Author Override is the place where authors take the reins and take you on a journey into their world. Some may allow you into their private writing dens. Others may take you along with them on research trips or interviews. Whatever the case may be, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride because here you’ll get an in-depth look into an author’s musings.

Today we have authors Joan Swan and Marjorie Liu with us as Joan continues on with her next stop of her Journey of a Debut Author Tour.  Please welcome them as they talk about the next step on the road to publication! Take it away, Joan!

Welcome to the Journey of a Debut Author Blog Tour!

This is our NINTH week in a behind the scenes look at what’s involved in getting a debut author prepared for publication. My own debut novel, FEVER, releases February, 2012, just two months away!  At every stop on the tour, I’ll have a guest NYT bestselling author answering questions about their experience as a debut author and I’ll also be giving away their books!  Links for previous topics and locations are listed at the end of this post.

My guest author this week is the wonderful Marjorie Liu, and I have FOUR of her books for giveaway!

Burnout — that’s our topic this week!

It’s actually rather apropos considering the time of year — traditionally filled with both cheer and stress as we try to fit all our regular activities into the day along with a bevy of new holiday fun.  But I’m going to take a little different approach on the subject today. 

Anyone who has ever attempted any significant endeavor knows a stellar outcome usually requires a significant investment of passion.  In a start up situation, such as mine as a debut author, that passion usually comes in the form of a whole lot of time, effort, selflessness, generosity, goodwill, prayer and hope, because, honestly, most first time authors don’t have much in the way of money, fame or any noteworthy family in Hollywood standing by to give us a boost.

One of the definitions of burnout is a fire that has totally destroyed something.  While that may not be the first or most common description that comes to mind, it fits this situation quite well.  Generally, writers have two passions in their careers–the writing itself and everything else (i.e. promo, development, finances, management).  They are like dual fires, burning toward each other until they finally meet and extinguish each other for lack of oxygen. (Can you tell I’ve been married to a firefighter for over 20 years?)

This scenario can be applied to anyone suffering burnout from too much too do with too few resources in too short a time frame, not just writers.  Welcome to modern America, right?  Well, to a degree.  We all have choices. 

In my case, I am my own worst enemy.  An overzealous obsessive-compulsive perfectionist pleaser, I may as well plaster Kill Me Now on my forehead and be done with it, but evidently, I also have a masochistic streak and prefer to drag out the torture.  Lucky you.

In addition to all that, I’m nervous.  I really don’t know what to expect when Fever releases, so I figure better to over prepare than under prepare.  The drawback there, given my crazy tendencies, is…you guessed it–burnout.  Big time. 

For me, burnout manifests in a variety of negative ways and it radiates outward.  What I mean by that is that I will sacrifice myself and the things I want and enjoy first.  The things I need next.  Beyond that, less important duties fall to the wayside and everyday tasks go uncompleted.  When this goes on week after week, month after month, a negative cycle develops and the dysfunction that I thought would be a temporary situation until I got through the rough spots has become an everyday norm, one that now takes significant effort, possibly even weeks of vacation time and purposeful focus, to break.  Additionally, the activities that I believed would extend for a two month time frame have created other, unexpected and continuous time consuming tasks. 

Can you see the cyclone?  That’s me…that piece of twisted spaghetti waggling in the eye of the storm.

And it’s truly a double-edged sword because individually, there is not one piece of this journey I don’t enjoy.  Each new door I pass through has introduced me to new people, fresh opportunities and a stronger part of myself.  What is overwhelming is handling everything at once.  And, I’m not, honestly…at least, not very well.  I don’t think anyone can.  Something has to give–personally, professionally, physically, emotionally…

Here’s what I’ve done in the last few weeks to start my recovery.

  • I’ve reduced my book reviews for publishers, taking only specific books because they are new releases of very good friends.
  • I’ve decreased the number of guest authors on my website for the same reason.
  • I’ve left a block of time open before my Feb/March blog tour to prepare posts ahead of time.
  • I stay in touch with my writing friends–those who understand me and love me anyway.
  • I’ve given myself permission to not be perfect.  (This may not sound like much, but it’s huge.)
  • I’ve accepted the fact that not everyone will like me, no matter how hard I try. (Another biggie.)
  • I am learning to recognize my limits instead of running over them like a truck.
  • I try to stick with a routine that keeps my dark side from taking over.
  • I’ve enlisted the help of my family to pick up the pieces.

I don’t know about you, but I’m dying to know how New York Best Selling Author Marjorie Liu handles burnout.  A lawyer by training, an author by love, Marjorie’s portfolio of work includes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels and comic books.

Marjorie has studied and traveled extensively through Taiwan and China, and spent some time working at the US Embassy in Beijing. She loves to read and loves poodles.

