Emma-Claire Sunday is on a mission to fill the world’s libraries with queer Happily Ever Afters. At various points in her life she has been a playwright, a filmmaker, a preacher, and a competitive spoken word poet—always something different but always a storyteller at heart. She just graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary where she specialized in youth ministry, ecotheology, and Hebrew translation, and this fall, she joined the University of Pennsylvania as a doctoral student in the field of queer-affirming sexuality education. In between, she plans to enjoy her honeymoon, write her first novel, and spend as much time outdoors as possible. You can follow her writing journey on Instagram: @author.ec.Sunday
Harlequin: Tell us about yourself. Our readers want to know!
Emma-Claire Sunday: I was raised collectively by a wild troupe of actors until the age of four. Legend tells I was the perfect offstage baby, watching each play silently from the wings as my parents and their colleagues passed me like a relay race baton in between scenes. I can’t think of a better origin story for a writer.
Flash forward to a few days ago and I’m walking down the aisle at my wedding holding a bouquet of origami book page flowers, saying vows under an arch made of books, and dancing the night away in a ballroom decorated with…you guessed it, books. There are few things my partner and I love to do more than read side by side or edit each other’s writing.
H: Why did you want to become a romance writer?
E-CS: The LGBTQ+ youth I work with sometimes express a fear of not being “queer enough” because they weren’t kicked out of their homes and they haven’t been bullied, or because their parents accept their same-sex relationships and use their new pronouns. I know they get this in part from the countless books, movies, and TV shows that give their queer characters exclusively tragic plotlines, as if queerness is solely defined by trauma and hardship.
I want to be a romance writer because queer joy and queer love deserve their turn in the spotlight. I want to be a historical romance writer because we have always existed, and with so many of our love stories erased from the history books we must turn to fiction to keep those stories alive.
H: What were the big steps in your journey to becoming a published author?
E-CS: Next to my writing desk is a large bulletin board with index cards on publishing houses, editor wish lists, beloved romance tropes, and open submission contests. Putting together my writer’s board and researching the industry led to a Harlequin Historical pitch blitz, which is when The Duke’s Sister and I (Fall 2024) began to take shape. I received a request for the first three chapters but had to decline when other life events took priority; less than a year later I pitched it for Harlequin’s Romance Includes You Mentorship and the timing was finally perfect.
H: What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
E-CS: I am a better writer when I’m actively reading. I am also a better writer when I process my writing out loud with friends and when I spend time outdoors. When the words just aren’t flowing and I’m in a creative rut, I close my laptop and know what to try: read a good book, go on a walk, and share my story with a friend.
My advice for aspiring writers is to find your three things. What habits make you a better writer? What contexts nurture your creativity? I don’t write every day, but the seasons of my life when I read every day, go outside every day, and live in community every day are the seasons when I produce my best work.
H: What did you do when you got the call from Harlequin?
E-CS: When Hannah Rossiter from Harlequin Historical emailed to schedule a call for some “exciting news,” my brain ran through every possible scenario and every reason not to get my hopes up. But as the day of the call got closer, self-doubt slowly melted away and I knew my life was about to change. Hannah was thrilled to welcome me into the Harlequin family and I loved hearing about how my story impacted the editors. When the call ended, I ran to celebrate with my partner (who was instrumental in helping me organize my plot points) and then we got right back to work planning our upcoming wedding.
Now let’s hear from the editor, Hannah Rossiter:
When I first read Charlotte and Loretta’s story, it was love at first sight! Immediately, I knew that I wanted to become the – unofficial! – president of the Emma-Claire Sunday fan club and a champion for her debut novel, The Duke’s Sister and I. From rake Charlotte to talk-of-the-town Loretta, this Harlequin Historical is sure to sweep readers off of their feet!