Friday, August 26, 2011

Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips

Christie Craig
Don't Mess With Texas
Publisher: Forever Books
Pub date: August 2011
Agent: Kim Lionetti


(Click to Buy)



I get a lot of questions tossed my way. For today’s guest blog, I decided to answer three of them, along with three connecting snippets of writing advice.


Why do you set all your books in fictional Texas towns?

Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a native Texan. However, I was only here a few weeks when I knew this was where I’d hang my hat. Texas and Texans are just . . . well, unique. I mean, where else is it illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow, shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel, or own more than six dildos? Yup, those are real laws in this fine state; I know because I checked when I decided to live here. (Not that I’m into graffitiing cows, shooting buffaloes, or stockpiling dildos. I just like to know the laws of the land, so I can poke fun at them in my books.) So I guess what drives me to base my books in Texas is that this place is one of a kind. And since I try to write one-of-a-kind books, it fits. And for what drives me to use fictional towns, that’s easy. I don’t want to worry about getting geographical facts incorrect. Okay, I’m lazy and hate research.

Writing tip #1: Using fictional towns equals less research and less hassle. You won’t get readers emailing you notes like: There isn’t a fifty-foot-high bridge in Spring, Texas, like you used in your book.


Why do you add suspense and humor to your romance novels?

Years ago, I published a sweet Silhouette Romance. Unable to sell a second book, I focused on my freelance career. I wrote words to feed knowledge-hungry individuals. I wrote about China, calligraphy, window fashions, tomato horn worms, and ugly shoes.

Basically, if an editor would pay for it, I wrote it. After an eight-year sabbatical from fiction, I was desperate to return to writing novels. I announced my intentions to my family, my friends, and to the innocent bystander at the post office: I, Christie Craig, was going to publish another book even if I had to kill somebody to accomplish it.

What I didn’t realize was that’s exactly what it would take. When I whacked my first person, guilt sat on my shoulders like a fat gorilla. But as soon as I washed the imaginary blood off my hands and reread my deadly scene, I had an epiphany: Nothing can liven up a party or a plot like a dead body.

Since then, mystery and murder are prevalent in my work. Yes, there’s other stuff like romance, but I’m not sure I can write a story without having one person kick the bucket. Or at least having someone try to kick someone else’s bucket. Death or someone facing death excites me, and that comes across in my writing.

As for the humor? A writer needs to stay true to their writing voice, and my voice is humorous. When I first started writing my funny suspense novels someone warned me that murder wasn’t funny. They’re right, but how people respond to it under duress can be a real belly-roller.

Take Nikki Hunt’s situation in Don’t Mess With Texas: Nikki thought her night couldn’t get worse when her no-good cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the expensive bill. Furious, she tells anyone who will listen to her that she’s gonna kill that man. Then she found his body stuffed in the trunk of her car and lost her two-hundred-dollar meal all over his three–thousand-dollar suit. Now not only is Nikki nearly broke, she’s a murder suspect. See, that’s kind of funny.

Writing tip #2: Find what excites you, what sparks your emotions, and stay true to your writing voice. Be prepared to ignore well-meaning pieces of writing advice when your gut says it’s not right.


Why did I choose Kim Lionetti as my agent and why I’m still with her?

I’d heard some good things about BookEnds, and I liked the fact Kim had been an editor. I submitted, not knowing of her upcoming maternity leave. Months later, one of Kim’s clients judged my work in a contest and recommended me. Kim recognized my name as someone from her post-pregnancy slush pile. And the rest is history.

Why I stay with Kim is another matter. Contrary to what Kim probably believes, it’s not her wit or sparkling personality. This is a marriage. And it holds a lot of similarities with regular marriages. There’s a honeymoon stage where everything is blissful: i.e., I love her because I’m sure she’s going to sell me to some big rich publisher; she loves me because she’s sure she’s going to sell me to some big rich publisher.

Ahh, but the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. Revisions are requested—rejections come in, and the initial bliss wanes. (Kim and I were together for a year before I sold.)

Just like in regular marriages you learn your partner doesn’t lower the toilet seat lid and they stop telling you they love you every day. Now, I’m not accusing Kim of not putting the toilet seat down and I’m not sure she’s ever told me she loves me. My point is that you start learning how you and your agent are really going to get along, how you communicate—or don’t communicate—and how you will have to compromise to make the marriage work.

