Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Celebrating The CALL: Isabelle Goddard

Our first CALL STORY post of the year!  Please give a Pink Heart Society welcome to Isabelle Goddard, a Harlequin Historical rising star!

I guess most writers say they've always wanted to write and that's vaguely true of me, but I have to confess the desire was never really serious until a few years ago. As a child I wrote stories, as most of us do, and in my teens I wrote magazine articles which never got published. But it wasn't until my two children had left for university that I made any real commitment, by signing up for a class in creative writing. That class was very important to me. For a start it led to me producing a short story that won a writing competition but far more importantly it broke down the very real barriers I'd managed to create for myself.

You see, for many years I worked as a teacher and my subject was literature. Years of academic analysis left me feeling that I couldn't possibly compete. I'd try to write – a phrase, a sentence, maybe even a paragraph, then I'd look at it and think 'rubbish!' or worse. All the time this horrible censor in my head was telling me 'don't bother, you'll never be Virginia Woolf.' What the creative writing class did was tell me that no, I wouldn't be Virginia Woolf, I wasn't even competing. What I would be was me. My way of seeing things, my way of expressing what I saw, thought, felt, was wholly individual and that was OK, more than OK, valuable. It was a revelation and it set me on my present path. I would never have thought I could write a whole novel. In fact I couldn't have written a novel if it didn't suit me or if I'd been forced to submit myself to an agent's disapproval. By that I mean that historical fiction just felt right and Mills and Boon are one of the few publishers that accept unagented manuscripts.

So it had to be historical fiction and because I've always loved the early part of the 19th century and I grew up reading Georgette Heyer, it had to be Regency. Once that was decided, the rest came fairly easily. It didn't come quickly though. I sent my first three chapters and a synopsis to Mills and Boon in June 2007 and didn't hear from them for eleven whole months. I'd almost given up hope but the wait turned out to be worthwhile when they requested the rest of the manuscript. According to Kate Walker's book, 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance, that was the gold rosette in responses. But the euphoria died quite quickly and the waiting began again. This time I heard nothing for eight months. Then in Feb 2009 I opened a letter from Mills and Boon giving me a detailed critique of my novel: there were things they liked and things they didn't like. Crucially they liked my 'voice', that will o' the wisp quality which is so hard to define. I was invited to revise the manuscript taking account of their critique or if I preferred I could submit another partial ms. I chose to revise as I didn't want to waste the love I'd lavished on my baby. And of course I couldn't let my characters down! So I spent three months trying to get the novel as right as I could and resubmitted in June. More silent months passed and then on a day in December when I was snuffling miserably on the sofa suffering from 'flu - and real 'flu at that - the call came!

It was hard to believe but it was true. A two book contract! Further revisions followed, a general tightening up which was entirely beneficial to the book, and I've ended up with a novel, Reprobate Lord, Runaway Lady that I'm really pleased with. I'm now on book number three (number two will be published in June 2011) and have somehow fallen into a whole new career.

Check out Isabelle's debut, REPROBATE LORD, RUNAWAY LADY this month from Mills and Boon Historical! And check out her website:


  1. Great to see you here, Isabelle! I wonder how many of us had our first taste of romance in Georgette Heyer's wonderful books? I know I did.

    Am expecting Reprobate Lord, Runaway Lady in the post any day now and really looking forward to reading it.

    Jessica x

  2. Great call story Isabelle. Can't wait to read your book. Caroline x

  3. Congratulations, Isabelle, and good luck with number three.

  4. Congratulations on your sale Isabelle, that's fabulous news and I'll keep a look out for your books x