Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writer's Wednesday: Leigh Duncan's Call Story

Debut American Romance Author Leigh Duncan shares her Call Story

Like most published authors, I’ve dreamt of seeing my words in print since I was just a little kid. In fact, I wrote my first “novel” when I was in the second grade. Fast forward more years than I’ll ever admit, and I was still writing, still dreaming of getting that first book published, still waiting. Oh, I’d had some small sales—an article on fly fishing to a magazine, two wedding stories in the A Cup of Comfort series. I’d written a work-out journal for a local newspaper. And completed six manuscripts.


Finally, Kathryn Caskie and Sophia Nash asked me why I was concentrating on angst-driven commercial fiction when, really, there was a light-hearted contemporary romance writer hidden deep in my soul. I sheepishly admitted that I’d been kicking around the story of a newcomer to Florida who moves into her Cocoa Beach home the day a major hurricane threatens, and the very hunky cop who is none to pleased when she refuses to evacuate.

“Write it!” they said, so I did.

The Officer’s Girl did well in contests and, at the urging of another good friend, Roxanne St. Claire, I submitted it to Harlequin, where it eventually found its way to Laura Barth’s desk at Harlequin American. Laura and I went through a couple of revisions together before she sent the manuscript on to senior editor, Kathleen Scheibling, and the waiting began in earnest.

I got Caller ID so I could sound professional when the call finally came, instead of answering, “What’s up, honey?” like I do when my kids are on the other end of the line. Periodically, I’d write to Laura to let her know I was still alive…and still waiting. She’d write back and say she was, too. I wrote another angsty women’s fiction, and polished a third, and started on a second book for Harlequin American, which I submitted this last August.

And still, we waited. And waited. And waited…until last April when, somehow, I got it into my head that I wasn’t good enough, that the editors were just being “nice” by holding on to my manuscript, that they wanted to send an outright rejection, but for some reason they hadn’t…yet.

So I talked to my critique group, who assigned some homework. “Don’t give up,” they said. “Identify five potential publishers. Write query letters. Bring them to our meeting next week.”

That seemed like a better plan than moving to Tahiti and taking up art. I loved The Officer’s Girl. I wanted to sell it. I wanted to sell it to my number one choice—Harlequin American—but if they weren’t buying…well, I had to do something.

I went home that Thursday afternoon. I identified five potential publishers. I typed up five query letters and, most importantly, I put the world on notice.

At eleven oh five Friday morning, May 8th, my phone rang.

I looked at the Caller ID, even though I’d told myself it was never going to happen. And when I saw Harlequin Enterprises on the screen, I started to cry before I even said, “Hello.”

Laura Barth wrote about that phone call when she blogged about the Slush Pile for Victoria Janseen. Laura said, “Probably the most memorable day for a new editor is the first time she gets to phone a slush author and offer to buy her book. This is what makes the time we spend reading less-than-stellar submissions worthwhile. When I contracted my first new author, I had the pleasure of giving the good news to someone I'd been working with closely for over a year. We were both so excited we could barely have a normal conversation. In my four years working at Harlequin, that was the best day by far.”

I have to admit, it was the best day for me, too. Until April 13th, when I saw The Officer’s Girl on the book shelf in my favorite Barnes & Noble.
Harlequin Americin author Leigh Duncan believes solid relationships lay the foundation for true happiness. Married to the love of her life and mother of two wonderful young adults, Leigh writes the kind of books she loves to read, ones where home, family and community are key to the happy endings everyone deserves. Her debut book, The Officer’s Girl, is in stores now, and her second Harlequin American is slated for release in early 2011.

Leigh is a long-time member of the SpacecoasT Authors of Romance (Florida STAR), the Washington Romance Writers, and a charter member of RWA’s on-line women’s fiction chapter. She coordinated the wildly successful Launching A Star contest for 4 years and, hosted the first Online Romance Reader’s Circle with Michelle Buonfiglio at When she isn’t busy writing or helping aspiring authors, Leigh enjoys curling up in her favorite chair with a cup of hot coffee and a great book. To learn more about her, visit


  1. I adore call stories. Having entered the LAS contest it's especially great to see someone who gives to others getting much worked for success.
    Congrats Leigh!

  2. What a fabulous spine-tingling call story! And I echo Becca's thoughts about the LAS contest! Congrats!!

  3. Wonderful, Leigh. So happy you didn't quit before your HEA!

  4. Good morning, Becca and Rachael! Thanks for your comments on the Launching A Star contest. We've really worked at making it a success, and it should be even better next year, when the contest goes all-electronic!

    Glad you enjoyed hearing about my call story. Lyn, you're absolutely right about getting that HEA moment! It just goes to prove that we should never give up our dreams. They can come true!

  5. Great call story Leigh, and I have to say your book sounds fabulous.... And that cover guy, he's pretty cute too!

  6. Great call story Leigh! Thanks for being with us!

  7. Heidi, when I first saw that cover, I thought, "Oh, wow!" I know a lot of authors who say they are happy with their covers, but I'd have drawn this one myself...if I had one tiny iota of artistic talent.

    Thank for making me feel welcome, Donna. I enjoyed my visit at the Pink Heart Society!