This is actually the most important stage in an agent-author relationship. If you can’t learn to respect, communicate, or compromise you’re likely headed for the Big D. It may even be after you’ve sold several books. Over seventy-five percent of published authors who divorce their agents do so due to a lack of one of the above elements. Sometimes the personalities never meshed, and sometimes it was a breakdown in communication on the side of one or both parties.

So exactly why am I still with Kim after six years? Two reasons. One, agents wear many hats. A good agent will wear different hats for different clients. And Kim Lionetti wears all the hats I need her to wear: editor, adviser, cheerleader, contract negotiator, big bad agent who fights in my corner. All good agents in some instances wear these hats, but if you get an agent who prefers wearing the editor hat more than you want them to wear that hat, then you may not be a good fit. If they excel at wearing that adviser hat but you’d like them to wear the cheerleader hat more often, this can cause friction. Kim’s preferences for the hats match all my needs.

The second reason goes back to the respect, communication, and compromise issue. She respects what I want to achieve in my career. I respect her knowledge of the business. Her style of communication and mine fit well; neither of us are intimidated by the other, and when we don’t agree on something (and that’s not that uncommon) we debate until one or the other changes the other's mind, or we compromise.

And much to Kim’s dismay, this doesn’t mean she’s the perfect agent, any more than I’m the perfect client. I don’t think those birds exist. Again, it goes back to the whole marriage thing. I’ve been married to my hubby for over twenty-five years. Some of you couldn’t live with that man for twenty-five minutes. But our personalities work and we’re almost perfect for each other. And the same goes for Kim and me.

Writing tip #3: Before you sign on the dotted line for any agent, ask enough questions to know if your personalities will fit together and be prepared to communicate and compromise. Know what type of hats the agent is mostly likely to wear and compare it to what you need them to wear.

Thank you, BookEnds, for having me and a huge thank-you to the readers for letting me share a few of my Why answers. I hope something I’ve said is helpful, and if it falls into that category of not matching what your gut says, then toss it out like last week's leftovers.

Have a great day.

CC

36 comments:

wry wryter said...

So...I guess I've got to start killing people; no problem. I'm off to work and I just can't decide who to start with.

Thanks Christie, great post.

Kristan said...

Great guest post! I mean, I'm a bit biased because I'm a Texan... lol but really, there's lots of humor and voice in this, as well as good, honest information. I really appreciate that.

Stacy said...

Thanks for this post. I love hearing the positive aspects of having an agent in a world where self publishing seems to be the trend right now.

Rosemary said...

Wait. . .Kim is YOUR wife?

So much for that nice anniversary dinner I had planned. ;>

girlseeksplace said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing, Christie.

Doug Eakin said...

I appreciated the perspective on both writing, the agent-author relationship and (since I always have a nasty death in my novels) comments on writing what you feel. It does one good to hear about the real world of writing and getting published. Thanks for your insights.

Sharla Lovelace said...

LOL love this Christie! I enjoyed this so much because I do the same things with fictional towns. I am a native Texan, and I love small towns, and because I'm like you and hate research, I like to invent small Texas towns. I get the area right...maybe a real river or something. :)

And I think BookEnds is wonderful and famous for the agents wearing many hats. That's what I love about Jessica F. She is whatever her clients need her to be, very versatile, which I think is the best asset in an agent. I feel very blessed to have her in my corner!

Didn't know that about the dildos! But did you know that it's illegal to milk another person's cow? I don't personally know any cows, so I think I'm safe on that one. :)

Marsha Sigman said...

Hi Christie, we actually met last year at an RWA meeting in Spring. My writing is more focused on YA than romance but it was a pleasure to meet you then and read your tips today.

I believe the agent/author relationship is like a marriage as well. I've been married 22 years so I understand committment...and the urge to kill someone at times.lol

Definitely picking up this book.

Also, how would law enforcement know how many dildos you owned? Is there like a record kept? Not that I'm worried...

Christie Craig said...

Hi Wry,

If you don't have anyone to do in, just ask, I'm sure I can offer up a few names. LOL.

Thanks for coming by.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Hi Kristan,

From one Texan to the other, thanks.

CC

Georgie Lee said...

It is great that you decided to return to fiction writing with such determination. It obviously paid off. A great lesson for every writer.

Christie Craig said...

