SPS-203: Powerful Women: Four Writers, One Billionaire Romance Series – with Lucy Score, Claire Kingsley, Kathryn Nolan & Pippa Grant
Four romance writers. Four books in a billionaire series. Four successful launches. One fruitful collaboration.
- The motivation behind writing female billionaire romance
- Writing romance novels where the heroine is happy with herself
- Creating a strong heroine who is not just a man in a skirt
- Building the shared world of four female billionaires
- Leveraging each other’s newsletter lists and readers to launch successfully
Resources mentioned in this episode:
COURSE: Ads for Authors is now open for a limited time.
WEBINAR: Join Mark for a look at Reader Funnels and how to use that strategy to sell more books.
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Pippa Grant: It’s the biggest high ever to get an email from somebody who says, “I was having a bad day, and I picked up your book and I started laughing.” And I’m like, “That is why I do it,” and it’s been awesome.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello, and welcome. It’s the Self-Publishing Show on a Friday with me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: You’re hooded up like it’s the middle of winter and I’m wearing my retro Star Wars T-shirt.
Mark Dawson: Your shirt is probably warm. My office is not warm.
James Blatch: I have an electrical heater that doesn’t have a thermostat, just goes on or off, and I left it on all weekend.
Mark Dawson: Deliberately, or was that a mistake?
James Blatch: It was a mistake. I was intending to work in the office over the weekend, but I worked in the house because the weather was nasty and I just stayed in the house, and, honestly, this morning it was … I’m surprised things haven’t melted. My LP collection’s in here. It’s just about survived.
Yeah, it’s still boiling now, so I have been wearing just a towel up until this point, but I thought for decency’s sake, for people watching on YouTube, I’ll-
Mark Dawson: A sleeve?
James Blatch: Enough about the sleeve. I had a few emails about the sleeve from curious people. You have to listen to last week to know what that is about.
Look, before we do anything else, I want to welcome our new Patreon supporters. People who have gone to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow, and they have pledged to the podcast as little as a dollar an episode, and you get access to the Self-Publishing Formula University, which is live training and an archive of that live training, as well as lots of other things. So let us welcome Robert M. Kearns from WV in the United States. Where’s WV, Mark?
Mark Dawson: WV, hmm.
James Blatch: I think I know this one, but I’m going to leave you to think. Next one is Amashall Hensley, then James Jenkins, Elizabeth Hurley, Charles Livingston. Oh, sorry, Charles Livingston Eastern I think is his name, it’s a good name. And Andrea Gill, possibly Gill, from AE, US. These are quite difficult this week. I don’t think I know AE.
Mark Dawson: I don’t know either of them.
James Blatch: Well, WV, I think, must be West Virginia.
Mark Dawson: Oh, yes. Yes, well done, yeah. AE, hmm.
James Blatch: AE. Is there a state called Aesop?
Mark Dawson: I don’t know. That’s a weird one. I’ll have to check.
James Blatch: Everyone’s shouting. And people email us like a week later saying, “I know where AE is,” we’ve probably looked it up by then.
Mark Dawson: Keep talking.
James Blatch: You’re looking it up now. I’m going to keep talking, okay. So this the Self-Publishing Show.
In a moment, we are going to talk about some changes to some of the material that we put out there into the wilderness, some of the stuff that’s … A lot of it’s for free, like this podcast and a lot of the stuff Tom does. It is, AE?
Mark Dawson: You should know this.
James Blatch: Have I been there?
Mark Dawson: Armed Forces Europe.
James Blatch: Oh, yes. I think that’s come up before. Armed Forces Europe. We should salute Andrea Gill. Good.
Well, look, thank you very much indeed for pledging for the show. It means a lot to us. We’ve had a lot of interest in the podcast recently, have we not? Some behind the scenes interest as well. We’re having a little mull about. But I think going to 20Books showed us that this show is definitely something that people enjoy and value, which is great because that’s what we try and do.
Mark Dawson: Who would have thought that?
James Blatch: Who would have thought that 202 episodes ago?
Mark Dawson: I wouldn’t have thought that people would be enjoying or valuing anything we did, but there we go, just goes to show I’m wrong sometimes.
James Blatch: I think the male pleasure sleeve has left an indelible mark on the history of self-publishing. Good. We are in the middle of it at the moment.
We’ve recently updated some of the course material, so Mark and I have been busy, heads down. So Amazon Ads platform, which has changed and seems to … I’m going to touch wood as I say this, Mark, seems to have settled down a little bit now after quite a lot of changes this year.
Mark Dawson: That reminds me.
James Blatch: Oh, no, don’t.
Mark Dawson: I don’t want to worry you, but I logged in this morning and it was just the same as it was yesterday.
James Blatch: Ah. You’re trying to send me over the edge. Where’s my fan? It’s so hot in here already. Yeah, so the Amazon Ads platform has settled down and the situation at the moment is that you have three territories to choose from, .com, largely the US, the .de site, which is Germany, .co.uk obviously is the UK.
For those latter to, you get a choice of one type of campaign, which is basically the keywords. It’s now called Sponsored Product ad, but it’s driven on keywords. Either you opt out and they can do the keywords for you automatically or you put them in yourself. And a .com site, you also get the additional option of the lock screen ads.
Now, I think I said in the intro that, so far, we have not had people falling over themselves to tell us the lock screen has been the be all and end all for ads for them. In fact, we haven’t had a lot of people saying it’s worked for them, although there have been some exceptions.
How about you, MD, have you had success with lock screen ads?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I have. Yeah, with AMG is mostly lock screen, so yes, but this is a massive scale, so 100 million impressions this year I think it was, something like that, so you can’t really do that with AMS.
James Blatch: No. AMG, we should say, is the advertising campaign that reaches parts other advertising campaigns can’t reach, but only if you give Amazon $50,000.
Mark Dawson: A lot of money. Not as much as that, but it is, yeah, I think, yeah, minimum is around 30 grand a month, so it is exceptionally expensive.
James Blatch: It is. Not for the likes of you and me.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: I mean, not for the likes of me.
Mark Dawson: It’s expensive for me too.
James Blatch: Yeah. And Facebook Ads, which is a platform that’s also undergone a bit of a change, and I fear a little bit more is coming along because they’ve set up the Business Manager and if I was a betting man, I’d say that in the not too distant future you’ll have to have a Business Manager account, and that will be the place where you’ll hold your other accounts. Might be wrong, maybe they’ll stay as it is.
Mark Dawson: That’s not such a big change. I’m happy if they do that, it’s if they start jigging around with the actual interface is when we get problems.
James Blatch: Yes, it is indeed. Caught a lot of attention. We’ve got an election on in the UK at the moment, so quite a lot of attention on social media advertising because the political parties obviously are using the platform as best they can. We’re hearing stories that parties are having their ads turned down.
I think it’s Twitter have said they’re not going to run political ads, is that right?
Mark Dawson: That’s right, yeah.
James Blatch: Although, I saw one this morning from one of the major parties.
Mark Dawson: Right.
James Blatch: It looked like it was sponsored. I should have screen grabbed it, actually. But, yeah, all that’s going on, and I don’t know how you feel about these discussions. It’s a bit like being in the Harry Potter world, where we’re wizards and everybody else is muggles.
When muggles on the radio start talking about social media advertising, they usually don’t have a clue what they’re talking about and you hear all sorts of things bandied around, most commonly, a massive credibility is given to the ads in their power to change people’s minds. So as soon as an ad’s run, people who don’t like the party or whatever seem to think that that’s been responsible there and then for any kind of election result. Our experience of running ads is that the conversions are profitable, but still small in the great scheme of things.
Mark Dawson: Well, remember, we’re tracking conversions, so that’s easy for us to do that, while those ads aren’t intended to track conversions, they’re intended to slowly shift opinion, and I think it is an issue whereby you can target people so precisely, target segments of the electorate that you need to switch and not waste your money on billboard ads that go to everyone.
There’s all kinds of interesting things like that. I got a Facebook ad yesterday for the Salisbury Liberal Democrats, and it was actually pretty good. It was the candidate walking in Salisbury, in the market square. A very well produced video talking about climate change. It was quite effective.
And I wonder if it had been targeted correctly because all of the comments I saw, unless they’re monitoring the comments and filtering them, all of the comments were supportive, and I would have expected that kind of ad to, you know-
James Blatch: Well, maybe they are cutting the negative comments.
