Delilah Marvelle spent her youth studying various languages, reading voraciously, and playing the pianoforte. She confesses that here ends the extent of her gentle breeding. She was a naughty child who was forever torturing her parents with countless adventures that they did not deem respectable. Confined to her room on many occasions due to these misadventures, she discovered the quill and its amazing power. Soon, to the dismay of her parents, she rather enjoyed being confined to her room.
I had the privilege of meeting Delilah at RWA® Nationals when she had the lead in the skit at The Golden Network reception. I portrayed one of the editors who initially turned her down. In real life, I was the first person to hug her after she was “booted” from the chapter because she sold her first manuscript. I loved seeing the joy on her face shining through her tears.
Join me as we get to know this amazing woman. If you leave a comment for Delilah, you could win a Borders® card, which you could use to purchase her first book. See the drawing details at the bottom of the interview.
•To start things off, would you share a brief summary of Mistress of Pleasure?
Mistress of Pleasure is the first book in The School of Gallantry series. It’s a steamy, humorous historical romance, which takes place in London 1830. Here’s a quick elevator pitch: Being the granddaughter of a renowned courtesan, Maybelle de Maitenon has absolutely no interest in her grandmother’s school in London where gentlemen receive instruction—in the art of love and seduction. Her only desire in life is to remain independent, free from men and the shackles of marriage. But when her grandmother falls ill, forcing Maybelle to take over the operation of the school and all of its male students, complete chaos and love works its way into every aspect of Maybelle’s life. She eventually discovers that real pleasure isn’t something that can be taken, but rather something that must be given.
•I love hearing about authors whose dreams have come true. And yours has—but it’s been a long time coming. In your case eleven years. What amazes me is that in those eleven years you produced a staggering number of manuscripts. Can you tell us about them? Are they all full-length Historicals?
Staggering, indeed. I’ve written over forty? Bloody no, LOL. Truth be told, not all of them were full-length manuscripts. So the number seems a lot bigger than it actually is. I should say I have over forty completed “works,” because some were as long as 800 pages (and here I wondered why no one wanted to publish that at the time…) and some were as short as fifty. I would say most of these works were historical romances and historical fiction. The others were horror, paranormal, thriller, contemporary, and action. As you can tell, yes, I wrote all over the place. I was trying desperately to find my voice and what I liked to write.
•Forty manuscripts! The number is mind-boggling. I’m sure there are multi-published authors who have yet to produce as many. And you did it while mothering two young children. How? Did you give up sleep? Or are you just incredibly organized and have angelic children who don’t disturb you when you sit at the computer?
I’ve always been very organized, and my children are indeed very angelic, LOL, but the key I have found throughout the years is carving out a set schedule. I was very strict about ensuring that I wrote every day. Even if that meant no sleep. I would write from 4 to 7 in the morning, the kids would wake up, I’d feed them, play, and then when it was time to nap, we would all nap together, and it was like I hadn’t missed any sleep at all. So it was more or a less an everyday routine of writing from 4 to 7 a.m.
I also admit to having an AMAZING husband (whom my book is dedicated to). Who would take the kids away for the weekend so I could write. Even though I wasn’t even published. My husband has been an amazing cheerleader and guiding hand for me. Without him, I would not have completed a single one of those manuscripts.
•Your journey from joining RWA in 1998 to the release of your first novel wasn’t a joy ride by any means. You received—I shudder to think of it—over 200 rejections before selling. How did you deal with the disappointments? What or whom kept you going?
It’s funny. I’m looking at my stack of rejection letters right now. They are all in a HUGE three ring binder. Just looking at them makes me realize the journey I’ve been through. I have to say, getting rejected over and over and over again truly was discouraging. There were times I cried. Actually, many times. I simply dealt with disappointments by throwing myself into the next manuscript and telling myself THIS would be the one. I did this over and over and over (forty some manuscripts later, heh), and refused to stop.
Of course, I had a lot of hand holding and coddling along the way. My husband was one of those people who kept me afloat. There were so many times he would bring home dinner and try to pull me out from the abyss of rejection. My Critique Partner and fellow chapter members were without a doubt my guiding lights, as well. No one understands a writer better than a writer. Which is why it’s so important to surround yourself with writers who not only understand you but are there for you for genuine reasons.
• I read that Mistress of Pleasure was the story you wrote before a traumatic event took you away from your writing and caused you to reevaluate your life. What happened, and what did you learn from the experience?
