away, the first book in the Angel Interceptors series. I fell in love with that book. Since then she’s published the second book in the series and a novella, and I love them just as much.
When sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll collide with the dream of white picket fences, happily ever after better step up its game.
Katie Scott may look like a flower child, but under her bohemian exterior beats the heart of June Cleaver. Even though the Summer of Love and the behind-the-scenes disintegration of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury left her her disillusioned, she’s still resolved to blend the counter-culture with an idyllic, traditional family life. Since it didn’t happen in California, maybe she can find it in Swinging London.
British guitar god Jay Carey is determined to make his new group the hottest rock band in the world. His eye is firmly on his goal until it’s caught by the American flower child who suddenly showed up in London. To his surprise, he discovers he wants Katie as much as he wants success, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t have them both.
But life with a rock ‘n roll star doesn’t lend itself well to white picket fences. Will the frequent concert tours, the decadence of life on the road, and conflicting goals drive a wedge in Jay and Katie’s love?
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING: “This is a must-read for anyone who loves classic rock and roll. Better yet, this is a must read for someone who’s looking for something real.” –Terri Herman-Ponce, author of the Past Lives series
Read the first chapter of Crimson and Clover at Juli’s website!
Bestselling author Juli Page Morgan’s former life as a Rock radio deejay gave her an All Access pass to the real world of Rock stars. She’s been on their tour buses, in their hotel rooms, and backstage in their dressing rooms and at the aftershow parties. She interviewed them, stood side-stage as they played, and was even on the stage a time or two to announce bands. Now she hands that All Access pass to you through her Romances that Rock: RONE Award nominees Athena’s Daughter, Song Without Words and Sister Golden Hair, and Crimson and Clover.
Juli lives in Arkansas with her husband. When she’s not writing, she’s recording voiceovers for television commercials, remodeling her old house, and trying to convince her husband the world won’t come to an end if the television is turned off. She also listens to a lot of music at maximum volume and has never met a speed limit she didn’t exceed. Juli’s an unapologetic lover of rock ‘n roll, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, and French onion dip, not necessarily in that order.
“There are few books out there that hit what rock and roll, and the people behind it, is all about. Given Juli’s history, you’ll immediately understand why her books rock on so many levels.” — Terri Herman-Ponce, author of the Past Life series