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Guest Author Elisabeth Naughton

Welcome to guest author Elisabeth Naughton

A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, heralded by Publisher’s Weekly as “A rock-solid debut,” was recently nominated for two prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America in the Best First Book category and the Best Romantic Suspense category. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures.

Taking a Leap of Faith

It’s great to be guest blogging with the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood again! Thanks so much for inviting me back.

You hear it all the time: New York wants books that are the “same” but “different”. What the heck does that mean? From a writer’s perspective that could mean anything. It might mean no thee-eyed alien romances, but it could also mean an alien who looks like us but doesn’t age and falls in love with a werewolf might just be the next big thing. The question for writers becomes—how do you know what ideas are worth taking a chance on and which ones should be under lock and key (forever)?

Humans are creatures of habit. We do things we’ve already enjoyed doing before. The same is true for writing. If you read romantic suspense, you write romantic suspense because it’s the genre you most enjoy relaxing with at the end of the day. Your favorite author writes about vampires and you’re fascinated by them yourself? It makes sense that’s what you should write about as well. But NY doesn’t want to buy a book that’s already been written. And though vampire stories might still be popular in this day and age, in order to get New York’s attention and sell your vampire masterpiece, it has to be different enough to spark interest. It has to be different enough to stand out in the sea of other vampire stories already on the shelves.

How do you do that? Well, first you dig deep. Then you pull out new twists on old concepts. And finally you take big time risks. You write about something you’ve never written about before. You experiment with a genre you wouldn’t have considered when you first started writing. You write darker characters, you up the stakes, you push yourself (and your characters) to the edge and then when you think you can’t push any more, you push again. We all know we get better with every book we write. But here’s something I’ve learned along this crazy road of publishing that most people don’t tell you…you don’t really start to increase your chances of selling until you step outside your comfort zone, believe in yourself and your abilities, and then take a wild leap of faith.

Stolen FuryFor me, taking that leap has definitely paid off. My debut book – STOLEN FURY (which was recently nominated for two RITAs – Best First Book & Romantic Suspense) was a risk. I wrote about a thief. A good thief; a career thief. And one who wasn’t remorseful about his profession of choice. I added in a snarky, 39 yr old heroine who meets this thief one night in Italy and isn’t looking for more than a one night stand. And then I had him lie to her, seduce her, drug her and steal from her. I thought no way in hell any editor would buy that book. My heroine was too old, too experienced and too sarcastic. My hero was too cocky, too conniving and way too deceptive. But not only did an editor buy it, she loved it. And readers have loved it as well.

MarkedThe same is true for my new paranormal series, the Eternal Guardians, which launched with book 1, MARKED, on Tuesday, April 27th. This series is based on descendants from the heroes of Greek mythology. Books based on Greek myth have been done before, but no one (that I know of) has written about the descendants of the heroes – at least not in the way I have. My book combines snarky gods, seething demons and a world that exists on the outskirts of our own, and aside from being a total blast to write, it has pushed my skill as a writer to the limit again and again. I never planned to write a paranormal series, but before my Stolen series sold back in 2008, I decided to take a chance on something different. To my surprise, MARKED sold in less than 2 weeks, and my editor loved it so much they made it (and every book in the series) a lead title for my house. If I hadn’t taken the leap of faith and written MARKED, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I definitely wouldn’t be excited about launching a brand new series this week.

How do you push yourself as an author? What are you doing today in your writing that’s taking a risk? And can you name any authors who constantly seem to be pushing the envelope with every book they write?

To learn more about me and my books, especially MARKED and the new Eternal Guardians series, visit me at www.ElisabethNaughton.com.

