Lynn Raye Harris is a 2008 Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist. She won the Harlequin Presents Instant Seduction Contest designed to find new writers for the Presents line. The Spanish Magnate’s Revenge took the top prize against six hundred other entries, earning Lynn the privilege of working with an editor for a year, the goal being publication.
Lynn went on to sell her prize-winning entry to Presents. Her story, renamed Spanish Magnate, Red Hot Revenge, is due to be released by Harlequin Presents in the U.S. and by Mills and Boon in the U.K. in August 2009.
Lynn plies her pen in Northern Alabama where she resides with her handsome husband and two crazy cats. When she’s not shopping for new shoes or the perfect antique for her collection, she crafts stories about sexy alpha heroes and the women who bring them to their knees.
And now, on to Lynn’s interview . . .
•Wow, Lynn. When you were here as my guest on August 15th, did you ever expect to be back so soon as a debut Presents author with a contract offer on the table? Would you please give us a quick summary of what took place in the weeks following the interview and leading up to that life changing phone call?
Hi, Keli—it’s great to be back at Romance Writers on the Journey! Truthfully, I had hoped I’d have that offer pretty soon. See, when I won the contest, I started my journey with an editor in my corner. I’d turned in the manuscript to her in early July, and she’d asked for revisions before RWA® Nationals in San Francisco. I turned those in as well, but I hadn’t gotten it quite right for The Call. When I had breakfast with my editor on the Wednesday before the official conference kick off, we discussed the book and the direction I needed to go.
I was hopeful! I think I was just getting her revision notes about the time the first interview appeared in August. I set to work on them with a new determination and a certainty that I knew what I needed to do this time. Talking with my editor in person and attending a couple of workshops given by Harlequin Mills & Boon editors and authors at Nationals really helped me to understand how I’d messed up the revisions.
So, I was working on them, taking my time because I was cautious, when my editor emailed me and said she was going on holiday for two weeks and asked if I thought I could get her the revisions before then. I had a little over a week to do it, but I said sure. I was forced to ramp it up if I wanted to deliver on time (which was a good thing because it shut down my internal editor). Since she’s in London, if she says she wants the revisions on a Wednesday, that means I have to send them by very early Wednesday morning at the latest.
I finished and sent the revisions off around three or four a.m. on September 17, and then went to bed. The 18th was my birthday, so I hoped for good news. But I didn’t hear anything until the morning of the 19th (a Friday). I was so excited because I knew I was almost there. She’d asked for tweaks, which I know is a good thing. I finished the tweaks on Sunday and emailed the manuscript back to the Senior Editor as directed. Monday morning, the Sr. Editor thanked me for sending the tweaked manuscript and asked me to be patient until my editor returned in two weeks. Let me tell you, that was a tough two weeks!
•And then you got The Call! I was so excited when you emailed me to share the big news. As everyone who visits my blog soon learns, I love to hear Call stories. Would you please share yours?
Like I said, I had to wait two weeks. I did a lot of second-guessing during that time, you can bet. But I also signed with my agent, so that took a bit of my attention as I engaged in dialogue with her for the first week my editor was gone. As Monday, October 6th, approached, I was really talking to myself about the possibilities. My editor would be back in the office that morning, but since she’d been gone for two weeks, she would surely have things to do. I might have to wait a couple more days. And what if my tweaks didn’t work, or what if the Sr. Editor read the manuscript and decided it wasn’t good enough?
The possibilities were endless! I could be asked to start something new, rework this book again, or maybe I’d get The Call. I just didn’t know. Monday morning, at 7:26 a.m., everything was normal. I usually get up with my husband, but I was a little behind that morning. He was on his way out the door and had just kissed me goodbye. I was sitting up in bed, still in my pajamas, and contemplating the day. Would I be able to concentrate, or would I wonder all day if my editor would call?
When the phone rang at 7:27, I knew. No one calls that early. My husband was closer, and he picked up the phone, looking at the Caller ID. It was Privacy Director, the service that sends telemarketers to a menu where you choose to accept or reject a call. My husband was puzzled, but I simply said, “Give it to me.” I knew it was my editor because that always happens when she calls. And telemarketers simply don’t call that early.
I can’t remember much of the phone call, other than Sally telling me they thought I’d done a fabulous job, and they wanted to buy the book and contract me for a second one. I love talking to Sally because she’s always lots of fun—and, of course, this call was the most fun yet! Like I said, I don’t remember much of it, but we did laugh a lot, and then she let me go. And there I was, an author with a two-book contract.
