July 12, 2010
Author shares tools of the trade
Cincinnatus woman has published more than 50 romance novels
HOMER — Best-selling paranormal romance author Maggie Shayne spoke to about 20 local residents in the Phillips Free Library Saturday about how to improve their writing and get published.
Shayne, a Cincinnatus resident, has published about 50 novels and is listed as a New York Times best-selling author.
She writes mostly romance novels featuring vampires and has been doing so since before the genre moved to the epicenter of popular fiction in the past few years.
She wrote a long series of vampire romance novels called Wings in the Night, featuring the word “twilight” in the title, before Stephenie Meyer began her “Twilight” series.
Shayne, born Margaret Benson, said she stopped using the word in her titles after Myers’ series arrived. At first she was upset by Myers’ instant success, she said, but she realized that there was a trickle-down effect and that Myers’ success increased her sales. She also noted that Myers has a different audience.
“She’s writing for young adults and I’m writing for women,” Shayne said.
But Shayne expressed some uneasiness about suddenly being part of a large movement in the publishing industry.
“I’m thinking about ending my vampire series because everybody’s writing vampire novels,” Shayne said. “I’ve always hated being part of the crowd.”
Shayne said she began writing about vampires because she grew up watching horror movies, such as Dracula.
“My issue was that the monster never got the girl,” Shayne said, adding that she thought Dracula was more attractive than the protagonist, Jonathan Harker.
“Dracula was dark and mysterious and sexy and powerful,” Shayne said.
“I think the appeal of the adult vampire novel is the notion of a dark, doomed soul who is redeemed by the power of love,” she said.
Shayne began the workshop by giving advice on how to get a book published. Her tips included writing query letters to literary agents, book proposals for editors at publishing companies and networking with agents and editors at writers’ conferences.
Later, Shayne helped the attendees to develop characters and conflicts for novels. They did a writing exercise in which they explained the conflicting goals of main characters they had created in stories they were already writing or had created just for the exercise. They also wrote attention-grabbing first lines for a novel.
David Harris, a student entering his senior year at Homer High School, said he writes science fiction as a hobby and attended the workshop to improve his writing and make it more concise.
During a break from the workshop, he said he wanted to ask Shayne about motivational techniques because “it’s hard to sit down and write for an hour each day.”
Shayne had just told the attendees that to become a professional writer a person needs to set aside at least an hour each day and possibly set a page quota, such as 10 pages a day.
Kristin Yarnell, 42, a Homer resident, attended the workshop to learn about writing and getting published. She writes personal essays for magazines, newspapers and newsletters, but has been trying for the past three years to get one of her children’s’ books published. She said she usually sends out five or six book proposals to agents each January after making it a New Year’s resolution.
Yarnell said after the conference that she will take Shayne’s advice and try to find literary agents appropriate for her types of books by finding the names of agents for other children’s authors. She also wants to attend a writers’ conference, where she can meet agents, publishers and editors.
Yarnell said she recently wrote a children’s book with illustrations by a local artist that serves to help children learn how to count.
“I have three young kids, so I think that’s where I am in my life right now. I see the kind of thing that they’re reading and that I want them to know,” Yarnell said.
Shayne said she has done writing workshops across the country, but has been doing mostly local workshops recently.
“I like talking about my work, and I love meeting other writers,” Shayne said. “It’s so cool to meet these people who are like I was, it seems like yesterday.”
Shayne was born in Syracuse and spent her childhood in several towns throughout the state, including Otselic.
All of her books take place in rural settings, either in local towns, fictional towns in New York state or small towns in other states with similar characteristics to Central New York, she said, and they all feature romance.
“Every story I’ve written has had a romance at the heart,” she said. “I don’t think I could write a story without a romance in it. I’d think something was missing.”
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