28 responses to “Guest Author Elisabeth Naughton”

  1. Thank you for coming Elizabeth.

    We as writers walk a fine line between giving the reader what they want and setting ourselves apart from other writers. Sometimes we cross the line. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

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    • Kelly – so very true. Sometimes I think we worry so much about what will sell or what readers are looking for that we forget what makes our writing shine in the first place – it’s *us* falling in love with an idea and that excitement coming through in our writing. I didn’t write a paranormal series because that’s what’s hot. I wrote it because I fell in love with the *idea* of a series based on Greek mythology when I was researching for STOLEN FURY. In that debut book, my characters were searching for three priceless relics of the Three Furies from Greek mythology. And the more I researched the more I thought, “You know, it would be so fun to write an entire series that had to do with the Ancient Greek myths.” That’s how I got my idea. But I honestly didn’t think it would sell – I wrote it because it sounded fun to me and I wasn’t under contract for anything else. And taking that risk totally paid off.

      I have other ideas that might never fly (poor Joan gets subjected to all my crazy ideas because she’s my CP) but I think the greater risk is NOT trying them. Because you just never know what might hit.

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  2. Tamara Hogan says:

    Hi Elisabeth! Thanks for spending some time with us today. Your Eternal Guardians series sounds fascinating, and like you, I have found inspiration in mythology for my upcoming trilogy being published by Sourcebooks. In my case, I also built a world where mythological creatures are real – but the creatures created the myth themselves so they could stay under humanity’s radar. (Humans aren’t quite ready to discover that so-called “First Contact” actually occurred nearly a thousand years ago.)

    One area where I feel I’m taking risks – as if sharing your private imagination with the public doesn’t feel risky enough! – is that my villain isn’t evil. In fact, he’s rather likeable. Readers who appreciate black/white, good/evil distinctions might be slightly uncomfortable with my approach, but I think moral ambiguity is more compelling.

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    • Elise Hayes says:

      Oh I *love* “good” villains. My pet peeve when reading is the villain who is all bad (or, ok, who might like dogs but is otherwise all bad). One of the things I try to do for my villains is imagine them as the hero of their own, later book–which means they need to have very good reasons for acting the way that they do in the current book (they’re not just a sociopathic killer).

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    • Hi Tamara,

      Your new series sounds fascinating! What’s the name of the series and when are your release dates? I’ll be on the lookout – love the idea of the myth being created to keep the world at bay.

      As for your villain being not truly evil – if it works, I think that’s great! I agree with Elise that the villain really is the hero of their own story – whether you, as the author, ever write “their own story” or not. The villain in my Eternal Guardians series is female, and every time I write a scene from her POV I ask myself, what is she after and why? Keeping true to her is as important as keeping true to the hero/heroine, and though she has become progressively more evil as time has gone on (and we’re talking 3K years here so she’s had a lot of time to get good and pissed), her character arc is equally as important to the span of the series. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a redeemable villain down the line so long as you make them both believable and empathetic them so readers can visualize them as a hero at some point.

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      • Tamara Hogan says:

        We’re still hammering out the series branding, but the first book of the trilogy, TASTE ME, is scheduled to be released in March, 2011. TASTE ME is the story of siren rock star Scarlett Fontaine and her reluctant incubus bodyguard, Lukas Sebastiani.

        (The book finaled in the 2009 Golden Heart and won a Daphne under a different title, UNDERBELLY.)

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    • I love gray villains! I love gray characters, generally. I love George R.R. Martin for that.

      (Could I be more excited about your debut? I think not.)

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  3. Elise Hayes says:

    Hi Elizabeth–thanks for blogging with us today. STOLEN FURY sounds incredible–I’ll be adding it to my “to be read” list (in addition to the paranormals).

    Risk-taking: I’m trying to get “riskier” with my language. Sherry Thomas is a good model for this: her descriptions are sometimes really, really out there, but they keep her writing incredibly fresh and fun.

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    • Elise Hayes says:

      Oops, sorry for misspelling your name, Elisabeth!