Today we’re giving away FOUR books in Marjorie’s paranormal romantic thriller Dirk & Steele series. The latest in the series, WITHIN THE FLAMES, released November 29th, and a brand new novel in her Hunter’s Kiss series, THE MORTAL BONE, releases December 27th.   

You can find Marjorie at her website, Twitter, Yahoo, Myspace and blog.

Marjorie, as a debut author who had never experienced the complete production and publication cycle before, did you ever find yourself at a stage of burn out? If so, how did you deal with it?

For me, burn out is the same as writer’s block — like, multiplied by a million. It’s exhaustion combined with a lack of direction, with an extra dose of frustration and self-doubt mixed in. Basically, it’s pure misery. And yes, at least once in the writing of every book, I experience this. In the beginning of my career, I didn’t deal with it very well. I didn’t know how. I’d never experienced anything like it. So I’d stew and stew, trying to write, fighting for a break — and eventually, I’d muddle through. But man, oh man. What heartache.

If you became burned out, at what specific point did you do so? Before publication? Afterward?

Again, burn out — for me — is the same as deep exhaustion. There were days when all the work would come to a standstill, and I’d have to walk away. Just walk away from the computer and read a book, see a movie, do some laundry — anything but actually think about the story at hand. There was no specific point when that would happen, either. I’ve become exhausted writing a novel at 30,000 words — or at 70,000. it just depends on the story I’m trying to tell.

By the time I’m finished writing a book, though, my energy levels have usually returned. This might have something to do with the fact that — after a couple months writing the same thing — I’m more than ready to move on to a new project.

Do you still experience now? To the same extent? What have you learned over the years?

I’ve learned how to give myself permission to relax, and ask for help from my editors. That was incredibly difficult for me to do in the beginning. In fact, I don’t think I ever contemplated the concepts of “relaxing” or “calling my editor.” How foreign! I was supposed to do this on my own! So I’d hit the wall and just sit there for days or weeks, gnashing my teeth.

Finally, about four years ago, I worked on a book that drove me up the wall. It was the last straw. I called my editor, and told her that I’d reached a point in the book that had me stumped. I didn’t know what to write next. And, lo and behold, she talked me through it. She asked me just the right questions, soothed my rumpled, ruffled, feathers — and by the end of the conversation, I had a direction and renewed sense of energy. I was able to start writing again.

I’m not shy about calling my editors anymore.

How do you balance the writing side vs. the business side of your career?

I don’t balance it well. Not on my own. This is where having a great agent comes into play. Not only do I have a wonderful agent, but I also have a lovely publicist who helps keep me on track.

If you could tell debut authors one thing to do to avoid burn out, what would it be?

Give yourself permission to relax! Please! This is not a race. It’s a long haul endurance run, and you need to give yourself permission to stop every now and then, and breathe. Also, ask for help. Call a friend if you get stuck or feel worn out. Call your editor. Don’t hold all that frustration in. You have to talk it through.

What tips do you have to relieve stress at times when you might be burnt out but simply can’t do anything about it?

That’s so individual. Do what makes you happy. For me, it’s reading and watching movies, and talking to my friends. It’s cleaning (of all things) and reorganizing my closets. Or maybe just going for a long drive, or having a massage. Meditation helps. Prayer. But this is me we’re talking about. Again, everyone is different.

What perspective can you give on the importance of your writing career in terms of your health, family, and friends?

Reading, telling stories…all of it, from cracking open a new book, to putting pen to paper, fills me with a sense of purpose. I also happen to think the act of writing — for everyone — is incredibly important. Words are the foundation of everything we do, and how we interact with one another.

But it doesn’t matter how much you love something if you approach it in an unhealthy fashion. You need to live a balanced life, which is something I’m beginning to learn and integrate into my own day-to-day. Being able to do what I do — full time — is such a privilege. I have such incredible freedom, which allows me to spend time with my friends and family. Being a writer has also brought wonderful people into my life whom otherwise I would never have met. It’s all such a blessing.

Prior Journey of a Debut Author Tour posts:
10/3 Romance at Random with Lauren Dane — The Sales Call
10/10 Romance Novel News with Kat Martin — Edits
10/24 Dear Author with Pamela Palmer — Cover Art
11/7 USA Today, Happy Ever After with Suzanne Brockmann
11/14 Love, Romance, Passion with Carly Phillips — Author Websites
11/21 Romance Dish with Brenda Novak — Building an Author Network
11/30 Reading Between the Wines with Sharon Sala — Writing a Series
12/7 Seductive Musings with Victoria Alexander — Moving on to the Next Book

Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist. She writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, and her first novel with Kensington Brava debuts February 28, 2012.  Her second, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012. 

Currently, she works as a sonographer at a one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation, and lives in magnificent wine country on the central coast of California with her husband and two daughters.

