Heidi didn’t always know she wanted to be a romance writer. As a tomboy growing up in London she wanted to be married to Paul Newman. She was 12 and Paul was 50 — and there was the small matter of his wife Joanne Woodward — so that was never really a goer. As a teenager, she decided to be an actress but a knicker-wetting fit of the giggles during a school play put paid to that idea. Next up, after a degree in American Studies at Warwick University, came a career as a film director. Age 19, she did work on a tiny indie film in Houston, Texas called Last Night at the Alamo. One of the best experiences of her life, but also a chance to discover that film directing is flipping hard work and Plan C bit the dust. Plan D worked out better. After working as a magazine sub-editor, she blagged her way into a job as a freelance film reviewer. Ten years, one gorgeous husband, two beautiful sons and about 500 Jean Claude Van Damme films later and she was ready to try something new. During all those years, her favourite pastime – apart from watching lots of movies and ogling Johnny Depp, of course – was reading romance novels. Having dreamt up great heroes, heroines and plot lines in her head she was ready to put pen to paper, or rather finger to keyboard. She soon discovered that there was a bit more to it than that….
Heidi’s Road to Publication:
After piddling about for several years writing my first manuscript Lincoln’s Lady. I bit the bullet and subscribed to the Romance Novelists Association’s New Writer’s Scheme. This gave me a deadline to get the manuscript finished or I’d loose my fifty quid. Being as I loved Nora Roberts and Linda Howard and I’d read a lot of their category romances for Silhouette I wanted to target Special Edition. Unfortunately, by the time the deadline approached the manuscript was still 30,000 words too long and like most new writers I didn’t know what to cut. I sent it off anyway and got a fantastic report back from my reader on the scheme who gave me lots of encouragement, advice about what to cut and also some invaluable tips. Interesting stuff like how not to give your readers whiplash with your point-of-view changes, why your heroine’s ex-boyfriend shouldn’t have more scenes than your hero and why trying to write African-American dialect when you come from Shepherd’s Bush might be a tad ambitious. I did the adjustments wrote a query letter to Silhouette and waited. It was obviously a good query letter because one week later I got a request for the full manuscript. Unfortunately, the manuscript itself wasn’t quite as good as the query letter.
After an eight month wait I got a form rejection letter and was gutted. By then I’d started writing my second manuscript, Monroe’s Woman which was a linked story to Lincoln’s Lady – about a Harley riding bad boy called Monroe (think Johnny Depp meets Steve McQueen by way of Sawyer in Lost) and a fiery, feisty English girl called Jessie. Once again I gave myself a deadline by paying my fifty quid for the New Writer’s scheme. I’d learned so much by then, not just from my failed first ms, but also from the many contests I’d entered at RWA, workshops, the critters corner at RWA online, etc. I posted off the second ms to the scheme one day before the deadline which was a Wednesday. That Friday I got a message to ring Nicola Cornick who was running the scheme. I thought she was going to tell me she hadn’t got the manuscript in time. Instead she told me she loved the story and she would be happy to forward it to Bryony Green, senior editor at Mills and Boon Modern Extra because she thought it was better suited to that line than Silhouette Special Edition – turns out that my rather raunchy sex scenes were too hot for the ‘family focus’ of Special Edition.
To be honest, I was so excited after that call, the rest of what happened is a complete blur. Bryony got back to me the following week enthusiastic about the story but pointing out that it was 20,000 words too long for the line. Would I be willing to cut it down while making a series of revisions – for example, there was a birth scene that came complete with amniotic fluids which Bryony said was ‘a little bit icky’. She wanted the revisions in five days. I was so revved up by then I managed to do them in two – although not a lot of sleep was involved. Bryony came up with the title Bedded by a Bad Boy and offered me a two-book contract. I immediately sent a text to everybody I knew. Unfortunately I was accompanying a class of 28 eight-year-olds to the swimming pool that day and ended up having to field mobile phone calls all morning with my son’s teacher looking daggers at me. Thank goodness, no one drowned.
I think I wrote a good story (at least, I hope I did), but I also know I was incredibly lucky as well. That both Nicola and Bryony liked ‘my voice’ and that the Modern Xtra imprint had just launched and they were actively seeking the kind of zingy, super-sexy romances that I write!
Heidi's first Modern Extra Bedded By A Bad Boy is out this month in the UK and Ireland and is available at both the Mills & Boon website and Amazon.