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      • Hi Elise – no worries on the spelling. You wouldn’t believe how many people misspell my name. 😉

        I laughed when I read your comment because my interpretation of “language” is tainted by my mother who says (after she reads every one of my books), “I loved the story, but, Elisabeth. WHY do you use such language in your books? You don’t talk like that!”

        *me, scratching my head* “Gee, Mom. I don’t know.”

        Joan, stop snickering. (Joan knows how bad my language is on a good day. LOL)

        Actually – seriously – I think you’re right. Experimenting with different descriptions, writing styles, new ways to explain things is definitely risky because you’re not used to it, but yeah, it can absolutely pay off. Part of what I think caught my editor’s eye about STOLEN FURY was that I let my snarky sense of humor shine through. I didn’t tamp it down like I’d been doing in my previous books. That was definitely risky, but again, something I believe was worth trying.

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Ooh, yes–Sherry Thomas for language that’s alive! Absolutely! (Her new book, His at Night, is out next month…just got 4 1/2 stars and a TOP PICK from RT…can’t wait!)

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  4. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    Hi Eli! Good to see you here, and great to hear about your latest book and those RITA nods. How exciting!

    Finding that “same but different” element is difficult. I am, I admit, still struggling to find the “spark” that will differentiate my stuff from that of a thousand others. Strong voice is just not enough these days.

    Perhaps setting aside my historicals for a bit and going back to work in the sci-fi realm where there is a less indelible and unforgiving framework is the answer. I don’t know, but am, as you can see, still giving it due consideration.

    Love of history can easily be tweaked to work in a science-fiction setting without falling into the Time Travel category. I have three such stories tucked away. It may be their time has come.

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    • Hey Gwynlyn!!! *waving to my fellow 007 Bond girl*

      Finding that “spark” is so hard, isn’t it? On Tuesday, when MARKED released, a good friend of mine emailed and said, “Guess what I’m reading?” I assumed she’d gone out and gotten a copy of MARKED (which she’s already read) but it turned out she was reading an old ms I wrote before I sold, titled WAIT FOR ME. I nearly laughed. This is a contemporary romantic suspense – more romance than suspense – that is probably what I would consider “the book of my heart”. It’s the story I had pinging around in my head for years before I started writing (and because of that has been rewritten so many times I can’t even remember which version she’s referring to). I love that book–still do–and her email reminded me all about it. But even though I love it and she loves it and we both know it has great potential, it’s one of those books that I doubt will ever be published. Why? Because I don’t think there’s enough “spark” in it to differentiate it from all the other books being published now.

      I still think of that book now and then, but when I finally realized I needed to write something completely different and take new chances – that’s when things started happening for me. My advice for anyone who is in that place right now is to try something totally different and see where it takes you. Stepping outside the box is freeing in more ways than one. And who knows? It might just lead you down a whole new path you never expected (or planned).

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  5. Laurie Kellogg says:

    My problem is that I always think I’ve come up with something ‘different’, but no one else thinks so. Or they think it’s TOO different.

    I know you’ll be coming home with a RITA in July, so start writing that acceptance speech! Can’t wait to see you again in Nashville.

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    • Hey Laurie! **Waving to another Bond girl**

      Aw, thanks so much for the vote of confidence! My DH is flying out for the awards ceremony – his first RWA experience. Whether I win or lose I’m glad he’s going to get to finally *see* what it’s really like. He has no clue what he’s in for. LOL!

      And yeah, I hear you on the “different” vs “too different”. All I can tell you is don’t give up. It only takes one editor to say, “I love this!” Just one.

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  6. It is so tricky to know know what’s going to catch an editor’s (and the reading public’s) eye. But I think you can never go wrong with different.

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  7. Hiya, Maureen!

    **waving to Maureen, ANOTHER Bond girl…what, did you all just move over here?!**

    Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a crystal ball that could look into the future and SEE what the next great idea would be? *sigh* Of course, if that happened, everyone else would know as well and there goes the excitement. 😉

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  8. Elisabeth, I’ve been excited to read “Stolen Fury” since I first heard about it, and your description only makes me keener to actually get off my butt and buy it.

