Speaking of “page 1,” that can be so intimidating for a writer, even one with 58 books under her belt. No, I’ve never run out of ideas, but sometimes, when I sit and look at my hundreds of resource books, and stare at my 4-drawer file cabinet literally stuffed with hand-written notes (all 4 drawers) – and when I stare at the shelf that holds copies of all 58 of my books plus numerous copies of foreign prints, I wonder when in God’s name I wrote all those stories. Each one is full of history and adventure and romance, and each story is different. Somehow I came up with all those ideas and all those characters, with stories that take place over a few weeks or months and some that take place over 20 to 40 years – some series books or trilogies that had to be linked to past stories – and how or when all those ideas came to me, I don’t even know.
Many of my most prolific writing years are just a big blank for me. I think it’s because – strangely enough – I did the biggest share of my writing in my absolute busiest years – and through some of the toughest times in my life. Believe it or not, the majority of my books were written during a 10-year period of a son on drugs and the horrors that go with that (I won’t even go there) – through brain surgery – surgery behind my heart – two broken wrists – a sister dying of cancer – a father dying of cancer – raising two very active boys – working full time – helping fix up 30 acres of very overgrown, neglected property we bought, including a house and two cottages that needed a total makeover – traveling west for research and hours and hours and hours of reading and taking notes.
When I started writing there were no personal computers. Amid all the “business” of life, I was writing my books on an old manual typewriter and using white-out to correct mistakes. For a while I used an electric typewriter, which I thought was an amazing instrument. Then I finally got my first computer. I think I’d written about ten books by then. For the first fifteen books I had no agent, and I didn’t make enough money to quit my job. Before I even sold anything I suffered about 100 rejections but kept submitting to other publishers until – finally – I sold that first book, which was Savage Destiny #1 – SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION.
And for all you newbies struggling for that first sale - do you want to know what sold that book? It was one scene that made the editor cry. Right editor – right scene – right time. Yes, it comes down to a lot of luck, but when I think about all I went through and wonder how I kept writing all those books and kept trying amid the chaos in my life and trying to squeeze 48 hours into 24 hours every day – well, I realize it comes down to one basic thing that all writers need if they want to sell …
LOVE YOUR GENRE– STUDY YOUR GENRE – STICK WITH YOUR GENRE – BUILD A NAME IN YOUR GENRE. I tried other genres – hated it. I tried contemporary – hated it. I tried vampires and mysteries and suspense and erotica and short, fun romances, steam punk – tried all of it. Hated it. And while I tried all that I sold NOTHING. I went ten years selling NOTHING! All because I was trying to write what I didn’t love. But when I went back to the Old West and American History, a story poured out of me and sold. That book is coming in July, PARADISE VALLEY, set against the backdrop of an unsettled Wyoming Territory and a good deal of the story taking place along the famed (and yes, it really existed) Outlaw Trail. I think you can already pre-order PARADISE VALLEY at Sourcebooks and at Amazon. It’s not the longest or deepest book I’ve written – and it doesn’t cover many years like a good share of my stories do – but it’s a great read and a touching love story, and I’m hoping to write a sequel to it because I love the two main characters and want to continue their story. When you finish the book you, too, will want to read more about Maggie and Sage and their new life together.
LOVE WHAT YOU WRITE – LOVE WHO YOU WRITE – LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. I have loved the American West since I was a little girl – I love the “wild west” history – love telling the truth about what happened with our Native Americans – love the grand and gorgeous landscape, the mountains, the forests, the plains, the “wide open spaces” that truly are something you have to see to appreciate how huge the country truly is. If you have ever watched the movie THE BIG COUNTRY, you’ll understand a little bit of what I’m talking about. In the movie a sea captain comes to Texas to marry a spoiled young woman raised by a wealthy rancher. Everyone considers him a greenhorn and throughout the movie they keep reminding him “It’s a big country,” fearing if he rides off alone he’ll get lost. Well, a true greenhorn certain can easily get lost in that “big country!” It’s a great movie to depict the rugged west. Rent it or buy it! And listen to the theme song – it’s wonderful! I often play it when I want to get into the western “mood.” Just listening to it makes me picture that “big country” – the wide open prairie and plains, the magnificent Rockies and Sierras. I can’t begin to explain how much I love everything about it. And what makes the writing even easier is having great characters. After all, just imagine the kind of independent, strong, brave, virtuous (and not so virtuous), determined kind of people with big dreams that it took to settle a land as rugged and wild an dangerous as America’s Old West.
I am headed for a Romantic Times conference in Kansas City soon – HUGE conference, where I will meet hundreds of my readers. I can’t wait! Watch this site for a blog about the conference when I get home. And now that many of my older titles are again available through Amazon.com and Sourcebooks.com, as well as in print, I am selling books again – LOTS of books! I just contracted with France for SONG OF THE WOLF, after years of success in France with MONTANA WOMAN. Things are looking up, and my ten years of no sales are becoming a distant memory. I feel like a writer again, and now that I am sticking with what I truly love, I am already writing another western – this one set in Montana – a real western “romp” with a great hero and heroine. It’s called DESPERATE HEARTS, but sometimes titles get changed and this book isn’t even fully written yet, so hang on to your hats. Just letting you know that Rosanne Bittner is back at the computer writing yet another new book for you! Just thought I’d take time out for another blog before all of you think I’ve forgotten you. No, I haven’t. I’m just having too much fun immersing myself again in the “Old West!”