Thursday, June 28, 2007

Writers Wednesday with Jennie Lucas


This week's newbie is true fresh meat ;). Her first book hasn't even come out yet!!! The Pink Heart Society proudly presents new Harlequin Presents author Jennie Lucas!!!

About Jennie:

Jennie lives with her husband and two small children in the American Northwest. She spends her time playing with her babies, writing about romance in exotic lands, doing as little housework as possible, and sporadically counting points on Weight Watchers.

The Call:

In most Call stories you may have read, the thrilled new author screams with joy, right? She hears that she’s going to be a published author, and every detail of that moment is forever emblazoned into her memory. It is the best, most memorable phone call of her life.

For me, finding out last October that I’d gotten a two-book contract with Presents was wonderful, mind-blowing, thrilling. But it wasn’t my best phone call ever.

It was my fourth-best.

I was always a dreamer—the chunky girl sitting in the library window, eating Caramello bars and reading romance novels. At fifteen, my world got a lot bigger when I begged my parents to let me go to a posh East Coast boarding school on scholarship. I had very romantic ideas about what it would be like. Instead, it was a shock to my Western, suburban, middle-class background to be suddenly living at a school filled with gorgeous, clever, slightly decadent trust-fund kids. But I survived, and afterwards I traveled, fell in love, and got married. My husband knew I dreamed of being a writer, so a few months after I finished college he suggested I quit my job to stay at home and write.

So for three solid years, I wrote and wrote. I started with an attempt at a Silhouette Romance that was rejected. I then wrote a bunch of really long historical novels that I didn’t submit to publishers. On my fourth manuscript, I had an epiphany about storytelling: Leave out the boring stuff and don’t pull punches. Yeah, you’d think that would be obvious, right? Not to me. Even though I’d been an English major, learning the art of storytelling—such a different skill than, say, grammar—was a long, grueling apprenticeship. For my fourth manuscript, a 100,000-word Medieval romance, I wrote as hard and mean as I could. I sent the manuscript out to a contest, knowing I’d get what I’d always gotten…silence.

Instead, I got my number one best call of all time. Tanya Michaels (http://www.tanyamichaels.com/) called to tell me that I’d finaled in the Maggie contest.

I screamed into the receiver, making her laugh. Then I remember my whole body shaking as I sank slowly to the floor. After I hung up the phone, I started to cry. Not just a sniff or two either. I bawled. Most women trying to break into this business also have something else to hold onto – they also hold a career, or they’re stay-at-home moms. But for me, I had nothing. For years, my husband had been blindly supporting me through rejection after rejection. I’d started to hate my stupid dream. The call from Tanya was my first encouragement.

My second favorite call came the following year, when I found out the same manuscript was a 2003 Golden Heart finalist. All the finalists from that year formed a gang called the Wet Noodle Posse (http://www.wetnoodleposse.com/), and that’s how I met the gorgeous Trish Morey (http://www.trishmorey.com/). But I came home from the New York conference to find out that after 30 years of marriage, my parents were abruptly divorcing. I stopped writing historicals and started writing contemporaries—hungry, I think, for reassurance that happy endings could really happen in modern life.

I wrote two tender romances, one of which won the Golden Heart in 2005. Trish, in an act of generosity that still floors me, offered to read a chapter of my third attempt at a category novel. I had just had my first baby, and my emotions were so strong that I wanted to try something new—to blend the drama and passion of my old historicals with a contemporary setting. Trish told me I had a Presents voice, but I knew I was wasting my time. Presents never buy American authors! But I loved writing the story so much I finished it anyway, then pitched The Greek Billionaire’s Baby Revenge to my dream agent in Atlanta in 2006.

Six weeks later, I got my third best call ever (via email)—she wanted to represent me!

I was six months pregnant with my second child, but I lumbered up from my computer and screamed. My husband was out of town, so I phoned him and screamed some more. Then I danced around the kitchen with my toddler, making her laugh as only an eighteen-month-old can. I must have read that email fifty times, wondering if I’d read it wrong. I hadn’t!

A month later, my agent called me. It was a busy time, since I was not only heavily pregnant (*very* heavily, since I was eating a tub of ice cream every night), but traveling every weekend for three weeks straight. My agent and I chatted for a few minutes, and then she said casually, “Oh, and I have some good news. Harlequin Mills & Boon would like to offer a two-book contract for Harlequin Presents!”

I don’t remember much about that day. I remember my husband hugging me and saying he was proud of me. I remember tangoing down the hallways with my toddler. For the next couple of days I blurted out things like a victim of Tourette’s Syndrome: “twobookcontract!” The next morning, I flew to California for a family wedding, and as I was lying on my aunt’s couch staring up at the ceiling in the middle of the night, I still couldn’t believe it. After seven years and eight full manuscripts, I was finally going to be a published author.

Jennie misses those tubs of ice cream, but she’s happy to have finally lost 54 pounds to reach her (non-skinny) pre-baby weight. Her first book, The Greek Billionaire’s Baby Revenge, comes out this August in the U.K. and December in the U.S. It will be shortly followed by The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin and Caretti’s Forced Bride. She’d love to have you pop by for a visit at her website-in-progress at http://www.jennielucas.com/.

19 comments:

  1. Great story, Jennie! Congratulations on getting those four calls, especially the fourth.

    Congrats on losing weight too. Brilliant.

    Claire

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  2. Terrific story--I can't wait to read your books!!

    Kate H.

