Meet Debut Author Lisa Marie Wilkinson

Lisa Marie Wilkinson is a contest success story. After 60+ finals and placements on four manuscripts, a final round judge in the Florida Romance Writers Golden Palm awarded Lisa Marie’s entry first place. The editor requested the full and offered Lisa Marie her first contract.

Fire at Midnight, Lisa Marie’s debut novel, released March 1, 2009, has earned some impressive reviews, including four stars from Romantic Times. Her second book, Stolen Promise, is scheduled to hit the shelves in March 2010.

Lisa Marie began her career as a writer–of lyrics. She’s an award-winning lyricist who’s collaborated with composer Marti Schwartz. The two received a number of awards for songwriting, including finalist status in the prestigious American Song Festival international competition. Lisa Marie also acted as a music critic and wrote reviews and articles for music industry publications.

A native of Ohio, Lisa Marie grew up in California and now lives in Tennessee, where the people are friendly and the scenery is beautiful.

Join me as we learn about Lisa Marie and her journey to publication.

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Lisa Marie Wilkinson
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The Journey Begins.

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•When did your writing broaden to include fiction? How many stories have you written? Are there any that keep the dust bunnies under the bed company, or are your first works the ones that earned you places on many contest result listings?

Bad poetry was my “launching pad,” I guess. I had some poetry published in a junior high school anthology and because I’ve always been a music fan, it was a natural progression to move on to lyrics.

I have written a few short stories, but I never attempted to have them published because I simply don’t do them well. I moved on to writing novel-length fiction when an idea for a story occurred to me that would require the novel length form in order to tell the story. Fire at Midnight and Stolen Promise represent my first two attempts at full-length fiction.

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•What led you to write Historicals, and how did you decide on your “unusual” periods? Do actual events from the past inspire you, or are you enthralled with historical figures whose stories you want to tell?

Historicals have always been one of my favorite genres to read. I love exploring other periods in history and other locales. It’s interesting to learn how people functioned within the societal constraints of their times. I am not sure I could write an interesting contemporary.

My two finished manuscripts are set in 1703 and 1806, but the stories dictated the time settings, rather than my having consciously selected Regency or Renaissance or Victorian or Elizabethan. In Fire at Midnight, I incorporated an actual historical event (the destruction of the Eddystone Lighthouse during The Great Storm of 1703).
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Peaks

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•Receiving news of a contest placement is exciting. But you’ve experienced that thrill over 60 times. Why did you enter so many contests? What are some of the most valuable things you learned from all the feedback you received?

When I began entering contests, I did not feel my work was ready to submit to agents or editors, and it was so helpful to mail off an entry with the knowledge that I’d be receiving feedback within a few short weeks. Another reason was that I had two completed manuscripts and two incomplete ones, and it was a great way to test the waters with newer work. The volume of finals might seem impressive until you consider I was entering excerpts from four different manuscripts.

In retrospect, it does seem crazy to have entered so many contests, but the folks on the Contest Loop will back me up when I say it can become an addictive process!

My contest experience was invaluable. Among the things I learned were:

1) No matter how much I might wish it, not everyone is going to like my writing.
2) You must set your ego aside when considering comments from critique partners or contest judges, but it’s just as important to trust your own instincts because you’re the writer and this is your story.
3) Despite all the competitiveness inherent in the publishing industry, there are generous people out there who simply do good and ask you to help others when it becomes your turn. This is definitely a “pay it forward” industry.


•One final stands out, I’m sure. The Golden Palm. Please share with us the process from finaling to receiving The Call from the final round judge who purchased Fire at Midnight. And be sure to include your reaction to the news that you’d sold your first book. Did you squeal, dance or mutter incoherent things into the receiver? .

Medallion Press senior editor Helen Rosburg judged the Golden Palm contest and requested the full of Fire at Midnight. I received the judge’s remarks from the contest coordinator, and Helen had written some wonderful things on the score sheet for my entry. I could tell from her comments that she “got me” as a writer.

