I Got the Call! Meet New Harlequin Author Karmen Lee

Karmen Lee has always been an avid reader of anything and everything, but romance has a special place in her heart. Her characters are a little flirty, a lot sarcastic, and often far more emotional than they realize. She’s a lifelong Southerner living it up in Atlanta, Georgia with her kid, her cats, and humidity. When she’s not packing lunches or working her normal nine-to-five, you can usually find her drinking coffee too late at night, watching House Hunters International and dreaming up ways to show her readers a good time. You can find out more about her on Twitter (@Author_KLee) or Instagram (@authorkarmenlee) where she occasionally shares pictures of just how much coffee she consumes on a daily basis. 

Harlequin: Tell us about yourself. Our readers want to know!

Karmen Lee: I was actually born in New Jersey, but both sides of my family are from TN and that’s where I grew up. The Southern is strong within me and most of my characters reflect that. I love adding regional quirks into my stories, including some Southern phrases I’ve gotten from my grandmother over the years. I’ve lived in quite a few states even as an adult and lived in South Korea for a couple years teaching English. And yes, I love K-pop!

H: What do you love about being a romance writer?

KL: I love weaving the story of two people falling in love. You know the end result is a happily ever after, but the journey of getting there still leaves you on the edge of your seat every time. And when it comes to writing queer romance, I love being able to showcase that falling in love can happen for everyone especially when you least expect it. 

H: What were the big steps in your journey to becoming a published author?

KL: I’ve been jotting down stories since I was a teen and fell in love with comic books. I self-published my first novella back in 2014 and then was a ghostwriter until 2020 when I finally decided to continue writing for myself. It wasn’t until I connected with an amazing writing community, and we started talking about the sports we did when we were younger that I got the idea to write The 7-10 Split. From there, it was like a domino effect. I decided to participate in my first pitch event ever, #DVPit, and that is when my now editor, Errin Toma, and my now agent, Taj McCoy, both liked my pitch. From there it was, as they say, history.

H: What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

KL: As cliché as it sounds, write what you love. I think when you truly enjoy what you are writing, readers can feel that, and it comes through in your words.

H: What did you do when you got the call from Harlequin?

KL: I think I remember asking, “Wait, are you offering?” I was shocked and giddy and I’m pretty sure after the call was over, I shouted with excitement and did a couple laps around the living room. After, I sat semi-calmly and read over the email with the biggest smile on my face.

Now let’s hear from the editor, Errin Toma:

If you’ve ever seen my manuscript wishlist, I’ve been on the search for a book like this since I became an editor. Engaging dialogue, charming tropes, lots of heat, well-crafted supporting characters and queer, Black leads – this book is a dream! Seriously, from the moment I read Karmen’s pitch for THE 7-10 SPLIT, I knew I was going to fall for this story. I felt so lucky getting to read the manuscript while she was querying, and it just solidified by initial feelings ten-fold. Karmen is an amazing author, and I could see these characters, this setting, and the unfolding of the romance so clearly, which is a testament to her writing. I can’t wait to publish the entire swoon-worthy series!

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Editor associated with this post

Errin Toma
Editorial Assistant

Errin Toma (she/they) is an Assistant Editor for Desire along with her work on two other lines here at Harlequin, joining the company in 2019. Before that, she worked in various publishing positions across the industry. She’s thrilled to be reading and editing Romance and is looking to build her list with trope-heavy stories featuring a fresh and flirty voice, high sensuality, and compelling stakes, especially from BIPOC and/or queer authors. When she’s not working, she’s busy spending time with her friends & family, watching true crime and paranormal documentaries, and constantly re-arranging her bookshelves to fit more books.