Home    Workshops    Members Only    Contests    Join    Contact us                       RWA Chapter

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Writing Outside the Box – A Gift or a Curse by Lisa Kessler

Hi everyone –

Thanks for inviting me to the FF&P Blog today!
Do you write outside the box? Maybe you write paranormal romance with secondary characters who are under 18, so you keep getting rejected because it’s straddling the line of Paranormal Romance and Young Adult. Or maybe you wrote an Urban Fantasy with intermittent blurbs of omniscient point of view.What about that Korean War historical with one character who is a ghost? You get the idea…

For me, I never set out to write out of the box, it just happened. Over and over.LOL 
I’ve found that if you write out of the box books, you need to brace yourself for lots of rejection.  Sometimes it’ll break your heart, because the editor or agent will tell you how much they enjoyed your book… BUT  they can’t figure out how they would market the book so they have to pass.

Don’t you hate those buts?  Ugh!
My debut novel, Night Walker, is a contemporary paranormal romance, but it has quite a few historical flashbacks throughout the first half of the book. The historical flashbacks made the book tough for me to sell. I had more than one agent advise me to cut the flashbacks, but I really believed they were necessary. Without them, the heart of the book, and the source of my hero’s angst would be erased.

So rather than conform, I wrote a new series and set my Night Walker world aside. I couldn’t face more rejection at the time.
But an opportunity arose and my husband (Who also believed in my out of the box vampire novel.) encouraged me to submit the book one last time. It was a new publisher, and I thought I might have a chance at getting my foot in the door.

I held my breath and hit send…
Now here comes the gift!

The publisher loved that this was a different take on vampires, and they embraced the flashbacks.  So far, readers have also embraced the concept as well. Night Walker has gone on to win a San Diego Book Award for Best Published Book in Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror, and it’s a double finalist for the Book Seller’s Best.
I think readers are hungry for something new, but publishing is a business. Taking a chance on a book that might be too far out of the box is risky for a publisher.

But, the other side of the coin is that it can also make you stand out.
So if you’re writing the book of your heart and it speaks to you in first-person present tense, or maybe you have that story set during the Korean War with a ghost for a hero, keep in mind that it’ll be a bumpy publishing road outside the box.

However, it’s not impossible!
And I’m here to tell you that once you get to the other side and you hold that book in your hands, readers will be excited to see a new angle, and with any luck they’ll tell their friends and your audience will grow.

Is writing out of the box a gift or a curse?
I guess it depends who you ask.  For me, I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Lisa Kessler

Lisa Kessler is an award winning author of dark paranormal fiction. Her debut novel, Night Walker, won a San Diego Book Award for best Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror, and was also a double finalist for the Book Seller’s Best for Best Paranormal and Best First Book.

Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.
When she's not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, performing with the San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego. You can learn more at http://Lisa-Kessler.com

Lisa lives in southern California with her incredibly fun husband and two amazing kids.

Night Walker Blurb:
He gave up his soul for a second chance to love her...

Two and a half centuries ago, Calisto Terana lost everything when a zealous priest murdered the woman he loved. Now, desperate for another chance to love her, he wants redemption for the mistake that cost her life.

She's haunted by dreams of her own death...

After catching her fiance with another woman, Kate Bradley returns to San Diego to clear her head. The last thing she needs is romance, but after meeting Calisto she's drawn to him in ways she doesn't understand.

They've waited in the shadows for centuries...

Calisto has no doubt Kate is the reincarnation of his lost love, but the Fraternidad Del Fuego Santo has a new watcher with dark ambitions of his own. As old enemies reemerge and a new threat arises, the betrayal that enslaved Calisto to the night might destroy the only woman he's ever loved again.


LynnRush said...

Great post. I loved this book. Lisa's an amazing writer and equally amazing person.

Janet Tait said...

Great post. I write "outside the box" books too and get the same "love this book but..." reactions from agents and editors. I realize it only takes one 'yes', but rejections for these kind of reasons are disappointing. I don't think readers fail to pick up a book for the reasons publishers think they do - the historical flashbacks in Night Walker are a good example. They help set your book apart and make it special. Faulty logic on the publisher's part only narrows the market for good fiction, IMO.

Gerri Bowen said...

Great post, Lisa! I'm a lover of outside the box, too.

Alexis Morgan said...

It is hard when your story doesn't fit easily into a particular niche. My very first completed manuscript was that way. It was a western with aliens. Seriously. It never sold, but it definitely held the roots of everything I've written since.

I'm glad you found a home for your story--it sounds wonderful!

Valentine said...

Writing out of the box is the only way I can write. I believe that if a writer conforms too much, they lose their edge; they lose their uniqueness. To be a writer, there is only one way--you have to leave behind the voice of others and find your niche.
Hemingway was one of those writers who wrote what he felt--he had adversary in the beginning but soon, the world came around to view his creative side with passion.

Out of the box, baby. It's the only way to write.

Lisa Kessler said...

Awww thanks so much Lynn!!! :)

I'd say the same thing about you!!!

Thanks for commenting!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Janet -

I think you are SO right!!

I also think that one of the reasons some of the self-published books take off is that readers are hungry for "out of the box" book ideas.

It will be interesting to see if Publishers start taking more chances now that eBooks are taking over the market.

Thanks for commenting!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Thanks for commenting Gerri! Great to see you!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Alexis -

You know what's sad?

I read your comment and saw "western with aliens" and immediately thought... "I would love to read that! How cool!"

