Presenter, Pre-Conference Workshop: The Basics are Still the Same *Special Registration Required* Presenter, His Brain/Her Brain: Why it Took Moses 40 Years to Get Out of the Desert Workshop
New York Times bestselling author Eileen Dreyer, Kathleen Korbel to her Silhouette readers, is a proud member of RWA Hall of Fame, and winner of half dozen RT Booklover Awards throughout her career. With forty books and ten short stories to her names, she is published in a plethora of subgenres in romance and suspense (in suspense, mostly medical. I mean, why waste all that frustration?), and now includes what she calls Historical Romantic Adventure (gentleman spies are involved) with her DRAKE'S RAKES series, the latest of which is TWICE TEMPTED. She is working now on Pip's story, THREE TIMES A LADY, and a surprise novella, MISS FELICITY'S DILEMMA (to be clear, the one surprised was the author. Those characters. You just can't control 'em).
A native of St. Louis, where she still lives with her large, noisy Irish family, Eileen is also an RN with sixteen years experience in trauma medicine, and training in death investigation and forensics. A seasoned speaker, she has taught in venues that range from Washington University in St. Louis to the Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. She travels to research, and researches to travel, and has made a commitment to have the most adventures she can, which includes being on "Jeopardy!," attending the Tony Awards in New York and a Hindu wedding in India, and singing in some of the best Irish pubs on three continents. She has animals, but refuses to subject them to the limelight.
Is there a conference workshop you’ve attended that really helped you, or that you remember because it was something new or different, helpful or interesting? One of my favorite conferences was one we put on with Sisters in Crime that was one of the first Forensic Research conferences for writers. I've become obsessed by research and could listen to cop stories all day. We also got to do hands-on research. If anybody is interested in that kind of thing, I'd recommend Lee Lofland's Writer's Police Academy.
What is the biggest challenge a romance writer faces in today’s market? Standing out. There is a glut in product, and with the rise of indie publishing a diminishment of gatekeepers. It used to be that the publishers were gatekeepers. You knew that if a publisher put out a book you could depend on a certain level of proficiency. We haven't found a solid replacement yet, although sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing are making the attempt. There are still an awful lot of bugs to work out, though, before they're completely reliable. And it's not that there isn't great product. But it reminds me of eBay. I have actually bought some great artwork on eBay. But I had to wade through a whole lotta crappy unicorns to get there. Don't be a crappy unicorn.
It's one of the reasons I'm giving the pre-con I am. Because what I see is a lot of people who think that all you have to do is hit Post and your book is on a par with everybody else's. And I see an audience who has less time to give an author multiple chances. Authors are becoming so obsessed with production, marketing and algorithms, they seem to forget that readers are still looking for the same thing: a great story well-told. And that includes technically. Because if an author doesn't even have the respect for me to spellcheck and line-edit, I assume he doesn't have the respect to provide a good product. I'll go on to find another author. There are a hell of a lot of great books out there.
Do you use a critique group/partner, beta reader(s), your editor and/or agent, or some combination for feedback? I have had the same critique partner for the last 20 years, Karyn Witmer-Gow who has written as Elizabeth Kary and Elizabeth Grayson. She writes gorgeous historical novels, her focus different than mine so we don't get in each other's way. She helps me cut through the steps as I build a book, and monitors my continuity, which is one of my weak points. She has an excellent eye for story. I run things past my agent, and when I have an editor, by her to make sure I'm on the right path and making sense.
As for line editing, the book I'm working on now is my first indie book. Every other book I've done I have relied on my line editors. I would never have the hubris to try to put a book out without having a good editor go through it with a meticulous eye. You can believe I will do no less this time. And I'll make sure it's an editor who has the guts to tell me when I've screwed up. That is the most important quality in an editor (this is all stuff I'll probably talk about again at the conference).
What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot? I'm a mixture of plotting and pantsing. I have no real linear logic, so I focus my book like somebody with a jigsaw puzzle. I figure out what the picture looks like. But it isn't until I actually tell the story that I know exactly how to build it. I know the lead characters, the conflict, most of the motivation (I tend to be an organic writer and find out my character's motivation as I go along) and maybe three or four scenes. I write in a straight line because not only am I a lazy writer, which means I'd end up only writing the fun stuff, but because the story changes as you write it and characters reveal themselves. If you write a later scene first, you have to change it anyway. I might jot down some dialogue I hear or ideas, but I do it knowing that chances are it won't last the way it is. As Karyn says, each book tells its own story. The germs of my stories come from snatches of conversation, from people, from news sources, so the story starts in hundreds of places. The characters are more important, though.
