* Article featured in the Fall 2018 Edition of Love & Lace *
Tamara Lush writes sexy books for sharp women. She's married to an Italian and lives near a beach in Florida.
For the last several years, she's worked as a reporter and is currently a correspondent in Florida with The Associated Press. In 2017, she was chosen as one of 24 writers for the Amtrak Residency program.
Tamara's a fan of vintage pulp fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, 1980s fashion, tropical chill, kombucha, gin, tonic, seashells, iPhones, Art Deco, telenovelas, coloring books, street art, coconut anything, strong coffee and newspapers.
Published in September of 2015, her debut novel Hot Shade received four stars from RT Book Reviews. Her most recent novel, a five episode serial called Tell Me A Story, has "an engaging voice, sexy heroes and heroines, and a wry sense of humor", according to New York Times bestselling author Beth Kery. Her recent book, Constant Craving, was a 2018 RWA RITA® finalist in erotic romance.
When Dakota Willink heard about Tamara's road to the RITA's, Dakota asked Tamara to share her story with the readers of Love & Lace InKorporated magazine. It's an inspiring tale about rejection, perseverance, and unbridled ambition.
In late 2014, my first year of writing fiction, I had an idea for an erotic romance. It was a second chance story about a newspaper publisher and a private equity financier.
One of the newspapers in my area was going through all sorts of financial turmoil. It was bought by a private equity group, and then purchased by another paper. I'm a journalist in my day job, so I knew people at the paper and saw firsthand how difficult it was to work at a dying business.
I had all of this in mind when I started to plot my book in early 2015. I wanted to write an allegory of the newspaper industry, with the publisher submitting to the financier ... in more ways than one. I also wanted the newspaper to get its happy ending, because so many of them don't these days.
I began to write, and called the book Constant Craving. The story was told in the present and the past, in alternating chapters. There was lots of sex and anger, and in the end, redemption. I had a blast writing it.
When I finished and polished a draft, I entered it in contests — and didn't do all that great. Some of the comments:
"The dying newspaper (while relevant) didn’t make me think the plot was new or innovative."
An editor once told me that "no backstory belongs in the first 100 pages."
"I find myself wishing these two would get over the “omg, so hot, lips eyes hair body” and move forward."
Some of the very things the judges didn't like, I adored. And my earliest beta readers also liked those things, too. I noticed something else, which confused me as a new writer: some judges liked certain things, while other judges hated those exact same things.
So I rewrote it, with the flashback and backstory in the first chapter. I kept the original past-present construction of the story, with fewer flashbacks to the couple's past.
When I finished, I gave it to my agent. She loved it. She shopped it everywhere, but no one bought it. One editor called it "melodramatic."
A second editor said that newspapers were "too dry" of a setting and asked me if I'd like to write a romance about pro wresters.
A third editor told me that no one wanted to read a book about a woman working in a man's world. Women romance readers want to read about florists and wedding planners, she said.
A fourth editor never got back to me or my agent.
This all made me terribly sad. This was the book of my heart! How could people not love it as much as I did?
I put it aside for a while, not knowing what to do with it. I wrote another book. But this story and the characters kept whispering to me, kept invading my thoughts and demanded to be heard.
The characters were messy and not very nice to each other, but they loved passionately. And I loved them.
So I rewrote the book. I put it in first-person, present tense, which many hate. But it felt right. It felt like my true voice.
I kept the backstory and put the first flashback in chapter one. I took out the hero's POV. It read like erotic chick lit.
It went through another round of edits with my developmental editor and my critique partner, then a copy editor took a pass at it.
I was even more in love.
I published it first on Radish, a serial fiction app. No small irony, because it's a book about old media. No one had heard of Radish at the time, and more than a few people questioned my sanity.
Why put your precious book on an untested, unknown serial app?
Why not? I said.
I posted three chapters a week, and something magical happened.
People read it.
Radish readers adored the book. I created a private readers group on Facebook and they'd talk about the new chapters as they were posted. They lusted after the hero. They saw themselves in the heroine, struggling for a dream. My heart was full.
I self-published the e-book in November of 2017 to great reviews. Scandalicious called it "smart smut,” which I thought was an accurate description.
I decided to enter it in one last contest: RWA's prestigious RITA awards. I didn't think it had a chance.
It ended up being a finalist.
This book taught me so much. About writing and patience, and about trusting my gut.
Sometimes you know what's best for your work. Cliché, possibly. But true. Sometimes you know exactly the story you want to tell. And almost always, another's opinion of your book is totally subjective and never personal.
Constant Craving showed me that only two things are truly important in self-publishing: that I love the book, and that my readers love the book.
The takeaway: Persist. Always.