Joe: So tell us about HIT, the 40,000 word prequel to the Codename: Chandler series.
Joe: The character of Heath (the sexy spy) also appears in Three (coming June 25). I love this guy, and think he's among the best you've ever created. Coming from a romance background (4 million books in print) what makes Heath both a good and an unlikely romantic hero?
Ann: Heath has a lot of attitude, humor, bravado, sex appeal, and he loves women. He's also an over-the-top romantic, a guy who is in love with love, and a champion for the downtrodden.
So how is he not the perfect romance hero?
Well he also happens to be an assassin with an adrenaline addiction. He adheres only to his own code. He lives for revenge and doesn't believe in trust. And even if you're the love of his life, if he is forced to kill you, he just might.
In other words, he's the perfect guy for Chandler.
Joe: Like the others in the series (Exposed, Flee, Spree, Three) does Hit also contain graphic sex?
Ann: Of course! To me, sex is a way to dramatize a character's inner conflicts. Instead of sittin' and thinkin' about their deepest desires and most devastating fears, a character is engaged in an action that strips away their defenses and shows them for who they really are. And of course what a person does shows who they are far more than anything they could possibly say or think.
Violent scenes can bring out the same type of true, uncensored character moments as sex, although for Chandler violence is a day at the office. The emotion surrounding sex is much more dangerous territory.
Joe: So I heard your co-writer, Konrath, only wrote about 5000 words of this, and you wrote 35,000, yet somehow he still get's 25% of the profits. How does that work?
Ann: Yeah, that Konrath is worthless, isn't he? ;D
You created the character of Chandler, and in the first book, you invited me on board to help flesh her out and make her human. From there, we've come up with storylines and backstories together, and we decided early on that we would share the profit of any Chandler story. But while the novels are 50/50 in work and profit, we decided that on projects where one person wrote the majority of the book, we would split the proceeds 75/25.
We've spent a lot of time writing the novels (some are rather long), but we're also working on other projects. This arrangement enables us to write more Chandler stories while also doing other things. So while Joe was writing Stirred with Blake Crouch, I wrote most of Exposed. And while he was writing Haunted House, I wrote most of Hit. Now he will be writing Naughty while I'm focusing on Cut Too Deep.
Joe: So does that mean, when I finish Naughty (the next short novel in the series) you get 25% even if you don't write a word?
Ann: Hell yes! Didn't you read my explanation above? But I'm sure I'll contribute a few words. I wouldn't want you to have all the fun.
Joe: This series can be read in any order, and it isn't necessary to read everything to enjoy any story by itself. But for the diehard fans who insist on chronology, we wrote it so Flee, Spree, and Three all take place in the same week, and Hit, Exposed, and Naughty take place prior to that trilogy.
If you're obsessive about this sort of thing, the order goes:
NAUGHTY (coming soon)
What makes this series different than other spy novels about assassins, say like that guy Barry Eisler I've heard about?
Ann: Barry who? ;)
I adore Barry's books. Barry strives for realism, and his books reflect that. Joe and I aim for a more over-the-top sort of spy story with realism taking a back seat. I like to describe the Chandler books as action movies in book form. They are meant to be thrilling, exciting, sexy, humorous, and above all, entertaining. An emotional rollercoaster of sexy spy craziness. But suspend your disbelief before entering her world, and put your tongue firmly in your cheek.
Joe: Are we going to see Chandler and Heath again?
Ann: Definitely. At the end of Three, the story is over, but only for now. Chandler has much ahead of her, and we hope to explore that in our next Codename: Chandler book, FREE.
As for Heath, this annoying buddy of mine keeps bugging me to write a book featuring him, so maybe I'll put some thought to that.
Joe: So when is the sequel to your bestseller Pushed Too Far coming out?
Ann: I'm working on Cut Too Deep right now. So look for it late this summer. Dead Too Soon will follow before Christmas. And how about your next Jack Daniels book, Joe?
Joe: I'm doing Last Call with Crouch, which will tie up the Jack Daniels/Luther Kite/Lucy & Donaldson arcs. Fans want it, and Blake and I have a fun idea for it, if I can pull him away from his Wayward Pines TV show and M. Night Shyamalan long enough...
Any regrets leaving Harlequin and going indie?
Ann: The fact that you can ask that question, Joe, proves that you haven't been reading your own blog. ;) Try this story.
To add to the 2012 numbers I revealed in the blog, Pushed Too Far has now made more in its first year of release than any of my traditionally published books have in up to thirteen years. And of course that's not my only self-published work.
Besides money, the other amazing thing about self-publishing is the sheer fun of writing stories exactly the way I want to write them. When I published with Harlequin, I was lucky to have editors who allowed me to push the boundaries a little bit, especially earlier in my career. Later things became more restrictive. That isn't a bad thing, necessarily. There are reader expectations to consider. But I felt I wanted to do more.
With Pushed Too Far, I originally planned to submit to the Big Five (formally Big Six), and that was the game plan I worked out with my agents. But the landscape of the publishing industry changed beneath me. And I happen to have this friend who had been examining these changes for a while. So I listened to him and chose not to submit Pushed Too Far to anyone. Instead I self-published.
Best decision I ever made.
Joe: Any advice for authors?
First, focus on the quality. Always. Forever. All writers, no matter how long they've been writing, no matter how they've chosen to be published, need to focus on telling a good story, a story readers are willing to pay to read. That is not an easy thing to learn. As Alexandra Sokoloff said in the comments section of her recent guest post on this blog, if you're not in it for the long haul, you're probably not going to see a lot of success.
The marketing is easy compared to learning to give good story. Publishing in any form is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Second, look around you. The people who are going to help you most in your career are your friends.
In 2006 I attended a mystery conference called Bouchercon. I wrote romantic suspense, had never attended a mystery conference, but I picked this one since it was held in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin. I met a fellow author in the bar, and we got into a debate about the value of conferences over a few beers. He insisted that conferences were useful to authors because they allowed us to meet fans and sell books.
I like meeting fans and selling books, but maybe because of our gender difference, or maybe because I came from the romance world, I saw things a bit differently. To me, the biggest value of conferences (and to a lesser extent social media) was and is meeting friends. Sometimes those friends are readers. Most of the time they're other writers. Occasionally they are even publishing industry professionals. But regardless of specific walk of life, I can say without hesitation that my career, my creative life, and my personal sanity have benefited more from making friends than from anything else I've ever done.
So my biggest advice to new authors is to find friends. Those are the people who will help you grow as a writer, and you will help them. Friendship is deeper than networking, and it's different from mentorship. Friendship is about genuine connection, and the benefits of that connection flow both ways.
Joe: Nicely put. I met you, Blake, and Barry at conferences, and have worked with you and them on many occasions. Not only have I made money with you guys, but I've learned with you as the industry changed, and I've been able to up my game as a result.
Collaboration is a wonderful way to become a better writer, double your fanbase, and increase your output (which increases your virtual shelf space.) And with the right partner, it's also a lot of fun.
Now everyone go and buy Hit. It's loaded with violence and explicit sex, and it's only $2.99.