Pink Fuzzies, help me welcome Debra Dixon, author, editor, and publisher. I’ve known this dynamic woman for more than fifteen years.
What was your first published book and with whom?
I wrote for Dog World and a number of national magazines before selling my first novel. I sold to Bantam Loveswept, which made me an eight-year overnight success in the business!
My most recent work is a short-story in the Denise Little fantasy anthology WITCH HIGH. (DAW, 10/08 – imprint of Penguin)
On the day we meet my young water witch she’s just finding out she is officially the last of her class without a familiar. Worse, if your familiar hasn’t bonded with you by the time you’re seventeen, it’s not going to happen. In two weeks she’ll be turning seventeen.
And so her misery and the schemes to find a familiar begin. Little does she know she’s about to have a much bigger familiar problem that will make NOT having a familiar seem like a piece of cake. Toss in a mysterious young man from Ireland, the emotional scars she carries from her mother’s suicide when she was younger, a new stepmother, one of the darkest familiars of the craft, and you have "Coyote Run."
How many books did you write before selling one?
Probably 1 real book and several “starts” of books both in fantasy and romance. I entered the second book I finished in the Golden Heart and was trilled to be a finalist. I entered that book in the Maggies and didn’t even make the finals. Still, that’s the book that sold, which shows you that even books that don’t final can sell! It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realized the fantasy “rejects” I had received were more like serious requests to revise or “development” deals in which the editor says, “This isn’t right. Send me your next book very early in the process and let me look at a synopsis first.”
I was young and green, so I thought that meant, “Don’t quit your day job.”
What themes go through your books?
I’ve found that an author’s personal theme is unknown until he/she has written a number of books and can look “backward” to analyze them. I’ve found a number of my books deal in some way with the issues of owning who you are and reaching for a dream or life purpose. I’ve also done books with themes of isolation, family, you-name-it! I like a lot of “meat” to a character so it’s not uncommon for me to tackle a number of themes in one book.
Still, those who pick up the book WITCH HIGH and read my story “Coyote Run” will recognize a variation of theme! Now that’s not to say that there is any formula or that you’d actually see these as the same theme unless someone pointed out the commonality.
To work successfully with a core theme you have to explore all the different ways the theme can manifest.
How would you best describe your books?
I tend to write darkly emotional characters. Even the lighter books of my career were marked by dark and painful emotions. The books have always been reviewed as “sensual” although I never intend to write sensual. It’s just part of my voice. As is humor. I find life inherently funny and I love fabulous dialogue
How did you write with kids and deadlines?
And a career. I was a business consultant for most of my career and I’m still only semi-retired, plus for the last nine years we’ve been building BelleBooks. (www.BelleBooks.com) And just recently we’ve added Bell Bridge Books (www.BellBridgeBooks.com)
The easy answer is “butt in chair.” It’s also the only way anyone writes. The trick is finding a routine that puts your butt in the chair everyday. You have to make some sacrifices when you want to write and have a family plus non-writing career. Television becomes a luxury. Crafts and hobbies have to go. Every writer will find a different mix of activities that will allow him/her sufficient time with butt in chair. The trick is simply recognizing you can’t do everything and you have to jettison some activities.
If you don’t want to write, you’ll never make the tough decisions to put your butt in the chair. The regularity of butt-in-chair is more important than the chunk of time you’re writing. If you write every single day for five minutes, I bet that pretty soon you’ll be writing every single day for ten minutes.
How many books have you published?
8 novels, 10 anthology contributions, 2 non-fiction books
What other jobs have you had?
I’ve been a business consultant for over 20 years with a specialty in operational management and software development.
What do you love most about writing and what do you not like?
I love having written. Being done. I think writing is one of the most difficult jobs in the world and I have immense respect for everyone who puts fingers to the keyboard and pen to paper. Brainstorming is fabulous. I never met a plan I didn’t like. And I think writing the big emotional scenes is satisfying in a way that is difficult to describe. (Yeah, I know, I’m a writer. Go figure.)
What are you writing now?
A new story for the next book in the Mossy Creek series. I’ve missed the deadline. Don’t tell them I’m here blogging.
What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?
I’d write great honking epic fantasy in the vein of George R. R. Martin and Robert Jordan (who sadly died this past year). And I’d write Regency historicals—social romps, not suspense. I have an extensive (and by extensive I mean obscene) collection of both Regency and Medieval reference, resource, rare and out-of-print books. …Just in case. And I’m very excited by Young Adult fiction. We’re publishing some through www.BellBridgeBooks.com and it’s doing quite well for us. Two great books -- MOONSTONE by Marilee Brothers and BITE ME by Parker Blue.
