Weekend Writing Tips: Piya Campana

This weekend, we’ve got Assistant Editor Piya Campana on SOLD to give you her fab top tip on believability – what it is, and how to create it!

Happy Writing!

The Sold Editors x

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It’s #WritingChallenge time!

Writing Challenge BubbleHi everyone,

Hope you’ve all had a wonderful week! Now, what you’ve all been waiting for – a brand-new writing challenge for you all to enjoy :)

It’s the morning after your heroine’s office Christmas party and she wakes up…next to the man she’s been crushing on for the past year! What happens next?

Read, write and enjoy – because we know we’ll enjoy reading and commenting on your answers next Tuesday!

Happy writing!
The Sold Editors x

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Interview with… Sharon Kendrick!

Sharon Kendrick first sold to Harlequin in 1985. Her medical romance debut was Nurse in the Outback and since then, she has written ninety-three books. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the artistic freedom to create powerful love-stories which transport her and the reader into a different world…

0715-9780373133543-bigwDon’t miss Sharon’s next book, The Ruthless Greek’s Returnout July 2015!

Follow Sharon on Twitter, Facebook and be sure to stop by her website! 

1.What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
Working my way through the list of the fabulous Sara Craven, who manages to break the rules and get away with it.  I love all her books but Comparative Strangers is the one which really nailed it for me.  Pick it up and get sucked into the love story featuring a very unlikely hero, who happens to just ooze more sex-appeal and charisma than you could ever imagine.

2. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
I drank champagne and danced all night!

3. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
I have a soft spot for Surrender to the Sheikh – I think I was a little bit in love with Prince Khalim and Maraban became very real to me.

4. What’s top of your TBR pile?
The Miniaturist – the debut novel by Jessie Burton.  I’m half-way through – just reading it in tiny chunks (joke).

5. What book do you wish you’d written and why?
This is a very tough question! The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. 

6. What’s harder – first or last lines?
First lines, definitely – because you’re trying to convey the sense of the story in a single sentence.  Last lines often write themselves.

7. How do you choose your characters names?
I like hard, alpha names for my hard, alpha heroes.  Heroines I have to work harder at.  Sometimes a story won’t work if the name isn’t right.  For surnames I often open the newspaper without looking and then stab my finger around until I find something suitable!

8. How do you push through writer’s block?
My editor is brilliantly wise and patient if I get stuck.  Often the reason for writer’s block is when the characters aren’t working – so I ask myself “why”?  You should never try to push your protagonists in a direction they don’t want to go.

9. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had.
Write the best book you can.

10. Your preferred writing snack?
I try very hard not to snack.

11. Who is your favorite fictional couple?
I’m rather fond of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.

12. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
I would have spent the day with that gorgeous American singer…

13. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
That I speak fluent Finnish.  (Actually, I don’t really).

14. What is your most overused word?
Actually.

15. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
Another impossible question.  An actress.

16. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
On Friday.

17. What does love feel like?
Depends which stage of love you’re talking about – it can be a dance, a drug, a dagger or a duvet…

18. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Watching trashy TV.

19. What’s your most romantic song?
This Guy’s In Love With You

20. Every hero needs a…
heart.

There you have it, another fab Interview with! – with some brilliant writing advice from the wonderful @Sharon_Kendrick!

Happy writing! 

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Writing Inspiration!

A little something to help you through the mid-week blues!
Wise words to get you writing!

Bev Clearly

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Advice From The Archives: Thinking Outside The Box

This week on Advice From The Archives we’ve uncovered a fantastic post by Harlequin Romance author, Nikki Logan! This gem comes from the New Voices competition in 2011. Enjoy! :)  

Hello! I’m Nikki Logan and I write for Harlequin Romance. I got London’s attention with the first category romance I’d ever written and I think it was because I was writing it just for me with no thought of ever selling it. I’ve created addicted, disfigured, agoraphobic, triumphant heroines and adulterous, infertile, abused, traumatized, to-die-for heroes. I’ve dragged them out of the more typical settings and plonked them into extraordinary and wild places. I’ve taken risk after risk on the page with character, setting and story arc.

