Author Marin Thomas has had an enviable career as a writer by any stretch, having published twenty-five romance novels with Harlequin before venturing into women's fiction with her newest book, The Promise of Forgiveness. Here, she talks about everything from playing competitive sports to how to keep writing even when self doubt makes it tricky to keep putting words on the page.
Q. Many writers give up before making it to the finish line or run out of steam after a few books. What has kept you writing through the inevitable writer's block, crises in confidence, and recent upheavals in the publishing industry?
Wearing blinders in this business always helps. But seriously, I think it's important to set short- and long-term career goals. Meeting the short-term goals builds confidence and makes waiting for the long-term goals to pan out bearable. I also believe that staying in contract, and not allowing yourself to take a break to research your next book or catch your breath, forces you to learn how to produce pages through difficult times in your personal and professional life. Learning how to write on autopilot is imperative if you want to steadily produce books and grow your readership.
The best writing tip a published author gave me was to make sure I had a new proposal ready to submit right after I turned in the final book on my current contract, and then to immediately begin writing the "non-contracted" book while negotiating the next publishing deal. This helps narrow the gap between release dates and ensures readers don't forget you.
Q. What was your inspiration for writing your newest book, The Promise of Forgiveness?
A "What if" question planted the seed for this novel. The main character in the book wears a ruby necklace, which plays an important role in this story. Years ago I came across a beautiful ruby necklace in an antique store, and as I stared at it in the glass case, I wondered to whom it had once belonged and how had it ended up in the store. When I sat down to plot this book, I decided to name the main character Ruby. That's when I recalled the necklace from all those years ago...and then my imagination took off.
Q. Despite not being billed as a romance, The Promise of Forgiveness has a wonderful love story at the heart of it. Actually, more than one...how was the process of writing women's fiction different from the process you use to write a romance novel?
My romance novels focus on the hero and heroine's romantic relationship, which guides the story from beginning to end and both characters receive equal page time. With women's fiction, I had to remind myself that the heroine's growth as an individual came first, and as the story progressed, her growth opened the door for the possibility of a meaningful relationship.
I've always included serious issues and family drama in my romance novels, so it feels like a natural fit to write women's fiction. And, having a higher word count allows me to delve deeper into these conflicts, which I've really enjoyed.
Q. One of the most interesting things in your background is the fact that you played Division I basketball in college. How do you think being an athlete prepared you for a writing career? Do you ever wish you were, you know, on a writing team instead of working alone? Or have you found teammates in writing?
I love this question! Having been a collegiate athlete in a nationally competitive program prepared me for a lot of things in life--a writing career is just one of them.
When you participate in a team sport, you have to earn playing time or you sit the bench. And one way to ensure you don't collect splinters in your backside is to practice your skills. I spent a lot of time in the weight room, staying after practice to shoot free throws, and one summer I joined a men's basketball league to help me become more comfortable getting banged around under the boards. You have to be a little crazy and a lot tough to take a hard elbow and keep playing--that ability came in handy when I received rejection letters after I first began querying editors. Once the initial sting passed, I got right back in the game, continued to hone my writing skills, and sent out more queries until I eventually got the call. Playing sports also taught me to believe that the only time you lose is if you quit trying, and that's kept me going in this challenging business.
As for writing teams....I enjoy working on continuities with other authors, but I prefer having control of my own story, characters and plot. I also keep in mind that the author is only one part of the publishing team and it takes everyone in the group bringing their A game to make a book a success.
Q. One big change in the publishing industry is that book marketing is mostly done online rather than by sending authors out on tour or relying on print book reviews and advertisements. You seem particularly adept at using social media to connect with readers. Can you talk a little about your social media journey as an author?
I've always been open to trying new ways to promote my books, but I struggle with a couple of things: I'm technically challenged, and because I write more than one book a year, I have trouble finding the right balance between writing, promotion and having a life. Fortunately for me, one of my readers stepped forward a few years ago and asked if she could help promote my books. We've become great friends and I can't imagine not having her as my author assistant, helping me spread the word about my books. It seems as soon as I master one social media platform, a new one pops up--it's like playing a game of Whack-a-mole, trying to keep up with where readers are surfacing. I'm grateful to have someone helping me navigate the ever-changing world of social media.
Q. Any tried-and-true writing advice for writers who are just getting started in their careers?
Don't listen to all the noise on social media. Take what others say about the publishing industry with a grain of salt. Everyone believes they're an expert on getting published or writing the next best seller. That's fine and good, but when all the noise begins to whittle away at your confidence, making you second-guess yourself and question decisions you've made about your writing career, then it's time to tune it all out. Follow your gut and do what makes you happy, because nothing else matters if you don't have a good story.