I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember – I still have a cassette tape of advice tips from Mills & Boon from way back when I was sixteen and clueless. Then life intervened, as it does, and it took me almost twenty years to really put my heart into trying to write category romance. I struck lucky & placed second in the M&B international writing comp 2009. By then I’d been well and truly drawn into romance writers forums and blogging – a whole new world of lovely, like minded women who were unstinting with their advice along with being pretty cool and funny to chat to.
Anyway, long story short, I worked on my competition story with an editor at Mills & Boon for twelve months before they finally rejected it, at which point I cried and beat my fists on the floor. That’s where those lovely women came to my rescue, in the shape of an invitation to join the Minxes of Romance blog team. Yes, yes, yes please! If I could offer one piece of BIG advice to anyone in a similar position, it would be to find a crit group you can trust. I really don’t know where I’d be without them; we have all become good friends as well as writing buddies. They are my water cooler girls for a laugh and a gossip, a shoulder when needed, and the people I trust most to read my work and tell me the truth. Can you tell I love the minxes? Okay, gush over.
So, I tried again with M&B and failed, then again and failed, then I entered the next M&B comp and came nowhere. By this time I’d reached that all too familiar resigned feeling of desolation. Another day, another rejection. When M&B announced their So You Think You Can Write comp, I decided to have one last throw of the dice. I sat down with a pen, paper and a big glass of wine and brainstormed ideas, everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. I ended up with a basic storyline I loved, but as I started to flesh it out I was hampered by secondary characters, subplots… all the things you aren’t allowed to focus on with category. I tried to set it aside, I really did, but it kept coming back.
So I stressed, ummed, ahhed, bugged the minxes, drank more wine, and eventually decided to set aside my beloved dream to write for Mills & Boon. It is a very specialized skill, and not one that I was able to master. I needed to let my story come out as it wanted to, without any plan or agenda for what I’d do with it once it was written.
And you know what? Writing without any parameters scared the pants off me, but I LOVED it. It took me eight months to write the first draft, which felt like a marathon because I tend to keep going back to edit as I go along. After the second draft I was left with something I really liked, and a new problem. What the hell do I do next?
I brought myself a copy of the Writers & Artists yearbook, and started to check out agents who represented authors I love. I subbed to my ‘dream agent’ and of course, she rejected me post haste. Another head on the desk and cry moment, I can tell you!
About that time I brought Julie Cohen’s latest book, and the front cover quote was by Miranda Dickinson. Being nosey, I checked out who she was, and discovered that she’d landed her book deal with HarperCollins after posting her work on Authonomy.
You know how sometimes in life you get an odd feeling for no apparent reason at all? Well, I got that odd feeling. It was after midnight when I read that story, but I felt compelled to stay downstairs until well after 2.a.m to upload the first three chapters of my own book onto Authonomy. When I checked the site the following day, I’d had a couple of comments, and one of them was from Scott Pack – I didn’t realize it at the time, but Scott is the guy who runs Authonomy for HarperCollins. A day or so later I received an email - a request for the whole manuscript from HarperCollins.
Cue major euphoria, followed by blind panic! I asked them if I could have a couple of weeks to do a last polish of the whole thing, and then set to work. Pressing send at the end of all that felt huge. HUGE.
And then it began. You know what I’m talking about, right? The wait. A week. A month. Two months. At this point I decided they hated it, and started to sub to agents. Twenty-one agents in all over six months. Twenty-one rejections. Two of them requested the full manuscript, and several of them wrote encouraging notes, but in the end it still amounted to twenty-one rejections.
Then it happened. Eight months after they’d initially asked for it, an email appeared in my in box from HarperCollins. I felt my stomach turn over and said some bad words, then squinted my eyes half shut and clicked it open.
It was just a few lines – and we all know rejections are short, right? So I sighed, opened my eyes, and read it. And it wasn’t a rejection; it was a gorgeous, lovely, fabulous offer to publish my book under the Authonomy digital imprint. I genuinely could not believe it. I had the phone in my hand to ring my husband before I’d even read the last word, and after gibbering incoherently to him for a couple of minutes I hung up and performed a five lap victory dance around the coffee table.
The minxes jumped up and down with me enough to shake the planet, and I mainlined enough fizzy to drown myself in over the following week or so! Since then, it’s been incredibly exciting. The contract came, I signed it, took stupid photos, and then kissed it when it came back to me signed by HarperCollins. I should probably pretend that I am cooler than this, shouldn’t I?
Through out all of this, my absolute favourite thing has been the friends I’ve made along the way. The minxes are my bezzies, and I’ve settled into the authonomy community and made some terrific friends amongst the chick-lit crowd who have been incredibly supportive. Authonomy is a huge site packed full of talented writers -the forums are never dull, I can tell you! I’m so glad I found it, it’s turned out to be the thing that changed everything for me.
Since then, Authonomy have officially announced that they’ve acquired my book and are running a competition to find the perfect title. How fancy is that?! I can’t believe my own luck! I feel incredibly fortunate, and am excited about all of the firsts that lie ahead. I am dying to get stuck into editing, can’t wait to hear about the title, and will probably die of happiness when I see the cover. Happy days.