1 - Can you introduce yourself to our French-speaking readers?
Hi guys! I’m Anna Zaires, and I write contemporary dark erotic romance and sci-fi erotic romance. I also collaborate with my husband, Dima Zales, on sci-fi and fantasy books. We live in sunny Florida, where we moved from New York City after starting to write full time in 2013.
2 - When did you decide to write in order to be published? Why did you choose to self-publish your books?
I started writing in the summer of 2012. It happened on a whim—I didn’t have any aspirations to be an author. I had a great job on Wall Street, and I really enjoyed what I did. However, I was also an avid reader of romance novels, and that summer I found myself bored with everything I was buying for my Kindle. I’ve always had vivid stories in my head, and one in particular (the one that would become Close Liaisons) kept nagging at me. So I told my husband about it—at the time he was managing a team of iOS developers for a major magazine company—and to my surprise, he said I should try writing a book. I laughed at first, but then I sat down and tried to get some words on paper. It took me three days to write one page, but when I showed it to my husband, he told me it was as good as any published book he’d read. So I continued—and to my shock, I became completely obsessed. I started writing every spare minute I had—on my commute using my iPhone, in the morning before work, in the evening after work… Dima and I plotted the book together, and before I knew it, we had almost 50,000 words—more than half of a full-length novel.
That’s when we began thinking about publishing. Neither of us had any idea how to go about it, so we started googling “how to publish.” We came upon terms such as “agent” and “query letter,” and also a couple of blogs on self-publishing. It took only a few hours of research online for us to decide that we didn’t want to spend the next several years pitching the book, only to be paid a tiny advance and miserably low royalties. Self-publishing had already taken off, and that seemed like a much more appealing alternative, as the economics were better and we could get the book published much, much sooner. In fact, from the time Dima encouraged me to try writing to the time we pressed the “publish” button on Amazon, it was less than 3 months.
3 - How did you start in the self-publishing industry? Were your books well received from the start? In any case, French readers love them since all your books are on the Kindle bestsellers list.
Thank you! I’m so glad readers in France enjoy the books!
When we came out with our first book in the US (Close Liaisons), we enjoyed modest success. A number of readers loved it, but it didn’t go viral or anything like that. We had the wrong cover—one that made the book look more like an urban thriller than a romance—and we knew very little about marketing or promotion. We learned quickly, though, and by the time we published Close Obsession a few months later, we had much better covers. We also made the first book free to incentivize purchases of the second book. The strategy worked really well, and that’s when we saw that we may be able to do this for a living. After much agonizing, we decided to take the risk, and both of us quit our job to start writing full-time.
4 - Self-publishing is more developed in the USA than in France. I think, in the USA, it has reached its peak. Do you think that after this peak, this phenomenon will subside?
No, not at all. Self-publishing is here to stay. I don’t even think it’s peaked in the US—in fact, from what I see, it’s becoming more and more prevalent. Many popular traditionally published authors are now going hybrid or leaving their publishers altogether. The publishers just don’t offer enough value for what they take from the author. Dima & I can do almost anything that a big publisher can do, except possibly get our books into physical bookstores. And even that is just a matter of being willing to risk enough capital. Barbara Freethy, for instance, recently formed a unique partnership with Ingram to get her self-published print books into major stores, and everybody’s watching to see how that turns out.
5 - You only write trilogies. Can you tell us why?
It’s not intentional—it just happened that way with the first two series. I do plan to write some standalones in the future, and maybe even some novellas. Of course, I planned for Twist Me to be a standalone too, but I just couldn’t leave the characters alone :).
6 - You work with your husband. How do you work together? Are there some difficulties when you are writing a book? Do you sometimes argue with each other?
We actually work together really well. We take long walks to discuss the books we’re writing, and we plot everything together. We did try writing together, as in sitting side by side and writing, but it was too inefficient, so now we help each other with plot, offer feedback on scenes, and edit each other’s books, but we don’t actually write side by side. Dima does most of the writing on the sci-fi and fantasy books, whereas I do most of the writing on the romance novels.
7 - Let’s talk about your dark romance Twist Me trilogy. Were you afraid of the American readers’ reaction? Why did you choose such themes in your books? (Rape, abduction etc.)
I was definitely nervous, even though dark romance was becoming increasingly popular here in the US. As to why I chose to write it, well, partially it’s because I’ve always liked reading those types of dark, forbidden stories, and partially because the book and the characters just came to me. I started writing Twist Me thinking I was going to publish it under a different pen name, but Dima convinced me not to do that, as we already had a built-in readership from the Krinar books (which also have some of the darker elements, just more toned down).
8 - With the forced seduction theme, don’t you feel you are going back to the romance novels of the eighties? Is this a new trend ?
Yes, in a way, dark romance and dark erotica are a callback to the bodice rippers of the 80s. Romance novels have become very politically correct—and bland—in the last couple of decades, and many readers have been missing those types of books (don’t judge – it’s our right to have fantasies :)). Of course, modern-day dark romance often has a psychological component to it, and at least one of the protagonists realizes that that type of relationship is not okay.
9 - Considering your success, do you feel you should send your manuscripts to traditional publishers? If not, why?
At this point, it would be very easy for Dima and me to get traditionally published. In fact, we’ve already been approached by agents and foreign publishers. I can’t say we won’t ever go for it, but the offer would have to be extremely compelling. Mozaika Publications—the company Dima & I formed to publish our books—does more than most traditional publishers. We not only release our books in ebook and print formats, but we also do audiobooks and translations (and even audiobooks of translations). The business aspect does take up a lot of our time (80%, in fact, even with one full-time employee and one part-time assistant), but we don’t have to deal with query letters, difficult editors, treacherous contracts, delayed royalty payments, or any of the other issues we constantly hear about from our traditionally published author friends. We have complete control over our books, and we can make sure they’re exactly what we want them to be.
10 - Do you have a last word for our French-speaking readers?
I love you, guys :). Thank you so much for your support, and I promise you many more books in French!