Thursday, May 31, 2007

Writers Wednesday with Jennifer Lewis

This week we here at the Pink Heart Society bring you a winner of last year's Desire pitch contest on eHarlequin! The lovely and fabulous Jennifer Lewis...

ABOUT JENNIFER

Jennifer Lewis has always spent much of her time in an alternate universe. Since she was quiet and well-behaved, she generally got away with it. Now she’s actually managed to persuade a publisher to PAY her to hang out there. Let the good times roll!

ABOUT THE CALL...

I didn’t discover category romances until I was in my early twenties, when I happened across a huge rack of them at the Donnell Library in midtown Manhattan. I was on my lunch break from the Museum of Television & Radio, which has got to be one of the few places in the world where you can watch eight episodes of, say, MacGyver, back to back and call it a day’s work. Once I found that rack of well-thumbed paperbacks I became hooked on Silhouette Desires, Harlequin Presents and the now-defunct Bantam Loveswepts.

My first category romance was banged out during a two-week vacation from work. I sent it to Presents and got a nice encouraging rejection, so I wrote another book…and got a form letter.

At that time there was no eHarlequin so I didn’t know how to find out where I’d gone wrong, or how to improve. I wrote a mainstream book, which got me an agent and several encouraging rejections. Then I had babies, which fully occupied my brain cells (and all my other cells) for several years. It wasn’t until my youngest turned two (and stopped waking up at 4:00 am every day….) that I got the urge to sit down at the computer and start writing again.

This time I was determined not to quit! I found eHarlequin and started writing Desires. I also found an online community of helpful writers and critique partners who could help me figure out what I was doing right and wrong. I had so much fun that I wrote five Desires within a year!

And got four form rejections.

The first two were rejected as full manuscripts, the second two (horror of horrors!) were rejected at the query stage.

I did say I was determined, didn’t I? When eHarlequin announced their online pitch I decided to enter, in the hope that a book I strongly felt was “the one” could get a read. It was my fourth Desire attempt and all my CP’s adored it.

It didn’t get chosen.

However!!! A couple of hours before the first online pitch session, I got an email asking me if I could take the place of someone who couldn’t get online. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I had a fun time pitching to Senior Editor Melissa Jeglinski, and she requested the manuscript.

The fabulous Jan Colley sold to Desire as a result of that pitch. Not me! I got my fifth form rejection—for a story that won almost every contest I entered it in AND finaled in the Golden Heart. Would I ever get Desire to show me some love????

I shelved the fifth Desire I’d written without even querying, because the very alpha Middle Eastern hero didn’t seem to be what they were looking for at that time. I wrote a new book that answered Desire’s call for “risky, edgy” stories. I was pretty sure I’d gone too far over the risky edge with that one, so the rejection wasn’t a surprise, but it included a line of encouragement to submit again.

About a year after the first Desire online pitch, they announced a second one. Since I’d heard they were once again looking for very alpha males, I decided to dust off the story I’d never dared to send in. I submitted this blurb:

“Desperate to keep her new job, proud and independent Sara assures her flirtation-weary boss he can fire her if she steps out of line. But the oil industry is dangerous and accidents can happen--like the one that leaves her pregnant with his child and determined to resist his marriage demand.”

The Boss’s Demand was chosen and once again I pitched and sent in my full manuscript.

One week later, near the end of a four day power outage (in February ) I was reading mail by candlelight when I saw a letter from Desire. I ripped it open and was delighted to find an encouraging revision letter! Melissa Jeglinski had actually picked up my manuscript the day it arrived and read it in one sitting! (Just like we writers always imagine it!!) I made the revisions—most of which involved making my hero even more alpha—and sent it back, thrilled that I’d finally managed to get beyond a form rejection.

While I was biting my nails and hoping, two of the talented people I’d pitched with—Maxine Sullivan and Tessa Radley—sold their books to Desire. A few weeks later I got my “call” from Desire Editor Demetria Lucas. After that I was tripping on a natural high for a solid month. To be honest, it still hasn’t worn off.

I’ve since enjoyed working with Demetria on two more books, Seduced for the Inheritance (October, 2007) and Black Sheep Billionaire (January, 2008) and I’m developing several future stories, including a 2008 Desire continuity.

Jen's very first Silhouette Desire, THE BOSS'S DEMAND hits bookshelves across North America in July!!! Meaning you can buy it online at eHarlequin in two days time!!!

For more information about her stories or to read an excerpt, check out her website at http://www.jen-lewis.com.

16 comments:

  1. Wooohooo, Jen!! Fabulous call story. You remind me of my favorite heroines...gutsy and persistent!

    Looking forward to your first book.

    Tessa

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  2. Thanks Tessa! My own heroines are nothing if not gutsy and persistent--sometimes to fault!

    Jen

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  3. Jen, I'm so glad your perseverence and hard work payed off.

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  4. bless your heart--you sure did deserve this! i am SO happy for you!!!

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  5. Thanks Anne, Kristen and Rhonda! It makes me chuckle now to write about all my rejections though I wasn't laughing at the time ;-)

    Jen

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  6. Wow, great job of sticking with it and congratulations on the Three books.

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  7. Jen! It was great to read your call story again. There's just nothing quite like a call story to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I'm really looking forward to seeing your book here in New Zealand! All the best for a fabulous launch and a great career!

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  8. Can't wait to see your first book on the shelves, Jen! :)

    Nalini

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  9. Jen, congratulations on having your first book out soon. It seems ages since you, Tessa, and I did that Desire pitch, but it was worth the wait, eh?

    And have you seen your rating for your book from Romantic Times yet? I won't spoil it for you but I think you will like it. :)

    Congratulations again.

    Maxine
    http://www.maxinesullivan.com

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  10. Yay, Jen. Great to hear your story again. Can't wait to read your first Desire!!

    Natasha

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  11. Thanks Sara, Yvonne, Nalini, Maxine and Natasha!!

    Sara, your name has the same spelling as the heroine of my July book :-)

    Maxine, Anna de Palo emailed me the RT review. I haven't stopped grinning since!

    Jen

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  12. I love your story! So inspiring - thanks for sharing it. :)

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  13. Congrats Jen on your books. Can't wait to read them.

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  14. I can't believe the book is finally being released!! It seems like ages since I did that one-week lightning-read of it :)

    Congratulations, Jen! Can't wait to hold the book in my hands.

    Leeanne

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  15. Thanks Karen and Kimberly!

    Leeanne, you were a lifesaver (as usual) reading it so fast!

    Jen

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