The Pink Heart Society are delighted to welcome new Harlequin Presents author Jennifer Hayward.
I’m so thrilled to be here at The Pink Heart Society today to tell my call story. It’s been a year since I won Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest with my Harlequin Presents novel, The Divorce Party, which will be on shelves in a couple of weeks.
My writing journey, however, started much earlier on in life… Back then I was an angst-ridden teenager with a penchant for burying my nose in a Presents novel to escape it all. I loved those dark, arrogant heroes and the feisty heroines who tamed them, and the glamorous locales that carried me far, far away from high school life. Reading was preferable to wondering if ‘that boy’ would call or whether I was going to fail grade ten math! (I passed by the skin of my teeth)
After I made it through the ‘horrible years’, my high school guidance counselor suggested I pursue a career in journalism. I did, given my above-mentioned lack of math prowess. But not before I sent my first partial manuscript to Mills & Boon’s London office at nineteen. That manuscript, featuring a stirring rendition of Saturday Night Fever as a Presents, was rejected with some nice words about my writing. I took it as a dagger in the heart as all nineteen year-olds would, when in actual fact, I needed a whole lot more life experience to write the books I loved.
I went on to pursue a journalism, then public relations career, but my first love always remained fiction writing. Over the years I spent my vacations travelling to RWA conferences in fun, glamorous cities to soak up the craft workshops, enjoy the camaraderie with fellow writers and to satisfy my other great love – getting on a plane to anywhere! I submitted two or three partial manuscripts along the way which were rejected. But I never lost sight of my dream.
Three years ago I came to a fork in the road. My career was of the all-consuming variety, leaving me little time to write. I was miserable without it. I became a freelance consultant and spent every minute I wasn’t doing PR work writing. I set myself goals. I would finish a full manuscript. I did. That manuscript will never see the light of day following its rejection, but what I learned writing an entire book was invaluable. I took a gazillion writing courses with some amazing instructors and learned as much as I could about the craft of writing. Then I wrote my second full manuscript, the first chapter of which I entered into Harlequin’s New Voices competition in 2011. That chapter did not final but I believed in the book, reworked the front end and entered a Presents pitch competition with it, was asked to pitch and received a request for a partial manuscript.
While that manuscript was still under consideration with Mills & Boon, I started working on my third full manuscript, The Divorce Party, inspired by the real-life story of a Manhattan billionaire who threw a million-dollar divorce party to celebrate the demise of his three-year marriage. The embossed invitations, the incredibly civilized approach to the end of a union due to irreconcilable differences fascinated me. I wondered what would bring a couple to this point? Why would anyone want to end their marriage like this?
I was also fascinated by the subject of infidelity. I’d seen it destroy the relationships of some of the people closest to me. It’s easy to say it’s wrong, but until you put yourself in the shoes of someone else you never really know the truth and the intricacies involved. With Riccardo De Campo I wanted to create a hero who we didn’t just think stepped across the line, he did step across the line. And by the end of the book I wanted readers to understand what is was like to stand in Riccardo’s shoes. And In Lilly’s. How two people can love each other beyond reason but perhaps still can’t be together.
It was the first book I wrote completely unselfconsciously. I took all the craft ‘rules’ that worked for me and threw out the rest. It was a love affair of the highest order, this book and I loved every minute of writing it. And even better, my editor asked me to write the trilogy of all three brothers! Now that was a dream come true.
Good luck to all those writers participating in So You Think You Can Write this year. It was an amazing experience for me and I know it will be for you too!
To celebrate the September 1st launch of The Divorce Party, I’d like to give away two copies. Just leave a comment and I’ll draw two names on September 11.
You can get a sneak peak of The Divorce Party here. Book two of the De Campo trilogy, Alex & Gabe’s story, An Exquisite Challenge, comes out in Feb 2014 with Harlequin Presents.
Jennifer can be found on twitter – jenhayward_ or at her website jenniferhaywardromance.com