|Love Inspired Associate Editor|
Debby Giusti here! I'm thrilled to welcome Love Inspired Associate Editor Elizabeth Mazer to Seekerville today. Her post focuses on the Love Inspired Suspense line, but Elizabeth promises to answer any questions you might have about all three of the Love Inspired imprints: Love Inspired, Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired Suspense. Plus, she's hosting a First Page Contest (see contest tab for rules and information) and giving away the four LIS releases for October and November, a total of eight books in all. That spells G-E-N-E-R-O-U-S!!! Thank you, Elizabeth.
Now, please help me welcome Five-Year Veteran, Love Inspired Associate Editor Elizabeth Mazer to Seekerville!
Thanks for being with us, Elizabeth. Seekervillagers would love to learn more about you. Will you tell us a bit about your background and what you did before coming to Love Inspired? Did you always want to work in publishing?
I didn’t actually pick publishing as my career path until I was halfway through college, but let’s just say that when I made up my mind, no one was surprised! I spent most of my childhood (and adulthood, for that matter) with my nose in a book. My first post-college job was in publishing, though not actually with a publishing house. I worked for the company that was then known as Bookspan that ran direct mail book clubs such as Crossings, Book of the Month Club, etc. I made the move over to Love Inspired in 2007, and have been happily settled here ever since.
What’s a normal day like at the office?
What about when you’re away from the job? Do you have any hobbies? Favorite types of foods or restaurants you frequent? What do you do for fun over the weekend?
|The beautiful Woolworth Building is Love Inspired's|
New York City home.
What do you enjoy most about
? New York City
Thanks for that sneak peak into your life,
. Now let’s talk about Love Inspired
Which types of stories work best for Love Inspired Suspense?
Woman on the run? Medical? Gothic? Legal thriller? Amateur sleuth? Do you have
a personal preference? Any feedback from readers about what they like to read?
I feel like our readers really respond to characters—particularly heroines—who they can relate to. Personally, I’m always fascinated by the change that comes over a character when she goes from a law-abiding woman who always plays it safe, just like me, to someone willing to buck any authority to do what needs to be done. What brought her to that point? A threat against her children? The murder of a beloved sibling? The desperate need to clear her name when she’s falsely accused of a crime? What would I do in her shoes? That can be the most interesting way to build a character—think of something that she would never, ever do…and then come up with a set of circumstances that would make her do it.
As we all know, the opening of a book needs to hook the reader. What specific elements should be included in the beginning of a Love Inspired Suspense?
Danger! J It seems like a given, right? But here’s the twist—it can’t just be random, force-of-nature danger. We need to know, right from the start, that there are malicious, targeted forces at play, and that they’re gunning for the hero or heroine. Running out of gas when you’re driving in the desert? That can be dangerous, but it’s not actually suspenseful—no one’s out to get you, you just made a mistake in not refilling the tank. Waking up to discover you were knocked unconscious and dumped in the desert by someone who wanted your death to look like an accident (as in Shirlee McCoy’s excellent September 2011 book Lone Defender)? That’s suspenseful danger…because even if you make it out of the desert alive, you still aren’t safe. Someone is still after you.
We’ve been told Love Inspired readers like small town settings. Does that hold true for LIS? Can authors use a city environment, and if so, how can they give the story a small town feel? What about foreign settings?
Yes, small towns definitely work well in LIS, but it’s possible to create a sense of community in a city or a foreign setting. It can be based around work (such as a private investigation agency), around faith (a close-knit church society), around family background (an immigrant group). A strong sense of community can be a great counterbalance in a suspense story—a network of people to help and support the hero and heroine as they battle against the villains who want to hurt them. They can also help raise the stakes. When an Amish teenager turns up dead in Kit Wilkinson’s story Plain Secrets (July 2012), the police investigator hero is the only man for the job because of his own Amish background—but taking the case means returning to the community that he left behind, including the woman who rejected him and the father who hasn’t spoken to him since he left. Building a strong community in your story can also give you some very interesting questions to ask—like who’s allowed in? Who is excluded? Who knows the secrets? Who can be trusted? Who’s looking for a way out—and how far would they go?
In LIS stories, secondary characters are sometimes killed. Heroines are captured. Heroes are wounded. Are there any guidelines for murder and mayhem? Anything you frown on or don’t want included in the stories?