•You got The Call, and life, as you knew it changed. I’ve gathered your plate suddenly became very full as you embarked on your new career as a published author. Would you please share with us what’s going on now, what you’ve been learning and how you’re adjusting to living with deadlines?
Keli, you’re so right that life changed! In the space of two weeks, I went from turning in revisions on an uncontracted manuscript to signing with a top agent and getting an offer on my book. The changes were almost too fast, considering how long I’d been on the other side of the fence! Does that make sense? I’m not sure it does, but you want it for so long, and you imagine all the things you have to do to get there, and then boom, you find yourself there. It didn’t happen the way I thought it would, and it happened far sooner than I expected. (Before I won the Presents contest, I was telling my husband I wouldn’t sell a book until 2009 or 2010—IF I were lucky; after the contest, I was pretty sure it would happen within a year).
If you’d asked me a year ago if I would be a contracted author with Harlequin Presents, arguably the most successful category romance line in the world, and be represented by an agent who astounds me with her publishing knowledge and reputation, I’d have said no way.
Since selling, yes, there’s a whole new world to learn about. There are email loops to be a part of, contracts to read and sign, promotion to think about, new books to plan, and many other things. There are also some eye-opening things out there too. It’s not perfect on the other side of the fence. We are often told this when we’re still unpublished, but it’s hard to listen because we just want our own contract so we can be on that side of the fence too. Well, I’m not saying it’s bad over here, but there are new problems and issues to think about when you get a contract! It’s not a magic cure, and though many things change, you stay the same and the work is just as hard to do as it was before. Maybe harder because now someone is tapping her foot somewhere and expecting a manuscript by a certain date! (As for adjusting to deadlines, I work remarkably well under pressure; it’s when no one expects anything from me that I lollygag the worst!)
Another change is how people perceive you. Before selling, even when friends and family support you, they might secretly believe writing is your hobby. It’s amazing how selling a book makes you a professional in everyone’s eyes. My husband was always supportive, but now he asks how my writing went more often because he realizes I’m under an obligation and there is actually money attached.
•Since you’ve just gone through the initial euphoria of getting a contract offer and the resulting return to reality that soon follows, what advice would you offer others who have yet to receive a call about how to prepare themselves for life as a published author?
See, it’s things like this that still amaze me. Me, giving advice? 🙂 For unpublished writers still hoping for The Call, all I can tell you is NOT to give up. Don’t listen to the gloom and doom about the market; keep writing. Be realistic in your expectations, but don’t stop writing. Don’t chase trends, don’t scatter yourself across genres, and be willing to try new things until you find your voice. When you find it, you will know. And then stick with it. Don’t let well meaning but misinformed critique partners or contest judges change it.
The best way you can prepare yourself for life as a published author, in my opinion, is to act like one now (at least to yourself!) What do I mean? I mean learn about the business side of publishing as much as possible. Treat yourself like a professional. If you can afford it, subscribe to Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly. Read these. Not religiously, not daily, but often. Learn to spot trends about what’s selling and what isn’t—not to chase them, but simply to know where your writing fits and how maybe you can tweak it a bit.
Learn to tell good advice from bad (yeah, I know it’s vague), learn to accept criticism, learn to say NO to outside demands on your writing time. When you get that call and find yourself in the world of contracts and deadlines, you’ll see it’s not too much different than where you are now—provided you act like a professional right this instant. There are things you can’t know, but the more effort you make to learn as much as you can now, the more prepared you will be when the call comes.
And know that as much as having a contract is a dream come true, it won’t suddenly make your life perfect. You will still have to clean the toilet, do the laundry, and go grocery shopping. But now you have to do it while making sure the muse shows up for work everyday so you can meet those deadlines.
Thanks for having me again, Keli! I know it’s a Saturday, but I’ve got a husband with pneumonia so I’m kind of chained to the house—which means I’ll check the comment trail from time to time. Ask me questions, and I’ll try to answer!
Leave a Comment for Lynn
Lynn 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 a quality metal bookmark, which you can use to mark your place when you read your copy of Spanish Magnate, Red Hot Revenge. I’ll conduct the drawing the evening of November 16.
Congrats to Danniele, AKA Playground Angel, winner of the drawing.