Mark Dawson: They probably are, yeah. I mean, there were a few. I had some fun engaging with a couple of trolls, which is always … I was bored yesterday, so it’s always quite entertaining to-
James Blatch: Never feed the trolls, Mark.
Mark Dawson: I know, I know. But, anyway, tempting.
James Blatch: What was the Lib Dems’ pledge? Was it to have the atmosphere of Salisbury with much less polonium 232 and zirconium?
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: What was the other one? I can’t remember the nerve gas, nerve agent.
Mark Dawson: Novichok.
James Blatch: Novichok. Much less of that in their future, in your future.
Mark Dawson: We’re certainly up for that, yes.
James Blatch: Vote for us. Okay, good. Well, our election comes to a head on December the 12th, and just as we finish ours, the Americans will start their election cycle for next year, so we tend to try and keep clear of politics. Nobody’s interested in our views, which aren’t the same by the way. People think that this show is all one way. It definitely is not. We have a broad church in the SPF.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Enough said. Okay, right, let’s talk a little bit more about Ads for Authors.
So the work we’ve been doing is recently on Facebook Ads for authors and Amazon Ads for authors, make sure they’re band up to date, and they’re effective and they’re working, and we’re showing people how to get the juice out of those platforms.
But we are now moving into next phase, which will be, we think, some offerings to take people onto the next level, so the higher level authors, people with books out, probably already advertising. So you’ve been working on an advanced Facebook course. We’ve also talking at this stage about advanced Amazon Ads course. And I notice that you’re putting stuff together. So at the moment you’re doing a sort of reader funnel session and that module. Is there more to come on that front, and what’s the reason behind that?
Mark Dawson: What’s the reason behind what?
James Blatch: Why have you chose the reader funnel as a module for the advanced Facebook course?
Mark Dawson: Well, I’ve got to start somewhere, and I thought I’d give you a nice easy one to start with.
James Blatch: Oh, I see. That was for me? Oh, okay.
Mark Dawson: Well, it’s an underpinning philosophy of advertising generally, not just with advanced. It applies to everything from Amazon, to BookBub, to Facebook, to seeing mates down the pubs. It’s basically codifying the way I have advertised for four years, and, yeah, if you’d come to see the presentation at NINC, you’d know all about it. It went down very well and people were kind of like, “Oh, my God, I understand it now and it makes sense.”
James Blatch: Excellent, okay.
Mark Dawson: And on top of that, I’ll start to graft on bits about advertising tactics and strategies at different stages of the funnel. So a lot of this is going to sound like gibberish to most people who haven’t actually-
James Blatch: Gibberish or gibberish?
Mark Dawson: Gibberish, yes. Gibbering gibberish to people who don’t know what I’m talking about. But the course will be quite good, I think. I’m quite pleased with how it’s come together so far. There’s even animation in it and all kinds of things.
James Blatch: Good. And I think this is the last … Is this correct? Am I going to say this correctly? The last time, if you sign up for Ads for Authors, this time you will get …
Mark Dawson: I think so, yeah. It depends-
We’ll see what it looks like when it’s all put together, but it does feel like it could be a reasonably valuable course on its own, so we definitely … Everyone who’s signed up so far will get that for free, and anyone who signs up this time will get it for free as well. But I can’t say for sure, I think it’s unlikely that people will if they don’t sign up this time.
James Blatch: Okay. And you can go to selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors to get to the course details. Everything you need to know about the course is there.
And I should also say that we have a webinar coming up. Let me just have a look at my calendar and work out where we are. So this is going out on the 6th. Yes, we have a webinar in time for this. So it’s going to be the 11th of December, and you can go to selfpublishingformula.com. Keep talking, Mark, while I look up this link.
Mark Dawson: Yes, you can go to selfpublishing.com, link to be supplied whereby I will talk about the reader funnel, and I’ll probably do a little bit of live Amazon Ads, and there’ll be a Q&A as well, so that we can talk about all this good stuff.
James Blatch: Yeah, and you’re going to talk about the reader funnel, and if you want to join us for that live training, they’re always fun those live trainings and always valuable, and you get a chance you ask the man himself what’s on his mind and we’ll get as many questions done as we can.
Selfpublishingformula.com/readerfunnel, all one word, and you will be registered for that live training event, which is going to be, as I say, on December the 11th at 9 PM GMT. 9 PM in the UK, so you’re five hours earlier in the East Coast, eight hours earlier in the West Coast.
And the next morning, unfortunately, but not too horrendous, I think it’s something like 7:30 or 8:00 in Sydney, but you’ll have to check that.
Okay, good. Well, we’ve got a really fun interview today. One I had huge fun recording. We had Lucy Score last week, and I know Lucy’s interview went down very well, I’ve seen the comments on YouTube and elsewhere about that. So Lucy and Tim. Lucy’s a power author, a great romance author. Does everything right in terms of generating books, but also working with her audience, and Tim and her running the business well together.
And Lucy, recently, with three, no, four of her friends, I think. There were five in total. No, it’s four, four in total, women got together to write a female Billionaires series.
So obviously, the main trope is that the man is the billionaire in the romance billionaires series, but not always, and they’ve decided this is time for some female empowerment and it can still be romantic. They’ve made the woman the billionaire with the associated problems of a CEO, a very high up woman seen as being powerful, but actually also wanting love at same time.
You can see all the ingredients there, and no finer team of writers to tuck into that than these four. So let’s hear from this four way that I recorded. Of course, I do that joke at the beginning, and you’d be disappointed, would you not, if I didn’t? Then Mark and I will be back afterwards.
I’ve never had a four way like this before. Wow, you really looked like you’d only heard that once before. We’re allowed to be saucy, right, because this is romance in the kind of saucy, steamy end of things, like that’s where we are. Let’s set the landscape out straight away.
Now, we’re going to do a little bit of talking to you individually to find a bit about your backgrounds, but I’m really interested in the female billionaire romance project that’s ongoing at the moment.
Lucy, tell me about the idea and where you are with the books at the moment?
Lucy Score: So we have been planning this for over a year. The first two books of the Bluewater Billionaires romantic comedies came out. Mine came out in September, Claire’s came out last week, and Kathryn’s is coming out on Friday, and then Pippa is in November. So we release them two weeks apart.
James Blatch: Two weeks, that’s really fun. So your book came out, we were together in Florida, actually. In fact, I think you mentioned in the evening, did you not, that your book had come out.
Lucy Score: Yes. In fact, I believe I made you read part of it.
James Blatch: I’ve just had this flashback. Okay. Well, look, I’m going to a question then. So you guys are, I mean, together, you’ve sold a gazillion books. You guys are successful romance authors, is that right?
Lucy Score: Gazillion is the number.
Claire Kingsley: I feel like that’s fair.
James Blatch: Gazillion’s my favorite …
Claire Kingsley: A fair statement.
James Blatch: One thing I’m interested in about this project is you’re commercially minded the four of you, is that fair to say?
Lucy Score: Yes.
James Blatch: So you’re the type of writers who aren’t going to choose a cover because it looks pretty, you’re going to choose a cover because it sells your book.
Lucy Score: Yes.
James Blatch: But the female billionaire seems to me like a bit of a risk, commercially.
Lucy Score: Oh, yeah.
Kathryn Nolan: Yeah, definitely.
James Blatch: Correct me if I’m wrong, but your female might dream of meeting a billionaire because they’re wealthy and handsome and that’s the trope, and you’re turning that round a little bit, which I love the idea of by the way.
Who wants to take that and tell me why you’re doing it and whether you’re worried.
Lucy Score: Pippa does.
James Blatch: Pippa wants to take that. Nominated.
Pippa Grant: I mean, there’s a few reasons we’ve done it. We are not the first people to ever do lady billionaire romances. There have been several that have been out before us. We just don’t think there’s enough of them. Because we think that there’s escapism in romance.
Romance readers are super smart. They’re super smart, and they read to get away from their everyday lives, and we know this and we will write books for that, and it’s amazing and it’s awesome.
But at the same time, I want to write about a world I want to live in and I want more representation of strong, powerful women who can also be the billionaire, but still be a relatable heroine, to make … I have a daughter. I would love the idea of her growing up and being like, “Forget this, I’m going to be a billionaire, I don’t need to be saved.”
Lucy Score: Absolutely.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Pippa Grant: But we still love the fantasy of being swept off our feet by the male billionaires, but we also just wanted to embrace the idea that the women can be the billionaires too, and add to the small, but hopefully growing market of lady billionaires that are out there.
