Last Spring I stumbled upon the book All That He Wants by Olivia Thorne (currently free on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes). I quickly fell in love with Lily and Conner and had to read the rest of the series. Lily is a secretary and Conner is a hot, young, Billionaire who saves her from a bad boss. I really appreciate Lily as her inner voice reminds me of mine.
Olivia has published books 1 through 4 (All That He Wants, All That He Desires, All That He Demands, and All That He Requires) which make up Volume 1. Stories 5, 6 and 7 will be published together (hopefully in early to mid November) as Volume 2.
I believe All That He Wants is your first published book, what inspired you to write this story?
It sounds a bit mercenary, but I really want to quit my day job and write for a living, so I was looking for something that audiences would connect with. I decided to try an experiment: I would write the first two installments of a series, and if nobody bought it, I would just forget the third and try something else instead. 50 Shades Of Grey was incredibly popular at the time, and so were a lot of billionaire romance knock-offs – but I wasn’t in love with the BDSM elements of those stories. Though I really like Christian Grey, I wanted my perfect idea of a romantic hero: warm, funny, confident, a little bit cocky, dominant, romantic, a bit of a rascal, sensual, take-charge – and, of course, gorgeous. That’s how Connor was born. Like the heroine Lily, I worked briefly as a lowly temp for a big consulting firm in Los Angeles. I decided to base Lily on me (neuroses and all), throw her together with a hot billionaire, and see what happened.
I’ve been reading your updates on finishing the series, it doesn’t sound like you had a plan for the whole series. How much of the series did you plan or have in your head when you started writing?
Haha! NOTHING. Well, that’s not exactly true… I knew where I wanted the characters to end up, but I had no idea how I was going to get them there. I never sat down and planned everything out. For instance, in Part 2, All That He Desires, I introduce two supporting characters because I needed a limo driver/bodyguard (Johnny) and I needed some comic relief (Sebastian). Those characters eventually became hugely important to the storyline, though I had no idea at the time that they would. The major villains of the piece don’t surface until Part 4, All That He Requires, and I had no idea they would even appear in Part 4 until I was halfway through writing it. In fact, the main villain was kind of eye candy at first, and then she just gradually took over as the Big Bad – because she’s evil like that. 🙂
I’m normally a very anal-retentive, “let’s plan everything out to a ‘T’” kind of person, so this was a huge departure for me. However, I think it turned out really well. The characters grow organically in a way they wouldn’t have if I’d sat down and plotted out everything before I got to know them. There’s a really fun spontaneity that resulted from that.
So far four books have been published: All That He Wants, All That He Desires, All That He Demands and All That He Requires. All That He Requires had quite the cliff hanger, I know you’re in the process of finishing the fifth and final book; do you have a release date yet?
Not yet. It’s titled All That He Loves – Volume Two, by the way. I’m aiming for early to mid-November, but I’m waiting on the cover (my first professionally designed one – yaaaay!) and editing the first draft.
What was your favorite scene and the hardest scene to write?
Oooh… that’s a tough one. I always love writing the sex scenes… and I love writing humor and really emotional moments. And I love writing catty verbal smackdowns. But I think my favorite scene in the first three books was an extended seduction scene in Part 2, where Connor and Lily play a version of “Truth Or Dare” mixed with strip poker, in which she wants to find out more about him, and he wants to get her naked and in bed. (She wants that, too, but she wants answers just as much.) It was fun, very sexy, lighthearted at points, and incredibly emotional at others. There’s also a scene in Part 5 – which isn’t out yet – where Sebastian, Lily, and Connor go toe-to-toe with the villains, and there’s a huge amount of vicious banter. Writing that scene was a fun day. The hardest? I can’t say too much – I don’t want to give too much away – but it was also in Part 5. Very sad scene. That was tough.
You’ve written some great sex scenes, are you willing to share where you get your inspiration?
