I never dreamed that I would publish a book on Amazon. Okay, that's a lie. I totally did. BUT I never imagined people would actually read it. When I put A Brooding Beauty out there it was an enormous learning experience. Through trial and error I learned about the self publishing industry. I learned what worked, and what didn't. After four hours of cursing and throwing things and shrieking at my computer I figured out how to load an actual picture onto the zip file that would be my next book. I realized that book bloggers are just about the nicest people in the world, and many will bend over backwards to help an author, whether that means writing a glowing review because they loved your work or writing an honest negative one because they didn't. Either way the fact that they actually replied to my e-mail, waited patiently for me to send them a copy of my book, took the time to read it, critique it, post it on their blog, Goodreads, Amazon... Their generosity and dedication continues to baffle my mind.
Then I decided I wasn't done with A Brooding Beauty. I wanted to tell Margaret's story as well, then Josephine's, and finally Grace's. A Ravishing Redhead was by far the easiest in the quartet to write. Margaret feisty personality poured out of my mind onto the screen (I would say page, but let's not kid ourselves -- I'm not writing with a fountain pen here). I was convinced I would be applauded the world over for my beautiful masterpiece... And when I wasn't - when people gave it one stars and two stars and said they didn't always feel the chemistry - I sat back on my heels, tapped my chin, and said "Hmmm... People aren't going to like you all the time, Jillian. You can either cry about it, or you can go on with getting on."
I decided to choose the latter, and after a two week break I started A Lascivious Lady.
Had I chosen to write A Lascivious Lady after A Brooding Beauty it would have been, I believe, a far different story. I would have tried too hard to please the readers, instead of staying true to my characters. Some people have already chosen not to read ALL because the story line strongly revolves around cheating. I strongly respect that, and while I wish they would give it a chance, I can't say in all honesty say that I wouldn't do the same. But in the end I had to write what felt right, and the Josephine I had portrayed in the previous two novellas HAD to be the Josephine that showed up in her own novella. It made this the hardest (and the most frustrating) romance to write so far. But in the end... In the end I feel as though of all the couples, Josephine & Traverson have the strongest bond. Had I written with readers and critics in mind instead of THEM, I don't know if that would have happened.
Long, rambling story short: write for your characters, not for your readers. That, more than anything else, has been the biggest lesson I have learned so far.
That being said, I am really feeling the pressure for A Gentle Grace. And, confession: I'm stuck on chapter one. With release date scheduled in December, panic is beginning to claw its way under my skin every time I so much as GLANCE at my computer... But I know I can't force it. And I know I have to forget what people are expecting, and forge ahead with the story. Never mind that this will be the final installment in the Wedded Women Quartet and if this novella sucks that's all anyone will remember. Never mind that (spoiler if you haven't read A Lascivious Lady!) Lord Melbourne has taken off for parts unknown, leaving poor Grace alone and heartbroken. Never mind that the last book in a series is supposed to be the best... And funny, clumsy Grace is definitely owed her happily ever after.
I'm going to give myself one more week, and then I'll start seriously plugging away. If it's trash, then it's trash -- but at least I'll have something. I know that I'm stuck in a rut partly because of some recent developments in my life, and the fact that Grace's story is starting off with her fiancee running away isn't exactly helping my writing confidence (something all writers need to have). But I'm hoping with a little time and a little distance from my real life the light switch with flip on, and I'll start pecking away... All in time to meet my deadline, and finish the quartet with the story it deserves.