Tessa Dare is amazing! Why, you ask? I’ll tell you, but you might read what follows and wonder if the summer heat in California got to me as I composed this introduction, resulting in some typos on my part. Despite the fairytale aspect of Tessa’s path to publication, what I’m about to share is the truth.
Five months after Tessa began writing her first full-length novel, she typed The End. Just four months later, she accepted representation from top-notch agent Helen Breitweiser of Cornerstone Literary. Ten weeks after that, Helen took Tessa’s first story to auction and sold it to Ballantine in a three-book deal. If you did the math, that’s eleven months from writing the first word to making her first sale.
July 28, 2009 is the release date of the first of Tessa’s Regency trilogy, Goddess of the Hunt. Her second book, Surrender of a Siren, follows August 25, 2009, and the third, A Lady of Persuasion, hits the shelves September 29, 2009. No. I didn’t make a mistake. Tessa’s trilogy is a rare back-to-back release. Impressed? I am.
A part-time librarian, full-time mommy and swing-shift writer, Tessa resides in Southern California. She lived a rather nomadic childhood in the Midwest. As a girl, she discovered that no matter how many times she moved, two kinds of friends traveled with her: the friends in books and the friends in her head. She still converses with both sets daily.
Tessa writes fresh and flirty historical romance, a blog and the stray magazine article. To the chagrin of her family, she does not write grocery lists, Christmas cards or timely checks to utility companies. She shares a tiny bungalow with her supportive husband, their two young children, known in Cyberspace as the darelings, a dog and many dust bunnies.
Tessa enjoys a good book, a good laugh, a good long walk in the woods, a good movie, a good meal, a glass of good wine and the company of good people.
Join me as we learn more about Tessa and her journey to publication.
How Tessa’s Journey Began
•As a librarian, books are a big part of your life. What led you to write one?
At the risk of sounding clichéd, I’ve been writing stories as long as I’ve been reading them. My grandmother has a file of “evidence”! However, it wasn’t until a few years ago, following the birth of my second child, that I really got serious about writing for publication.
•Why did you choose to write romance, and Regency romance in particular?
You know, I sort of fell into it by accident, but in retrospect it makes perfect sense. I’ve always been a huge devotee of Jane Austen, and I’d been dabbling in Austen-based fanfiction for fun. That was my introduction to the Regency era and how I developed my historical voice. It was also how I learned of a 2006 online contest sponsored by Avon/HarperCollins called FanLit. The contest involved writing chapters of an original historical romance. I signed up, had a great time, ended up one of the grand prize winners, and decided to try my hand at writing a full-length Regency romance.
•You’ve had a few short pieces and a novella published. How did those works come about, and how did they play into your decision to write a novel?
Well, my winning FanLit chapter was published as part of an e-book, and I’ve also had an e-novella published with Samhain Publishing. However, that novella was actually written after I finished all three of the books in my trilogy. Goddess of the Hunt is really the first completely original work I ever completed and contracted for publication.
Tessa’s Writing Process
•You wrote a series of posts on your blog describing the steps in your writing process: thinking, more thinking, research, gathering pictures, outlining and writing. You also admitted to being a plotter. What does your outlining process look like?
It looks like a mess! I don’t outline very neatly. I basically open a Word file and just do a big brain-dump of all the story, characters, dialog, etc. in my mind. I try to write it all out linearly, from beginning to The End. And that’s my “outline”.
•How much time do you put into research before writing? Is there such thing as too much research?
I tend to research as I write. I do try to do some preliminary reading for setting and tone, but it’s the questions that arise as I write that drive much of my down-and-dirty research. For example, I’m writing a hero now who was once in the army—and as I began writing him, I realized I needed to know where he’d served, when he’d served, in which battles, in which regiment, what weapons he’d carried, etc. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as “too much” research, but I do think it can sometimes become a form of procrastination!
•One phrase in those posts stood out, “. . . the beginning’s never right until the ending’s in the bank . . .” How many times do you revise a beginning before you’re happy with it? How much time do you devote to revision in relation to creating the first draft?
Gah. It depends. In some of my books thus far (I’m writing #6, counting the novella), I completely rewrote the first scenes several times. In a few, I’ve only had to do minor tweaks.
