When some writers go on book tours, their fans show them dog-eared copies of their books. When MaryJanice Davidson goes on book tours, her fans show her their shoes.
“They take them right off their feet!” Davidson says in rapid-fire staccato over the phone from her home near Minneapolis. “They’ll say, `Look at these! Nordstrom Rack!’ And I say, `That’s great, but would you please put them back on, like, now?’”
You might not envy Davidson that, but you will envy her this: Designers send Davidson free shoes—in her size! (9 ½ ).
“Yeah,” she says. “Free shoes!”
Maybe it’s because Davidson’s best-known character, Betsy Taylor, star of six books, is a shoe-aholic. Maybe it’s because the Betsy Taylor books, as well as five—five!—other series Davidson has cranked out in the past three years, have earned her rabid fans who line up for blocks wearing tiaras and, yes, great shoes.
A few other things to know about Davidson:
1. She, like Betsy Taylor, is a 6-foot-tall, self-described, self-obsessed drama queen.
2. Unlike Betsy Taylor, she is not Queen of the Vampires. We don’t think.
3. She talks EXACTLY the way she writes: very fast, very flip, very funny.
4. She lacks the “I suck” gene that plagues most writers, so she writes 20 to 30 pages a day happily, ecstatically.
5. Because she lacks the “I suck” gene, in the past three years she has published 18 novels and contributed to 19 anthologies. I might have lost count. Let’s see: the Betsy Taylor series, the Royal Family of Alaska series (what? you didn’t know about them?), the Wyndham Werewolves series, the Fred the Mermaid series, the Gorgeous series and the Jennifer Scales series, young-adult books written with husband Anthony Alongi.
6. However, she’s slowing down to a mere four novels and three novellas this year.
7. Her name, MaryJanice, is a screw-up by her soldier father, whose handwriting in a letter home was so bad that her mother couldn’t tell he wanted to name his only child Mary SPACE Janice. But the weird name is now an asset: She’s easy to Google.
It’s not that 18 novels and 19 novellas is a world record. But 18 novels and 19 novellas in three years just might be. And yes, she has kids, 7 and 11.
“I am really prolific, and there are three reasons for that,” she says. “Reason No. 1: I was a secretary for 10 years. I type 120 words a minute. When you can type as fast as you can think, you can do 60 pages in three hours without any trouble at all. No. 2: I’m always working on two books at a time. If I get stuck in the Betsy-verse, I can go to Alaska, and vice versa.
“And reason No. 3 is that I had a day job since I was 16, and I was really scared to quit my day job and write full time,” she says. “I compensated for my anxiety by taking every single contract I could get my hands on. I told both my editors, `I’m writing full time,’ so for a while there I had a book or two coming out almost every month of the year.”
Davidson, 37, started sending out manuscripts to editors and agents when she was in her early 20s. She got a couple of books out with teensy publishers, like “Adventures of the Teen Furies” and “By Any Other Name,” which Hard Shell Word Factory released in 2001.
Then when Berkley called in 2003, her career took off. A year and a half later, “Undead and Unwed,” the first of the Betsy Taylor books, hit the shelves and the MaryJanice Davidson takeover of the comic paranormal romance genre had begun.
There is a fourth reason Davidson is so prolific, and it has nothing to do with being able to write between secretarial assignments. (“You would not believe how many books I wrote on company time!” she says.) Davidson just would rather write than anything.
“It was always, `Oh, goody! Now I get to sit down and write! Dinner’s done, the kids are in bed and I get to sit down and write the chapter that’s been stuck in my head like a fishhook.’ I mean, do you make time for pie? No! It’s always pie-time!
“My friend Lori Foster was a huge help in getting me started in the business and she said, `I never understood this “writing is so easy ... you just sit down and open a vein” stuff. If writing was hard, I’d never want to do it!’ And I say, `Sing it, sister,’” Davidson says.
Now Davidson is enjoying life as a romance supernova, alongside star authors like Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton. What’s not to enjoy? Fans line up to meet you, authors you’ve admired for years sit next to you on panels, bodyguards offer to protect you.
“I’m such a fan girl at conventions. I try to be a professional, and I fail miserably,” Davidson says. “I was moderating a panel and I had Charlaine Harris on my left and Laurell K. Hamilton on my right. And you know, Laurell doesn’t travel anywhere without an armed guard. She doesn’t. And she gets all these guys from the same agency, all these ridiculously fine-looking guys in these tailored suits and an interesting bulge under the jacket. They’re coming off an assembly line from somewhere.
“And she’s, like, about to sic Charles on me because I’m, like, fondling her. And the whole room is dying laughing; there were, like, 200 people in the room watching us. And afterward, her bodyguard comes up and I’m like, `Uh-oh, here comes the Taser.’ And he goes, `You know, you were a riot. Here’s my card. If you ever need company at a convention, give me a call.’ And I’m like, `Here’s my room key!’”