Annie grew up wanting to be an archaeologist or a national parks ranger or a bookseller, so of course she became a public servant. In the meantime she travelled and read books. Now she enjoys fantasising about wonderful men and their love lives. Oh yes, and she writes about them too.
HOW SHE BECAME A WRITER
Can I call myself a new writer? I FEEL like a new writer. There’s so much I don’t know about the publishing processes, even about writing blogs! I’m nervous that my next manuscript won’t be good enough. I go to writers’ events and am in awe of so many authors and wonder if someone has made a mistake, including me in the group. I’m thrilled by the sight of my book cover and recently when I received my first (complimentary) reader feedback on my first Modern Romance release, I was over the moon. I can’t wait to stand in a store beside my book and reach out to pick it up. Yes, I’m definitely a new writer.
But it’s taken me a long time to become one of the newbies on the Harlequin Mills and Boon shelves. That overnight success (literally – I woke up one morning to the news that changed my life) came after 10 years of writing and dreaming.
I discovered romance books in my teens. At the time I was discovering Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart at the library, I found the rose cover on a stack of category romances in my best friend’s house. Her mother read them voraciously and soon I did too. I loved the fantasy element, the exotic far-away locations, the fact that the heroine got exactly what she wanted and (yes, of course) the wonderful heroes. What did it matter if the guys at school were spotty, immature or dull when there were Spanish aristocrats, sexy Italians and other fascinating heroes just waiting to steal a girl’s breath away?
Through school (English classics and romances) and university (Homer and romances) and work (parliamentary reports and romances) there was a common thread. I love a happy ending. I read a wide range of books but that always includes romance. Inevitably I wanted to write them. As my first attempt at a book, when I was around thirteen, was an Amazon adventure distinguished by its improbable plot and small readership, I didn’t have much of a track record. But romance writers are optimists.
I joined Romance Writers of Australia – one of the best things I’ve ever done. That put me in touch with other writers and provided a valuable source of know-how, inspiration and great friends. My first manuscript was over length, full of problems and immensely fun to write. Inevitably it was rejected but I learned so much from writing it.
Over the next several years I wrote contemporary category stories, but not for my favourite line: Modern/Sexy/Presents. I loved them but – what? Me write them? No way could I do it half as well as the authors I read. And my heroes – I was sure they weren’t alpha enough. My skills improved and I received positive feedback from editors but my stories didn’t quite hit the target. I was asked if I’d tried writing for Presents instead. It was about then I almost gave up writing - I was convinced I didn’t have what it takes to write such stories. But life without writing wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. For a start - what excuse would I have to go to those fabulous writers’ conferences?
One weekend I went to an all day writers’ workshop. It was fabulous and I felt the buzz of excitement as romance writers shared their enthusiasm. In the afternoon Miranda Lee and Emma Darcy spoke and inspiration hit. By the time I left I had an idea for a story.
I recall vividly sitting to write ‘A Mistress for the Taking’. It was like coming home. The words flowed and I knew I was in my zone for the first time ever. I felt the story in my bones. Though you know what ‘home’ is like – lots of housework – or polishing! I entered it in a contest and even got a placing for the first kiss but to my disappointment there was no request for the manuscript. I sent it anyway – straight to the slush pile.
I was immersed in another story when Tessa Shapcott requested the full manuscript. I sent it and tried to repress those effervescent hopes – I’d had full books rejected before. A month later I received an email asking for revisions. At the end of November 2005 I sent a revised story. Of course I knew that busy editors don’t read whole manuscripts overnight and contact breathless authors the next day. But that didn’t stop me hoping. I avoided using the phone, in case there was an overseas call coming through. The days dragged and after a sudden rush of long distance phone calls by thoughtless friends who hadn’t realised I was waiting to hear from the
I still remember December 8th – waking up and not following my usual routine of heading to the computer to check my emails and write. Why bother? There’d be no news. Finally I checked the mail. There was a message from
To my amazement I didn’t squeal with delight – the children were still asleep. Instead I dragged my husband over to read the news. He was just as excited as I was. After all, he’s lived with my writing obsession for years. The next days were a haze, punctuated by sudden bursts of glorious delight – ‘hey, they want MY book’! It’s a good thing I spoke to my editor after the news had sunk in a little – or I wouldn’t have made any sense at all.
That first acceptance was everything I’d dreamed it would be – and far more. Now I’m learning what it means to be a working author. Wish me luck!
She’s had 3 other books accepted, the next one being ‘The Greek’s Convenient Mistress’ (a January 2007
You can visit her website at http://www.annie-west.com