MILTON-FREEWATER — A local romance author is about to make it big in the world of book publishing.
But when Simon & Schuster releases “Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits” in June, thousands of romance readers will have already download and read the work by Milton-Freewater author Mary Virginia Munoz.
“Big publishers usually don’t want books that are already released but that is changing,” Munoz said.
The relatively new author, who has completed eight books in the past five years, noted she is not the only online author to be sought out by Simon & Schuster, a powerhouse New York publishing company.
Famous science fiction author Hugh Howey also caught the company’s attention after the successful online release of his “Wool” series.
“Now they are looking and seeing if there are (online) authors out there they want to publish,” she said.
Starting this summer, Simon & Schuster will begin releasing Munoz first book of three in her “Austen Takes the South” series written under the pen name of Mary Jane Hathaway and originally released online by Munoz in January 2013.
“Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits” is about a modern-day Jane Austen by the name of Shelby Rose, a Civil War historian on a college campus. Fate would have it that one of the heroine’s biggest critiques, also a Civil War historian, gets hired by the same college. What follows is conflict and romance with a good number of hurdles on the pages.
“You want things to go well for your friends,” Munoz said, noting a good romance novel is nothing like a good life. “If this is a character in your book you do not want everything to go well.”
What has gone well for Munoz is her growing readership in the series, which includes an unexpected following.
“I actually have a large male readership because of all the Civil War stuff. It’s odd. I will get grandpas writing me about Colt .44s,” she said.
Munoz is currently writing the third book in the series, all three of which will be printed and sold through Simon & Schuster starting June.
They aren’t her first books in print.
Munoz’ stared writing in 2009 when she was working at Penrose Library at Whitman College. It took her two years to finish her first book.
“Now I can finish one in four months,” she said. “But now I realized the output that you give everyday gets you closer to the ending. And I also realized revising the first chapter for six months wasn’t really getting me any closer.”
Her first book in print, “Season of Joy,” was published by Harlequin early 2012 under the pen name Virginia Carmichael. Her contract would include two other books in the series. “Season of Hope” was published November 2012. Her final book with Harlequin, “A Home for her Forever Family,” will be released this fall. The first two books sold about 75,000 copies each.
Munoz said she is grateful to have published with Harlequin, but added the company targets specific markets that didn’t always fit with books she wanted to write. And the company made it clear they had no interest in publishing her “Austen” series or other books that just didn’t fit.
Rather than hunt for another book publisher, Munoz decided to self publish online.
It turned out to be the right choice. Soon she was making more money on her “Austen” series than she was with Harlequin.
“Suddenly Harlequin was not looking so attractive,” she said.
Munoz said she would have continued to self publish online, but Simon & Schuster contacted her via her Facebook.
“Their editor, first she apologized for stalking me, then she asked if I was interested in talking to them,” Munoz said.
Munoz was interested, and about six weeks later she cut deal with the publisher.
As for her writing style, Munoz is very much a contemporary Christian romance author. But her characters face many struggles.
“A romance novel, generally you could describe it as a journey,” Munoz said. “The journey would be the couple becoming a couple at the end. What doesn’t work is to make your characters happy. That doesn’t work. You have to make them very unhappy, and that is hard.”
Munoz added that when she writes she makes sure there is a connection between the character and the diffusion of the plot.
“You should treat it like someone is trying to diffuse a bomb, in that you can’t make it easy for characters,” she said. “And they have to have something invested in it for them.”
As for sex scenes, Munoz said “there are 50 shades of romance novels” and hers are near the white end of the spectrum.
“Sweet and inspirational, not edgy or spicy,” Munoz described. “If something would happen it would be off the page and the characters would be married.”
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.