Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Writers' Wednesday with Fiona Harper

This week we find all about award winner and new Harlequin Romance author Fiona Harper's road to publication...


As a child, I was constantly told off for two things: having my nose in a book and living in a dream world. Things haven't changed much since then, but at least in writing I've found a use for my runaway imagination.

I live in London, but my other favourite places to be are the highlands of Scotland and the English countryside on a summer’s afternoon. I love cooking, good food and anything cinnamon-flavoured. Of course, I still can’t keep away from a good book, or a good movie—especially romances—but only if I'm stocked up with tissues, because I know I'll need them before the end, be it happy or sad.


My road to publication was more of a rollercoaster ride than an uphill struggle. It was rapid, exhilarating and sometimes I felt completely upside-down and out of control.

After writing seriously for about a year I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association, mainly to take advantage of their wonderful New Writers’ Scheme. Each year unpublished writers can send in a manuscript which gets a critique from a published author.

I had a story to send in, freshly finished and all bright and shiny: ‘Blind-Date Marriage’, aimed at the new Romance line for Harlequin Mills & Boon. It was my first completed attempt at a novel and I was totally petrified about the critique. ‘All I want,’ I said to my husband, ‘is for someone to say I don’t stink too badly and that maybe I have potential.’ To take my mind off it all, I also entered a first chapter competition jointly run by M&B and the New Writers’ Scheme.

The short version of the story is that both the readers who saw my manuscript really liked it and seemed very excited about wanting to send it on directly to the M&B offices in Richmond. I was gobsmacked, for want of a better word. For the next few days I would often make my family jump out of their skins by shouting: ‘I don’t stink!’ at the top of my voice.

Now, I may have day-dreamed about instant publishing success, but that didn’t mean I seriously thought it was actually going to happen. I don’t expect to be collecting an Oscar for best actress any time soon, but a girl can live in hope, can’t she?

The nail-biting began. I stopped sleeping properly and began staking out my inbox. When the message finally arrived, I missed it. The editor who had seen my story dropped me an email one evening saying she wanted to ‘touch base’. What a wonderfully vague term, I thought, when I found it at 5am the next morning after yet another sleepless night. I emailed right back saying I would be at home and settled down to wait—only three inches away from the phone at all times.

At 10.30am the phone rang. By this time I was convinced I had slipped into a parallel universe. The editor from HM&B told me they loved my book and wanted to buy it. The whole situation seemed so surreal by then that I became horribly calm and collected as I chatted to my new editor. She must have thought I was seriously weird not to be whooping and jumping up and down.

That night was the RNA’s Winter Party. Not only was my sale announced, but I discovered I had also won the first chapter contest. My memory of that evening is of smiling so much my mouth hurt, talking to lots of people whose names I instantly forgot and not having enough hands to hold congratulatory glasses of wine with.

The rollercoaster is still taking me up and down but, a year on, I’m learning to do more than just cling on and scream. I’ve now sold two more books to the Romance line and my first book, ‘Blind-Date Marriage’ won the RNA’s New Writers’ Award and is being released this week in both North America (as a Silhouette Romance) and the UK. I shall be the lady staking out my local bookshop, camera in hand, to catch the moment it hits the shelves—unless the manager decides I look shady and boots me out first, that is.

Fiona's first book BLIND DATE MARRIAGE is already available in the UK and hits bookshelves in North America as her one and only Silhouette Romance mid-month.

For more behind the scenes info about her first book, check out her website and her blog!


  1. What a great story, Fiona! Congratulations -- and may you have many more sales. Lovely to have met you in London!

  2. That's a lovely story, Fiona. I went into that weird, too calm place when I got the call, too.

    On my second sale I woo hoo'd quite a bit, because I was just enough over that first awe and utter shock to be really, really excited like I should have been the first time.

    My editor said something like, 'Oh, NOW she gets excited'. Heh.

    Congrats, and hope you continue to enjoy the roller coaster.



  3. Lovely story, Fiona.

    Lovely book as well, just the thing for reading one a winter's night.

  4. Lovely story. And the book is on my TBR pile - going to be my treat today after I've emailed my MS through to my ed...

  5. You're a crack up Fiona. Truly.

    "I don't stink" and the roller coaster bits had me in stitches.

    Soooo can't wait to read the rest of your book!!! The excerpt it so fab.


  6. Great story, Fiona. I didn't know the two things had happened on the same day, along with the Winter Party!

    Jess x

  7. Great call story, FAB cover! Enjoy your debut and that wonderful feeling of seeing your book on the shelf!

  8. Congratulations, Fiona!
    I'm clutching you book!!! So happy for you! Loved the call story.


  9. Fiona,

    Congratulations on your sales. I smiled all the way through your call story - could relate to so much of it. And I love the fact that you frightened your family with the 'I don't stink' comments.

    Do enjoy the thrill of seeing your book on the shelves. Nothing beats it. I saw mine here in Aus for the first time last weekend and one of the nicest things was going quietly to the shops late in the day with my husband (I'd been there noisily with a friend earlier) and just looking at them. We both had huge grins. After all, he's lived with this writing obsession for years too.

    I know you'll get a thrill out of seeing the books there. Take lots of photos and enjoy! I'm looking forward to reading your books.