I want to extend a warm welcome to Ms. Leslie Wells to Jorie Loves A Story, as it is not often I get the chance to interact with an Editor who is also a writer! It has happened on occasion and each time is always a blessing for me, as I find Editors have incredible insight into the changing tides of the book industry itself as well as the gift for seeing how even though a few things might change as time moves forward, a few things will always remain the same! I have been holding back a few questions in regards to the shifting climate of print vs ebooks, the addition of POD printing options (for those of us who read traditionally), and the myriad of changes in an evolving climate of today’s publishing market. I felt Ms. Wells would be the best person to address these questions, as she has had one foot in traditional publishing whilst embracing a foot inside the world of the Indies.
Her strength and achievements throughout her career in having such a blessed duality of focus is an incredible well of knowledge to pass forward, and I was thankful I had the pleasure of interviewing her and sharing the conversation we had with my readers – as some of my regulars are writers themselves, and are dipping into the Indie world of the market or attempting a more traditional trajectory.
A quick note on why I chose to participate on this particular blog tour is due to the fact that I am constantly curious about new avenues to pursue as a reader. I have my comfy niches inside the genres I routinely duck inside, but there are times where I like to step outside of that familiarity and embrace something quite a bit different yet altogether has a knitting of the heart I hope to find inside any story I come across. I have lost a foothold in the Contemporary world of story craft and when I saw this was going on tour, I simply knew I wanted to become a part of it!
I look forward to sharing my ruminations on the novel & an Excerpt of the opening bits of the story a bit lateron in October! Until then, enjoy our conversation!
Julia is a book-loving publisher’s assistant. Jack is a famous British rock star. “Opposites attract” is an understatement.
It’s 1981. Twenty-four-year-old Julia Nash has recently arrived in Manhattan, where she works as a publisher’s assistant. She dreams of becoming an editor with her own stable of bestselling authors—but it is hard to get promoted in the recession-clobbered book biz.
Julia blows off steam by going dancing downtown with her best friend, Vicky. One night, a hot British guitarist invites them into his VIP section. Despite an entourage of models and groupies, Jack chooses Julia as his girl for the evening—and when Jack Kipling picks you, you go with it. The trouble is … he’s never met a girl like her before. And she resists being just one in a long line.
Jack exposes her to new experiences, from exclusive nightclubs in SoHo to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood; from mind-bending recording sessions to wild backstage parties. Yet Julia is afraid to fall for him. Past relationships have left her fragile; one more betrayal just might break her.
As she fends off her grabby boss and tries to move up the corporate ladder, Julia’s torrid relationship with Jack takes her to heights she’s never known—and plunges her into depths she’s never imagined.
With a fascinating inside look at publishing, this entertaining story of a bookish young woman’s adventures with a rock superstar is witty, moving, and toe-curlingly steamy.
Leslie Wells left her small Southern town in 1979 for graduate school in Manhattan, after which she got her first job in book publishing. She has edited forty-eight New York Times bestsellers in her over thirty-year career, including thirteen number one New York Times bestsellers. Leslie has worked with numerous internationally known authors, musicians, actors, actresses, television and radio personalities, athletes, and coaches. She lives on Long Island, New York.
Converse via: #ComeDancingBlogTour
By having the insight of a career rooted in the traditional publishing paradigm and shifting out of it into the Indie side of publishing, what is the greatest gift you received as a writer as well as a woman who opened her eyes to both platforms of literary vehicles?
Hi Jorie, thank you so much for having me on your fantastic website!
The greatest gift that I have received has been the amazing support and reviews from readers and bloggers. When Come Dancing receives a good review, I feel like I’m on cloud nine; I literally float on a tide of happiness all day long. And since I’m working on a sequel, it has been extremely helpful to me to see what readers have enjoyed in particular, and what they’d like to see more of in the second book!
I have also been so pleased that people have responded positively to Julia’s career in book publishing. I really wanted that to be a part of the novel, and not to write perhaps a more typical romance that only focused on the heat between the characters (although there’s certainly plenty of that!). The other aspect that readers have responded to is the 1981 setting, when there were no computers, no cell phones or texting, and when records were still vinyl LPs.
