[Back in the olden days of early last year when I was new to Twitter, I crossed paths with many an author, but few which stuck in my mind so well as Evelyn Lafont. I'd say it was because her writing blog was one of the few I was reading back then that took a more cynical and realistic approach to the world of writing, but in reality it probably had more to do with the fact that her Twitter handle was @KeyboardHussy. She's been mostly off Twitter for a while, but she pops her head up every once in a while, and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me.]
I’ve noticed that there seems to a kind of aversion to mid-length fiction in the traditional publishing world, and yet all of your Vampire Relationship Guide books are novellas, and you seem to be doing rather well with them. What’s the deal here? Is mid-length fiction fundamentally more difficult to sell, or is that paradigm dying as ereaders grow in prominence?
I wish that I was enough of an authority to actually answer this question for you. I write the kind of books that I want to read. If I want to read short, serial and mid-length fiction, I can’t be the only one, right?
I’m interested in your approach to your Vampire Relationship Guide books. How difficult is it to write a vampire romance that pokes fun at the genre, but still appeals to fans of the source material, AND stands up on its own as a story?
The way that I approached it was to make fun of a genre that I happen to enjoy. I think a different thing happens when a writer mocks a genre that he hates or thinks less off. There is a superiority, lack of respect and lack of understanding that shines through and makes the reading experience unpleasant for those who do like the genre, and that means his actual audience is people who hate the genre and frankly, that’s a harder sell.
Also, I work to put boundaries around my poking. I wanted to explore the practicalities of a human having a relationship with a vampire and make it more uncomfortably real than other books in the genre, but I wanted to also have a real, true love story at the core.
A while back you made a pretty bold decision to stop tweeting and blogging as a writer. Can you talk a little about what prompted you to back off from social media, and how that has worked out for you?
It’s hard to answer this question without coming off like a witch, but Imma try. Okay, so I’ve been sitting here in silence for about 10 minutes trying to think about ways to be diplomatic. I can’t, so here goes. Social media takes up too much time and for me, is very draining. In my freelance career, I’ve used social media, blogging and other Internet marketing tools to great success. In fiction it’s … different. I assumed, in the beginning, that my developed skills would translate from freelance to fiction, but I was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. I can’t have that level of energy drainage and still keep up with all my other obligations, especially when the amount of books that Twitter actually helped me move was, like, a venti cappuccino’s worth.
I do still blog on EvelynLafont.com, but I don’t generally talk about writing or issues that affect writers.
Who do you favor in the battle for supernatural domination? Vampires, or Rage Virus-Infected Cyborg Elephants?
I favor whoever’s winning and my loyalties can shift as quickly as Mario Andretti. (I really hope he drove a stick shift, or that joke won’t make any damn sense.)
In the wake of Twilight it seems there has been a huge increase in both the demand and supply of supernatural romance books. What, if anything, do you think this fascination with “superhuman as romantic interest” says about us as a culture?
I think it says that we enjoy easy answers and we don’t enjoy that life is temporary.
You get one wish. You can fundamentally alter reality in any way you please. What is it?
No way. Uh-uh. I saw that episode of Twilight Zone and it doesn’t end well.
You work as a freelance writer in addition to writing romance fiction. How difficult is it to separate writing for work and writing for yourself?
I don’t know that it’s difficult so much as tiring. The average freelancing day for me involves anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 words—sometimes more if I have a special order. And these words are non-negotiable. There is no option to cry, “Writer’s block!” Freelancing supports my single-income family and I have to succeed or we’ll be living in a van down by the river, and I don’t think the cats would like that very much. If I’m working on white papers, brochures, PowerPoint presentations or ghostwriting a book, then there are design elements involved, data to analyze and create charts for, outlining, etc. If I’ve got a video script to create, there’s a lot of reading out loud and editing down content for time. I may also have interviews, phone appointments with new clients, proposals and contracts to complete, billing, accounting, on and on and…
After all that, on West Coast time, Evelyn comes out. But sometimes, I’m just too tired or drained to indulge her as much as I’d like. Believe it or not, right now, I’m actually in a waterfront condo that I rented for a few days just to let Evelyn breathe. All my freelance deadlines are met so she can just run and play and think and dream. Oh yeah, and type.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression though. I realize that, sitting in my comfy office chair, under a fat blanket and equally fat kitty, drinking coffee and listening to the sound of music and wooden wind chimes, I’m not exactly suffering under the weight of a really hard job. It’s not that, but it feels like both the freelance and the fiction need the same skill set and often, by evening, that skill set is tapped out.
Your books unabashedly (and rather explicitly) feature people sexin’ it up, and as a fully certified prude I gotta ask: what’s it like writing all that steamy bedroom stuff?
It’s actually a lot like having sex. Sometimes you’re not in the mood so you have to focus on other plot elements, sometimes you want it—so you do it and you do it well, and sometimes you have to do something to get yourself in the mood.
In the days of your blog you made some interesting statements about marketing tools that you’ve found that seem to work really well, but you always played your cards close to your chest. I don’t want to steal trade secrets or anything like that, but is there ANYTHING you can share with the rest of us beleaguered self-pubbers?
The problem with revealing everything you know is that everyone then runs out and tries to replicate what you’ve done, and now your tricks are no longer effective. I’m all for helping people, but I will never understand the compulsion of indies to share all their secrets so they water down what was once an effective marketing or advertising technique.
What I will tell you is:
1. Don’t limit your distributors. There are months that I rock iTunes, and months that Amazon is my big store. Other times Barnes and Noble sells a hefty chunk, then All Romance. You can’t limit the number of places you sell through. Soon, I will also have everything out in paper because that has been limiting my sales.
2. You can’t compare apples to oranges, nor can you expect them to sell the same way. I sell romance—one of the most popular genres for those using e-readers. I also work almost exclusively with series and serials, both of which allow addictive romance readers to stay with the same cozy characters for a very long time.
In my experience, most of us writers have at least one writer we LOVE, but no one else has heard of. Who’s yours? Who makes you want to stand on the rooftops and shout, “HEY! Ya’ll need to be reading this!”
I mostly read mainstream or classic books, so I’m not sure if I actually have a hidden author to expose. One of my favorite funny authors, Marta Acosta, is not as widely read in the genre as I think she should be—so I guess I’ll go with that.
[Evelyn writes the erotic vampire comedic romance series The Vampire Relationship Guide as well as some other stuff. Check it out! (Assuming, you know, that you're into that kind of thing.)]