I’d previously read an interview with Helen where she described her vision for Medallion Press and her desire to publish high-quality, “outside the box” fiction. I mailed the manuscript on Valentine’s Day, and the author liaison at Medallion called and left a voice mail on my cell phone asking me to return her call on February 27th.

My workday had ended, and I returned the call from the parking garage where I work. I sat in my car, my heart pounding and my hands shaking with excitement. I’m a fairly shy, reserved person, but I did ask if anyone had ever screamed in her ear when they heard the news, and she laughed and said people all reacted differently. The next thing I did was call my sister and leave her a voice mail that said, “Chris…you won’t believe this…Fire at Midnight is going to be published!” The next call I made was to my Mom.

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Fire at Midnight released in March. I smiled when I saw it on the shelves of a Sacramento, California Barnes and Noble in April. You’ve received some awesome reviews. Many aspects of your stories have been praised: plot, dialogue, action, historic-detail, and characterization among them. Of all the accolades that have been heaped on your plate, which have tasted the sweetest and why?

The thing that is the most important to remember is that a review is just a subjective opinion, and there’s always an equal chance of having a reviewer hate what they’ve read. I feel extremely grateful that my debut novel has been well-received by reviewers because in this economy there are probably many people out there using reviewer opinions to help guide their purchases.

As a new author without a reader following, I need all the help I can get. I’m grateful to the reviewers for the kind things they have said about my book, just as I’m touched by the idea that you’d see my book on the bookstore shelf and smile.

fire_at_midnight_at_bnA friend in New York took a photo of my book on her local Barnes and Noble shelf and sent it to me the week of the release. Another friend hand-carried a copy to her local library because she wanted to make sure it would be available to others who might not have the means to purchase it. These are the sweetest things to me, although I would not disagree that accolades are wonderful, too!
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Valleys

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•To those of us awaiting that dreamed-of first contract, it might seem you wouldn’t have any reason to doubt your success or ability to produce a great story. After all, you’ve got more contest placements than most of us can imagine and have sold two books. However, I read on your blog that you’re still entering contests–for published authors now–because you battle insecurities at times. How do you deal with them? Do you have favorite sayings that inspire you or certain people who can talk you off the literary ledge when doubts come calling?

The contest circuit is still a great place to receive feedback when you’re trying to determine whether your newest idea has a sound concept. Once a writer has sold a novel, most contests for unpublished writers are no longer an option for feedback, but there are a few contests that allow a published writer to submit an entry. I have entered one contest in 2009, for the purpose of trying out new ideas that aren’t ready for submission to my publisher for consideration.

I am probably always going to battle insecurity. It seems to be part of my psychological makeup. I’m under the impression that most writers have an insistent little voice of doubt inside them that they have to learn to ignore. My problem is that I not only have that voice in my head, but I seem to turn up the volume when it’s speaking!

I have great respect and admiration for writers who have persisted and written 5-10 novels before making their first sale. This is actually the right way to do it, because once that first sale is made, the writer has a backlog of work that will translate into more sales. Rejection is a tough thing, though, and it’s difficult not to be crippled by it.
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The Journey Continues

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•You have two books under contract with Medallion Press. Please tell us a little about each of them.

Here are the official MP story blurbs:
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Fire at Midnight, on shelves now—

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Fire at MidnightIt is 1703, and Rachael Penrose is confined to Bedlam Insane Asylum in London after discovering her uncle Victor plans to kill her brother in order to inherit the family fortune. Victor leads a gang of criminals and uses French privateer/smuggler Sébastien Falconer as the scapegoat for his crimes. After Victor spreads the lie that Rachael informed the authorities of Falconer’s smuggling activities, Falconer vows revenge on the girl.

A dangerously ill Rachael finally escapes from Bedlam, only to find shelter in Sébastien’s carriage, and ends up in his care. It is a twist of fate that will alter both their lives forever.

Believing she is in danger from Sébastien, Rachael meets up with his estranged twin brother, Jacques, a customs officer intent on bringing his brother, the famous privateer, to justice. But the real criminal is still at large, and she and her brother are still in danger. Will she discover the truth and save both their lives . . . and her heart?

