Saturday, 24 October 2009

Eleni-fest: chatting with Nikki Logan

Today we have fellow Bootcamp 101 member, the talented Nikki Logan as my special guest on Eleni-fest. Nikki writes for the Harlequin Mills & Boon Romance line. Her debut book, Lights, Camera...Kiss The Boss! will be released in February 2010.

Welcome Nikki to Eleni’s Taverna and Eleni-fest!

Thanks for having me along, Eleni, and for a great month of writing-related festivities.

Congratulations on your upcoming debut release LCKTB in Feb 2010. How has the waiting been like?
Ugh. I’m terrible with delayed gratification so waiting has been hard! There’s a fourteen month gap between sale and shelf for this one because the book was bumped from its December slot into February to take advantage of a promotional month.

There’s no shortage of things to do in that time, though—writing more books, not the least—but the published journey is all learning curve for me and I like to learn faster!!

What attracted you to the Romance line?
The offer of a sale?? LOL.

I confess to having had the wrong idea about what Harlequin Romance was all about. I’d see those brides and babies on the cover and run a mile. When Kim Young was working with me on pre-sale revisions she gave me the option of Romance or Sexy Sensation but she nudged me toward romance and recommended a bunch of contemporary titles for me to get my head around the diversity in the line.  One of the 20 books I read was Liz Fielding’s Wedded in a Whirlwind in which almost the whole book takes place in the dark. Completely, utterly in the dark. I figured the line that could tolerate that kind of risk would cope with my creative eccentricities.

And Kim was right. There was such a range of emotion, plot, theme—something for everybody. Ultimately though it was the ‘it could happen to you’ promise. I’m not much on a steady diet of sheiks and playboys so the broader ingredient list possible in Romance really grabbed me.

What are you working on now? And what’s in the near future for Nikki Logan?
I’m in the final edit stages of a 25k novella for a UK-release-only ‘new author’ anthology. It features a stalked heroine with a bit of OCD going on.

I like to write slightly edgy characters which push the envelope, and this seems to be becoming my ‘thing’ so my future books will probably be the same. I’d like to stretch the boundary on what is and isn’t considered ‘heroic’ for characters. When my editor says ‘its risky, but…’ I get excited. The challenge of pulling off a risk.

Who is your favourite character from your books?
Great question! Impossible to answer. LOL.  Okay… hand-on-heart I have to say that I fall for every hero I write, I think you have to in order to communicate that on the page. So my ‘favourites’ list tends to be populated with them. 

Interestingly the heroine that won’t let me go was a minor character in Lights, Camera… Cadence the goth. I would love to write romance’s first goth heroine and she’s pushy enough to want her own space on the page.

How many books do you produce a year?
I have another deadline in December which is also my one-year anniversary of signing with Harlequin. I’ll have produced four in that time, which is pretty much what I imagined I could do while still working full-time. It was my goal in order to turn over sufficient books to get closer to writing for a living.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Again, because of the full-time work, about three months for a category. I’m a fast writer, slow editor so my first drafts can be anywhere from four-to-six weeks but then I need another six weeks to edit.

The ability to write fast, strong stories is so important in Category if you want to do it for a living. You have to have the volume. 

You have a real love affair with nature. How important is it for you to convey this in your books?
Extremely. I studied film-making at Uni because I wanted to make wildlife documentaries in order to communicate the importance of preserving our natural world. I ended up working in a conservation agency, doing the same thing by different means. I now work with amazing people who work in the field hands-on with wild animals. I felt like my contribution wasn’t as ‘real’ as theirs. One day, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to trek the Indonesian rainforests to make a difference, my tool was my words. It was something no-one else had.

Harlequin gives me a fantastic platform to share with thousands of readers what I find inspiring and beautiful about our natural world.

A number of really savvy authors suggested I should hold off on the ‘nature thing’ until I was established because publishers might be leery about an ‘issues’ author. But I took a risk and created my whole brand around the nature-based thing (although I was very careful to be moderate about it) and it paid off. The brand is supported by Harlequin and all of my stories will continue to be set in amazing places and my characters will have positive attitudes about nature.

How do you think your writing groups and associations have helped you in your writing?
Writer’s support is essential. Not just because it’s such a solo/isolated occupation and because there’s so much to learn, but because it’s really important to remember that readers are diverse. If you were to go it alone with your writing it would be too easy for your world to shrink to the 20mm around you and you’d only feed your own type of reader. And your writing would implode.

I was one of the lucky ten to take part in RWAus’ Romance Bootcamp 101, the inaugural year. That two-day workshop only cost me fifty bucks and it was worth ten—twenty—times that in terms of the way it gathered all my loose creative strands and pulled them together and tethered them. Before then my writing was accidental, like I’d picked stuff up by osmosis. It’s also where I met my closest writing friends who are critical to my ability to keep writing. We support each other, we nudge each other (or shove, if we really need it!), we celebrate and commiserate together.
(EK: Bootcampers Rock! *wink*)

You were competition queen. How did this help you?
Doing well in a competition is great for the ego (which takes a beating in a creative, competitive field) and great for gauging your work against your peers’. But the true advantage of competition is that doing well allows you to bypass the editorial assistants that patrol the editor’s moat and mean only 1% of submissions ever get on her desk. Comp wins put you straight on an editor’s desk. And if you choose your comp well, it also gives the un-agented author access to editors that would not otherwise look at their work.