To me a measure of success for any writer is the level of enthusiasm from the reader(s) who start to discover the work that is left behind for them to read. However, I have noticed that more oft than not, success in the publishing industry isn’t brokered on the gratitude of the readers but against the bottomline returns. Do you notice a shift of emphasis and on acknowledgement between the different markets (i.e. Traditional Publishing, Indie Press, and/or Self Publishing platforms) or are they more akin to each other than they are different?
I respect authors need to achieve a living wage for the work they are contributing to literature but what I meant to ask is why is a readership that is dedicated to the work of an author not outweighing the size of the returns? Small, medium, or large the dedication of readers should be held in high regard as the true gift of all the stories being created are to inspire a reader to soak inside the world and heart of a character; transforming their life for the moment the pages are in their hands. How do you measure your own success as a published author?
Great question! I have definitely seen a shift in traditional publishing toward more emphasis on the bottom line, as opposed to sticking with an author throughout the natural peaks and dips in his or her career. In part, the shift is a result of conglomeration: big (non-publishing) corporations acquiring publishing houses in search of media synergy, for instance. But for even bestselling authors, this means that if one book doesn’t perform well, they may not get a contract for their next book, no matter how fantastic it is.
That’s why the option of indie or self-publishing is so terrific. I have a number of author friends who have opted to go that route, and who have been thrilled with the results. Certainly it takes more effort to self-publish; you have to create (and pay for) your own cover, book design, marketing, and so on. But the creative control is extremely rewarding.
In addition, being able to price the book as you like (which is not an aspect of traditional publishing) is a great option. For instance, I have kept Come Dancing at $1.99, because I wanted to attract the largest possible readership and make my book available to everyone. Sometimes I lower the price to 99 cents as a special promotion; again, something you can’t do if you aren’t indie published. And for me, being read by the largest number of readers who (hopefully) like the story—and also want to read the upcoming sequel—is how I would measure my success.
Did you ever worry about accidentally having a quasi non-original idea stepping into the role of a writer after being in Book Acquisitions as an Editor who had guided and nurtured other writers into their own voices of thought and creativity? I oft wondered if those who work behind-the-scenes in publishing ever have any thoughts of concern when they start to pick up the pen themselves. How did you take the Editor hat off and not approach writing from the standpoint of an Editor’s point of view?
After thirty-plus years of being an editor, one learns to entirely separate the editing from the writing. I have a totally different mindset when I’m editing, as opposed to when I’m writing; I’m always extremely careful about that. Actually many editors also write fiction—it’s kind of a tradition in book publishing!
What was the impetus which gravitated you into writing? I realize you previously disclosed it was out of the ether of a dream, yet did you have any inkling of gravitating towards writing prior to that moment? And, when did this occur?
My first novel was published in 2001 by Warner Books. (It’s very dark and literary, so I don’t connect it with Come Dancing, which is fast-paced, funny and commercial.) Then for a number of years, I didn’t have an idea that excited me until I literally woke up from a dream, and the words “Please Do Not Touch” were echoing in my head. I felt compelled to go downstairs and write the scene that became a chapter in my book, when Julia and Jack first come together romantically.
I also knew that I wanted to write about my first years in New York City, and I drew upon many of my own experiences to create Julia’s life: going out dancing in downtown nightclubs, buying funky clothes at second-hand stores, getting by on a minuscule publishing salary. And I wanted to write about the punk/rock scene in Manhattan then, which was incredibly exciting and edgy.
I read in an interview you gave that part of the inspiration for Come Dancing was directly due to the fact that a particular portion of modern history still had a bubble of safety for those who wanted to enjoy the nightlife without the flash of cameras and the tracking of lives through the press. I applaud you for tackling a modern slice of contemporary life and fusing it into a modern historical window of the past – as more often than not, historical glimpses go further back in time, say to the World War eras and beyond. Do you find there is an absence of writing that captures how life is being lived in the latter half of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st where anecdotal stories like this one could breathe new life into Contemporary fiction?
