Monday, September 12, 2011

NY Times Best-Selling Author - Colleen Houck

I recently attended an author fair in the seaside town of Lincoln City, Oregon, an event sponsored by Bob's Beach Books, a fantastic independent book shop. Over sixty authors gathered on the plaza outside the store to sign books under newly-erected canopies. Then, as the tide changed, blustery winds began to blow in from the ocean. Wind. Canopies. Books. Oops. 
Husbands were recruited to anchor the framework in order to keep the entire structure from taking flight. Dodging assorted flying debris, I introduced myself to Colleen Houck, author of the best selling Tiger Series. Earlier in the day, I'd attended her presentation at a writers forum and was amazed by her incredible writing journey. 
Colleen, welcome to Book Blather.

·         What inspired you to write Tiger’s Curse? Was it your first attempt at writing a book?

Tiger’s Curse is my first attempt at writing a novel.  I’d previously compiled a family recipe book with my grandfather and I wrote two children’s books about my toy poodle that I intended to give to my nieces and nephews for Christmas but Tiger’s Curse was my first major attempt at writing.  I was inspired to give writing a try after reading the Twilight series.  I loved the books and after learning that Stephenie Meyer was just a mom who got up one day and started writing and knowing the same about J. K. Rowling, I decided to give it a try.

·        Why did you choose India as the setting?

India kind of chose me.  I decided to write a Beauty and the Beast themed book and picked a white tiger for my beast.  I began researching white tigers and learned that they are all descended from a cub caught in the jungles of India.  I studied tiger myths and found a story of Durga riding her tiger into battle.  The story grew from there.

·        How many books will be in the series? Do you have them outlined or are you a seat-of-the-pants writer?
There will be five books in the Tiger’s Curse Series and maybe one spin-off.  The fourth is called Tiger’s Destiny and the fifth is Tiger’s Dream.  I knew from the first how my story was going to end though I left myself open to how I got there.  I like to plan and do rough chapter outlines but I’m always open to adding if inspiration takes me in a new direction.
·         Why did you decide to self-publish Tiger’s Curse?
I was impatient with the slow process of getting published and at the time I just wanted to have an outlet for friends and family to read my series.  I strongly believed in my series and hoped that it would do well enough to eventually attract the attention of a publisher and an agent.  Nothing was going to hold me back once I caught the writing bug.
·         You’ve had an amazing journey from self-published writer to landing on the New York Times bestseller list. Before you acquired an agent and signed with Sterling, you had to negotiate movie rights and foreign sales, a daunting task for anyone. Could you share a bit of that journey with Book Blather readers?
It was a big daunting to try to negotiate without any knowledge of contracts and very little understanding of the publishing world.  China, Thailand, and Korea were the first to contact me after my self-published version of Tiger’s Curse shot into the top twenty on Amazon’s Kindle list. I had my father look over my contracts and a local lawyer but neither of them really knew what publishing contracts should look like.  Still we pressed forward knowing nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Around this time a movie producer contacted me and flew up to Oregon to take me and my husband out to lunch.  We talked about tigers for several hours and I told him my entire story arc.  He made an offer that week.  A short time later I landed an agent who sold the series a few weeks later.  It was scary but very, very exciting.  It was fun bringing my family along for the ride.
·         Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?       
I think it’s very important to write the kind of book you love and have the attitude that writing is the reward.  Everything that happens after that is just icing on the cake.  There is a saying that there are many roads that lead to Rome.  I never believed that self-publishing meant I wasn’t good enough to be on a shelf.  I just looked at it as an opportunity to prove my merit and that when I finally got my book into a publisher’s hands, I’d have a very interesting story to tell.

·         What’s next?   
I have no idea.  It will be very hard to let go of my tigers when the time comes.  In my heart, I’m a storyteller though.  There are many, many stories in my mind waiting to be told.  I’ll just have to figure out which one has the loudest voice.

1 comment:

  1. The following comments are from Jean Denham who can't seem to access the comment box.

    "Wow, congratulations on your fantastic voyage with your first novel, Colleen. I am completely in awe. There are many, many stories in my mind waiting to be told. I’ll just have to figure out which one has the loudest voice.This is a phenomenon that just amazes me. I write cookbooks and often have 3 or 4 going at the same time, and it seems one just takes over. I didn’t know this was common. Thanks, Marilee, for bring Colleen to us to see what ‘can’ happen."