Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Call Story: Harlequin Presents Author Maya Blake


The Pink Heart Society is pleased to welcome Maya Blake to share her call story. Take it away, Maya!


 
Thank you so much for inviting me to PHS! I've been a fan for a long time and it's especially thrilling to be invited to blog about my Call Story.
Like a lot of people who read romance, I was introduced to these books at an early age. My older sister gave me my first Harlequin Mills & Boon in my early teens and I fell head over heels in love with them. So much so, I tried to write one shortly after that. No, that ms will never see the light of day!

Fast-forward to 2005, my maternity leave was drawing to a close after having Child 2 and the heartbreak of leaving my baby to return to work was tearing me apart. I started writing again as a coping mechanism, mostly at work (hope my ex-boss doesn’t read this!) to take my mind off missing my kids. Of course, any writing was always going to involve Harlequin Presents – it was what I knew and loved. I liked what I wrote and even dared to think I could be published, so I sent off my first three chapters. The form rejection winged back faster than lightning! But by then, I'd been bitten by the writing bug. 

My next attempt also received a form rejection. I joined a few writing groups, including the Romantic Novelists Association, and sent off my third effort to their writing scheme and received encouragement from the mentors. Although that third story was also rejected, this time round I received editor feedback! Then came the Harlequin's Instant Seduction Competition. My ms didn’t place, but a Senior Editor requested the full. I was thrilled!

Alas, after two long years, that ms was also rejected, but I received a long encouraging letter from the editor which spurred me on. I decided to enter the Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009. Two wonderful things happened – I met a great bunch of women who later became my CPs! And even though I didn’t place in this competition either (clearly competitions are wasted on me!), another Senior Editor asked for the partial of a different story. I sent it in August 2010 and received a full request from Lucy Gilmour in November. I hadn’t quite finished the story, so I eventually sent it to her in January 2011. She sent me revisions 9 days later! I returned them to her in February.

Unfortunately, that ms ASLO didn’t quite make the cut and the revised full was rejected in June 2011. Knowing I was close but not quite making it was, as many writers can attest to, heart-breaking. I was DETERMINED to get the next one right, so I asked Lucy for guidance. 

She asked for two different first chapters, chose one and asked me to work on it. I sent three chapters in and started on yet another story as I waited for feedback. I got feedback my gut feeling was that the newest story was much stronger. When Lucy contacted me in January 2012 to ask where the story was (oops!) I had to own up and confess I’d started a new one instead. She asked for the partial, came back to me a few days later and asked for the full. Four weeks after that, I got a 5-page revision letter. It was daunting to say the least but I’d come too far go give up! Lucy and I agreed on a 3-week turnaround and I sent her revisions on 26th March. 

On 11th April, she emailed to say she wanted to discuss my ms (GULP!). We agreed on 9am the next morning. My phone rang at 9.56am (yep, I checked). I said “Hi Lucy” before she got a chance to say hello. She laughed and said, “I was going to say this is Lucy Gilmour from Harlequin Mills and Boon, but I guess you already know that.” 

I laughed, I babbled, I was mainly incoherent and didn’t let her get a word in. I stopped talking long enough to hear the words, “My Senior Editor, Joanne Grant read your story in 90 minutes and didn’t even take a break for lunch because she loved it so much.” I stopped breathing until I heard “…so we’d like to offer you a two-book contract.” There were a lot of OMGs and thank yous, one or two, “I don’t believe it” and definitely a thousand “I’m so happys!”

It still feels like yesterday even though my initial contract has been fulfilled and I've been offered another contract. But nothing will ever compare to receiving The Call, or holding my first book – The Price of Success - in my hands.
The Price of Success is available now from the Mill & Boon site, and Amazon UK and Amazon US from 1 December.

8 comments:

  1. Maya, huge congratulations on your acceptance and having your first book out. It's the most enormous thrill, isn't it?

    I could so relate to your mention of how hard it is being close to publication but not accepted. I think that's when a lot of writers give up instead of persevering. No wonder you're thrilled with the result now. Good luck with this first book and the ones that follow.

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  2. Thank you so much, Annie. Yes, it is an absolute thrill. Another thrill is "meeting" you here. I remember reading your first and thinking what a wonderful HP writer you are!

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  3. I think you left out the best bit of your call story, Maya. The bit where you told your CPs the day before that Lucy wanted to call you and you asked us "Why is she calling? Is this more revisions and they're so terrible she has to talk me through them?" and we were all "this is The Call, Maya!" I don't think you really believed us until after it actually happened.

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  4. PS: Well done! You've come so far, and I'm so proud of you!! I can't wait to have a whole shelf full of Maya Blake books soon.

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  5. Awww, thank you so much, Romy. Yes, of course, I should've listened to my lovely CPs! You've never steered me wrong!

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  6. So proud of you lovely Maya. The Price of Attraction has pride of place on my keepers' shelf.

    xx

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  7. Maya - that's sweet of you. Thank you. It's always great to meet others who love (and write!) Presents/Modern too!

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  8. your story is such a treat for Presents Lovers, Maya...

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