I definitely agree, and I think that is why Come Dancing seems to have really captured people’s imaginations. So many readers have commented that they loved the Eighties setting, and the reminder that not so long ago, people had to use landlines and phone booths. Back then, when you went out to a nightclub, there was much more open mingling between celebrities and regular people, because everyone didn’t have a camera (ie, a cellphone) with them 24/7.
I do think there is a dearth of contemporary fiction that takes place in modern times, yet not the 2000s. (“Contemporary Romance” and “Contemporary Fiction” are defined as fiction that takes place after 1950.) I hope that Come Dancing helps to fill that gap.
What are your favorite tools to use whilst writing? And, where do you write to gain the most inspiration?
Usually I get up very early in the morning (between 3 and 4 am) to write. I bring my dog into my home office, have a cup of coffee, and write on my computer until I have to get my kids up for school. My daytime hours are spent editing other people’s books.
What do you think the publishing world has lost with the addition of ereaders and the ebook industry? And, what do you feel it has gained?
I love to read hardcover and paperback books, so I’m a little sad that the next generation of readers will probably do most of it on ereaders. I also wonder about the future of brick and mortar bookstores, if print books are on the way out in future decades. That said, I’m thrilled that more people than ever seem to be reading, and I do think that the inexpensive nature of ebooks has helped with this increase in the number of books downloaded.
As I am a reader who does not own an ereader and will not be crossing into the emarket of literature, how do you feel the industry reacts to those of us who are traditional readers whilst caught up in a world bent towards a digital age? As some of us cannot read the breadth and length of stories on digital formats, do you find there is a shift in perception of who a reader is in today’s world?
Like you, Jorie, I read print books (hardcovers/paperbacks) when I read for pleasure. Because I work on a computer all day with my editing, I don’t want to stare at a screen at night. I do know that publishers are in something of a catch- 22 with the increasing ebook readership. They can see ebook reading increasing every year, yet they still need to print and publish hard copies of books for those who don’t use an ereader. How many copies to print (ie, the book’s first print run) has always been somewhat of a guessing game, based on the orders that the sales reps get from bookstores before publication. A publisher can be left holding the bag if they vastly overestimate how many copies will be sold; it’s also bad to underestimate and not have enough books to fill the orders, because a reprint takes time to print, ship, and then stock in the stores. And obviously creating a print copy is much more expensive than a digital version—so those are some of the issues facing publishers in terms of format.
The best blessing for me is finding stories released straight into ebooks originally are eventually being released into POD and/or traditional print editions six months to a year after their original publishing dates. Is this the new route books are taking in publication, as originally hardback editions pre-empted a paperback release? And, with the resurgence of the Indie Bookshoppe spreading like wildfire across the country, have you noticed a turning back towards more traditional markets whilst the explosion of the emarkets starts to hit its peak?
I do think that print on demand (POD) will become increasingly popular, so that readers who want a print version can immediately obtain it. I believe that people who want to read a hard copy will always find a way to do it, and independent bookstores are great about ordering hard-to-find books. The great thing about POD is that a book never needs to go out of print, whereas in previous years, if it went OP, you’d be hard-pressed to find a copy.
At the heart of Come Dancing is a woman wrapped inside of an awakening within her soul and of the choices she is choosing to elevate her position in her career. What enticed the make-up of Julia’s outside persona and internal conflict of character to become explored in this first installment of a story which continues in a forthcoming sequel? What drew you inside this part of Julia’s life to be revealed as a way for a reader to understand her?
The early 1980s was when I first got into publishing in NYC, and it was a magical time for me personally: coming to the city from a small town in Virginia, and being exposed to so many different experiences for the very first time. In some ways, I wanted to relive that very exciting time in my own life, and explore it through the fictional character of Julia.
Whilst building the arc of the central characters together, you put an emphasis on trust, communication, and friendship to become nurtured first in the beginnings of Jack & Julia’s growing relationship. Why do you think these traits are oft-times absent in Contemporary Romance stories, yet the true path towards having a meaningful relationship that is not hinged to physical attraction alone?