James Blatch: And Kathryn, I can see you-
Kathryn Nolan: Yeah, as Pippa said, this was her idea originally. I saved the screenshot of when she came in and was like, “I am so sick of this.” And she said, “And just think about it, what kind of a man would it take to fall in love with a female billionaire?” So, I mean, that’s part of the equation too.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Pippa Grant: You have to have one hell of a hero.
James Blatch: Kathryn, I can see you nodding along vigorously during that, so I’m going to come to you on this, so-
Kathryn Nolan: I’m a vigorous nodder.
James Blatch: That sounds kind of dirty, but I’m sure it’s not. Let’s go with the flow. So, obviously, there is that fantasy element in that we read books, as you say, to a little bit of escapism, and, of course, it’s an obvious thing that we like the idea of being that billionaire, that person, as well as being the person who falls in love.
So is that empowerment, that wanting women to not be seen as the sort of damsel who the big, strong man comes along and sweeps off their feet, that’s very much a part of what’s going on here, yeah?
Kathryn Nolan: Absolutely. Visibility matters, so it’s really important for me and I think it’s really important for all of us here that we’re writing romance novels where women are able to achieve the strength and the power that we all dream for women to have.
So just like Pippa said, it’s the world that we want to live in, which I think is also a form of a fantasy. You want to live in a world where women are billionaires, you want to live in a world where women are in the STEM fields, where they’re scientists, where they’re CEOs and running businesses, but that they’re also experiencing their own journeys.
When I was younger, reading romance novels, I still felt like in the ’90s it was still the hero’s journey, even though it was written for women by women, I often felt like there was still a lack of self love, or by the end the heroine was happy because the hero loved her.
I want to read romance novels where the heroine is happy because she loves herself. The hero is lucky that she loves him. That is the kind of romance novel that I think we all want to work towards. Everyone’s fantasies are different, and we can all read and enjoy different books that we like, but I think it’s really powerful that all of these women are self made and they run their own businesses, and at the end of day, their relationship with themselves and their relationship with their female friends is just as important as their relationship with the hero.
James Blatch: Mmm, really well thought through. I like that.
Claire, I’m going to ask you now. I am going to come to everyone. I am going to come to you, Pippa on this question.
I’m going to ask what it was like the challenge of writing it because it is a different way of writing the story, right, when the roles are reversed a little bit, if I can put it that way?
Pippa Grant: It is. It’s very different, and there’s a balance to be had between making the male masculine enough and the heroine heroiney enough. I mean heroic.
James Blatch: Not injecting, but, yeah, I know what you mean.
Pippa Grant: Thank you. I used all my words writing this morning. No, but it’s a fun balance to have, and in a lot of ways, this was a hard book to write because we were moving past a lot of what we usually read to really put a powerful woman in position upfront and close and to figure out how to make her both sympathetic and strong at the same time.
It was a delicate balance to walk that line, but it was also a lot of fun and very, very rewarding. Like, watching Lucy’s book launch and watching Claire’s book launch and seeing how they’ve done, and getting so excited for Kathryn’s book to come out this Friday, it’s been amazing. It’s been almost as much of a journey for us as authors, I think, as it was for our heroines in our books.
James Blatch: Yeah, we’ll come onto some of the practicalities and the launch strategies and so on in a moment. So I’m going to say that was Pippa talking because some people are only listening to this. In fact, most people only listen to podcasts. I do have to be careful when we’ve got so many voices in the room to make sure … That was Pippa.
Claire, I’m now going to ask you that same question about writing. Because you bump up against some cliches because of the way the things have worked out historically with, I’m afraid, us in the patriarchy and all that, those sort of cliches about the female CEOs being bossy and arrogant and none of those words that we perhaps lazily associate with powerful women say romance to me.
But, of course, that’s rubbish, isn’t it, because women fall in love and men fall in love regardless of their status. So how have you dealt with that?
Claire Kingsley: It is a challenge because you don’t want to fall back on a woman who is simply a man with lady parts. That’s not a real strong woman, that’s not what strong women really are, and I think that’s easy to do and it’s easy for people to imagine, “Well, I’ll just put a skirt on the character and that’s the CEO. Well, she’s a woman now, but she acts like a man or whatever.”
For me, I know it involved just searching for who this character is. Where does she come from? Just like any time we write a book. Who is she? Where does she come from? How did she get here?
And it also, for me, helped to really dive into her vulnerabilities because she is a powerful woman in terms of her position in the world that she’s a CEO, she’s running this big company and she has all these big responsibilities, and yet she still has flaws and vulnerabilities, and I think leaning into those with a character kind of makes them more sympathetic.
You give things for the reader to kind of say, “Okay, I get that.” I purposely had her first scene be a scene of vulnerability, where she’s hanging out with her friends and she’s having a good time at this auction, and yet she’s thinking back on this thing that happened and is bothering her. She’s been hurt and she’s … Just like anybody can be hurt. Her money is not a shield against that.
So I think for me, that was a big deal, making her still vulnerable, and human, and flawed, and not just, I don’t know, a wall of perfection and confidence at all times.
James Blatch: Lucy, this actually is an opportunity to explore some of that, isn’t it? About the very real challenges that face powerful women, first of all, when they’re more junior having their voice heard and rising up, and then, I guess, your women are at the top of tree at this point. They’re still going to come across that sexism.
Is sexism playing a part in this? Beyond it being the foundation, perhaps, of where the ideas come from, are you having your characters bump up against it in the books?
Lucy Score: I did a little bit. I explore a little bit of her past dealings with people who aren’t necessarily used to a powerful woman being in charge. But I didn’t want to make that the main focus because there really are a lot of strong, powerful women out there who that isn’t part of their day to day. They own their power and they live it, and people respect them.
So I didn’t want to make it so much of a daily battle, fighting sexism and things like that. It’s just a blip on her screen, I think. She deals with it, it’s expected, it happens occasionally, but she’s pretty much too busy to take it seriously, which is nice.
James Blatch: Which is absolutely nice.
Kathryn, so that same question really about the writing challenge of this, and the tropes and cliches to avoid.
Kathryn Nolan: For me, I found for my two characters it was a very interesting tightrope walk. So I wrote opposites attract. Luna’s a female billionaire. Sunshiny, vegan, cheerful do-gooder. Beck comes from a criminal family. He is an ex-biker from a motorcycle gang. Very limited education because he was in and out of juvenile detention. Ex convict.
So they don’t trust each other because why would Beck trust a billionaire? He doesn’t think that she has anything good to say, and Luna doesn’t like Beck because he’s so grumpy and he eats meat and she just can’t trust him. She didn’t like his grumpy Heineken drinking.
But what I wanted, and this is why I had to write like 70,000 drafts of this book, is it was challenging to make sure that Beck didn’t trust Luna for her money, but not because she was a woman with money, and that Luna not trust Beck because of his stubbornness and his walls, but not because he was someone with a criminal past who had less money than she was.
Their lives were different and they needed to not trust each other because it’s a romance novel. They needed to grow in love and grow in their attraction. But my very first conversations with them, even my own … Like, I would read it back, I’d read my own implicit bias, where I’d be like, “Luna’s coming off as maybe classist. Beck is coming off a sexist.” Neither of them are those things, but if you pit your characters together, you then have to deal with their socioeconomic differences and I found that to be very challenging.
Their very first few scenes I rewrote a lot because I wanted to make sure that those things weren’t part of their lives because for the same thing as Lucy said, Luna experiences a ton of sexism.
She’s also a woman of color. She’s biracial. She’s Mexican and Italian. She gets a lot of hatred and a lot of online hatred, but I also wanted to write a world where she also could just move through it freely and live her life the way that she wanted to it.
So it was very challenging for me to have the power dynamic be woman over man in terms of money because money’s complicated, and when I first started writing the book, I kept telling my editor, I was like, “I don’t want to make it about money. I don’t want to make it about power. I don’t want to make it about Beck’s criminal history. I don’t want to make it about Luna’s … I mean, you can’t help it. I chose opposites attract and they’re opposite, and she has a lot of money, he has no money, so there was like-
James Blatch: And that’s the deal, yeah.
Kathryn Nolan: Yeah. I mean, there is a scene I actually changed a bit. There was a scene when she first takes him to the enclave that I wanted to be lighthearted and fun because the enclave is so fun, it’s Bluewater, but Beck was really uncomfortable and kind of pissed at her, and Luna was kind of like, “Yeah, what if a man took me to his mansion and was like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is where I live,’ and you live in a little apartment on the bad side of town, wouldn’t that make you feel uncomfortable?” I had to dismantle of those implicit biases and that was really hard for me, for sure.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Lucy Score: But you did a great job with it.
