FAQS WITH TAWNA FENSKE, THE AUTHOR
How did you decide to be an author?
I applied to be a pirate, but they said I’d be better suited for this.
C’mon, really. How’d you become an author?
I’ve always written for my supper in one form or another, either as a journalist, a tech writer, or a marketing geek crafting newsletters, brochures, and web copy. But it wasn’t until 2002 that it dawned on me to try my hand at fiction. My book club read an abysmally bad romance novel by a famous author, and I remember smacking it on the table and declaring that if that crap could get published, so could I.
Cue the maniacal laughter, followed by a patronizing sigh of, “oh, honey—easier said than done.”
Really? Can you describe your path to publication?
I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. Rather than kill you, I should probably point you to this blog post, where I wrote about the whole saga shortly after signing my three-book romantic comedy deal with Sourcebooks. It’s long. You might want to grab a snack.
Can I tell you my story idea and you write it and we’ll split the money?
If there’s one thing authors have in spades, it’s poor hygiene. Wait, that wasn’t the answer to this question.
If there’s one thing authors have in spades, it’s ideas. Those are a dime a dozen. Finding the time, patience, and skill to put your butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and words on the page is the real challenge.
So was that a yes?
Here, have a glass of wine.
Can you give me some writing advice?
You’ll find tons of it on my blog, but here are links to some of my more popular posts:
- My original query letter dissected by my agent
- You are a real author, dammit
- My real advice for new authors
- Bouncing back when your confidence takes a beating
- Comparison is the thief of joy (a.k.a. my answer to the question “how long does it take you to write a novel?”)
Will you read my query, manuscript, or palm?
Sadly, I don’t have the time or bandwidth to read other people’s stuff unless my agent or editor orders me to. I also don’t have the talent to read your palm, though I can read your mind and know you’re kind of a pervert. Can we be friends?
Where do you get your inspiration as a writer?
A few years ago, I attended a professional luncheon. When I discovered a piece of gristle in a bite of chicken, I politely spit it in my napkin and forgot about it. When I opened my napkin, I watched in horror as the gristle tumbled into the trendy designer handbag of the woman next to me. I made several covert attempts to fish the gristle out of her purse, but had to abandon my effort when she grew suspicious I was trying to rob her.
That sort of thing happens to me on a daily basis, and it’s the best explanation I can give you for why I’m inspired to write comedy.
As for the romance part of the romantic comedy, that’s pretty much my favorite thing in the whole wide world. Besides, I feel it’s my moral obligation to thoroughly research and test any sex scene I write. I owe it to you as a reader. You’re welcome.
I want to be an author. How do I start?
Step 1: Read. Read everything you can get your hands on, from fiction to non-fiction, true crime to literary fiction to the back of your cereal box. Never, ever stop.
Step 2: Write. Revise. Write some more. Throw it away and start over. Keep writing. Show it to some friends. Rewrite. Join a local writing group and find some critique partners. Revise again, and know there’s no shame in chucking everything and starting again (statistically speaking, it takes seven tries to write a publishable book. You’ll find my thoughts on that statistic here). Whatever you do, keep writing.
Step 3 (trad pub): If you’re going the traditional publishing route, begin crafting your query letter. To learn how to do this, visit Query Shark and read every post, start to finish. Learning how to succinctly describe your book and entice someone to read more will be useful whether you’re querying agents, editors, or simply writing promotional copy for self-published work.
Step 4 (trad pub): Compile a list of potential agents and begin querying. You’ll find plenty of options at AgentQuery.com. Can you become an author without an agent? Absolutely. Plenty of authors do it. Would I recommend it? I’d sooner cut off my nipples with a rusty fork and soak my chest in grapefruit juice.
Step 5 (trad pub): Steel yourself for a roller coaster ride of rejections and requests, rewrites and giddy hope, gushing feedback and unanswered emails. You’ll learn the patience of Job and earn the hide of a rhino. Wine helps.
Step 3 (indie pub): These days, lots of authors make a go of it in the indie world, as self-publishing has changed the game since I got my start. If this is the route you’re choosing, I urge you, implore you, BEG OF YOU to hire a good editor. Do research on the difference between developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders, and know you probably need all three. It’s not cheap, but it’ll save you from charging onto the publishing scene like a bull in a china shop, then wishing you could rewind a few years later when you discover, “wow, I wasn’t as awesome as I thought I was.” Been there, bought the t-shirt, and am infinitely glad I had editors smarter than me to yank my head from my posterior when I was first starting out.
Step 4 (indie pub): Find a good cover designer and figure out how to format your manuscript. I’m a huge fan of Vellum for my indie work, or you can hire it out. Learn all you can about marketing and promo. Research release strategies and decide if you’ll go wide or be exclusive to Amazon. Recognize publishing is a long game and you likely won’t knock it out of the park on your first try. Prepare to write a buttload more books.
Step 6: Hit “publish” if you’re indie, or nervously watch your publisher do it if you’re trad. Celebrate, cry, fume, shriek, pout, wallow, dance, or do whatever you need to do to handle whatever the final response may be. Then put your clothes back on, park your butt in your chair, and do it all over again.