Friday, September 23, 2005

Q&A with J. R. Ward

Welcome to Friday's Q&A with J.R. Ward, author of Dark Lover.

Editor's Note: I was in Waldenbooks in North Conway, NH a few weeks ago, and they were having a "buy four, get one free" sale. I had three books I wanted, so I asked the bookseller to pick two others for me. She pratically sprinted across the the store to retreive Dark Lover. She threw that puppy down in front me and said I *had* to read it. I took one look at the awesome cover and agreed. I went home, plopped down on the couch and read it. Truthfully, it blew me away. It was one of the best books I've ever read in my life. It was sexy, compelling, thrilling and absolutely engaging. The characters, plot and writing was flawless. So, I marched up to my computer and sent JR an adoring fan letter. She responded right away, being the incredibly nice person that she was, and now we have her doing a Q&A on my blog!

Dark Lover is her debut book under the name J.R. Ward, and it is taking off like a shot. It hit the USA Today list its first week and has been climbing the charts. This third week, it was up to #48 on the USA list and hit the NYT list. Way to go, JR! You deserve every success!

And now, off to our Q&A. P.S. Don't forget to stop by for Bonus Saturday Q&A with Janet Mullany.

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current book?

DARK LOVER is an erotic paranormal romance that launches the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are six warrior vampires in the Brotherhood: Wrath, Rhage, Vishous, Phury, Zsadist and Tohrment. DARK LOVER features Wrath, the Blind King. When one of his most trusted warriors is killed, Wrath takes on the responsibility of ushering the male’s half-human daughter into the vampire world. Beth Randall has no idea she’s about to turn into a vampire and the towering, black-haired man who shows up on her doorstep is not a welcome surprise. She fights the pull she feels for him as long as she can... and then the real adventure begins!

2) First of all, huge congratulations on Dark Lover making the USA Today list for two consecutive weeks. How did you find out that you’d made the list? Was it the most amazing moment of your career so far?

I found out via email. There was this email on a loop I belong to with the subject: Jesssica! I double clicked and it said: You made USAToday! I blinked and felt a shot of true excitement. Then immediately another email came from the same person and the subject was: Re: Jesssica. I thought, oh, she made a mistake. I didn’t open the email. I let the dog out. Took a deep breath. Went back to the computer and opened the second email. It said: I got so excited I put an extra “s” in your name. I blinked. Typed: What?! And then: Where did you see this? I hit send and thought, well, duh. Go to USAToday’s website. So that’s how I found out!

(Editor's note: Dark Lover went on to hit the NYT extended list its third week, and moved up to #48 on the USA Today list as well. Congratulations, JR!)

3) Before you wrote the Dark Lover series, you’d sold a number of books under the name Jessica Bird. Can you tell us about the path that took you from those gentler contemporary romances to this compelling, sexy, suspenseful series?

I love writing contemporary romances, and I still do under the Jessica Bird name, but after four of them had come out, it was time to make a change. My husband and I had just moved down south, and I’d stopped working as a lawyer. It was kind of like, okay, I’ve been doing the writing thing for a while in addition to Corporate America stuff, but now let’s see if I can make the books a career. I had saved up almost two years of living expenses and decided to throw myself at fate. I changed agents and tried to expand my horizons about what sub-genre I was in.

Then I went to a bookstore one day and saw a romance with a vampire on the cover. I was like, wait a minute, you mean a vampire could be the hero? And someone would actually read it? I went home, stared at the computer screen and thought, I love vampires. I hate that they are usually the bad guys. And I think they are really hot. But how am I going to make this fly? I decided, okay, since no one is going to actually read this, I’m just going to write what I see in my head, no matter how out there it is. And then... BANG. The Brotherhood hit me. The world and the characters and the rules, it was all fully formed. I was astounded.

And all the while, through the planning and the drafting of the first three chapters, I had an ache in my chest. I was so convinced that no one would like it except for me. I was also convinced it went a little far (I mean, if you’ve read the book, remember Beth and Wrath’s mating ceremony???) Finally, I sent the proposal and three chapters to my agent and just waited. I don’t think I breathed at all because I was kind of sure she’d tell me I was crazy. When she called me back and told me she loved it, I was so very grateful because I was one step closer to actually writing the books. Frankly, the changes in my professional life, the switching of agents, the Brotherhood’s arrival, it was all leap of faith stuff. And I still don’t understand why the brothers showed up in my head. I’m just awfully glad they did!

4) From a craft or story-telling point of view, can you share with us any ah ha! moments you had that took you to a USA Today best selling author?

Showing and not telling. I think that is the big one. As I wrote DARK LOVER, I remember making a conscious decision to do away with as much exposition and introspection as I could. Sometimes you need either one or both to flesh out a scene, but I wanted to make the book as lean as possible on telling. It was so hard to discipline myself because I was used to showing my characters’ thought processes. In DL, though, if they thought it, they had to say it either to the person they were with or whoever they were thinking about. I liked the way it turned out, because my characters ended up interacting a lot more with each other. I think it brought an immediacy and vividness to the relationships.

Also, I got rid of projections for the most part- which I used to put in frequently. While I was writing DARK LOVER, I would get to the end of a scene and want to put in a tag that would project what the character was going to do next. I took all those out for the most part. I felt like I was flying blind in a way, or putting the reader in an unstable situation because they wouldn’t know what would happen next. But what do you know... it helped with the pacing.

5) What kind of self-promo did you do for Dark Lover? Was it different from what you’d done for your other books?

I didn’t do a lot that was different. One of the biggest investments I made was in the website. I focused on making it user friendly and getting information on the brothers out in a way that was fresh and vivid. For example, I staged interviews with each of the brothers- instead of just having physical descriptions, there are transcripts of the conversations so the warriors really come through. In addition to the website, I also advertised on some online sites and got the word out among reader groups. There were also print ads in Romantic Times and RWA’s Romance Writers Report.

6) Can you give us a sneak peek at your next Black Dagger book? How many days do I have to wait until it’s out?

The second Black Dagger book, LOVER ETERNAL, is Rhage’s story and it comes out in early March ‘06. Rhage is the strongest brother, the best fighter, the one with the heartiest... er, appetites. But he was cursed a hundred years ago and ever since then he’s had to battle with his inner beast. When his path crosses with that of a certain human female’s, he’s enthralled and determined to have her. Mary Luce, however, is not looking for love with anyone- much less a vampire. With a curse of her own, she has enough to deal with already. Fortunately, fate has other ideas for her future!

DARK LOVER (avail. 9/6/05) Signet Eclipse: an RT Top Pick **Wrath's book**

LOVER ETERNAL (avail. 3/7/06) Signet Eclipse **Rhage's book**

LOVER AWAKENED (avail. 9/5/06) Signet Eclipse **Zsadist's book**


At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am hooked on the Black Dagger Brotherhood Books , I picked up Dark Lover while on my lunch at work I was pressed for time and barely looked at the blurb on the back thinking oh well the cover looks pretty good , well needless to say I was a little late clocking back in to work . I got home and read it in one sitting .
I'm not one to reread a book ( I usually read one a day ) but this is one i'll probably have worn out when her naxt one comes out ... it's a gotta read book ... i'm allready dying to get my hands on the other ones .
Pat Phillips


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