Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view


Dear Author

DA Intro Interview & Giveaway: RITA Best First Book Nominees, Part...

This week Romance Writers of America hands out the RITAs, its highest awards in eleven romance sub-genres, plus a special category for debut authors.  As an occasional contributor to Dear Author, I’m delighted to host again the nominees for Best First Book as part of the Intro Interview series.

And we’re giving away books!  For part one today, you can put your hand up for Marcella Burnard’s sci-fi Enemy Within or for a bundle of the three YA novels honored in this category:  The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells, and I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan.  All four of these novels also happen to be nominated in a second category.

Let us know in the comments which you’d like to win, or if you have a favorite you’re rooting for. Tomorrow will feature the historical and action/suspense novels.

Opening Line:


Sun glinting off the barrel of a gun stopped Captain Ari Idylle dead in her tracks.

Enemy Within

JULIE KAGAWA, The Iron King:

Ten years ago, on my sixth birthday, my father disappeared.
Iron King



AMANDA HOWELLS, The Summer of Skinny Dipping:

There are summers you’ll always remember and summers you’ve forgotten even before they’re through.
Skinny Dipping


ERIN MCCAHAN, I Now Pronounce You Someone Else:

I was switched at birth.
Someone Else


Main Character’s Six-Word Memoir:

Marcella Burnard: So many degrees of betrayal.

Julie Kagawa: Dangerous faeries and star-crossed love.

Amanda Howells: Sixteen: discovers true love and herself.

(Note:  Attempts to contact Erin were unsuccessful, but her book will be included in the YA bundle.)


What my heroine does for a living:

Marcella Burnard: She had been career military, captaining an Armada Prowler, but her commanders have just taken all that away.

Julie Kagawa: High school student.


What makes my hero heroic:

Marcella Burnard: He has the power and the motivation to destroy the heroine. It would be expedient. He chooses the hard way – hoping he can help her redeem herself.

Julie Kagawa: Brave, loyal, impossibly stubborn, will uphold his word no matter what.

Amanda Howells: He’s honest and seizes the day.


A favorite line/scene/moment from the story:

Marcella Burnard: I’m fond of the Art of the Blade rules running through the story and how they use them against one another.

Julie Kagawa: Oh, we’re playing nice, now?”  Puck remained seated, looking anything but compliant.  “Shall we have tea, first?  Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?”

Amanda Howells: There’s a quiet moment in the book that I like a lot: it’s when Mia begins to mature and to realize that her perspective on things–on love, on her family, even on herself–isn’t necessarily accurate. It’s a moment of maturity, when she begins to understand that there are different ways of seeing the world around you. She reflects on this when she’s out on the beach looking at the night sky:

“I stared up at the stars and thought about light, how bright and powerful it had to be to travel so far, all the way across the galaxies to our eyes…Or maybe it was our eyes that were powerful. I’d never thought of it that way before.”


I wanted to tell this story because…

Marcella Burnard: These two people walked into my head and said, “Keyboard. Now.”

Amanda Howells: As a young girl I loved sad love stories and I loved summer novels and I especially combinations of the two. So I wanted to try my hand at it. I also wanted to write a summer story that stuck with the reader after summer was over.


An unexpected research detour I made while writing the book:

Marcella Burnard: Learning about the different types of viruses and how they infect the human body. It’s completely logical, but until I did the research, it hadn’t occurred to me that diseases naturally select for lower morbidity. This was important stuff for a story involving biological warfare agents.

Amanda Howells: While doing general setting research for the book, I came across the juicy essay collection Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons by Steven Gaines. In this book I learned of Dragon’s Head, a disastrous, gaudy, scandalously over-the-top dream of a house that a tacky, shady millionaire tried to build in Southampton and which ignited a furious battle of insider vs. outsider. The story of this mansion gave me the perfect house to act as a backdrop for Mia and Simon’s summer love story. It enriched my story considerably.


I’ll never forget the reader/fan/reviewer who…

Marcella Burnard: wrote to say she’d served in Iraq and knew PTSD up close and that I’d gotten her experience of it right. She liked that my heroine didn’t want someone else to fix it for her.

Julie Kagawa: Told me reading my series helped her get through her husband’s death.

Amanda Howells: The YA bloggers Sara and Stephanie, of Novel Novice ( really blew me away with the series they did on me and my novel. Of course it was flattering to have so much attention, but it’s especially satisfying when bloggers are not only passionate about the books they like, but also literate and articulate, as these girls are. Sara and Stephanie went all the way with my book, digging deep into it and asking me really thoughtful questions. They are awesome bloggers, and true friends to the YA writers they like.


What’s great about my sub-genre:

Marcella Burnard: In science fiction romance, if I can find a remotely scientific basis for something, I can give a character attributes no one on this earth has. Geeky? Sure. But it’s fun.

Amanda Howells: Summer romance novels are, like summer itself, a true escape from routine, and perennially satisfying to return to. Summer love + an evocative beach house +  golden sand + the ocean= a sub-genre that will never die.


When I got the call about the RITA nomination, I…

Marcella Burnard: thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest.

Julie Kagawa: Think I squealed in my editor’s ear. (Sorry, Tashya.)

Amanda Howells: was completely surprised.


