Prolific. What else would you call an author who publishes four to six novels annually?
I suppose you could also call Nora Roberts wealthy since her books consistently and almost instantly hit the New York Times bestsellers lists.
I got to meet Nora (she called me Erin, so I guess we’re on a first-name basis) at Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland, and was oddly star-struck. Odd because, although I’ve met quite a few celebrity-status authors, I felt absolutely giddy to have the opportunity to have afternoon tea with Nora…and a couple hundred other people. I was so excited, in fact, that my friend and I arrived early and snagged a seat at the front table. (Early is a big deal for me; just ask my husband.)
Afterwards, when her UK editor at Little Brown told me that Nora (aka J.D. Robb) publishes at least four books a year (she’s releasing a total of five in 2014), I almost choked. That’s a LOT of writing and a massive amount of discipline. There’s another descriptor to attribute to this impressive and totally approachable author.
During her talk, which was simply an hour-long Q&A session with the audience, she answered questions from fans about her books and characters, as well as a number of questions from fellow writers looking for insight and inspiration from someone who has “made it” in the world of publishing. Being a note-taker, I had my pen and paper ready and captured a few tips to use and pass on to you. Here are a few of my takeaways from the Q&As:
Q. What is a typical writing day for you?
A. “A typical day is perfect and rare,” Nora said. Life intrudes for this writer just like it does for the rest of us. But, she explained, although writing is an amazing job, it is still a job. “When you are a writer, you are your own boss and your own employee…. Writing is a job. In my particular job you have contracts and deadlines.” To keep up with all the projects in her pipeline, she plans ahead and keeps to a schedule of writing several hours every day.
Q. What books are you reading now? Do you like to read?
A. “If you don’t love to read, where do you think you can get the chops to write? I love falling into a book. I want to read a book that someone else has sweated over, that I can just enjoy,” she said. As to her favorite authors, she mentioned John Sanford, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, and Alex Grecian—whose book, The Yard, had her so engaged she said, “I was so into everything about it; I was smelling the fog.” I’m going to have to check that one out myself just to read that kind of imagery.
Q. Have you ever gotten stuck and not been able to finish a book?
A. “I will not let it beat me. No matter what I do, I will not let it beat me. I will beat it into submission.” Writer’s block doesn’t stand a chance with that kind of attitude!
Q. Do you have a favorite book (of your own)?
A. “My favorite book is always the one that’s on sale now. My least favorite is the one I’m working on now.” Ha!
Q. It seems like all your books are bestsellers. Do you ever get used to being No. 1?
A. “Never! You never get used to it. And I wouldn’t want to! If you want to be No. 1, you have to work at it.”
Q. Do you talk with your husband and family about what you’re working on?
A. “More than talk, I may mumble under my breath about killing off a character. But really, what would they know? They don’t do what I do.” Who does she talk to? Other writers. “There’s no one who understands better than another writer. I don’t know what I would do without my writer friends. I know I can get in touch with my writer pals and they would be there for me just like I would be for them.”
Here’s a question for YOU: Have you ever needed help pushing through a tough spot in your writing? How did you resolve it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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