Marie interviews author C.D. Reiss!
I’m thrilled to welcome CD Reiss to the blog today! She is the writer of erotic romance and erotic suspense, and her books are fantastic. Last week, after twenty years of hard work, CD, aka Christine, hit the New York Times bestseller list for the first time with her book, Marriage Games. As a fan of her books, I asked her to come by to talk to us about her journey and the book that made her a NYT bestseller.
Marie: HUGE CONGRATS on your first time on the New York Times list with Marriage Games! I have this one on my Kindle, and can’t wait to read it. One thing I didn’t know is that you’ve been at this author gig for twenty years! Holy cow! Can you tell us about your author journey and how it felt to make the NYT for the first time the same day your Cubs (and my husband’s) won the World Series? (LOL)
CDR: Actually, I need to clear something up right now. I am for the Mets and the Dodgers. My husband is the Cubs. I watched them and the Mets battle for second to last place most of my childhood. I feel like I have an affinity for them.
My friends and I are pretty sure that the sky is broken. My New York Times curse and the Cubs curse were both shattered in one day. I can’t imagine what’s next.
I started writing in 1992. I could not get arrested. I sent hundreds of queries and only got a few requests. Every agent turned me down. I got rejected for screenwriting school. I wrote more books. I got rejected more. I eventually went to screenwriting school at USC where I got my Masters in 2003. Then I had my son and couldn’t get a meeting to save my life so I went back into the workforce.
So, more writing. More rejection. Screenplays. Books. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
I’m trying to keep this short, but it is an awfully long time to cover.
I transformed one of my screenplays into a novel and uploaded it through Amazon KDP in 2010. The book is terrible, but I learned the ropes. I wrote three mysteries that did moderately well.
I wrote Beg in December 2012 because a friend said that if I wrote something really super sexy, short, serialized, and charged 299 for it, I could make the mortgage.
It was so much fun that I kept doing it. And now, here we are!
Marie: My apologies about getting the teams wrong. I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan who was rooting hard for my husband’s Cubs last night. Such an amazing game and win for them.
Your story sounds a lot like mine, except I started in 2002 and couldn’t get arrested for years. No question you’ve learned a lot about the business and writing since you first started out. What would you say is the one thing that you think has made the biggest difference in getting you to where you are today and what was it about this new book that helped you break through to the NY Times list?
CDR: I spend money. I advertise and do giveaways. I have a budget for each release and for Marriage Games I put aside money in a savings account every month so I could advertise.
For me, every book is different. I have little books that I don’t expect to reach a lot of new readers and I have big tentpole books. The tentpole books don’t come every day, but Marriage Games was one from the very start. Whenever I pitched it I started with the title and people’s expressions opened up. And then I told the story and every single person who heard it put their hand to their heart at the end. I knew I was onto something. The blurb wrote itself, and after that, with everything working so well, I decided this was the book where I could really stretch myself on the page. I told part of the story backward. Some chapters are poems. I put in pictures of a Manet.
So what made a difference? Certainly not my literary pretensions, which probably held it back more than anything. Probably the blurb, cover and title. I don’t get it that right every time. It’s not easy! and it’s not a formula. but I got lucky and knowing I was lucky, I put everything behind it.
Do you find some books are bigger than others? And when do you know it?
Marie: Yes, for sure. Some just take on a life of their own, usually when I’m writing something all new vs. tending to one of my ongoing series that tend to be a little more confining. You have to operate within the existing parameters whereas with something all new, you can go wild! I love that.
I talk to so many authors who are frustrated by their inability to break out of the pack and get “there” (wherever “there” is). One of the few drawbacks to indie publishing is that new authors can publish their work right now vs. having to go through what you and I did before we were published. Along with that right now ability to publish is the desire to see instantaneous success. There’s a lot of frustration when people write ten or twelve or even twenty books without breaking out.
I’d love to know what kept you going for all the years when it seemed like you might be spinning your wheels and what advice you’d have for authors starting out in today’s environment.
CDR: And then there ARE people who hit with their first book, or their fifth. And that’s its own issue because it can feel like a norm, and it’s not. It’s not even the norm for that author, who doesn’t have a norm yet. So later on, it can be hard to cope with a sales drop or an enormous change in the market. Which is…you know…every six months.
I have no idea what kept me going all those years. I don’t like being told what I can and cannot do. If I wanted to write I was going to write. Screw everybody. I also didn’t have any other outlet for my creativity, so I didn’t have much choice.
So, I don’t have a good answer. Or a trick. Or even a strategy. I’m not good at quitting. The only thing I’ve ever quit is smoking.
Marie: I think the first book sensations are so rare, but they set an unreasonable expectation for new authors. I’m constantly telling them to write more books and zone out the noise that surrounds us in this business. I love your never quit mentality. I couldn’t agree more. LOL on quitting smoking—me too. We’ll give ourselves a pass on that one!
Marriage Games is a two-part story. When is part two out, and what’s next for you after that?
CDR: Part two is out Jan 3rd.
This wasn’t the best strategy for getting them out to bookstores in time. Summer would have been better to get it into the catalogs etc, but readers today want book two ASAP, so it was the soonest I could do.
After that – I’m releasing my first book with Montlake (Bombshell), doing another Kindle Worlds release. Writing my 1001 Nights novella. Giving Margie Drazen a follow up finale to Secret Sins. And then…..? I don’t know. Maybe another Games novel with a different couple.
Marie: We both write erotic romance, which means you probably hear some of the same stuff I do from both readers and personal friends/family. What are some of the crazier things people have said to you about what you write? I love to remind people that I haven’t actually done everything my characters have. I also write romantic suspense/murder mysteries and love to tell them I haven’t committed a murder—yet. 🙂
CDR: You know what’s funny?
I haven’t heard boo from anyone about it. Not even my pastor. He thinks it’s awesome. Maybe partly because I do a fundraiser signing at our church.
My mother, who is pretty conservative, didn’t give me a problem either. I told her not to read my books and she said, “Why? You’re afraid I’ll think you’re a grown up with thoughts in your head?”
Also, I have a thick Brooklyn accent that scares people.
Marie: Ha! That’s funny! It’s probably the accent that intimidates them. Thank you so much for hanging out with us and for sharing your story. It’s great to have the chance to get to know you better! I’m looking forward to reading Marriage Games!
CD: Thank you for the opportunity!
CD Reiss is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up, she’s at the well, hauling buckets.
Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere, but it did give her a big enough ego to try her hand at books.
She’s been nicknamed the “Shakespeare of Smut,” which is flattering enough for her to put it in a bio, but embarrassing enough for her not to tell her husband, or he might think she’s some sort of braggart who’s too good to chop a cord of wood.
If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.
Read Marriage Games here: