In today’s ongoing series of Q and As with bestselling authors – we feature the delightful and talented Kristan Higgins (contemporary romance author and women’s fiction author). Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of more than fifteen novels and a two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages and received numerous starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus and Romantic Times. She is a four-time nominee for The Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction. You can connect with Kristan via her website and blog. On her facebook profile page. or her facebook author page, on twitter.
What was your first book that hit a bestseller list? What was the list, where did the book rank when it first hit, and how high did your book get?
KH: ALL I EVER WANTED hit the USA TODAY list…I forget where, but let’s say it barely squeaked in there. It stayed on for two weeks, and I was utterly thrilled!
What were you doing when you found out you hit the bestseller list? And how did you celebrate or mark the occasion?
KH: I think I was sitting on this very porch, and my editor called me. I said, “Are you even kidding? Don’t joke about that stuff!” We were both so excited!
For that first time, my husband took me out to a fantastic restaurant, and told the maître d’ “My wife’s book just hit the USA TODAY list!” The restaurant people brought over champagne, and when dessert came, they wrote “Congratulations!” in icing. It was like a dream. Plus, I didn’t have to cook.
What does being a “successful author” mean to you?
KH: I think success means knowing that my books have had an impact on readers. Books are meant to be read, after all; I’m not writing just for my own entertainment. But loving my work is a part of success, too, because if I hated writing and didn’t care about the end result, well, where’s the joy in that? And there’s a financial component in there, too, somewhere. My original goal was to earn enough so that I wouldn’t have to wait tables part-time. That goal has been surpassed. It’s nice to be paid for the work I do, but if I only made as much as a part-time waitress, I’d still be writing.
Some authors are great at it, while others can’t find the right formula, but in order to be a success in today’s market, you have to do promotion. So, what are the top three things that you do consistently when it comes to promotion?
KH: I write everything myself—I answer all my email, posts and messages, I write my own newsletters, every Tweet and Facebook post comes from me. I think that’s important, because it connects me with my readers, and that bond can’t be underestimated. I also think you can tell when you get a note from someone’s assistant, and that strikes me as ungrateful in a way . . . here the reader has told you how much she loved your book, and you don’t even read it? You don’t have five minutes to answer? I just couldn’t do that.
I deliver a consistent product. When you go to my Facebook page, read my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, read my blogs, you’ll always know it’s me (see #1). All those posts contain the same tone as my books—they’re warm, approachable, often funny, heartfelt and talk about everyday life. I’m not whining about how mad I got in traffic or “vague-booking” about my problems, because that’s not what my readers want to hear about. They want the me of my books. My friends and family are there for the bad traffic days.
I write more books. It’s easy to believe that if you just promote enough, your book will get attention. I don’t think that’s true. Readers can’t be fooled or manipulated into loving an author. It’s always about the book. I know authors who are great on Facebook and write ragingly popular blogs about publishing, authors who have ten times the Twitter followers I have. But that’s not what I’m doing for a living. I don’t want to be a social media whiz; I want to write books. My readers want me to write books. You have to choose how you spend your time.
What is one thing you absolutely LOVE about being an author and one thing that makes you BONKERS?
KH: I love when I understand my book. It usually takes 265 pages, and then I smack my forehead and say, “So that’s what this book is about!” I would sincerely love it if this moment could take place on page 10 and have killed several roosters under the full moon to try to change this, but all for naught, I’m afraid. Page 265 seems to be a thing with me. (Author disclaimer: I really haven’t killed any roosters. But I’ve been tempted.)
The thing that makes me a little bonkers is the phrase “churning them out” in regard to writing two books a year. First of all, in the romance genre, that’s not terribly fast. Secondly, it implies that I’m just going through certain motions. I don’t. Every book is different. Every book is hard. Every book has a chunk of my heart in it. There’s no formula or button or crank. It’s my heart on the page, almost literally. I want to say to those people, “Churn? Churn them out? It’s more like I gave birth to an alien baby covered in spikes, okay?”
KH: Mary Balogh for her beautiful prose and wonderful characters; Elinor Lipman for her wry, wise, joyful voice; Marian Keyes for her sense of humor; Robyn Carr for her moral compass; Stephen King for scaring the pants off me.
What are you currently working on?
KH: I’m working on a women’s fiction novel called ON SECOND THOUGHT. It’s about two women who find themselves abruptly single and end up living together while they try to come to terms with the reality (and end) of their relationships. And it’s about second chances, too.
In your daily work routine what do you do first and why? A. write/plot/creative B. social media/promotion C. email/admin
KH: C first because I always have to check and see if there’s something from my editor or publicist that needs taking care of quickly. Then B would come second, usually because there’s a note that says something like if you could have this by today, that would be so great! Then comes A, because I like to have uninterrupted time to work creatively, so I clear the runway, as it were.
What would I find on your desk at this very moment?
KH: I’m on my front porch!
Finish this sentence: I’m a writer because . . .
KH: I think I’d go a little crazy if I couldn’t be. I don’t know what nonwriters do all day? Talk to real people? That seems so uninspired!
KH: Thank you so much for having me today! I loved your questions, and it’s a huge honor.