I just got home from the Southwest Florida Reading Festival, an event held each March in Fort Myers. When I attend, I always make a point to go to hear any romance writers who are featured. This year’s panel included Cassandra King, Susan Wiggs, and Lori Wilde. I’ve read and reviewed Wiggs and Wilde, but King was new to me. After hearing her speak, I intend to remedy that situation.
The three women took turns introducing themselves and then answered questions from the audience. King and Wilde grew up on farms. Wiggs was born in upstate New York but grew up in various places in Europe. All three said they were from families where reading was important. King and Wiggs became teachers when told they needed to have something besides writing to earn a living. Wilde became a nurse, a profession she professes to dread ever having to go back to.
King has written five novels but also nonfiction. Wiggs’ first novel was published in March 1987. Wilde has written more than 80 books. Asked the typical question of where ideas come from, King related how she modified her original premise for Moonrise after she rented a house to do research in the area in which the story is set. Alone in the rather spooky house, she began to read Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and the story developed from that. Wiggs wrote Family Tree during the last year of her father’s life, inspired by his unfailing optimism. Wilde wrote Christmas at Twilight when she was coming to grips with mental health issues within her family and overcoming her own need to fix everything.
None of the three does a complete outline before beginning to write although they all know the general story arc. Wilde said her characters used to keep her awake at night until she learned to give them boundaries. Wiggs motivates herself to write by rewarding herself with an M&M for each page. She writes in longhand first and then goes back later and types her manuscript. King stressed that writers must uphold their contracts and meet deadlines. Publishers don’t buy the excuse of artistic temperament.
None of the women have much say over the covers on their books. Wiggs just saw for the first time the cover of her next book to be released in August. King once had a different cover put on the paperback edition of her book than had been on the hardback. Wilde said covers are a crap shoot. What may appeal to the author might not be a cover that will sell the book.
Asked about agents, Wiggs said she’s had the same agent for decades. Wilde is on her third agent. King said her first agent didn’t do much for her. She advised authors to publish anything they can, anywhere they can to increase the possibility that an agent might find them.
I’m so grateful that this event is held every year. The authors’ back stories are fascinating.