Jerri Corgiat is the award-winning author of five romance novels in the Love Finds a Home series. Originally published by Penguin's Signet line in paperback, they are now being released with great pride by Istoria Books. (See end of post for descriptions, or visit www.IstoriaBooks.com)
Did you always want to write romance or women’s fiction?
No! In fact, I was actively avoiding romance because I knew it wouldn’t earn me my rightful place on Oprah. Not that I’m shallow.
I’m chagrined to admit I was a snob. I had a very skewed idea of what romance writing was. I hadn’t read any romance novels after I’d gone through the so-called bodice rippers of the early 70s, never dreaming what a wide spectrum “romance” had grown to cover.
Anyway, the universe had something different in mind for me, as the universe is often wont to do, also to my chagrin. I got this idea for a love story, and despite my attempts to dismiss it, it wouldn’t leave me alone. I finally broke down and started writing it after reading an interview with bestselling romance author Kathleen Eagle in a monthly Borders’ flyer. The title of the article? I Never Intended to be a Romance Writer. She’d struggled with similar issues as she wanted to be known as A Serious Writer. I don’t think anyone would doubt her books have merit, and she’s certainly experienced some serious success with them. What was good enough for Ms. Eagle was more than good enough for me…
Just don’t ask me how long it then took me to tell anyone I was writing a -- gasp -- romance.
Your books were classified as romance, but, to me, they have a whiff (or more than that!) of women’s fiction to them. What do you consider them? What do you think is the difference between the two genres?
Whenever I see this topic raised, I sure wish they’d all just be classified as “good books!” But, sigh, books are no longer thought of in quite those simplistic terms—at least not by publishers and booksellers.
I’d say romance has its primary focus on a romantic, monogamous relationship; women’s fiction has its primary focus on some passage or event in a woman’s life and may or may not include a romance, too. That sounds simple, but even with those definitions, I often can’t, well, categorically say a book is a romance with women’s fiction elements or women’s fiction with romantic elements. It’s a spectrum – I can only recognize those that fall on one end or the other. The rest is a matter of opinion!
Yes, the Home books land somewhere in the middle. In fact, although there are plenty of highly successful authors who went before me with similar works, writing a crossbreed presented a major hurdle in finding an agent for Sing Me Home, although Sing Me Home is definitely more a traditional romance than the other four.
It’s an unfortunate fact that if print publishers can’t put a label on the spine of a book to identify where it should be shelved in a big box store—and so find the appropriate audience—they aren’t very interested in buying it, if they’re interested at all. Unfortunate, because I’m absolutely positive that a large number of excellent books have been rejected only because it wasn’t easy to pinpoint a target audience.
Do you think romance deserves more respect from the writing community?
Abso-damn-lutely. And not just by the writing community but by critics as well as the general reading public. Far too often, romance is dismissed as soft porn or as the pejorative bodice ripper or, even sans sex scenes (like they don’t appear in other genres?), as so much fluff. Yet romance spans the spectrum of all other genres: sci fi, mystery, suspense, historical, romantic comedy, fantasy, inspirational, family saga, series... name any other type of book, and there will be a subset of romance.
Romances can be dramatic or comic or both, told in first or third person, be rapid-fire page turners or linger on delightful prose. People display complete and total ignorance of the genre when they throw them all into the same box.
When anyone exhibits contempt for romance, I find it amusing to ask them what movies they’d name as favorites. Rare is even the man who does not include a romance among them… Gone With the Wind. Notting Hill. Jerry Maguire. Titanic. Casablanca. When Harry Met Sally. The Wedding Singer. Something’s Gotta Give. Like Water for Chocolate. Water for Elephants… It’s more difficult to identify movies that have no romance than those which do.
When did you start writing?
I can’t remember not writing; I did stories and poems and letters—lots and lots of long, long, loooong letters where I exaggerated excerpts from my life. It probably scared people to see my return address appear on the envelope. (Hmm. I still do this. Peruse the archives at www.jerricorgiat.blogspot.com.) I started my first novel—the one I titled My Learning Curve, which was ultimately consigned to the trash can to spare humanity—in the fall of 1998. I finished the first incarnation (there would be several others) of Sing Me Home, the first book that sold, sometime in 2000. There was definitely a learning curve!
Here's an easy question--who are your favorite authors?
