This week, we welcome new author Clare Connelly to Harlequin Presents!
I grew up in a small, rainforest community on the east coast of Australia. It was before the endless parade of children’s shows on TV, and definitely before parents felt it was their duty to ferry children here there and everywhere. My sisters and I had to make our own fun…and perhaps because of this, we were all avid readers. I would fill a rucksack with library books and a bottle of water and scamper up the branches of my favourite tree, and I would stay there literally all day, reading book after book, moving only to avoid the ants that would lazily begin to make a path higher up as the sun rose.
I was always drawn to romance novels. Even as a child, when I read Archie Comics, it was for the Betty/Veronica/Archie love triangle. I graduated to Baby-Sitters Club books (Logan and Mary Anne). Then, one day, my mother lifted a big cardboard box from the back of her car. It was filled with paperbacks, and amongst them was a bundle of Harlequins. I picked one up out of curiosity, but looking back, it was a really life-altering moment. I read that first book with a sense of utter wonderment, and then hurried through the rest. Within the pages of these books, I was truly lost. My heart went with these characters – their heart-breaks were mine, so too their triumphs.
I would walk a couple of kilometres to the only shop in our town that sold Harlequins, saving up my pocket money each week to spend on new titles. Writing romance stories was a very natural progression from reading them. It was never a conscious decision. I have always felt I had stories within me, and I love wordsmithery and making adventures.
“My first full-length novel was submitted to Harlequin when I was fifteen.”
My first full length novel was submitted to Harlequin when I was fifteen. It was wisely and promptly rejected, but fortunately, it was only a temporary kill-switch to my dream. I continued to write, though not in book form for several years. It was once I was at home with two small children that I began to treat my writing as a serious career, even before I had any real hopes of it becoming one.
In May 2014, I self-published my first category romance. I was fortunate to establish myself as an indie and I found a voracious group of readers very early on. That was unexpected and delightful!
“I was again rejected. But this time, it was the sweetest kind of ‘no’, because it offered actual, tangible hope!”
But nothing could compare to the phone call I received a month ago. Having sent a manuscript to Harlequin hot on the heels of having met with Joanne Grant at the Romance Writers of Australia conference, I was again rejected. But this time, it was the sweetest kind of ‘no’, because it offered actual, tangible hope! Megan Haslam phoned one evening and asked if I would write something else to show her; something that really fulfilled the promise of a Harlequin Presents. Delighted, I did just that, sending off the first three chapters and keeping my fingers crossed for a week afterwards!
The next phone call was scheduled and I expected feedback and critique. There was that, but more importantly, Megan offered a two book contract. It took several moments for those words to sink in. My husband was trying to keep our kids quiet in the back of the house and I have a vague, blurry recollection of staring at some paint they’d spilled on the table several weeks earlier, thinking I really needed to get around to removing it. I just didn’t know how to compute the realisation of a dream I had held, a goal I’d aspired to, since I’d turned the cover of my very first Harlequin.
Of course I recollected myself enough to stammer out a quick ‘yes, yes, yes please!’.
“I wouldn’t feel alive without writing.”
My first Harlequin Presents novel will be released in the middle of next year, and I can’t wait! It has been a winding path, with many small curves and twists, but there has never been anything professionally I have wanted with this passion, dedication and fervor. I believe that writers write. It is a compulsion and a calling. I write for a living but I wouldn’t feel alive without writing. It is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I do before bed at night. While I’m ‘in a book’, my characters live in me, but they only breathe when I allow them to do so, by putting fingers to keys and telling their story.
Since receiving the offer, I have been contacted by so many beautiful, long-established Harlequin authors – it’s an incredibly uplifting community – and many of the writers I have heard from are the very same authors whose books first inspired me to write. There is such a lovely synchronicity to that. I hope that in twenty years, I have a huge back catalogue with Harlequin and I am contacted by newly-minted writers who fell in love with romance and story-telling because of me.
Look for Clare Connelly’s debut Harlequin Presents Bought for the Billionaire’s Revenge in summer 2017!
Want to read more inspirational call stories from new authors? Check out our archive.