FAQ’s for the aspiring writer or anyone remotely interested!
FAQ’s for the aspiring writer or anyone remotely interested!
How did you get started?
I always loved reading Mills and Boons and used to share a house with a girl who read them too. She was the one who put the idea in my head about submitting to M&B. She had a tape called ‘And then he kissed her…’ which was a guide to writing for Mills and Boon and which I have to tell people is NOT available anymore!
I was working in the film industry here in Ireland and I was thinking of doing something else…and so I thought of trying to write a Mills and Boon and just got started, writing bits and pieces when I could.
Had you written before?
Not in such a specific way, no. I had written some short stories and a couple of articles but nothing too serious. English was my best subject at school and I enjoyed writing essays. And I always loved reading. I would say that it’s not so important to write what you know, but it is incredibly important to read, and as much as possible. That’s what really opens up your mind and imagination to what’s out there.
How long did it take to get published?
From when I sent in my first partial of three chapters to M&B, it took a year until I got the ‘Call’. But I’d been tinkering around with the book and talking about writing for a few years before that.
What is rejection like?
It’s pretty devastating, especially if you’ve been waiting to get news for weeks and weeks, or months! There are two kinds of rejection though. The first is the form rejection which is just a very impersonal note to say thanks, but no thanks. Or, you can get the detailed rejection which you have to realize is really just a step away from a request for your work. A detailed rejection is no reason to lose heart, it’s positive encouragement. It means that the editor thinks your work shows promise and wants you to work on it, and re-submit.
When submitting should you concentrate on the 3 chapters or finish the manuscript?
I think it’s a good idea to have a full rough draft done, and obviously polish up your three chapters. If you’re asked for the full manuscript, the quicker you can get it into the publisher you’re targeting, or agent, the better.
What was it like to get the call?
It was amazing. Like an out of body experience. If you’re anything like me you’ll have visualized about it, dreamt about it…and then to have someone actually call you and tell you that they’d like to buy your book and offer you a two book contract…it’s surreal and wonderful. A great day.
What’s it like on the other side of being published?
It’s hard work! When I was submitting my first manuscripts (my first full one got rejected and then the second one I attempted got accepted), I had no idea what I was doing really. It was all completely instinctive. So when you get accepted and have to write the next book I suddenly went, ‘Ok…so how did I do that?!’
For the first few books you’re on a high but it definitely becomes more of a challenge to come up with new ideas, twists on old themes, relevant story-lines. It’s a wonderful challenge though. I love this job and wouldn’t swop it in a heartbeat but if you’re in it for the long haul you really need to pace yourself. Your publisher will want to build you as an author and that takes time and dedication.
How can one get started?
You absolutely need to do your research. Specifically for Harlequin you need to know if you’re interested in their series romance – writing for Presents/Modern? Or perhaps the Desire line? Do you want to write for a line that leaves the door open during sex scenes, or closes the door? (Me: OPEN DOOR!)
Are you interested in writing a historical regency story, featuring a devilish rake prowling the ton?
Maybe you want to write an Amish romance? Yes, that is a thing ;).
You might be interested in writing a longer contemporary romance for Harlequin’s HQN line?
Or, maybe you just want to shake it all up and write about a shape-shifting Amish hero who slips back in time to regency London and falls in love with an heiress on the run…now there’s an idea…
Whatever it is you’re into, you need to read all the current books in that genre/sub-genre/line. Really study the themes and what’s selling right now, or what’s likely to be the next trend or ‘thing’ – which is usually just a brilliant story no-one can resist.
A good tip is to find out who the new authors are in whatever area you’re interested – read their first books, and try and see why they sold. What was it about them that ensured they achieved publication? How can you offer something new and compelling?
I think it’s important to love whatever genre you want to write for – which might sound like a ‘duh’ thing to say, but I for one couldn’t sit down and write the emotionally charged stories I do every day, if I didn’t believe in them or the characters. Anyway, life is too short to not be invested in something you love!
Any tips for writing for Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern Romance?
Read the books, know them inside and out and then see how you can be different or original.
What’s your daily routine?
Daily routine on a good day is to get up and start writing almost immediately. I’m definitely a get-more-done-first-thing writer. If it goes into the afternoon and I haven’t started I’m in trouble.
I work until about 5pm. Office hours.
Do you plan or wing it?
I used to wing it a lot more. I would have had a vague outline for the story and started from there and worked it out as I went along. But now I plan much more and send my editor quite a detailed synopsis. So I’ve gone from being a pantser to a plotter.
What is the easiest thing?
What is the hardest thing?
Sitting down and focusing on the job in hand.
How involved should you be with social media etc?
I think that it’s unavoidable now for an author not to have at least a basic website with information on their books and release dates. And then if you want to go as far as doing a blog etc, that’s up to you. I have a newsletter that I send out when I have a new release or to announce a giveaway. I’m also on Twitter and Instagram.
I think it’s important too, to interact with people on the internet rather than just use these forums as advertising for your books.
Don’t shove your upcoming releases continuously down people’s throats. And if your book is on sale at a discounted price, mention it for sure. Just don’t do it over and over again – it’s a sure way to get blocked or muted, or turn readers off.
Any books you would recommend for writing tips?
Kate Walker has written the only how-to guide aimed specifically at Mills and Boon romances, and it’s called The 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. You should find it easily on Amazon or check out Kate’s website for details: www.kate-walker.com. If you ever get a chance, go to one of her workshops, she’s a fantastic teacher – as well as a great writer.
The Mills and Boon website has all the guidelines you’ll need for whichever line you want to submit to and also details on how to submit. www.millsandboon.co.uk.
When I was submitting you had to post your ms via snail mail but now it’s all via email which is so much easier. Even less excuse not to submit!
For general writing tips I’d recommend Robert McKee’s ‘Story’, it’s aimed primarily at scriptwriting but I think it’s invaluable for all kinds of writing.
Stephen King’s book, ‘On Writing’ is very inspirational.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere: items on the news; magazines; books; films; advertisements…a big source of inspiration comes from the Mills and Boons I used to read years ago.
One of my favourite creative wells at the moment is Pinterest, a treasure trove of heroes and heroines and exotic locations.
But the most important thing is – if you’re thinking of embarking down this road get started! By the time you submit to a publisher or agent, you could be waiting for some time to hear back, so the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get feedback and know if this is the path for you. And if it’s not, there are plenty of other publishers/agents/self-pubbing options out there.
Which Romance authors do you love?
In no particular order, the following are just some of the authors that make my toes curl with delight. They cover all bases: Historical, Erotica, Paranormal and Contemporary romance. I’d recommend any and all of them, especially for aspiring writers.
Diana Gabaldon, Iona Grey, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Victoria Dahl, Tiffany Reisz, Anna Campbell, Elizabeth Hoyt, Heidi Rice, Sarah Morgan, Annie West, Sharon Kendrick, Lynne Graham, Kate Meader, Julie James, Samantha Young, Kresley Cole, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Penny Jordan, Jay Crownover.
Best of luck!