Interview with… Linda Lael Miller

Follow @LindaLaelMiller on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook! Linda’s brilliant new book The Marriage Charm, part of the Brides of Bliss County is out now!

1. What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
It would be difficult to name a specific book; to me, Harlequin literally IS romance.  My mother read them, and still does, at age 86.  My late cousin, Kathy, subscribed to the Presents Line way back, and devoured the volumes as soon as they arrived in the mail.

2.How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
That happened on Valentine’s Day, 1983.  I was pretty broke back then, so unless you count jumping up and down, pumping both fists in the air and generally behaving like Rocky Balboa after the victory bell sounded, the celebration had to wait for the check to arrive.  (At which time I probably paid the electricity bill.)  :)

3.Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
You never forget the first one—“Fletcher’s Woman” was the title, and it appeared in print only a few months later (that August) as part of Pocket Books’ Tapestry line.

4.What’s top of your TBR pile?
OMG, I read everything.  I also listen to a lot of audiobooks.  The top of the pile, however, is occupied by a wonderful book my wonderful editor, Paula Eykelhof, sent over the holidays.  The title escapes me at the moment, but it’s a big, meaty tome about the American Civil War.

5.What book do you wish you’d written and why?
I guess the answer to this one would have to be Larry McMurtrey’s fabulous LONESOME DOVE.  It was, in my opinion, the perfect book.

6.What’s harder – first or last lines?
For me, first lines are harder because beginning is harder.  By the time I write the last line, I’m rolling!

7.How do you choose your characters names?
I use baby name books and website’s, but mainly I depend on my first cousin, Mary Ann, who is absolutely excellent at coming up with great names.

8.How do you push through writer’s block?
That’s a tough one.  Sometimes, I simply have to endure it, figuring those fallow periods are part of the creative process, rather like tulip bulbs under winter ground—nothing visible is happening, but the magic is there.

9.What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had
That would be something my father taught me, and it applies to all of life, not just writing.  “You’re not beaten until you give up.”

10.Your preferred writing snack?
Coffee!  I don’t eat when I’m writing, but I sure do consume the java.

11.Who is your favourite fictional couple?
Hands down, without a doubt, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.  Talk about chemistry.

12.If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
I would be kinder to myself.

13.What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
That I’m a pretty good Tarot card reader.

14.What is your most overused word?
Some form of ‘wax’, as in, “he waxed pensive”.  My cousin and first reader is always on me about that.  :)

15.If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
Either Annie Oakley or a Jedi knight.

16.When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
Yesterday.  I believe in telling people how I feel about them when I can.

17.What does love feel like?
To me, love feels like alignment, being in step with life and God.

18.What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Playing slot machines.

19.What’s your most romantic song?
The Natalie/Nat King Cole duet, “Unforgettable”

20.Every hero needs a…
Smart, strong woman!

Hope you all enjoyed these insights into the wonderful world of Linda Lael Miller… whose guilty pleasure is the playing the slot machines! Take a gamble and let us know what yours is below! (Promise we won’t tell!)

 

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Advice From The Archives: Making The Most Of Your Happy Endings

The second Advice From The Archives from our treasure trove is from our So You Think You Can Write 2012 competition and is sure to help perfect that HEA (happily-ever-after) for your hero and heroine! 

Shall we state the obvious first?

The ending of a romance novel must be happy. No surprise there. If we know the ending already, why do we keep reading the story? Because over the course of the book, the reader becomes invested in the characters and their unique journey. The road from Point A to Point B is rocky. That marriage proposal, surprise baby, decision to date, or giddiness from romantic possibility is a satisfying reward for the trip with this hero and heroine. It’s an intimate experience, rendering a reader dizzy with hope.

So, you might conclude that this happily ever after thing is predictable. It sure is. It has to be there. From the beginning, readers know the characters will be together. It’s why they pick up the story in the first place. For a romance to work, you need to plant the seed of doubt. Doubt and anxiety over whether or not the hero and heroine will wind up together are key.

