- by Dara Girard
I was an early reader and ran out of kids’ books around age 10. That’s when I started reading adult-level books. I think I started writing around age twelve to fill a void between my reading level and the books available to me. Now, we call it fanfic, but I found it rewarding to write within the boundaries of a known universe. I wrote sporadically through high school but what I wrote wasn’t anything I could use in English class. Being a practical sort, I figured writing was like music in my life—a nice hobby, but not something that could make a viable career. I’d never won any accolades (or notice) for what I wrote and I was a good enough piano player to accompany, but never solo. So I ended up getting a degree in engineering because I had more easily measurable skills in math and sciences.
Jump to my adult life as a mother and wife of a military officer. We moved frequently which killed my engineering career, but reactivated my desire to write. I wrote my first book in 1990, sold it in 1993 and it was published in 1994. I’ve written series romantic suspense for Harlequin, time travel and paranormal for Zebra, mysteries for St. Martin Press, non-fiction for Berkley, short stories for DAW, inspirational thrillers for Tyndale and most recently, urban fantasy for Forge.
What inspired you to start Author, Author!?
Who hasn’t wanted to open a bookstore? I’d worked at two used bookstores and while we lived in Montana, I’d started selling books on Amazon when they first opened up their auctions. I was hooked! A good friend in Colorado, Pam McCutcheon, asked me about my experiences and I ended up teaching her everything I knew about selling used books on line. When we found out we were moving to Colorado a couple of years later, she and I became partners and talked about some day opening a physical store. Two year later, I walked into a small local store and the owner told me she was closing. I struck a deal with her and bought out her entire stock and shelves. A year later, Pam and I opened the store. We had a nice three year run, but had to close because our customers loved trading, but not buying. We returned to online sales only which had lower overhead and much better hours.
When my husband got a job in Alabama, I bought out Pam (very amicably) and shipped four thousand pounds of books to Alabama where I continued Author, Author! Besides selling books online, I’m building a strong reputation as a provider of books to authors at deep discounts.
You’re also the founding president of Pikes Peak Writers. What was your mission behind creating that group?
The Pikes Peak Writers Conference started in 1993 and in 2001, reached a point where we had outgrown the support of the library district who had sponsored us. They suggested that in order to continue, we would need to spin off into our own group and literally sponsor ourselves. A group of key volunteers met, and we plotted, planned, consulted a lawyer and ended up establishing Pikes Peak Writers as a 501(c)3 writing organization. We continued the conference and added in additional programming as our membership grew. We’re now planning our 20th conference for April 2012 and although I’ve not lived in Colorado for ten out of the twenty years of the conference’s existence, I’ve been able to keep close ties with the group. Despite living in Alabama for the last four years, I was the 2009 conference director and am the director for the upcoming 2012 conference. Once they get their hooks into you…
The PPW Conference is known as ‘one of the friendliest writers conferences’ around. What traits make a conference friendly for writers?
We concentrate on commercial fiction, primarily, and make sure there is no implied or inadvertent hierarchy among the genres. We treat our faculty(authors, editors and agents) like the rock stars they are—flying them in, picking them up at the airport, putting them up in a 4 star hotel, feeding them, giving them detailed schedules, and paying them an honorarium. We frequently get thank you notes from them and requests to return. But it’s not just a Colorado vacation. We make them work! They give workshops, sit on panels, give critiques, take pitches, and are available at every meal for conversation and networking. The staff works very hard to make everything run smoothly, starting a year in advance. I firmly believe that when a conference is well planned and thought out, the volunteers and staff won’t be stressed. When the staff is relaxed, the attendees are relaxed.
You’re going to conduct a workshop in the upcoming Novelists Inc Conference “New Rules, New Tools” what are some topics you plan to cover?
The print book business will not die because there are too many people who still enjoy reading a printed book. (I defy you to e-read in the tub! Or during take-off or landing. <g>) However, it’s going to be harder to get shelf space. I’ve been lucky to experience the book business from two perspectives—that of the author and that of the bookseller. I’ll explain aspects of the business that most authors don’t know about and then we’ll do an interactive exercise where you get to create your own virtual bookstore, stock and staff it and experience the realities of the business, the whims of readers, stocking issues and all the financial challenges of running a bookstore.
For those not fortunate enough to attend the conference what’s a nugget of wisdom you can leave with us?
Support your independent bookseller!
Another hat you wear is as a writer. Your latest title is Angel a collaboration with Mrs. Ice T aka Nicole “Coco” Marrow. How did that come about?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with Tekno Books, a well known packaging company owned by the late Martin A. Greenberg. Before Denise Little was with Tekno, she was an editor at Zebra and I was one of her authors. She knew I always wanted to write mysteries so when Tekno was packaging a First Daughter mystery series for Susan Ford, Denise thought of me. The same thing happened with the Coco Marrow series. Denise knew I wanted to write urban fantasy and the rest, as they say, is history.
As you might guess, I’ve never met a genre I didn’t like.
What makes for a good collaboration?
What a loaded question. When it’s a celebrity/writer collaboration, a clear distinction of roles probably makes the best collaboration.
I’m now working on a writer/writer collaboration with a good friend, and what makes this collaboration work is a matter of establishing well-defined expectations and a true appreciation for the others’ writing skills. We brainstorm well together and we’ve fallen into a very comfortable but productive rhythm. We both look at the end result and believe it is greater than the sum of its parts. And since she’s an English teacher and not a mathematician, I’m very impressed that she expressed it that way.
Anything else you’d like to add?
There are so many more areas I want to work in. I’ve dabbled in screenplays and even had a teleplay concept get used for a cable network show. I’m currently head over heels in love with radio drama and hope to be able to do something spectacular and unexpected with that. When you look at the proposals I have out, they cover a wide spectrum from action to adventure to comedy to mysteries to suspense… Like I said, I haven’t met a genre I didn’t like or didn’t want to write. It makes it hellish to promote me, but don’t we all love challenges?
Find out more about Laura here.