If I win, I…

Marcella Burnard: May spontaneously combust – not entirely sure, but babbling like an idiot may be involved.

Julie Kagawa: Want to thank everyone who helped me get here.

Amanda Howells: will be completely surprised.


Number of books I wrote before selling:

Marcella Burnard: Four. Enemy Within was book five. The first four – let’s just say the learning curve is painfully visible.

Amanda Howells: One.


How I found my agent:

Marcella Burnard: I looked through the RWA list of agents, picked out the few who accepted science fiction, investigated each, and then queried my top picks. Luckily, the story resonated with the fabulous Emmanuelle Morgen.

Julie Kagawa: I met my agent at a writer’s conference in Louisville, KY.  My very first words to her were: “Uh…hello?” as I didn’t know she was an agent at the time.  Thankfully she overlooked my awkwardness. ;)

Amanda Howells: Fellow writer friend.


Biggest surprise as a published author:

Marcella Burnard: Other people thought the story was fun, too!

Amanda Howells: How hard it is to make any money–note to aspiring writers: there’s no such thing as easy money. So take that off the table and write from the heart.


Oddest or most reliable writing habit:

Marcella Burnard: Listening to video game sound tracks based on what I’m writing.

Julie Kagawa: Turning off the internet when I really need to get serious.

Amanda Howells: Writing on tiny scraps of paper, wherever I go, then piling them on my desk in a tower, under a paper weight. When the tower gets too high, I spend a few days inputting the notes on my computer. One’s best ideas and lines rarely occur at the desk–mine don’t anyway. These note-towers on my computer are gold to me.


Where I find inspiration:

Marcella Burnard: Pff. How much time do you have? :D

Julie Kagawa: Anime, manga, and video games.

Amanda Howells: in books, in my life, in my dreams (I dreamed the title of my novel before I wrote a single word), at breakfast, on the bus, in the car, overhearing others…in short, everywhere!


A book or author I recommend again and again:

Marcella Burnard: Robin McKinley, Linnea Sinclair and Nalini Singh. Not necessarily in that order.

Julie Kagawa: Neil Gaiman.

Amanda Howells: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The Great Gatsby–of course.


A hobby/interest/passion of mine beyond the book world:

Marcella Burnard: Sailing, science, World of Warcraft

Julie Kagawa: Kung Fu, sushi, and video games.

Amanda Howells: Walking: on beaches, in mountains, on city streets. Walking and writing go together.


What I’m working on now:

Marcella Burnard: Book three in the series – tentatively titled Enemy Storm

Julie Kagawa: A post apocalyptic vampire novel.

Amanda Howells: I don’t want to speak too soon.


Come back tomorrow for interviews with the rest of the authors.  The RITAs will be announced July 1 in New York City.  Congratulations and much gratitude to the authors.

Links:  Marcella Burnard Julie Kagawa Amanda Howells Erin McCahan


Dear Author

Harlequin’s Response to Royalty Concerns & Contract Issues

I asked Harlequin about a couple of things regarding the new royalty rate as well as whether Bob Mayer’s claims that Harlequin was inserting a non compete clause in its new contracts to prevent authors from self publishing. Here is their response (from Donna Hayes, CEO of Harlequin)

Concern: These new rates aren’t actually better than what we were already earning — maybe worse.


Series: on a $5 book, a series author receiving 6% of cover would earn royalty of 30 cents per copy; at 15% of net receipts, she’ll earn 37.5 cents per copy ($5 x 50% discount to distributor = net receipts of $2.50. 15% of $2.50 is 37.5 cents).

Single Titles: on an $8 book, a single title author receiving 10% of cover would earn royalty of 80 cents per copy; at 25% of net receipts, she’ll earn $1.00 per copy ($8 x 50% discount to distributor = net receipts of $4.00. 25% of $4.00 is $1.00).

The net receipts calculation is transparent and we are comfortable moving to a net receipts model for digital sales.

Concern: Some authors are included and others are not.

Response: We had to select an effective date for the new rates to be implemented. Some programming work will need to be done for Harlequin to move to this new net receipts royalty model. We chose Jan 1, 2012 as the effective date. So authors who are active Harlequin authors at that time, will receive the revised digital rates. And the new digital rates will apply to front and backlist units sold as of Jan 1, 2012.

Concern: If a Harlequin author leaves Harlequin after Jan 1, 2012 , the digital royalty rates will be reversed or reduced to what they previously were.

Response: No. Obviously we hope that authors will continue to publish with us, but if they stop publishing with us they will continue to received these new digital rates when we sell their digital copies.

Concern: Series royalty of 15% of nr is less than the single title royalty of 25% of nr.

Response: The series royalty is less than the single title royalty because the Harlequin brand is an important purchase trigger for readers. We invest heavily in the Harlequin brand and the brand is a key influence in the purchase of series books. In single title fiction, the author becomes the brand and sells the book and in nonfiction, the author platform and subject matter sell the book.

The difference between series and single titles exists in the print cover price model of royalties as well.

Concern: Harlequin is asking authors to agree to a self publishing non-compete clause.

Response: No, Harlequin has not asked for this or included it in contract negotiations.

The changes we have announced provide all current authors with higher royalty income than we are contractually obliged to provide. If Harlequin authors want clarification on these points or any others, we encourage them to contact their editor to discuss them.