I’ve made no secret about loving Deanna Raybourn’s books and when I heard she was coming to Albuquerque to give a workshop for the LERA members in early November, I admit I was disappointed because I couldn’t afford the fee to attend the workshop. Then I noticed a local bookstore had her lined up for a book signing and score! I had reservations about taking all seven of her books to get signed, but another author said it would be okay.
When I walked into Page 1, I was hauling all seven books in my Penguin tote (yup, the one I was given when the truck stopped) and one employee eyed me suspiciously. I bet they thought I was going to sell some books, but when I mentioned the book signing they let me in. In the book signing area, Deanna Raybourn was already there and I was in awe! Truly I was. And as more people made their way to the signing, I noticed many with one or two books and felt strange with my set and even contemplated leaving. In the end, I stayed and had a lot of fun. I even waited for most people to get their copies signed before asking if she’d sign all seven of mine which she promptly agreed. I never take a picture with an author, but she asked if I wanted one and I couldn’t say no.
She gave us a bit of background: went to university that had a tiny history department where she took classes in Africa to present. Said she knew she could be a writer when she read Jane Eyre and thought she could write it. I’m doing the wrap up in a bullet point style.
• Spent 14 years writing and the first manuscript she completed and submitted was rejected but an editor liked it.
• Believes that an author should write what they love NOT what they think will sell.
• Has been with agent for 16 years. Agent suggested she stop writing for a year so she could figure out who she was and to focus on reading.
• All books read during the writing hiatus were historical, British, and mysteries with a love interest.
• One book she read during the hiatus was about poison in 16th century France and a husband who poisoned his wives. That prompted an idea for what would become Silent in the Grave.
• Silent in the Grave started off set in 1816 and wrote about fifty pages when she realized it was off. Took a year off to research Victorian England from there spent 2 years researching and writing.
• After Silent in the Grave was complete, spent 2 years receiving rejections until an editor at Harlequin MIRA read it and thought it wasn’t a mystery but historical fiction and took it to the historical fiction editor.
• Raybourn never wanted to tied to a contract and write because of one.
• First drafts use to be 35,000 words and now anywhere from 80-90,000 words.
• Not sure if there will be another Lady Julia Grey book, but the proposal for the next book (the one that would follow The Dark Enquiry) has been written and submitted.. Does know there will be 2 additional novellas and then the 4 novellas will be printed as a book.
• Books read during her year off included Agatha Christie.
• When asked if she does any genealogy she said no, but her parents do. Said once you find one ancestor and can attach them to your family tree often times another person has already done the research about them.
• Fun fact regarding her husband: she used him to get into Brisbane’s head because she had a difficult time getting Brisbane to open up. He told her all men want to do is provide and to protect.
• Spear of Summer Grass came about when her editor wanted something other than a Lady Julia Grey novel. When she asked what, she was told to write whatever. From there she made a list of non-fiction books she enjoyed. Spear of Summer Grass is a book that has no mystery to it.
• When asked why a publisher wouldn’t want another Lady Julia Grey novel, Raybourn said she was the one who mentioned to her editor early on that she didn’t want to be forced to write one thing. That’s her fear, to be stuck writing something she didn’t want to. So with the help of her editor, she wrote the first 3 novels then her gothic The Dead Travel Fast then the next 3 Grey novels.
• When she does research she geeks out because she loves doing research.
• For Spear of Summer Grass she bought 55 books in addition to the online research and use of inter-library loan.
• Raybourn says she does research first then writes. One thing she uses is Wikipedia for the sources and from there does her own research. Also looks at children’s books because they provide a lot of basic information.
• When asked if she still does research for books she says it depends on the book.
• The 9 month period a book goes through goes hand in hand with her writing, research, and revisions. So a first draft can take 6-8 weeks and lets it sit for 4 weeks then revises before turning it in. Revisions at times come while writing.
• Always turns in a book on time and doesn’t ask for extensions because she doesn’t want to be that author. Besides she wants to be able to use / ask for one when she really needs it. Once she had a book due and had no power due to a hurricane, but still managed to turn in the book on time.
• Raybourn is a fan of making collages usually 2×3 feet. She attaches photos and stuff she tears up that sets the mood. For Silent in the Grave she had Victorian rooms then added clothes. Will not edit the collage and will set it opposite the computer and it stays there until revisions are done. Her favorite collage to date is Spear of Summer Grass.
• When asked if she writes character descriptions or work on the collage first, Raybourn said collage is last. Doesn’t have looks for characters on the collage because they are very vague to her on what they look like. Did say Louise Brooks was used for Spear.
• Fun fact regarding model on the cover of Spear: Had hair chopped off at the photoshoot. Said model was willing to get it cut.
• When asked if she was a plotter or pantser, she said she was an organizer. Does not like to be constrained.
• Hates writing the synopsis and does it because she gets paid and in the end, it comes close to the actual book blurb.
• Says she tries not to overwrite because if you don’t plan it’s easy to overwrite.
• Mentioned the opening to City of Jasmine is vastly different from the first draft and spent days rewriting it.
• Raybourn said an author has one chance to write a story and there’s more life to writing than spending time on outlines.
Group picture with everyone in attendance. Deanna Raybourn sitting in the middle and a few well known authors were attending including Darynda Jones (who recognized me and said hi!). Can you spot me? Feel free to click on the picture for a bigger size.