An Interview with Maisey Yates
USA TODAY Bestselling author, Maisey Yates, and I sold within months of each other. In fact, we were both plucked from the slush pile by the same editor. Now I could be bitter and jealous over the fact that in the same amount of time, Maisey has managed to not only write twice as many Harlequin novels as I have but sell two single title series and make the USA TODAY list, or I could study her work habits and learn from her success. I’ve decided to learn. I emailed her the other day to talk abut how she managed to write and/or sell 26 novels in the same time it took me to write 12. Here are her answers. I cannot thank her enough for her candor and honesty.
Oh, by the way, did I mention she also has three small children? And that she’s not yet thirty? Yeah, she’s pretty impressive.
1. How do you structure your writing day? Do you set a daily word count? Page count? Work hours?
It really depends on the book, and what kind of timeline I’m working on. Officially, right now I’m working five days a week, from 9-5, but that’s ideal and often not how things really work! (Interruptions, school events, etc) so when the time schedule is wonky I work off of word count. And the word count target is dependent on when I need the book finished. I already have a fair idea of what I’ll be working on for the next year and a half, and that means I plan things, and make schedules and make sure I’m working at the right pace to meet those deadlines. I don’t believe in doing the last minute cram.
2. How do you balance the above with all the business end of writing? The promo, the websites, the social media. Okay, seriously – how do you manage to spend so much time on social media and get work done? (Those who don’t know Maisey, she is a Twitter fixture – Twixture?)
I only do what I like. Seriously. I like twitter, so I play on it a lot. I sort of like Facebook so I use it too. I LOVE pinterest so I play on it a lot. I don’t do much else. I blog when people ask for blogs from me, but ultimately it’s not my favorite thing, so I don’t pursue it very heavily. I think twitter can be rough on my productivity sometimes, but when I have a hard overriding word count goal, I WILL get it done in spite of the general faffing, because I’m stubborn and competitive with myself. See point number one about schedules. I KNOW what I have to do, and I also know that I’m the only one who will suffer if I don’t get it done. So I get it done!
3. How do you balance home life/work life. You have small kids. I know you don’t want to work all the time.
As I mentioned above, I’m sort of on a ‘normal’ work schedule. I balance it the way any working parent does, I think. Also the writing stuff really comes in waves. I DO have to work, but my job is also flexible and it enables me to go to school plays in the middle of the day with minimal fuss, and it also means we can take random vacations as a family (we just did Disneyland, and it was great!)
4. What kind of negotiations did you have to make with your husband so he is supportive yet not feeling like you’re “writing all the time”. Was this even an issue? I ask in all honesty because I believe there has been an attitude shift between men my husband’s age (50) and men your husband’s age.
My husband and I have a unique set of circumstances in that, for the entirely of our marriage he had been working jobs just to try and keep our heads above water. He didn’t have a career with great benefits, or even work he loved. He’s always been very supportive, and from the first book I sold, my income was vital to our survival (since prior to it, what we were doing was sinking beneath the poverty waves). That said, I think it’s made it very easy to be supportive since what my career provides IS so tangible.
That being said…this is where the work hours come in. I implemented those for few reasons: 1. So that when I told people I was working and couldn’t go out, it felt more concrete. Giving myself work hours made it feel more real to ME. 2. So that I wouldn’t feel like I SHOULD be writing when I could really just be done for the day. Giving myself permission to clock out has been great! 3. So I will write when I should rather than procrastinating half the day.
5. Do you worry about burn out?
Sometimes when I REALLY hate a book I’m working on, I do. (It’s rare, but in November I wrote a book that I just didn’t like. When I read it back in edits, I DID like it, but while I was writing it I just HATED it, and it scared me!) But I’m a pragmatist, and I look at it this way: It’s my job, and I’ve never, ever, no matter how much I liked a job enjoyed every day of it. I don’t HAVE to like it every day, and I think sometimes we feel like we should because it’s a dream and it’s something we do LOVE. But like family, yeah, we don’t always like it. 😉
Sure, I prefer to love what I’m doing and feel like it’s all happy fun times, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s clocking in for a day of work, and that’s okay too. Because the bottom line is, this is what I want to do with my life, and it’s the best way I can provide for my family, and even when I hate it, I love it.
In terms of taking steps to prevent burn out I really just try to monitor my moods. I find it’s often not writing that gives me career fatigue. It’s social media, it’s reading too many blogs, or too many loop emails. I think the key to warding off burnout is to guard your joy at all costs, and destroy enemies of your joy with extreme prejudice.
This is something I’ve talked about in workshops. If things don’t add more than they take from you, I don’t care how valuable the thing is supposed to be, it’s not valuable to you. At least not valuable enough to offset the cost to your mental and emotional well being.
I think it’s important to note that in addition to being incredibly prolific, Maisey writes incredibly emotional and complex novels. Her Harlequin Presents are frequently lauded for their tortured heroes and emotionally gripping conflict. Her latest book, UNTOUCHED, is a part of her Silver Creek Series from Berkley Sensations, a division of Penguin Publishing. You can read an excerpt of UNTOUCHED (as well as excerpts from her other titles) at www.maiseyyates.com.