The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome award-winning Harlequin author, Tanya Michaels, to our pages.
She told me she could write “since I could spell words.” But even before that she was apparently an accomplished storyteller. She told me, “My mom said I was weaving elaborate tales (often starring my favorite stuffed animals) from about two-and-a-half on. I still have a ‘book’ in a folder that I wrote when I was nine that I read on request to my two children, who love the story and the silly illustrations.”
Tanya was never unsure of her destiny as a romance novelist. When she was just 17, she sent her first complete manuscript to Pocket. However, she never heard back from them and she said, “Considering everything I’ve learned since, it’s probably kinder that they didn’t respond.”
In 1999, she discovered Romance Writers of America and “learned not only about the craft of writing but the BUSINESS of writing.” Within a couple of years of joining RWA, she sold her first book and, to date, has sold nearly 25 of them, many of which have been translated into foreign languages.
Since she is so successful, I asked her what advice she would give to a new author just starting out.
“If you love it, STICK WITH IT,” she said. “Quick success stories are rare, but perserverance often wins out. However, if you don't truly love it, there are lots of easier ways to make a living. So, stick with it and try to find a writing organization that suits your needs (there are all kinds of groups, from romance writers to mystery writers to children's writers.) Networking with other authors teaches you a lot and can provide invaluable moral support.”
One of the things I’m always interested in with our authors is the writing process itself. Which, in their own writing, comes first—the characters or the plot. For Tanya, it is definitely and emphatically the characters. No matter who she is writing as (Tanya has an alter-ego, Tanya Michna who writes women’s fiction), she told me, “The PEOPLE are the heart of the story and always what comes to me first. That’s possibly because I write family and community oriented stories and not suspense novels full of twists and turns; then again, even when I pick up a novel to read, it’s the characters I'm most interested in. I'm a big fan of the JD Robb In Death series, but it's not because of the murder cases in each book (although they're well-written and fast-paced), it's because I love revisiting Eve, Roarke, Peabody, Mavis, etc.”
To Tanya the best part of her job is hearing from her readers. She had received some truly amazing letters from readers and she told me about a few of them. “One woman from New Orleans wrote me after Katrina that my Harlequin romantic comedy Spicing It Up was the first thing to make her laugh since the hurricane hit. Another woman read Dating the Mrs. Smiths, which is about a young widow dealing with her two kids and her mother in-law, and wrote me that her husband is in Iraq and that she's currently coping with HER two young kids and mother-in-law and that the book gave her hope and made her feel less alone. Touching someone else, even if it's just to make them smile or take their mind off a bad day at work for an hour, is why I love what I do. And I'm so grateful to the hundreds of authors who have always been there for me when times were rough and I needed a happy ending!”
Tanya and her family are currently researching non-allergenic breeds of dogs, because Tanya loves dogs and her kids really want one, but her husband is allergic. If any of you know of any breeds that are particular good for allergic people to be around, drop us a line here at email@example.com and we’ll be sure to forward your suggestions to Tanya. They won’t be getting one immediately because Tanya said they want to make sure the kids are old enough to help, “because Mommy’s to-do-list is already WAY too long.”
It’s not unusual for a romance writer to be emotional (remember Katherine Turner crying as she wrote the last scene of her novel in Touching the Stone?) so I asked Tanya if she ever cried at movies. “Ever seen "Return to Me" with David Duchovny and Minnie Driver?” she asked. “It's actually got some very funny moments and a happy ending, but that early scene with Duchovny in the foyer of his home trying to explain to the family dog that his wife isn't coming back reduces me to tears every time! I cry during half the movies I see. I cry during books (Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Judith McNaught, the upcoming Private Arrangements by debut novelist Sherry Thomas, the last Harry Potter book.) I cry during really good commercials. Heck, I cried once during Tim Gunn's Guide to Style makeover show. I'm a very emotional person. But the nice flipside of that is that there are a lot of things that make me laugh, too, especially my kids and many of my favorite authors.”
Some of her favorite include “Jennifer Crusie, whether writing a book by herself or collaborating with others, and for historical romances, I love Eloisa James, among others. And J.K. Rowling, in my opinion, is a goddess--not just because of how much I love her stories, but because she was able to get so many people, young and old, reading! My favorite non-living writer would probably be Shakespeare or Jane Austen. Or Margaret Mitchell.”
Don’t forget to stop by her website. Thanks for dropping by, Tanya!