I’ve dreamed of this day for sooooo long, I can’t even tell you. Well, I suppose you want all the deets, right?
Ahem, here we go.
My older sister gave me my first Harlequin Presents when I was thirteen years old (I reminded her today and she cried!), and I fell head over heels in love with them. So much so, I tried to write one shortly after that. It went horribly wrong when my hero couldn’t decide which identical twin sister he wanted, so proposed to them both, lol!
Fast-forward to 2005, my maternity leave was drawing to a close after having Child 2 and the heartbreak of leaving him to return to work was tearing me apart. I started writing again as a coping mechanism, mostly at work (hope my ex-boss doesn’t read this!) to take my mind off missing my kids. Of course, any writing was always going to involve Harlequin Presents. I started to like what I wrote, and even dared to think I could be published, so I sent off my first three chapters! The form R winged back faster than lightning, lol. By then though, I'd been bitten by the writing bug.
My next one got another form R. I joined a few writing groups, and made some wonderful writing friends and tried to hone my writing. I also joined the Romantic Novelists Association, and sent off my third to their writing scheme and received encouragement from the mentors. Although that third story got an R, it was an R with notes! Then came the Instant Seduction Competition. My ms didn’t place, but I got a letter from the Senior Editor requesting the full! I was thrilled!!!
Alas, after two long years, that ms was also R’d but I received a long encouraging letter from the editor which spurred me on. I decided to enter the Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009. Two wonderful things happened – I met a great bunch of women who later became my CPs! And even though I didn’t place in this competition either, another Senior Editor asked for the partial of a different story. I sent it in August 2010 and got a request from Lucy Gilmour for the full ms in November. I hadn’t quite finished the story, so I eventually sent it to her in January 2011. She sent me revisions 9 days later! I returned them to her in February.
Unfortunately, that ms didn’t quite make the cut and the revised full was rejected in June 2011. Knowing I was close but not quite making it was, as many writers can attest to, heartbreaking. I was DETERMINED to get the next one right, so I asked Lucy for guidance.
She asked for two different first chapters, chose one and asked me to work on it. I sent three chapters in and started on yet another story as I waited for feedback. I got feedback but I felt in my gut that the newest story was much stronger. When Lucy contacted me in January 2012 to ask where the story was (oops!) I had to own up and say I’d started a new one instead. She asked for the partial, came back to me a few days later and asked for the full. Four weeks after that, I got a 5-page revision letter! It was daunting to say the least but I’d come too far go give up! Lucy and I agreed on a 3-week turnaround and sent the revisions in on 26th March.
Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from Lucy to say she wanted to discuss my ms with me. I told her I’d be free after 9am this morning. My phone rang at 9.56am (yep, I checked). I said “Hi Lucy” before she even got a chance to say hello. She laughed and said, “I was going to say this is Lucy Gilmour from Harlequin Mills and Boon, but I guess you already know that.”
I laughed, I babbled, I was mainly incoherent and didn’t let her get a word in. I stopped talking long enough to hear the words, “My Senior Editor, Joanne Grant read your story in 90 minutes and didn’t even take a break for lunch because she loved it so much.” I stopped breathing until I heard “…so we’d like to offer you a two-book contract.” There was a lot of OMGs and thank yous, one or two, “I don’t believe it” and definitely a thousand “I’m so happys!!”
Lucy was very gracious through all my babbling and eventually extracted herself from my cyber hugs. I hung up to find my husband grinning at me. He hugged me and said, “I knew you would do it. Very well done.”
That’s when the tears started.