The amount of time I can reserve for revisions depends on how fast my deadline is approaching! But so far I have always tried to have several people read through the manuscript and give me feedback before I turn it in to my editor—it’s my attempt at quality control. I do my best to ensure that the story hangs together, isn’t confusing, doesn’t drag, and that the characters’ actions seem consistent and believable.
•As I shared in the introduction, things happened very quickly for you. When you began writing back on November 1, 2006, did you expect to meet with so much success? What were some of the most exciting moments of your journey preceding The Call?
Well, of course I never could have predicted selling the way I did. When I started, my goal was just to write A book and sell it, for whatever modest advance first-time authors usually get. Fortunately for me, my wonderful critique partners and friends dreamed bigger than I dared to do and encouraged me every step of the way.
My most memorable moments along the way all have to do with them—whether it was plotting out a book over brunch, or sharing the excitement of pitching our books at RWA conference, or commiserating over rejections, or celebrating the sale…my friends have been there with me every step of the way, and I love them for it.
•The Call came on October 12, 2007, but I understand you missed it. What happened? And how did you react when you received the news? I love hearing call stories, so please share yours complete with all the sensory details.
There were many, many calls that week. And emails—oy, the emails! Because we were fortunate enough to have multiple publishers interested, my agent took the book to auction. The auction was originally supposed to be on a Monday. For one reason and another, it was pushed back to Tuesday. Then Wednesday. And even after it started, the rounds of bidding were delayed by my agent’s travel and other snags. I couldn’t sleep or eat that whole week—I remember just wandering the neighborhood with my two small children in the stroller, holding my cell phone at the ready. In the end, it was Friday afternoon before the auction wrapped up.
Once my agent called to tell me Ballantine had won, I raced out to do some of the dozen errands I’d been putting off all week—and that’s when I missed THE call from my editor, Kate Collins. Really, I can barely remember how I reacted to the news now—probably with relief, because it meant I could finally get some sleep and eat something!
•You’ve received some awesome reviews, including the four and a half stars and Top Pick from Romantic Times. I was impressed when the reviewer said, “Dare is on the path to stardom.” What are some comments reviewers have made that mean the most to you?
All the reviews have been thrilling, but the starred review in Library Journal meant so much to me, simply because I’m a librarian. And I know that librarians pay close attention to those starred reviews when they order new books. When that review showed up in my inbox, I knew right then that it would mean hundreds more copies of my book on library shelves—which translates to thousands more readers. It was hugely exciting.
In the Valley
•To those reading the story of your journey to publication, the events that transpired in rapid succession may seem almost too good to be true. Of all the writers I’ve met, you come closest to being an overnight success. However, on your blog you admitted to some apprehension when you finished book one and started book two. How do you deal with those times when doubt creeps in? What advice would you give others who’ve been pursuing publication for many years when they’re dealing with discouragement?
You know, my blog only tells one side of the story. There were many setbacks (yes, I got rejections!) and many, many times when I felt doubt or even despair. But I tried to keep those off my public blog and vented them in private emails instead.
I quit a paying job to concentrate on writing, and that leap of faith was very difficult to make. It got yet more difficult when our savings ran out and debt was piling up. I began to really wonder whether I was sacrificing precious time and resources for nothing.
But conversely, that anxiety and pressure really made me determined to seek publication with everything I had. I pushed myself to write more, write better, network, query, submit, follow up every lead and contact I could—and I don’t think I would have been that motivated, had I not felt such a responsibility to make my family’s sacrifices worthwhile.
Partners on Tessa’s Journey
•You have an awesome group of critique partners, judging by the frequent thanks you bestow on them in your blog posts. How did you meet them, and what makes your partnerships work so well?
I am blessed with the world’s best critique partners. Courtney Milan (a historical author debuting in just a few months with HQN) and Carey Baldwin (writing an amazing psychological thriller sure to sell soon, and sell big) were my rock while I wrote Goddess of the Hunt and the entire trilogy. They read every chapter multiple times, offered brilliant suggestions and unflagging encouragement, and were generally wonderful. The three of us met during the Avon FanLit contest in 2006, and we’ve been each others’ biggest fans ever since. I won’t pretend we agree and get along and sing Kum-Ba-Yah 365 days a year—we’ve had a few disagreements along the way. But we love and respect one another’s talent so much, we work through those rare rough patches.