Kathryn Nolan: I hope so.
James Blatch: Pippa, so this was your idea originally. You’re the person who said, “Let’s do this.”
Pippa Grant: I’m the instigator.
James Blatch: Yeah. All your fault.
In terms of the world building, how much of that went on before you all started drafting?
Pippa Grant: Oh, we had so much fun with the world building. We’d get together just like this, basically, on a video chat with the four of us, or we would be in a private text chat, and we’d be like, “So where are we going to set this?”
We decided we wanted to set it in Miami because it was tropical, and it was fun, and it’s summer all year round, and there’s a vibe, and there’s fun and excitement, and we were talking about all the different things we could do and the things that we could say. My heroine, Daisy, is the crazy one of the bunch, to put it mildly. But she’s the party animal. She’s the one who actually inherited money, but she really does step up and work hard for her family’s business, and we wanted … I’m going to lose my train of thought here.
James Blatch: Well, I’ll help you out because that prompts a question from me. So the individual characters, the individual billionaire women you’ve come up with for your books, did one of you think, “Well, we’ve got to have this, that and A, B and C, so you have that.”
You all individually thought of your character and then shared it.
Lucy Score: Yes.
Pippa Grant: I think that I was the only one who was like, “Oh, well you guys have got this one, that one and that one covered, so how about I do the crazy one?”
James Blatch: Yeah, okay.
Pippa Grant: I actually think that’s exactly what’s happened.
Lucy Score: Yeah.
James Blatch: It’s like Friends and you ended up with Phoebe.
Pippa Grant: Yeah, I ended up with Daisy and I love her. And she’s hilariously funny and also has a big heart, and I think one of the things that really struck me as I was reading everyone’s Billionaire novels is how much all of the female billionaires worry about the people who work for them. It’s not just a matter of, “Oh, I run this billion dollar company.”
I think all of us in all of our books at one point, our heroine said things along the lines of, “No, it matters because this is how people pay their mortgages, this job that I provide for them,” and I think that that sort of takes the woman’s caretaker role and elevates it to a new level, when they’re not just worried about, “It’s my friends and my neighborhood or it’s my family, it’s like thousands of people who work for me in this gigantic corporation are going to hurt if something happens to it.”
I remember where I was going talking about the world building. We were tossing around ideas, like, “If we’re going to be in Miami, we should have a fun animal,” and that’s where Steve, our alligator came from. I won’t spoil that for you, but Steve’s a good character, we like him.
We were talking about what we were going to call ourselves, or call our characters and the lady vagillionaires. And then I think someone said, “Oh, we should all go to drag queen brunch,” and so each of us in our stories put in a scene at the drag queen brunch place, and it was just so much fun to build it.
James Blatch: Is the alligator in every book?
Pippa Grant: Yes.
James Blatch: Okay.
Lucy Score: He has three legs.
James Blatch: And have you made it a thing that the billionaires all have to appear in each other’s books, or are they just referred to-
Pippa Grant: Yes.
James Blatch: Okay.
Pippa Grant: Yes, the friendship is super big.
James Blatch: Okay.
Pippa Grant: I think all of us wanted to do books where the female characters really supported one another and were friends all the way to the pits of their soul and not just a superficial sort of friendship, but really, they get each other.
Female billionaires are not a dime a dozen, so they have a few issues that only other female billionaires can understand, and so when we decided to build an enclave where we built their own little neighborhood where they could live together, that was a big part of it, was because they wanted to be able to be with other people who totally got it when they’d come home and like, “I just had this horrible experience, and there’s going to be a scandal at my company, and people want me to fail because I’m a woman.”
And there wasn’t a whole lot of that, wanting me to fail because I’m a woman that was out there in your face, but you know that it was still going to happen.
James Blatch: I can see a couple of books down the line there’s going to be, at some point, some tension between some of the characters here because that’s got to be the next step, right, to take this on, and one of them’s got to do something and the other three are like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” intervention.
Lucy Score: No, I think that happens in every single book.
James Blatch: Oh, okay.
Lucy Score: I think that the other three have to step in at some point in every book.
Pippa Grant: Yeah, I think that Lucy and Claire and Kathryn’s characters actually toss mine in a pool at one point. They’re like, “Get over yourself.”
James Blatch: That sounds mean. That doesn’t sound very supportive.
Did any of you read any real life autobiographies or biographies of very successful women as background to this?
Lucy Score: I’ve read everything about Oprah.
James Blatch: Okay. Good example there, isn’t she? I mean, great entrepreneur.
Lucy Score: Yeah. I’ve been obsessed with Oprah for 20 years.
James Blatch: Is there a restraining order?
Lucy Score: Not anymore, it’s expired.
James Blatch: Okay, good. Sounded like the obsession may have gone a bit too far, but anyway, yeah, so … So, yeah, but Oprah’s a great example, right?
Lucy Score: Yes. She built an empire and she became a billionaire. She did it all herself. Obviously, there’s an amazing team of people behind her, but, yeah, she’s a really bright, shiny example of what a woman can do today.
James Blatch: Talking of having a great team behind you, I like the fact that Tim’s head occasionally appears in a mirror behind you.
Claire Kingsley: You can see him in the mirror, yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. Just dipping in there. There’s always got to be a man somewhere, hasn’t there? Just around the corner.
Kathryn Nolan: That’s a ghost popping in.
Lucy Score: Yeah, my office is haunted.
James Blatch: There’s no one else in the house, apart from the snake, of course.
Lucy Score: Yeah, the snake is … If you see the snake in the mirror, let me know.
James Blatch: I should tell the listener that I’ve been in your house and went down into the basement to see where Tim worked, and he said, “Oh, there’s a snake down there,” which all the way down the stairs I was thinking, “What does that mean? What does there’s a snake in the basement mean? Some American expression, ‘There’s a snake in the basement.'” Turned out there’s a bloody great snake, I mean, actually, a huge snake in the basement.
Lucy Score: In an aquarium.
James Blatch: Yes.
Lucy Score: He’s not slithering around free.
Kathryn Nolan: The first time I went to Lucy’s house, I also was in the basement, and I was like, “Lucy, Tim has a big old snake.”
James Blatch: Like she didn’t know, yeah. Okay.
Lucy Score: I’m obsessed with Tim’s snake all the time.
James Blatch: Yes. And that, again, is also straying into-
Lucy Score: Tim’s snake is very large.
James Blatch: … double entendre. Right, good. Moving on from the snake. Let’s talk about the launches. How have they gone, first of all?
Lucy, you had that launch in NINC, and I think, literally, within a couple of days, you were at the top of the charts, right?
Lucy Score: Yeah, it went really well. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think women in general are harder on women, so readers are usually harder on the heroines than in other genres, so I was a little nervous about how this whole series was going to go, but I think The Price of Scandal hit number 11 in the store, and Claire’s hit number six in the store.
James Blatch: Wow.
Claire Kingsley: Yeah. So readers are really excited about the series, and we have a lot of crossover between our readership, so it’s really fun to watch them go from book to book and author to author. So it’s been really exciting. I’m really happy.
September is usually kind of a glitchy month to launch, and I definitely saw some weirdness in the charts and with advertising, and I think that’s kind of carrying over into October, but still, overall, I think we’ve been really, really happy.
James Blatch: And you’ve all got your own mailing lists.
Claire Kingsley: Yes.
James Blatch: And you’re obviously cross promoting each other, so there’s a bit of power here from the four of you. Who wants to talk about launch strategy? Total silence and everyone stares at me.
Lucy Score: Who would you nominate?
Kathryn Nolan: It should be Claire or Pippa.
James Blatch: Let me ask, did you have a launch strategy?
Kathryn Nolan: Yes.
Claire Kingsley: Yeah, we did have a launch strategy, and I think a lot of it, like you said, is just cross promoting each other, spreading out our newsletter hits, so we’re grabbing different readers on different days to grease those algorithms on Amazon to try to get those steady sales. And we did a lot of build-up leading up to it with our respective readers, trying to get our readers excited, like, “Hey, this is coming. If you haven’t read these other authors, they’re amazing, we know you’ll love them,” and just trying to build buzz among our readers for each of the books, not just for our individual release, even though they’re standalones, you could just read just the one or whatever, but we’ve tried to emphasize like “You’re going to want to read all of them, you guys, so if you haven’t checked out Pippa, or Lucy, or Kathryn or whatever, get on that because these are amazing.”
