So the website is getting fired up again, less as a log of my struggles to get a contract (mission accomplished) and more as a conversation about the writing and publishing process. Hopefully readers will enjoy not only hearing about the books I’m working on (and reading excerpts from them), but will also enjoy my observations about the writing process, which is definitely not for the faint of heart, and about the publishing business and all its twists and turns.
If you’re an aspiring writer, you might learn something from my journey (Lesson One: NEVER GIVE UP!). If you’re a published author, you might be able to teach me and my followers a thing or two – feel free to share! And if you’re a reader of romance or any other genre, I hope you’ll find this “peek behind the curtains” interesting.
Let’s start with the timeline of my journey so far:
HOW I BECAME A ROMANCE AUTHOR
1968 (approx.): My best friend and I started writing our “Great American Novels”. We were ten. Mine was a romance. I no longer have it, but I remember it took place on a farm, there were horses and a tornado, and the heroine’s name was Destiny.
1970s – 1980s: I grew up, got a job, and dreamed of writing “someday”. In the meantime, I devoured books by Victoria Holt, Danielle Steele, Jude Deveraux (my all-time favorite romance: A Knight in Shining Armor), Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwiss (my all-time close-second-favorite romance: A Rose In Winter), and many, many others.
1990s: I call these years “The Oprah Effect”. Suddenly the only cool thing to read was “lit-er-a-ture” (spoken with a fancy accent). If it wasn’t tragic, it wasn’t considered serious writing. I finally had the time to write, but I allowed myself to be intimidated by the book snobs who were convinced that romance was tacky and somehow undesirable. I tried to make myself write “lit-er-a-ture”, but damn it, I like happy endings!
2000s: Buried myself in a corporate career.
2013: Heard a lot of buzz about a sexy romance called Fifty Shades of Gray. Yes, that book. And the next one. And the next. By the time I got to the end of it all (and I’ll admit I enjoyed a lot of it), I realized it was basically a regular romance novel with some naughtiness added and enough mind-numbing detail to stretch the story over three books. It made E.L. James a boatload of money, and it showed me that romance novels were far from dead. Where had I been, and why the hell wasn’t I writing? That summer I sat at my laptop and started my first romance novel. It was basically a learning experience only, but I did get some positive feedback from agents/editors. And the hook was set. I was going to be a writer, come hell or high water.
2014: Wrote Halcyon, the first of four stand-alone romance novels about four cousins finding love. Submitted it, got some nice rejections with some encouragement. Entered it in the 2015 Golden Heart Award competition at the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City. While it didn’t make it into the finalist division, it was in the top 25% of entries.
July 2015: Completed The Hide-Away (second in the series) just in time to pitch it at the RWA Conference in NYC (my first conference). That’s where I met Victoria Curran from Harlequin’s SuperRomance collection, and she loved the concept and requested a full manuscript.
August 2015: I started working on my next book, The Wishlist (all titles here are working titles only), and completed a couple chapters of the first draft.
September 2015: Victoria, like all editors and agents in the industry, is swamped with work. She sent very encouraging updates on Hide-Away, but no commitment yet. In a bit of a panic, I decide to start submitting Hide-Away to a few agents…just in case. I pick five agencies that are at the top of the food chain in the industry (in my opinion). Why not dream big?
October 2015: I get The Call from Victoria on October 16th. Harlequin SuperRomance wants to offer me a contract for Hide-Away. Angels sing, bells ring, rainbows arch through the sky and unicorns dance in the front yard. Yeah, I’m that happy. My dream was to get a contract, and now I had one! All I had to do was rewrite a couple of major scenes and cut 8000 words. By Thanksgiving. Piece of cake. Oh, and I created a Twitter account (@JoMcNallyAuthor).
November, 2015: Once I have the signed contract for Hide-Away in my hand, I reach out to the literary agencies I’d queried to let them know the book was now under contract. It’s a professional courtesy to keep them from wasting time reading the book if it’s already taken. I received a couple brief thank yous and congratulations. One agent seemed sincere in her regret that she missed it. And another was not only sorry to have missed it, but asked me some interesting questions about representation on other projects. We emailed back and forth. The emails became phone calls, and Veronica Park of the Corvisiero Literary Agency became my agent, representing Halcyon. Unicorns danced again! Of course, first I had to complete the rewrite of Hide-Away. That was accomplished just in time, and it was submitted on Thanksgiving morning.
December, 2015: One deadline down, and another is already looming. I have to rewrite the beginning of Halcyon, and have three chapters and a synopsis (outline) ready to submit to Harlequin by the end of January. And oh, yeah. It’s Christmas. My church choir tackled a simple little ditty for the holidays called Handels Messiah. Parties were planned and attended. Family time. Did I mention I work a Monday-Friday, 9-5 office job? And have a marriage to pay attention to? Writing got squeezed into every spare moment, but it was stressful!
January, 2016: With the tireless assistance of my now beloved agent, Veronica, I work like a madwoman and complete three brand-new chapters for Halcyon. And I like them! We will be meeting our deadline (again). And I start messing with this website again. And I made my Pinterest research pages for the books public (JoMcNallyAuthor). Came in First Place for Contemporary Romance in the Windy City Romance Writers Four Seasons writing completion (Hide-Away). My first win!
Wow. No wonder I’m tired. And very, very happy. Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride, and stay tuned for more adventures!