Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them
Kay Ellington has worked in management for a variety of media companies, including Gannett, Cox Communications, Knight-Ridder, and the New York Times Regional Group, from Texas to New York to California to the Southeast and back again to Texas. She is the coauthor, with Barbara Brannon, of the Texas novels The Paragraph Ranch and A Wedding at the Paragraph Ranch.
Carolyn Brown, a New York Times bestselling author with more than seventy books published, credits her eclectic family for her humor and writing ideas. Carolyn was born in Texas but grew up in southern Oklahoma, where she and her husband, Charles, a retired English teacher, make their home—about an one hour from the Texas state line. They have three grown children and fifteen grandchildren.
Praise for Carolyn Brown's work
“With a cast of characters that will leave readers grinning, Brown's latest is delightful, humorous ‘chick lit’... Fun, fun and more fun is on hand in a story that wins a blue ribbon in both originality and wit.” —RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“Fun, fresh and hilarious...The author showed that laughter is the best medicine and a sure fire cure for the toughest of challenges in life.” —Chick Lit Reviews
“The characters are vibrant and engaging, the story is endearingly off beat and full of down home folksy charm. A wonderfully heartwarming and highly entertaining novel.” —Book Reviews and More by Kathy
New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author and RITA finalist Carolyn Brown has won the National Reader's Choice Award twice, the Bookseller's Best Award, and the Diamond Award from Montlake, the Amazon romance imprint, for selling one million books. In her 18-year publishing career this great-grandmother has published seventy-five books—all capturing the humor and sassiness of small-town life in delightfully fictional places like Cadillac, Texas. We caught up with her via email last week, and she shared her publishing story with us.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: What made you want to become a writer, Carolyn?
CAROLYN BROWN: I love stories, reading them and telling them; touching people’s emotions and their lives.
How did you get your first break as a novelist?
I had enough rejection slips to wallpaper the entire White House, and I mean the one on Pennsylvania Avenue, not that little two-holer down at the end of the backyard. I’d almost given up when I decided to try “one more time” and sent two proposals to Kensington in 1997. They asked to see the full manuscripts, so I sent them. A few weeks later I got “the call” and the editor there said that she wanted to buy them both. Yes, there was squealing and tears.
You have been a restless writer. You’ve published with five different publishers, and self-published as well. Now one of your main publishers is Montlake, an imprint of Amazon. What’s it like working with an Amazon publishing team?
Working with the Amazon publishing team is absolutely amazing. I love the way they do business and treat their authors. I’m presently working on my fifth book for them, but they did inherit 44 of my titles when they acquired the Avalon Publishing business. I also work with Grand Central, the Forever imprint. My first book with them is coming out in December, and they have also been awesome.
Your story is truly an inspirational one. You hit the lists with your fifteth novel forteen years after your first book sold—truly a story of perseverance leading to success. What was that like?
Oh. My. Goodness! My husband and I were on our way home from a long road trip and we’d driven through horrendous rain for hours and hours. We finally pulled off the Interstate and checked into a hotel and Mr. B (my husband) fell into the bed and started to snore. In those days the only folks who had my cell phone number were my editors and my children. The phone rang and I figured it was one of my grown kids calling to tell me that bad weather was in the area where we were. So I grabbed up the phone, raced to the bathroom so that I wouldn’t wake Mr. B, put the lid down on the potty and answered the phone. It was my editor saying that I’d made the New York Times and the USA Today lists with Love Drunk Cowboy. Yes, there was squealing and yes, there were tears. I was grateful for the storm so I didn’t disturb everyone in the hotel. And I still wonder how many other authors got that news in the bathroom, sitting on a potty!!
How has publishing changed since you started? How has the role of author changed? And how has the role of book blogs affected publishing?
When I first started writing, everything was done by mail. We mailed our manuscripts to the publisher in hard copy. We got our copy edits back the same way and then returned another manuscript that had been corrected. Nowadays, it’s all done by electronics. The role of an author is basically the same as always…write the best book that you can and hope that your readers love it. Blogs have affected publishing in that people now have the advantage of knowing what others think of a book pretty soon after publication.
In seventeen years you’ve written more than six dozen books. What’s your creative and working process like?
My mama said that you can eat an elephant a bite at a time. With that in mind, I seldom think of a book as a whole but more of each scene and where it could lead my reader. I open my eyes in the morning, yawn my way across the hallway to my office, where I write about a thousand words before breakfast. After that bite of the elephant is chewed up, I make a cup of hot tea and go back to the office and write two thousand more words before lunch time. Then Mr. B and I have and hour or so together and then it’s back to the office to write the final two thousand words for the day. If my characters are being very talkative then I might keep right on until they are tired of telling me what happens next. This year is what I refer to as my diamond year, since my seventy-fifth book will be published in December.
How did you land an agent? What sort of things does an agent do for an author like yourself?
Erin Niumata of Folio Agency is my agent and is the most wonderful agent out there. And she was an excellent editor as well. You see, she was my editor for ten years and then she branched out into the world of agents and was kind enough to take me on. We’ve been together now for sixteen years in some form or another and I’ve loved working with her. We tell folks that we’ve been together longer than a lot of Hollywood marriages!
Reviewers describe your books as funny, offbeat chick lit. Your novels are usually set in small towns in Texas and Oklahoma. How would you describe your books?
My reviewers hit the nail on the head. I write about small towns because that’s what I know and my fans often write to tell me how much they love that about my stories. I’d describe my books as happy ever after with a twist of Texas sass.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sit down and write the book. You cannot sell something if you don’t write it. And you will never build a readership on wishes and dreams. It takes discipline and it takes sweat, but when you finish telling your story, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment.
You were born in Texas, but you now live in on the Oklahoma side of the Red River. What do you like about each state?
I love both of my states. Texas is so big and so much a part of my heritage. Oklahoma is so rich in history and has been my home state for many years. I’ve written stories set in both states, and the characters in them have been very vocal and sassy about their love of Texas and Oklahoma.
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