Don’t kill the pets! You can set the heroine’s house on fire if you want, but you’d better make sure the heroine’s trusty mutt has a dog door to slip out the back, or a window he can jump through. Nothing gets angry letters sent our way like an animal-killing villain!
What’s the ratio between romance and suspense for LIS? How early in the story should the hero and heroine get together, and how quickly should the romance develop? Any tips on how to keep the romance alive when the characters are on the run?
Always, always 50-50. We need the love story and the suspense story to kick off right at the beginning and not getting fully resolved until the end. That means that feelings need to take time to develop. As far as keeping the romance alive…we actually tend to face the opposite problem. As the hero and heroine deal with life-or-death situations, we get a lot of stories where they start depending on each other and trusting each other too fast. That’s why it’s so crucial for an author to nail in place good, solid conflicts—both internal and external—that make the characters convinced that a relationship between them could never work. I’m always telling my authors, be meaner to your characters! Give them angst, give them insecurity, give them “rules” they feel they have to follow that they struggle with right up until the end. In Liz Johnson’s terrific upcoming book A Promise to Protect (December 2012), the heroine has a villain with a deeply sinister agenda driving her into the protective arms of the Navy SEAL hero…but on the emotional side of the coin, she’s also got some beautifully-realized, deep-seeded personal conflicts that make her afraid to trust a man with her safety. The romantic conflict actually deepens the suspenseful conflict because the heroine has so much at stake—not just her life, but also her heart.
|Love Inspired Associate Editor Elizabeth Mazer (L) |
with Love Inspired Editor Emily Rodmell (R)
Cops? FBI agents? Private investigators? Any hero/heroine professions in short supply that you’d like to see in future submissions?
Surprise me! (I mean it—really surprise me.) Give me something I haven’t seen before.
Give me characters with no special training who have to learn as they go and scramble to stay a step ahead of the bad guys on their trail. Give me characters with unusual training who figure out a way to make the most of their specialized knowledge or abilities to find a hidden truth, or defeat a villain who arrogantly believed everything was going according to plan. Challenge yourself to think outside the box and think of ways even the most danger-free professions could become a matter of life or death. What could an accountant know that someone might kill for? How about the postman? Suddenly I’m picturing a story where a shoe salesman, while fitting a customer, catches sight of a tell-tale scar that identifies a wanted man. Or maybe take a dangerous job—deep-sea diving instructor, test pilot, search-and-rescue volunteer—and think about how the dangers of their job might go from general and random to targeted and personal. What does a wilderness survival expert do when he realizes the training exercise he’s on is being manipulated to end in someone’s seemingly-accidental death?
Internal conflict can be a stumbling block, especially for beginning writers. What advice can you offer to help writers develop effective internal conflicts for their heroes and heroines?
For starters, dig deep. And as I said before, be mean to your characters! Mess with their heads. Give them pasts where their hearts were broken, their trust betrayed. Make them afraid—really, deeply afraid—of something that they’d do anything to avoid. And it doesn’t always have to be love that they fear. In the lovely and talented Debby Giusti’s August 2012 book The Colonel’s Daughter, what the hero fears most is failure—the idea that he could let down the people who rely on him. That fear nearly cripples him when he begins to doubt himself and his abilities. Internal conflict works best when we can see a character truly struggle with it, torn between what their head tells them is the “smart” or “safe” option, and the choice their heart wants to make.
|Elizabeth meets with LI authors|
at ACFW 2011.
Writing for LIS means juggling three story arcs: faith, romance and suspense. Any tips on how to weave the three threads into a seamless plot?
My advice would be to “tie” those threads together as much as you can. In Susan Sleeman’s upcoming story No Way Out (May 2013), the heroine isn’t just dealing with danger, she’s dealing with betrayal, from someone she’d really trusted. So even as she’s adjusting to the physical danger of her new situation, she’s also struggling to deal with the emotional turmoil of wondering who she can count on, and whether she’ll ever be able to trust enough to let a man into her life again. The hero helps with both problems. J And of course, there’s nothing like danger—physical or emotional—to make a character search for an anchor to hold on to. That’s where faith usually comes into our stories.
How do you feel about prologues and epilogues? Any pet peeves or favorite scenarios?