Claire Kingsley: And the reader response has been really great. They’ve really latched onto these characters. I see so many people now saying, “Oh, my gosh, Luna’s book is coming, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for Daisy’s book.” So it’s working, I think, the way that we hoped, which is really fantastic.
James Blatch: Fantastic.
Pippa Grant: And I think it’ll be fun when we have all four books out because in my own books I have found that with each book I release, I find new readers who go back through the whole series, so there’s a little bit of pressure being number four because I have to get new readers to go back and start with Lucy’s book.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Lucy Score: Yeah, don’t screw it up, Pippa.
Claire Kingsley: Yeah, Pippa.
James Blatch: I love that supportive environment.
Claire Kingsley: All riding on you.
Pippa Grant: But we’re doing other things too inside the books, like we all put links to each other’s books inside of our own books, and not just, “Oh, read these other books,” but the teaser lines. You know, it’ll be like, “Read this book because it’s awesome and amazing, and you want to read about the motorcycle gang guy and the hippy flower chick.” And, “You want to read about the woman who walked in and found the man who’s going to fix all of her problems naked in her bathroom.”
James Blatch: I want to read that.
Lucy Score: You did.
James Blatch: This sounds like a powerful combination, the four of you, so at some point when this project, this first stage of this project because I know there’s going to be more stuff in the future.
You’re going to hopefully start to feel you’ve picked up readers from each other, increased all your own back catalogs.
Lucy Score: Yeah, definitely.
James Blatch: Good.
Kathryn Nolan: Absolutely. So out of this group, I’m the smallest, most baby author in terms of number of followers and number of books, and so I know I can just say for me having the smaller following, I’ve gotten … I mean, I don’t have numbers on me, but the sheer number of folks added to my reader group, folks on my mailing list, folks following me on Instagram and Twitter, also even just early reviews of people saying, “Oh, this my first book of Kathryn Nolan’s. I read her because I had read these other authors.”
Literally today, someone’s review was, “Guess I’m going to go buy all Kathryn’s books now,” and I was like, “Thank you so much.” Which is also happening for Claire, Lucy and Pippa too.
But I think I can just say as a smaller author, I know I’ve been really feeling it. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling a really steady … I mean, I think in one week I must have added 150 people to my reader group.
Pippa Grant: That’s awesome.
Lucy Score: And your pre orders are astronomical right now, so that’s really exciting too.
James Blatch: How excited are you?
Pippa Grant: I’m very excited. I called my mom. My mom said, “Is that pre orders of hardcover books?” And I was like, “No.” I was like, “We’d be billionaires.”
James Blatch: Yeah. Now, Pippa, this is a new pen name for you.
Pippa Grant: This is a new pen name for me.
James Blatch: I mean, Pippa is a pen name for you.
Pippa Grant: Well, yes. I’ve been using it about it two years now. Relatively new.
James Blatch: When you say two years, I know you guys are quite prolific with your books.
How many books have you written under that pen name?
Lucy Score: 900. So many she doesn’t know.
Pippa Grant: Hold on, let me think. I think I have 12, plus 4, plus 1. Is that 17? I think I have 17 books out. Some are co-written, one is my Bluewater Billionaire book, and then 12 just solo Pippa Grant titles.
James Blatch: When you were launching in the Bluewater Billionaire series, are you doing your own Amazon Ads or Facebook Ads et cetera? Do you agree with each other on spend, or is it just up to you as an individual for your book what you do?
Pippa Grant: It’s up to us individually how much we want to spend on it. I tend to have a fairly large ad budget. My books are a little quirkier, and so I will frequently talk to my husband about my ad spending and he’s my sounding board a lot of times, my consultant if you will, and I’ll say, “I’m going to spend more money on this launch,” and he says, “So as long as you’re making more money back than what you’re spending, that’s a good thing.”
I’ve always considered it to be a growth mindset because my first pen name, I pretty much broke even doing that for about four years, but I had learned Facebook Ads during that time, and so when I launched the Pippa name, I knew I needed to grow an audience.
My initial feeling was, “If I break even on my ads, that’s good because I’m gaining an audience. And that grew into, “If I double my money back on my ads, that’s good and I will keep growing my budget while I double or triple my money back on my ads, until we hit critical mass, and I hit critical mass, I think, earlier this year, and it’s been a really good year and a good experience.
James Blatch: Fantastic.
Kathryn Nolan: It’s been so fun.
Pippa Grant: Here we are. We’re all spending what we feel comfortable on. I think I probably have one of the larger ad budgets, and I’m totally fine with that because I’ll make my money back on my book and I know it’ll flow over into Lucy and Kathryn and Claire’s books.
I don’t think everything has to be fully even in that case. I think that it’s just good to put it out in the world and advertise for all of us, and know that, with all of the group efforts, that it’s all going to come back around and be totally worth every minute.
James Blatch: I like the growth mindset. It is important to remember that people who think if they scale up their ads, the return percentage goes down, but it doesn’t really matter because in absolute terms it’s usually more money, even if it’s a smaller return, and so it’s very important, that’s how businesses grow.
And as you get bigger, the percentages do tend to get smaller. I remember in our non-fiction business, we converted 20% of our first list to buy a course, now it’s 5%, but we make more money. But some people don’t, strangely, see that.
So you guys seem, to me, business wise. Some of those chats you have like this when I’m not the fifth person in the screen, although I might join in from now on, I could moderate.
When you have these chats about characters and stories, you also talk a bit of business with each other? Who wants to take that?
Pippa Grant: Yes.
James Blatch: Lucy, do you want to talk business? Or do you need Tim to come into the mirror?
Lucy Score: I feel like I know nothing about business.
Pippa Grant: I can talk more about business, but I don’t need this to be the Pippa show.
Lucy Score: We are all are very business minded. Kathryn’s actually … Tim, my publisher, also publishes Kathryn’s, so it’s a lot of fun for us to dump all of our stuff on him.
James Blatch: Yes.
Kathryn Nolan: Tim’s my boss.
Lucy Score: Yeah, and Kathryn’s Tim’s boss, so …
James Blatch: Excellent. Well, look, we should say, we have a good podcast interview with Lucy and Tim. Now, I’m going to save that for a little bit. Probably going to go in November, but I would like this interview to go quite soon, I think, because we’ve got the Billionaire books coming out now and be quite fun to talk about it.
So there is an interview coming up, we’ll try and coincide them, so they’re not to far away, with Lucy and Tim, which talks a bit about the power couple that you two are and also running a small little imprint. So that’s interesting, Kathryn. I hadn’t realized you’re on the list there.
Kathryn Nolan: Yes. I learn a lot about business from Lucy and Tim, and then also, Tim is my boss, so it’s super awesome because they’re like … Writing can be such an isolated activity and I am a super extrovert, and so it’s very nice for me to have co-workers.
I call Lucy and Tim my co-workers in my head, so that’s how I think of them, which is, for me, really great, and it’s been really wonderful because when I met Lucy and Tim, the amount of knowledge that I knew … I mean, I always felt like a strong writer and always been a writer, but the amount of knowledge that I knew about this business in particular was big old zero, so it’s been really wonderful for me to know, actually, everyone in this group, to know everyone in this group because I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time. I feel beyond lucky. And Tim’s a very good boss.
James Blatch: I’m pleased to hear. He doesn’t threaten you with the snake very often?
Kathryn Nolan: No. It’s not a threat.
James Blatch: No. We should ask where you all are. I know you’re near Harrisburg, Lucy, because I’ve been there. Are you all within spitting distance of each other because America’s quite a big country, isn’t it?
Pippa Grant: It is.
Lucy Score: Yeah.
James Blatch: Pippa, where are you?
Pippa Grant: I’m in Ohio.
James Blatch: Oh, okay. Kathryn?
Kathryn Nolan: I’m in Philadelphia.
James Blatch: Claire?
Claire Kingsley: I’m in Seattle, so I’m on the wrong coast.
James Blatch: You are.
Lucy Score: We keep trying to talk her to move to the East Coast.
Claire Kingsley: I know, I know.
James Blatch: So it is a very modern virtual … I mean, another aspect of how this is more possible today than it … Well, I mean, it’s absolutely possible that four 19th century novelists could have written letters to each other. It would have been rather wonderful, actually, exchange all of these ideas in letters, but certainly the digital revolution has enabled this type of relationship and it’s a great thing to see.
Lucy Score: Yeah, for sure.