    As for pushing the envelope, I thought I was doing that with bringing some plausible international terrorism plotlines to category romantic suspense, but last night I saw a description for a Steven Seagal movie that sounded exactly like my first novel. I laughed, but man! If my novel sounds like a Steven Seagal movie, then I’m probably not pushing the envelope nearly far enough.

    “Black Dawn” was the movie, for the record. I haven’t seen it. I’m not sure if I want to. I hear Steven waddles off into the sunset at the end, which could be worth watching.

    Best of luck to you with your new series!

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    • Jamie – thanks so much. I hope you enjoy STOLEN FURY!

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen “Black Dawn” but your ‘waddling off the set’ comment made me laugh. I’ll have to look for it.

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  9. rita says:

    Congratulations on the RITA nomination. So exciting for a debut book.
    More congrats on the book out this week. Love the cover art.
    Taking a leap of faith is a good term. For new writers especially. We jump in to a project, work long and hard and don’t know it if will be accepted or not. What’s helpful is authors like yourself reminding us to twist the plot and write fresh.
    Thanks

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    • Thanks so much, Rita (great name, btw!!)

      It’s so hard to trust your gut and just go with an idea. There are so many things to worry about in this business and it doesn’t get easier after you sell. But I really think it can make all the difference sometimes.

      Good luck to you!

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  10. Liz Talley says:

    Welcome back, Elisabeth! And big congrats on those Rita nods – fantabulous!

    As to the writing, I have to say that I put aside (yes, I’ve decided to shove my historicals under the bed) the genre I first loved reading and writing to pursue what I think (and hope) I’m good at. As for pushing the envelope, I will always challenge myself to write bigger, better and deeper. I honestly believe that the book I just finished is my best. But I don’t want it to be the best. I want my next one to be. And then the next.

    Pushing the envelope is good in my opinion. Same old, same old. Nah. I want new and fresh.

    Thanks for coming by and good luck in Nashville. I’ll be looking for you to say hello.

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    • Aw, thanks so much for the Rita congrats, Liz! And yes, please do find me in Nashville. I’ll be the one with the Joker grin on her face.

      I love this that you said:

      “I honestly believe that the book I just finished is my best. But I don’t want it to be the best. I want my next one to be. And then the next.”

      Such a great motto for a writer to live by. And one I try to aim for myself. Thanks for the great comment!

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  11. Caffey says:

    Hi to Ruby Slippers! Its my first time here and so looking forward to coming more. Hi Elisabeth!! I am so having a wonderful time talking about MARKED I’m visiting online today! I don’t want anyone who reads fantasy or paranormal romance (or who just plain reads) to miss this one! I’ve been so taken away by this world of the Argonauts and the conflicts with the Underworld. The feelings of the characters, of the events and more continue to stay with me and will for a long time!

    Elisabeth, I so love the unique but too I so love my favorite themes too! So for me, it doesn’t even matter the author because I so love reading debut authors along with my favorites. I wished there was some way to tell them besides buying so many books, lol, that I love a variety! But as I said above, you sure did that with MARKED.

    I loved STOLEN FURY and I don’t read much RS but so can’t wait when I’m able to get the other two in the STOLEN series. Congrats on your awards and all that is happening for you with your writing and life. Thanks for all you do!

    cathiecaffey(at)gmail.com

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    • Hi Cathie – thanks so much for stopping by!

      I’m absolutely thrilled that you enjoyed MARKED. The best compliment you can give an author is to spread the word about the book – which you are doing. So thank you!!!

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  12. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks for joining us again, Elisabeth! I love that STOLEN FURY broke all those rules, but won your editor’s and readers’ hearts. That’s refreshing to hear. I hate the idea of writing to formula…and never enjoy books when I feel like that’s all the author was going for in the first place. Blah!

    I’m eager to read your books!

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