MaryJanice Davidson might very well be Minnesota's most prolific author.
In 14 years, she has published 75 books -- mostly humorous sexy vampire chick lit (the popular "Undead" series) and a series of comic novels about a neurotic FBI agent with a split personality. Yeah, there are one or two e-books in there (including the how-to guide "Escape the Slush Pile"), but most of her books are hardcover or paperback editions, set in Minneapolis and published by the very respectable St. Martin's Press and Berkley Sensation.
Seventy-five novels in 14 years averages out to more than five books a year. How is that even physically possible?
"I'm really fortunate that I type 120 words a minute," Davidson said with her boisterous, infectious laugh.
"When I first quit my day job, I was terrified." (Over the years, she held a series of what she calls SDJs -- stupid day jobs.) "I called my editors and said I'm trying to make a go of this, and they threw every contract at me they could. And for two years, I had a book or an anthology out every month. Now when I'm doing a mere three or four books a year, they're like, 'Come on, you're getting lazy on us.'" (New this year are "Yours, Mine and Ours," the latest in the FBI series, and "Undead and Unstable," which pubs this week.)
Davidson's books land regularly on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Her annual income is in the mid-six figures and she employs a personal assistant, as well as someone to clean her house in Hastings.
But it was not always so. Davidson grew up an Army brat, her family moving from place to place so often she never bothered to make friends. Instead, "the first thing you do in every new town is find the library," she said. Eventually, the family settled in Cannon Falls, where she graduated from high school. She never went to college, but worked at her writing for 15 years with no success. "My 20s were a blizzard of rejection slips," she said.
She met her husband, Hastings City Council Member Anthony Alongi, in Northfield. "I was a townie, and he went to Carleton," she said. "Picture me loitering on the street corner in my acid- washed miniskirt and my '80s perm. God, I was hot." (Here comes that great laugh again.)
When Alongi went off to Harvard, she went with him, working those SDJs to pay the bills.
It was "pure cussed spite" that kept her writing. "Not even determination," she said. "I was really pissy and just dug in. I'd go to a bookstore and I'd flip through flap copy and I'd think, if this gal can get published, I can get published."
She finally sold "Undead and Unwed" -- the first in the series about Betsy, the unwilling queen of the vampires who works in an office at a SDJ -- when she was 33. (She's now 42.) One year later, the first "Twilight" book was published, and suddenly vampires were hot, hot, hot.
"I'm so insanely fortunate," she said. "I'm grateful every day. Here I am, sitting in my nice house in Hastings, and part of me is waiting for the cops to come and take me away for squatting." (Cue the great laugh.)