Holy moly! Easy question? No way! I read all over the map, and I have an impatient, internal editor. Despite the fact that she’s only one, subjective opinion and not any All-Knowing Authority, she’s grumpy and picky about what she likes. If she’s still nattering away, pointing out flaws or, worse, dozing off by the time I hit page 50 of any book, then I move on. Any author who gets past her is thus a favorite: someone I’d recommend. As for prioritizing those "favorites," I just couldn’t do it.
There are so many excellent authors and such a cornucopia of books and wide variety of readers... Pretty cool situation, if you think about it.
A book called Building Your Field of Dreams by Mary Manin Morrissey. Close second: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I spring from a New Thought mentality.
What was the hardest part of writing the Love Finds a Home books?
It involved writing books.
Seriously, my husband and I were talking the other day about why I frequently procrastinate with writing. Yes, I enjoy it, much as anyone enjoys any job they love, but if it was a friggin’ breeze, I’d have no trouble getting and keeping my rear in the chair. Writing a book is not easy!
(Don’t believe me? Try it!)
Author Jennifer Lawler recently said, “Every time I finish writing a book, I wonder how I did it and why I’d want to do it again. And then amnesia sets in.” That is so true.
Your books were published before the e-book revolution started, so publishing has changed since your first sale. What advice would you have for writers trying to break into the business today?
Run for the hills!
Okay, seriously. Big discussion for little space, but I’ll give it a try:
If you haven’t finished a manuscript, don’t worry about it now. You can’t sell what you don’t have. Besides, with the rapid changes taking place in the industry, whatever you decide now is not likely to apply later.
If you already have a manuscript ready for market, you have a difficult decision to make.
Print publication still garners advances, often good (and sometimes even stellar) advances. So that’s guaranteed money with distribution into all or most major outlets (some publishers are much better than others).
On the downside, print publishing contracts are difficult to get, and it can take months—even years—to land one. That doesn’t mean give up, if that’s your goal. I had a stack of agent rejections three inches high before I made my first sale. Maybe that last query didn’t do it—but it might be the next one.
Also a consideration: royalties on ebooks in print contracts (yes, print publishers will want both rights) tend to be onerous: small royalties and no end in sight for rights reversion (which is an issue I won’t go into here, but it’s an important one).
With epublishing, by contrast, while you’ll eschew any advance, you’ll start collecting a percentage of sales—in a timely manner. (Believe me, there’s little in the traditional publishing world that’s timely.) And those sales can be the gift that keeps on giving: No books need go “out of print.” On the internet, books can live forever.
Independent epublishing is an easy nut to crack. Format, upload, and voila! You’re a published author. But therein also lies its thorniest problem. Most readers lack the patience to sort through the multitudes of available ebooks. Instead, they are increasingly relying on sites like dailycheapreads.com and goodreads.com to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
I find this exciting—readers are becoming the gatekeepers instead of traditional publishers.
But getting the word of mouth to rise to the top in a crowded field is also tough. It’s always been hard; now it's even more so. (And if any author had this mastered, we’d all have stopped writing long ago and made our fortunes presenting seminars—to other writers.)
I’m treading into these waters via Istoria, my ebook publisher. I know the principals of this company, know their dedication and professionalism and zeal where promotion is concerned. (A zeal that’s as lacking as timeliness in the traditional publishing world.) I’m betting my books that someday in the not far distant future, readers will recognize the Istoria brand as one they can depend on for a good book.
For Part II of this interview, click here.
For Part II of this interview, click here.
The Love Finds a Home series by Jerri Corgiat follows the extended O'Malley clan in Cordelia, Missouri as they confront both life and love challenges. Books in the series include:
- Sing Me Home-- Lil O'Malley falls for the children of rehabilitated country star Jonathan Van Castle, leading to a marriage of convenience while he fights a custody battle ... and eventually fights for her heart.
- Follow Me Home -- When Alcea O'Malley Addams's husband betrays her, luxury and self-worth go out the window...until an old flame comes into town, leading her to reevaluate her past, her value as a woman and her future.
- Home at Last -- Marigold (Mari) O'Malley returns home to lick her wounds after a big-city career sinks under the weight of a relationship with her boss. Her broken heart begins to mend when she reconnects with a bad boy from her past who teaches her how to trust and take chances at the same time.
- Home by Starlight -- Widow Patsy O'Malley remains fiercely independent until a broken ankle and an itinerant musician (from Jonathan Van Castle's band) both knock her off her feet.
- Take Me Home -- Florida Jones thinks she has the perfect fiance and the perfect life planned until a car accident results in injuries that threaten her sight. An unlikely helpmate guides her to recovery, where she ultimately "sees" the love that is most important in her life.