Working full time, how do you fit it all in? Do you have a set routine?
I’m an all or nothing type girl. When I made the commitment to write I had to slough off other activities that I enjoyed in order to make time to write and that is more important than ever, now, because the timeframes are so much shorter in published-land. You just can’t work on something for months on end until you’re 100% happy with it.

I gave up TV, I’ve greatly reduced the number of people I see socially, I dropped out of a band I really enjoyed performing in. My house is usually dirty, my garden is overgrown. My DH only ‘sees’ me a few times a week.
I approach it like a second job. Just because I’m home doesn’t mean I can slack off.
I write on any evening when I don’t have something pressing on. This means usually two or three nights a week. And I write on both weekend days. In theory it’s half of each day (with a long stint into Saturday night) but I tend to blow that every week and write longer.
I have the greatest respect for women who can raise families and write. And I bow completely down before those who can do family, and a job, and write.
What do you love about being a writer?
Everything. Absolutely everything. Even the bad days are challenging and interesting.

I love being able to be at home with my boys (four-legged kids), I love being able to tell stories, I love being able to sell those stories. I love that people are interested in what I say or think and would pay money for it. I love the rush I get when I’m on a writing roll, I love the emotional rollercoaster that comes with writing a romance. I love being able to share my passion for nature.

I love having achieved something many people only dream about. I love the revolving door of ‘firsts’ that come with writing (first book, first comp win, first pitch, first sale, first title, first ISBN, first cover, first shelf, first reader mail, first review, first RITA…)

When I eventually get to write full time I know I’ll love not having to face traffic, not having to put on real shoes for the office. I’ll love being able to catch up with a friend for a 1pm coffee because it’s the only time her toddler is asleep. I’ll love staying up late when I’m in the zone and then sleeping in the next day.

*sigh* really, what’s not to love.

Many unpublished writers believe once you get the Call you’re in. What is your experience with this?
I guess I’ll find out!  Tracey O’Hara commented that one minute you’re a big fish in a small pond and then suddenly, wham!, you’re a tiny fish in an ocean of competition. She’s right. The scale of the romance industry is inconceivable and every one of those books is up there against yours. Every author is now competition, you can’t look at your favourite authors the same way again. Every story you write will be measured against thousands now, not just a handful. And some of those will be a lot, lot better than yours.

Publishing is a tough business. You are only as secure as your last contract and if your books don’t sell, you’re out. ‘The Call’ feels like a monumental moment but it’s really just the bottom step on a complicated and political escalator. Wait… not escalator, because that implies that it will all just ‘happen’ from the moment you step on and that’s not at all true. You have to climb those stairs, sometimes shoving against others on the stairs. You have to put in the effort or you just tumble off the side.

Wait.. did I just say there was nothing about writing I didn’t like…?  ;)

You went to the recent RWAus conference. As a pubbed author do you still get lightbulb moments?
Anyone who no longer gets lightbulbs about something needs to pick another trade. We all learn. We all evolve. The industry around us changes and we have to flex with that. If the lightbulbs stop… it’s time to stop.

There were lightbulbs galore at ‘Hot August Nights’. Hundreds of years of collective experience in one place. How could there not be.

You gave yourself a time limit to get published. What would have happened if you hadn’t been published by that time?
Yeah I’m pretty much all bluster when it comes to playing hard-ball with myself. Nothing would have happened if I hadn’t made it. I would have kept working hard and pushed that deadline back accordingly ;) I’m nothing if not flexible.

But having that very concrete and tangible goal (‘published by forty’) fuelled me when I would otherwise have slacked off, and it drove me to study the industry and take some risks with my writing and with my life.

Nikki at the First Sale presentation at the RWAus conference

You use a pen name. Can you tell us why and how this came about?
I decided to use a pen name way back when I first had the urge to write a book. I would have used a pseudonym even if I’d written non-fiction, I think, just to keep my work separate from me.

As it happens, it was the first thing Harlequin asked me because my real name was not Googleable. Word-of-mouth marketing is big business and if readers can’t find you when they type you into a search engine you’re losing a potential sale.

I kept Nikki in the advice of just about every author who ever picked a name that wasn’t theirs (and I’m glad I did) and Logan came off a billboard in my suburb and was subsequently available as a domain name.

That simple.

What do you do in your ‘down’ time?
Bwahahaahhaaaa… down time. You crack me up.
(EK: I aim to please....*wink*)

You are blogging over at the eHarlequin Romance blog. How are you finding blogging?
It still amazes me that people care what I have to say. I’m getting better at realising you can blog about anything (not just your book or something to do with your book) but I have a long way to go in feeling really natural about it.

I’m terrible about inviting people to read my blog. The secret to effective social networking is that you don’t have to keep harassing the same people to visit your blog. It just kind of drifts out into the ether like a dinghy that’s come free of its mooring. I have a lot to learn about doing that effectively. But I’ll get there.

And until then, there’s always Eleni to help get the message out. *grin*

Thanks Nikki for joining us at the fest and it's my pleasure getting the message out! Nikki has kindly offered an e-copy of Lights, Camera...Kiss the Boss! as a give away. (So you will have to wait for the release but it’s well worth it!)

To win an advance copy of Lights, Camera…Kiss the Boss give us a ‘green tip’ something unique you do in your household to tread more lightly on our planet. Nikki will pick the most unique for the prize.

Comments are open until the end of 29th October.

Comments for prize are now closed. Congratulations Jenn J McLeod!

Good luck!

And thank you Nikki for your generosity.


(LCKTB graphic done by Eleni as no cover available yet)

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