February 14, 2016 (San Diego's East County) - Just in time for Valentine's Day, 10-time #1 New York Times best-selling author Robyn Carr drops by to give writing advice and to talk about her new romance, What We Find, coming in April 2016. During her more than twenty-five-year writing career, the former California resident has authored nearly 50 novels that blend romance and women's fiction. The RITA award winner is also ranked among the top 100 authors on Amazon.
"Any thoughts on whether a street team should be as many people as possible or simply strategic?" - Maureen Wallace
RC: I don’t have a street team and no plans to form one. What I have instead is a completely disorganized and powerful group of readers who just can’t shut up about how much they love a book. I answer all my own mail, respond to Facebook messages and look forward to meeting readers at special appearances and signings but they only write or attend because the book is so important to them. What I’ve found is that when readers love a book, they tell everyone they love. And if the book satisfies those people, they tell everyone they love! That chatter is the single most important thing in making a bestseller. And you just can’t buy it.
I know people who have formal street teams and each of them do it differently but I've always believed that quality is more important than quantity. So if it were me, I would focus on getting those key readers and supporters - the ones who are really going to talk about your books to everyone they know - than a bunch of people who are lukewarm on your writing. More isn't always better!
People have often asked me: what did it? What put you over the top, put you on the best seller lists. Well, it wasn’t some clever marketing strategy; it was the readers. The readers who connected with it, became emotionally involved with the story and when they finished the book called their mother, sister, best friend and neighbor. Book clubs and reader parties are the best place to meet readers; answering your mail is the best way to keep in touch. As you can tell, I spend a lot more time actually writing and focusing on my readers than I do worrying about marketing tools like street teams. It's what works for me.
SJ: In college, I had a marketing internship that assigned me to street teams for then-unknown singer Avril Lavigne and another singer whom I didn't much care for. Although I put equal effort into both campaigns, my sincere appreciation for Lavigne's music made me a more effective street team member. My best advice would be to fill your team with serious fans instead of as many people as possible.
Your latest work, What We Find, involves a woman facing several serious medical issues including a wrongful death lawsuit. Was any part of the story inspired by your experience as a nurse?
RC: Not really, I wasn’t a nurse for very long before my young husband entered the Air Force and we began moving everywhere. My son is a surgeon in the Army, however, and I’ve always been attracted to medical based fiction. And my daughter is a police Lt. and I love criminal justice and law fiction and television. This story “married” two of my favorite subjects very nicely.
I've read that when you create a new protagonist you ask yourself, 'What is she up against?' How would you answer that question for Maggie, the heroine of What We Find?
RC: Everything Maggie has ever wanted seems to be slipping away. The career she invested years in establishing is at risk as she’s being sued by the parents of a teenager she tried to save, the partner she loved and baby she longed for is lost, work she loved is out of her reach and the father she adores has had a heart attack that could have killed him. Talk about starting over! Talk about hitting bottom! And Maggie, a brilliant neurosurgeon, doesn’t know where to begin.
But there is this interesting and surprisingly insightful man hanging around her father’s campground and he seems to be reading her mind as he offers little bits of clues as to how one goes about the business of starting over. Plus, he’s beautiful – inside and out.
Kristan Higgins was recently in San Diego for an author talk and she spoke about many things, such as her love of lounging in PJs, her passion for Magic Mike, and her friendship with you. It sounded like you ladies share hotel suites sometimes, so tell us the truth, she snores, right? Proofreads in her sleep? Steals your pajamas?
RC: We talk stories. Characters. We love to go over the details about how people get themselves into and through difficult relationships; we constantly study friendships in general – between women, men and women, random acquaintances – all leading us to characters in books. Oh – and she checks the beds for bed bugs, rejects hotel rooms that aren’t operating room sterile and talks to her husband and kids three times a day – each. I know her husband pretty well and let me tell you –he’s way better than Magic Mike. And my pajamas are better than her pajamas.
Speaking of pajamas, I love the quote about your career, “This is the best job I’m ever going to get wearing pajamas.” What is it with romance authors and pajamas? As a romance author myself, should I wear more pajamas? Is that the secret to your success?
RC: What we do is not glamorous – it’s just not. In fact half the time when we’re working it doesn’t even look like we’re working. We’re answering q&a’s like this, writing an article or blog or thinking thinking thinking what could happen next, how can we up the ante on this story, produce more tension, bring a character to the brink, have the reader hanging on by her fingertips. What one sentence or one word will change everything, tip the story on its ear, pave the way for an unputdownable book. You don’t have to dress for that!
When the book is on the move, you can’t wait to get to it in the morning and you don’t want to leave it later in the day. But while your brain is sweating it out, you should be comfortable. Pajamas – that’s the ticket. I get up, go to the coffee pot, go to the computer, get started. That is my real life. That is my most authentic life.
I know you are a big supporter of military families - you were an Air Force wife yourself. Could you tell me more about what you to do support military families and what else you're involved in now besides, hopefully, "working on another book?
RC: Our son is an Army surgeon so we’re very sensitive to the men and women in the armed forces and Fisher House is one of the charities that gets our attention. I’ve signed books at Fisher House to give away to the guests who stay their while their military family member is getting medical and rehab care. We also give to the Center for the Intrepid, a state of the art rehab facility that serves all branches of the military. I donate books to soldiers. But by far the most important thing I do is create positive and uplifting stories that help get people – military and civilian alike – through the rough spots in life.
Sárka-Jonae Miller will be signing books and talking to readers at the Santee Barnes & Noble on Sunday, February 21 from 1 to 3PM with fellow romance author Linda S. Rice. Linda's time-travel romance The Necklace is on sale for Valentine's Day at 99 cents.
Sárka-Jonae Miller is East County Magazine's Ask an Author columnist and the author of five romantic comedy novels, including the Between Boyfriends trilogy and the All for You series. Her Between Boyfriends Collection is always free to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime members. Join her on Facebook and Twitter.