Theresa Ragan is the epitome of the rags to riches story. After struggling as a writer for 20 years she decided to self-publish her first book with Amazon back in 2011 and went on to sell over a half a million copies in less than two years. She finally signed a publishing contract with Thomas and Mercer in 2012 and has gone on to become a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author. She's an inspiration to every writer who dreams of that type of breakthrough success and was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to play 5 questions with me.1- You began your career writing romance. Tell us the difference between that and writing thrillers?
For me, a great book equals great characters. Make me care about the characters and I’ll follow them anywhere. Whether I’m writing a romance or a thriller, the characters are the most important element. With that said, there are big differences when it comes to writing a romance vs. a thriller.
When I write romance, my focus is on the internal conflict—how can the professor deal with his love for his student? How will my heroine explain to the new man in her life that her father is the one responsible for ruining his company?
When I write a thriller, my focus turns to the external conflict—who is causing the chaos in my story and why? How is my protagonist going to find the killer? She has little time for self-doubt and internal monologue if she plans to find the killer before he finds her.
2- Understandably you use T.R. Ragan for your Lizzy Gardner series. Do you ever hear from readers who like your romance novels, but don't like the Lizzy Gardner books simply because they don't like thrillers?
I plan to use T.R. Ragan for all of my thrillers, not just the Lizzy Gardner series. I use Theresa Ragan for everything else. Readers are smart. They figured out the difference between the pen names all by themselves and nobody has complained.
3- Do you have a preference of genre, or do you like to switch it up?
After writing for twenty years, and more than a dozen novels later, I wrote my first thriller out of pure frustration with the industry. I had finaled six times in RWA’s Golden Heart, signed with two agents, and worked with a couple of NY editors, but nobody wanted to give me a chance. It was time to kill off a few characters. Even before my Lizzy Gardner series took off, I knew I had found my niche. I love writing thrillers and that’s what I plan to write for the next few years.
4- You've had unbelievable success as an Indie author. How did your relationship with Thomas and Mercer develop, and have they raised your profile more than you could have done on your own?
Although I sold thousands of romance novels prior to releasing my first thriller, Abducted, I was approached by two NY publishers and Thomas & Mercer after Abducted hit #5 for a second time. Abducted had never been submitted to any publishing house prior to being released as a self-published book. I went with T&M because, in my opinion, they are king when it comes to ebooks, innovation, and thinking outside of the box. I think we make a good team. And, yes, I believe they have helped me find readers that I wouldn’t have been able to reach on my own. Thomas & Mercer did that with email blasts, kindle daily deals, and by mentioning my name in their newsletter and Jeff Bezo’s letter to shareholders—and that’s just a few things they have done to promote me and my books.
5- What is the publishing world going to look like in 5 years? The Big 3 and a bunch of small boutique houses?
Gosh. Who knows? More and more authors are starting their own publishing houses. They are offering great covers, editing and decent royalties. The changes we’ve seen in publishing have only just begun! Great copyediting and developmental editors will be easier to find--maybe with a mere click of a button. Another click of a button will make it possible for writers to get their books translated in other languages. The only thing that will not change and the only thing that matters, though, is great storytelling. That’s what readers care about. That’s what reader’s want and that’s the only thing writers need to worry about--writing a great book!