What are you working on this very moment? I have a series I call Regency Romantic Adventure built around gentleman spies (don't judge. I love gentlemen spies). I have five out of nine finished, and suddenly a traditional Regency story popped up that insisted on being written. Miss Felicity's Dilemma is about a good friend of Pip's and the arranged marriage she seems to have fallen into. After that I promise to finish the series. I really need to see how it turns out.
What was your most memorable pitching experience? Oh, that's easy. I was pitching my book Jake's Way to Lucia Macro at Silhouette. I truly was fascinated by the idea of a strong man having a terrible secret he feels would destroy him. In this instance, that he had recovered his family's ranch and seen his siblings raised through his own hard work to be successful, when no one knows that he is illiterate. I said all that to Lucia, who made a very low moaning sound of pain, as in, 'Oh, no. No, not that. I'll never get it accepted.” Now, understanding the genre, Silhouette AND Lucia, I followed it with. “Lucia. He's a cowboy!” End of editorial meeting. The book was sold.
Can you share with us a fan letter, email, or meet and greet experience with a reader that stuck with you? I've been incredibly lucky. While I was at Silhouette I wrote several 'issue' books, like Jake. Two of them were RITA winners: A Soldier's Heart and A Rose for Maggie. I have received some amazing letters from fans of those two books. One women thanked me for Soldier's Heart, because her beloved brother had committed suicide because of PTSD and my book helped her grieve. I've not only received quite a few letters about Maggie, in which my heroine has a very fragile child who has Down syndrome, but the book has been used in support groups.
I deliberately set those issue books in romance, not only because they were women's issues, but because I wanted to make a pact with my audience that going in they knew there would be a happy ending, no matter what the problem was. All of my readers who contacted me told me it was the only reason they could read those books, and one of the reasons they were so therapeutic.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author? It's a quote from Somerset Maugham I cite at the beginning of every lecture. “There are three hard and fast rules to writing. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.” Every author has to find his or own way. And it's easy to know if the advice you've been given works. Are the words showing up on your screen or page? If they are, then keep going. If not, put it down and figure something else out.
What skill would you like to master? Playing an instrument. I have short stubby hands and an inability to make each one do something different at the same time.
What are some small things that make your day better? My garden, my yard where I sit late at night and just listen to the insects and trees. My family, all of the extended mad bunch of them, books, planning travel (I am the Queen of Internet Travel, you know), and in the summer, baseball (Go, Cards!).
Who’s your go-to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to? If only it were that easy. The only genre of music I don't have in my collection is straight country. On my CD player right now (yes, I'm a Luddite) I have Santana, Porgy and Bess, Evanescence, the Beatles, Last of the Mohicans and Loreena Mckennit. You name it, I'll listen to it. It just depends on my mood.
What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should? All-Jackman.
What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of? The Real Housewives of whatever. I want to slap every one of them until their ears ring.
What is special about the place you grew up? St. Louis is a city of neighborhoods. It's true that if I misbehaved a mile from home my mom would know about it before I got home. We belonged to a very tight, active parish and grew up with entire families. When we ask where you went to school, we don't want to know about high school. We want to know parish (even if you're not Catholic, it's the easiest border) and high school. That says everything about you. It's also a city where if you don't leave right away, you never go. I think only one of my cousins left town from college. So I'm still close to most of them. Of the 7 kids in my family, we and all but 2 of our kids all live within 12 miles of each other. And whatever else goes on, the city all has baseball to bond over. The real religion in St. Louis is Cardinals baseball. I was in the stands when Mark McGwire broke the home run record, and it was like a really religious experience with 48,000 strangers. We have a lot of great history (Lewis and Clarke, Daniel Boone, Dred Scott), art, theater, music and food. And the more I travel, the more I appreciate the fact that one of our nicknames is Tree City. Rolling hills with unbroken woods for dozens of miles in almost any direction.
What do you regret not doing or starting when you were younger? I wish I'd had more time to do more theater. Other than that, I'm perfectly content.
Favorite food? Yes. The list of what I don't like is far shorter. Something like cooked carrots, lima beans, rice pudding and tofu.
Would You Rather:
Would you rather be transported permanently 500 years into the future or 500 years into the past? I don't suppose I could say neither. If it's permanently, though, I'm kind of attached to penicillin and feminism. Future.
Would you rather give up bathing for a month or give up the internet for a month? The internet. Irish people love water too much.
Would you rather have an unlimited international first class ticket or never have to pay for food at restaurants? International first class ticket (reference Queen of Internet Travel). I can always cook for myself.
Would you rather have free Wi-Fi wherever you go or be able to drink unlimited free coffee at any coffee shop? Wi-fi.
Don't forget to purchase your ticket for Eileen's pre-conference workshop when you register. See Eileen and all our amazing keynote speakers at our Put Your Heart in a Book Conference!