Why do you write?
Because editors make me. And readers complain if they don’t get at least some small something occasionally.
How do you write?
Slowly. I’m a final draft writer. I have to be comfortable that I’m “getting it right” before I move forward. I’d rather write late at night when the house is quiet and no one is using a leaf blower or picking up trash in big noisy trucks.
Do you write what you know?
Never. I did a book with Christmas as the central setting and I researched Christmas. I never assume I have all the important perspectives and knowledge. Sometimes by simply opening yourself up to another’s perspective you will find the most amazing scene, detail, character or emotion heart for a book.
What’s next for you?
Lately it’s not so much what is “next” because so many things are constantly in motion with the new imprint Bell Bridge Books. “Next” is very fluid around here. So, next on my calendar is, hopefully, finishing the fabulous dark, urban fantasy on my desk and acquiring it. Which means I open the door to a whole slew of editorial responsibility until that book is safely published.
When and why did you change genres?
I’ve always loved fantasy and when an opportunity to do a short story came along, I was happy to dip my toe in that well. I found it interesting that a couple of the reviews mentioned my story could easily have been expanded to a YA novel.
When and why did you decide to venture into BelleBooks, then Bell Bridge Books?
BelleBooks (www.BelleBooks.com) began about 10 years ago in a hotel room during DragonCon, the largest sf/f con in the U.S. I made the comment that with the consolidation of the publishing industry and the rise of the internet as a source of buzz for products, “Now is probably the time to find a niche and open a publishing company. Not only could you control some of your own work, you could be poised to offer what readers can’t find as the market consolidates.”
The other authors in the room said, “How much do I write the check for?”
I tried to talk them out of it but they were adamant. So, we began our foray into publishing. We’ve learned a great deal. We’ve had an author on Oprah (Susan Nethero- BRA TALK) and published NY Times Bestselling sensation Sarah Addison Allen before she hit the Times list. We now have a wonderful collection of her short stories out in audio. http://bellebooks.com/books/InMyDreams.asp
We’ve had a book final in the RITA, sold subrights to book clubs, large print, mass market publishers, and foreign publishers. We’ve published Patti Henry Callahan first. We’ve just signed a deal with Kindle and with Audible, which is the largest site for the download of digital audio on the net. We’re still tiny but growing. www.BellBridgeBooks.com
We opened the new Bell Bridge imprint as a way to publish emerging authors and reach into new genres. The BelleBooks brand is a very wholesome, Southern traditional print publisher. At Bell Bridge we’re experimenting with new production models and new genres.
What do you do when you aren't doing publisher things?
I am an avid quilter. You can take a tour of my quilt studio here. http://bellebooks.com/Quiltingstudio.htm
The quilts on the Sweet Tea collections are not mine. Those are antique quilts. “My quilts have been consistent Best In Show winners,” Debra said modestly.
Are you still writing book length fiction?
Not currently. There isn’t a lot of room in my schedule! I do still have a couple of contracts with major NY publishers and one of these years I may dive back in. My non-fiction publisher has been after me to do another writing book. I am vaguely considering that. And, of course, I adore writers and stay connected to the craft because I’m out on the road giving workshops throughout the year.
If you could open a submission and find your dream book, what would that book be about?
I would kill for a Southern Louise Rennison. Humor is soo difficult to do well and with such a unique voice. I’d kill for a big, honking epic fantasy. Again, those are terribly difficult to do well and with a unique voice. Plus the author needs mad plotting skills to carry an epic. Still…I’d love to see one.
Right now I want good solid dark fantasy with voice. VOICE. Unique voice is critical. Too much of what I read is competent but lacking true voice.
What makes you fall in love with a submission and want to see more?
Voice. Voice. Voice. A great concept or story will make me look, but if the voice isn’t there I just can’t force myself to wade through a competent book. We’re a small publisher. What we do has to stand out as we build our reputation in new genres. I do see some books that are good books but just miss the boat. I will tell you that if you do it well enough, you can do anything you want. I recently requested a book that was 1) excessively long, 2) wrong for us, and 3) the protagonist doesn’t survive the book. I looked at that book proposal 5 times and each time I couldn’t bring myself to decline. So, I finally asked for the full manuscript. Will we buy it? I don’t know. But voice, mastery, and concept together will make an editor break every rule they have.
Thank you Debra!
Posted by Mary Marvella | 12:29 AM | Bantam Loveswept, Belle Bridge Books, BelleBooks, BITE ME. Fantasy, BRA TALK, Debra Dixon, Dog World, In My Dreams, MOONSTONE, Mossy Creek, Oprah, Quilting, WITCH HIGH | 36 comments »