Thursday, November 23, 2006

Writer's Wednesday with Anne Oliver

This Wednesday we bring you Anne Oliver's story of her road to publication as a brand new Modern Extra Sensual author...

About Anne

Anne Oliver has lived in Adelaide, South Australia, all her life. She holds a bachelor of Education degree and has taught in Early Childhood Education for 30 years. She’s raised two children, sold her own paintings, quilts and quilted jackets, researched her family history and is a keen amateur astronomer.

The Call

The two magical words that published writers talk about and unpublished writers dream about. Mine came on 16th December, the last day of the 2005 school year at 8.20 pm. So how did I get there?

I’ve always loved reading, especially fairy tales. The first story I remember from childhood was Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid.” I cried for days. L M Mongomery’s “Anne” books and her “The Blue Castle” followed. I love stories that evoke emotion.

In 1996 I began researching my family history. In the process I unearthed a few skeletons and rattled a few bones, including my own. A visit to a clairvoyant (yes, I’ve also always had an interest in the paranormal), was a defining moment in my life. I came away with a story I had to tell. I’d never felt the urge to write until that night. Suddenly it was an obsession. My reincarnation story linked two star-crossed lovers across 150 years and two continents. And of course it was going to be snapped up as soon as I submitted it to an editor.

A year later with my manuscript still unfinished and growing to epic proportions I joined the Australian Chapter of Romance Writers of America who held regular workshops and critique groups in Adelaide and discovered that I needed a lot more writing practice. What the hell was Point of View? The Hero’s Journey? Emotional intensity? I’d read it, loved it, but couldn’t translate it into my own work. So I joined Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of New Zealand and began entering contests.

A trilogy of fantasy/time travel/futuristic novels followed — linking star-crossed lovers across time and other worlds. These early manuscripts did well in contests and after submitting and waiting over a year for a reply, a major US publishing house who shall remain nameless, requested the full. It was favourably received and the partial of the second requested. I never heard from them again despite three follow-up letters over the following eighteen months. This was a devastating set back.

After four manuscripts of 100,000 words each, I decided to write something shorter. A Mills and Boon? Why not? They’d be easy enough to write. (Hah!) So I began reading them and discovered a new world of books that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the emotion, they were easy to read and because they were relatively short there weren’t too many distracting subplots, they had gorgeous heroes and I could read lots.

Around this time I joined a critique group which was an invaluable source of support, friendship and advice. I wrote a story aimed at Intimate Moments but they were changing and it – surprise! – was rejected with a form letter. I wrote another aimed at what was becoming my favourite line, Desire. Sent it off to contests. It finalled, came second in the Clendon in New Zealand but was rejected by Desire because the hero was an ex rock star. So I began looking more carefully at what Mills and Boon wanted and at what they didn’t.

Another manuscript followed, finalled in contests but didn’t reach the top three, so didn’t reach an editor’s desk.

2005 was a horrible year for me. My father passed away, my dog died, my marriage ended. Desire’s guidelines changed and my latest manuscript did not fit those new guidelines. I was close to giving up and going back to sewing quilts when I came second in RWNZ’s Great Beginnings contest and my entry went to Kimberley Young who requested the full. But I wasn’t getting my hopes up again.

Then at ten pm on the 24th November, almost a year to the day today, the phone rang. It was Kimberley! I’d gone to bed early. I couldn’t find my voice or my glasses – she must have wondered if she’d made a serious mistake. They were asking for revisions. With a few changes my manuscript would suit the new Modern Extra line (of which I knew next to nothing). She wanted them back in early December, the busiest time of the teaching year with reports, concert etc. Still, I polished and polished, reluctant to press the Send button in case I remembered something that absolutely had to be there.

I sent it on Tuesday night and she rang on the Friday night. Once again, totally unprepared; no glasses, no pen and paper for the expected ‘further revisions needed’. She said something like, “We’ve reread your manuscript and the changes…” P-a-u-s-e. I think I mumbled an ineffectual “oh…” Then she said, “we love it and we want to buy it.”

Now I’ve held my first book in my hands. Yesterday I saw it on the shelf in my local shopping centre. I had a launch last week and signed my own books. My second book is due out in the UK next month and Australia in April. Finished polishing my third novel today, a day ahead of my deadline. What a ride this past year has been!

So I’m going to give myself a couple of weeks to read those books other people have sweated and agonised over before the school end of year gets into high gear. As for book four – it’s something I started a year ago and is my Christmas holiday project…

Anne's first book, Behind Closed Doors is out now as a Sexy Sensation in Australia!

Check out the excerpt at her website. It's a doozy!


  1. I loooove The Little Mermaid Anne! I remember sitting in front of the TV as a little girl early one morning before Mum and Dad even knew I was awake watching a cartoon version of that story, one with the original tragic ending, and just crying and crying at the end.

    Hugs on 2005. And what a great way to end a horror year.

    Can't wait to read your first book, the excerpt is FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!


  2. What a wonderful way to overcome a terrible year. I have Behind Closed Doors on by TBR and your post has just bumped it up the pile :)

  3. Yeah Anne! I didn't know it was a Desire used-to-be! Don't you love when M&B creates a line just for you...and me?

  4. BCD is great!! Jack and Cleo are wonderfully alive!! Can't wait to read your new books. I loved the Anne books and The Story Girl too. I am sad to hear about your dog... However did you write at this time of the year?? I am proofreading my friends' comments, I have just finished some now!!!

  5. What a great story, Anne! And what a roller coaster of a year. Congrats on your sales and I look forward to reading your books!

  6. Hi Anne, it's great to see you here! Just love Behind Closed Doors, which will always be "Bloody Jack" to some:-))

    Wonderful call story. And that call was so well deserved.

  7. Wow, holding your first book in your hands for the first time; this must be an amazing feeling. Congrats on this and your second book being due out.
    I loved the excerpt of Behind Closed Doors and a great title.

  8. Anne, I love your story. Congratulations! I felt an instant connection with your teaching and quilting...thanks for sharing.