You can find Joan at her Website, Twitter, Facebook, Blog

Are you ready for the giveaway? 
Everyone experiences burnout, what unusual steps have you taken to
prevent or cure the problem?  
Are you a Marjorie Liu fan?  What is your favorite Marjorie read and why?
Any comment enters you in a drawing to win 1 of 4 books by Majorie Liu.

International giveaway!

All you have to do is:

1. Be a follower of this blog
2. Answer the question in the comments of this post
3. Fill out the form below

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  1. Hi ladies,
    Yes, reading is the great escape, isn’t it? That is how I came to write — when I ran out of books I loved to read, I started to write for that same escape. Writing is still my favorite form of escape, though now-a-days it comes with more responsibility and stress and I find myself falling back to reading for a true escape.

  2. VERY generous giveaway! Burnout…tough question! I usually try to get away for a weekend, relax my mind and body…revitalize. Good food, good wine, a little hot tub time…a good snuggle with the hubby, yadda, yadda 😉 Happy Holidays!

    [email protected]

  3. These books sound great. I agree with the other posters. I read, too. It helps that a book can transport you to somewhere else. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. thanks you for this international giveaway.
    Books are what help me again stress and lot of troubles in life at the moment ( and believe me staying in bed several weeks without book would be an hell)

  5. Hi Leanna, that’s nice to hear…we often don’t talk about the tough side/down side of the biz, but it’s really no different than any other career. And great to get different ideas to help us all through those times.

  6. When I hit the burn-out stressed-as-hell stage. I close off the world and dive into reading, music and my audio books. Thanks for this generous giveaway chance! The books look amazing. Cheers! DeAnna Schultz @SacredmOOn1

  7. You are right about everyone experiencing burn out – I am experiencing it now so what I did is I got me a partner to help me wth my blog because my hobby has turned into a full time job – LOL I am also looking for a few more reviewers too so hopefully that will help.

    I read In the Dark of Dreams and fell in love – My review is on goodreads. I didnt know it was a series at the time, now I am dieing to read the whole series and have all the books on my wish list. Would love to win any of them.

    Ronda Tutt
    [email protected]
    Queentutt’s World of Escapism

  8. When I suffer from burnout I have some amazing on-line friends that I enjoy to shoot the breeze.

    Sometimes I focus my creative outlets in other directions. Usually when I suffer writing burnouts I’ll feel the need to sketch or draw or possibly crafty.

    Anything that keeps my mind blank to recharge.

  9. Thanks for such a lovely post. As a reader, I just assume that my authors are divinely inspired and words just pour out! lol… It’s eye opening to read how much hard work it actually is for a story that I think is perfect 🙂

    I love Marjorie’s Hunter Kiss series and have read them all (and waiting anxiously for the newest release). For some unknown reason, I haven’t read any of the D&S series and I would love to be able to start it 🙂

    Thanks again and Happy Holidays!

  10. i think im average when it comes to burn out recovery I read watch a movie take my kids to the park and hang out for some laughs with friends just spend the whole day without the stress cause it whatever it is it will be waiting for me when i get back

  11. I have never read Majorie Liu yet so i’m not a fan yet but a possible fan. lol Books look and sound intersting though.

    Stress is really bad for you no matter how you acquire it and you have to tell yourself. OK enough and make some changes. Takes a while to figure out what works so don’t be rough on yourself you’ll figure it out.

    Lisa B

  12. I think everyone experiences burn out no matter their profession. As a court reporter, long transcripts always involve a period of frustration and feeling I’ll never finish.

    The same can be said for my writing career. Each book has a scene or stage that just seems to hit a wall. I’ve learned to walk away from my laptop and take a walk outdoors. The fresh air and sunshine (or crisp air and snow depending on the season) helps clear my mind and emotions. Then I’ll escape from reality by reading a book, or three or four!

    Other worlds always hold the appeal of escapism. =D

  13. That was a well-timed posting. Burnout, hmmm- I think stepping away from whatever is causing it for a walk, a movie, etc and getting plenty of rest and nutritious food (I tend to snack when I’m freaking out).

    Thank you for the giveaway opportunity.

  14. It’s not unusual, but I’ve done a bit of meditation to help me through some tough spots. If it’s really bad, I take a mental health day or two and stay home and watch TV.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  15. Looks like reading is still ranking up there high, which makes sense considering we’re big book lovers!! :^)

    They are the perfect cure, as Renee said, escaping your world and moving into another.

  16. ~ Rhonda included getting help
    ~ Di’s got the idea with dark chocolate
    ~ Rachel dives into something else creative
    ~ Tracy added meditation
    ~ Ivy suggested excercise

    Awesome ideas ladies! I’m getting the sneaky suspicion you’ve done this burnout thing before.