I very much wanted Julia and Jack’s relationship to start off a bit slowly, because I knew that Julia was not the kind of person to trust someone with such a bad-boy rocker reputation. She would have been very cautious in getting physically involved with someone like that, frankly suspecting that he would want a one-night stand and then move on to the next willing girl. Also, unlike her friend Vicky (who was such a fun character to write about), Julia wasn’t into bed-hopping. And she had just been badly burned in her previous relationship; not to mention having general issues about trust after her father abandoned her mom when Julia was fourteen. So for all of those reasons, she wanted to get to know Jack as a person (as opposed to his superficial superstar image), and needed to trust him before she got closer to him. Then, once they did get physically involved, the sparks really flew because of the buildup!
The start of the sequel presents a change of location for Jack and Julia (as they go to England), did you originally conceive a bicontinental setting for the story to evolve into after the first half was told or did the sequel grow out of the years spent with the characters whilst writing Come Dancing? Is this going to be a full-on series or limited to two installments?
The sequel takes Julia and Jack to England to meet his Mum over the holidays, then it moves right back to New York City and continues from there. I really had fun writing the scenes where Julia interacts with Jack’s mother and sister; there are some very funny misunderstandings based on British slang (hint: a “kip” is having a nap—not having sex!). Right now I’m responding to requests from readers and reviewers that I write a sequel (which made me feel great!). If the same demand exists after the second novel, I may well write another.
If someone was meeting you for the first time, what would be a surefire clue you were bookish and happily geeky whilst being a champion of stories and the craft of creating them? What would you share with them to encompass this part of who you are?
The greatest clue that I love books would be my favorite question to ask people once I get to know them a little bit: “What kinds of books do you like to read?” I’m always so interested in the answers, and have discovered so many great books that way! And I would share that I’m a book editor who truly loves what I do.
Thank you so much for these fascinating and thought-provoking questions, Jorie!
I would like to thank Ms. Wells for being especially keen to answer my thought provoking questions inasmuch as she gave us a hint of what is yet to come for Julia & Jack! I must confess, I am always on a bit of pins to know whether or not I should disclose my own thoughts on potential sequels, as I have generally taken the route of holding back a bit in this regard. Reading her responses in this interview has led me to change my opinion on this, as the next time I am reading a novel where I feel there is a window of an opening towards a sequel or a succession of books in a series that could carry forward what had become rooted in the story I have read, I will include a small notation on my forthcoming reviews! I am even going to keep in mind as I continue to read Come Dancing on potential reflections on behalf of what I hope is expanded in the sequel!
Ah! Yes, I can give a bit away about my own findings of joy in Come Dancing, where I felt it was wickedly brilliant there was a backwards focus on ‘other pieces of tech’ outside the sphere of the digital age where all of our lives have grown a bit muddled in the pursuit of ‘now’ and ‘immediate’ replies and/or material possessions. The slower pace of previous decades where you had to wait for a phone call whilst darting back home to see if a message was on your answering machine fit well with the pace of my own life now in the 21st Century. No smart phones for me, in other words! And, more than a handful of my followers on Twitter are oft-times surprised I tweet traditionally as I am always on a computer when I am tweeting out my Joyful Tweets!
I will keep a bit of a surprise on my reaction to the book world for my review, but I simply wanted to say as far as technology is concerned, the story proves that even thirty to thirty-three years into the past; life carried on quite well without all the instant gratification and gadgetry of 2014! I did have a computer in the early 80s, so I am not sure when that came to be — I do know I had one a year after the story is set as by 1982 I was a savant at using one! As far as the internet is concerned, I didn’t hop on the web until at least 1990 or thereabouts. My life is a time capsule of the technologic age apparently!
I did find it disheartening the shift in the paradigm of traditional publishing — yet, I have witnessed this happening left, right, and sideways; especially with authors I have followed as I read their releases to conversations I’ve had with authors who were eager to sort out a non-traditional path that might allow them a more positive return on creative freedom and liberty to tell the stories they want to see flourish rather than losing the control of where their stories are being led. My heart simply warmed with a bright glow when I read Ms. Wells express this:
And for me, being read by the largest number of readers who (hopefully) like the story—and also want to read the upcoming sequel—is how I would measure my success.
