Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meet Norah Wilson!

I’ve been reading romance my whole life, but I was 35 before I tried writing it. It looked easy, but I quickly learned it was anything but. I joined RWA, studied the craft, and in 2001 finalled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest. I repeated that feat in 2002 and 2003. I then won the New Voice in Romance contest and got published (LAUREN’S EYES, 2004). I now have nine self-published titles, some written with writing partner Heather Doherty. I live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, with my husband, two adult kids, a rottie-lab mix and numerous rats (the pet kind).

Did you ever want to quit writing? Why or why not?

It was a long road to publication, but I always knew that if I persevered, it would happen. And it did. But there was at least one time when I was severely tempted to quit. I think it was after my third Golden Heart final. I was able to get agents and editors to read my stuff, no problem, but I was always just missing the target. I was so incredibly discouraged. My inner monologue went something like this: “I can’t write a better book that this. If New York doesn’t want this, I’m never going to sell a book.” Let me tell you, it was terrifying, contemplating walking away. Admitting defeat. I was in a black funk for days. But then one morning, my stubbornness reasserted itself and I was back. I could write a better book. Just watch me!

What are your writing career goals? (i.e. to write 2 books a year? To hit the NY Bestsellers List? To sell 100 books a month?)

At this stage of my life, I want to make writing my full time job. I’ve never had that luxury before, but self-publishing has really changed the landscape for me. That said, given how quickly the industry has been transformed in the last 18 months, I’m not even going to try to predict what tomorrow might bring.

Have you truly mastered grammar and sentence structure? Do you feel 100% confident about every comma in your book?

I’m no grammarian, that’s for sure. On the other hand, I don’t strive to sound like a grammarian. I strive to sound like a cop or a cowboy or a 200-year-old vampire or a lawyer or a nurse. J Seriously, I think my mastery is adequate to the task, or so my agent says.

How many pages do you think you could write in one day if you had zero interruptions from 8 AM to 8 PM?

Oh, wow! An uninterrupted 12 hour stretch…. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those. I think I could probably produce maybe 20-25 pages, as long as they’re not the first pages. Beginnings take me forever! I have to get off on the right track or nothing works. If I’m nearing the end of the book, I tend to write faster. It’s like I’m going downhill. J

How do you think (take a guess) writers like Nora Roberts write so many books in a year?
Not just books – great books. It just boggles my mind. Presuming she hasn’t managed to clone herself, I imagine she does it with a lot of hard work, discipline and sacrifice.

What would be easier for you to write, a sex scene or a murder scene?

Oh, I love writing both! But if I have to pick, I’ll take the sex scene. The murder scene strikes me as more a part of the external plot, the thing you need to have happen to trigger (ha!) your story question. Whereas the sex scene (love scene) is more about the internal journey. I do incorporate sex in my books, and those scenes tend to be very sensual. However, they’re never gratuitous. When my characters have sex, something always changes about the dynamics of their relationship. Bonds are being forged, characters transformed. Luckily, it doesn’t happen all at once, which gives me lots of chances to write sex scenes. <g> Also, I like to turn the tenderness quotient up as those intimate bonds are tightened.

If you were allowed to have only ONE book (of yours) for sale on Amazon and B&N, which book would you select? Why do you think readers might enjoy it?

Oh, what a cruel, cruel question! That’s like being asked to pick between your children. But I’ll do it. ,-) If I could leave but one story up, I think it would be Guarding Suzannah. It’s the first in my Serve and Protect series and features Detective John (Quigg) Quigley and criminal defense attorney Suzannah Phelps. John may be one of the least macho guys I’ve ever written, but I love his steady strength and protective nature, and he was tailor-made for Suzannah. I adore their love story. But I’d pick that one for another reason – I chose that book to immortalize my own beloved Bandicoot. Bandy was my constant companion, following me from room to room and lying at my feet as I wrote for 11 years. I gave him life again in this book. And I promise, the eccentricities displayed by the fictional Bandy are not exaggerations.

Any advice for new writers just getting started?

