Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger and beer marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe lives Ann Arbor. Her early forays into the publishing world led to a fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life.”
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m a self-confessed sports fanatic—just about very sport but my favs are: soccer, basketball & American football. I’ve lived in 3 different countries as a somewhat frazzled trailing car executive spouse with little kids (my youngest was born in Japan). I have a degree in English Lit from the University of Louisville and am a Kentucky native. Michigan is my adopted home now, having lived here over a dozen years, between the overseas stints. I practice Bikram yoga but like to complain about it. I’m a preacher’s kid, a band geek, love every kind of music (with the possible exception of jazz) and have 2 standard poodles I call My Muses because when I get stuck I take them on a long walk and almost always get unstuck.
I am part owner and former marketing director for a craft brewery and probably drink more alcohol than is honestly healthy for me but like to think it’s all balanced out with the sweaty yoga. I consult breweries, real estate agents and amateur soccer teams on their marketing/social networking strategies.
What inspired you to become a writer?
Being a reader, I think. I read across genres and have for as long as I can remember. My mother taught me to read when I was 4 for her Master’s Degree in Education project on the Montessori Method which makes me a very fast reader, (I can take in chunks of words at one time, I have no idea how) but am an atrocious speller as a result. I read Gone With The Wind for the first time at 14 which I see as a bit of a jumping off point for long form fiction for me.
Back in 2008 I was killing myself selling houses (Oh, I’m a licensed Realtor too) in Ann Arbor and picked my first “erotic romance” (by Lauren Dane) and thought… “Wow, ok…” I tried a few others, most of which I hated, to be honest but a few that stuck with me and I kept thinking “Wow….I have an idea about a couple of high-strung, super successful real estate agents with emotional constipation and over-revved libidos.” So I wrote it.
It took 3 years but it found a (small) publisher home and since then The Stewart Realty series is a best seller on Amazon in “family saga” and “urban fiction” categories.
Did you have any special mentors or teachers who helped you along the way?
My mom is definitely my reading mentor. She devours books and I rely on her (especially lately) for recommendations, as I have become Way Jaded when it comes to finding books and (new) authors I like. In the writing arena, I definitely owe a lot to the small publisher that took a chance on the Stewart Realty series. Tri Destiny Publishing has a dozen of my titles and I have learned an awful lot working with them. I also would say that a couple of editors with another publisher have taught me What Not To Do … a lot.
Tell me about your books. What is “Romance for Real Life?”
I’ll be the first to confess that I don’t read romance much. I’ve never read anything published by Harlequin, which is not to say what they publish isn’t great and successful. It’s just not my thing. When I concocted the concepts for The Stewart Realty series I was really only thinking “relationships”—all sorts of them. Not just between a couple attracted to each other physically and/or emotionally but the relationships between siblings, friends, and family. So what started out with (literally) the concept of a very hot hookup in an emptied-out real estate office between two people who seem perfect for each other but spend a lot of energy resisting anything beyond physical morphed into a 8.5 book sweeping story arc that includes novels about secondary characters that were so compelling to me I had to tell their stories.
Along the way I spent a ton of frustrated energy trying to convince “romance readers” to give me a shot and was given a warm welcome…until my books started turning “too real” for them. I don’t like to read books that are pure fantasy of any kind, so I don’t write them which has garnered me my fair share of haters (even once a twitter flame campaign thanks to a brewery-based novel: Paradise Hops.)
It was even harder to make people who think anyone who “writes romance” is barely literate understand that “romance” suffuses most everything we do, see, write, watch or listen to.
An uphill battle on both sides of the field. So when one of my fans proposed that what I write is “just like romance, only in real life, not billionaire and his virgin fantasy,” I jumped all over that. It makes perfect sense. And while I have resigned myself to never being a superstar because I just cannot write traditional romance novels, I am happy with what I do and think that every day I gain a bit more traction on both sides of the literary genre battlefield.
What is your process as a writer?
I’m a marathoner—writing-wise, not actual running. I only run if there is booze at the end of the race.
When I grasp a concept I give myself a week or so to head-write it (I don’t really take notes although I’m learning how helpful that can be) then I just open up the old laptop and plunge in headfirst, writing typically from start to finish, usually in a pretty short amount of time. For example, Good Faith, the final novel (maybe) of the Stewart Realty series is over 200,000 words and once I accepted how that was going to end (talk about controversial) I wrote it in about 8 weeks. Mind you, those 8 weeks I am useless for much else, just ask my family who have learned through the last 6 years or so of my writing journey that when I growl at them without taking my eyes from the screen that translates to: “Call for pizza.”
What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about a writing career?
I think it has to be the yin-yang of relative success. This business is so overcrowded with authors of all types and talent levels. And the ease of self publishing means some folks use it to cut corners on editing and cover art which dumps yet more, many times marginal, options into the book market. To be heard above all that, including the noise made by traditional publishers on behalf of their authors, is one of the most challenging things going right now. I’ve used my experience with small pubs, getting edited, promoting (the do’s and definitely the don’t’s) and choosing/designing covers to help me take the step into “total indie” and so far I like it. But it just means I am “totally independent” when it comes to all my promotions, financially and emotionally which is, in a word, challenging.
Does being based in Michigan influence your writing?
Absolutely. Even though Michigan is (one of) my adopted home(s) I find the practicality and stoicism of Midwestern people inspiring. I set the Stewart Realty Series in Ann Arbor (and East Lansing, and Manistee with a few diversions for trips and such) and kept the characters grounded in reality. They’re hard-working, mostly small business owners, love the outdoors and value the bonds of family and friends. Not that they don’t do that elsewhere, but the beautiful West Michigan coast settings and the “college football Saturdays” atmosphere really allowed me to draw vivid portraits of an area of the world many of my readers never really considered as “interesting” until now.
Other books I have set in Ann Arbor or in Michigan cities include Paradise Hops, Honey Red, and Healing Hearts.
Do you have any new books in the pipeline?
The Love Brothers, my family saga with romance elements is taking up all my time now. I wrote the 3 initial novels this spring and summer and have worked the first 2 through pre-order and have both of them in audio production. Book 3 is in edits and I’m writing a free novella I’ll release between books 2 and 3 now. “Safe Love” tells an interim story of the oldest brother that never really gets fleshed out in book one.
Once that’s all done (release day: Jan. 5 and March 1), I have 2 or 3 new ideas plus a Detroit-based thriller novel I’ll be reviving. It’s set in the future and contains elements of reproductive rights, racism and water safety. And yeah, there’s a brewery in it.