I’ll start from the beginning. I basically took my dream trip to London with my Critique Partner. It was the most amazing experience of my life. I returned home, ready to write, ready to use my experience in London in my writing. My husband and children picked me up from the airport. On the way home we got taken off the road by a car with two drunks. I won’t go into too much detail for it is something I still have trouble voicing, but it led to my husband being beaten and strangled in front of me and my children—who were in the car.
I naturally couldn’t sit there and watch. They were killing him. So, I locked the kids in the car and jumped out and took them both on. I scared one of them off, but the other one punched me in the head multiple times in my effort to save my husband, who was already bleeding and unconscious. The police eventually arrived and saved our lives.
Since that night, I realized that I had almost been widowed at the age of 32. And I had no means of supporting myself or the kids because I was a stay-at-home mom/writer. None of which make money. Especially when you’re unpublished. Every breathing moment I had since that night turned me toward ensuring what was best for my family. Writing seemed meaningless compared to almost losing one’s husband. I just wanted to be with him and my children. And I wanted a real job. That would pay real money. And writing was not it. So, I turned my back on my writing and pursued another dream I had never had the guts to pursue. To become a chef.
•I ache to think of what you and your family went through. And I can understand why you decided to become a chef, a profession more predicable than writing, one that would provide a steady paycheck. However, you didn’t become a chef. A special friend refused to let you put a lid on your dreams. Who was she, and what did she do for you?
Thank you. I did finish culinary school! I graduated with honors. I felt I owed it to myself. It is something I will always have. And yes. A special friend scooped me up off the floor. Victoria Dahl. She and I were 2005 Golden Heart Finalists together. I finaled in Short Historical and she finaled in Long Historical and won her category. All of us 2005 Golden Heart Finalists stay in touch and have our own loop and support system. I have some really good friends as a result.
So basically, I entered culinary school in February of 2007. And in March, I found out that I was a Golden Heart finalist again in short historical for 2007. Even though we were financially strapped, my husband insisted I go to Nationals. So, I did. I didn’t win but it didn’t matter. It felt so good to be surrounded by everything I loved.
During the after party reception for the Golden Heart and RITAs, I ran into Victoria Dahl, and she wanted to know why I still hadn’t sold and what I was working on. Obviously, with culinary school and having turned my back on my writing, I hadn’t written in almost a year. All I had was the last manuscript I had finished. It was called An Improper Education and was about a school that educated men on the art of love and seduction.
Victoria loved the idea and insisted that her editor, John Scognamiglio from Kensington, would too. So bless her heart, she pitched him on my behalf when we all returned home from Nationals. And John wanted the complete based off of her pitch. I was excited but had been in that position so many times before. The request for the complete is made, there seems to be excitement, and then nothing. But I still decided to send it in. A request is a request.
•Amazing! So there you were with a complete out with John Scognamiglio. The waiting must’ve been agony. But you did end up getting The Call. I know you’ve probably repeated your call story so many time you could recite it in your sleep, but it’s so cool I’ll ask you to share it for us. Pretty please?
Actually, the waiting wasn’t agony at all. I sent out the manuscript on a Wednesday, John received it on Friday and he called me with an offer on Thursday. It was amazing! To wait so long and then to have it all happen in the course of a week, from query to sale was astounding.
The only agonizing part was that when John called, I wasn’t home. I missed his call by 45 minutes. He didn’t say what he wanted; he just said “Call me as soon as you can.” Now, what editor calls an author and says such things?! So I called back. Only he had already left the office. Although it was still Thursday, Kensington’s office was closed on Friday. So I had to wait until Monday to find out what he wanted. THAT was pure agony.
I was thinking it was too soon. And because I forgot to include the synopsis out of my excitement, maybe that’s what he wanted. But my husband, bless his heart, knew. And he kept telling me I should start calling agents. So I did.
Pam Hopkins ultimately signed me, but what I loved about her is that she told me off the bat that she wouldn’t sign me based off of me having a contract. She wanted to love the story and my writing in general. Fortunately for me, she did. I ended up with a two-book contract with Kensington on that Monday and an agent. Who says Mondays are bad days? LOL
•As a Golden Heart finalist myself who is pals with the amazing Pixie Chicks, aka the GH Class of 2008, I took note of the fact that you believe your two GH finals did play a part in landing a contract. Why is that?
I totally believe it played a huge part. Editors pay attention to that when taking interest in a manuscript. But more importantly, the Golden Heart enables you to meet and get to know other writers who offer amazing guidance and lessons that will ultimately prepare you for the sale.
