Monday, April 4, 2011

Author Guest Post: Elizabeth Kerri Mahon on From Blogger to Author *Contest*

I've known Elizabeth for a few years, and like myself, she started out as a book blogger. Her blog, Scandalous Women is about scandalous women throughout history. 

"Since its inception, Scandalous Women has averaged over ten thousand hits a month, and was named one of the 100 Most Awesome Blogs for History Junkies by Best Regularly syndicated on History Carnival, she is a member of the Historical Novel Society, The Victorian Society of America, RWA and RWA NYC, where she served as President for four years." You can also find Elizabeth on Twitter @scandalwomen

When Elizabeth announced that based on her blog, she wrote and sold her first book, I was so very happy for her. She gave me hope that one day I would be able to do the same. As you can see, I followed her example. Elizabeth is one I admire who is intelligent, witty and very supportive in the writing community. Elizabeth is another example of a blogger who can get published. Here's her story...

I never set out to be a blogger, it was something that happened gradually. I had been writing steadily, completing several manuscripts of young adult and women’s fiction and getting nowhere. I had even been a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, but I still hadn’t found either an agent or a publisher for my work. Someone suggested that blogging was a good way to hone my skills as a writer while at the same time building an audience for my writing. I started out blogging about my addiction to reality TV, bad dates, and occasional book reviewing but after awhile, I was getting a little bored talking about myself.

How did I come up with the idea for Scandalous Women? I wouldn’t say that a light bulb went on over my head but I had been reading a lot of non-fiction, specifically biographies of some women that I thought were incredibly interesting. At first my idea was that I would occasionally blog about them on Adventures of Gotham Gal, my regular blog but then it hit me that perhaps it might be better to start a separate blog. I decided to call it Scandalous Women because frankly I’ve always been more fascinated by the sinners of this world than the saints. Unfortunately the URL for Scandalous Women was already taken so the URL for the blog had to be The site went live in September of 2007 with posts of Lucrezia Borgia, Lady Frances Somerset and the courtesan Harriett Wilson.

I had no thoughts at the time that Scandalous Women would turn into the book. I was still determined to write fiction, but several of my friends kept trying to convince me that the blog could be turned into the book. We’ve all read stories about bloggers who ended up with book deals, but their blogs were geared towards foodies, or had more to do with pop culture like the woman who wrote about The Year of Living Oprah or Stuff White People Like. I wasn’t a historian, I was just a history geek who was having a good time writing about all these interesting women, some of whom I had never heard of before, but discovered while researching other women for the site. I was shocked when people started reading the blog and leaving comments, and also sending me emails with suggestions of women to write about.

The catalyst for finally turning Scandalous Women into a book was unemployment. Thanks to the banking crisis, I had lost my job at the investment bank where I had been toiling away for 3 ½ years. Instead of moping, I decided to finally write a book proposal. Unfortunately I had no idea how to write a book proposal for non-fiction. Several how-to books later, and armed with a proposal that a friend had written, I sat down to work. After polishing the proposal during the first month I was laid off, I emailed it to an agent who had been very complimentary about other work I had sent her although she hadn’t been interested in representing it. The same day I emailed her the proposal, she asked to represent it. I couldn’t believe it, after ten years of writing of fiction and getting rejection letter after rejection letter, I finally found an agent.

It still took eight months to polish the book proposal before my agent submitted it to publishers. I wrote a whole new sample chapter which went through several revisions. Unlike fiction, you don’t have to have written the whole book in order to sell non-fiction. But you do have to include a marketing plan with the proposal which I had never done before, along with a list of competitive books, and how Scandalous Women was different. The book went to auction, and in August of 2009 Perigee Books bought Scandalous Women.

I had eight months to research and write profiles of 35 women. Writing non-fiction is completely different from writing fiction, for one thing I can’t make stuff up. I read at least two or three biographies for each of the women in the book and sometimes more. Although at least half of the women in the book, I had blogged about, I still went back and revised those chapters since I had more time to research. One of things that I wanted to include in the book, to set it apart from similar books, was the list of films and novels that have been written about each of my Scandalous Women. This way after reading my book, the reader can see how each of these women have been interpreted and in some cases reinterpreted over the years.

Three and a half years after I started the blog, Scandalous Women, the book was published in March 2011. It was recently included in last weekend’s edition of The Daily Candy which was very exciting. What’s up next? There are still more women I want to write about, and hopefully more books!

Scandalous Women is available now from Perigree Books.

Elizabeth has one copy of Scandalous Women  to give away to one lucky person. Leave a comment here telling us who's a favorite scandalous woman of yours by Thursday April 7th. (open to US residents only)

Synopsis: Throughout history women have caused wars, defied the rules, and brought men to their knees. The famous and the infamous, queens, divorcées, actresses, and outlaws have created a ruckus during their lifetimes-turning heads while making waves. Scandalous Women tells the stories of the risk takers who have flouted convention, beaten the odds, and determined the course of world events.



LSUReader said...

Queen Elizabeth I of England is one of my favorite scandalous women. She faced controversy head-on as she flaunted traditional ideas of a woman’s role in the monarchy. She led her country through successful armed conflicts and internal strife, she ruthlessly rid herself of enemies, she chose never to marry, and she reigned for one of the longest terms in the British monarchy.

The book sounds great! Thanks for hosting the giveaway. (Email in profile.)

MicheleKS said...

Congratulations on your book, Elizabeth. It sounds wonderful and if I don't win a copy I'm buying one. :)

A scandalous woman who comes to my mind is Anne Bonney, the famous female pirate in the era of Blackbeard and all those guys. She sure defied convention to say the least.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Michelle K,

Anne Bonney is one of the women that I wrote about in the book. She's one of my favorites!


Amy Kathryn said...

I think Florence Nightingale and her nurses were considered scandalous...they and other women who went outside the boundaries have my vote.

I saw the blurb on Daily Candy and added the book to my wishlist. It is wonderful to hear the backstory!

Jeanne M said...

I think I may have come up with a scandolous woman no one else may have thought about - Annie Oakley! Think of it - hanging out in bars - killing people - come on now she had to have a relationship but with whom? A gun slinger, an outlaw or just one of those cowboys (or two) hanging out in the salon where she went to gamble!

In today's context she would be a scandolous woman (and many thought her one than as well)!

Audra said...

I think of Mary Queen of Scots- I would love to win this contest.

Matt and Jade said...

I was going to say Queen Elizabeth also. She did so much and without the help of a man. At her time on the throne, it was very unheard of. I would love to win this book.