Do you read it? Do you write it?
A Rita judge, Liz O'Connor, who writes as LG O'Connor will be talking with us about her experience as a RITA judge.
Liz can you tell us a little about you and your writing? How long you've been at this your genre etc...
Thanks for asking...I'm fairly new to publishing. I spent most of my career as a corporate strategy and marketing professional. However, I've been an avid reader my whole life. When the recession hit in 2009, I left an executive role to pursue other opportunities. During the six months been that job and my next, I started writing the first book in my urban fantasy / paranormal romance series. I finished the first draft in 2012, and Penguin requested it during a pitch conference. They ultimately turned it down, but after another rewrite and some editing, it was accepted in 2013 for a spring 2014 launch through She Writes Press. Since then, I've published 4 books
Can you tell us what the RITA is and how you got involved as a judge?
One of the first organizations that I joined was the Romance
The RITA and the Golden Heart are the two large national RWA contests. The RITA is like the Academy Award of Romance books for published authors, while the Golden Heart is the same for unpublished authors. Before I was a published author, I entered Caught Up in Raine, and missed finalist by 1 point. One of my dear author friends, Carla Susan Smith, prodded me to enter CUIR in this year's RITA. So I did. One of the requirements as an entrant is that you must participate as a judge in the first round in a non-conflicting genre.
How much time did that take? And did they provide you a metric by which to judge?
Every judge receives a minimum of 5 books to judge. As promised, they were in genres other than the one that I submitted for. Judges are not allowed to disclose the names of the books they receive or judge. I'm a pretty fast reader, but even so, it took me about four weeks to read all the books and judge accordingly.
The books are judged on a 10-point scale with fractional points allowed in the scoring, ex: 9.6. They also must satisfy three criteria:
- romance as a central theme
- happy ever after or happy for now ending
- they must fit the genre for which they submitted.
The winners are announced at the RWA National Conference this July in Orlando, FL. I'll be there, and looking forward to it!
Even though you were reading outside of your sub-genre what are some take away lessons learned, now that you read with a judges hat on, that you will apply to your own writing?
I think the thing that struck me the most (and disappointed me a little) was that for some of the books - I could not suspend my disbelief enough. Too much triteness in the plot trope. I write smart, sexy romance, and I need a little more "something-something" with my romance novels (which is why I love your books so much, Fiona!) - good twists and turns that keep me interested. The plain old boy-meets-girl (or boy)-loses g/b-reunited with g/b-HEA bores me a little if there's nothing else going on. So for me, I'll continue to strive for genuine emotion, a little raw, but deeply soulful.
Adding - With some plot twists to keep them coming back
We all love that pull to go back for more.
And thank you for your kind words.
Yes! I strive to leave them with a book hangover!
So readers should look for RITA winners because they are well vetted, and writers could probably gain a lot by reading the winners to see what others find to be quality romance.
What would you like to add that I haven't asked you about?
Here is my take on the RITAs. We all strive to be chosen by our peers. But as with everything it is subjective to the judges and who you happen to draw to judge your book. For instance, when I saw my Golden Heart scores, I had everything from a perfect 50 points to an average score, with several in between - with only a 1 point miss for finalist. So, yes, the books are vetted by your peers, but you are also pulling from a pool that may not read your genre, so there is also bias built in that cannot be controlled.
As an example, the book my favorite book of the 5 I judged didn't make it to finalist, yet another that I judged lower, did. So, yes, the books are all quality, but it's possible that good / better books did not place. So, I wouldn't use the winner's circle as the only judge of quality, but it certainly helps!
How does one get involved with the contest?
To get involved, the RITAs open usually in December / January, and get flooded with applicants within the first 2-4 days. When they reach a set limit, they stop accepting applicants due to volume.
So, on the RWA website. You need to be a member to submit.
For published authors, it is both the author and editor.
It's for both traditional and Indie published books.
Liz is a recent Kindle Scout winner with her book Shelter my Heart.
Devon, an ailing, young CEO-in-training due to inherit his dead father’s conglomerate saves the day for Jenny, an engaged young woman on her way home to see her family. To repay his kindness, she agrees to be his date for his family’s annual society gala and convince the board that he’s healthy and going to marry. Two weeks are all Devon needs, and two weeks are all Jenny can give—until the stakes rise, forcing Jenny to answer the question: How far is she willing to go to save Devon’s life? Shelter My Heart is the second novel in the Caught Up in Love series which centers around three New Jersey women: romance writer, Jillian Grant, her sister, Katherine “Kitty” McNally Lynch, and Kitty’s daughter, Jenny Lynch. They are all part of a family plagued by loss. Each woman harbors her own guilty secret and must journey through her personal pain to find redemption and ultimately surrender her heart for a second chance to get caught up in love.
BIO: LG O’Connor is a corporate marketing exec by day who takes her author cape out at night. An avid reader, she loves books with memorable characters that make her heart sing. She’s the author of the urban fantasy / paranormal romance series, The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, and Caught Up in RAINE, her contemporary romantic women’s fiction debut. A native ‘Jersey Girl,’ she’s always in search of the perfect cup of coffee and fine Italian leather. Advice she lives by: Enjoy every day. Go barefoot.
Amen to the barefoot!
Now everyone, go grab a good book and enjoy your read.