This must be the longest call story ever.
So Jo likes my first chapter, I have a request for the next two and I need to get writing. (By the way we do talk about voice. I don’t understand what she means- then I get it. When I hear a singer I know immediately it’s them, no matter what they are singing. Harlequin Mills and Boon don’t want another Nora Roberts for example as they have already have the best Nora Roberts. So another big hint here- never copy another writer’s style. Find your own.)
Two chapters are submitted followed by a request for a full which I still haven’t written. I wouldn’t recommend this approach to anyone btw. Not unless you like spending your life at the computer for weeks on end. But book is written and sent. I call it Dr Campbell’s Secret.
Ages pass. In the meantime I have had great feedback from Alex Gray, my tutor on an Arvon course I signed up for before going to the Mills and Boon course.
Maybe I can write?
Or maybe not.
Jo phones me. She likes what I’ve done but has some suggestions to make the book better. I don’t really understand what she wants. I think I’ve given this book my best shot- so I’m afraid it goes in a drawer and I decide that writing for Mills and Boon is too hard.
More time passes and then I get another call from Jo. She’s wondering how the revisions are going. I don’t tell her that I haven’t even attempted them. Instead I phone Hugh (Jessica Stirling who has written over 70 books) with whom I play tennis. The conversation goes something like this.
Me: They want me to do revisions.(In plaintive poor me voice)
JS: So. Get on with it.
Me: I can’t. I don’t know how.
JS: For God’s sake. Do you have any idea how many people would give their eye teeth to write for M&B?
He gives me Roger Sanderson’s number (Roger has written meds for M& B under the name Gill Sanderson for years) I phone Roger- get the same ‘doing’ as JS had just given me.
I resolve to get my Big Girl’s Pants on and do revisions.
(Writers never fail to amaze me with their generosity towards unpublished writers. It’s one of the reasons I’ll try and help anyone who asks me.)
So revisions in. And then, one day, I’m at work (in the IVF unit where no-one knows about my secret life as a writer) when I get a call from Jo. I take the call right in the middle of the office.
Jo: We’d like to buy your book.
Me:That’s nice. (Or something equally banal.)
Jo: (Clearly a little at a loss at the most unenthusiastic author she has ever dealt with.) Ok, then. I’ll get the contract out to you.
So that is the story leading to the publication of Dr Campbell’s Secret Son. (They added son. I still prefer it without to be honest.)
Now not everyone will be lucky enough to go on a M&B course. As far as I know they only did that one. But they do have competitions all the time which are online courses too. If you want to write for Harlequin, check out their guidelines and keep checking their sites for competitions.
So here are my top tips.
Do not give up.
Do the revisions. If you are asked for revisions, this is a very good sign.
Find your own voice.
And truly, if anyone has any questions, fire away.
ps Dr Campbell’s Secret son has been reissued in an anthology. I’ll try and post a link