Indie writer calls Hammock Dunes home.
Tina St. John was told after publishing seven historical romance novels with Random House that the genre had dried up, so was there another direction she would like to take? She said she had always wanted to write vampire novels. That suggestion didn’t go so well in the years before Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series: St. John's publisher told her there wasn’t a market for vampire books, either.
But she persisted, and her “Midnight Breed” series hit all the big bestsellers lists around the world under St. John's new pen name, Lara Adrian. She now has more than 4 million copies of her books in print and has since dropped Random House in favor of self-publishing to gain more control of the process — and the profit. She hasn’t looked back.
Adrian and her husband, John, used to visit Florida from New England often, and, when they decided to move here, they looked for a place where there were no recent hurricane strikes.
Soon after they settled in Hammock Dunes full time three years ago, they were greeted with Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma. Go figure.
But they haven’t gone anywhere, and Adrian has continued her successful writing career in view of the beach. She spoke with the Hammock Observer on June 13.
Q: What made you decide to quit your day job in 1995, at age 28, and become a full-time writer?
A: I always wanted to be a writer, but my parents were pretty practical and would not have steered me in that direction. I didn’t know anybody who had ever gotten a book published.
John encouraged me because he had read some of the things that I had played around with. I hadn’t ever finished anything or written a novel. I would write business letters and things like that, so when I told him I wanted to write, he said, “Why don’t you give it a go?”
Naively, I told him, “It’s September. I have three months till the end of the year. I’ll write this book and I’ll start marketing to New York in January.”
Christmas rolled around, and I had three miserable chapters; they were horrible. I said, “This book is never going to sell. I have to start over again.”
And it took me two years and a lot of research, and that was the one that got me published (“Lord of Vengeance,” 1998, with Random House).
I don’t advise people to quit their day job.
Q: What went into the decision to rebrand yourself as Lara Adrian?
A: Since I was starting over, I wanted to come up with a completely different name. S’s are at ankle level in the bookstore, so I decided to pick an A. I wanted to be at eye level, in the first slot. (She laughs.) This is my business, so I look at it from a marketing standpoint. I wanted my name to be short because I wanted it to be larger on the book cover.
Q: Chicago Tribune called your books “addictively readable.” What makes them addictive?
You’d have to ask my readers, but I think it’s the characters — the fact that readers feel that they’re hanging out with friends.
I try to make my plots overarching, so that there’s something going on and something to look forward to in the next book — not a cliffhanger, but a carrot.
Q: What are some of your rules for writing a page-turner?
A: Immersing the reader and making them feel they can see everything that’s going on. Using all of the senses when I write.
And I plot, so a lot is behind the curtain. I’m trying to make sure that I’ve got a hook that brings them from one chapter to another. I’m trying to write seamlessly where they can’t ell that there’s been some machination while they’re reading, but I’m definitely conscious of it when I’m writing.
I try to write books I would want to read. If I’m bored with it, somebody else would be, too.
I feel that whether a writer knows it or not, even if they say they’re writing by the seat of their pants, they’ve plotted it in their heads. Yes, I plot my books, but the magic of discovering the story still happens — it happens while I’m plotting them.
Q: When you announced your forthcoming book, “Break the Day,” a fan posted about the series: “I have read them all multiple times!” How do you feel when see reactions like that?
A: It’s incredibly gratifying, because I spend months with these characters and this story by myself. So hearing readers say they’ve loved it read it multiples times, it’s the ultimate compliment. I’ve had readers get tattoos of the Breedmate mark (a teardrop falling into a cradle of a crescent moon). That was unexpected.
One reader said she and her mother loved my series, and as her mother was dying of cancer, the daughter would read them at her bedside, and that to me is just incredible. I never dreamed my books would touch people like that. I was just telling stories — I didn’t expect it to be woven into somebody’s life, especially at a moment like that. It’s very humbling.
Q: You’ve written 36 titles in 20 years. What is your secret to productivity?
A: (with a laugh) Fear of deadlines.
Q: An Amazon description of your forthcoming novel says this is an HEA story, meaning “happily ever after.” Why do you feel a happy ending is important?
A: A happy ending is essential in a romance novel. That’s what differentiates it from a love story. In a love story, like Nicholas Sparks — he could kill off a main character. That’s never going to happen in romance novel. They’re safe, generally speaking.
However, with the indie revolution, we have a lot of young writers coming up, and they were not necessarily groomed by a New York City publishing house. They are willing to take some risks with their characters and storylines, which is exciting, but I want my readers to know this is a safe place to land. No matter how angst-ridden the path to happily-ever-after it is, they will get there.
I read widely, but when I’m reading a romance novel, I’m reading it for a reason. Maybe I had a bad day, and I need a breath of fresh air, a change of scenery, and I don’t want to get to the end of it and be upset or sad. I want to be able to count on something that day.