Emily Becher published her first work, a novella with The Wild Rose Press, before she was twenty-five. This wife, mother, part-time employee and book reviewer has been writing for seven years. She’s working toward the goal of publishing her first full-length romance.
Emily loves cats, crab legs and chocolate mousse. And she has what she calls “an obsession” with rubber duckies. Two of her floating friends are a pirate duckie and a cow duckie, which she snagged in the baby section of her local Target.
I met Emily when she visited this site and left a comment for another of my wonderful guests. I checked out her blog, Dreaming on the Job, liked what I saw, and wanted to find out more about her and her writing. So, let’s do just that.
•Emily, as I mentioned, you’ve been writing for seven years. What led you to start your first story? What was it about? And, the big question—were you brave enough to let someone read it, or is it buried in a box under your bed?
That box under the bed is really in the basement beneath a pile of other things I never want anyone to see. It wasn’t a bad effort, actually, but it definitely doesn’t need to be read by anyone. Occasionally, I’ll get the wild idea to drag it out and dust if off, but that usually fades the moment I read the first line. I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say there was a lot of info-dumping and not a lot of action. I have a critique partner I met when I first started writing, and I believe she is the only one to ever see that first try.
I started that first story when I was living alone in Washington, D.C. I had accepted an internship at a corporate archives, and I was convinced the summer would be stellar. I didn’t count on becoming lonely without my friends and boyfriend (who became my husband after he flew out on the 4th of July to propose).
I was living in the basement of a townhouse and didn’t have much money for books. TV gets pretty boring after awhile, and I was really craving a good read when I thought, “Why not?” And that’s how it started. I did it on a whim, really, and it’s turned into much more than that. The internship never did materialize into anything more, but that summer I set my future in motion.
•I got excited when I visited your blog and saw that you’ve had a novella published. His Christmas Bride released in November 2006 with The Wild Rose Press. What’s the story behind that milestone in your writing career? And how did you feel when your “baby” debuted?
I remember the day I got the email that my “baby” was going to be published. It was a freezing day in November and … Hmmm, maybe I should start from the beginning.
Way back in January 2006, I decided that was going to be my year. I had all sorts of plans and goals and giddy daydreams. Then real life caught up with me, and before I knew it, September had rolled around. I got a little depressed thinking my career was never going to take off.
Then, as I was trolling around the romance blog world, I stumbled across an ad for the newly established Wild Rose Press. The next day my fabulous critique partner, Beth, emailed me about TWRP’s call for holiday submissions due for November 1. That gave me exactly two months to write a stellar Christmas story.
I admit, I wasn’t all for the idea in the beginning, but Beth convinced me. I had an idea for a Christmas Regency for quite some time, and a few days later while stuffing my face with brownies and moaning about my lack of writing future, I decided to do something about it.
Two months later, His Christmas Bride was on its way to TWRP. The next day, I got an email with some bad news. Apparently this up and coming e-press had a ton of submissions and they had already met their quota for the season. I was definitely feeling down, but at the same time, I felt good about what I had accomplished. I went back to the brownies, but this time I went back with confidence.
The day following, my husband left for a conference in St. Louis and I popped Under the Tuscan Sun into the DVD player. On a whim I checked my email before falling in love with Tuscany, and there it was! An editor at TWRP had read my novella in preparation for next year and decided it was in such great shape that it could be published for 2006.
I must have put a dent in the middle of my living room floor after all the jumping up and down I did. Then I looked around and realized there was no one to tell! My husband was in class, my best friend (who helped me copy edit) was at work and my critique partner was on vacation. So, I had to wait several hours before I could tell anyone. I tried to watch Diane Lane rediscover herself in Italy, but I don’t think I really saw any of it.
The day my book came out I was working all day at a company that discouraged the use of the Internet, so I had to wait until almost four that day to even look at the website! When it debuted, though, I knew I was going to make it to the big time someday.
Two years later I am still working toward that goal, but I am not discouraged … and I still have lots of brownies to help out.
•His Christmas Bride is a Regency romance, as is one of your works in progress. How did you become interested in the sub-genre? How do you conduct your research? What’s one fact about the period that took you by surprise?