Learn the craft. Put in your apprenticeship. They say you  need to write a million words before you’re proficient, and I think that’s about right. Today, you can slap your first book up at Smashwords and Amazon with very little trouble. The issue is, should you? For most of us, in retrospect, that would be a resounding, God, no! Unfortunately, new writers are not the best judges of their own work. I know I sure wasn’t. Every time I finished a manuscript, I was proud of it. I truly felt it was the best work I could produce. And it was, with the skill level I had at the time. If Smashwords had been available then, maybe I’d have self-published those early works (shudder). I submit that If you haven’t spent a number of years studying your craft, critiquing and being critiqued, entering contests and addressing judges’ comments, maybe you’re not ready. If you’re not getting positive feedback from agents or editors on near misses, maybe you’re not ready. But if you’re determined to publish sooner rather than later, you  might want to invest in some professional editing. Future you will thank you.

Thank you, Norah!

Thanks for having me, Theresa. It’s been a blast!


My blog:    

Twitter:      !/norah_wilson


Amazon Author Page:




Theresa Ragan said...

Hi Norah, thanks for being here today and all week! A lot of your answers intrigued me and now I have even more questions for you. For instance, it looks like you still have an agent. Can you tell us how that works? Does your agent get 15% of your sales, same deal as always? Or is it a different contract for your self-published books?

Kate said...

Norah, I'm not at all surprised you chose writing a sex scene over a murder scene. Your sex/love scenes are simply wonderful. I'm curious to hear what comes next for Ms. Wilson!

Norah Wilson said...

Good questions! No, my agent does not get a cut of the self-pubbed stuff. I talked to her about it in the very beginning and was quite prepared to cut her in, especially on stuff she'd helped refine for submission, but she declined. Given the controversy around agents involving themselves in self-publishing, I think her instincts served her well! However, I'm still interested in publishing with New York houses, especially for the YA, which I've found trickier to market on my own. And of course, she was involved in my recent sale to Amazon's Montlake imprint (which I am super excited about!).

Norah Wilson said...

LOL, Kate! You know me too well. And what's next? Hopefully, more romantic suspense for Montlake. I would also love it if they picked up my vampire romances which I love so much. Then there is the YA writing with my partner Heather Doherty. Her idea bank is virtually limitless. Oh, and the Dix Dodd mysteries will continue. :)

About Tori said...

Norah, you were so right on your advice to new writers! Those of us who've been writing for years have been through the training grounds of contests, submissions, critique groups, editing, revising...all of which help to develop valuable skills. But sometimes I see excerpts from new writers who obviously haven't put that time in and it shows.

Do you really want your family and friends to read your sub-par work that's riddled with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors? I wouldn't.

Diane Gaston said...

Norah, I love your writers journey and am delighted you found your niche in self-publishing. I totally agree with Tori about your advice to new writers. The pitfalls for new writers are different now, just like EVERYTHING is different!!!

Norah Wilson said...

Thanks, Tori. When we were submitting to editors, as much as we hated getting those rejections, we at least had someone who would bluntly tell us our work wasn't ready. Eventually they started saying, "Your work is great, but this project is not for me." At that point, it's just a case of subjective taste or any of the myriad marketing concerns that publishing houses have to consider. New writers are going to have to figure out where to get that feedback.

Norah Wilson said...

Thanks, Diane, and ain't that the truth. Everything *is* different now. Authors have a lot more choices now, which is a great thing! Of course, I think we have a lot more change and upheaval yet to come. May we all weather it, indie-pubbed or trad-pubbed.

Barbara Phinney said...

What a great interview. Having read Norah Wilson books for years, it was nice to see a bit of the author behind the scenes. Thank you, Norah. I esp. like the mention of how important it is keep improving.

Dr. Debra Holland said...


I didn't know we were GH 2001 finalists together! In those days, the finalists didn't organize like we did in 2003.

I so proud of the success you and Theresa have achieved!

Delle Jacobs said...

A fascinating interview! I've been a Norah fan right from the beginning, and it's very enlightening to see how you work. BTW, I'm glad your agent doesn't get a cut of the indie stuff. I'm sure she well earns her slice of the pie in other ways.