Pippa Grant: Absolutely.
James Blatch: I’ve got a couple more questions on the marketing. I want to do a little bit precis because now we’ve had the chat and people have heard your voices and your stories, they’ll want to know a little bit more about you, so we’ll do that in a second.
Things like the covers and the blurbs, are you working to make sure these are aligned because I can see if you’re working individually, they could have a very different tone to the blurbs and the covers could look very different.
Lucy Score: No, let’s get Claire while her microphone’s working. Do it, Claire.
Claire Kingsley: Right, I know. Yeah, we did coordinate a lot with the covers. We actually had a single cover designer work on the cover designs for us, so that they could be branded, really tightly branded. And we were able to make our own choices about which model we wanted and our titles. We titled our own books ourselves. But we asked for each other’s feedback, and we do that even when we’re not working together.
These ladies are an awesome sounding board when you’re like, “Okay, I’m thinking of this title,” or whatever, and I know that I can always run it by them and they can be like, “Yes, it’s amazing,” or, “Dude, don’t, no,” which is so great. You’ve got to have your people in your corner who will be honest.
But, yeah, we did make sure that they were coordinated and branded, and the same cover designer do all four of them.
Claire Kingsley: And as far a blurb writing, it’s kind of the bane of our existence, so it was great to be able to lean on each other for that too. We drafted them, but then asked for help. And I haven’t fully read everybody’s finished drafts yet, but we at least knew each other’s stories really well and had read through parts of them and everything, and so that was helpful too when it came to blurb writing because we could look at each other’s blurbs and be like, “Yeah, that’s awesome, and don’t forget the …
James Blatch: Oh.
Lucy Score: Uh-oh.
James Blatch: There goes the link to Seattle.
Lucy Score: Oh, darn it.
James Blatch: Seattle is down.
Lucy Score: I’m glad we got her when we had her.
James Blatch: Yeah, we got a good answer right up until that point, Claire, so we’ll let you … Actually, I probably do have to wait for … If you’re going to go and come back again, I will have to wait, otherwise the VT editor will give me another black eye. I don’t know if the audience can see my black eye.
Lucy Score: I was going to say, it’s hard to see, but there you go. That looks terrible.
James Blatch: I quite like it. It’s like a bad boy, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you write somebody with a black eye, your bad boy?
Lucy Score: Oh, yeah.
Pippa Grant: Sure. Oh, yeah.
Lucy Score: My next heroine has a bruised face the entire book.
James Blatch: There you go. I’m pleased I’ve inspired you. Good.
Pippa Grant: I think I had a heroine who had a black eye because she ran into the door and her brother thought it was the hero who did it to her. That was fun.
Kathryn Nolan: Oh, jeez.
James Blatch: Oh, I like that.
Lucy Score: I thought that I was going to have a black eye for this. I punched myself in the face last night in bed. I was rolling over, and I hit myself pretty hard.
James Blatch: How violently do you roll over?
Lucy Score: I am a violent sleeper.
James Blatch: Right.
Lucy Score: I thrash.
James Blatch: Okay. Poor Tim. No wonder he was a bit bruised. I’m keeping all this in, by the way.
Lucy Score: Oh, good.
James Blatch: This is all going out. Good. No, I’ve got another marketing question, can I remember what it is? Oh, yes, I was going to ask … Actually, I know what I was going to ask you, Lucy.
Did you share outlines before you started drafting with each other. How much did coordinate from the beginning on the stories?
Lucy Score: No, our books were really kind of our own thing. We did talk about things that needed to carry through in every book, like the drag queen brunch. And also, in coordination with the drag queen brunch, we did a couple of romance novelist cameos in each book, so we are all-
James Blatch: Do you appear in each other’s books?
Lucy Score: … in all of the books.
James Blatch: Oh, okay.
Lucy Score: Yeah, yeah.
James Blatch: Hitchcockian.
Lucy Score: Exactly. So all of our books include the drag queen brunch scene, and all of our lady billionaires go and they’re having brunch, and at the table next to them, because they get the same table every time, it’s four romance novelists who meet on the same day and they’re discussing books. So our lady billionaires are listening in because they’re just obsessed with these women. So that was super fun.
James Blatch: Yeah, that sounds great.
Lucy Score: But we didn’t share outlines with each other. I don’t know if we all outline in the same way, or we all outline.
James Blatch: Well, we’ll find out in a second because I’m going to ask this question.
Lucy Score: Everybody beta read everybody else’s drafts though, so if there was something like … I started the world, so if there something off that didn’t work with my book that was already to the editor’s, I could be like, “No, this actually on Tiki Bar Drive, not whatever.”
There was a lot of collaboration during the stories, but not a lot of official, “Here is my outline, please approve.” Everybody was really in charge of their own characters and their own stories.
James Blatch: Is the drag queen brunch a real thing, by the way, in Miami?
Lucy Score: It is.
Pippa Grant: Yeah, absolutely.
Lucy Score: And I’ve never been to one, but I can’t wait to go now.
Pippa Grant: Yes, we have to go.
Kathryn Nolan: Super fun.
Pippa Grant: Together. We’re all going to fly to Miami for one.
Lucy Score: Yes.
James Blatch: That sounds like it should definitely be on the cards. Good. Okay, look, I’m going to circle round before we finish and find out a little bit more as individual writers. So, Kathryn, I’m going to start with you.
Kathryn Nolan: Oh, sure.
James Blatch: Just give us the skinny then on who you are and your writing career.
Kathryn Nolan: Oh. Just my writing career?
James Blatch: Well, what else? Are you an international assassin as well?
Kathryn Nolan: No. I have a dog, so that’s the only thing I talk about, so I was like, “Don’t talk about your dog.” Okay, so I’m Kathryn. I think like most writers, I’ve been a writer since I was a little kid. I wrote probably my first novel when I was in sixth grade. It was a soap opera written in note form between sixth graders about who was dating who and which teachers were having an affair. It was called All My Students.
James Blatch: Excellent.
Pippa Grant: Oh, my God.
Kathryn Nolan: And it was based on All My Children.
Pippa Grant: That’s awesome.
Kathryn Nolan: That’s the beginning of my illustrious career. And I went to college for creative writing, but I gave up that dream and went into political science and social justice, which is what I did until I refound my dream again in 2016.
Before that, I did a couple of years of NaNoWriMo and started going back to writing classes and writing groups, and published my first novella September 2016. In July of 2017, my husband and I quit our jobs, and we moved into a camper van and we lived all over the country for a while, and I wrote another book.
And then we ended up back in Philadelphia where I’m from, and I’ve published, yeah, I think six books, six full length books, three novellas, and they’re mostly steamy, contemporary romance.
I sometimes think about the way that I … I don’t know if you guys ever feel this way or if anyone ever feels this way, but I definitely feel very emotional sometimes when I think about cavalierly I ditched this dream and dropped writing, which was the most important thing in my entire life to me.
And when I think about what I get to do now and how I felt when I was a little girl, it’s just the beautiful feeling because I just wrote so much Star Wars fan fiction in my journal that little Kathryn would never, ever believe that she was a romance author. So that has been my writing career so far, and I’m super happy lady. And I have a dog.
James Blatch: And if you’re watching the YouTube version, there’s a big, beaming smile on Kathryn’s face with what she’s talked about, which is lovely. And you shouldn’t feel too bad about those years, certainly before sort of 2011, 2012 there wouldn’t have been a lot of point because you would have been fighting the whole gatekeeper, agent thing, and then it wouldn’t have been very necessarily financially rewarding for most people because it isn’t … So you’ve come in at the right time. They weren’t wasted years at all. You were just building up that point right in the middle of it.
Kathryn Nolan: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that.
James Blatch: Okay. Claire, so we’re going round in my little clock that I’ve got in front of me now, so give us a little bit about your background.
Claire Kingsley: Yeah, let’s hope my microphone doesn’t die again.
James Blatch: Yes.
Claire Kingsley: I’m so sorry.
James Blatch: Speak quickly.
Claire Kingsley: Yeah, really. Yeah, like Kathryn, I’ve been a writer forever. I remember winning the Best Author award in sixth grade.
Kathryn Nolan: That’s awesome.
Claire Kingsley: It was like the time when it occurred to me that, “Oh, yeah, I do really like writing these stories and stuff.” I got it in my head that I wanted to be a novelist sometime in my early 20s, and I remember at the time being like, “This sounds like an awesome idea. I could totally do this,” and I started going to writer’s conferences and reading all these writing books, and writing, and writing, and writing, and it was all really, really terrible.
