Author Interview: Maggie Jaimeson
Posted by Susan
Maggie Jaimeson is an author, a wife, a step-mother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher and IT administrator. She writes romantic suspense and romantic women’s fiction. You can find her at Behind the Book and at her website.
Maggie loves to combine science fiction and suspense with her romance. Out now is Expendable, a romantic suspense about biogenetics with a near future twist, and Eternity, a science fiction suspense with romantic elements, asking that age-old question, what if we could live forever…okay…800 years? What would our world look like?
Q1. Please tell us about your publishing journey.
Gosh, you do know this could be a novel, right? I’ve always been a writer—short stories, poetry, and lots of non-fiction. I first tried my hand at writing novels when I was 28 years old following a divorce. While working for an attorney (I had to pay off my divorce fees), I wrote two novels along the lines of Victoria Holt’s Gothic’s. I knew nothing about writing a novel and Writer’s Market was not very helpful to me. RWA didn’t exist back then. J After 18 months, I decided I would never be able to feed myself and gave up the idea.
Fast forward to age 50. I was remarried and taking stock of my life (as one does when they hit 50) and realized I’d spent the last twenty years being very productive but not necessarily very creative. So, in my best self-management style, I decided I still wanted to be a novelist. I reconnected with people I knew in my late twenties (writers who had stuck with it and were now multi-published) and begged them to mentor me. I attended lots of workshops. In other words, I undertook learning how to write as if it were a degree program but with a free form curriculum.
After a year of pursuing all this education I learned about RWA and joined. In the second year of my studies, I wrote three novels. In the third year, I wrote two more. In the fourth year, I wrote two more. All of this while working a 40+ hour day job. Then I slowed down to one a year.
I began entering RWA chapter and national contests after my third book. I tended to final a lot, but only placed first once. I started marketing my novels to editors and agents after my fifth book. I got a lot of interest from query letters, and most of the time got requests for a full after submitting a partial. However, no one bought me. The typical response was that I wrote well, loved my characters, setting, but…just didn’t see a strong enough market.
What I later learned was that my books don’t fit the genre. My science fiction (SF) had too much romance for straight SF and too much SF for straight romance. My contemporary romances had too much women’s fiction to fit in romance and too much romance to fit in women’s fiction. The book I got the most traction on was my romantic suspense, EXPENDABLE. But as agents were getting interested (three years ago), the market was changing rapidly. Again, I got a lot of positive feedback, but was constantly told it had to be up to the same standard as Lisa Jackson or (insert NYT best seller name here). I did sell EXPENDBLE to a small press, The Wild Rose Press, and it was released last month. Yeah!
Three other books I’ve decided to self-publish. ETERNITY was published in May, and the first two in my contemporary series will be published in September and October. To understand my decision there, read my comment to Cassiel Knight’s post on August 31st.
Q2: What’s the funniest thing to happen to you along your road to publication and what was the most exciting?
I guess the funniest is when I got The Call (or rather email) from the Wild Rose Press editor. I was at an Immersion Workshop in the mountains of Colorado with Margie Lawson learning how to make my writing more powerful, more emotional, more…everything. Amazing workshop, by the way. Anyway, I had been editing the first five pages of my YA work in progress to apply what I had learned and then took a break to check email. There it was sitting in my inbox, the “I want to contract EXPENDABLE” letter.
I don’t know how long I sat there, but it was definitely several minutes. Then I calmly looked up and said to the group of six other people at the workshop, “I just sold my first novel.” I wasn’t dancing, singing, or anything else. I think I was a bit in shock. It was six years after I started writing novels again. Also, I was so engrossed in my YA and its possibilities that I wasn’t sure this was real, or that I wanted it, or what.
I must have looked pretty weird because the whole group just kind of stared at me with their mouths open. Then, one of them shouted: “Maggie!!!” Drawing out my name. “Why aren’t you jumping up and down? Why aren’t you dancing around the floor? Why aren’t you celebrating?”
At the end of the workshop, they all surprised me with a silly string toast. I walked out on the deck and everyone shot me with silly string. I’ll bet no other author can say she was feted on her first sale with silly string. J
Three things have really challenged me about the industry: 1) How hard it’s been to break in; 2) The changing role of agents; and 3) How much the publishing industry has changed in the last three to five years.
The first challenge is a purely ego-centric focus. I feel very blessed in my life because I’ve always been able to accomplish what I set my mind to do. I was the first person in my very extended family to go to college. Whenever I’ve decided to change careers, to move into management, or to move locations, I’ve always done well. I’ve always believed that as long as I put in the effort and work hard, what I seek will happen. This happened for me in publishing non-fiction books (textbooks) as well. So, I had the same expectations for publishing novels. But to work so hard for six years and seem to be doing all the right things and getting all the right feedback, and still not publishing really made me question what was wrong with me.
I’m sure a lot of writers have experienced that feeling. I still don’t know why it was so hard. At the moment I’m chalking it up to the changing industry at the time I was ready to sell. If I’d stuck with it back 25+ years ago, maybe it would have been different. It was certainly a different time in the publishing world.
The second challenge relates to the changing role of agents and the impact it has had on writers—whether by choice or by changes in the industry. Just five or six years ago my experience with agents was one of a partnership feeling. I would query, they would either respond saying they weren’t interested or request a partial. Frequently they would request a full.
