First off, a special treat, listed in the toolbar at the top of the page under ... ta da ... Special Treats. I've uploaded the short short story I wrote about Taka and Summer's wedding, when Jilly and Reno meet for the second time.
And now, back to Turning Points.
So there I was, an accomplished historical romance writer, when Penguin came calling with a pre-emptive offer for romantic suspense books. And I was gifted with the most wonderful ideas. The first was NIGHTFALL, and for some reason that feels like the high water mark. When I reread it to catch typos and stuff there wasn't a thing that made me squirm. I simply drank it in, stunned by how sublime it was. (You've figured out I have no problem with false modesty, right?)
NIGHTFALL was written a few years after my nephew died, MOONRISE was written just after my brother died. I was steeped in darkness, and put my characters through the emotional wringer I was going through. In their case I knew I could manipulate and guarantee a happy ending. For myself it was a little iffy.
And so I wrote. I did two more for Penguin and was politely sent on my way, while I was writing historicals for Zebra (until I was politely sent on my way (the same editor in chief who politely sent me on my way after the Fallen books - editors move around a lot). LADY FORTUNE was a personal turning point for me, which I've already talked about (aka "money is the root of all evil") but not for anyone else. Those books sank like a stone.
Mira welcomed me with open arms (eventually withdrawn with great gentleness). I wrote four romantic suspense for them, growing more and more disconnected to my work until I wrote the fourth one, INTO THE FIRE, which was a revelation for me and something of a disaster for HQ. It was too dark, too sexual, too non-PC, I gather, and some people felt was a turn-off, including Publisher's Weekly. Not moi! That was another personal turning point, that I could love writing again.
I wrote historicals for HQ -- HIDDEN HONOR and THE DEVIL'S WATZ, and then it was time for a new romantic suspense contract. I struggled and struggled with a story about the daughter of a modern-day political kingmaker, then dropped it and wrote BLACK ICE in one of those blazes of passion.
That was the one that put me on the NYT list (the goal of almost every writer, or at least a sign that they've made it). The series made the extended list, which was good enough for me. I remember sitting in a room in tears with Kristin Hannah and Jill Barnett, just before it came out, panicked that it was going to be just one more failure. Instead it hit, taking everyone (but me) by surprise, and they had to go back to press before the book's official pub date. It's still making money to this day.
The rest of the Ice books were just as good (or close) but none of them reached their full potential, but I will resist pointing fingers at Those Who Were to Blame. You know who you are. (You know, I put that accusatory sentence there before I reread this, and yes, publishers screw up, but when I went over this, reading my history, I saw how long they stuck with me. As I said before when I talked about publishers -- they did what they thought best.. Let it go. And don't start singing "Frozen" songs. Or do -- it's great to drive in the car and sing along with it at the top of your lungs.)
Of all those, ICE STORM was my personal turning point, a book I loved so much it was practically incestuous. Eventually to be followed by ON THIN ICE, the only indie book I've ever written and a complete joy on every level, even financially.
HQ actually decided they wanted historicals, and I wrote the Wicked House of Rohan in an astonishingly short time. Oddly enough I didn't consider them particularly dark -- after all, none of the heroes considered murdering the heroine. They were just self-indulgent and decadent -- what's not to love? I don't know whether those books turned my career in another direction - probably not, since historicals are now on the downturn. But I swear I didn't kill them! Though it is interesting to watch genres collapse (gothics, regencies, romantic suspense, historicals) after I write them. Supposedly paranormals are dying too (then again if they're paranormal they're damned hard to kill - they always rise from the dead). Not sure what's left, and the lovely thing is, I don't have to be a slave to it any more. If I want to write a story there are so many ways to do it without depending on a publisher.
Even more lovely, I get to write romantic suspense again (most of those collapsing genres are temporary - historicals always go through cycles, series romance will find a new reality, romantic suspense is coming back). And the best books of all of them still survive. Now I get to move the Committee to the US with a whole new set of operatives and it's going to be so much fun I'm practically giddy with delight, plus I have a publisher (Montlake) who's going for the ride along with me.
I never set out with any of these books to change my career track or my world. When it comes to writing I usually get so caught up with my worlds that I don't think about the product - whether people will love it, whether it will sell. Which is why some of my personal high water marks aren't the public ones. And why some of my best-selling books haven't made much of an impression on me. If the book comes to me in a fiery, passionate blaze, then I love that book fiercely. It's harder to be ecstatic over a book that you have to write and rewrite. I'm an instinctive writer, though I can be as left brained as Crusie. But mostly writing comes from my heart and soul, and my brain sorts things out after the first draft is done.
I'm considering listing all my failures tomorrow, but it might be too depressing.