Because our stories are so deliciously fast-paced, it’s possible for the entire story to take place over the span of just a handful of days. And while we definitely want resolution to the romantic plot thread, with the characters finally willing to admit their feelings for each other and embrace the opportunity take a chance on a committed relationship, it seems a little weird to have a guy propose marriage when he’s only known the heroine for 36 hours. So yeah, I’m a fan of epilogues where we can see the characters a few months down the road with a solid relationship in place that the characters are finally ready to take to the next level. On the other hand, a prologue has to work pretty hard to prove its worth to me. If it’s just about set-up, then I usually ask the author to reconsider. It’s so powerful to dive right into a story that starts when the action kicks off—we can get the background later.
Are you accepting submissions for all three lines: Love Inspired, Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired Suspense? How long should writers expect to wait before they hear back on their submission?
We are eagerly accepting submissions for all three lines! As for turnaround time, we’ve actually got a fun event coming up specifically targeted for LIS submissions, and that’s our Fast Track. Between October 15 and October 26, authors can email their synopsis (no more than 2 pages, single spaced) and first chapter to LISfasttrack@harlequin.ca and we will guarantee a reply by November 26. We’re hoping to get people as excited about LIS as we are at the prospect of bringing in new authors, so please spread the word!
What do you wish every writer knew before she or he submitted to LIS?
Make sure you have strong suspense and romance threads that begin at the start of the book and don’t conclude until the ending!
|Elizabeth (L) with Love Inspired’s new |
Associate Editor Shana Smith (R)
What are your top FIVE tips for submitting to LIS?
5. Do your homework! There’s no better preparation for writing LIS than reading LIS books—and we’ve got so many excellent authors writing for us that “homework” has never been so much fun.
4. Know your characters. I answered a lot of questions in this interview, but you may notice I asked a lot of them, too. These are questions you need to be asking yourself—what does my character want? What is essential to them? What would drive them to break the rules? What do they love? What do they fear? Check out the book GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. It’s a great craft lesson in how to solidify your characters.
3. You’ll always learn from research—but start with what you know. There’s nothing like a book that feels truly grounded in its world. When Lenora Worth writes Southern-set stories, they feel so vividly real that you could swear you smell the magnolias in the air. If you entrench your story in something very familiar—a medical drama you can easily envision after twenty years working as a nurse; a deadly chase in the dense forests near where you grew up; an eerie mystery that bears a striking resemblance to an old family legend—it’ll feel that much more real to your readers. But no matter how well you think you know a subject, still do some research on it—hit the library, go online, set up a time to interview/brainstorm with a friend who has a background in the subject or setting. You never know what new ideas might spark!
2. Figure out your villain’s game plan, and make him stick to it. Heroes and heroines don’t always know what they’re doing—sometimes they’re thrown into danger with no warning, and have to scramble to figure out what to do. That’s not the case with villains. They always have a plan—there’s always something they want to get, or something they want to do, or something they want to hide. And they always think they’ve planned everything so well that they’re going to get away with it. Make sure you know that plan. Make sure that everything the villain does ties into that plan. If the bad guy wants the safe combination that no one but the heroine knows then he’s not going to try to scare her by running her car off the road—she’s no good to him if she’s dead or in a coma. On the other hand, there’s nothing stopping him from threatening the people around her. He needs her alive, but he could easily kill her best friend, or her baby sister…or the guy she’s started to fall for.
1. Sit down and write! It’s okay to begin a book and not be certain how it’s going to end. It’s okay to begin a book and change your mind about how it’s going to end! Characters and plotlines will take turns you never expected, and go in directions you never planned—don’t stress over it. You can fix it or polish it or even ditch it and rewrite it after it’s done. For now, just put the words on the page, and see where they take you.
Can you give us a brief overview of the process a submission goes through before it is either rejected or selected for publication?
When someone sends in a submission, it gets logged in by the person who received it. And since I know some people have misconceptions, let me say that there is no “designated” person who reads the submissions our group receives. If you address it to me (on the envelope, please—not just on the cover letter), I’m the one who’s going to read it. (The only exception to this rule is Tina James, the senior editor for Love Inspired Suspense—she has an assistant, Emily Brown, who gets her mail.) We do our best to get to submissions quickly, but a major chunk of our time is devoted to handling our books currently under contract, so it generally takes 60-90 days to evaluate submissions.