Thanks for your great blog, Theresa. I"m your long-term fan too!

Linda Hall said...

Great interview , Norah! I am proud to know
you as a friend!

Louise Behiel said...

Great interview - I'm going to have to add one of Norah's books to my kindle. thanks

Theresa Ragan said...

Norah, I think you and Tori raise a good question. The editors and agents did make us work harder to improve our craft. And one of the most difficult things for me, being an indie author, is knowing that even with beta readers and copy editors, I am the one who needs to trust my instincts when it comes to knowing when a book is ready to be released. I am struggling with that right now. My most recent release has been read by many, edited, formatted and yet I think it can be even better, so I am going to hold off and take another look.

Theresa Ragan said...

Thanks for the nice comment, Delle.

It looks like Norah has a lot of fans and I can see why. I've read quite a few of her books and love them all.

Kate, Tori, Diane, Barbara, Dr. Deb, Linda and Louise, thanks for stopping by.

Norah will be here all week if anyone thinks of any questions!

Norah Wilson said...

Thank you, Barbara!

Norah Wilson said...

Yes, we were finalists together in '01. I remember Delle from that year, as well. It's truly remarkable how the 2003 cohort (Wet Noodle Posse) came together and gelled like we did. Even more remarkable that we're mostly still intact. And if any GH2003 finalists out there would like to reconnect, please do! Once a Noodler, always a Noodler. :)

And thank you for your kind words! Of course, your own success is pretty amazing! (Folks, Debra posts regularly about her sales numbers, too.)

Norah Wilson said...

Thanks, Delle! The admiration is mutual! You've been on my auto-buy list for almost a decade now. I think you're constitutionally incapable of writing a book I wouldn't love. They're all complex and compelling and completely wonderful.

Norah Wilson said...

Thanks for dropping by, Linda! (Linda is one of my homies and a pretty fine mystery writer.)

Norah Wilson said...

Theresa, I hear you on wanting to hang onto that copy until it's perfect. But don't hang on too long. If this is the 2nd book in the Lizzy Gardner series, I'm dying to read it!

Regan Black said...

Wonderful interview, Norah! Loved your comment about writing near the end of the book and feeling like you're going downhill!

All the best with your books!

K.E. Saxon said...

Wow! Great interview, Norah. Do you have a favorite (or couple) of how-to writing books that you still find yourself thumbing through now and again?

Norah Wilson said...

Thanks, Regan! There's nothing like that rush to the finish line after the long, laborious climb. :)

Norah Wilson said...

Great question, K.E.! The one that sticks with me most is Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel. That's a good one for intermediate or experienced writers who have to some extent mastered the craft, to help them get to the next level. I still remember what he said about a breakout novel needing high public stakes as well as high personal stakes for the protagonists. I use that as one of my filters when screening story ideas.

Anybody else have a favorite how to book?

Barb D. said...

Hi Norah and Theresa! Great interview Norah! I'm so happy that you answered Guarding Suzannah as the book you would chose! Of all your books that I've read, I like that one the best. I also just LOVE the characters! I'll be back to find out what else is happening....

Theresa Ragan said...

Hi K.E., I have sooo many how-to books but I just lent them all out to my niece who is just getting started!

One of my all-time favorite how to books is Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. That book has been thumbed through too many times to count. I always loved all of the Writer's Digest hardback books for Plotting and Manuscript Submission, etc. I don't know if those books are still available.

Also, for characters' jobs I use all of the FBI for Dummies or Nutrition for Dummies, Private Investigators for Dummies. Those books help get me started and then I try to talk to people in the business, too.

Norah Wilson said...

Thanks for coming by, Barb! And thanks for the Guarding Suzannah love. I think yours was one of the first reviews I got, Barb, when I self-published the romantic suspenses. I will be forever grateful for your enthusiastic reception of them.

Theresa Ragan said...

Hi Barb, thanks for stopping by!

Norah, you mentioned that you would love to write full time. What do you do for a living besides writing? Curious minds want to know!