Jeannie Watt lives with her husband in a small
I discovered romance novels completely by accident. While I was growing up, there were always books in my house. Mysteries, crime stories, war stories, animal stories, westerns—you name it, my family read it—everything except for romance. There were no love stories stashed in the attic or under the bed for me to find as a teenager. No books passed along with a smile and “this is a good one…” In fact, I didn’t even know there was such a genre as romance until I stumbled upon Georgette Heyer during my sophomore year in high school.
My favorite subject was history, so one day while perusing the paperback bookrack at the public library, I saw a book with a picture of a Regency gentleman. I decided to give it a try. Two chapters later I was hooked…for life. During that school year I spent many happy hours in the Regency era when I really should have been doing homework. A few of my grades suffered due to academic neglect (although I did manage to pull most of them up at the last minute), but I couldn’t help myself. I was addicted. And after reading all of Georgette Heyer’s books and branching out to other historical romance authors, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to write.
Okay, I knew I wanted to write, but I also wanted to eat, so, being a practical sort, I majored in Geology and Education when I went to college. I wrote when I wasn’t busy studying, which worked better that studying when I wasn’t busy reading, as I’d done in high school. And during that time I discovered Harlequin Romances. They were short. They were fun. I could read one a night during my evening job at the movie theatre. I could take them with me on Geology field trips. I could even read them when I worked underground. (I worked in a mine during my geology years. I honestly think I may hold a World’s Record for reading romance at depth. I worked 6,900 feet beneath the surface, and everyday there was a romance novel tucked into my lunch pail when I took the cage down to my level.)
I continued to write after I married and had children, and my family happily supported my “hobby”. And it was a hobby at that time, because I never seriously submitted—mainly because I never finished a book! I would come up with a great idea, outline the plot, write the first three chapters…and then decide it wasn’t good enough. I could do better. Maybe it is not a coincidence that I have many engineers in my family—perfectionism must be genetic. I followed this procedure for years until I decided that if I honestly wanted to become a published author, I had to stop practicing and produce a finished project. I had to make the leap.
My first step was to write an ending (since I’d never really written one before). Then I cobbled it to a beginning and set about making a middle. I polished it up and sent the partial to Harlequin Superromance, which is my favorite category line. Four months later, I received a rejection, but the editorial assistant said that she’d like to see more. That was all the encouragement I needed to venture beyond chapter three again.
But not right away…
I wrote three new chapters, using a minor character from my first book and sent it off, thinking I wouldn’t hear for at least three or four months and would have plenty of time to write the rest of the book. Boom. A request for a full manuscript arrived in a matter of weeks. I started writing fast. I sent the full manuscript one month later.
Now, I should point out that I was such a submittal rookie that I didn’t know about The Call. I thought acceptance came by mail and I loved going to the mailbox. It was a happy, hopeful daily experience. That all changed when I read an article on the Internet and realized that the mailbox was not going to give me my heart’s desire. I needed to be near a phone. But…I heard from the mailbox first. Another rejection, only this time the editor pointed out some problems with the manuscript and said that if I wanted to rewrite it, she would read it again. I was elated. The mailbox was my friend.
I dissected my rejection letter, made copious notes and then rewrote the manuscript. It arrived at Harlequin on my son’s birthday, which I liked because it was an easy date to remember. And to count from. Months passed. The mailbox became terrifying again. Around the five-month mark my husband told me I really should call. I told him I would call at six months. I was almost at the six-month mark when I got a call from Kathleen Scheibling at Harlequin. We were on our way to the grocery store and I gave my husband the happy thumbs up…until Kathleen very gently told me that this wasn’t the call I wanted. She told me there were some problems with the book, but if I wanted to revise one more time, she’d like me to resubmit. She gave me many notes over the phone, which I wrote onto my grocery list while we sat in the supermarket parking lot. It was kind of hard to shop after that, with “needs more conflict” obliterating “milk, eggs, cheese”.
It took three months to revise the book. During that time Kathleen moved from Superromance to Harlequin American, but I sent her the manuscript anyway and started my next book. It was a sequel to the one I’d just mailed. I was feeling positive. Months passed, during which time I developed another healthy case of mailbox paranoia. Finally, after six months, I did what I promised myself I wouldn’t do. I e-mailed the editorial assistant at Superromance. I knew in my heart that the book had been rejected long ago and the letter had been lost in the mail. I’d spent all this time hoping and it was for nothing. But…I received a reply almost immediately saying that the book was still under consideration. Oh my goodness!
The very next day, at , I received The Call. Victoria Curran of Superromance offered me a contract for A DIFFICULT WOMAN. I was in my Science class at the time. My husband teaches down the hall, so a few minutes later I calmly walked to his room and interrupted his lesson to whisper in his ear that Harlequin was buying my book. And then I left. I spent the rest of the day e-mailing my nearest and dearest and smiling like a fool.
A Difficult Woman was a Harlequin Superromance out in
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