  17. Lisa, you’re so right. When I realized the short term wasn’t going to end up being so short, I started making changes. Too late, but better late than not at all. And live and learn, I suppose. 😀

  18. Renee, I tried court reporting school for a year before I bailed, and though the job I have now (because of the location/pt. population not necessarily the job itself) is pretty dang high-stress, the thought of missing something in transcription b/c of a mistake or b/c I wasn’t fast enough just freaked me out. *That* would put me in burnout mode quick!

  19. I am a writer and a blogger, so I have experienced burn out in both forms at one time or another.

    The secret on the blogging aspect of things for me, is to take the time to read for pleasure as well as for review. If you are reading things you want to read and not just what you need to read, burn out tends to happen less often.

    Burn out for a writer is somewhat different. Sometimes I find that I just have to put the story down for awhile, go do something else, take a nap, go for a walk, read a book, anything to give yourself a fresh perspective. Also looking at the story from a readers perspective helps me see where I want to take it sometimes.

    Burn out is inevitable… it’s how you cope with it that matters.

  20. I wouldn’t call them unusual steps but I read, listen to music, watch tv/movies and joke around with friends and family to cure the problem. To prevent it from happening I’m cutting down on the number of courses I take next semester cause right now I’m suffering some serious burnout.

  21. When I experience burnout, I’m more likely do something different – different exercise, different place to live, different hobby, or in extreme cases a different job.

  22. I’m not a very good coper when it comes to burnout. My husband isn’t either. In fact, I’m writing this from a hotel room which we got for the evening, because we did a little overnight to help with our burnout. xD As I said, we don’t cope very well. 😛

  23. I’ve just recently experienced burn-out. I’ve been a stay at home mom for 5 years now and my son started school. I decided to go back to college and finish my degree and I overloaded myself. I refuse to make below an A so I try so hard. It paid off…I got all A’s, but I was exhausted. I did find that actually cleaning my house helped with relaxing. I also went to the gym. It took my mind elsewhere. Great post and contest.

  24. I love Marjorie’s books. I am torn between Tiger’s Eye, a Taste of Crimson and The Wild Road for a favourite read though. All three have been read almost to death (or at least to needing a new copy :)).

  25. Timitra, I think you’ve found the key there — not overloading in the first place. Every time I think I learn that…something else comes alone to test me again :-D. Good luck with school!

  26. Book Savvy,

    That’s worked well for me in the last couple of weeks as well. Sounds like we’re on the same page. Here’s to continuing on that path into the new year!

  27. To prevent burnout i try to do, what i’m capable to do, because stress is a pain in the arse! lol! And to leave stress out of my life I like to hear some music or read some books that always calms me!

  28. To avoid burnout I force myself to take a break even when I think it’s wasting time. I also do week-long fasts once a month to keep me focused and disciplined.
    I am such a HUGE fan of her books! I think my favourite is Tiger Curse though because Hari is the love of my life lol

  29. Sure I get burnout. I generally go on vacation and take some time off-try something new. Anything to recharge my batteries. Nothing unusual though.

    HUGE fan of Marjorie M. Liu! Geez, I don’t know if I can pick a favorite. I love the Dirk & Steele work. Maxine Kiss is one of my favorite literary heroines from her Hunter Kiss series. I’ve even got a pile of her Dark Wolverine issues. I did just recently read A Wild Light and really enjoyed it. But if I have to choose a favorite-The Red Heart of Jade sticks in my mind.

    mljfoland AT hotmail DOT com

  30. I’m a compulsive scheduler. I can schedule like nobody’s business. As a result, I sometimes pack my days to the gills and end up experiencing burnout.

    One of things I did to prevent overscheduling myself is breaking up my Google calendars. I split my personal calendar into two – one is just for social events, and one is just for me. On the latter, I have started to include blocks of “Me Time.” This can be time to sit in a cafe and read, or catch up on Glee. I freelance, so on the days where I have a lot going on, I try to get at least two hours in the middle to relax (or take a nap).

  31. I usually just need to slow down and breathe. I tell myself that everything won’t fall apart if I don’t take care of it at that exact moment. I also try to fit reading in there, even if it is to read to my little one. Thanks for the chance. I have just come across this author and series. They sound great. I already put them on my wishlist.

    sariahwalters at gmail dot com

  32. I hope I’m not late. Its been a while after I enter giveaway at UTC :p.
    How to prevent burnout? Since I working full time from Monday-Friday, and the chance for me to get burnout is big, I spent my weekend with sleeping and shopping. Sometimes just snuggle on the bed and read books. Or chat with friend. 🙂

  33. I have only read a novella by Marjorie so far (in the Inked anthology) and enjoyed it a lot! Her easily flowing writing style and rich worldbuilding made her novella one of my favourite in the book. Can’t wait to read more from her.

    Thank you for the interesting interview and the generous giveaway! 🙂

    stella.exlibris (at) gmail (dot) com