That’s a great question. I’ll tell you when I know. 😉
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, but I started writing romance during my senior year at Scripps College. Between working on my senior thesis and trying not to accidentally kill myself in the organic chemistry lab, I didn’t get much done. After I graduated, I took a break from writing and turned my focus to studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).
While studying for the MCAT, I kept myself sane the same way I’d kept myself sane throughout my pre-med years — by reading romance novels. One of my very favorite authors, Eloisa James, held a creative contest called “Dreaming Up Gabriel” in February 2006, and I had so much fun coming up with my entry. After my piece was chosen by Eloisa as one of four winning entries, I felt like I owed it to myself to give writing a chance before committing to medical school. (Read Sara’s winning entry here.) After taking the MCAT in April 2006, I began seriously writing the book that eventually became PROMISE ME TONIGHT. I finished the book in March 2007, though I took a bit of time off to participate in Avon’s FanLit contest…
In late August 2006, Avon Books and FanLib™, an online entertainment company, launched an eight-week contest — Avon FanLit™ Express Your Desires — in which romance fans wrote an online novel one chapter at a time.
The first two weeks were spent voting on the story premise and, luckily for yours truly, the Regency storyline won. Then it was off to the races. Each week, the synopsis of a chapter was posted, including a list of required elements ranging from the bizarre (a feather, a thunderstorm) to the even more bizarre (a pot of chocolate, a tiger). FanLit was designed to be highly competitive, and those involved got a crash course in shameless self-promotion.
The chapters were rated and reviewed by other contestants and readers, and each week’s top ten entries received comments from Avon’s panel of authors, including Victoria Alexander, Eloisa James, Cathy Maxwell, Teresa Medeiros, and Julia Quinn. The top ten chapters then underwent another round of voting, and the highest rated chapter won and set the direction for the next chapter in the novella.
My entries made the top ten in five of the six rounds, and my sixth round entry, “Patience Makes Perfect,” was chosen as the winning chapter. The six-chapter e-novella, These Wicked Games, was published by Avon, but I strongly advise against reading or buying it. Seriously. Your time and money can be better spent. That said, if you still want it, you can buy it here.
FanLit may not have produced a great (or even halfway decent) work of fiction, but it did produce a wonderful community of talented new authors. Here are some of my FanLit friends who have published:
- Jackie Barbosa
- Tiffany Clare
- Tessa Dare
- Beverley Kendall
- Courtney Milan
- Erica Ridley
- Maggie Robinson
I’m still trying to figure this out. There’s a famous Oscar Wilde quote: “This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.” That pretty much describes how I work.
Keep writing. Put your butt in the chair and write. No one is going to publish part of your manuscript. You have to finish your book to take the next step.
Keep reading. Read as much as you can. You can learn a great deal about writing by trying to figure out what makes you love certain books and dislike others.
Keep learning. Join Romance Writers of America or another professional writers’ organization. Read books on craft. Attend workshops. Take classes. Stay informed about the industry. Writing is a craft and a business, and there is always something new to learn.
My books are written to stand alone, but I would advise reading them in order to avoid the inevitable spoilers inherent to a family series. The order of the Weston series is as follows:
- Book 1 – Promise Me Tonight – Isabella’s story
- Book 2 – Tempting the Marquess – Olivia’s story
- Book 3 – A Rogue for All Seasons – Henry’s story (not yet released)
Right now I’m working on Lia’s story; Cordelia is one of the identical twins in the Weston family. I’m also thinking about a novella for Ethan, James’s friend in Promise Me Tonight.
That’s a great question. Honestly, I have no clue. The voices in my head tell me what to do.
How much do I research? A lot.
How much actually ends up in the book? Very little.
For example, early drafts of PROMISE ME TONIGHT. contained at least twenty pages describing the Battle of the Nile in excruciating detail. The strategy, the ship captains, the line of battle… Fortunately, it was pointed out to me that most historical romance readers pick up books to read about the battle of the sexes, not the great battles of the British navy.
Having written. For me, at least, writing is a painstaking endeavor; most days it’s like pulling teeth. To quote William Styron: “I get a fine warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it, writing is hell.” Of course, there are also fleeting moments of heaven when something clicks into place or you write something you just know is good, whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, a sentence, or even a phrase. I could say those heavenly moments make up for the rest of the blood, sweat and tears, but I would be lying. I think I’m just a masochist.
No, the covers for Promise Me Tonight and Tempting the Marquess are the product of the wonderful art department at NAL. Dana France is the talented artist who produces my gorgeous covers — and she models for them too! To see more of Dana’s amazing work, visit her website.
The beautiful cover for A Rogue for All Seasons was designed by the very talented Janet Holmes of See Janet Work.
I commissioned illustrator Nicole Wong to paint a series of Regency vignettes specifically for this site. To see more of Nicole’s gorgeous work, visit her website.