I had to smile inwardly when she touched on one aspect of publishing I had already considered myself as a way to circumvent the wave of ebooks — to seek out the releases via POD editions, whilst acknowledging there is a developmental change yet not resolving that all my next reads can only be occupied by what was published in the past. I do believe we will start to see niche market publishers rise up a bit as well — to carry forward the traditional writers who want to publish in print and opt-out of the ebook trade completely.
I am not as worried about brick and mortar bookshoppes after seeing the Indies take back the physical selling and trade market of the industry. Even states where the Indies died out to near extinction are starting to see a re-surge in the economy where new Indie booksellers are re-defining the passion for traditional bookshoppes outside the scope of the conglomerates. I believe this is happening due to the same reason more writers are opting for non-traditional publishing platforms (especially on the level of Self-Published, Hybrid, and/or Indie Press & Publishers) to create a path that is not readily known but provides the most blissitude in the end.
I personally am applauding the path towards Jack & Julia’s relationship being developed in Come Dancing as it is quite literally non-typical given who Jack is and the background of his previous relationships. The story itself parlays it’s own unique voice and attributions on a part of celebrity centered limelight that fuelled my interest as each time I turnt a page, I was drawn more into seeing where these two budding lovebirds were going to go next! They are writ individualistically strong and they have conversations to ignite a proper sense of where each of them stand in their relationship instead of opting only for physical desires and pleasures. I applaud this as I am a reader who appreciates reading relationship-based Romances where the story is explored through the choices the couple makes in order to be together or to live apart; as sometimes you do not always get a happy ever after. Thankfully, knowing a bit about the sequel of Come Dancing before I started it, I knew a resolution I might appreciate could be waiting for me in the end! Yet, the bits in-between the beginning and the end!? Ooh, now that was the wicked bits for me to explore!
Yes! I know exactly what you mean about a confusion of British expressions — as if someone is especially vexed and flaming red in anger, an American might say “you’re quite pissed aren’t you?”. Yet, across the Pond this particular expression of anger has nothing to do with emotional signals but a must-need desire to visit the loo! Although, I also found that it can mean a person drank a bit too much alcohol and is decidedly drunk. I love reading across the countries because it gives a level of realism for realising that even though we are only separated by the North Atlantic, we are a bit of a world apart as far as how we use language and words to reflect different meanings out of ordinary life situations. I loved seeing how you inserted certain British words to reflect Jack’s origins yet grounding him with a bit of American English as he has grown used to being over here as well. You found a good balance between where he came from and where his career is starting to grow.
I had a good bubble of a laugh reading your last response — I am always at a plumb loss as to know which story to mention first as I have the tendency of being deeply passionate about more than a small handful all at once! My tweets this month will start to reflect that, as I want to shine a book cheerleader light on some of the most beautiful and captivating stories I’ve read this past Summer! I wasn’t always able to tweet past my tour stops, so I want to spread a bit of bookish cheer now that Autumn is winking it’s way into our lives — a happy respite from the angst and fiery weather!
I want to thank you for giving such hearty answers and for being pleasantly forthright about your observations! I appreciate your insight and the joy you bring to your readers by remaining insightful and mindful of our reading differences. You have a keen eye for finding your readers and for allowing them the grace of inspiring you with the stories your continuing to pen. I pray you will always remain open and responsive, as this is one attribute I appreciate the most in the writers I have found along my literary wanderings! I love to interact and I love to share my thoughts on what I loved inside of a book a writer has written that left me with a head full of heady thoughts and an imagination of warm memories!
Virtual Road Map for “Come Dancing” Blog Tour:
Forthcoming on the tour will be my ruminations
as I read “Come Dancing” — arriving on the 21st of October! Stay Tuned & Watch my Tweets!
Be sure to visit the author’s website for more
wicked awesome content on this novel:
Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:
on my Bookish Events page!
Similar to blog tours, when I feature a showcase for an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog.
I positively *love!* comments in the threads below each of my posts, kindly know that I appreciate each thought you want to share with me and all the posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary! Short or long, I appreciate the time you spent to leave behind a note of your visit! Return again soon!
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