Saturday, October 25, 2008

Deborah Shelley Appears for Authors @ The Teague

(Shelley Mosley and Deborah Mazoyer, writing team of Deborah Shelley)

Romance writer, Deborah Shelley, appeared Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Velma Teague Library, as part of The Authors @ The Teague series. Actually, Deborah Shelley is two people, Shelley Mosley, former Manager of the Velma Teague Library, and Deborah Mazoyer, Director of Building Safety for the City of Glendale. The two started writing together ten years ago when they worked together on a project, benchmarking other cities' building projects. After they wrote a 96 page report about building and zoing departments, Shelley asked Deborah if she'd like to write a book with her. They enjoyed writing together, and they've been writing romantic comedies together ever since.

Their first romance published, Talk About Love, had a print run of 35,000 with Precious Gems Romances. It's been published in six languages besides English, and has had several print runs in France. It was a Holt Medallion finalist, a Love & Laughter Award finalist, and won the 1st Golden Synopsis Award. However, soon after, the short romance market folded, except for Harlequin. Deborah Shelley wrote small-town books, which was not what Harlequin wanted. The authors like to write about communities, but their books don't have enough sex for some markets.

Marriage 101 is the authors' most recent romance. Although it was a BookPage Notable Title, it is already out of print. It sold out fast since it had a smaller print run. Shelley Mosley said she saw it on the Internet for $65.

They also talked about Romancing the Holidays, a collection that includes a chapter for each month, and the romance is about a holiday. Deborah Shelley wrote March, about Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates Esther. They picked a Jewish holiday because Shelley Mosley taught in a synagogue school for three years. Their first book, Talk About Love, had a Cherokee hero. They like to work diversity into their stories. Romancing the Holidays was a Finalist for the Eppie Award, and was featured in Booklist's Spotlight on Multicultural Romance.

Marriage 101 took the writing team years to write because of Deborah's work schedule. In recent years, there was a construction and building boom in Glendale, leading up to the Super Bowl. They spent five years writing this one. The novel has a high school setting, with teachers, the town, and secondary characters.

In response to a question as to their writing techniques, they said they don't each take a section. Unlike many other teams, Deborah and Shelley write side by side, going through the entire manuscript. They talk it through. They don't plot it ahead of time, saying they're terrible plotters. Instead, they write and see how it goes. Their characters develop as people as they go. In fact, the characters start talking to them.

The first rule of writing says, "Write what you know." Since Shelley Mosley was a librarian from a small town in Kansas, their first book, Talk About Love, was about a librarian, Stephanie. Stephanie has four Phoenix cops as brothers, who dog her, and check out her dates, so she moves to a small town where she falls in love with the police chief.

Deborah Shelley's second book capitalized on Deborah Mazoyer's knowledge. It's in His Kiss is set in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, in the construction industry. They have one book called My Favorite Flavor in which an ice cream taster and a personal chef lock horns. They said it was fun to work on that one, tasting ice cream, and inventing flavors.

The story for One Starry Night came about because Shelley Mosley's husband, David, has two Master's degrees, one in Computer Science and one in Astronomy. He hates it when people say he's an astrologer. There is supposed to be conflict in the book, so Shelley thought it would be fun if an astronomer and astrologer fell for each other. Shelley said she had written a nice dedication to him, but after he said no way would an astronomer fall for an astrologer, she made the dedication to their editor.

Marriage 101 features a teacher of a relationships class, who has never had a relationship. Her students rebel, and dare the coach, Danny, to have a relationship with the teacher.

Right now, they're working on a romance called A Taste of Decadence, set in an Alabama town named Decadence. It features former peanut butter beauty queen and a big burly construction manager who is visiting Decadence to help his sister out while she's in the hospital. He has to take over her beauty parlor, and he's the only one there when the heroine comes in for a haircut.

The two authors said they learned a lesson at a Romance Writer's conference in Vegas, when they pitched a story they hadn't written, and someone bought it. They were then on a tight schedule to deliver. They said with a pitch you have eight minutes. It's like a job interview, but worse, because the book is your baby. You have to present the story idea, and a hook. It's almost like speed dating. And, some of the editors are really young, so authors have to gear their pitch to the editors' perspectives.

They said there are three secrets to writing romances.

1. Having cats
2. Eating chocolate
3. Drinking Diet Coke

There is conflict in their romances, but all romances have happily-ever-after endings. Shelley said she reads a lot of everything. Deborah's favorite books re mysteries and historicals. She doesn't read the contemporary romances like they write.

When someone asked if any of their books would be made into TV shows or movies, they said the stories play in their minds as movies. They both visualize them that way. They said they know 200 romance writers, and they know of only one who has been approached for TV. Judy McCoy will have a TV series about a dogwalker.

Shelley Mosley said she wrote several children's books, but none have been accepted. That's the hardest market to break into. When asked if they considered Christian fiction, they said they do have a manuscript called A Bride for Pastor Tim. The ladies of the church think their pastor has been single too long, and they drag women to church. But, it's too secular for the religious market and too religious for the secular market.

They said the market is closing for short romances. There's a huge market for inspirational romances, and the other extreme, erotica. Avalon is a publisher that still does sweet romances with humor and conflict. When asked about self-publication, they said it's too dicey. Distribution is too hard. Few self-published books actually make it. The Christmas Box and The Celestine Prophecy are two of the exceptions.

When asked if about their humor, they said it does come natural. It's not hard to be witty. But, it can't be mean because they have to have likable heroines. The secret to dialogue is to read it aloud so it sounds natural.

Deborah Mazoyer and Shelley Mosley work together, side by side on Monday or Thursday night, and Saturdays. When Shelley worked for the City of Glendale, they wrote for 45 minutes at lunchtime. Now, they're the successful writing team of Deborah Shelley.

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