Our latest newbie is new Aussie Desire signee, and former Contest Diva, Paula Roe. Give her a big Pink Heart Society welcome!!!
I’m British-born, Aussie bred, living west of
Joining RWAustralia in 1994 was the best thing I ever did for my writing career, as was entering contests (86 to date... I am known in certain circles as The Contest Slut). It all paid off when I got The Email on my fourth full manuscript on
The Road to Publication
Where can I possibly begin? I could go waaaaay back and mention the absolute adoration for my hard back collection of Enid Blyton books at age seven. My obsession with Elynne Mitchell's Silver Brumby series at age ten. Or discovering romance the explicit way at twelve with Johanna Lindsey's "Captive Bride". (I will forever love our librarian, Mrs Jackson, for either her blind ignorance or dogged devotion of the genre... whichever is applicable
After buying up all Johanna Lindsey's back list (some would say obsessively so), I started on others who are now legends in the genre - Shirlee Busbee, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux. My first love has always been a rollicking good historical romance! (which is why I am so looking forward to Anna Campbell's "Claiming the Courtesan" - it's written in the traditional style with an ultra-alpha male... whoooo hooo!)
Okay, fastforward quite a few years, during which time I'd gone through a few jobs but always tinkering with stories, trying to hone my craft. They say it takes an average of 10 years to get published, and I can fully attest to that! So when I joined RWAustralia in 1994 it was like throwing a liferaft to a floundering swimmer. I had two (appalling) novels behind me, had started on a third and began entering it in contests. And kept right on entering with anything I'd written, all the while writing, writing, meeting with fellow writers at conferences and workshops and always reading and reading some more. And then I discovered Silhouette Books... category novels I had previously frowned upon simply because they weren't historicals and they were short (ah, poor misguided me!)
My first rejection was in 1991 from Temptation. It was a one page tick-a-box, with all sorts of interesting things like "did the conflict seem real and not contrived?" and "were the love scenes believable?" (a no and a yes on those :)
I've had a rejections over the past 15 years I've been seriously pursuing writing, although not as many as you'd think. And after 15 years of what seemed like getting two steps forward (contest wins) and one step back (another rejection), I stuck with it because I started to believe in my writing. It's not arrogance or thinking you're up yourself (as we Aussies would say!) It's a deep, unwavering belief that you're writing something that will tap into reader's emotions, something that will sing to them. Because I still remember, as a 12 year old, finishing "Captive Bride" with a sigh and realizing: "I want readers to feel about my writing how I've just felt with that book."
The story that finally sold was my fourth complete and was originally titled "The Wife He Never Knew." It had a love/hate relationship with editors: in 2000 Mills & Boon Presents rejected the partial and in 2001 and 2002 Silhouette Desire rejected the full... twice. So after major rewrites, I pitched it to Kim Young of Presents at RWAustralia's
Then it placed first in the Dixie First Chapter... but I had no request for further work.
So three months later, after a productive day with my crit partner Deb (who told me to stop dithering and get my finger out), I emailed Demetria to enquire on my ms status. She replied on the 29th August, thanked me for being patient and said she'd sent it to her senior editor to get her thoughts. Demetria said: "FYI - I loved your book and passed it along with strong recommendations. I hope the Sr. Ed. likes it as much as I do." I was thrilled but cautious and settled in for another four week wait.
So on Thursday, 7th September, I woke with the conviction of getting my son off to kindy after he´d been home two days straight with a stomach bug. It's 7.30, we're trying to work out why there's no sound on the Dino Attack game at Lego.com and my emails came filtering in. The little ghostly boxes pop up... one, from ROMAUS, one from the Exec loop, one from my walking partner, one from Lucas, Demetria.... hang on! Did it say "great news!"???
Wrestling for control of the mouse, I opened Outlook and stared in disbelief at the email: "Great news!!!! Desire would like to make an offer on The Wife He Never Knew. Is there a number where I can reach you to chat?"
"They want to buy my book." No response from Cooper, who's glaring at the screen, demanding Dino Attack miraculously appear. "What?" says my mum distractedly, wandering past the office door. "They want to buy my book... THEY WANT TO BUY MY BOOK!!"" By now, Cooper's got the gist that something's up and looks at me cautiously as I dissolve into a fit of maniacal laughter. After I stop, I explain that mummy has sold her book to a company that will put a cover on it and sell it in book stores. Still not impressed, I add hopefully, "and I'll get money for it." To which he brightens and says, "Oh, can I have some, then?" Ah, the simplicity of youth. He only got excited when I promised to buy him a toy (he gets a toy, mummy gets a contract
Even though it was written before Silhouette changed their Desire guidelines, ironically it has all the hooks the new guidelines are seeking - secret baby, amnesia, lovers reunited, evil stepmother
And truly, if it weren't for both the Opening Chapter and Emerald contests, my book wouldn't have found a home with Desire (well, I hope it would have eventually, but certainly not as quickly! It was already a triple reject...).
Without the anonymous encouragement of contest judges, I wouldn't have kept on improving my writing. The good judges gave praise and critique where it was due, made me think about plot, characterisation and pace (which helped me tighten and revise) and the not-so-good judges provided me with a thick skin and an "I'll show you!" attitude
My advice for writers seeking publication? Stick with it. Sometime in 2004 I seriously considered a compromise. I thought if I couldn't get in the door with Harlequin, then I would build my name (as so many authors do) by getting published with a small press. There I could gather a readership and then try the "big names" further down the track. Because although I've only had five rejections, I could feel that I just wasn't hitting the right note with Harlequin editors. When The Wife was rejected the second time in 2004 by Desire (the line I desperately wanted to write for) I didn't know what they wanted, especially when I'd put so much of my heart into it. But after some more revisions (tedious things but such a goldmine!) and my success in the Emerald, I got to eat my words!
The funny thing is, I've just read an article by Melissa James about committing emotional suicide and my Lord, that speaks to me on so many levels! If you aren't prepared to open up a vein and bleed all over your page (metaphorically speaking) then maybe it's time to rethink what you really want to write. It may be that you're not suited to where you're targeting, or even the genre as a whole. Take a good look at your contest crit sheets, your rejection letters, talk with your writing partner or crit group. And learn from them all. It may take longer than your five-year plan, heck, it may turn out you're sending your kids to high school by the time you make it. But I promise you, you'll be a much better writer by the end of it.
Paula's first book, Silhouette Desire THE FORGOTTEN MARRIAGE has an as yet unknown release date. She'll be letting us know the minute she does!!! And for more fun and games she has been contracted to write one of six books in a miniseries written by Australian and New Zealand authors. Go Paula!!!
Read more about Paula's writing at her website: www.paularoe.com