I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was in sixth grade. I admit I had trouble understanding some of the hidden messages (I wasn’t great at reading between the lines), but one thing I did understand was the romance between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy. When I had finished with Austen (I think Persuasion may be my favorite, based solely on the letter Captain Wentworth writes to Anne), I moved on to traditional series and category Regencies and haven’t stopped since.
But I really didn’t think about writing in that time period until I read Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me. Until that point, I had never associated Regency with humor, but Ms. Quinn opened my eyes! Suddenly I had to try it.
My research is done mainly on the Internet. I’m a World Wide Web junkie, and I fully admit I spend too much time on the computer when I should be cleaning/cooking/writing.
When I do my research, I try to find one really interesting thing about the time period and incorporate it into my stories. For His Christmas Bride, I researched Christmas Regency-style and found the holiday fun sadly lacking during that time period. So, I had to incorporate some of the traditions we do today to put readers in the mind of Christmas fun, but I didn’t stray too far from the truth.
For another one of my novels I researched James Lackington’s Temple of the Muses. Located in Finsbury Square, the temple was a seven story used bookshop. (By the way, I love the sound of Finsbury Square … I have no idea what it looks like today, but I’d love to put something like that on my return address labels.)
Someday I would love to go to London, but for now the books I write and read will suffice. And whenever I need a fix, I can always pull out Austen or watch Pride and Prejudice. And before you ask, I honestly love the version with Kiera Knightly.
•I understand you’re working on two Regencies and a Western. Please tell us a little about each of them.
I like to work on several projects at one time. This drives my husband nuts because he thinks I can’t commit to one story … and he’s right! But it works for me. When I run into a problem or get blocked on one effort, I can switch to the other and don’t suffer a lull in the writing process.
The Only One is near completion. It was actually complete earlier this year but suffered a rejection (sniff, sniff). So, right now I am in the middle of restructuring the story. Plotting is my favorite part of the writing process, so I am enjoying it.
The Only One is my favorite kind of romance – unrequited love. Olivia Newbury has been in love with Patrick Crawford, the Marquis of Avondale since she was seventeen and he was married. Years later, Patrick’s wife is dead but he still hasn’t given Olivia the time of day. Olivia has decided she must move on, but first she has to get rid of the irritating heart palpitations whenever Patrick is near. So, she writes a novel, featuring a protagonist very much like her own would-be hero. Unfortunately the novel becomes to talk of the town, and Patrick recognizes himself in the pages. While he searches for the author, Olivia searches for a way to forget him. Except, suddenly, Patrick has discovered Olivia, and he has no intention of letting her go.
With Enchanted Temptation I strayed a little out of my comfort zone and incorporated a ghost. I got the idea while reading L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Windy Poplars. For any of you Anne Girl fans out there, remember when Anne visits the Tomgallon House? Mrs. Minerva Tomgallon lives alone in this enormous house surrounded by the possessions of her dead family. She rarely leaves the house, and she takes enormous but gruesome pride in her cursed family who all suffered weird deaths. From that I pulled together a plot that I am pretty proud of. It’s different, but I love writing about Philippa (another Anne reference – Anne of the Island) and Finn.
Finally, I have an untitled Western in the works. The plot is a little vague for me at this point, but I know the ending! That happens to me quite a bit. I get a feel for the opening three chapters and the very last chapter with no idea what goes in between. In this case, I know there is outlaw treasure involved. Also grave digging, ancient trade routes and kidnapping. It sounds very serious, but I swear, I am quite light-hearted!
•I noticed one of your goals for 2009 is to enter writing contests, something you’ve never done before. What led to this decision? What do you see as the benefits of submitting your work to be judged? And do you look for anything in particular in a contest, such as on-line submission versus hard copy or who’s serving as the final judge in your category?
Contests, phew! Just thinking about entering one makes me hyperventilate a little, but I’ve decided it’s time. Believe it or not, I just joined Romance Writers of America® last year, and I have heard from so many members the pros and cons of entering contests.
I have several reasons for deciding to go for it this year. The main reason is that I need discipline. I am not under contract for anything right now, so my deadlines are wide open and only I set them. This doesn’t work very well for me. I need a set end date to really work toward a goal. Contests have deadlines, and so by choosing a few and assigning WIPs to each of them, I am able to work towards an end goal.
