NOTE: There are NO Dollface spoilers in this post. Feel free (and safe) to keep reading even if you are in the middle of the book!
After our ah-mazing discussion of Dollface, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to interview Renee Rosen about writing, the creative process and marketing.
1. What was: (a) your favorite book as a child (b) the last book you read (c) the book you are currently reading and (d) the book you will read next?
a.) My favorite book as a child was Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. That book is responsible for my lifelong love of blueberries!
b.) The last book I read was A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
c.) The book I’m currently reading is The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin (coming out in June 2014).
d.) My TBR pile is toppling over but I’ve promised myself that the next book I’m reading is Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole.
2. How did you make the leap from writing ad copy to writing fiction?
I wrote, submitted, got rejected. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Seriously, it took a long time for me to break in. I can remember getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning so I could write before I went into the various ad agencies I worked for. Then I came home and spent my evenings and weekends writing. I was forever querying agents and forever revising my drawer full of manuscripts. After years of rejection someone finally said yes! And all it takes it one. It was a lot of work, but I can definitely say it was worth it.
3. This is your second novel. What did you know about writing a second book that you didn’t know while writing your first?
I knew to avoid certain publishing nightmares, like including long song lyrics and other licensing traps. I also understood the importance of character arc and pacing better. My first novel was a character driven story whereas Dollface relied equally on plotting as much as character. It was a challenge but a great learning experience.
4. How do you come up with and cultivate ideas?
I’m really into history and usually I’ll turn to certain events that I think would make a particularly interesting backdrop for a story. Once I get a sense of time and place and breathe a certain amount life into my characters, they tend to take over. I never know what’s going to happen or what they’re going to do from one page to the next.
5. How many creative projects do you work on simultaneously? Relatedly, what’s your best time management tip?
Currently I’m jugging two books, though they’re in different phases. I’m still promoting Dollface while finishing up my next book What The Lady Wants. And somewhere in between I am starting to do preliminary research for the next book.
In terms of time management, I think deadlines really help—whether self-imposed or dictated by your editor. Something else that helps is setting daily goals. For me, I try to hit 2,000 words a day when I’m drafting something new. When I’m revising, I’ll set of goal of X-amount of pages for the day. From there it’s a matter of finding what works for you and your schedule. Some people are morning writers, other’s evening writers. Some write in spurts, others hit it every day. There’s really no right way and alas, there’s no shortcuts!
6. Other authors I’ve interviewed have shared that a good portion of the marketing of their book is left in the author’s court. Do you agree or disagree? To what extent have you marketed DOLLFACE on your own?
There’s no doubt that more and more authors are taking on a more active role in marketing their books. And because my background was advertising and marketing, this seemed like a natural for me. But that said, I’ve had tremendous support from my publisher. I came to them with several unconventional ideas and they backed me 100%. Some of those included a gangster tour followed by a speakeasy party just for booksellers, reviewers and local media. Another fun thing we did was team up with the Chicago History Museum for a big blow out bash celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. We had over 400 people there complete with a band, dancing, mock casino and an open bar and food. It was great. Other tactics were more expected, like giveaways and a lot of social media postings, which is almost always up to the author.
7. What advice would you have for other creatives (like bloggers) on how to market themselves?
Since we live in the digital age, social media presents a tremendous opportunity for self-promotion if it’s done the right way. When it comes to social media I think the key is to be yourself and be sincere. If you’re not being genuine I think people can see right through it. Also have fun with it and let your personality come through. And remember it’s important to strike the right balance between promoting yourself and providing entertainment or information that your followers/readers/etc. will find engaging.
8. What has been your favorite part of the Dollface experience?
Oh my goodness—I’ve seriously enjoyed every phase. I loved the research and writing and loved the editing process but I suppose my most rewarding experiences have been in meeting with readers and talking about my gangsters. I just think material is such fun that I’ve really enjoyed sharing it with people.
9. Dollface featured a cadre of very strong women. How purposeful was this depiction? Do you see yourself in any of the women?
While I don’t see myself in the any of the characters, people who know me say they see glimpses of me here and there. But the decision to have strong women play such a dominant role in the story really came from an editor who encouraged me to move the men to the sidelines and tell this story from the woman’s POV. Once I did that the women naturally grew stronger and bolder.
10. Care to share any details about your next novel, What the Lady Wants?
Oh, I’m so glad you asked! I’m very excited about this next one! What the Lady Wants: A Novel of the Gilded Age tells the story the Chicago retail tycoon, Marshall Field and his 30-year illicit love affair with his neighbor, Delia Caton. Starting with the Great Fire of 1871, this novel covers a lot of ground, including the growth a Marshall Field’s & Company, the Haymarket Riots, The 1893 World’s Fair, the mysterious death of Marshall Field Junior and ultimately the emergence of Chicago as a major city. There’s a lot of twists and turns wrapped around one of the all-time great love stories.
A major thank you to Renee for letting me interview her. Because I’m such a lover of books and because I think crafting a novel is such an amazing (and hard) endeavor, I’m always in awe when I get to ask a writer questions. It’s my absolute favorite kind of celebrity sighting!
And you? Lots of questions for you: what did you think of Renee’s creative process? What did you think of her time management and self-promotion tips? Have you tried those? Do you have tips of your own to share?
And just one more question coming your way: What was: (a) your favorite book as a child (b) the last book you read (c) the book you are currently reading and (d) the book you will read next?
Until next time!