We are delighted to welcome author Brenda Harlen to the SYTYCW blog and congratulate her on writing 50 books for Harlequin! Read on for some enlightening Q&A…
Sixteen years ago, your first book was published by Harlequin. This month, you’ve just hit your 50-book milestone with Double Duty for the Cowboy! Can you tell us about that experience?
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excitement I felt when I got the call from Susan Litman, a final round Golden Heart judge and assistant editor at Harlequin at the time, telling me that she wanted to buy my book. I’d dreamed of being a writer for so long and as much as finishing my first book assured me that I was a writer, having a book published proved that I’d written something that other people wanted to read. But still, it was only one book, and after the initial excitement of that first sale faded, I wondered and worried if I’d sell a second book . . . and then a third. When I published my tenth book, I finally started to believe that I could make a career out of this writing thing.
Now, with my 50th book about to hit the shelves, I’m not just excited that I was able to turn my love of reading and writing into a new career but grateful to Susan Litman and Harlequin for putting my stories out there, and especially to the readers who have taken them home.
What do you love about writing for Special Edition?
Everything. Writing happy endings for Harlequin truly is my dream job and I love exploring the complex relationships between characters in both romantic and familial relationships.
What is your writing process?
I’m definitely a pantser not a plotter. Of course, as a writer of romance novels, I’m always working toward a happily-ever-after for my characters, but there are inevitably bumps and dips and twists and turns in their road to that final destination. To me, that’s what makes the journey interesting, and it’s fun to discover how my characters are going to respond to the bumps and turns at the same time they do.
That being said, I can’t deny that I envy the ability of plotters to sketch out a story from beginning to end and write it the same way. Because I follow the twists and turns wherever they may lead, I sometimes find myself off-track and, as a result, my editing process can be more time-consuming than that of a writer who has carefully plotted out the story.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after writing fifty books, it’s that everyone has their own process. No one should ever worry that their way is the wrong way so long as it works for them.
What books have you read and enjoyed recently?
All Beautiful Things by Nicki Salcedo
How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan
The Prince’s Scandalous Wedding Vow by Jane Porter
The Rancher’s Return by Kathy Douglass
Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery
What about other entertainment—are you a TV or movie fan?
Yes. Most of the time, I’d rather pick up a book than turn on the TV, but there are some exceptions, most notably The Big Bang Theory (I’m going to be so sad when it’s over at the end of the current season!) and NHL playoffs (Go Bruins!)
I also love Netflix for repeat viewings of Friends, Gilmore Girls and How I Met Your Mother, as well as Glow and The Ranch. And, of course, Amazon Prime for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
I am definitely a movie fan, especially anything linked to Star Wars or the Marvel universe. I can’t wait until Avengers: Endgame hits theaters at the end of this month. I’m also a diehard Chris Evans as Captain America fan and I cannot fathom a Marvel universe without him in it, so I’m really hoping the studio can work something out to bring him back in the iconic uniform again. If not, I guess I’ll just stay home and watch Captain America: The First Avenger over and over again.
Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?
My first piece of advice would be to read, read and read some more. It seems both obvious and cliché, but you need to be a reader before you can be a writer. Reading helps you see what works and doesn’t work in storytelling so that you’re one step ahead when you sit down to write your own book.
My second piece of advice would be to join a local writers’ group or at least find a critique partner. Writing is mostly a solitary business, but sharing your story with someone whose opinion you trust and respect will help ensure it is the best it can be before you submit it to an editor.
Look for Brenda’s latest Special Edition romance, Double Duty for the Cowboy…