What I learned from author Zoe Archer

This weekend was my local RWA chapter, Los Angeles Romance Authors, aka LARA, meeting.  Our guest speaker was Zoe Archer, an award winning romance author who thinks there’s nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. I’m inclined to agree.  She is the author of The Blades of the Rose series, and she gave LARA tips on how to write, sell, and market a book that doesn’t fit in.  Why is she an expert on this topic, you might ask?  Because she managed to sell a sexy paranormal historical adventure that takes place in Mongolia in 1874, that’s why! 

A daring band of adventurers, scientists and explorers follow the four points of the compass to find and protect the world’s magic. Warrior, Scoundrel, Rebel, and Stranger were released in consecutive months beginning September-December 2010 to great reviews, even if book stores weren’t sure where to place them.

How did she do it? 

Zoe minimized the obstacles of writing such an unusual book by deciding up front which parts of her story she felt most strongly about, and she stuck by it. Bottom line, she wanted the book to take place in Mongolia, which she knew would be a hard sell, so she made her characters English.  She also adhered to the romance promise of one hero/heroine and a happily ever after.

When a book is set in Mongolia in 1874, a lot of research must be done, but Ms. Archer was quick to suggest that research should be integrated organically into the story, and it should support the romance, not the other way around.

What is the most important element of this kind of book?

According to Zoe, it’s the characters.  And of course, no book concept, no matter how unique, will survive the submission process if it isn’t a damn good book. Strong writing is the key to agent/editor interest. Her tip: Keep the plot tight, never lose sight of it, or you’ll lose the reader.

After reading the first page of Warrior just now, I can see what Zoe is talking about, and I look forward to reading the rest of this book and series.

Genre blending

Zoe suggests to authors of genre blending books that they come up with a high concept, inclusive log line.  Use analogies to describe the book and don’t get too derivative.  For instance (and this is my take on her concept, not how she actually did it) it’s Indiana Jones with magic.  Leave off that part about it being in Mongolia in order to get your foot in the agent or editor’s door.  After they’ve discovered your fabulous writing skills, and ingenious plot, they may not care about your story taking place in Antarctica or New Guinea.

Remember, the quality of writing is paramount to selling that book, not the novelty of your Steampunk vampire murder mystery with comedy elements, or whatever quirky, I mean, innovative, idea you’ve come up with.  So keep studying the craft of writing. 

Zoe said there will come a time when you’ll know your book is finally ready to be sent out.

Until then, repeat the mantra – Write. Revise. Write. Revise. Repeat.

Any writers out there care to share their genre blending concept? 

And for the readers, what unique story concept have you been waiting to read?

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10 Responses to What I learned from author Zoe Archer

  1. Hi Lynne — I enjoyed Zoe’s presentation and your interpretation was right on!
    A great synopsis to her workshop. I’ve got to order this book for the Kindle!!

  2. Hi Charlene!
    I’m looking forward to reading Warrior in print, but I think I’ll order the rest for my Kindle, too. First I’ve got one more RITA book to finish, though.

    Thanks for commenting, and it was great seeing you yesterday.

  3. robena grant says:

    Lovely post.
    I discovered Zoe when we sat in an airport together last year, after Nationals and before the books came out. : ) Wish I could have been at the meeting, because I knew she would be a fabulous speaker.
    Warrior was terrific, and so was Scoundrel. I haven’t ordered the next two, so thanks so much for the reminder. I think what I loved most (and I told Zoe this a couple of months ago) was that it is evident she is a sophisticated and talented writer and she did her research, yet she managed to weave it all through the story so beautifully, without back story dump or patronizing detail.
    I forsee great things for her.

    • Hi Robena!
      What a wonderful endorsement of Zoe. It’s always great when an author backs everything up with super talent!

      Looking forward to reading the rest of this series, myself.

  4. Nas says:

    Hi Lynne,

    Thanks for the great post and the advice to keep learning!

  5. Laura R says:

    I enjoyed the talk so much I bought the first book at the meeting. After reading the first few chapters I took advantage of Borders sale and got the others.

  6. Hi Laura!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I agree, Zoe’s information was great. Oh, that’s right Borders is offering some good deals right now. I think if you buy four romance books, you get the fifth one free, right until Feb 28th?

    have a great weekend!

  7. Laura R says:

    I caught the going out of business sale. All romance books are 30% off.