16 February 2014

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Michele Stegman

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Michele Stegman with her latest novel, CONQUEST OF THE HEART. The author will offer a free e-book copy of one of her titles to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.

Her people conquered his country. How can they overcome the distrust they feel to find love?

Madeline wants a big, brash, never-defeated-in-battle, Norman knight. What she gets, by order of the king, is a wiry Saxon who once studied for the priesthood instead of warfare. But is this gentle man she has fallen in love with entangled in the rebellion now sweeping the land?

Ranulf wants to marry the girl next door. What he gets, by order of the king , is a lush, strong Norman woman who just might be a spy reporting his every move. He wants her in every way a man can possibly want a woman. But can he trust his heart to a woman who might have been sent to root out the struggle for freedom his people are engaged in?

**Author Interview with Michele Stegman**

Was there any one thing you did, or that happened, that helped you sell that first book?

Actually, several things.

First, I read a book called Wishcraft. (Wish, not Witch) It is all about deciding what you want and how to go about getting it. I made a "getting published plan." After I followed that plan, I decided it was my fault I wasn't getting published. A lot of people soften their rejections by saying the editor doesn't know quality when they see it, or they somehow put the blame on the publisher, their critique group, or whatever. I have no control over those things. But I do have  control over what and how I write, how I present my work to publishers, how often I submit, etc. I decided that if I make my writing as good as I can, make sure I am submitting to the right places, and that I follow the publisher's submission guidelines, I will have a better chance of acceptance. It made me feel better to accept that there are some things I can't control, and to do my best on the ones I can.

Second, I took a writing class. I had been writing and submitting for a long  time and had gotten some very encouraging rejection letters. I had published a lot of non-fiction articles, but I couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting a book accepted for publication. When I told my husband I was going to take a writing class, he asked me why. He said, "You teach English. You could give a writing class, why would you sign up to take one?" I replied that there must be something I was doing wrong or I would be published. The biggest thing I learned in that class was how to put together a submission. I really was doing it all  wrong. The book I started while taking that class is the first one I sold.

Third, I insulted an agent. Well, I didn't mean to, but she accepted my apology and then she took on my book. She sold two books for me and I am still amazed at how well she negotiated those contracts. But I really don't advocate insulting anyone!

Has any particular writer inspired you?

I was inspired to write historical romance after reading Kathleen Woodiwiss. In fact, for a while, I tried to copy her style. But I eventually realized that the only style worth writing is my own. Not because it is better, but because it is unique. Just as every writer's is. No one else sees the world they way I do. No one else can write my story the way I will. Just as no one else can write your story but you.

Why would you recommend your books to readers?

Because they are different. I once heard someone say that what readers want is the same thing, only different. That's exactly how I like to write. I like to take a typical story and turn everything around. For instance, in Conquest of the Heart, the hero, Ranulf, is a virgin. It is up to the heroine to seduce him. And in an age of brute strength (the book is set in 1067 England), my hero does not fight brutality with brutality, but with a quiet strength of character that wins the love of everyone around him. Normally in a Conquest book, the hero is a conquering Norman, but Ranulf is a Saxon, a man forced to accept defeat and grow strong. What makes this book the same is that we have two people finding love in a difficult situation.

In my book, FORTUNE'S FOE, I also tried to turn things around. Normally in books set in the 1600 and 1700 hundreds, the Spaniards are the "bad guys." I made my hero a Spaniard. And believe me, it took a lot of doing to make it all work out!

Have you ever experienced any strange coincidences when writing a book? 

Oh, my, yes! Especially in Fortune's Son. I am one of those writers who researches as I go along. When I got to the end of that book, I needed a pirate to capture the ship my hero and heroine were on. Well, there was a famous pirate in the right place and exactly the right time to capture them, Stede Bonnet. Then I worried that since he was so famous, surely someone would know the name of the last ship he really did capture just before he himself was captured. I had named my ship The Fortune, after the family I had written about in two books and it would have been difficult to change the name of it. When I looked up Bonnet's last epic adventure, would you believe it? The last ship Bonnet really did capture was named The Fortune.

So what is next for you?

My next book is The Shrew That Tames, a retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. It is for a line of Shakespeare Retold books for Breathless Press. And believe me, I really rework that old tale.

The next one I write just might be a western. I have this idea...a bad guy with a Bible...if I can just work it out...

Thank you, Lisa, for hosting me today.

Michele will give an e-copy of either Fortune's Foe or Fortune's Pride to one lucky person who leaves a comment.

Learn more about author Michele Stegman and her work.