(blushing) Thank you! Um… well… let’s say that they are a mixture of things I’ve done with past boyfriends, and some fantasies I’d like to do with a future one. I’ll leave it to your readers to ponder which are which. 😉
One of the reasons I purchased All That He Wants is because it was offered for free and looked interesting, I figured I would give it a chance. Have you found that offering the ebook for free for the Kindle and Nook has been a successful strategy?
OH MY GOSH YES. The number one problem for a new author is getting noticed amidst the ocean of independent writers (not to mention the hundreds of established names in Romance). In the beginning, I got a lot of great reviews for All That He Wants, but sales were still pretty poor. From the moment All That He Wants went permanently free on Amazon, sales on all the other books increased by over 1500%. That has since tapered off, but I still sell at least five times more than what I did before All That He Wants went free.
You’ve also written Passion and Pride under the pen name Amelia Nolan, why did you choose to write this story under a pen name?
Passion and Pride was actually the first book I published. At the time I thought I was going to write historical romances, but when I decided to switch to contemporary romance, I wanted to use another name to differentiate the genres – hence, Olivia Thorne. However, I’m thinking of changing the cover and by-line so that all my ‘naughty’ stuff is under Olivia, and Amelia will henceforth write PG-13, sweet stuff.
By the way, both Amelia Nolan and Olivia Thorne are pen names. I come from an extremely conservative, right-wing religious family who would be scandalized if they knew what I write. My day job probably wouldn’t look too favorably on it either, so for the time being I keep it on the ‘down-low.’
While writing Passion and Pride did you find you had to adjust your writing process to allow for the historical aspects of the story?
OH YES. Research is brutal (unless you like spending hours poring over books and websites for minute historical details, which I do not like at all). I spent almost as much time researching the book as I did writing it. I’m somebody who would much rather write funny dialogue and sexy-time scenes, so… I’m probably not going to be writing more historical romances unless I come up with a killer plot. Something I can’t not write.
Do you have any other books in the works you would like to tease us about?
The next series is about a struggling writer just out of college who gets a shot at a Rolling Stone article about the hottest rock star out there. Only problem is, she got the offer because she and the rocker had a brief, tumultuous romance when she was a freshman in college and he was a nobody in a cover band. She’s utterly conflicted: because of the way the romance ended, because she’s afraid she won’t be able to resist him again, and because the only reason she’s getting the chance is because they were together briefly. But she finally agrees to do it, and sparks and drama ensue.
I realize that the plot is very similar to other books out there, but so is ‘hot billionaire seduces regular girl.’ For me, it’s all about the characters, dialogue, and sexual chemistry. If I can make things hot, witty, and emotional, I don’t mind a more conventional jumping-off point.
Plus, I’m partly basing their early romance on real-life experiences with my first college boyfriend. No, he never became a rock god, but it was all very romantic at the time. Sigh…
Are there any authors who you particularly enjoy reading or who have inspired your own writing?
Actually, I don’t read as much anymore because I feel guilty: “Hey, I should be writing instead of relaxing!” But I have my classic standbys, like Nora Roberts and Jude Deveraux. Recent writers I’ve read and like include E.L. James (obviously!), H.M. Ward, Bella Andre, and Liliana Hart. And of course, there’s the Original Gangsta romance writer, Jane Austen. I also like Stephen King’s older books (Pet Sematary, especially) and Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs). Plus, I owe E.L. James a helluva lot for introducing the erotic romance category to tens of millions of new readers.
Check out Olivia’s tips for writers below “Where can people find you on the web?” It’s chock full of great tips!
Where can people find you on the web?
Other: Mailing List for new book releases – www.OliviaThorneBooks.com
All That He Wants – free at all retailers:
PS – Only Part 1 is currently on Smashwords, but the entire series will soon be for sale there and on other retailers.
UK Kindle – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AMIH8Y6
Do you have any tips for new writers?