If I’m not holding my breath, why would a reader?

Thinking outside the box!

No one sits down to write a book just like all the others out there. Deep inside we all want to write a story that is ground-breaking, rule-breaking, heart-breaking. It’s easy to want that. It’s much harder to do it.

Why?

First, you’re writing romance, a genre that has some structural musts: Heroine-led, strong internal conflict and an optimistic ending.

Second, you’re targeting a line that has evolving guidelines which will ensure your story delivers the Harlequin Mills & Boon promise. Without incorporating these, your story may not sell.

But with only these your story definitely won’t shine.

Step One – Write the story you’d like to read.

With all that stacked up against you it can seem impossible to pen a story that feels fresh and exciting. If you’re sitting out there longing for bendier conventions, or crunchier storylines, or themes that are real-world because you have a particular story you’d really like to tell, then…do it. The line guidelines are a foundation to be built on not a straight-jacket to constrain your creativity. Harlequin editors are hungry for envelope pushers.

Step TwoIt doesn’t hurt to write the story the editorial team is looking for, either.

What does it take to get an editor’s attention?  A well-executed and engaging story with a cutting-edge element that delivers the line’s promise in a way that is fresh.

Pfff, is that all?

Heh, don’t panic. I’m going to focus on writing outside-the-box because it’s what I like to read and write. I like characters who have lived with, or have to face, real-world issues, or who live real-world lives. The quirkier the better. The more flawed the better.

Step Three – Cliché-busting.

If the world-building is thorough, then any job or setting can form a riveting backdrop against which the romance can unfold.  So why roll out the old boss/secretary/office chestnut (for example) when you can choose from any workplace anywhere to create your office romance? He could be some kind of crazy dot.com guru who runs his business out of Starbucks to exploit their free wi-fi and she could be some kind of perfectionist who lost a good job in the GFC and replies to his wanted ad, and cannot get her head around how he made his empire so successful when he seems like such a bum.

Better yet, make her the crazy dot.com entrepreneur and him a fastidious professional with a chip on his shoulder who’s forgotten how to live life. It opens up a world of emotional opportunities with his wounded pride at being retrenched and with some kind of loss in her past that she’s masking with this crazy/whacky behavior. And it flips all the conventions on their head.

See the kind of organic stories that evolve when you just pick those two people up and throw them into Starbucks?

Or the ocean. Or a field. Or a…hot air balloon…

It’s still the super-popular office romance trope, but it’s fresh and new and intriguing to read.

Step Four – Fantasy still rules.

There does still need to be the fantasy element. Try to weave the magic moments seamlessly and organically through the real stuff. It has to work for the story or it’s going to scream “token”. And preferably it will work for the story in different ways.

In Friends to Forever, I threw an alcoholic heroine together with a man she’d hurt years before, to save a stranded whale. Not only was that the good old romance adage of “think of the worst thing you can do to your characters and do it” but it meant that the drama of the rescue and Beth’s reunion with Marc took center stage instead of her addiction which could have been overpowering.

Step Five – Stretching yourself and your readers.

I like to challenge myself with each and every book and really test the elasticity of those line conventions and of the willingness of romance readers to immerse themselves into interesting lives. I’ve written a virgin-birth story (tricky), a goth heroine, and a married hero (and boy was that a real challenge for me, personally, keeping them both heroic). My characters have struggled with agoraphobia, OCD, infertility, physical scarring. What a miserable list!

But the key is moderation, a light hand and in giving the characters as much joy in their present, as misery in their past. I’ve had a hero pee in his wetsuit; I’ve locked a heroine in a car with four farting dogs; one hero got himself arrested kicking down the heroine’s door; another woke on the beach to find hundreds of tiny crabs marching over his body; and a third faints at the sight of blood.