Stacy,

You are right, the publishing industry is changing right now. Personlly, I like knowing I have as many people as possible in my corner.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Rosemany,

We have an open marriage. LOL.

Thanks for posting.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Girlseeksplace,

Thanks.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Doug,

Good luck in writing those killings, and good luck with your writing.

Thanks for stopping by.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Sharla,

Thanks for stopping in and warning me about the "milking cow" law. I'm sure I would have broken that law tomorrow. LOL. And yes, it's just so much easier to make up "stuff" than to go on witch hunt making sure all your facts are correct.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Marsha,

Thanks so much for stopping in. And it's good to see you again. And yup, you're right, 22 years of marriage and the urge to kill goes hand in hand. LOL.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Georgie,

Writing is a habit I can't seem to kick.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

Bethany said...

As always, Christie Craig, more great advice!

Christie's books are awesome and DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS is an LOL novel full of fun.

Thank you, Bookends for having her guest post and thank you Christie for the great advice. Always good to hear what you have to say.

Jill James said...

Christie, I started following your fiasco with TX DOT, found your book at my B&N, and fell in love with your writing. I will be finding all your books from now on.

I've visited Texas and my comment was, "It's like its own country."

Christie Craig said...

Hi Bethany!

Thanks for coming by.

It's so good to see you here.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Hi Jill,

Thanks for stopping in. If you're in Houston pop over the booksigning at Katy Budget books 1:30 - 3:30.

CC

Kate Douglas said...

Christie, m'dear, one thing about you (well, one thing among way too many!) is you've got an amazing voice. I see it in your post, hear it in your books and it's just the same when you've got a glass of wine and are sitting across the table from me!

Looks like I have to add another book to the TBR stack. Hang in there, kiddo.

Carrie Butler said...

Great advice, Christie! Thank you for sharing it with us. :)

Michael G-G said...

Now this was one great post. I love your voice, Christie--and although I write middle grade, you bet I'll be searching out your books.

(BTW, my 8-year-old told me the other day that perhaps the reason I haven't been published yet is that I don't kill off any of my characters. After reading this, where's my chainsaw?!)

Jess Anastasi said...

Christie,
I also heard about your book first through the situation with TxDOT. Though I'm in Australia, I know people in the romance industry are talking about it (its been mentioned and posted on a number of loops I go on) and waned to say I'm sure you have the support of many, many, MANY romance authors (and other authors, fans, people with half a brain who can see how stupid it all is, etc) out there. I'll be buying this book to show my support and hope things work out well for you. I can't even imagine how stressful something like this must be.
And thanks for these writing tips, can never have too many of those!
All the best.

Christie Craig said...

Kate,

We need to get together again, and soon, and have share another glass of wine.

Thanks girl!

CC

Christie Craig said...

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for dropping in.

Happy writing!

CC

Christie Craig said...

Michael,

Sharpen those blades, it gets messy if you don't. LOL.

Good luck with all your writing adventures.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Jess,

Thanks for stopping in. I need to get to Australia. I've meet so many super nice people from there.

CC

Jess Anastasi said...

Hi again Christie,
You'd be more than welcome if you wanted to visit Australia and come to one of the RWAus conferences. 2012 will be in Queensland on the Gold Coast -- sun, beach, hot Aussie surfer guys... (hint hint) we'd all have a blast!
Jess
PS: coincidentally, i have a youtube video on my blog this week featuring aforementioned hot surfer guys if you need to do some "research" :)

Anonymous said...

A writer who attempted to query a lit agent? That's your first sign right there that this writer doesn't know what they're doing! So 1999. I didn't realize people still read these agent blogs anymore. How quaint!

Seriously people, if the big-time isn't coming to you, you ain't ready for it! You're wasting your time here.

custom writing said...

Good post! Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

what an utterly BRILLIANT post. thank you.

shamim adam said...

Thank you for summarizing what an agent can offer and what a healthy author-agent relationship looks like.

I have to do a lot of soul searching re: the right/healthy partnership.

Shamim

P.S.: When you talk a little bit about your book, especially about the quirky Texas ways, I was reminded of our laws in Kenya. Did you know, at one time, it was illegal to waive at our President Kenyatta from the balcony? My grandmother's 74 year old sister found the hard way -- she was thrown in a jail overnight for her 'criminal act' of waving jovially.

Selena Blake said...

Love the style of this guest post, Christie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips!