Interview with Debra Dixon

Debra Dixon is a busy woman— novelist, CEO, national speaker, publisher, business consultant, software developer, wife, mother and awesome friend. Thank you for dropping by Writing Sluts today.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Short answer:  Yes.

Long answer:  I wrote a sequel to GONE WITH THE WIND when I was 10.  Obviously, to any lover of romance fiction, the ending sucked.  My sequel was better than the real sequel.  <g>  Then I wrote a sequel to BIG RED.  And I finally ventured into completely “fresh” territory when I wrote a gothic romance while I was in college.

When did you decide to write GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT?

About the same time I decide to write everything–  When people with sticks begin to beat me.  I was actually talked into writing GMC.  I didn’t think anyone would buy it.

What movies to you recommend to help demonstrate GMC?

If you went to see a movie more than once at the theater, put it on your list.  Usually people have no trouble with strong GMC’s in the suspense and adventure genres.  I get requests most often to explain more about GMC in the quiet stories.




DEAR FRANKIE  (Gerard Butler, English film and not a tidy resolution but clear GMC)

The list could go on for days, but I’m assuming you guys have a large following of romance writers or writers who include relationships so those movies are good.

 Do you have any advice for writers waiting for ‘the call?’

Write.  Buy “GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict” (

Oh, you mean “meaningful” advice?  Fine.  Whatever.

My best advice is for writers to remember that writing success doesn’t define them.  The act of WRITING defines them.  A world of people want to write, but very few have the ability to conceive a full story and commit a beginning, middle, and end to paper. 

Too often we dismiss the incredibly difficult act of writing.  Writers don’t control what is published.  Publishers do.  But writers control the power of their words.  Don’t ignore the writing.  Keep writing.

 Chill.  (while still writing)  Don’t let ants-in-your-pants force you to the wrong publishing option for *you.*  Don’t let the expectations of others (You mean you haven’t sold yet?) rob you of the joy of creating fiction.   Writers have so many more options in 2009 than they did 10 years ago.  Everything from publishers with national laydowns to self-publishing a book.  But don’t make the wrong publishing decision for *you* just because you’re tired of Great Aunt Hildy asking you why you aren’t published.  Sure, Great Aunt Hildy might not know the difference between self-publishing and a national laydown.  But you will.  (assuming that your particular goals and needs are best served by a publisher with the infrastructure that makes a national laydown possible.)

The world doesn’t end if the call morphs into a letter beginning with “While we appreciate your taking the time to submit your work, . . .”  There are other publishers and other publishing models.  Spend some time while you’re waiting for the call to plan your next move.  What’s the “next best thing” for you and your book?  And then get the book right back out there.

 As an editor and co-owner of Belle Books,  how important is the query letter?

Important.  Don’t screw it up with puffery for the book or about me/us.  Don’t forget to attach the submission materials.  Use the spell checker in your email program.  Include your website or blog as part of your signature.  If you don’t have those things, are you living in a cave?

 Make sure your book blurb isn’t generic.  Capture my imagination.  If your book is a common plot, then you’d better make sure your blurb drips with your voice while still being a “professional summary.”

 What grabs your attention in a submission?

Voice.  Wait, let me think.  Voice.  Wait, let me say that again. . .voice.  Sure, clever concepts are great.  That makes me zoom to the material, hoping against hope that there is a *voice* on the page.  I want world texture, vivid characterization, a great concept, an involving plot and I want all of that supported by a voice that wraps around my imagination and drags me down into the story.

What is the biggest turn off?

Hubris.  Coyness.  “Will Anathea survive the evil wizard Sorkar’s plot?  You’ll have to ask for my book to find out.”  Uh. . .no.  It’s commercial fiction.  I pretty much know Anathea survives.

Melodramatic characters.  I see this constantly.

 Do you ever read for ‘fun?’

Not nearly as much as I would like, but I do read for fun.  You have to.  I had favorite authors and loved to read long before I became a writer and then a publisher.  However, I always feel so guilty about my to-be-evaluated piles.  I’ve worn a lot of hats the last 18 months as we’ve gotten the new imprint established so I’m hoping that 2010 will be less hectic.

What do you do to relax?

Besides reading, I’m a movie junkie and I quilt.  Seriously enough to have added a quilt studio to the house during a remodeling project.  1st Place Quilt by Debra

  1st Place Quilt by Debra

And my son and I share an iTunes account.  Mostly so he can call me up and tell me about the movie sales so I’ll go buy some and he gets them free.  Smart boy, that boy.

 What is on your iPod?

I just downloaded (*bought*)  K.D.Lang’s Hallelujah this morning.  The music I listen to most often is on my computer.  As for my iPod. . .um. . .this is sooo embarrassing.  My son loaded it.  So I don’t actually know everything that’s on it.  He got tired of it sitting there because I never found time to load it.  So, one day he walks in and hands it to me.  “Here.  You’re done.”  Lots of country.  (What was Kanya thinking??  Poor Taylor.) 

 Do you have any favorite TV shows?

House, Supernatural, Bones, Grey’s Anatomy, So You Think You Can Dance (hey, don’t judge me)  I’m expecting to love the new series The Forgotten with Christian Slater.  And over the summer I plowed through NCIS, all the seasons, on NetFlix.

 What is coming up next at Belle Books?

Gosh, what a great opportunity to plug our new newsletter, THE BELLE RINGER .  Here you can view it online or you can click the “Join Our List” button at the bottom of the page.

ks, spring and fall are our big lists.  We’ve got a ton of new books out and coming up are two I’m very excited about.

 SOUL CATCHER by Leigh Bridger (urban fantasy) SoulCatcher200

Amazon Link:  




PRIMITIVE by Edgar and Emmy winning author Mark Nykanen  (suspense)Primitive200

Amazon Link:   






Thank you, Debra, for sharing your time and sage wisdom with our readers.



12 thoughts on “Interview with Debra Dixon

  1. Deb,

    I love seeing a little bit into your life as editor and publisher. What imprints do Belle Books have and what are you actively looking for or acquiring?? It seems like I miss all the trends, I’m a day late with all the genres that are selling. spw

  2. Sandee– We have two imprints.

    BelleBooks is primarily Southern, clean, general fiction and women’s fiction. That’s what we’re known for publishing.

    Bell Bridge Books also publishes Southern but you’ll see emerging authors in our BBB imprint. We also publish fantasy/SF/horror, suspense/mystery, young adult, and middle grade. We do very little non-fiction, but we have done some humorous advice books.

    We aren’t a “romance” publisher. That means if a submission is pure romance, then it’s not a good fit for us. For instance one of our books ONLY YOU by Deborah Grace Staley, happens to be a romance, but it’s also a great humorous small town southern book which fits nicely into our Mossy Creek audience.

    We publish urban fantasy, but if the main plot is the romance, then the book isn’t a fit for us.

    We have a good section on the website which goes into detail about the things we’d like to see.

    Right now I’d love to see some straight-up epic fantasy and some steampunk. And hope springs eternal that I’ll see something like I CAPTURE THE CASTLE which is a wonderful journal novel in 1930’s England. I think I’ve got the date right. There aren’t a lot of writers with the voice to do that kind of book.

  3. Debra:

    Thanks so much for your insight. I especially liked your advice on selecting the right publishing option, and as you said, not getting ants in the pants. I just went through this recently with an editor who insisted on so many changes to the book I submitted, I finally decided to withdraw the work from consideration. It was a difficult decision, but since I made that hard choice, I feel as though a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It wasn’t the right publisher and I think I knew that all along.

    Thanks again for your candor and insight.


  4. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by The Writing Sluts, Deb! I’m glad to see Belle Books expanding and doing so well. Which proves a good point, nothing comes without hard work.

    Great advice to any writer, from newbie all the way to seasoned. Develop your voice, have an engaging query letter and don’t forget this is a business from the editor/publishers point of view.

    Is there anything else we should know besides don’t forget why we began writing to begin with, which is for the love of it?

  5. LS–

    It’s so hard to walk away from editorial interest, but if you feel you have to, you should. Everyone is happier.

    Having said that, I’ll also say that very few unpublished writers can turn in a book that doesn’t need revision. And I don’t know that many published writers who deliver a perfect book every time. Fresh *professional* eyes are always a good thing.

  6. Linda–

    There is so much most writers don’t know about the business of writing, how the business model is changing, what that means to the author, why understanding how publishers do business is important.

    J.A. Konrath (hard cover mystery writer) has a great blog. Go to his website and jump to it. Go back several months and just read forward. There are many other blogs out there that discuss the business. Most writers don’t want to be bothered. They’re creative souls.

    But a little grounding in how the world works is a good thing. There are some articles on the writers’ page of the website that speak to how even big NY publishers have books “skipped” or not bought by the chains.

    The number of books being published is astronomical these days. Breaking through the clutter is hard. Getting the book bought by a reputable publisher who promotes books is only half the battle.

    • Deb~

      Thanks, I’ll definitely check out the sites you recommended. A little knowledge is good. A whole lot of knowledge is even better!

  7. Oh, one more thing!

    Websites. Yes, you have to have one. Editors look. It’s the first thing I do. A blog will serve if it’s well-managed.

    Why? What we do is difficult. Working with an author, who is a Luddite, makes my job that much harder. I don’t have time to hold an author’s hand while they try to figure out Facebook or MySpace or Twitter. So, I like to see if the author has made any attempt to be current and accessible.

    • Hey, Deb, good to see you here. It’s been a long time.

      I’m one of those who has a MySpace page that hasn’t been updated in eons and is fighting against Facebook and Twitter with everything in me. Maybe I need a clone – or a secretary who’s funny and chatty and tech-savvy. 😉

      (On the other hand, I do have a website and participate in three blogs.)

      But thanks for your last line there. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about how much having a website can really matter. I always thought of it in a promotional way. But the way you put it — attempting to be current and accessible — makes so much more sense.

      I remember when my publishers first started accepting proposals, then manuscripts via e-mail. Now I’m doing proofs as pdfs. It’s cut waay down on my postage and overnight fees!

      • Hey, Marilyn!

        I hear you on the difficulty of keeping up with everything. And, as I said you don’t have to do everything. Making the effort to be accessible is the great thing.

        I totally love the change from paper to e-business!

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