All of it organic and serving multiple purposes in the story. Nothing should be off limits if you write it intelligently, credibly and with a balanced hand.

Step Six – Get published!

The sub/pub cycle can so easily become a Catch 22. If you write what you think Editors are buying based on what they’re publishing, then we’ll only ever write (and publish and read) the same types of stories.

So break the mold. Blow them away. Send something new and fresh and brave and credible and seamless. Something you’d be proud to put your name on.

Because – touch wood – you just might!

There you have it, some superb advice from a Romance expert! Be sure to tweet @ReadNikkiLogan or comment below to let us know how you’re thinking outside the box with your story! Happy writing :) 

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Get ready to write! Boot Camp is coming!

Something is coming…something big.

1- JP

As you may know, each September Harlequin hosts So You Think You Can Write—a week-long writing conference and a seriously excellent contest. The grand prize? A book contract with Harlequin. Our next big author? YOU.

2- hamster

The catch? You need to have a full romance manuscript ready to submit in September for editors to read and for the public to vote on. What does that mean? It’s time to start writing!

3- Depp

And we’re here to whip you into shape with the So You Think You Can Write Boot Camp!

4- FMJ

Join us starting at 5 a.m. EST Thursday May 21st for a full day of programming from our expert editors and guest authors. Learn all about the basics of writing a romance and exactly what Harlequin is looking for! That’s right, an entire day devoted to romance writing! Learn how to craft interesting plots,

5- betrayal

compelling characters,

If you can think of a better example than Chris Pratt French braiding a lady's hair, I'd like to hear it.

If you can think of a better example than Chris Pratt French braiding a lady’s hair, I’d like to hear it.

and epic romances.

8 - Princess Bride

So starting thinking about your first (or next!) great story,

9 - Mindy

get ready to meeting other amazing writers like you,

10 - Muppets

and when September rolls around and someone asks you if you finished that novel you wanted to write? You can say

11 - Scandal

Got it?

12 - totes

Good.

The So You Think you Can Write Boot Camp. Thursday May 21st from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. Check out SYTYCW.com for more details! The next great story we publish could be yours!

13 - Belle library

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My Ultimate Crush: Richard Castle

Harlequin Desire author Janice Maynard is here this week to tell us why crime solving, mystery writer Richard Castle is her Ultimate Crush…

My ultimate crush would have to be the character Nathacastle4n Fillion plays on the TV series, Castle. Richard Castle, author turned amateur sleuth, is a wonderful mix of enthusiasm and creativity, and I identify with some of his writing quirks.

 

Two of thcastle5e sexiest things about Richard Castle are his humor and his intelligence. I love a man who doesn’t take himself too seriously. And I will always pick intelligence over looks…though it doesn’t hurt that Nathan Fillion is so roguishly handsome.

 

Smart, funny, sexy and a bestselling author…we can see why Richard Castle would be the Ultimate Hero! Comment below to tell us your (real or fictional) #AuthorCrush

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Weekend Writing Tip: Carly Byrne

This weekend, Harlequin Presents Editor Carly Byrne takes the stage with her top writing tip about finding the right series for your voice!

Watch, enjoy and happy writing!

The Sold Editors x

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Interview with… Barbara Wallace

Barbara Wallace first sold to Harlequin in 2009. Her Romance debut was a novella entitled “Magic Under the Mistletoe” in A Fairytale Christmas with Susan Meier. Since then, she has written a dozen novels for Harlequin Romance. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the freedom she has to put her own fresh spin on traditional stories.  “The editors really encourage us to break away from the same-old, same-old to give readers a truly satisfying romance.” Don’t miss A Millionaire for CinderellaBarbara’s latest book – out now!

0615-9781460382851-bigw (1)Follow Barbara on Twitter, Facebook and be sure to check out her blog.

