Kindle Author Interview: Marsha Canham

Marsha Canham, author of The Wind and the Sea, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Wind and the Sea?

MARSHA CANHAM: The Wind and the Sea was the first book that I wrote because of the title. I had read a passage in a magazine or article somewhere about "...the wind and the sea..." and I stopped and re-read it, got a tingle at the back of my neck and thought: what a great title for a book. It evoked thoughts of tall ships and canvas sails, huge booming battles at sea, pirates and naval officers clashing, and of course a steamy romance happening amidst all the chaos. It was also the first book I wrote where the female lead is not the sweet, soft, compliant character pretty much expected in romance novels. There was no false bravado, no pretending to be something she wasn't. Courtney Farrow is raised by pirates, knows how to load and fire a cannon, is not afraid to slit a throat or plot escapes, and certainly is not someone easily won over by a handsome face or feigned charm.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

MARSHA CANHAM: I set them up much like I would cast a movie. In fact, that's how I *see* the scenes that I write. I've been known to model characters after friends and relatives and as it happens, the character of Davey Dunn, in The Wind and the Sea, is an homage to a very good, feisty, short, bearded friend *s*

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

MARSHA CANHAM: My ideal reader is anyone who reads my books *g*. But I would like to think it is someone wanting more than just a standard boy meets girl in a London townhouse where they wear interesting clothes and argue over forced marriages. I use real events in history and try to make it an integral part of the plot not just a backdrop for the story. I have been accused of writing too vividly and violently for a romance, but battles at sea were bloody and violent. And I refuse to make the captain of a pirate ship the type who vows to "win her over with my charm". So, if there are readers wanting action and adventure, a little mayhem and murder, and books that are throwbacks to good old fashioned swashbucklers, then they would enjoy The Wind and the Sea.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

MARSHA CANHAM: It began on a dare. I was a stay at home mom and was looking for something to keep me away from the lure of daytime soaps. One of my neighbors read Harlequin romances voraciously and challenged me to try my hand at it. My first effort, naturally, went against all the rules and guidelines so kindly supplied by Harlequin, in that I had drug lords and murder and more than just a chaste kiss at the end of the book (which was as racy as they got 30 years ago). The editor was so shocked she actually called me instead of just sending a standard rejection letter. She suggested I look into writing historical romances and that, as they say, was the beginning of everything. I wrote three manuscripts before the fourth, China Rose, was accepted, and since then have had 16 more published in print, many of which have won awards and mostly five star reviews.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

MARSHA CANHAM: I am a dinosaur. I started writing back when computers were the size of small office buildings. It was my dad, in fact, who brought an old clunky Underwood typewriter home from work for me, with extra ribbons and bottles of whiteout. I wrote everything in longhand first...and still do, today. Some books start with an idea or some obscure mention of something that happened in history, and a scene will take shape in my mind. Might be at the start of the story or the middle, or the end, and may not even show up in the final draft, but it is the catalyst that gets the ideas stirring around in my head. I have never worked from an outline, never actually written one for any reason other than meeting the obligations of a contract. I prefer to write by the seat of my pants, so to speak, thinking that if I know what is going to happen ahead of time, the reader will know as well, but if a sudden twist comes to me and I work it into the story in a way that sends me off on another path, then the reader will be just as surprised to follow me.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

MARSHA CANHAM: I remember getting extra points in English class back in Grade 8 for reading Gone With the Wind, and War and Peace. I was always a voracious reader and I think that's what I missed most about becoming a writer. Research texts and history books began to my bookshelves, and time for personal reading became very limited. Plus, I stopped, early on in my career, reading other historical romances because I didn't want to be influenced by any plots or characters or settings. So I went from reading a hundred romances a year to reading maybe two or three. My focus changed to crime and thrillers and *blockbuster* historical books. I read Clive Cussler and Robert Ludlum, Wilbur Smith and James Clavell, Leon Uris and more recently Michael Connelly to name just a few favorites.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

MARSHA CANHAM: Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis. It's my feel good book, one that still makes me laugh out loud regardless how many times I've read it.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