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  3. Jennie, as another Presents author who took years to reach that point, I SOOO related to your call story. Congratulations and welcome! I'll be looking for your books when they come out here in Oz.

    Annie

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  4. Great story, Jenna :-). And I can definitely relate to the Maggie call and the Golden Heart call being somehow just as important as "The" call ;-).

    Aren't we writers lucky to get those phone call thrills? Sure, there are valleys in this roller coaster ride, but the highs are SO HIGH :-)!

    Looking forward to many, many highs in your career, Jenna--all the best, always :-).

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  5. Jenna,
    Awwwww, what a nice Call story!

    And the bookcover is WONDERFUL. It is so sensual. I can hardly wait!

    Diane

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  6. What a lovely story! Your 'voice' shines through every line so I absolutely can't wait to read your book, Jennie!

    (And enough of the dieting!! You're utterly gorgeous!)

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  7. Jennie, it's so great to see you here - your story brought tears to my eyes and I already knew it (writers are such saps:-))

    And you were so clearly a Presents author just waiting to happen. I'm thrilled for you that it did so quickly. Lovely to have you in the line up and I have to say, that cover is truly gorgeous!! The cover, the title and the writing are all going to have it flying off the shelves.

    Well done you!

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  8. Great story, Jennie, and here's to many more Presents!

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  9. Jennie, even though we belong to the same RWA chapter, I've never heard the whole story all strung together, so loved reading this. Keep on enjoying every moment and dancing with both husband and babies. Can't wait to read your book once it releases in the US.

    Robin

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  10. Good things happen to good people. And you, Jennie, are one of the very best. Those of us who know (and love) you are very happy for you. You deserve the success.

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  11. Jennie great call story, and as for your book - as I said already because I've been lucky enough to read it already, courtesy of amazon (!) it's brilliant! Can't wait for it to come out and for everyone else to read it. Congrats again!
    x Abby Green

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  12. Jennie- what a fabulous story with a fabulous ending... which is just the beginning for you! Way to go, girl!
    Jennifer

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  13. Great story! I can't imagine the pressure of having trying to sell be your "job"--congrats on sticking with your goal until you reached it!

    Jen

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  14. Thanks, Claire, Kate, Annie, Terry, Diane, India, Trish, Charlene, Robin, Candis, Abby, Jennifer and Jennifer!

    Claire and India -- thanks for the congrats about the weight loss! This is my second baby, so the second time I've lost 50 pounds. (What can I say--I love to eat!) You'd think I would have learned some self control by the second pregnancy. Nope!! The photo on my website (the same that's by name here) is two years old, taken between babies. It was fun to have my husband take a new photo of me in front of our house last week. It might be the first photo I've let him take in six months. ;)

    Annie--I must tell you again how much I enjoyed "Mistress for the Taking". And that's a very sexy pool clinch on your covers. Pool clinches rock IMO! ;)

    Kate--Hi to my fellow Newbie Looper! I'm looking forward to your book The Italian's Chosen Wife! (Love those Italian men!)

    Terry and Diane--Great to see some Noodlers! Terry, you are such a sweetie! You finaled in the Maggie? It's so true that the highs are joyously high and the lows are wretchedly low. This career is a lot like a love affair, isn't it? Congrats on the RT Top Pick you just got for "Maybe, Baby"! There's a high for you!

    And Diane--thanks for the compliments on my cover! I love it too. :) For those of you who don't know, Diane has an amazing Call story. She is the one who won my category (Long Historical) in the Golden Heart in 2003. She sold without even submitting her MS, since the GH judge phoned her out of the blue and asked to buy her book, and the rest is history!

    Trish--*big hugs* I never would have even gotten the Call, if you hadn't convinced me to write the book!

    Robin, Charlene and Candis--great to see you from my local chapter! Thanks for the congrats. I hope to see you all in person soon! At the Christmas party if nothing else. I could really go for some hors d'oeuvres...and some pasta...and some brownies....Hm. I think I've been on this diet for too long!

    Abby--Thanks again for the good reviews you always seem to be giving me. :) Can't wait to read The Brazilian's Blackmail Bargain in August!

    Anonymous Jennifer--thanks so much for the encouragement! :) I think you're great!

    Jennifer Lewis--It's funny, I really thought that writing full-time would help me succeed, but I'm not sure it did. I didn't sell until I was a frantically busy full-time mom. I now have no time to procrastinate on anything. When I'm writing, I'm *writing*--not surfing the internet or scoping out coach.com. (Alas!)... And congrats to you too, for getting an RT Top Pick for The Boss's Demand!!

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  15. Congratulations Jennie and welcome to the Presents 'family'. I'm so glad you dispelled that idiotic rumour that Presents never accepts American authors - what about Anne McAllister, Sandra Marton, Lucy Monroe, Jane Porter - and now you!

    Looking forward to reading your first book and I hope that one day we'll meet face to face and a Conference or somewhere


    Kate

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  16. Congratulations on your success. You deserve it! I can't wait to read your books! - MJ a.k.a. BettyNeelswantabe from the boards.

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  17. Thanks, Kate! And congrats yourself on your recent huge milestone of writing fifty books--WOW!! What an inspiration!

    And thanks MJ! Great to see you here from the eharlequin boards-- Hope to see you more in the future!

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  18. Hi Jennie, we've tracked you down and are so very happy for to hear of your success! Way to go! Love always, Aunts Laurie and Debbie and Cousins Heather and Chad

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  19. I love reading stories like this! thanks for sharing!

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