Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Challenges

Today I'm very pleased to welcome NYT Best-selling author Betina Krahn to Terry's Place. Have you ever been afraid to try something new? See how Betina embraced the challenge of change. And be sure to leave a comment, because she's giving away books!

What’s life without a little excitement now and then? By excitement, I don’t mean “challenge that could drag you under if you don’t come through,” but it often seems to turn out that way. My writing life has been full of such moments and I’m not sure why. Karma, maybe? It seems to me that other people find their niche, zero in on their strength, and ride the slipstream of an early book straight to stardom. Or at least a comfortable career.

Not so the Krahn-ster.

Oh, I’ve had my share of success, no doubt about it. But there’s been nothing effortless or “slipstream” about it. I had published eight well-reviewed books before getting a break and snagging a livable contract. Then I did four more books (of varying themes and intensities) before finding a publishing house that understood how to market my work. I seemed to hit my stride—momentarily—for books 13-17 and then my life was overturned by personal trauma. After the death of my husband, the lavish historical romance I was known for writing no longer had a place in my bruised heart.

I struggled and finally found a footing in a funny, fantasy-oriented medieval series that became known as “The Brides of Virtue” Series. When the “Brides” trilogy was finished, I decided to strike out in an adventuresome direction. . . blending historical romance with high Victorian adventure. I was searching for a new spark and found it—I thought—in my second adventure “The Book of True Desires.” It was the best thing I had written to date. But I turned it in late and it got no support from the publisher and died before it ever took off. Afterward, I was told: adventure and romance just don’t go together in the marketplace.


I read every romantic adventure I can get my hands on. And movies like The Mummy and the Indiana Jones series prove that people love the genre, done right. What is necessary is a publisher with a modicum of enthusiasm to push it toward the top. “Vampires” would still be staked and six feet under if a courageous publisher hadn’t taken a chance on a vision. And we all know what a raging success they’ve been. Several times the sub-genre has been declared finished. . . written out. . . and manages to come back with a fresh angle and a new interpretation of the legend to make blockbusters again. The Vampire thing(forgive me) just refuses to die.

So when Brenda Chin at Blaze asked me to consider doing a historical Blaze, I thought it over and said a big, resounding YES. And my first Blaze Historical found a lot of new readers and was something I’ll always be proud of. A grown-up heroine with a feisty attitude and a libido to match. This is what I’ve been aching to write for along time.

Honey, I’m home.

Another of the things I’ve always wanted to do was write a contemporary. . . a big, sexy story that was smart and funny and impossible to put down. Well, I can’t speak to the “impossible to put down” part, but I think I nailed the sexy and funny part. . . in my first contemporary BLAZE. It’s the lead in Blaze’s Valentine Anthology: “MANHUNTING.” I LOVE this story. I just got my author copies and sat down to read all three stories and I fell in love all over again.

I really enjoy writing with a contemporary voice and I think my contemporary voice may be more compelling than my historical sound. And I’d like to know if anyone agrees. . . so I’m asking Terry to give away three of my Manhunting books for a preview. Share your own ideas about ways to keep spirits and motivations up during times of challenge.

And I’ll leave you with one last bit of advice. Take a page from the Vampire playbook. . . just refuse to die or to quit trying. Because there are things you need to do in this world: lessons yet to learn and people yet to love. Meet the obstacles you encounter as opportunities and never stop trying something new!



Betina is a regular at the "Riding With the Top Down" blog. You can also visit her at her website, BetinaKrahn.com. To win one of her books, leave a comment here. Winners announced Christmas Day to give everyone plenty of time during this busy season.


Anonymous said...

Hi Betina!

The Book of True Desires is one of my favourite books, and I re-read it maybe once a year. I love the humour, and love Cordelia's spirit. Hartford is one of the most intriguing characters -- I love how he changes throughout the book.

Frankly, I love your historical voice. But I find that I gobble up anything you write.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday.


jasouders said...

Hi Betina!