I think publishers sometimes don't give readers enough credit. We want something out of the box... :)

Maybe you'll be able to put that one out on your own? I'd totally buy a copy! LOL

Thanks for commenting!


Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Val -

I couldn't agree more!

But sometimes finding the niche can lead to lots of painful rejections.

It's definitely not the easy path, but if you see it through "out of the box" fiction can be very rewarding and you'll definitely stand out! :)

Thanks for commenting!


Cora Blu said...

I think it's difficult when you're raised to think for yourself and don't follow the crowd then you get rejected because you don't fit in the box. I write outside the box and was told my underwater tiger shark hero's wouldn't be seen as sexy and that's the biggest compliment I get now. Inside or out the box, a good story is a good story.
Cora Blu

Pamela Moran said...

Enjoyed the post, Lisa, and the added glimpse into the making of your series. ;o)

Like the others posting here, my favorite books are the ones that aren't afraid to be different. The ones that make me take notice and go WOW.

As far as my own writing, even when I tried to stay 'in' the box, I found it impossible.


Melissa Cutler said...

Great post, Lisa! For the most part, I write in the box. I do have one "out of the box" book that's currently in the proberbial box under my bed, waiting for the right time for me to try to sell it, lol.

I love your "out of the box" style, Lisa! Can't wait for your next release!!!

Melissa said...

Well, I thought that the flashbacks MADE Night Walker! It gave me an opportunity to really get to know your hero, and I don't think this could have been conveyed any other way. I added so many more dimensions to his character. Your publisher (Entangled ROCKS, BTW!) made the right decision, IMHO.

My own novel is a little "out of the box" as well — I took some chances while staying firmly within the parameters. I think it's a matter of being true to oneself and having a marketable, entertaining book at the same time. :)

Carla Richards said...

I think I should read this post weekly to remind myself to just be my weird little self.... and not worry so much about what is selling. Thanks for a great post!

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Cora -

I'm so glad you stuck it out and got your tiger shark heroes out to readers! :)

Congratulations on making your out of the box books a reality! :)


Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Pam! *waving*

Thanks for commenting!!! :)

I hope your "out of the box" work finds a home soon!!! It's a rough road, but very worth it!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hey Melissa Cutler! *waving*

I personally can't wait to read your "out of the box" baby! It sounds so good!!! :)

But this is the point in the conversation that I should point out, you wrote in the box and BAM sold 4 books in one week!!!

So there is nothing wrong with writing in the box! In fact, that path leads to many sales!!! :)

Thanks for commenting!!! I'm so glad you enjoyed Night Walker!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Melissa -

I'm so glad you enjoyed Night Walker!!! :)

And you're right about Entangled! I've been blown away by the fabulous books they've been publishing... I'm honored to be one of their authors for sure! LOL

And I agree with you, as long as you can stay true to yourself, in or out of the box, you'll be a happy writer...

Thanks for commenting!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Carla -

I'm so glad the post inspired you!! :)

And you're not alone outside the box... Keep the faith!

Thanks for commenting!


Marcia Kipp said...

I've tried writing in the box, but my characters keep escaping.
Remember the popularity of "The X-Files"? The audience is out there (borrowing loosely from the show's tag line).

Shelley Munro said...

The reader in me is always looking for something different and outside the box. I get tired of the same old stories that are available, many of which seem the same. It was inevitable that I would follow my own drummer when it came to writing. I think it's great that you've found a publisher who believes in your vision, Lisa.

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Marcia -

Thanks for commenting!!!

I can't wait to read your out of the box books! The idea sound amazing!!! LOL

I'm sending lots of good thoughts your way to find a home for your books...

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Shelley -

Thank you!!! I'm super grateful Entangled took a chance on my out of the box vampire book... I hope they never regret it! LOL

It's great to hear that's what you like to read too... I hope more publishers will start taking more chances... :)

Thanks for commenting!


Tessa Stockton said...

What an encouraging post! Thanks so much, Lisa, for helping others (read: me) to keep the torch lit while writing outside the box. It ain't easy. : )

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Tessa -

I'm so glad the post inspired you!!! :)

It's defintiely not easy, but it can be done! :)

Thanks for commenting!


Linda Thomas-Sundstrom said...

HI Lisa! I always write out of the box... and wrote paranormal before it was "the thing." Ah, to have normal subject matter. But that doesn't happen for me. Everything ends up paranormal, and that's that. And I love every minute of it, hard as it sometimes was to get folks to fell the way I do about it.
I'm doing just fine now in the paranormal world. Twelve books with NY publishers made me sooooo glad I hung in there, writing what I wanted/needed to write.

Lovely post. And loved your book.

Phyllis M said...

Lisa, you are an encouragement to those of us who want to write and a blessing to us as readers. Thank you for your creativity and your effervescent personality, which is so contagious!!!! I'm still on "Night Walker" but will be done by the weekend I hope. That's if my family leaves me alone.... :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Tessa -

I'm so glad the post encouraged you! :)

It's definitely not an easy path outside the box, but it can be very rewarding!

Thanks for commenting!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Linda -

THanks so much for commenting!!! :)

When I was toiling in rejections you were always the first one to dust me off and nudge me back out there... I'm so lucky to know you!!!


Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Phyllis -

I'm so glad you're enjoying Night Walker! :)

Thanks for commenting, and keep writing!!! Readers enjoy out of the box fiction and publishers are coming around!

Thanks for commenting!

Lisa :)