I’m so glad that most of it doesn’t exist anymore because if anyone found it, I would probably die. And I didn’t really finish anything back then, and I’m old enough that this was definitely pre self-publishing, and so I was dutifully going to all the how do you get an agent seminars and all that kind of stuff.
And then I started having babies, and I stopped writing fiction for a while because it sounds kind of woo-woo weird, but I feel like all my creative energy was really going into making people for a while, and I had three of them, and when they got a little bit older, I started feeling that urge to write fiction again.
I was blogging at the time. I was a mommy blogger for a while and that was my outlet, my writing outlet. But I started writing fiction again, but I didn’t used to write romance. I started writing epic fantasy because that was kind of what I was raised on. I was raised on The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit, and Chronicles of Narnia, and later into the Dragonlance Chronicles. I played D&D in college, like nerd girl, right? And I thought that was what I really wanted to write, and so I started writing fantasy and I wrote four epic fantasy novels.
I started publishing in 2014, and along the way, I discovered I really didn’t like writing fantasy that much. It just wasn’t, I don’t know, it wasn’t feeding my soul in the way that I thought it would, and there were parts of it that I enjoyed reading and didn’t so much enjoy writing.
And I kind of had this crisis in late 2015 where I was like, “What am I going to do if I don’t write fantasy? Like, what else would I write?” And so I just started reading everything. I read books by authors I had met. I read mysteries, and a thriller, and old stuff that I had read years ago, I went back to it.
And then I read a couple of romance novels, like newer, contemporary romance, and I was enamored. I was like this … Oh, my gosh, I had all these feelings, and I put the Kindle down at the end of the book and I was just like swooning, and happy, and like, “Oh, my God.”
And so I thought, “Oh, my gosh, maybe this is what I could do.” And I didn’t tell anyone, and I didn’t talk about it, and I was so nervous, and I started writing a novel, my first romance novel, and I loved it. And I kind of went on this creative tear because I was so inspired and so excited, and I just started writing, and writing, and writing, and I wrote three books really, really fast.
I wrote 120,000 words in a month, which is insane for me. I’m not a super fast writer, so that was just like … It was just pouring out of me. So, yeah, and I never looked back. I actually even have an unfinished fantasy series, like I never wrote the final book in the series because once I started writing romance, I felt like I had found my place and I had found what I really loved, and so here I am now, 20 something books later, and I’m a romance author. Sort of unexpectedly, but I love it.
James Blatch: Fantastic. And by the way, nerd romance must be a thing, right?
Pippa Grant: Absolutely.
Claire Kingsley: I am currently writing a nerd romance.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Claire Kingsley: My next release, both of the characters are nerdy characters.
James Blatch: Yeah, perfect.
Pippa Grant: Absolutely.
Claire Kingsley: Definitely.
James Blatch: You’ll be great at that, yeah. Lucy Score, now we have got you coming up and you’ve got your own show coming up on the Self-Publishing Show, so people will have to wait a little bit, but I’m just going to say that you’ve been a hugely successful author in recent years. Things have really took off. You have a very loyal audience. You look after … I’m doing Lucy’s bit. Yeah. You look after them-
Lucy Score: Keep going, keep going.
James Blatch: And you bathe in money every night.
Lucy Score: I do.
James Blatch: Except occasionally, you violently-
Lucy Score: Tens and twenties, not ones and fives.
James Blatch: … punch it out of the bath. Yes, yes. Yeah. Hundred dollar bills. Did I get that right? Is that all correct? Apart from the metaphor.
Lucy Score: That is correct. That’s correct.
James Blatch: Good. Well, I tell you what, hold it there because we do have that interview coming up with you and people are going to hear all about you and how you got from there to here. So that comes to Pippa.
Are you allowed to tell us your other pen names and your real name, Pippa?
Pippa Grant: Oh, yes, I can tell you my other pen name. I started writing as Jamie Farrell in 2013. Actually, I took the Pippa Grant pen name because my husband is in the military and he had been transferred into a position of command and we … At the time, I was writing Mister McHottie, which was my first Pippa Grant book, and it has a very steamy, racy elevator hate sex scene, and we realized that having my husband’s lieutenants talking about that at the water cooler when they had announced at his change of command ceremony that I wrote as Jamie Farrell would be a really bad thing, so that’s actually-
James Blatch: Did you think that would undermine his authority?
Pippa Grant: Possibly.
James Blatch: Okay. Or elevate him. I don’t know, one of the two.
Pippa Grant: Probably both, depending on the person. But he recently switched out of that job, and so I’m able to be open with both of my pen names now. Publicly, I changed them. I completely rebranded all of my Jamie Farrell books to add my Pippa Grant name because Pippa’s been a more successful author than Jamie was. But I actually started writing in third grade, so, you know.
Kathryn Nolan: Yeah, and that’s awesome.
James Blatch: All right. It’s not a competition.
Pippa Grant: No competition, no.
Kathryn Nolan: Yeah, you’re like, “Suck it, sister.”
James Blatch: Yeah, you losers.
Pippa Grant: So I’d be writing these books and my parents would laugh every time they’d read them, and I didn’t realize that was a good thing.
Kathryn Nolan: Ohh.
James Blatch: Aww. I’m sure they didn’t mean to.
Pippa Grant: I actually have an engineering degree, so I’m a computer engineer by trade. I call myself a recovering engineer now, but as soon as my husband commissioned into the military and we moved, I couldn’t find a job. And I was just horrified, and I was lonely, and I didn’t know where I was or how to be a military wife.
I started writing again as self therapy and that just morphed into joining Romance Writers of America and doing the whole querying agents and editors thing before self-publishing was a thing, and now I’m just having the time of my life, writing books that made me laugh hysterically and entertaining readers. It’s the biggest high ever to get an email from somebody who says, “I was having a bad day, and I picked up your book and I started laughing.” And I’m like, “That is why I do it,” and it’s been awesome. Amazing.
James Blatch: Fantastic. Lucy, how did you all meet?
Lucy Score: Well, it started with Claire. I’m a little fuzzy on some of it, but is started with Claire, and it was going to be this super cute story, but … Claire’s friend/assistant messaged me out of the blue, I had never talked to her, and she said, “My friend Claire’s an author, and she doesn’t know a lot of people and I just really thought that you two would hit it off. You have a lot of similarities, your personality seems really similar. If you ever get a chance, seek her out, send her a message.”
I didn’t know anybody at all in the industry, so I was pretty like … I am not an aggressive extrovert like Kathryn, I’m the exact opposite, so I finally was like, “Okay, well maybe I could just message her,” so I did. And we struck up this friendship and it was really great, and it wasn’t until this year that I found out that Nicky sent that same message to a whole bunch of other authors.
Claire Kingsley: Oh, my God.
Lucy Score: It wasn’t just me.
James Blatch: Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa, it was just a circular.
Claire Kingsley: Wow.
Lucy Score: Yeah. But I was the one who stuck, so …
Claire Kingsley: Yes.
Lucy Score: Claire’s stuck with me now.
Claire Kingsley: It’s true.
James Blatch: Claire, did anyone else reply?
Claire Kingsley: Yeah, they did. Well, Nicky called it setting up author play dates because I am also not an extrovert, and she was like, “You need to meet more authors and network,” and I was like, “Err but that’s hard and scary, and what if they don’t like me?”
I think I got a couple of messages of like, “Hi, I’m so and so,” and then that was sort of it. But then Lucy messaged me … I have to say, the other part of this story is that back when I was trying to figure out who I was as a writer and I was reading all these books, I stumbled on a couple of contemporary romances and read one. One of them was Lucy’s book, and so I was like …
One of her books is one of these books that I loved so much that made me want to write romance, and so when Nicky was like, “Oh, yeah, and I messaged Lucy Score,” I was like, “You messaged who? What are you even doing?” because she was like this rockstar author to me. And I was dying.
And then Lucy did message me back and I was just like trying to act like I was super chill, which is good that it wasn’t on video or anything. It was realistic, but I was sending these messages like, “Oh, hi, it’s so nice to meet you,” and really, I was on the floor, rolling around, freaking out, and my husband was like, “What is wrong with you?” And I’m like, “Lucy Score messaged me.”
Kathryn Nolan: Claire, if it makes you feel any better, when I met Lucy, it was in person and I actually attacked her coming out of the bathroom, and I went, “Oh, my God, you’re Lucy Score.”
James Blatch: I’ve done that to authors.