For any aspiring writers out there, remember this: it is easier to publish a book and potentially reach thousands (or millions) of readers than at any other time in the history of our species. Think about that for a second, and then get rid of any excuses you might have about why you’re not pursuing your goal.
This is what I recommend for authors who want to quit the day job and write full-time:
A) Write in the Romance, Thriller, or Mystery genres, because they sell a LOT of books, and fans are hungry for them. You can definitely find success in other genres, but if you want to make a living, Romance, Thrillers, and Mysteries are your best bet.
B) Write the best book you can write, no matter how long it takes you to get good at your craft. Don’t feel like you have to be ‘great’ or ‘perfect’ before you publish your first one, but at least be competent – and that takes time. Don’t just throw your first efforts out there. Write, write, write, set it aside, write something else, then go back and look at the first one. Get feedback from people who like the genre you’re writing in. Then rewrite and edit, edit, edit – and get it proofread before you publish it. Wattpad.com is an awesome place for aspiring writers to get feedback and hone their craft. Heck, there’s tons of groups on the internet where you can do it. Also, write as much as you can, as many days a week as you can. An hour a week is not going to cut it unless you’re purely writing for fun (which is fine, too – if writing is solely an artistic outlet or fun activity for you, that’s totally cool).
C) Write a series (whether that’s complete novels with the same characters, or shorter installments that form one complete whole), because that will solve half your marketing problems.
D) Get a great cover. (I’m guilty of breaking this rule; mine are just okay, so I’m getting better ones.)
E) Make the first book in your series free if it doesn’t take off like gangbusters from the get-go. This is a complicated, ‘jump through the hoops’ process that involves publishing it for free at Smashwords.com, who will distribute it for free on BarnesAndNoble.com, and then hoping Amazon price-matches. It’s not a sure thing, but if it goes free on Amazon, another 40% of your marketing problems are over. If you only have one or two books, and they’re not in a series, I wouldn’t recommend the permafree approach. Amazon also offers their KDP Select program, where you go 90 days exclusive with them (meaning you can’t sell it anywhere else), and they’ll give you five days to give your book away free. I did this at first with All That He Wants, and it’s a great way to get your feet wet. Then I jumped in the deep end with permafree.
F) Start a mailing list with Mailchimp or aWeber or other service so that readers who like you can sign up to hear when your next book is available. Put the sign-up link in all your books from the very first day you publish them. (Mine is www.OliviaThorneBooks.com.) This is a crucial step many authors don’t do at first. I certainly didn’t, and I kicked myself for months after I sold 3000 copies of Passion and Pride and didn’t have a way to tell all those readers I was now publishing as Olivia Thorne.
With A-F, you have a much better shot at becoming a working writer. Yes, independent writers do very well in other genres – fantasy and some types of sci-fi have hungry fanbases, for instance, and there’s this guy named Hugh Howey you might have heard about – but some are really tough. For instance, my horror-writing friends tell me that horror is incredibly difficult to make a living at. No matter what genre, though, you should still do B, D, E, and F.
And no, you don’t have to write a series (suggestion C), but it makes it easier to market future books. Just know this: writing the book is hard work, but writing is 95% fun (or it should be – why would you want to write if you’re torturing yourself all the time?). Marketing the book is equally as important if you want to make a living, and it is MUCH, MUCH HARDER. Unless you’re a person who naturally enjoys marketing, which I am not. So I try to stack the deck in my favor by writing series.
If you love your job already and just want to write for enjoyment, that’s awesome. You’re one of the luckiest people alive. (I go to my day job because I like to eat and sleep under a roof. That’s the only reason.) If you don’t care about sales and just want to write a literary masterpiece, then by all means just do whatever you like… but if you want to write for a living and stop being a secretary/customer service person/whatever (like me!), I would suggest options A-F. You’ll exponentially increase your chances at making a living. Good luck!
Thank you to Olivia! I thought it was an interesting interview, particularly if you’re interested in writing your own book.