Stories and the beauty of fictional characters coming to life on the page have always captivated me. My parents bought a lodge in Alaska when I was a baby, and my grandparents lived with us half the year. My grandmother was responsible for keeping me occupied and would often read to me. I wanted desperately to understand those words on the page. My older sister made a book at school, and when she brought it home, I was so jealous and begged her to teach me how to make one, too. When I was old enough to go to school, learning to read felt like my ticket to a whole new world.
In middle school, we were required to write and revise a short story or poem and submit it for publication. My teacher kept a wall of fame in his classroom of his many students who were published authors. I longed to have my name on that wall. My poem was horrendous, but I submitted it to Seventeen magazine anyway. I still have that rejection letter.
I continued to be a voracious reader throughout my teenage years, devouring the entire Sweet Valley High series, Louis L’Amour westerns, and of course, my first Harlequin paperbacks. I had dozens of ideas, with little knowledge how to craft a novel. I just knew that I loved the experience of getting swept away in a story. My best friend was the only person who knew about the manuscripts I started, then shoved under my bed, embarrassed and frustrated by my inability to finish. The summer I read Julie by Catherine Marshall, my dream of penning an epic saga was reinforced, only to be abandoned in favor of being a teenager: playing sports, hanging out with my friends, and reading all the inspirational romance novels I could get my hands on.
In college, my natural ability to write and the satisfaction achieved from completing a paper was outweighed by my misperception that I’d never succeed as a writer. My parents had sacrificed a lot to finance my liberal arts education, and I wanted to be able to support myself. Journalism or education didn’t feel like the right career paths for me, either. Instead, I fell back on my second love—sports—and earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in athletic training. A few months into my first job at a large university, I knew getting paid to watch sports and treat injuries wasn’t where I was supposed to be. It was a short-lived career. I got married, moved across the country for my husband’s job, and worked part-time for a real estate agent until our first son was born.
One night, I was rocking our baby when a fictional character strolled into my imagination. I typed one paragraph into a Word document, where it lived on our computer’s hard drive for five years, two more sons, and another cross-country move. By 2012, the desire to write couldn’t be ignored, so I wrote in fits and starts, five hundred words at a time, until I had a completed manuscript.
It took a while to muster my courage, but I finally entered my first Harlequin contest, Happily Editor After. I was both elated and terrified when Emily Rodmell requested a full manuscript. While it received a rejection, she mentioned she’d love to see something else that fit the Love Inspired line. I kept writing and in the spring of 2015, I entered the From Blurb to Book contest with a new story idea. Although I didn’t win, I did have another completed manuscript and Shana Asaro patiently coached me through two rounds of revisions for The Farmer’s Daughter.
In December of 2016, I was driving my oldest, now a seventh grader, home from school when I received The Call from my agent. Harlequin wanted to buy my manuscript! I was beyond thrilled and quickly shared the news with my family and friends. I’m very happy to be a part of the Harlequin community and excited to share this story with readers. I hope my journey as a writer inspires others to keep writing, improving their craft, and pursuing their dreams.
Look for Heidi McCahan’s debut Love Inspired in 2018!
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