Although it was a childhood dream of mine – to be an author – did I ever really believe it might happen? The answer is ‘no’… and yet, here I am.
As this is my very first blog I hope you’ll forgive me if I tell the tale of my path to publication.
In the summer of 2011 my second attempt at a Regency novel had just been ‘positively’ rejected by Mills and Boon. Although the story wasn’t right for them, they liked my voice and would be interested in seeing more of my work. Fired up with enthusiasm, I began my third Regency – Mary and the Marquis. And got stuck a third of the way in!
In the meantime, I took the most important step in my writing career: I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) which included, as a part of the membership of their New Writers’ Scheme (NWS), an assessment of a complete novel.
My first meeting of the Birmingham chapter of the RNA was a revelation. I realised I had never actually spoken to another writer before! Other than a few email exchanges, I’d had no contact whatsoever with other writers and, suddenly, here were people who understood plotting and characterisation and point of view!
For my NWS submission, I sent off my second Regency so I could find out how to ‘fix’ it for Mills and Boon. The assessment was thorough – complimentary about some aspects of my writing, brutally honest about others – but it was a priceless learning experience. After a few dismal attempts to rewrite that second Regency, I picked up Mary and the Marquis again and applied the advice to that instead
One of my favourite sayings is ‘real life got in the way’. I suspect it’s a ‘poor me’ sort of an excuse to explain why I haven’t done what I should have done. Real life did intervene through the autumn and winter of 2012/3, and I barely wrote a word during that time. But I did get going again, and managed to finish Mary and the Marquis with a month or so to spare before the deadline for the NWS.
This time, the assessment was really positive. There was still work to do, but here is where I struck very lucky. Melanie Hilton is the organiser of the NWS and also just happens to be a Regency writer (as Louise Allen) for Harlequin Mills and Boon (HMB) Historicals. My reader, also, writes for HMB Historicals. Melanie offered to contact her editor on my behalf once I’d carried out any revisions suggested by my reader, so I was very fortunate to not only have the RNA NWS behind me, but also two very experienced Regency writers.
I got ‘The Call’, offering me a two book contract with HMB Historicals, on November 7th, 2013.
So, my childhood dream turned from fantasy to reality. I’ve learned much along the way:
- It’s never too late (all those negative thoughts that I’m too old to start a new career);
- Keep going, even when it’s tough (one I’m still working on!);
- Be prepared to listen to and act upon advice and criticism from professional writers and publishers;
- Most importantly of all, if you have a dream, find others who share that dream and make friends. They are not your rivals. You can, and will, learn from each other.
What dreams have come true for you in an unexpected way?