Debra Dixon has published with major publishers, written ten books, contributed to twelve anthologies, and served as Vice President of RWA, and her popular GMC:Goal, Motivation, and Conflict workshop spawned a book that has become a how-to bible for writers.
These days, she’s better known as Publisher for BelleBooks and its imprint Bell Bridge Books, which tackles a broad spectrum of genres in both print and ebook formats. A 2011 company highlight was holding the # 1 spot on the full Paid Kindle list for more than two weeks. Their titles have been picked up in translation and by major New York publishers in subrights deals for mass market paperback, book club, audio and large print. The company has published work from NYT’s bestselling authors: Anne Bishop, Susan Addison Allen, Deborah Smith, Sharon Sala, Sabrina Jeffries, Sandra Hill, Jill Marie Landis, and Jill Barnett. As well as USA Today bestseller Kalayna Price.
Debra lives in the South with her husband and son. When she’s not working in publishing or Corporate America, she moonlights as an award-winning quilter. The current home-remodeling-project-that-will-not-end began because Debra thought it would be nice to have a quilt studio for her art.
Jann: We’re starting February out with a bang!! The phenomenal Debra Dixon, is here with us today.
Jann: Let’s take a look back. How long had you been writing before you published your first romance Tall, Dark and Lonesome? Why the romance genre?
Debra: I had written all of my life, but seriously submitting fantasy for a few years before switching to the romance genre. I read romance as well as many other genres, and I’d met someone at a dog show of all things who was going through her page proofs. I thought, ‘Gee, an everyday real person is published in romance. Maybe I should try that.’ I joined RWA, one of the few professional writing groups that allowed unpublished authors to join. Shortly after that I found an agent. Carin Rafferty came to my city and founded the River City Romance Writers. That was my signal to really invest in romance because I had a support group and an agent! I went to conferences and the rest is history or some small dark corner of history.
Jann: In 1996 you published GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. This phenomenal book is on my bookshelf and is mentioned in the majority of writing workshops I’ve attended. I’ve been privileged to hear two of your workshops based on this book. What was the motivation for you to write this book (no pun intended)?
Debra: I gave this workshop at my local chapter in a much abbreviated format when I was still an unpublished author. They’d told me they needed me to come speak about plot. Then I had to figure out the “how” of plot for me. Those writers told people, and I started getting requests for the workshop. Then a very tiny company who specialized in books for writers came to me and badgered me to write a book. I kept telling them, “No one is going to buy this book. I don’t think this is a good idea for your investment.” Well, they wouldn’t take no for an answer. They were very clear that they wanted the book to be almost a conversation. They absolutely did not want the book to be stuffy, ponderous or pedantic. I had to revise to get the tone right, but I’m so happy now that they had a clear vision for the kind of book that GMC should be.
Jann: With your writing career in full swing, you decided to open a small press with seven other authors—and BellBooks, Inc. was founded in 1999. Since then Bell Bridge Books and ImaJinn Books joined the family. In this constantly changing world of publication, what bits of wisdom can you share with today’s writers—both published and unpublished.
Debra: I’m so sorry to trot out the obvious, but “write.” Write a lot. Keep writing, improving. Building an audience is great, but if you can’t feed that audience they’ll wander off and forget you. I can’t say how many books to write a year because every writer has a different ability to output and writing a 150k word fantasy takes a little more time than a 70k word mystery, etc. But writers should think long term and plan to put out books as frequently as they can write a GOOD book. We see most successful authors today have found a way to engage with their readers in an authentic way through a variety of social media. And then read. Read a lot. Most of all I’d say there is no ONE path. Every writer has a different idea of what success looks like. Enjoying the process is always good advice. Don’t be afraid to carve out your own path that looks quite different from someone else’s.
Jann: Do you see writing another romance in the future?
Debra: I occasionally fantasize about writing the most awesome Regency historical <g> or other project, but the reality is that I have authors who are counting on me to do my job and put their books first. So, I don’t think I’m going to find the time to write anything in the near future.
Jann: As a Publisher, public speaker, and a writer your schedule must be full. Do you have time to travel? Would you share some of your favorite travel adventures.
Debra: Not much time to travel for pleasure! We do take the occasional road trip. Hubby loves to drive, and I’m fortunate to be able to read, knit, and play on the iPad in the car! My favorite story about traveling to speak, is one time before cell phones were ubiquitous. When I landed in a foreign country, no one was there to pick me up. (My designated handler was stuck in a horrible 2-hour long traffic jam unbeknownst to me or anyone else.) When I called the hotel to check on a shuttle, they didn’t have the event on their schedule. (The group had changed the venue and never told me.) So there I was—marooned in a foreign land (Canada). Okay, so they spoke English, but it was pretty funny trying to figure out where to go or what to do. I finally tracked people down at the restaurant after managing to sweet talk the phone number for the old Workshop Chairman out of the cancelled hotel. She was no longer a member of the chapter, but she gave me some phone numbers. Then those numbers led to the restaurant. They were amazed I could find them. So was I. LOL! Thank heavens for the rental car place that let me tie up their phone!
Jann: Do you have a bucket list of future destinations?
Debra: I’d like to go back to Australia and New Zealand. Maybe spend a month in Italy just eating cheese, olives, and bread! My uncle does adventure vacations to unbelievable places in the world, and every time we get a chance to sit with him and go through his slides of a trip, it’s almost like we’ve been there! He’s even been to base camp at Everest. I’m not sure I want to adventure vacation and climb mountains. I really like the traditional “sleep late, what are we eating tonight?” vacations!
Jann: Do you still find the time to quilt? Do you have any pictures you can share?
Debra: Yes, quilting is my stress relief! I quilt every day, even if it’s only ten minutes. Sometimes it’s handwork, sometimes it’s working on the machine or designing the next quilt. Never ask a quilter if they have pictures…you’ll be there all day. But I’ll limit to applique, a pieced quilt, and a bag I made to carry around my knitting.
The applique quilt with the vase of flowers is one I’m working on hand quilting now. This is an original quilt design with the exception of the vase and flowers. Those are adapted from the line drawing of another quilter—Sandra Leichner.
Next is a pieced sampler (teal & brown) that I finished sewing the binding on when my husband was in the hospital. (Yep, I even took quilting to the hospital.) And for those who really are curious, here’s a link to a little photo tour of my quilt studio.
Jann: Thanks Debra for being here with us on A Slice of Orange and sharing bits of wisdom and your lovely quilting.
Jann Ryan grew up with the smell of orange blossoms in Orange County in sunny Southern California, where she has lived her entire life and dreamed up stories since she was a young girl. Never an avid reader, she was in her thirties when she picked up her first romance quite by accident. She fell in love with happily ever after and has been reading romances ever since.
Wanting to put pen to paper, Jann joined of Romance Writers of America®. Currently, she is working on a romantic suspense series set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town along the California central coast to fulfill her publishing dream. Jann is also a member of Writing Something Romantic critique group.