Let’s say you send me your proposal—synopsis and first three chapters. I’ll read it to see if I think it could work for our line. If it’s not right for us, I’ll write back to let you know. If it has potential, I’ll request the full manuscript. I don’t have the authority to buy a book on just my say-so—it has to be approved by Tina, so as I’m reading the complete, I’ll be keeping notes on the strengths, weaknesses, possible issues and potential solutions to put into a memo. If the story needs substantial revisions, I’ll send it back along with a letter laying out my concerns. If I think we should go ahead and buy, I’ll give Tina the memo and the manuscript. She’ll read them both, and decide whether she agrees with me. If she does, it goes to Joan Marlow Golan, our executive editor. She makes the decision about whether we can go forward with a contract offer—she’ll give the go-head to Tina, who will give the go-ahead to me. Then I get to make the call.
Editors say they enjoy making “The Call” to debut authors. What’s the funniest response you’ve received from a writer who just learned LI was offering a contract?
I don’t want to embarrass her so I won’t name names, but one author I could barely even reach! She hadn’t included her phone number on her cover letter, so I tried looking it up online with just the address. When that didn’t work, I emailed her to ask if she could give me a call—she replied, full of apologies, and said she actually couldn’t call me because she was home taking care of a sick child and her house phone didn’t have long distance service. She gave me her number, so I tried calling her, but I got no answer. Ten minutes later, she emailed me again to apologize—she’d been vacuuming and hadn’t heard the phone ring! On the next try, I was actually able to speak with her. By then, I think she was pretty sure I was offering her a book contract because otherwise I’d have given up!
Elizabeth at the ACFW 2011 Carol Awards
Where do you hope to be in FIVE years,
? Any predictions about Love
Inspired’s future? Elizabeth
In the five and a half years I’ve been with Love Inspired, I’ve been amazed at our growth. When I began in 2007, we published 8 books a month—4 Love Inspired and 4 Love Inspired Suspense. Love Inspired Historical hadn’t even launched yet! Now, we have 14 titles a month in our retail calendar (6 LI, 4 LIS, 4 LIH) plus 4 books each month from our direct-only line, Love Inspired Heartsong Presents. In that time, I’ve also risen from Editorial Assistant to Associate Editor. So clearly, if we stay on track with our growth patterns, and if our fantastic authors keep bringing in dedicated, enthusiastic readers hungry for more great stories, then another five years will see all our lines expanding and flourishing, with me well on my way to my clearly merited position as Benevolent Overlady of All I Survey. J
for providing such valuable information today.
We’ve learned so much about the LIS line and what makes a great
story shine. In honor of your visit, we’re
serving a typical Southern buffet breakfast: scrambled eggs, country fried ham,
buttermilk biscuits, sliced fruit and grits.
Leave a comment to be entered in today's drawings. Thanks to Elizabeth and the Seekers we have the following books to give away...
Four lucky winners will each receive two Love Inspired Suspense stories from Elizabeth.
The LIS October releases: Critical Condition by Sandra Orchard, Survive the Night by Vicki Hinze, Danger on the Mountain by Lynette Eason, and The Doctor’s Defender by Terri Reed.
The LIS November releases: Christmas Stalking by Margaret Daley, Dangerous Melody by Dana Mentink, Dead Wrong by Susan Sleeman, and Freefall by Jodie Bailey.
A House Full of Hope by Missy Tippens.
Wanted: A Family by Janet Dean, and the novella Last Minute Bride, by Janet Dean, featured in Brides of the West.
Yuletide Hearts by Ruth Logan Herne and A Family to Cherish
by Ruth Logan
Dreaming of Home by Glynna Kaye, Second Chance Courtship by Glynna Kaye, At Home in His Heart by Glynna Kaye, and High Country Hearts by Glynna Kaye.
The Officer’s Secret by Debby Giusti, The Captain’s Mission by Debby Giusti, and The Colonel’s Daughter by Debby Giusti.
A surprise package from Tina Radcliffe.
Four Heartsong Presents giveaways from Mary Connealy.
Grab a cup of coffee and let's talk to Elizabeth about the books we love to read from Love Inspired!