Romance readers go through a lot of books. We’re somewhat spoiled by Nora Roberts’s amazing ability to produce five or six new novels every year. She’s an outlier, of course, but Romance readers are voracious, and very vocal about delays. Publishers have learned to recognize and even harness this eagerness in their readers. They’ve developed a strategy of releasing several new titles by an author in quick succession. Doing so is a strong sign that the house has confidence in the writer’s work, and wants to build name recognition as quickly as possible.
Which is good news for Canadian writer Julianne MacLean.
Julianne will see three new releases hit the shelves this year. In addition, she’ll have stories in appear in anthologies, and she’s experimenting with publishing her own work in e-format. A USA Today bestselling author of sixteen novels, she lives in Bedford, Nova Scotia with her husband and daughter. I caught up with hardworking – and delightful – author near Halifax last fall.
Q. Let’s start with the basics. What’s your educational background?
Julianne MacLean: I have two degrees – one in English Literature from University of King’s
College in Halifax, and a second – Bachelor of Business Administration
from Acadia University in Wolfville, NS. I did the English degree first, not because I intended to be a writer,
but simply because it was my favourite subject. In that phase of my life, I was wise enough to follow
my heart, thank goodness.
Later, however, not knowing how to make a living with an English
degree, I decided I needed to get a “real” job, and went back to school
for the Accounting degree. I was quite proud of myself when I was hired
to work with the Federal Office of the Auditor General, and felt very
grownup carrying a briefcase to work every day. But something wasn’t
right with the work itself, and that’s when I started writing my first
novel in the evenings – when I was supposed to be studying for the
Chartered Accountancy examination.
It took me a year to write that first book. I still remember the day I told my boss I intended to resign from the
Auditor General’s Office and drop out of the CA program in order to
pursue a career as a novelist. He tried to talk me out of it, but there
was no hope in that.
Q. Did you always want to write? Or did the urge grow gradually?
Julianne MacLean: I began keeping a diary when I was twelve and continued
to write in it devotedly every night until I got married. (I dug those
old diaries out recently and re-read them, and they were quite the page
turners, like beginner romances in first person with all my adolescent
emotions and crushes spilled out on every page).
As soon as I started writing my first novel, I stopped writing in my
diary, which is rather revealing. I was 27 when I wrote the first paragraph of my first
romance novel, which never sold, but it was a great learning
Q. You’ve recently made the move to a new publisher, and have an exciting year lined up. Did the change affect the way you work?
Julianne MacLean: After writing nine books for Avon, all released at regular intervals of
7-10 months apart, I moved to St. Martin’s Press to write a Highlander
Trilogy, with the guarantee
that the books would be released close together. The first two books will be released back-to-back this year. Captured by the Highlander come out in March, and Claimed by the Highlander in April. The third book, Seduced by the Highlander, will drop in October.
This busy year, however, required a quiet two-year lag between my last
book with Avon and my first book with St. Martin’s. I was very busy writing, but I knew it was a long time to
be absent from the marketplace. I felt an increased pressure to keep
myself “out there” by bumping up my online presence, launching a new
website, and taking part actively in social media like Facebook and
Twitter. All this took time and effort while I hoped my readers
wouldn’t forget me.
At the same time, it was very nice to focus mainly on the writing,
without worrying about print runs or best-seller lists. These days a
writer’s life is not what it used to be. I sometimes envy Jane Austen
for being able to write her novels without feeling a pressure to blog or
tweet every day. ( Of course she didn’t have indoor plumbing or a
cut-and-paste function, so I don’t want to be too quick to envy her
Q. You’re involved in both the RWA and your local chapter. What do you get out of that? Would you recommend it for other Romance writers?
Julianne MacLean: Anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in commercial fiction
would benefit from joining a group of like-minded writers who can offer
support and share knowledge. I joined a local chapter of RWA when I
first began to write romance, and that’s where I found critique partners
who gave me feedback and helped me improve my writing. It was crucial
in those early days to understand that a reader is half the equation.
writer has to learn how to communicate and connect with the reader.
It’s a very intimate relationship when the reader is immersed in your
story and feeling as if he or she is inside the mind and body of your
character. So it’s important to get feedback and learn to write in a
way that brings the reader into your world. After 16 books, I still
have a trusted critique partner who gives me feedback and helps me
brainstorm through plot and character problems.
Next up for Julianne is another historical romance series for St. Martin’s. We’ll catch up with her in the fall, when Seduced by a Highlander hits bookstores. We’ll talk about her next series (she’s currently writing the first book in the ‘Royal Weddings’ trilogy), and her adventures in e-publishing.
Chris Szego was there in Chicago when Julianne found out she’d sold her first book. Good times.
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