I also have a wider circle of critique partners and beta readers who’ve helped me with one book or all of them—I like to get lots of overlapping feedback on my completed manuscripts. I’m afraid of listing names because it’s a long list and I’m sure I’ll leave someone out, but I hope they each know how much I love them and value their feedback!
Tessa’s Journey Continues
•Your trilogy is releasing back to back this summer. What can your readers look forward to after that?
I’m currently working on another back-to-back trilogy, to be released in Summer 2010, also with Ballantine. It’s called the Stud Club trilogy, and the Stud in question is a priceless racehorse. When the Club’s founder is brutally killed, the three heroes—a duke, a warrior, and a scoundrel—are united by chance, divided by suspicion, and brought to their knees by love.
Your Debut Novel
Please tell us a little about Goddess of the Hunt. And since books two and three in the trilogy are due out so soon, please share info on them as well.
Here’s the blurb for Goddess of the Hunt:
Ever the bold adventuress, Lucy Waltham has decided to go hunting for a husband. But first she needs some target practice. So she turns to her brother’s best friend, Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall, to hone her seductive wiles on him before setting her sights on another man. But her practice kisses spark a smoldering passion—one that could send all her plans up in smoke.
Jeremy has an influential title, a vast fortune, and a painful past, full of long-buried secrets. He keeps a safe distance from his own emotions, but to distract Lucy from her reckless scheming, he must give his passions free rein. Their sensual battle of wills is as maddening as it is delicious, but the longer he succeeds in managing the headstrong temptress, the closer Jeremy comes to losing control. When scandal breaks, can he bring himself to abandon Lucy to her ruin? Or will he risk his heart, and claim her for his own?
Books two and three both feature secondary characters from Goddess of the Hunt.
Surrender of a Siren is a seafaring cabin romance between a society beauty falling from grace and a roguish privateer—one who picked the wrong week to go respectable.
In A Lady of Persuasion, a politically-minded young lady sets out to marry an influential, principled lord, in hopes of advancing her charitable causes—instead, she finds herself accidentally betrothed to a charming, devilish rake.
Five Facts About Tessa the Writer
~ Are you most creative early in the morning or late at night?
Hm. Actually, just to be contrary, neither. Late morning and early evening seem to be my best times.
~ Where do you write?
Wherever I can! Sometimes at home. Other times in cafes and bookstores.
~ Do you prefer music playing or silence?
Silence. I love to listen to music before I write, though.
~ What food/beverage fuels your creativity?
Anything caffeinated! Coffee, tea, chocolate.
~ Do your own stories make you laugh, cry and/or sigh?
Of course! If they don’t move ME, how can I expect them to move a reader?
Five Fun Facts About Tessa the Person
Okay, I am terrible about thinking up these things. So I asked my five-year-old daughter to think of them. Here are her answers:
~ She likes reading and writing.
~She works at the library (or “liberry”).
~Her husband plays wolf-tag with his kids (the darelings).
~She takes me to the park and Chuck E. Cheese and Disneyland.
~Her children love their mommy and daddy! (Aww, thank you, sweetheart)
Tessa’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Tessa. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?
Thank you so much for having me!
A question for visitors…hm… What’s your favorite ride at Disneyland (or any amusement park)? Are you a thrill-seeker, or a more sedate, “It’s a Small World” girl? I love Pirates of the Caribbean, and I found it especially enthralling while I was writing Surrender of a Siren. The ships! The cannons! That eerily lifelike animatronic Captain Jack Sparrow!
Learn More About Tessa
Visit her Web site and blog: http://www.tessadare.com
Friend her on Facebook: Tessa Dare
Follow her on Twitter: TessaDare
Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win
Tessa has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of her debut novel, Goddess of the Hunt, to one lucky visitor.
To enter the drawing, leave a comment for Tessa by midnight Pacific Time on July 28th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On July 29th, I’ll post the winner’s name here.
Congratulations to Stephanie, winner of Goddess of the Hunt.
My Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place July 31st. The winner will receive a $10 Borders gift card.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by July 31st and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On August 1st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and July 31st. 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 August 1st, 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 debut novel in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)