Harlequin is thrilled to introduce debut author Suzanne Merchant! Suzanne’s novel Their Wildest Safari Dream was acquired by Harlequin/Mills & Boon editor Megan Haslam for Harlequin Romance and will be published in early 2023. Below, Suzanne tells us about her journey to publishing and getting “The Call” from Harlequin!
Harlequin: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Suzanne Merchant: I was born and raised in East London, South Africa, with an ambition to see the world. I took a degree in English at the University of Cape Town followed by post graduate studies in Library Science. My husband’s job in construction has enabled us to travel widely and I have lived and worked in Cape Town, London, Kuwait, Baghdad, Sydney and Dubai. We have now settled in Sussex, UK, with two spaniels, a miniature dachshund, a parrot and a large garden, all of which keep us very busy.
H: Why did you want to become a romance writer?
SM: I’ve always loved writing, from letters home to family and friends to stories for the children when they were young. I first encountered Mills & Boon romances while working in Kuwait where girls in the office eagerly shared and discussed their favourite titles. I became interested in the genre and wondered if I could write one myself. Several international moves and three children later, I decided to try.
I was attracted by the complexities of the internal conflict in relationships which could only be solved by the growth and development in the characters of the hero and heroine. Every story is different, every character unique, the obstacles to be overcome are many and varied, yet there is always the comfort in knowing that a HEA awaits.
H: What were the big steps in your journey to becoming a published author?
SM: The biggest step was probably making the decision to try. I then quickly discovered that the blank first page is daunting. Despite being an avid reader across multiple genres, I was woefully ignorant of what it takes to write a novel which might attract the interest of a publisher.
The steep learning curve I needed to climb began with the discovery of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and their New Writers’ Scheme. Under this scheme, an aspiring writer can submit one MSS, or partial, per year, which will be read and critiqued by a published author.
I submitted for several years and the advice I received was invaluable. Mills & Boon was my target publisher and I discovered what they need in a story to make a successful romance, as well as more general information about how the publishing world works. Then, two years ago, at the virtual RNA Conference, I pitched Their Wildest Safari Dream to a Mills & Boon editor on Zoom.
H: What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
SM: Don’t give up! I almost did, at one point, but was encouraged to keep going by enthusiastic family and friends. I’ve heard it said in the RNA community that the key to success is perseverance, and that is certainly true in my experience. Join the RNA, if possible, enroll on their New Writers’ Scheme and, most importantly, act on the advice you are given in your report. You may feel disappointed or sad when someone doesn’t like your story, but listen to their point of view and try again.
Find a writers’ group to join, where you can discuss your work or your writing problems in a supportive atmosphere. The RNA Annual Conference presents a great opportunity to meet other writers, attend informative (and sometimes highly entertaining) seminars, and pitch your story to editors and agents.
H: What did you do when you got the call from Harlequin?
SM: When Megan Haslam, now my wonderful editor at Mills & Boon, emailed one Friday morning to ask if she could call me, I didn’t know it meant good news and so I was unprepared for her incredibly exciting offer of a two book deal. I couldn’t quite believe it. But when I told my husband and daughter the news I discovered it is possible to laugh and cry at the same time. We may have danced around the kitchen. Whatever happened, it made the dogs bark and the parrot whistle in excitement.
Welcome to Harlequin, Suzanne! And read more I Got the Call stories from new Harlequin authors at our archive.