We’re always delighted to learn how “the Call” comes about–here new Harlequin Presents author Andie Brock shares her experience!
THE CALL – from the author’s side
Andie Brock, Harlequin Presents Author
I have wanted to write for Harlequin Mills and Boon for a very long time. If you love romantic fiction, who wouldn’t want to write for the best?! But for years I didn’t do much about my ambition, other than submitting a few partial manuscripts here and there and scowling over the polite rejections.
The turning point for me was entering the 2011 New Voices competition. I was utterly, knee wobblingly, amazed to make it through to the final 21. There were 1,200 entries by brilliant, talented, committed writers who were obviously so much more aware of what was going on than I was! I didn’t progress any further, probably because the second chapter (the next stage of the competition) had to be hastily cobbled together within the week – big thanks here to Megan Crane, the mentor assigned to me, who was so encouraging and did a great job of pretending she didn’t know I was winging it, big time.
But that experience gave me a real boost of confidence and I determined that I would enter again the following year and this time I would be prepared. Except I wasn’t. Harlequin went and changed the rules without telling me (;)) and I realised too late that I needed to have a full manuscript ready before I entered, just in case. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake as last time, I’d had enough trouble trying to write one chapter in a week, imagine having to write a whole book!
So I spent the year writing my first full length manuscript, trying to make it as good as I possibly could, and entered Frozen Lives into the SYTYCW13 competition. Even though Rafael and Lottie meant a great deal to me I was still convinced that they would sink without trace, especially when I started reading the other, annoyingly brilliant, entries. But I did make it through to the final 50 and that was hugely exciting, especially knowing that my story was now going to be read by Harlequin editors. There was a phew of relief too, that I had a story to show them! And even better, I had Jen Hayward as my author mentor. We had made contact during the earlier New Voices competition and I was so delighted to see her deservedly win SYTYCW12. Excitement turned to delirium all round when I found out I had made it to the last ten.
My first call, if not actually The Call, from the lovely Laura McCallen came when I was standing at a busy bus stop in the centre of Bristol. My No.70 bus was just pulling in so I was being jostled forward by the queue and fumbling in my purse for the fare when Laura tried to introduce herself and get through to me that I had come second in the competition. I remember saying ‘Oh my God’ a lot and ‘thank you, I can’t believe it’, along with ‘single to Cromwell Road please’. Not sure what I said to whom. But that bus ride home was pretty special. To know that enough people had liked my story to vote it into second place was (and still is) an amazing feeling.
My prize was a detailed editorial consultation and it certainly lived up to its name – the words ripped and shreds come to mind. But once I’d stopped pouting ‘some prize this is’, I knew that everything they said made perfect sense and when I actually knuckled down to do the revisions I really enjoyed the process. And I still had Jen encouraging me all the way.
Then came the wait. Laura said another editor wanted to read my manuscript but I’m pretty sure she was just torturing me… 🙂 As the weeks passed I convinced myself, and anyone else who would listen, that they obviously hated the revisions, they hated the story and they probably hated me as well. Then Laura finally contacted me again.
I took The Call at work, and work is a quiet academic library. Laura started by telling me that they liked my revisions, really liked them in fact, and even though there were still some things that needed to be put right (scrunched up what’s coming next? face) they would like to (breathing halted completely face) offer me a two book contract. My hoarsely whispered ‘thank you so much’ was probably the quietest reaction Harlequin has ever had but the steeped-in-learning fabric of the library doesn’t really lend itself to loud squeals and yelps of delight. And I doubt if anyone would have joined me in a celebratory conga, even if I’d asked. So instead I hugged the news to myself for a bit, and tried not to frighten the students with the scarily unlibrarian grin on my face as I date stamped their books with the exaggerated flourish of a soon-to-be-published author.
So here we are at my happy ending. Or happy beginning. Either way I am completely thrilled to have this opportunity and so proud to be part of the Harlequin community.
Thank you to everyone that has helped me get here.
What a thrill to get the call in a room full of books! We’re also thrilled to have you join the Harlequin family. 🙂 Follow Andie on Twitter as @AndieBrock — and be sure to find THE LAST HEIR OF MONTERRATO from Harlequin Presents in January 2015! And tomorrow Laura McCallen (@LauraMcCallen) will tell the story from her side…