- by Dara Girard
The countdown to the 28th RT BOOKLOVERS’ CONVENTION’s continues! This five day event arrives in Los Angeles April 6-10, 2011 boasting more than 100 workshops. Find out more here. I was delighted to get a chance to speak with author Jeannie Lin who will not be on just one panel, but three.
Jeannie Lin grew up fascinated with stories of Western epic fantasy as well as Eastern martial arts adventures. When her best friend introduced her to romance novels in middle school, the stage was set. Jeannie started writing her first romance while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles. After four years of trying to break into publishing with an Asian-set historical, her manuscript, Butterfly Swords, won the 2009 Golden Heart® award for historical romance. Harlequin® Mills & Boon bought the manuscript. With two releases and four more upcoming titles all set in the Tang Dynasty, she’s keeping her fingers crossed that this hard-sell genre will one day be hard to resist.
Like many authors you’ve weathered rejections, contests and revisions before getting published. However, your journey was a little different because you set your work in the Tang Dynasty. What made you choose that setting and stick with it?
I have to say the Tang Dynasty has been a muse for me for a long time. The period is considered the golden age of imperial China, yet it was also a time of warfare and power struggles. Imagine the drama of a medieval (swords, warlords, battles) combined the high culture of an Elizabethan or Regency (poetry, music, gorgeous clothing) and that’s the inspiration that the Tang Dynasty gives to me. Most of all, it was the strong and independent women of the Tang that hooked me in and wouldn’t let me go. In my heart of hearts, I felt it was perfect for historical romance.
As to sticking with it, you have to write the story where you shine the brightest. Perhaps writing a historical in Asia made it more difficult to sell, but the truth is I wouldn’t have had even a snowball’s chance if I had been writing anything else.
Why do you think Asian-set, multi-cultural romances have a hard time reaching mainstream audiences?
I think the romance industry is very good about knowing what sells. The readers are avid and loyal. So when you come with something new like an Asian romance, there’s going to be a healthy bit of industry skepticism. It’s a business after all. The first books entering the market are going to struggle to get noticed and gain acceptance, but romance has always been an adventurous genre. Look how much it’s changed in just the last decade or so!
And then there’s the concept of romances offering what’s familiar and comforting. That’s not a bad thing, but when it comes to Asian romances, it’s not familiar to many mainstream readers. It takes a bit of curiosity or a leap of faith to reach for one. At the same time, there are many readers looking for something different. I wonder sometimes if my books may actually be appealing to readers of fantasy and paranormal as much as historical readers.
At RT you’re on a panel called “Multicultural: The Next Generation”. What are some things attendees can hope to learn?
Can I be honest and say I’m not quite sure myself, and that’s very exciting. Panels at RT are open and more flexible and free form, from what I’ve heard. I expect attendees will have many similar questions to the ones you’ve asked. They’ll likely ask about some of the challenges and special considerations for writing multi-cultural romances. Since I write historical, I often get questions about how I research.
I really, really hope someone asks about the intricacies of handling relationships that are inter-racial or of a non-mainstream culture. No one ever asks that and I’m a little disappointed.
What are the titles of the two other panels you’ll be on? Can you tell us about them?
I’m speaking on some very different topics:
Marketing: “How to Promote Like a Big Name Author When You’re Not One…Yet” – I’m teaming up with my friend Stephanie Draven/Stephanie Dray for this one. We both write stories that are a bit outside the norm, which means you have to be creative when thinking about marketing. We’re going to discuss some of the thought processes we went through to promote our debut novels. I’m hoping for a good discussion here rather than a dry lecture as there are so many things to think about with marketing and I’m always learning.
Specialty: “Kung-fu Fighting-Action Heroes and Action Scenes” – I’ll be speaking with Lynn Lorenz and Melinda McBride. We’ve only met online, but I think this is going to be a great workshop because we all write in different genres that all incorporate fight scenes. As the title implies, it’s both action and the characters that make the scene.
Is this your first time at the RT Convention? If so what do you hope to do? If not, what can you tell a newbie about the convention?
This is my first time. I’ve heard so much about it and I hope to just jump right in. I’ve got fairy wings and a mask and an armful of jangly bracelets for my Bollywood costume. I’m going to try to wrangle a picture with an EC Caveman if they allow that. In between my workshops, I’ll be attending as many workshops as I can.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m so glad I signed up for RT and especially that I’m signed up to speak at several workshops. My only regret is that I won’t be signing because I have to leave Friday. So if anyone would like to get books signed or to just say hi, I’m giving away copies of Butterfly Swords in the Goody Room and you can come by Club RT during my two spots to see me.
Make no mistake, this is an impassioned plea to anyone going to RT. Please don’t leave me sitting alone at the Club RT table like the new kid in the cafeteria!
Find out more about Jeannie Lin at her website: http://www.jeannielin.com/