Thanks to the Pink Heart Society for letting me talk about my call story today. I love hearing about writers’ journies to publication for the same reason I love to watch underdog movies or put my characters through hell before I give them a happy ending. The greater the odds, the sweeter the victory.
Writing category for Harlequin has been my dream since I picked up my first Presents back in high school. I loved the alpha men and the shorter length. Each month when the new ones came out, I would go to the drug store and buy whatever I could afford. Usually it was only one or two.
It was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at writing one. Long hand. I think I filled four notebooks before I took my writing to the next level and used a typewriter. This would have been in the early eighties. I’ll bet you’re not surprised to find out I didn’t sell any of those first books to Harlequin. But let me tell you, sending that first partial to the UK was exciting. I had finished a book. I was trying to get it published.
Ten years later, I’d graduated from college, started a career and realized my dream of selling to Harlequin still smoldered. So, I joined RWA, started writing for publication instead of pleasure and hammered out about ten books. I got closer to my dream with an opportunity to rewrite a Silhouette Desire targeted book. Unfortunately, my ambition outweighed my talent. It seemed with each query letter I was further from selling. And it wasn’t fun anymore.
Jump forward to October 2006 when I rejoined RWA and started entering contests. A lot of contests. When I finaled in the first two I entered, I figured it would only be a matter of time before those book contracts started rolling in. Do I hear laughter?
In the summer of 2007 I won the Wisconsin Fab 5 with A Case Of Meddling and got a request for the full. A Case of Meddling was the third book I finished. Targeted at Silhouette Desire, it had a killer opening and not much else. My beta reader told me it was boring. Boring. Is that the kiss of death or what? How could I send a boring book to Silhouette?
At the 2007 RWA Nationals in Dallas, I sat in the audience at the Spotlight on Harlequin and listened to then Desire senior editor Melissa Jeglinski explain what they were looking for. Let me tell you, Meddling didn’t have it. And in the end, it didn’t matter because the editor who requested the full left Harlequin.
Fast forward a year. August 2008, after a major rewrite I’d received a second full request on Meddling. This time from Diana Ventimiglia, associate editor for Desire. I was stoked. Boring no more, I felt it was ready to go. However, at the time I had other Desire targeted books sitting at Silhouette. Submitting Meddling was just going to have to wait.
Fast forward another year. I’d suffered a string of rejections from Silhouette. As most of you know, writing category is an art. It requires the right balance of conflict, pacing, and same but different. Frustrated by my inability to master the last, I’d switched things up and was writing YA leaving Meddling to languish.
At the 2009 RWA Nationals I pitched to Kevan Lyon. She’d impressed me during an on-line PRO class and she was willing to take on category authors. I didn’t pitch her Meddling. I pitched her a book that I’d just sent to Blaze. However, A Case of Meddling was the first book she sent on submission for me.
By this time, Diana had also left Silhouette so Kevan sent Meddling to the brand new associate editor for Desire, Charles Griemsman who’d been promoted from Special Edition. Now, I’d heard great things about Charles so I was excited to have him read Meddling. Three week after Kevan pitched him the project he had revisions notes back to us that involved a significant revamping of the second half of the book.
I turned those revisions around in two weeks. And then the wait started. Each month, when Kevan checked on the manuscript, she got the same answer. It was under consideration. To keep myself distracted while I waited, I wrote two more short contemporary stories and a single title.
At the end of August, Kevan called to tell me we’d had an offer. Her words didn’t register. I’d been dreaming about this moment almost thirty years. After having a sane and professional conversation with my agent, I hung up with her and started to scream. At the time I was on the freeway with the windows rolled up or I might have caused an accident. Naturally, I called all my friends and my CP. My daughter is my biggest fan and she made me a sign that said, “You $old Your Book.”
In so many ways, I’m still in shock. I keep telling myself that it happened, but there’s a part of me that hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea. Waiting to sell is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Every day has the potential to be THE day. For over three years I’d been checking my email. Checking my phone. Hoping for THE CALL. What I’ve discovered since selling is that the waiting doesn’t go away. But now, at least, I know how to handle it (writing, writing, and more writing) and if you work hard and stick with it, dreams do come true.
MEDDLING WITH A MILLIONAIRE coming to Silhouette Desire, July 2011
Emma Montgomery had a year to prove to her father she could successfully support herself or she would be forced to marry a man of his choosing. The year is almost up and the future groom is the one man Emma wants more than anything but can never have.
Nathan’s obsession with Emma began way before her father offered her hand in marriage as part of the most important business deal of Nathan’s life. Given their mutual attraction, marriage between them makes perfect sense. So why is Emma resisting?
Cat Schield lives in Minnesota with her daughter, Emily, and their Burmese cat. Winner of the Romance Writers of America 2010 Golden Heart® for series contemporary romance, when she’s not writing sexy, romantic stories for Silhouette Desire, she can be found sailing with friends on the St. Croix River or more exotic locales like the Caribbean and Europe. Contact her at www.catschield.com.