As you know, I'm quite fond of your historical blaze, I loved that book! I think I've reread it at least 50 times. The poor book is a bit bedraggled, but in my opinion that's a good thing. And I agree with the previous poster, I love your historical voice, but I gobble up anything you write.

I want to say thank you for your posting. I've hit a low in writing just recently and had to pull myself up by my bootstraps, so this was great encouragement. Sometimes it's so hard to see the forest through the trees, but you just have to "Never give up! Never surrender!"

Have a great holiday,


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like the way you took on a different genre--and then stuck by it. Our challenges can be opportunities, as you mentioned.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Jemi Fraser said...

Personal life has such a profound affect on our writing. It's interesting to see how we pull ourselves through, and how we are changed by circumstances. Taking that risk to share my writing, to think beyond writing for myself was a direct result of my personal life as well. Thank you for sharing your story.

Katie Reus said...

I only just discovered you this year and loved Make Me Yours! Thanks for sharing your writing path so far :)

Judy said...

I enjoyed reading your post!! I am not a writer and sorry to say I have not read your books, even though historical romances was my first love. I plan to remedy the part of not reading your books. I would like to read one of your older books and for sure one of these newer ones. Thanks for sharing your writing.

Silvia said...

Wow what an inspiring post Betina. I often felt like quitting when challenges came on my path. But I guess it has been my family that (silently) reminded me to go forward and keep trying. I couldn’t let them or myself down now could I?. I remember this quote in times of need: Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. It encourages me, for I do love the game. So I thought I’d share it here. Don’t know who it’s by, saw it in a movie and loved it.

Anonymous said...

Betina: I too believe in adventure, romance, and definitely love at first sight. About the bumpy road to happy ever after, been there and done that too - loved your blog and your good advice.
Jackie Griffey

Heather Hiestand said...

Very inspirational! You are an amazing writer and I'm glad you've found a new home.

Heather Hiestand/Anh Leod

Alison Henderson said...

Hi Betina!
I love your books - every subgenre. Your spirit of adventure and willingness to confront change has inspired me on my own long path to publication. After many years, I've just sold my first book in a subgenre also pronounced dead, Western historical, and have turned my hand to contemporary romantic suspense. You're right -- it is great fun to write in contemporary voice for a change! By the way, I also LOVE romantic adventure, especially yours. I'd love to see more.

We miss you at MFW, but it looks like things are fabulous in Florida.

Happy Holidays,

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading your comments. I have been a fan for a long time. I will read any genre you write.
Happy Holidays

Melinda said...

Hello Betina,

I love your books. You have a good voice for historicals.

Have a wonderful Christmas

Walk in harmony,

Terry Odell said...

Thanks to everyone for stopping by during what has to be a very busy time. And feel free to pass the word that there's a wonderful giveaway here!

GunDiva said...

I completely agree with you that adventure and romance DO go together, which is why I fell in love with Tara Janzen's series - I always felt like it was "Indiana Jones" or "James Bond" for women.

I'm impressed that you've made so many changes successfully; I'm not sure I'd be able to do that.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Betina!

Terry mentioned to our Five Star writers' group that you would be the guest on her blog. I was delighted since like so many others I'm a fan of your writing and have enjoyed your historical romances for some years. I also believe that adventure and romance combine well, just as mystery and romance do. Wishing you every success with your future novels.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Hi, Betina!

You and me, girl. You get the awards and the spot on the NYT list--yours higher than mine, but any spot on that list is nice--and the juicy contract, and you have every reason to believe you're going places in this crazy business. But it's so lifelike, this publishing thing--riding high in April, shot down in May.

Good writers can be hard to package. Commercial fiction is streaky, and good writers aren't streaky. All we can do is write a good book and hope the market catches up with us.

I love series romance. It's where good writers get a chance to focus on character and story because sales are generally dependable. Good teachers chafe under the demand to "teach to the test," and good writers have trouble "writing to the market."