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Stolen Promise, due to release in March 2010—

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Stolen PromiseAt the Lowara Gypsy Camp outside Windsor, England, in 1806, a young woman will lose her independence in a common marriage market transaction. Jade knows she is promised to Dimitri, a possessive abuser. Jade knows he will hurt her. Jade knows her freedom is gone.

When her father sends her to the arms of another man, she finds only slight consolation . . . until she encounters her intended. Evan Dark is a half-Gypsy gentleman—nothing like Dimitri. Caught in a battle between tribes, Jade is a piece of property, the ideal runaway bride. In order to escape Dimitri’s clutches, she sails for Charleston with Evan as his indentured servant. But, engaged to another woman as part of a plantation merger in South Carolina, Evan’s affiliation with Jade can never be more than professional.

Evan must choose between fulfilling his obligation to marry his betrothed or accept his overpowering passion for Jade, a woman his matchmaking Gypsy grandfather deemed the perfect Romany wife. In nineteenth-century America, where insincere tradition meets old money and arranged matrimony in upper-crust society, Evan faces the most difficult decision of his life: Remain loyal to the fiancée he holds in commitment . . . or be true to the lover he holds in his heart.
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•What are you working on now? Another Historical? Another period perhaps?

I am currently working on a new historical romance titled The Red Parrot set in early nineteenth-century England. This story features a woman whose gift for mimicry entangles her with the criminal underground and guarantees trouble for the man who falls in love with her.
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Just for Fun

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•When you’re not writing suspenseful, fast-paced action stories, what do you like to do? Explore the locations where your books are set? Cook gourmet meals? Attend concerts or symphonies?

I love to watch movies and listen to music, especially live music. I’m a terrible cook!

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Conclusion


I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Lisa Marie. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors? What would you like to know?

It has been my pleasure to be your guest! Thank you for inviting me. The question I would ask of anyone stopping by to visit today would be: What is the first fiction book you ever read that stayed with you (regardless of genre) and why do you remember it to this day?
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Learn More About Lisa Marie

.Visit her Web site: www.lisamariewilkinson.com

Visit her Blog: The View from the Eddystone Light

Friend her on Facebook: Lisa Marie Wilkinson

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Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win

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Lisa Marie’s Special Drawing

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Lisa Marie is giving away a copy of Fire at Midnight to one visitor who leaves a comment for her. She’ll choose a winner at the end of the day on May 7th. (To enter, be sure to leave your email address when prompted. I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.)

Congratulations to Sandy M, winner of Lisa Marie’s debut novel.
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Keli’s Drawing

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My next drawing will take place May 10th. The winner will receive an elegant simulated leather bookmark from Hallmark that reads: “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. – Max Lucado.” Plus, I’m including a $5 Borders gift card to apply toward a book in which to use the bookmark. A nice two-fer!

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Bookmark - Max Lucade quote.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by May 10th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On May 11th, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

Congrats to Peggy, the winner, who  left a comment on Eileen Astels’ post..
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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

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If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, just leave a comment on any post between now and May 31. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On June 1, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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45 Responses to Meet Debut Author Lisa Marie Wilkinson

  1. Paula says:

    Lisa Marie,
    I would love to get my hands on copy of The Fire At midnight. You have worked so hard promoting your debut book.
    Paula

  2. sara hurt says:

    Welcome Lisa Marie. I just wanted to tell you Congratulations on your book and after all of your hard work you definetly deserve it. I would love to read it.

  3. Gram’s post brought up an interesting thought: stories that are sad tend to stick with me longer (Old Yeller just about killed me).

    How about you?

  4. Sandy M says:

    What a terrific interview! I’m pleased to meet you, Lisa Marie. I so enjoy discovering new authors! Congrats on your well-deserved success.

    I don’t remember my very first book from so many years ago – I’ve been reading for 35 years now! – but I know in my early teens I devoured Victoria Holt and her On the Night of the Seventh Moon was a favorite and I do remember some of it to this day. I loved that Gothic feel in her stories and am glad that some authors are bringing it back in today’s romance.

