Chewing the Fat with...Reon Laudat
Author Reon Laudat has a new book out! The Mommy Group was published earlier this week. An established romance writer, this is Reon's first foray into mainstream women's fiction (in the subgenre of chick/mom lit). Her voice has been missed, and her readers will be glad to know she's back on the literary scene. Reon answered a few questions for me, playing catch-up, talking about life as an indie publisher and, of course, about her new offering.
Bettye: From what I see on Amazon, your last book, It's In His Kiss, was published in 2009. Is that accurate? If so, what have you been doing all these years?
Reon: The 2009 version of It's In His Kiss was a reprint of an older book with a new cover. My last new release was actually the romance Wanna Get to Know Ya in 2005, so I had a long, dry spell. I was feeling burned out and disillusioned about the business and more excited to be a new mom so I planned to take a short break from writing/publishing. That "short" break stretched longer than anticipated, but all the while my writer's brain never shut down. I enjoyed chick lit, particularly mom lit, but I could not find many novels in the niche featuring African-American women. Light bulb moment! I started plotting and writing with excitement again. And it felt great to be back.
After completing an early version of The Mommy Group in 2008, I sought to have it published traditionally with new representation for a fresh start with a brand new genre. I sent out sample chapters and received swift, enthusiastic requests for the full manuscript from four of my "wish list" agents. One offered representation the same day the full was received, so I really felt I was onto something. Everything was cranking along, but then the business was changing, the market tightening. You know the rest. The rejections started rolling in from editors--"Chick lit is dead," "Mommy lit is so yesterday," "The 'four friends' books are out." But then, after I'd almost given up hope...a yes from a Big Six publisher. It was an opportunity to get the story out there, but I wasn't thrilled about the offer, so I had to pass. No more offers after that one, but I did not give up on this manuscript. I kept working on it, rewriting, tweaking like a madwoman. I was obsessed, LOL! When indie publishing became a viable option, I was glad I'd hung onto it. I believe I made it a stronger novel.
Bettye: Yes, I know a thing or two about rejection...What's The Mommy Group about? Obviously, it's about motherhood, but a little more detail, please!
Reon: The Mommy Group is about four women dealing with the complexities of friendship, finances, and new motherhood. But you don't have to be a mom to like the book. I reveled in the opportunity to write more flawed lead characters. I'll admit I'm a pop culture/reality show junkie ("Survivor," "Big Brother," "Shark Tank"), and I might have been a tad influenced by shows of the "Housewives" ilk. Ducking for cover now, LOL!
Bettye: I'll confess that I have never had any interest in mom lit (not being a mom myself), but that cover is sooooo adorable, I can't wait to read this! The cover looks like it clearly came from a Big Six (I think it might be Big Five now) publisher, but you actually indie published this book. What do you think of the process?
Reon: The freedom feels amazing. But it's a lot of work! I had help with various aspects (the cover, editing, and formatting, etc.) Dealing with other people's schedules can be frustrating.
Bettye: Will readers have to wait another eight years for your next book?
Reon: Absolutely not. LOL. The "baby" is in third grade now.
Bettye: Did you happen to bring an excerpt with you?
Reon: I sure did! Here it is, from Chapter 1:
“Hey, y’all, focus!” Taryn tapped the table and took a bite of the sandwich Nicole had passed to her. “As I was saying, most rich people aren’t born that way.” A big wad of sausage and bread rolled around inside her mouth. “I need to stay on track. I know exactly where I want to be professionally and financially in the next ten years. My initial goal was to have a million saved up for retirement, not including home equity. I’m talking savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposit, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, and such. If Jon and I retire in our sixties, the plan is to have enough to stretch about thirty years.”
“Thirty years?” Nicole asked. “You think you’ll live well into your nineties?”
“The point is not worrying about running out of cash if I do,” Taryn said. “A million dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to. I need to double or triple that…at a minimum. Shoot, even Oprah once hoarded $50 million in what she called her ‘bag lady fund’ in case the national talk show host gig didn’t pan out.”
“That makes me nervous,” Nicole said. “I ain’t trying to be no bag lady either.”
Courtney shuddered. How could she have been so shortsighted and self-indulgent? She’d slashed her family’s financial cushion in half after insisting on handling their savings/checking accounts and bill payments. Rob managed their pension/retirement investments and the baby’s college fund. Though both earned great salaries, their ballooning monthly expenditures far exceeded their net monthly income. Rob probably wouldn’t complain about her charitable donations, because of the tax write-off, but if he knew exactly how much she’d squandered on designer clothes, jewelry and soirees…She might have gone a tad over the top on Taryn’s recent spa bash baby shower with its numerous white-uniformed attendants treating the guests to mani-pedis and foot/neck rubs. Her colleagues at Dermatology Associates were still buzzing about the Christmas dinner she’d hosted for them and their families two years ago. Chateaubriand, costumed carolers, and a Santa with a red velvet suit, real beard, and pot belly. Courtney’s breath caught as she imagined Rob’s big hands wrapping around her neck and squeezing until her eyeballs popped out. Time for a change of subject, but Taryn was like one of those darn desktop printing calculators spewing a never-ending roll of paper tape stamped with numbers.
“And there’s college tuition to think about.” Taryn patted her middle swollen with her first child, due in twelve weeks. “I don’t want my kid graduating with a ton of student loan debt the way I did. I didn’t think I’d ever pay off that fifty grand. Then there are possible medical bills that come with advancing age. But I plan to be ready for it all!” She reached for her plastic cup of water, added lemon wedges swiped from Courtney’s and Nicole’s drinks, and sprinkled three packets of sugar on top. “Why pay $3 for a cup of lemonade when I can make my own for free.” She stirred and tasted, hammily smacking her lips until she had it just right. “Ahhhh.”
Reon: I'm doing KDP Select for this one, so it's just on Amazon for now.
Bettye: Sorry, Nooksters...I have a Sony eReader myself, and while I love it, I've decided to ask Santa to bring me an inexpensive tablet that I can load the Kindle app on and get Kindle-only eBooks and deals. Thanks for stopping by, Reon!
Reon: Thanks for featuring me on your blog, Bettye!
Bettye: You're very welcome...and welcome back to publishing!
Readers, download your copy of The Mommy Group today from Amazon!