I am not sure, just yet, what I am looking for in a contest since I’m a contest virgin, but I can say that when I looked for competitions to enter I took several factors into consideration. The main factors are: who is judging, how long the contest has been around and if my current WIP really fit what the contest is aimed toward. I don’t know if these are the best decision makers, but it’s all trial and error at this point!
And as for the benefits, well, I am in need of some serious feedback. I feel, as a writer, that I can never learn everything there is to know about my craft. But it’s my duty to try. I’d like someone, somewhere, to point me in new learning directions.
•You not only write, you review books as well, having recently become a reviewer at Reading Romance Books. What sub-genres are your favorites? What makes a book a good read in your opinion?
My favorite sub-genres happen to be the same ones I write in. I love Regency and Westerns although the occasional Contemporary catches my eye. My favorite authors include Julia Quinn, Jodi Thomas and Jennifer Crusie.
Aside from my fave authors, I also really enjoy reading debut novels. I get really excited when I discover a new author. I just finished reading Kristan Higgins’ Too Good To Be True. I “discovered” her books last year and wait anxiously for each book she writes.
A good read? That’s easy: humor and heart. For myself, I really enjoy novels that focus on the growth of characters. I like action just as much as any girl, but watching a character develop and become the person they were meant to be is really fun. And of course, the writing has to draw me in.
I love reviewing books. I am the only one of my acquaintance that reads romance, and I have so many comments I want to share! But trust me, my husband, bless his heart, doesn’t want to hear them ,and my cat doesn’t talk back. I started a blog late last year because I just couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself anymore, and a few weeks later I started reviewing for Reading Romance Books. The best part has to be the free books!
•You’re a young wife, mother of an adorable two-month-old baby boy and an employee working 20-30 hours outside the home. With all these roles to fill, how do you find time to write? And how do you slip into your creative zone when you’re living in the season of middle-of-the-night feedings and sleep deprivation?
My muse hates me! She wants to come out and play at the oddest times, and suddenly I can no longer indulge her. But we have a system, that muse and me. The key is to institute a little time discipline into your schedule. Right now, that creative time IS at three am. I know this sounds corny, but I really am at my most imaginative when I am half asleep. Something about that dream state really gets my brain working in the direction I need it to. Maybe because the kind of romance we write is the stuff dreams are made of.
Finding time to write is more of a challenge, and I must admit the past eight weeks I have done little to no writing. But my son, husband and I are finally settling into a sort of schedule, and I have set aside time every day to do at least an hour of writing. I write something, anything, everyday to nurture my skill, drive, craft and muse. She’s hungry, feed her.
•And now a question just for fun. Imagine a generous benefactor wanted to give you an opportunity to rest and recharge and offered you and your family an all-expenses-paid week of vacation at a resort setting anywhere in North America—with a highly-trained nanny along to care for your little guy, of course. Where would you go, and what would you choose when it came to pampering? A massage? A dip in a heated pool? Or maybe just a full night of uninterrupted sleep?
Uninterrupted sleep, of course!
Actually, my ideal get-away would be a road trip to Yellowstone and a week at one of the rustic cabins along Yellowstone Lake. When I was a kid, my grandmother lived in Wyoming, and I remember spending a few summers out west. The beauty and absolute wonder of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, the Wind River and the Rocky Mountains is something I want to share with my son.
I want to wake up early in the morning and sit on the front porch of the cabin as the sun comes up over the mountains and touches the waters of the lake. I think that perhaps I’ll catch a glimpse of an elk or old buffalo. I want to breathe in the crisp, clear air and let all my stress melt away. That would be my dream vacation. Followed by the Grand Canyon, Redwood Forest, Cascade Mountains and Big Bend National Park.
It’s been great having you as my guest, Emily. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask your visitors?
If you could go back in time and BE one person, who would it be? I would be Jane Austen, of course!
Learn More About Emily
Visit Her Blog, Dreaming on the Job
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win!
I’ll choose a winner from those who leave a comment for Emily on 2/2-3 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share), and will post the winner’s name 2-4.
The winner, Melody Rose Sproule, has her choice of:
1) A $5 gift card from either Borders or Taco Bell (Keli’s Hangout 🙂 ),
2) A Hallmark motivational bookmark made of metal,
3) A set of 8 personalized note cards handmade by your blog host, Keli Gwyn.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and February 28, making sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) You may enter once per post.
On March 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)