Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fall Back in Time

Today is November 1, or a day to Fall Back in Time.  That is, it’s a day to celebrate historical romance.  Not so coincidentally, we set back our clocks tonight—a fact of which a wise group of historical romance writers decided to take advantage.  So here we are, loving the fact that we read—and some of us write—historical romance.

I was newly married when I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and The Flower.  I had just started a new job, found the book in my desk—and I was hooked.  When I went to the book store (I still miss The Book Cache), I discovered an entire section of romance novels!  Not a very large section, true, but there were more books to read!

I went through them fairly quickly and made up my own stories when I was between books.  I knew nothing about writing, but I played around with one particular story idea, even writing some opening chapters.  I discovered magazines such as The Writer and Writer’s Digest, found Romantic Times and ultimately was introduced to the Romance Writers of America (RWA).  I joined immediately and helped found the Alaska Chapter of RWA in Anchorage.  I began to attend regional and national conferences, and it was through workshops and RWA’s Romance Writers Report that I learned the nuts and bolts of writing.

I was also blessed; I had a book of the heart.  Those don’t come along very often, but they are special.  They are the stories that won’t leave you in peace, the stories that you know you have to write.  Mine took place in Texas just after the Civil War.  I called it Soiled Dove and was fortunate enough to win the Emerald City Opener contest with the first seven pages!  Even so, I was told by other writers and industry professionals not to write the book.  The time period, they said, was deadly.

I listened—for a while.  I’d learned by then that there was a balance to the creative side of writing and the business side of publishing.  It didn’t matter to Derek and Amber, the hero and heroine of Soiled Dove.  They wanted their story to be written…and finally I gave in.  I went against all advice and started to seriously write the book.  I even lost an agent over it.

About halfway through, I realized that Soiled Dove no longer fit the story, and I changed the title to Shades of Gray.  The book took me fourteen months to write (and rewrite), and then I attended the RWA national conference in Washington, D.C.  I signed up for an editor appointment and was lucky enough to get the Senior Editor at Harlequin Historicals.  I had seven minutes to pitch my book—and she asked to see the manuscript.

Yes, I was thrilled—but now I had go home and cut 65 pages out of the manuscript to fit it within Harlequin Historicals guidelines!  Three months later, cutting so carefully that no actual scene hit the chopping block, I sent it off for the wait of a lifetime.  Two months later, I got The Call!  Harlequin Historicals wanted to buy my book!

That was a long time ago.  I published Shades of Gray, and a couple of years later The Unlikely Groom.  A lot of other things have changed in my life, but one thing will always remain the same:  my love for historical romance.  It takes me out of the day-to-day hassles of life in the 21st century and gives me a chance to live some pretty extraordinary experiences whenever and wherever I want!  What could be better?

And speaking of that, I’ve got a couple of characters—Rafe and Etta—marooned on a deserted island in Prince William Sound in 1899.  They’ve been there waiting for rescue for a while now.  And then there are Ace and Sophie who are building a homestead in the wilderness outside of Anchorage in 1920.  They haven’t yet decided how much they're going to cooperate with my idea of how their lives are going to proceed.

Hmm…maybe I shouldn't leave them alone too long!  I guess I’d better get busy.



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