I've been on a little bit of a hiatus compared to my normal output of roughly a book a month. I feel like I'm saying this over and over again, so I apologize if it's the fifteenth time you've heard me explain why, BUT... I got a really exciting deal to publish three books with Montlake Romance's help last year. If you're not sure what that even means (after all, I'm already publishing books with no help, right? Why is it exciting to work with a publisher?) It's kind of a complicated answer, but without bogging you all down in the details. Let me use a metaphor. Imagine you're a marathon swimmer and your goal is to swim these huge, thirty mile swims across the world. You've been doing it by yourself, from researching weather conditions, bringing along the supplies you need, and even carrying a spear to fend off sharks. OR you could have a team of people ride beside you in a boat. They manage everything and all you have to think about is the swim. You're not worried about sharks, weather, nutrition, or anything except getting yourself ready to absolutely crush that swim. So you can do it both ways, sure. You might even have a greater sense of accomplishment if you did a swim like that all on your own. But if your goal is just to do the swim as well as it can possibly done, having a team would be a hugely exciting thing. It's not a perfect metaphor to explain the difference and my feelings on it, but basically, I'd love to eventually transition to only doing traditional publishing. All the little nitty gritty stuff I manage to successfully self publish is stuff that I take pride in and think I do well, but it ultimately distracts me from the writing and doesn't let me put out the best possible books I could. Now that I've bogged you down in a convoluted metaphor and details after saying I wouldn't... I can circle back to my original point. It has been a while since I published Her Secret because I immediately started writing my second book with Montlake right after I published Her Secret. At 75,000 words or so, it took me nearly two months. Unlike my self-pub stuff, I have to wait 6+ months for Montlake to get it polished up and so shiny that you could see yourself in it. From the outside looking in, that basically means I can't publish as often until the first Montlake book rolls out September 3rd. Once that happens, it'll seem like I'm publishing like crazy because books I wrote 6+ months ago will be popping out and I'll still be writing new stuff and trying to launch it whenever there is available space. Now maybe I should actually talk about Her Bush?
Planning the book If I was explaining to a reader of mine why they should be excited about this book and I only had one sentence to do it, I'd say... "Her Bush gets back to the roots of what made this series special." I feel confident in saying that because it was my number one priority while writing it. I always make a point of going through all the feedback I get with every launch and I ask myself, "how can I improve?" My biggest takeaway from the criticisms of my previous book in the series, Her Secret, was that readers came in with expectations that weren't met. Specifically, I think readers who were familiar with the series sat down with the expectation that it'd be a super light-hearted, fun book. At times, I think it was, but I also know I put more drama and emotion into the book, which naturally tends to detract from the comedy and lightness. So I didn't want to make the same mistake twice, and since this is the last book I plan on writing in the series, I really wanted to end it with a home run. The direction I needed to go seemed obvious when I stepped back and looked at everything I had in front of me. This one needed to get back to having a title that was an in-your-face, sexual innuendo. The cover needed to be bold and attention grabbing. It needed to be dirty enough at a glance that it would make some people uncomfortable. Because that's what the series is supposed to be. It's supposed to be in your face, bold, witty, and unapologetic. It's fun and carefree, and all of that needs to come through just from glancing at the cover.
Writing the book I had a lot of challenges when I was writing this book. Interestingly enough, one of them came directly from my experience working with the developmental editor Montlake assigned to my first two books with them. Going back and doing that kind of broad stroke style of editing with somebody's guidance helped me see how much I've been leaving on the table in my books. There were themes and threads of characters that I had just left hanging, waiting to be pulled and developed in my books I wrote for Montlake. Naturally, I figured they would exist in this book as well. Unfortunately, my usual method is to kind of plow forward and refuse to let myself look back until I'm mostly finished. There will occasionally be books where I realize I've created a big problem and I can't just continue because I need to know how I fix it before I press on. Aside from those cases, I really try not to let myself go back until the very end. With Her Bush, I think I literally went over the first 25,000 words about 10 to 12 times before I was finally comfortable moving on. My initial issue was that I needed a better source of tension between Nell and Harry. I felt really great chemistry between them, but it quickly became clear that they got along almost *too* well. I didn't want to sacrifice how good that felt to me on paper, so I had to think of an external wrinkle to throw into the equation. Sometimes, characters just clash, and in those sorts of stories, I hardly need to sprinkle more tension. Just putting them in the same room can be enough.
In cases like this one, I needed an X factor. Finding the right one was a big part of my back and forth. It would be too big, then not big enough, etc. Once I finally found that, I struggled with the ending, which is also something I don't normally struggle with. But one way or another, I managed to get the book finished. I'm happy to say that all the back and forth feels like it really paid off this time. I think there are more satisfying layers to this book than some of my other light-hearted stuff, but those layer's don't come at the cost of bogging you down, slowing the pace, or detracting from the humor. In short, I think this book ended up being the perfect ending to a series that has literally changed my life, both as a person, and as an author. Without these books, I wouldn't have been given all these wonderful opportunities that have come to my attention in the past six months, from getting my books translated in more than ten languages, audiobooks, and of course, a traditional publishing contract. I'm so excited to start reading reviews and seeing what people think. As always, I'll be paying close attention to the feedback and looking for ways to keep improving as an author as I go forward. Thanks for reading! xx