“As a writer you must read.”—was one of Romance Novelist’s Sylvia Day’s themes at the California Dreamin’ Writers Conference 2015. Writers hear it all the time from authors. Reading again saved Sylvia’s career.
At twelve her mother handed her the book Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway and said, “Marry a man like this.”
Sylvia took the book and read it late into the night. She wanted to take it to school, but was afraid the teacher would take it from her and she wouldn’t be able to finish it. That’s when she realized she wanted to be a romance novelist.
Years later, she found the book and asked her mom if she remembered it. Her mom took the book and read it. After her mom read it again she couldn’t believe the story. Sylvia reminded her mom that she wanted her to marry a man like that—a man who kidnaps a woman, rapes her and drags her across the desert. It was a story that had everyone laughing at the conference luncheon.
I volunteered to help with Sylvia’s book signing line after the luncheon. But, days before no one had signed up to introduce Sylvia and moderate her workshop titled Chat with Sylvia Day. Since I had already planned to go, I accepted the invitation to fill the job. To date, I’ve had the privilege to hear Sylvia speak three times. The workshops are more intimate. And, when it comes to chats with an author few people attend from my experience. My writing friend couldn’t believe it. But, when I went to Nora Robert’s chat at the RWA Nationals 2012 in Anaheim seats weren’t filled. Although I heard for RWA Nationals 2014 in San Antonio, Nora did get a full house. I think the reason few attend is because they are intimidated. They don’t want to ask questions. Sylvia asks hard questions of the people around her so we should ask the hard questions too.
With only six people in attendance, I asked Sylvia at her chat a question with a caveat, “I don’t mean any disrespect, but I noticed you use passive voice. Do you write in passive voice in all your books?”
With a pause she said she thinks she does. She continued on to say Nora Roberts head-hops. Using passive voice is part of Sylvia’s voice, she explained.
As writers we are told don’t use passive voice and don’t head-hop. One of many things I liked what Sylvia said—“I stopped listening.” She wrote.
Sylvia’s speech at last year’s Nationals was encouraging but stoic. Eight months later she spoke on fire, she is taking control of her life. At the luncheon, she reiterated a telephone conversation she had with her editor, Kate Duffy, like it was yesterday. She called Duffy in New York late one night to tell her she was done being an author.
Duffy said, “Have a glass of wine. Watch a movie.”
Hours later, Duffy called back late into the night from the East Coast to the West Coast. “You weren’t kidding!”
No. Sylvia wasn’t kidding.
Duffy asked if Sylvia read. Read? Who has time? Sixty percent of Sylvia’s work has to do with the business side of being an author.
She took her editors advice of taking two weeks to read. Sylvia fell in love with reading—and writing again.
(Duffy died in 2009. It seems Sylvia has had many years of ferocious writing and minding-the-business after the conversation with her editor. Still searching for balance in her life and career, she moved to Las Vegas a year ago and is working on making her schedule more accommodating for her and her family.)
At the end of the California Dreamin’ Writers Conference fans stood in line for Sylvia to sign books and take a photo. A young woman with her girlfriend of about twenty conveyed to me that she loves the emotions of the characters. She takes Sylvia’s Crossfire Novels with her everywhere and reads them—books with curled up edges.