In either case, they would definitely send me something back—whether a form letter/email or actual feedback. I also had the feeling that agents were truly interested in working with an author for her career—not just for the one book that might hit it on the NYT list. In the last two to three years it seems this role has changed for many agents (not all but many). I frequently hear at conferences or see on the website something like, “Please query with x pages. If you do not hear back from us it means we aren’t interested.”
Excuse me? What happened to the partnership?
If I put in the effort to research you, find out who you represent, craft a good query letter and submit it, the least you can do is respond back—even if it’s a form letter. This is a red flag to me that says this is not a partnership, this is a dictatorship.
The second part of the changing role is what I believe is confusion on how to survive and thrive as an agent in the eBook world. Yes, the publishing distribution world is changing more rapidly than even I—a techno geek—anticipated. However, the way some agencies have decided to “sell” their authors to eBook-only presses (whether a small press or their own sideline press), I think is the wrong approach. Let me note, this is different than a few agents who have helped their traditionally published authors to self-publish by offering specific services. I know it’s a confusing time, but for me to consider having an agent I’d want to see that they have a proactive vision for working with traditional publishers and eBook publishers as a package to sell and promote a book—not where one overwhelms the other. If the agent doesn’t have a vision then I might as well go it alone and get a literary attorney for the legal stuff.
This all leads to the final challenge—all the changes. On the one hand, it’s been very disheartening that just when I learned the rules for traditional publishing, all the rules change. On the other hand, I think these changes have put the authors back in the driver’s seat in ways they haven’t been in decades. If authors are smart and do their research, I believe they can have amazing careers with a combination of traditional paper, eBook, and self-publishing. The challenge is making the time to do the research, being able to keep on top of it, and having the confidence to take charge of your career yourself instead of leaving it in the lap of someone else (like an agent) to tell you what to do. I don’t consider myself a lazy person, but I admit I was looking forward to the traditional relationship of me writing, agent selling/marketing, and publisher editing/distributing. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Now all three parties can and must write, sell, market, distribute. How exactly that balance happens is still up in the air. And it’s both scary and exciting. Definitely the biggest challenge of all.
Q4: Who is your favorite author, and what are you currently reading?
I don’t really have one favorite. Often my favorite author seems to be the latest books that have made an impact on me or that really spirited me away. I’ve always simultaneously read science fiction and romances. SF draws me in because of the universe of ideas and the vision of the future or social comment on today. However, the romance draws me in because of the relationships. I guess because I’ve spent so many years in academia I still need a story to be more than the relationship. I still need a story to have a deeper meaning, a big idea meaning.
I can tell you the series that has made the biggest impact on me as an adult is by Suzette Haden Elgin. You can read about her journey at her website. http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/ The series that really got me was her Native Tongue series: Native Tongue, The Judas Rose, and Earthsong, which I read in the late 1980’s. On the surface, the books are about linguists and how one becomes a linguist and really understands a society, particularly when faced with non-human subjects. Dr. Elgin is a linguist so that veracity of the work was obvious. The layer beneath the surface was also about women, their relationships in a male-dominated hierarchical society, and the very different way in which women viewed the world. The final key was that she developed and entire language, called Láadan, that only women knew and spoke. For me this was the perfect book which spoke to an alien world yet commented on our current world, and used lots of subtext. It is the type of book I aspire to write. For some of these same reasons, I also loved Octavia Butler who wrote beautiful SF stories about race and culture and choices.
In current times, I think my most consistent authors I read are Roxanne St. Claire, Catherine Coulter, and Linnea Sinclair. What I love about all of these authors is that their books have complex relationships, are well-paced, and take me away from the real world. I haven’t read any purely SF for at least a decade. When SF became primarily movie and series tie-in novels I lost interest. In some ways, SF romance has become the replacement.
I’ve also been on a YA craze for the past two years. I probably read as much YA as I do adult novels. I don’t have a favorite YA author, but I do have a genre—that is paranormal, urban fantasy, and traditional fantasy.
I am not into vampires, werewolves, demons and ghosts. However, I have been persuaded to read novels by certain authors (like Jessa Slade and Adrian Phoenix) and find them very enjoyable. But as a genre, I don’t seek them out.
Q5: What’s coming up next for you?
Immediately, I’m publishing the first two of my romantic women’s fiction novels with Windtree Press. UNDERTONES is coming out this month and HEALING NOTES is planned for an October release. There are four novels total, so I’ll be working on the final two during the next year to 18 months. I truly hope to have the final two released in 2012.
I am also just beginning to send out my YA novel, CHAMELEON, under my Maggie Faire pseudonym. It has received lots of interest with traditional publishers, so I’m sending out to interested editors first. It is planned as a series of seven novels, though that may change depending on the publisher and how the arc of the series develops as I continue to write other books in the series.
Lots of good things happening. Now all I have to do is find a way to make days last for 36 hours instead of 24 and still survive on only six hours a night of sleep. J
Thanks so much for having me. I love this blog. All three of you bring up great insights, ask good questions, and frequently make me laugh. That is the best compliment for any blog, I think.
And thank you, Maggie, for taking time from you busy schedule to chat with us. The Janes wish you much success!
About SusanAuthor, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, dreamer.
Posted on September 5, 2011, in Auth: Special Guest and tagged author, Eternity, Expendable, journey, Maggie Faire, Maggie Jaimeson, new careers, romance writers, self-published, Susan Lute, Wild Rose Press, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.