I’ve been writing fiction, without success, since the early 2000s. One Sunday morning in October 2015, I had what one may call an epiphany: Write romance, you big dummy! And isn’t that what we’re told in workshops? To write what we know? Well, I know that when chemistry between two people is real and palpable, it deserves 50,000 words of exploration and a fabulous cover. Attention must be paid.
I’d burned through my teens devouring one Harlequin novel after another, progressing in taste from the chaste Harlequin Special Edition to the fiery Harlequin Desire. I could write a thesis on the subject of romance. Nonetheless, that Sunday morning, I had the presence of mind to Google: “How to write a romance novel?” That search led me to this website and the wealth of information it provides. I read up on the particulars of each Harlequin line. Kimani was my first pick. The buzzwords that stood out for me: sophisticated, sensual, multicultural, glamour, passion, and drama. No need to look further.
My instinct was to rehab an old manuscript, trim the fat, and emphasize the romantic arc. It was November; National Novel Writing Month had begun. I challenged myself. Could I do this in a month? Absolutely!
And then things got real—fast. Trim the fat? When was that ever possible outside the kitchen? I had to start fresh. New characters: Leila and Nick. New setting: sultry, sexy, crazy Miami and the blood sport of high-end real estate. New dilemma: What if they fall in love at first sight just as their time together is running out? What if they can’t keep their hands off each other? What if they start cutting deals out of desperation? What if they hurt each other out of fear? It all started to flow. I was on to something.
I returned often to this site to read up on current trends in romance. (Hey! What’s this “blitz” thing?) The announcement of the Harlequin Desire Blitz lit up the comment boards. Everyone seemed to think it was a great opportunity, if not to get published, at least to receive editorial feedback. So I signed up and submitted my early chapters. I waited and got rejected. (Insert stunned emoji here.) What about the feedback? The pace was too slow. (Oh, really? Okay, fine. Fasten your seatbelts!)
I was back to trimming fat—and it’s a bloody business. (Someone get me a butcher’s knife!) I was merciless in my edits. I enlisted my husband, an English professor, to give me his honest critique. I ended up with a lean, trim story that skipped. Even I couldn’t believe it.
Summer came around; I was ready to submit my synopsis and sample chapters to Kimani. Again, I visited this site and read a few “call stories” for inspiration and encouragement. More waiting. Summer turned to fall, bringing a new crop of Google searches: How to self-publish a romance novel? Then I got an email from an editor: Could we see the full manuscript? Followed soon by another: Are you available to talk?
On October 17, 2016, one year almost to the day that my odyssey began, I got The Call. I spoke to two smart, talented women, Sharon Criss and Keyla Hernandez (my editor), and accepted a two-book deal.
What’s that feeling when people connect and it feels just right? Chemistry. And it deserves its own story.