MARSHA CANHAM: Well...all of this new technology is baffling to us dinosaurs. I even resisted buying a computer until the mid 90s, so getting my head around Facebook was a major accomplishment last year. Tweets and Twitters are still foreign objects as are Hoots and Stumbles and whatever else lurks out there in the cyberworld. I have had The Wind and the Sea featured on Kindle Nation Daily, and had Kindle banner put on the Kindleboards chat forum for a day. I've also ventured bravely forth on the Book Lovin' Bitches Ebook Tour which posted 15 blogs in one day, all of which I tried to make different and interesting. I do have a blog, and I sometimes write about the pitfalls and tribulations of writing. I participate on the Kindleboards forums with other indie writers, trying to learn as much as I can about this brave new world of self publishing.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

MARSHA CANHAM: Over the past 25 years, as I mentioned, I have had 17 books traditionally published. There was always a "huh" factor involved in the rather strange world of being a writer. The glittery, public side of the profession has always been glamorized and the drawbacks sort of hidden away where no one saw them until they signed that first contract and had the lights turned on. What other employer pays twice a year? What other employer holds back earnings *in case* the product is returned? What other employer makes a grand gesture of offering a huge advance for a product, but doles that advance out in so many smaller payments, with conditions attached every step of the way, so that it takes two and three years sometimes for the full amount to be paid out? I often wondered if the president of a publishing house, or a marketing manager, or even an editor would settle for two paychecks a year. Or receiving a royalty statement that requires one to stand on their head, spin real fast and go cross-eyed to try to read and interpret? What other company sends a product out with the full knowledge it will only stay on the shelf for perhaps three weeks, after which some stockboy will tear the cover off and send it back for a credit against future shipments? And the fate of all of those stripped books and the forests destroyed to print them? Shredded. Destroyed.

But back to the question, why do I publish on Kindle?

I could say it's because I tried for years to have my out of print backlist books reissued, but kept hearing the same answer: They're old stories, swashbucklers are out of favor, no one wants to read books that had few readers the first time around.

Hmphf. No one's first book, with rare exceptions, sells well. Both China Rose and Bound by the Heart were part of the launch of Avon's Ribbon Romance series, which featured two new books by new authors each month. Virginia Henley and I had the pleasure of starting our careers through the Ribbon Romances, but both of our early books had a month of shelf life then vanished to make room for the next two authors the following month.

The Wind and the Sea had the misfortune to be published by a company that went bankrupt and all of their books vanished off the shelves never to be seen again. Swept Away was the unwitting victim of a different anomaly...two books published the same month with the same title, written by authors whose names fell side by side on the book shelves. Candace Camp had a longer track record and cover that said: steamy romance, whereas my book was packaged in an orange and tourquoise rendition of a modern travel brochure. My loyal readers found me, but that was about it *s* and within a year I was informed it was officially out of print.

Fast forward 15 years and, with fellow author Julie Ortolon's prodding (and invaluable help) I was introduced to the brave new world of self publishing. The explosion of e-readers like the Kindle and iPad, the Nook and Sony, there was a vast new readership searching for the older books that were no longer available from publishers or used book stores. Learning how to format, how to design new covers, how to upload to Amazon and Smashwords took a little time for a dinosaur like myself, but the result is new life for my four backlist books, and a renewed interest in writing again. I am working on a new book that will go straight to digital.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

MARSHA CANHAM: Don't cut corners. Don't think that just because you believe you have written the next explosive best seller that your writing doesn't need to be edited by a professional, that there is no room for improvement, tightening, editing. I've read books by traditionally published authors that could use a heavier hand with editing, so no author should get into that complacent place where they think they are immune to improvement *s*.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Marsha Canham writes, "Author of 16 Historical Romances and one contemp, my first book, China Rose, was published in 1984. Since then my historical romances have consistently appear on the USA Today list. I have been honored to be the recipient of multiple awards from Romantic Times, including 2 Lifetime Achievement awards, Storyteller of the Year, Medieval of the Year, Swashbuckler of the Year, as well as having been awarded one of a very few five star reviews handed out by Kathe Robin for The Blood of Roses. The Iron Rose was also named as one of the seven best Fiction books of the year by Publishers Weekly."

Visit her website, read her blog, find her on facebook, and follow her on twitter.

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