Debra: Is It Time To Be Bad Yet?

Apparently, it is.  Random House has begun reissuing my backlist and the second book off the starting blocks is BAD TO THE BONE.

This book was written on a screaming-tight deadline.  I remember dreading the call to my editor to tell  her, “I need one more week.  That’s all.  Can I have it?”  I’d never been late before.  Ever.  She said, “Yes.”  Thank goodness.  That meant I could at least get a few hours sleep a night.  I’m not kidding.  This was a book that the publisher contracted on one deadline and then said, “Hey, we want to move you up.  Do you think you could get this done by May 1st?”

Writers are incapable of saying, “No.”  Mostly, because writers are self-employed, we say, “Noookay!” (Many of you may be familiar with this particular pronunciation of the word “no.”  I really don’t believe the pronunciation is unique to the South.  Although it may be unique to women.)

I said, “Noookay!  May 1 it is!” I had never written a book in three months (even though at the time I was writing full-time), but I said, “Noookay!” anyway.  This was a great opportunity because they were putting me in a special month of books.  Yay, me!  But I still had to write the darned thing, in a shorter time than I’d ever written a book before.  I wrote in the car.  I even wrote at other people’s houses. I wrote in my head as I fell asleep and transcribed the words the next morning.

Then the day the book was done, I remember going to bed at 5:00 a.m. and punching my husband in the arm.  “The book is done.”  Then I collapsed instantly into the sleep of angels and the righteous.  My poor husband was awake, staring at the ceiling and thinking, “Dude, I had another hour before I had to get up.  You couldn’t have told me this LATER?”

What I didn’t tell him right then was that I was going to have to give Random House their advance back.  I knew they’d never agree to publish this book without substantial revision.  I’d revised before.  I was no stranger to revision, but I also knew I wasn’t willing to do the revision I feared they’d ask me to do.  I’d already done as much as I could to put this square peg in a round hole.  The book was a little too long for category romance.  In hindsight, I should have pulled it and written it as a single title.  Instead, I found a way to make this book work in “almost” category length.  But, still, I knew that the book was something not-quite-known in category in 1996.  The heroine?  A hitwoman.  Mix in a frightened twelve year-old who reads tarot cards and a hero with an unspeakable weight pulling on his soul.  The story is dark, sexy and probably “the” book in the Dixon cannon that people most remember. BAD TO THE BONE was much nominated, talked about and well-received. (RT review quote: “Ms. Dixon combines searing sensuality with mind-blowing suspense to create superlative reading.”)  Again, “Yay, me!”

But what I remember was being willing to fight for this book.  Being willing to write a check rather than gut the book to fit someone else’s notion of what a category romance should/could/would be.  What I remember was my husband agreeing absolutely that I should write a check if it came down to gutting the book or revising.  I was ready for the phone to ring.  I knew what I had to do.  And I remember the incredible relief when my editor called and said magic words I’d never heard before and certainly didn’t expect, “No revisions.”  She said a lot of other nice things, too, but everything after “No revisions.” was “blah blah blah.”  My brain was doing cartwheels.  Someone else “got” it.  Someone else was willing to take a chance on an out-of-the-box love story about two people badly in need of redemption..and, well, that meant the world.  I could start breathing again.  Hell, I could go out and be bad.  I deserved it!  I partied like there was no tomorrow.  (i.e. Had Hagen-Daz and potato chips.  Don’t judge.)

What’s the book about?  Well, the reader letter (they made me write it) from the book says it best:

     Literary license is a wonderful thing.  It’s like permission to be wild.  Why am I telling you this?  Because I’ve taken a little license.  Okay, Okay!  I’ll confess.  I’ve taken a lot, but I have wanted to shake up a fairy tale from the moment I read the first Loveswept Treasured Tale.

I wanted to do something on the edge, wanted to stand my fairy tale on it’s head and spin it in a new direction.