1. What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
I’ve been reading Harlequin’s since I was a kid so I honestly can’t say what book hooked me.  However, I can tell you the book that sold me on wanting to write for the Romance line was Barbara Hannay’s  In the Heart of the Outback. Everything about that book – the premise, the characters, the writing – was amazing.

2. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
I had a critique group meeting an hour after I got the call.  Soon as I arrived, they made me put on a tiara!  I kept it on the entire day.  Later, my husband, teenage son and I celebrated by going out to dinner.  (I thought about wearing the tiara to the restaurant but didn’t.)

3. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
The Man Behind the Mask, my January 2014 release.  First off, the book dealt with a truly difficult topic (the hero is a victim of a serious assault).  It was also the first story that had me truly pushing my comfort boundaries as a writer.  I like to think my writing took a step to the next level with that story.

4. What’s top of your TBR pile?
Trish Wylie’s The Millionaire’s Proposal.

5. What book do you wish you’d written and why?
Gosh, there’s no ONE book.  I’ve fallen in love with the writing is so many stories – every time I pick up a book by one of my idols, someone like a Jessica Hart for example, I fall in love with their ability to craft a story and wish I could do the same.  If I had to pick one single book in the world, I wish I’d written Gone with the Wind.  Imagine creating a heroine as wonderfully three-dimensional as Scarlet O’Hara.  Nearly eight years later, she still resonates as strong female.

6. What’s harder – first or last lines?
Definitely the first line.

7. How do you choose your characters names?
I tend to use the gut approach when picking character’s names.  I get out my baby name book and start reading until one of the names “feels” right.  I do the same thing with last names.  I either go through a phone book or use a name generator until I find one with the right “feel”.   Of course, I’ve been known to change a character’s name midstream if I decide the name no longer fits.  Often, when a character isn’t gelling properly, it’s because I gave her/him the wrong name.

8. How do you push through writer’s block?
Oh, you’re going to be sorry you asked.  I could write a book on writer’s block.  For me, block is caused by one of two things: a story problem or a self-made problem.
Story problems means I started the story in the wrong place, the plot took a wrong turn or the characters’ motivations aren’t properly fleshed out.  In this case, I step away from the computer for a few hours and let my muse see the bigger picture.  By the time I’ve finished cleaning the house or walking the puppy, I’ve come up with an answer.
Self-made problems usually happen around chapter four or five when the story has lost that “new idea smell”.  Coincidentally, that’s when the job is at its most difficult.  After all, they don’t call it a sagging middle for nothing.  When this happens, there’s only one solution – stick with it and write.  The pages pile up, and before you know it, you’re at the last third of your book and racing toward a happy ending.

9. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had
Don’t compare your career with anyone else’s. Success comes to everyone in different forms and at different rates.

10. Your preferred writing snack?
Coffee!  I am a caffeine junkie.

11. Who is your favourite fictional couple?
Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton from, The Notebook.  The movie version, not the novel.  And the James Garner/Gena Rowlands couple, not the Rachel McAdams/Ryan Gosling pair .  Although Rachel and Ryan were good (Ryan Gosling – hello!), that scene when the elderly Allie remembers Noah is so beautiful.  Who couldn’t believe in the power of love after that?

12. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
I would develop confidence in myself at a much younger age.  There are so many young, dynamic writers out there who aren’t afraid to take changes, and as a result, are accomplishing so much.  I sometimes feel like I wasted a lot time being frightened of taking a chance.

13. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
That I’m really quite insecure about my writing.

14. What is your most overused word?
Off the top of my head, I can name four: Maybe, Probably, Just and That.  I’m sure my editor can list a few others. :)

15. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
A history detective.   Sadly, I lack the patience when it comes to research.  And I tend to start sing my imagination to fill in the blanks.

16. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
Last night right before my husband and I went to sleep.

17. What does love feel like?
To me, love is when you can’t imagine your life without the other person.  No matter what you are doing, that person is never far from your thoughts.  You hurt when he hurts, his successes are your successes. And even on those days when he is bugging the crap out of you and you want to scream, you know that without him , your life wouldn’t be complete.

18. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Reading fan fiction. (Shhhh)

19. What’s your most romantic song?
I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. Both the Mark Chestnutt version and the Aerosmith one.

20.Every hero needs a…
Good Heroine.

There you have it! Another fabulous Interview with…! (We secretly wish Barbara had worn her tiara to dinner!) 

Happy writing! :)

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Confessions of a Harlequin Editor: Laura Barth

This week, pet peeves, favourite heroes, dietary downfalls and more from Associate Editor Laura Barth!

Laura Barth

Hi! I’m Laura Barth, associate editor for Harlequin American Romance and Blaze and manager of the Worldwide Mystery and Suspense program. I also have two authors who write for Harlequin Heartwarming. I started my career at Harlequin as a proofreader in 2005. It was fantastic being paid to read romance novels all day! My job today is much different—I read fewer novels, but I get to work closely with authors and have a lot more influence over how the characters reach their happy ending. And now, a few confessions…

1. I’m easily bored.

Variety is the spice of life, and I especially value it in my work. The different romance lines I work on span the spectrum of heat levels, and I love the challenge in finding the right tone for each story. I also enjoy managing Worldwide Mystery and Suspense because what I do in that role is so different from my editor life. I still assess and contract books, but I also schedule titles and ensure that the whole program is moving along smoothly. And I need to maintain relationships with other publishers, as well as agents and authors outside of the romance community.

Fast-paced stories with active plots are great for keeping my attention and interest. One of my pet peeves is stories where nothing really happens. I loved Seinfeld, but this type of story based on clever dialogue and daily life does not generally work well for romance. I’m not suggesting characters should just run from event to event, but I’d love to see at least a couple of strong plot points. Other editors might disagree, but sometimes I welcome a fire or natural disaster in a novel just to liven things up a bit. I love seeing the hero and heroine learn to work together to overcome hardship.

And I’m not above killing off characters in order to increase the emotional intensity or make a backstory more compelling. Engaging my emotions goes a long way—if you bring a tear to my eye you’ll have me hooked.

2. I’m a bit of a romantic.

I was rather cynical about relationships before I came to work at Harlequin. My marriage had ended a few years before that and my faith in love and trust in happy endings took a long time to restore. Working at Harlequin, engaging with stories of hope and love every day for ten years, has slowly brought back my romantic soul. These days I find much to be hopeful and grateful for, and I’ve learned a lot about what kind of man I want to spend my life with. Harlequin and the talented authors I work with are at least partly responsible for that. I love flawed but honorable heroes, men who can show their vulnerability and their strength. Men who ultimately put the needs of others above their own. And, of course, a nice pair of broad shoulders doesn’t hurt!

3. I’d rather be outside.

Well, except in the winter…or when it’s raining really hard… But when the weather is nice it’s all I can do to force myself indoors. This means I have a special love for outdoor adventure in romance novels, whether the setting is a diving boat on the Caribbean Sea or a cabin in the Rocky Mountains. I also love traveling and have been to about 20 countries, often hauling my backpack and staying in hostels. (I’m not suggesting anyone write a hostel romance…in fact I’m begging you not to.) So I relate well to characters, especially heroines, who have seen a bit of the world or at least want to. It’s hard for me to understand characters who have never aspired to leave their hometown, although I can still appreciate them for their own values.

4. I’m constantly eating.

My coworkers must wonder if I have a tapeworm because I’m always snacking and never skip a meal. I’m saved by my intolerance to gluten and sugar, which forces me to eat mainly healthy things…though I will admit to the occasional potato chip binge. To all those who send me chocolates for Christmas …um, sorry for the bad news. But I appreciate the thought, and my friends and coworkers love you.

Thanks for stopping by to read my confessions. I hope you will use this information for good, not evil. And now I need a snack! Is anyone else craving potato chips?

Questions for Laura? Comment below! And follow Laura on Twitter @LauraBarth2011

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