  5. MJ,
    To answer your question about how much input I had on the cover of Fire at Midnight (this also applies to Stolen Promise): I am very fortunate in that Medallion Press is one of the few publishers that solicits input from its authors about the cover art. I actually completed a Cover Spec sheet for both books, and in both cases, what I described as being in my mind for the cover was translated by their gifted artists into what I feel are the perfect covers for my books. I was very, very lucky!

  6. Sandy M says:

    Sorry, forgot my email address!

    ILuvOceanBreezes@gmail.com

  7. Sandy,
    I think Victoria Holt’s work is brilliant (I guess I’m not alone there!). My own early “keeper” books were the suspense novels written by Mary Stewart. I think being such a fan of her work might have instilled a love for adventure/suspense/romance in me that is now evident in my own work.

  8. Darlene,
    Can you remember what it was about Rebecca York’s books that made her an “auto-buy” for you?

  9. Joan K. Maze says:

    I’m totally intrigued by Fire at Midnight. I love historicals and this seems like an especially exciting one.

    I also know what you mean about negative criticism. I’m also an artist, and at one show, another artist lambasted me unbelievably. And she did her paintings by throwing paint at a canvas. I went on to become a winner.

    I’ve got a daughter who dislikes mysteries and a son who doesn’t approve of romances – and guess what, I have a romantic suspense coming out this spring.

    I’ve learned to compete only with myself.

    I’m going to write down the name of the one coming out next year – I have to get that as well. I’ve been to Charleston – when my son worked there as a reporter.

    Joan K. Maze
    http://www.joanmaze.com

  10. Tanya Hanson says:

    Hi Lisa Marie, these sound like fantastic reads. I love historicals set in interesting, not the “typical” periods.

    Here’s good wishes for continued success. Woo hoo!!

    ~Tanya
    http://www.tanyahanson.com

  11. Sherry says:

    I would love to read your book Lisa! It sounds wonderful. I love finding new to me authors. 🙂

  12. Margay says:

    I just wanted to stop by and wish Lisa Marie the best with her book!
    Margay

  13. I’d love reading your book, Lisa! I love books set in the past, so that tidbit had me hooked from the start. Plus, that cover looks so mysterious…makes me want to know what happens!

    jaam121388 at yahoo dot com

  14. Llehn says:

    The first fiction book I read that stayed with me – and I am interpreting this loosely to mean a work that is made up – is a picture book, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. I am so awed by how the simplicity of its prose can convey such a powerful and poignant message. It is also special to me because that is the book that made me want to become a writer.

  15. AND THE WINNER IS…

    Picking a winner is tougher than I thought it would be! I honestly wish I had a book to send to everyone who posted because I so much appreciate your stopping by to read the interview and taking the time to comment.

    Great comments, and I’m taking away many great book titles to add to my TBR pile, so thank you for sharing your most memorable books with me.

    I also want to thank Keli for her wonderful, thought-provoking interview questions and her blog hospitality.

    And now the winner:
    I’ve selected Sandy M because she’s been reading for 35 years and I could sense the enthusiasm for books and finding new authors to read in her comment. As a writer, knowing there are readers out there eager to give debut novels a chance is the stuff of encouragement. As a writer, I salute you avid readers!

  16. Penney says:

    Yea! Congratulations Sandy M happy reading!
    Penney

  17. Betty says:

    Congratulations Lisa. Becoming a published author is something many people dream of but lack the determination willingness to maker sacrifices to achieve. Good luck on your writing career, may it be long and prosperous.

    Betty

  18. Congratulations Lisa Marie on all the success with contests and publication of your books!

    I see your name in a magazine or anywhere and it immediately catches my eye.

    I have to say The Flame And The Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss was the book that got me hooked on the genre.

  19. Quilt Lady says:

    Congrats on all of your success in you publication on your books. Thanks for sharing with us.

  20. Beth Reimer says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird because Atticus did the right thing no matter the cost to him personally

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