 After all, I thought, my editor didn’t bat an eye at the psychic archaeologist and the midwife.  She calmly accepted the idea about the ex-navy SEAL and the ice skating nun.  Maybe she’d actually let me go a little farther out on that limb I seem so fond of.

And so it was that I called my editor one fine day. “I have this idea for Treasured Tales.  Are you ready for this?  It’s Goldilocks and the Three Hitmen!”

Upon hearing my clever description, all she could manage was, “Excuse me?”

Encouraged—it doesn’t take much to encourage me—I forged ahead.  “This isn’t going to be an ordinary fairy tale.”

“Fairy tales aren’t supposed to be ordinary.”

“My point exactly!” I agreed, so relieved she understood.  Then I told her, “There is something that appeals to me about innocence surrounded by predators.  My Goldilocks isn’t lost in the woods, but she is alone and searching.  And, of course, the bears have guns in my version.”

My very brave editor said, “Scoot over” and joined me on that limb.  Isn’t that what fairy tales are really all about?

So, how about you?  Do you have moments in your life when you know you have to stand your ground?  When you know the principle, the vision is more important than anything else?

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34 Responses to Debra: Is It Time To Be Bad Yet?

  1. bkrahn007 says:

    Wow. I missed this one? At least I get a chance to catch it now!! Great sales pitch. I’d buy this book if I had to crawl on my hands and knees to the bookstore– or the Kindle– to get it! Why did we ever let you go as a writer?

    • debradixon says:

      Thank you! Not that I want you to have to crawl, but the fact that you would do that makes me very warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂 I do really love this book.

  2. michelehauf says:

    Now I know the word that always escapes me, but that I use very often…nookay! 😉

    This sounds like a fun read. Must go find it!

    • debradixon says:

      Michele– Doncha just hate it when “noookay” comes out of your mouth? That’s the moment I always know I’ve stepped in it and will regret it later! (g)

  3. What a terrific story behind the story! I remember BAD TO THE BONE, and I’m so glad it’s coming out again. For one thing, I need a new copy. For another, it really is a classic. It’s one of those stories that stays with you. Not only is it an emotional roller coaster ride, but it’s unique–a combination that adds up to unforgettable.

    Oh, and that orgasmic high when you finish the book…
    Ain’t it grand?

    • debradixon says:

      LOL! Yes! We all shoot for the orgasmic high of finishing a book. It’s such a lovely moment. This particular book ending is so sharp and clear in my mind. I knew I wouldn’t forget the experience. I still recall actually writing the words of the last ten pages. Often I can’t recall actually writing the words. We know we wrote them, but we write so many words, but this particular book’s last pages will be forever in my mind. The lighting of the room, the particular computer I had at the time, my chair, which office I was in, etc.

  4. Cindy Gerard says:

    Deb – I’m excited to get this book too! And you know what? i wrote a Loveswept for the Treasured Tales collection too. Like you, though, I was so busy back then (and now) that I never had time to read the other books in the set. This one is going on my kindle right now!

    • debradixon says:

      Cindy — Yes! We were “comrades in arms” so to speak when Loveswept was publishing the Treasured Tales. Not as many new-to-romance readers realize how many great writers came out of Loveswept or wrote for them: Janet Evanovich, Cindy Gerard, Deborah Smith, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, Kay Hooper, Iris Johansen…

      • Leanne says:

        Hey, now that I think of it, I wrote a Treasured Tale, too! It was titled “The Fairest of Them All” and had a bxw cover. Cool!

      • debradixon says:

        Right! Leanne wrote one, too! Might even have been the same month as mine. Small world. 🙂

  5. Leanne says:

    I love Nokay! I’ve actually starting saying no a little more, especially when I have time to build up my courage.:) I’m so thrilled that you stretched yourself on this and it turned out so well! YAY YOU!!!:)

  6. bellwriter says:

    Yay you indeed! Oh my gosh, you’ve always been a head of your time! How boring it would be if editors didn’t climb out on a limb. Off to buy Bad to the Bone! Congratulations, and I hope your husband is getting more sleep these days!!!

