April 2007 Spotlight Article

Interview with Nancy Warren
by Tayler Bloom

USA Today bestselling author, Nancy Warren, recently was featured on the front page of the New York Times with Speed Dating, the launch title in Harlequin’s NASCAR series. Warren is a double-Rita nominee, has won the Lauren Wreath Award, the Colorado Romance Writers Award, Best Blaze Award from Romantic Times, and is nominated for an RT Career Achievement Award in series romance. She also belongs to, and is an active member of, RWA-GVC. We are talking with her today about the craft of writing, the art of marketing and the path to success.

Bloom: How did you learn to write? Self-taught? Schooled?

Warren: I have an honours degree in English Literature from UBC and worked in journalism for five years. I learned in writing for newspapers that brevity and clarity count. You also learn in the newspaper business to grab the reader right away. There's no time to mess around or they'll skip your article and read something else. The same is true of a novel. You really need to grab your reader by the throat in the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page.

Bloom: What was your major weakness, in so far as the craft, and how did you overcome it?

Warren: I suck at plotting. I have to write my way by feel. I'm also not great at describing scenery. However, instead of worrying about my weaknesses, I've decided it's a lot smarter to put the effort into my strengths. Of course, if your problem is something that's stopping you from getting published, like basic grammar, then get thee to a college writing class and fix that problem. If, however, you're not very good at settings or internal monologue, then put the absolute minimum of that stuff in your story and put your effort into what you are good at. Sometimes, half the battle is figuring out what you do best. That's where an objective reader or a critique group can come in handy. Ask them what your strengths are. Most likely you’re best at the parts of the book you already love writing.

Bloom: To what, above all, do you attribute your success?

Warren: There are so many factors that contribute to a decent career. I think the most important lesson I have learned is to try and learn from your mistakes, to accept that rejection is going to be a familiar friend, and that you haven't failed until you've given up.

Bloom: As a pre-published author, how did your life look different than it does today?

Warren: I didn't get paid for my work. Other than that, I still sit at the computer every day and write. I wrestle with characters that won't cooperate, sentences that make me squirm with embarrassment when I re-read them, and plots that fall apart regularly. I also have more business to deal with as a published author. But most of what I do is very similar to what I was doing ten years ago before I sold.

Bloom: How do you approach the writing life, with its mix of creative and business aspects?

Warren: I am a big believer that the secret to happiness is to figure out what you love to do and find a way to get paid for it. For me, writing fiction is the greatest job in the world, but it's also a business. I try to be two people. When I'm writing, I'm the creative part of the team. When I'm talking to editors, agents, reviewers or my accountant, then I'm the business part of the team. Sounds like multiple personality disorder, but it works for me.

Bloom: Do you have a rags to riches version of your writerly experience?

Warren: I was out of the workforce for four years before I sold and it was a challenge, but we never starved. I wish I had one of those stories where I spent my last dollar on stamps to mail my manuscript and the editor called to buy my book just as the bailiffs were throwing us out on the street, hungry and in rags. But the truth is, I have a loving and supportive husband and family who made it pretty easy for me to stay home and write.

Bloom: When you were pre-published, what dreams and goals did you have for your writing life?

Warren: I went to a workshop once and the presenters said you need to be very careful with goals. Make sure your goals are things in your control. For instance, you can control how many pages you write in a day or how many hours a week you devote to your craft. You have no control over when you sell or what lists you may hit, so those are dreams. I thought that was really smart. My goals then and my goals now are remarkably similar. I try to write ten pages a day of rough draft. I try to write books my readers will enjoy. I try to make sure I take care of myself with a good diet and exercise and lots of down time to fill the well. I travel and read and go to dinner parties. It keeps me stimulated.

Bloom: Any further comments you'd like to leave us with?

Warren: My advice to anyone attempting to break into the business is to keep at it. Writing itself is such a joy. Try to hold onto that feeling even when you get a rejection or feel discouraged. Keep reading so you know what's selling in the genre, enter contests, join a critique group or find another writer to keep you motivated, but most of all keep writing. Make it a priority.

Thank you so much for sharing, Nancy!

Visit Nancy Warren’s website at www.nancywarren.net.

Articles may be reprinted in RWA® chapter newsletters, attributed to the Spotlight. Non-RWA® newsletters may not reprint articles without the permission of the authors.

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This page was last updated May 21, 2007.