The market isn't necessarily the same as the readership. Like a good horseman, a reader is willing to give the writer her head. And then, yes, we'll give her the ride of a lifetime.

Happy holidays, all!

Kathleen Eagle

Robert W. Walker said...

Betina -- I cannot tell you how many times an editor or an agent has asked me to give up on a book idea as "not ready for prime time" only then to come in on the end of the crest of the wave of that very idea...starting with the Titanic...onto the Chicago World's Fair as backdrop...onto a book about a psychic medium...onto Criminal Minds...etc. and etc...and each time I had to reinvent myself as obviously you too have. Congrats on the success of your new novel and identity.

Betina said...

Sorry to be so late, guys-- I've had a heck of a day. But when i logged into to Tery's blog and found you all here-- well, life just give you any better that this! (Except maybe grandbabies.)

Nancy, I'm so glad you love True Desires. . . I only wish I could do more like that. Someday, maybe. Half of success is showing up and someday I'll show up with the right proposal for an adventure at just the right moment. . .

Jessica-- bless you for loving Make Me Yours so much! It was great fun to write and I learned a bunch about everything from pacing to word choice while writing it. Having to pare down a big, fat story to fit in just 60K words is a terrifice exercise in writing. Don't let go of those bootstraps! They'll save your bacon someday.

Elizabeth, if I have one lesson from my meandering career, it's perseverence pays. And almost nothing else does, including brilliance. Eistein (okay maybe it wasn't him, but it was somebody) said success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. I agree.

Jemi, Judy, and Sylvia. . . thanks so much for being great readers and loving the process. Jemi, we write out of our hearts and minds and souls and when something happens to change our hearts our writing has to change, too. but the "market" doesn't always understand.

Katie, I love that you said "your path so far". . . implying that I have a way to go yet in this career. I'd like to think that's so.

Jackie and Heather, thanks for the encouragement. . . and may I return the favor! Hang on to those dreams and let your kids(if you have them) see you pursuing them with a glad heart. What a lesson that is for kids to see. . . people achieving their dreams.

Alison! Great to see you here! Isn't it interesing how "dead" genres rise from the grave and capture a whole new audience periodically? I have to believe that western-set historicals will make a comeback-- they just need a big movie or a sales blockbuster novel to trigger the stampede! Till then, contemporary IS fun! Go with what feels good and satisfies your writer's heart.

Kathy, you are my sister under the skin! Amazing how out careers have paralleled and come to much the same places.

Gun Diva-- great to see you here, too! And I feel sure that adventure romance's time will come. It's inevitable. The market is so saturated with other things-- they'll have to finally give it a chance. Look for a big blockbuster to ignite the "new" subgenre.

Robert, reinventing yourself is also known as "learning and growing." Sometimes we choose it and other times it's forced upon us. But ultimately, it's for the best and we come out of it better writers and better people. The is not growth without some struggle. Ewwww that sounds about as unappealing as rotten eggs! It does, however, seem to be true.

Mary Ricksen said...

No one can give you any advise you already conquered it all.
Congratulations on all your success's and my only advise, never give up. You never know what you missed.
Happy Holidays Betina.
I liked your historical muse, I have no doubt I will love this venue equally.

Cris Anson said...

Thank you for an inspiring and informational post, Betina. After a half dozen contemporary romances with Ellora's Cave, my muse began delving into 1694 Massachusetts Bay Colony, so I let it have free rein. It was gratifying when my editor bought it, because I stretched my wings and did something so different from my usual output.

I wish you continued success in all your genres, and I can't wait to read your Manhunting book.

Cris Anson

Scarlet Pumpernickel said...

Dang, always a day late and a dollar short! Missed it by that much. Rats foiled again! I would have loved to win your book, but never fear, I can buy it and check out your voice. This is something I struggle with constantly. I write contemporary, but my first love is historicals. My voice, unless I watch closely is decidedly historical. Fortunately for me my critique partner catches when I slip up and raps my knuckles.