  7. Well, darn! Considering I devoured all yoru books, how did I miss this one? I won’t this time. And as for editors who let you stretch your wings, I have the best. Thank you for not only writing such amazing books, but for being one of the two the best editors I’ve ever had. The other being, of course, Deb Smith.

  8. Brynna Curry says:

    Sounds like a great book! Going on the TBR list.

    Around here nokay is immediately followed by “OMG. What have I done?…Again.” *smile*

  9. Lisa Scott says:

    Once you realized you created such an awesome book in 3 months, were you tempted to impose an insane deadline again and see what happened? Do you think something about the pressure of that deadline made you perform/write differently or better?

    • debradixon says:

      Hey, Lisa! I don’t think the deadline changed what I write, just elevated my thinking about how many good pages I could produce in a day. Prior to that my brain had decided how many pages I could produce and I learned that wasn’t true for every day. I could push through. I could write for long stretches. Not everyday was a gold mine but I could pre-write more in my head and be ahead of the game the next day.

  10. catslady says:

    I wonder if there is a word “kayno” lol. It sounds wonderfully different. I enjoy variety and mixed genres so I’m sure it’s something I would enjoy!

    • debradixon says:

      Actually, I think my son says that! ” ‘kay…no.” And then he looks at me like I’m an an idiot for having asked. LOL!

  11. Eve Gaddy says:

    I loved that book! It inspired me to write my first Loveswept. Bad to the Bone is one of my all time favorites and has a place on my keeper shelf. So glad it’s coming out again. I want it for my Kindle.:)

  12. Carol Springston says:

    I remember reading this book when it first came out, and many others, of course. What really stands out, however, is one year at the M&M conference a few of us talked way into the night about a small press and the benefits, and years later BAM, BelleBooks was born.

  13. iwritebooks says:

    It’s a wonderful book, Deb! I’ve always loved it.

    Standing my ground? Okay, the first thing that comes to mind was when I stood up to Son1’s third grade teacher. That year there were these ridiculously long homework packets each week. He was a great student and also very concise when it came to words. So when she criticized the brevity of his answers to questions on a reading they’d done, I blew my gasket and told her insisting he use three sentences to say all that he’d captured in one was…well, I probably said silly when I meant stupid. As a young mother, I was shaking in my boots, but that was only the beginning of my questioning the educational authorities. (And I have sympathy for them…dh is a teacher!)

    • debradixon says:

      Standing up to the teacher is so hard! I’m impressed. I very much respect teachers, but there are some who simply lose sight of the goal and get mired in process sometimes. My son had a history teacher who was having them learn every single battle in WWII. Every single battle. Seriously? I’m so glad I’m not alone in my “take on the teacher” boat. LOL!

  14. Trish Jensen says:

    Ms. Dixon: This is kind of when we met keyboard to keyboard. I couldn’ stop gushing about your book, “Bare To The Bone.” Everyone who read that not laughed, including you, at my gaff. But I LOVED that book, because it was SO out of the box, and I was blown away that any editor would fight for it to be published. It was SUPER, and gave me the feeling for the first time in my life that I could let my mind run, rather than feel like I was so confined in a box of do’s and don’ts. I love you for that, It’s on my keeper, and not many make it there. So thank you!

  15. Trish Jensen says:

    P.S. Sorry for all of the typos. I was just too excited about responding, and didn’t self edit enough. 🙂

  16. katmagendie says:

    Noookay – haw! 😀

    Welp, then I’m hoping when I write my first ever book that will be called a “supernatural romance” I won’t have to return my advance to BB because I have no clue what I am doing *laughing* – I am not a romance kind of woman and have never written one in my life. Lawd!

    I love this post because it’s upbeat and happy and positive! Just stopping by from the Bellebooks forums! 😀

  17. debradixon says:

    Hey, Kat! I can’t imagine you ever turning in a book that would be a problem! You have such a wonderful voice. Just be you. Write the story you’re called to write and it’ll be fine! I know it.

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