Harlequin Desire Author Sarah M. Anderson Goes Back to Her Roots…


Sarah M. Anderson

So many Harlequin authors are incredibly versatile and can turn their hands from sweet to sexy, from emotional to action-packed and everything in between. Happily, here at Harlequin we can find something to suit most authors–and readers! So here’s Harlequin Desire author Sarah M. Anderson to tell what’s new in her repertoire! 

I’m so excited to announce that I sold my female bull rider book, Rodeo Dreams, to Superromance!

You may well wonder how I, a Harlequin Desire author, came to sell a book to Superromance.

Would you be surprised if I told you that the saga stretches over six years? And that Rodeo Dreams predates any Desire book I wrote by at least two years? Or would you be surprised that one of my first rejections of Rodeo Dreams was by my current editor, the fabulous senior editor Stacy Boyd—the very same fabulous Stacy Boyd who bought Rodeo Dreams for Superromance?

All of these things are true. Selling Rodeo Dreams is a good example of perseverance. It’s also a heck of a story!

Let’s begin at the beginning (where else?). I wrote what was then called His Rodeo June back over the winter months of 2008 and into 2009. I had an agent I was working with and she liked His Rodeo June a lot, so she sent it out after some revisions. This was during the spring and into the summer of 2009.

I got rejections. Lots of rejections. I didn’t appreciate it at the time—I wanted to sell that first book so badly—but I got a lot of really good rejections. I was disappointed, then I was crushed.

One of the early rejections was from Stacy. Here’s what she had to say:

 “My biggest concern is that the hero and heroine’s voices are both very downbeat and negative. They both show a lot of anger and intolerance, which isn’t balanced with the kind of emotional motivation (and hence a possibility for reformation) that our readers like to see. Also, the romance doesn’t feel central to the plot. The displays of anger and the hero’s impotence aren’t balanced with a sensual or emotional spark.”

Ouch. After fifteen or twenty of those, we decided to put His Rodeo June aside. It was an incredibly painful decision, but I write very fast and I had other books we could try with.

But remember how I said this was a good rejection? Here’s the rest of what Stacy said:

 “Sarah has a very passionate writing style, and I found both the characters and premise to be intriguing…Thank you again for letting me review it. Sarah has talent, and I’d love to see more from her, if the romance was strong.”

At the time, all I saw was the No. It hurt like hell.

But I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote some more. I wrote another five books after His Rodeo June. A few were pretty bad. Some were pretty good. A year and a half passed. I got more rejections, but my writing got stronger.

In the meantime, Stacy was going places. In 2010, she was promoted to Senior Editor of Harlequin Desire. Desire hadn’t acquired many new authors and one of her tasks was to change that.

At almost the same time, I wrote a book I called Indian Princess. It was different from what I’d been writing—shorter, with less secondary characters and a wealthy hero.

It wound up on Stacy’s desk. And she read it because she remembered me from the previous year. And wouldn’t you know it, a shorter book with a rich hero was exactly what she was looking for.

Thus began a long and fruitful editorial relationship. A Man of His Word was publishing in Dec. 2011 and we’ve just kept going. Stacy has patiently guided me through the Desire-ification of my writing and pushed me to be a better author. I feel confident saying this because our second book together, A Man of Privilege, won the RT Book Reviewer’s Desire of the Year for 2012!

But about that rodeo book, you say? I’m getting to it.

The summer of 2012, I found myself with a little free time. I had a month before I had to start on my next contracted book for Desire. And I decided to dig out His Rodeo June. I still believed in that book and I’d learned so much since it’d been rejected the first time.

I went back and read every single rejection. This time, instead of disappointment, I noticed what all those editors had taken the time to say—angry characters, not enough romance. I re-discovered that Stacy had rejected it—honestly, I had forgotten she’d read it.

I started revising. I tossed the last two chapters, made several backstory changes, and upped the romance by a LOT. I also took to Twitter and started talking about how tone can make or break a book, how good rejections are helpful and how gosh-darn funny it was that my beloved editor had rejected it.

Guess who was on Twitter, following along from home? That’s right. Stacy.

She said, (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the tweets, but you’ll get the idea) “Is that the female rodeo rider? I remember that book.” Which stunned me—it’d been almost 3 years since she’d said “No”. When I asked her if she really remembered His Rodeo June, she said, “I remember all the books I like.” She then said that if I’d fixed the book, she’d like to see it again.

Done. There were a flurry of emails between my editor and my agent. That August, 2012, we sent His Rodeo June off to Stacy for the second time.

She read it. She loved it (again). She had a long list of changes she wanted to see, but she thought it’d be a good Superromance if I could find the right tone (again with the tone!). But I had to get back to work on my contracted Desires, so it sat.

In March of 2013, we picked it back up. More revisions, more revision notes. I kept saying, “How much more is there to fix in this book?” and then I’d get a three-page list of notes from Stacy.

We had to set it down again for a few more months—I had a Desire that needed a total rewrite. But in the fall of 2013, I began to bug her. Where are we? Where’s the book at?

More revision notes. More revisions. More revision notes. EVEN MORE REVISIONS.

Finally, we were approaching the Christmas break this past December. We pushed through—we both wanted this book off our to-do lists over the holidays. I gave the book back to Stacy, she read it again, made (you guessed it!) more notes, but said it was almost there and she was going to try to buy it. Stacy then sent it to Wanda Ottewell, the senior editor for Superromance to see if Wanda agreed.

On January 10th, 2014, Stacy tweeted that she was going to make the call she’d been waiting YEARS to make.

She bought His Rodeo June, now known as Rodeo Dreams. It’ll be published by Superromance in August, 2014.

I cried, I’m not going to lie. I’d been hoping, praying and revising that book for five and a half years.

And then I got back to work because—believe it or not—there were a FEW MORE REVISIONS and with an Aug. 2014 pub date, suddenly a book that had taken years to develop had to be done very, very quickly.

What’s the take-away here?

 Never give up. Never Surrender!

 Revision is where good books are made.

 An editor who likes your voice and appreciates your talent while pushing you to be better all the time is worth at least five times her weight in gold and a Really Nice Christmas Present.

 Good rejections really are gifts. Thank the editors who take the time to explain why they said No. Then apply those suggestions to your work.

 Do not burn your bridges. The publishing world is actually small(ish).

So that’s it! Publishing is a strange business. If Stacy hadn’t read and rejected Rodeo Dreams all those years ago, she might not have read my other book, A Man of His Word, when it crossed her desk and we might not be where we are today.

So remember that, above all else, sometimes a No is just a Not Quite Yet Yes.


Remember one of those times the revisions got put aside for a contracted title? Well, one of those was What a Rancher Wants, part of the latest Texas Cattleman’s Club continuity. Go get it right now! And don’t forget to come back in August for RODEO DREAMS!

You can find out more about Sarah at her website, and on Twitter where she’s @SarahMAnderson1 

Meanwhile, check out the Desire and Superromance writing guidelines to see the difference in tones and needs, and check out @Stacy_Boyd or follow #HarlequinDesire and HarlequinSuperromance

Now get busy writing–and revising!