Claire Kingsley: Oh, my God, that’s hilarious.
James Blatch: I’m not friends with Harlan Coben anymore though as a result of doing that.
Claire Kingsley: Oh, my God.
Lucy Score: Was that at ThrillerFest?
James Blatch: That was at ThrillerFest.
Lucy Score: You were lurking.
James Blatch: I accosted him outside … Well, he’d been avoiding us, and I thought, “If I stand outside this cubicle, he’s got to come out at some point,” and anyway, he did the interview. He was fine. He was fine about it.
It is, it’s easy to be starstruck, isn’t it?
Lucy Score: Yeah. And now Claire and Pippa can’t get rid of me.
James Blatch: Yes.
Lucy Score: They send me DMs every 10 minutes.
James Blatch: You’re in for the ride now. Okay, so, guys, authors. I don’t want to say ladies because it’s a terrible 1980s thing, but I do come from the ’70s, so I’m going to say something like that soon. Ladies, women. Guys, I’ll say that. Can I say guys?
Lucy Score: Yeah.
Claire Kingsley: Yeah.
James Blatch: I just literally don’t know what I can say anymore, just because it’s a very confusing world.
Lucy Score: I’m pretty sure that’s what we call each other.
Claire Kingsley: Yeah.
James Blatch: Yes. What’s going to be next? You’re going to get to the end of this. Kathryn, your book’s soon. When did you say, a few days?
Kathryn Nolan: On Friday.
James Blatch: Friday. Okay, from where we’re sitting now, which is middle of October, end of … 21st. Trafalgar Day in the UK. So yours is coming out very soon, and then Pippa’s. Yours is the last, is that right?
Pippa Grant: Yes, mine is last at November 8th.
James Blatch: Are you all moving back to your own series after that for a bit, or have you got plans for another Bluewater?
Kathryn Nolan: Well, I was going to say, what happens immediately the day after Pippa’s book comes out is all four of us are at the Indies Invade book signing in Philadelphia. So November 9th, we are all in side by side tables the day after the series ends.
James Blatch: Wow, perfect.
Pippa Grant: It’s going to be insane.
Kathryn Nolan: It’s going to be crazy.
James Blatch: You’re going to be drunk, aren’t you, by about 12 o’clock?
Lucy Score: Yes.
Pippa Grant: Absolutely. Yeah. I’ll have an IV of wine coming in that I just drag around.
James Blatch: But then you’re going to revisit this? You’re not sure? No decisions? Or do something else?
Lucy Score: Everybody’s going back to their own things. We may look at doing some sort of box set with some bonus content next year or something like that with the lady billionaires. And we’d like to do maybe a fundraiser with a Girls In STEM cause, maybe.
Pippa Grant: That’s a great idea.
James Blatch: That’ll be great, yeah.
Lucy Score: I think these collaborative projects are really fun and exciting, but they also take a lot of time and energy. Like, I know that every launch, it feels like your own launch. So we’re going through these really accelerated editorial periods where you’re writing your own book, you’re reading everybody else’s book, and now you’re helping everybody else launch, and I think everybody’s really excited to go back to their own thing for a little while.
Pippa Grant: I think that’s totally fair.
James Blatch: Yeah, it must complicate life because it’s complicated as it is launching your own book, but the added addition, I can see that already. But what a brilliant thing to do, and you look like … You certainly come across as if you’ve all had a fab time doing this.
Pippa Grant: We had a great time, absolutely.
Lucy Score: Oh, yeah. This was the best.
James Blatch: There’s a little bond, a little Bluewater bond here that’s going to be cemented in Philadelphia, and then, at some point, in a drag bar in Miami.
Lucy Score: Oh, yeah. We will be there.
Kathryn Nolan: Yes.
Pippa Grant: Yes.
James Blatch: Okay. Well, look, we’ve hit the hour mark. I want to say thank you so much indeed. This has gone … I mean, I knew it’d be a really fun interview. I was slightly worried about us all talking over each other, but it’s been really civilized in that sense, hasn’t it? I don’t know why I’m sounding so surprised.
Lucy Score: No one’s ever called us that before.
James Blatch: No. It must be something to do with the distance. But, yeah, great. No, it’s been brilliant. Thank you so much indeed, and thank you, Claire, for coming and going and sorting out your connection.
Claire Kingsley: Thank you. Sorry.
Lucy Score: Thank you for having us. This was really awesome.
Kathryn Nolan: Yeah, thank you.
Pippa Grant: Thank you.
James Blatch: It’s been our pleasure.
There you go. Do you know, I thought I might be eaten alive, I might have my hands full with that interview, but they were absolutely lovely. We’ve met, I think, all but one of them in real life at various conferences, and they’re great, inspiring women.
I think these two weeks of interviews have been really inspiring, not just for romance writers, but for people who’ve got their heads down, they’re getting their books churned out, they’ve got their heads stuck into marketing, they’re doing a lot right, and being well rewarded as a result.
Mark Dawson: Absolutely. I enjoyed Lucy’s interview last week and although, as we record this, I haven’t heard this one, I am looking forward to giving it a listen, if only for the sight of you rubbing your legs in a Vic Reeves fashion, which I know another reference that’ll be lost on everybody apart from people who grew up in the UK during the ’90s.
James Blatch: The sight of me slightly scared. Joking aside about the innuendo of a four way, it’s actually a reasonable technical challenge, and I’ve listened to podcasts in our space in the past where you’ve had three or four voices talking and there can be a bit of a cacophony of noise, but, actually, the women were brilliant. They picked up one after the other and it’s a very easy listen.
So that is the female billionaires, inspiration to do … I mean, they’ve got to the point now where they’re doing things that they want to do. Well, I suppose you’re doing things that you want to do all the time, but this was them getting together, thinking, “This would be a great idea. Let’s do this.”
I’m not sure if the series is going to go much further, but it was definitely a project they all enjoyed working on, and what a fun thing to do. Good for them. Have you ever read a romance book in your life, Mark?
Mark Dawson: Yes, I have.
James Blatch: What have you read?
Mark Dawson: Well, I’ve got a lot. I read all kinds of things. I’m reading a couple at the moment, actually, from one … I have a few things going on at the same time, so I’m dipping in and out of a couple of books. One, I have an author I met in Vegas I’m enjoying very much. I’m a fairly omnivorous reader, I have bit of everything.
James Blatch: When do you read?
Mark Dawson: Late at night usually, so in the bath or just before I go to sleep. I try and read maybe half an hour a day or an hour a day, if I can. It’s tricky to find the time.
James Blatch: Yes, it is. That’s about the same for me. I’m quite envious of my wife, who gets to sit down in a chair and read during the day at some point. I think that looks a very luxurious thing to do. I have a long list of things-
Mark Dawson: Oh, I’d feel guilty if I did that.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: Can’t do that.
James Blatch: Good. Well, I’ve read a women’s fiction book recently, which wasn’t really romance, but was not my normal genre, that a friend wrote, and I’ve read a Jilly Cooper because my wife was obsessed with Jilly Cooper. I don’t know if she’s still writing. She was obsessed with them, and I thought, “I’m going to have to read one of these.” They’re doorstep books.
But it was set in the world of the media, and it was very funny and incredibly rude. I thoroughly disapproved of what happened to bread rolls when they were one side of the room and then ended up the other side of the room, thanks to a, what I can only describe as part of the anatomy being used as a tennis racket as the scene that’s indelibly stayed in my mind.
Mark Dawson: Just trying to imagine that.
James Blatch: Rupert Campbell-Black, I believe is his name, the gentleman with the aforementioned human appendage. Right, enough of that. Have we got anything else to say, anything else to add to this smutty … More smut this episode? We got one complaint, by the way, last week.
Mark Dawson: Good, good. I saw that yesterday. I thoroughly approved of that complaint.
James Blatch: It was you.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it was me. No, I think that’s pretty much it really.
People should definitely check out the ads course because it closes in a week when this goes out, and won’t be open till next year, and it won’t include the advanced stuff. So if you want to get that, the best time is to get that now.
James Blatch: Indeed it is. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors, and don’t forget, if you’re a student of the 101 course, you get a good, healthy $100 discount on that course.
Thank you very much indeed to our guests, the female billionaires. Almost that themselves. And to you, Mark, in Salisbury, we will see you at the webinar live training. A reminder again, if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/readerfunnel, all one word, you can sign up for that live training on the 11th of December. We’ll see you, live and in person on that night.
But until then, it’s a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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