Stefanie Sloane worked for Amazon during its early days. She talks about its success and why she left to start writing novels herself…
How has your love of books influenced your career path?
Books and laziness have everything to do with my career path. It takes very little effort on my part to read. I enjoy a good story, books are portable, and you look smarter when reading. When I discovered that my university would allow me to major in something that required little more than reading books? I was sold. And when I found a job where I could not only read an endless supply of novels but then tell people what I thought about those novels? Well, it was a simple hop, skip, and jump to writing full-time. And by simple I mean a lot of hard work, sweat, tears, and on one occasions, blood.
What was it like working for Amazon as a start-up?
Exhausting. Exhilarating. Often frustrating but never boring. The term “start-up” wasn’t in my vocabulary before arriving at Amazon, so I had no idea what I was in for. Hint: I was in for a LOT. But I made some great friends, learned more than most do in a lifetime, and met many amazing authors and bookish types, so it’s all good.
What do you think has been the secret to Amazon’s success?
You know, there are a million MBAs trying to figure out the answer to this question, so I would never pretend to be an expert. But if I had to hazard a guess, I would say it’s more than just their ruthless desire to control the retail sector. I worked a stint in the HR dept before moving to the Amazon editorial department. As we sifted through resumes, test scores, references, and writing samples, the mantra running on a continuous loop in our minds was “we only hire the best and the brightest”. Don’t get me wrong: I most certainly did work with people who failed to meet this requirement. But more often than not, the right people were brought in – and by right, I mean those with the smarts and unquenchable drive to dominate. The combination of drive, desire, smarts, and dedication is a hard one to beat.
What did your time at Amazon teach you about the book industry?
Everything. My title was Category Manager. I was expected to not only manage the editorial connected to the Romance page, but also understand the entire process that is publishing and book selling – not an easy task. From author first pass pages to the warehouse and finally the customer – and all points in between – I worked side by side with writers, editors, publicists, in-house buyers, marketing VIPs, and too many more to list. The experience was invaluable and one that I would not forfeit for anything in the world.
Why did you decide to leave?
Um, my stock had fully vested? Seriously, though, I had one child and was considering having a second. High-tech jobs require long hours, and I’d reached the point in my life where I needed to be more available to my family. But beyond this, the company had changed. Some people say that there are start-up employees and long-term employees, and I would have to agree. The start-up years at Amazon were a time rife with possibilities. But as the business expanded and more layers of bureaucracy were added, roles grew more rigid and rules followed suit. It wasn’t the right job for me anymore, plain and simple.
What inspired you to choose historical romance as your genre?
I’ve always read a lot of historical romance. But when I first began writing, I had my eye on making a name in the chick lit or literary fiction field. My first effort, a chick lit along the lines of Bridget Jones, didn’t sell, so I took some time off and thought long and hard about what to do. Dear friends, who also happen to be authors, suggested my voice might be perfect for the Regency era. So I gave it a go. And here I am!
Which books have had a big influence on you and why?
Honestly, there are too many to list. But I can say every last book that has managed to find its way into my heart over the years has one thing in common: somehow, some way, they’ve resonated with me on an emotional level. And I don’t mean in big, dramatic, life-changing ways – though, sometimes that is the case. Often it’s the subtle humor or sly sadness that influences me. There’s so much work going on behind the quiet moments and I hope to one day be able to say the same thing about my books.
The Saint Who Stole My Heart is the fourth instalment in the Regency Rogues series. Danger, desire, and intrigue tangle seductively throughout the novel, which centers on the mind and love puzzles plaguing Dashiell Matthews, Viscount Carrington, as he searches London for a notorious murderer known simply as the Rook. When fate causes him to cross paths with Miss Elena Barnes, Dash discovers an intoxicating enigma: a beauty as intelligent as she is fearless. Lured only by a collection of rare books left to her family by Dash’s late father, Elena is reluctant to leave the safety and comfort of her rural home. Yet when Elena discovers Dash’s mission to track the dangerous Rook, she realizes he is willing to risks everything – her trust, her heart, her very life – to join him.