•I noticed in your cleverly written bio, that you speak various languages and play the pianoforte. Which languages? Do you consider yourself an accomplished musician? And what other interests do you indulge in during your abundant spare time? 🙂
I speak Polish fluently (I’m first generation Polish) and took four years of French in high school. As for the piano, I competed for almost 10 years, taking first and second place in various competitions, so yes, I can say I am pretty accomplished. Although I haven’t played in years. The keyboard on my computer is about the only keys I’m hitting these days, LOL. My other interests include cooking (naturally), kickboxing, running (I run 3 miles every other day), and collecting research books that range from sex to the privy.
•You actually have books on the privy? Funny. Sounds like you take the research for your historicals seriously? How much time would you say you put into studying your time period, the culture, the customs? What do you find most fascinating about British society in 1830?
Yes, I would say I’ve spent months upon months researching. I’m always researching. Always. I really like sticking to the one time period so that it allows me to get to better know it and really understand it. What do I find most fascinating about British society in the 1830s? I love the transitional feel it has. It isn’t Regency, but it still isn’t Victorian. It’s like having the best of both worlds.
•I’ve only read the brief excerpt of your “firstborn” on Amazon.com, but it’s clear you have a unique voice, one laced with humor. When did you feel that things came together for you as a writer? And how did you know when your manuscripts went from ho-hum to happening?
Laced with humor indeed. I’ve been a smart *ss most of my life (ask anyone who knows me), and so the voice you hear is definitely me letting go and simply being me. I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh. And sex, I have found, can be VERY funny.
With regards to feeling things coming together for me as a writer, I’d say I felt it while I was writing this manuscript. It felt easy and smooth, and I enjoyed every single moment of it. And the response from my CP was, “Where on earth did this come from? This is new, and it’s so good.”
With regards to knowing when your manuscript goes from ho-hum to happening, I don’t think a writer ever thinks a manuscript will be “happening.” At least that’s not how it works for me. Why, even while going through copy edits on a manuscript I sold (this one), I kept telling myself it wasn’t good enough, it needed more. That self-doubt is always there. It’s simply important not to let that self-doubt destroy your creativity or writing.
•Good things certainly are happening. I saw a four-star review from Romantic Times. Wow! And this past weekend you were at your very first book signing up there in Portland. I understand they treated you like the celebrity you are. What was it like?
Yes, thank you! Things are definitely happening, and bookstores and other writers are making it happen for me. I did a book signing in Port Townsend at the Wandering Wardrobe on Saturday, which is a vintage clothing store. They did a fashion show with corsets and clothing themed around my writing, while I did readings and then I did a signing. I love doing things that are fun and different. And this was definitely my kind of signing! I have a whole list of book signings I’m doing, which you can find at www.booktour.com. In the search field, type in my name and see for yourself just how happening things are, LOL.
•It’s been wonderful to have you with us here at Romance Writers on the Journey, Delilah. In closing, what words of encouragement would you offer to writers eager to sign that first contract, and what question do you have for us?
Don’t ever, ever, EVER give up on your dream of becoming published. The moment you do, that dream is forever lost. Never to be found. Your writing is only as good as you make it, and you are only as good as you allow yourself to be. If you allow yourself to let go of your dream, then you were never good enough to begin with.
What would I like to ask my visitors? Why do you write and/or read romance? With so many genres out there, what draws you to this one?
Mistress of Pleasure, Book 1, a Zebra Kensington Debut, Available now
Lord of Pleasure, Book 2, Zebra, Available August 4, 2009.
Leave a Comment for Delilah
Delilah will drop by throughout the day to chat. She’d love to hear from you.
If you don’t see a comment form below, please use the link by the post title.
I’m holding a drawing for two $5 Borders® gifts cards so that two of Delilah’s visitors can purchase a copy of her debut novel. In addition, in honor of the fact that she is a trained chef, they will each receive a set of recipe cards as well.
Two people leaving comments for Delilah from 9/8 to 9/10 will each receive the two items. I’ll hold the first drawing the evening of 9/8 and the second the evening of 9/10.
If you don’t wish to participate, say so in your comment, and your request will be honored.
Congratulations to the first drawing winner, Kimmy L., and to Fedora, winner of the second.
Learn More About Delilah by Checking Out:
Her website: www.DelilahMarvelle.com
Her blog: A Bit O’Muslin
Her group blog: Historical Romance Society
Her My Space Page
Her Interview at The First Book: September 1, 2008
Her Interview at Magical Musings: August 26, 2008