Among the 13 RITA award winners for 2019, self-published author and Dallas resident Elizabeth Dyer won the Romantic Suspense category.
The Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award is “the highest award of distinction in romance fiction”. Dallas Innovates spoke with Dyer to see what it means to her to earn this honor and how she reached this point in her career.
What made you decide to go from working as an attorney to becoming an author?
Originally, it was just a bucket list item. I went to college and law school kind of at light speed, and so I didn’t really take the time to try out some hobbies and things that I wanted to do. So I made a list of things I wanted to try: I played tennis for a while, and then I decided I wanted to see if I could write a novel. I took a class at a community college at night, maybe three or four years, just to see if I could. And I’ve been seeing if I could ever since.
What did it mean to you to win a RITA award this year?
It meant a lot, mostly because I think that writing can be very solitary. And certainly, if you look at my publishing history, it looks like I got lucky really early on, but I actually took that community college class I was talking about in either late 2007 or early to mid-2008. So it was a journey of 10 years, and there were a lot of setbacks. And so, to finally get there and feel like the work was recognized and the effort was recognized, especially by a peer group, was hugely validating—and a lot of fun.
What do you feel have been the key components that have helped you succeed as an author?
For me, it was always a matter of not compromising the work that I was putting into it. There were a lot of times where I wanted to write faster, but I can be kind of a perfectionist, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. I guess I’d say that the thing that helped me gain success is also the thing that held me back. So it’s a really delicate balance to get just the right amount of perfectionism in there to really continue to grow the craft. Especially because there comes a certain point where you have to be self-educating and self-motivated and all of these other things. It’s really up to you.
Do you think that living in the Dallas area has helped you as an author in any way?
Dallas has a lot of authors and I’m always amazed when I meet people online and we find out we’re in the same area. I think Dallas also has some opportunities to pursue writing programs. The one that I did was at Northlake College, so that was great. It was inexpensive and easy to start and see if that was something I wanted to do. There’s a lot of writers groups here.
Did you enjoy going through Kindle Direct Publishing more than a traditional publishing route for “Fearless”?
With self-publishing, you can get a book to market very, very quickly, which I love because I can be a bit of a procrastinator. And so it’s funny that once I finish a book and it goes to the editor, I know I can get that book out in about a month. But the flip side of that is, I am now responsible for every single decision—I have to choose the cover art, I have to find the stock photos or the model photos for the cover art, I have to write the blurb all by myself.
Do you consider being an independent author as a form of entrepreneurship?
It’s definitely entrepreneurship, it’s everything. And that can be a lot of fun, but it can be very overwhelming and extremely time-consuming. When people say they write full time, they don’t mean, typically, that they’re writing eight hours a day, because there’s all this other business stuff that goes into it.
Do you think that digital publishing is the way of the future?
I think that’s been the case for a long time. I think the portability of media is really a wonderful thing. I personally commute to my day job every day and I take the DART, and you see people reading, which I think is such a nice thing because you don’t see people reading in public all that much. But if you look around, it’s a lot of people reading on iPads, on Kindles, on their phones. There’s a few physical books, but that’s the great part of [ebooks]—you can finish one book on your commute in the morning and you can start a new one in the afternoon. So I think the portability and access of it is creating a new generation of readers.
Does digital publishing give more authors a chance to publish their books?
Digital publishing makes everything way more accessible and I think, by and large, that’s a wonderful thing. Publishers are limited by so many things, they’re limited by budget, they were for a long time limited by shelf space. They can only get so many books on the schedule every year to get into Barnes and Noble and the other major booksellers. And they’re also limited by marketing departments that are looking at things and going, “Do we know how to market this? Do we know who’s going to buy this and how to reach them?” And those are all very legitimate business concerns. But it meant that you had some very established channels and so breaking into any one of those streams as a new author was incredibly difficult. And digital publishing has really opened that up.
Dyer’s next novel “Heist of Hearts: The Beginning” comes out on Sept. 27.
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