Posted by Leslie at Jun 2, 2009 6:00 am
We Plotmonkeys are thrilled to welcome Harlequin Enterprises executive editor Marsha Zinberg today! All of us have interacted with Marsha over the years, doing novellas, anthologies and continuity novels, and love working on her “special projects.” So we were super excited that she decided to stop by today during her “Famous Firsts” Blog Tour.
She didn’t come empty-handed…prizes galore await visitors today. Marsha will also be stopping by to chat and answer questions, so please join us in giving her a big jungle welcome.
The Computer Ate My Manuscript!
Talk about radical! Of all the subjects I touched on when chatting with the Harlequin Famous Firsts authors about their reminiscences surrounding the books in this classic collection, the most radical changes were definitely focused on technology â€“ there was a time when writers didnâ€™t use computers.
I can relate! I know I run the danger of sounding pre-historic when I tell you this, but when I began at Harlequin as an assistant editor, the editorial staff did not even have their own typewriters! If we wanted to send a letter to our authors, we walked down the hall to a windowless little room that held three IBM Selectric typewriters, and pounded out our words of wisdom, praise (and sometimes, rejection!) on those machines.
There was also a voice dictation system that we could access by telephone. But when a new editorial director was hired, she insisted that editors be allocated their own typewriters in their own offices, and I remember we all thought we were hitting the big leagues when those typewriters with their cool ball font elements arrived!
Once we hit the 90â€™s, however, there was much noise made about computers. Of course, Harlequin had to offer computer training to all its employees in order to bring us out of the â€œdark agesâ€, but they managed to imbue us with enough computer literacy to ride the technology wave with the rest of the world.
Some of the authors, however, were way ahead of the curve! Joan Johnston, a lawyer before she became a full-time novelist, remembers writing her first books on a legal pad, and then transferring her jottings to a typewriter. Then came the eight-inch floppy disk. Anne Stuart, who seems to have a terrific memory for specifics, recalls that she wrote her first book on a computer in 1984. There was no hard driveâ€”just two floppy disks.
Stella Cameron also remembers jumping quickly to a computer in 1984. She, too, resorted to double floppy disks. Her computer only allowed her to write thirty pages at a time. She was then obliged to close the file and open a new one. And her daisy wheel printer, which rat-tat-tat-tatted like a machine gun, shook the whole house when presenting its product!
Lori Foster told me of her dismay when, as an aspiring writer who had slaved over a typewriter to produce her first manuscript, she was asked to remove â€œ60% of the male point of viewâ€ from her story. Deleting random paragraphs from a typewritten manuscript is no easy task. (And how do you figure out how much is 60%?) Essentially, you start again at page one and retype!
Lori also remarked on how enormously computers have transformed the way in which writers practice their craft. With the Internet, the world is at your feetâ€¦research can be done electronically, and professionals can be consulted instantaneously by e-mail to verify the accuracy of their information or to check facts. And authors are so much more accessible to their readers, through all kinds of electronic social media. My Space, Facebook, Twitterâ€¦all these tools help to build community. And make the authors much more transparent to their audiences.
For many authors, such as Lori, Lindsay McKenna and Vicki Lewis Thompson, who describe themselves as essentially introverts (though Vicki informs me she is an introverted exhibitionist!) the need for authors to be much more highly visible both in person and on the Internet goes against the grain of their essential natures. It impacts both their private lives and their time management methods, as they are instantly exposed to fans, who may wish personal communication, and aspiring writers, who are looking for guidance and help.
Vickiâ€™s notion of becoming the next J.D. Salinger went right out the window. Lucky for us!
Check in with me tomorrow, June 3, at the Blaze Authors blog. Iâ€™ve got lots more to share on the changes these authors have witnessed in themselves, and in you, the readers, since these timeless Famous Firsts romances first appeared!
If you missed the start of this blog series you can find me at the BookBinge.
As a special treat we have provided a nostalgia Harlequin tote bag and some Famous First novels to give away. A random winner will be chosen from everyone who posts today–good luck!
Donâ€™t forget that you can enjoy 16 free Harlequin novels by downloading them at www.HarlequinCelebrates.com. And the Harlequin Cover Art Show in New York runs May 30 â€“ June 12th at the Open House Gallery, New York City (201 Mulberry Street in Soho).
Do you like how accessible technology has made writers because of blogs, twitter, myspace, etc?
PS: Be sure to check out the books in Harlequin’s Famous Firsts collection:
The Matchmakers  by Debbie Macomber
Tears of the Renegade  by Linda Howard
Tangled Lies  by Anne Stuart
Moontide  by Stella Cameron
State Secrets  by Linda Lael Miller
Uneasy Alliance  by Jayne Ann Krentz
Night Moves  by Heather Graham
Impetuous  by Lori Foster
The Cowboy and the Lady  by Diana Palmer (available in September 2009)
Fit to be Tied  by Joan Johnston (available in September 2009)
Captivated  by Carla Neggers (available in September 2009)
Bronze Mystique  by Barbara Delinsky (available in September 2009)
Carly here – when you’re finished with Marsha’s fabulous blog, I’m blogging at Fresh Fiction today so stop by and say hi!