Here’s how you do it…

Make us believe that it’s too late for these characters. They’ve gone through so much. Not only do they doubt the other’s love, but aren’t they tired? Relationships take so much work and, even though they have this amazing chemistry—which neither can ignore—they are beyond hope for a successful romance. There’s the possibility, too, that he won’t save her at the end. She will just die because the hero didn’t figure out that the villain took her to his parents’ summer cabin. Cruel fate will tear them apart, and they will go their separate ways. It happens every day, those missed connections. The heroine might decide not to tell the hero about her baby because, well, she knows he’ll be a bad father. Whatever the source for doubt, you need to leave the reader hanging off a cliff, suspended over the distant creek before pulling her back to safety and that blissful, romantic ending.

There are many ways to end the story.
Some effective HEAs are…

I Realize Suddenly that I Love You: This declaration goes against the scene’s mood. In casual wear, Harry crashes a fancy party and yells at Sally that he loves her even though they are both insane. They are perfect for each other. Darcy shows up when the Bennett household has settled down and an appropriate number of daughters are engaged. You’d think Darcy would have just disappeared after Lizzie refused him and her little sister eloped. Plus, a life of cross-stitching and intellectual fulfillment isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a girl.  The “I love you” from someone who never says that kind of thing, well, it’s powerful. No wonder Jane Austen’s words resonate to this day.

I Love You But Go Away: What the hero and heroine experienced was so intense. Too intense. They love each other but need some time apart. They misunderstand the other’s intentions and vow not to see each other. One of them needs to come back and beg because he (usually the hero) is so miserable without her—but make it unexpected somehow or, at the very least, achingly romantic. Begging is good. The purpose of this ending is to show the point of no return. After experiencing true love, there is no going back to life before.

You Saved My Life and I Love You: For more suspenseful lines, the ending involves some sort of rescue or escape from danger. You should avoid the clichés — like he finds her at just the right time—from a random tip or she left her cell phone on–and proposes to her as she’s being carted away on a stretcher. If you have some of these elements, find an even greater surprise for your readers.

I Love You Even Though You’re Strange: This ending can be combined with others. It is basically the Bridget Jones/Mark Darcy loving-just-as-you-are declaration, especially good with paranormal stories, but relevant for all. Your characters should be vibrant and interesting, perfect for each other. At the heart of this romantic declaration is the knowledge that these characters accept one another, warts and all.

Whatever you do with your ending, try as much as you can to make it less predictable. And remember, everything that comes before the end informs your ending.

Now it’s your turn! 

Write an ending that will dazzle your readers and give them that extra shot of happy feelings.  There’s nothing like a great ending to make a reader’s day.

Are there any HEAs that we’ve missed out that you just have to share with us? What works for you, what doesn’t? Comment below and share how you give your stories their HEA!

You’ve heard from the Harlequin editors, but make sure you tune in on Friday for the weekly Interview With… column with HQN author Linda Lael Miller!

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Send us your editorial dilemmas!

Hi everyone,

Do you often find yourself facing the same problems in your writing? Is it always your hero who gets you into trouble? Perhaps it’s thinking of the best way to start your story? Or do you struggle with dialogue? Whatever the issue, the Harlequin editors are here to help!

Send an email to SOLD-Blog@harlequin.ca outlining your specific writing problem, then look out for the answer in our new Dear Editor feature – coming soon on the SOLD blog!

Happy writing!

Flo x

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My Ultimate Crush: Coach Eric Taylor

Harlequin Presents author Jennifer Hayward is here today to tell us all about why she loves the character of Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights. He’s a personal favorite of ours too, so enjoy the explanation…and the visuals :-)

Erictaylor[1]Kyle Chandler in his role as Coach Eric Taylor on the television series Friday Night Lights.

I often say to people that this series, my all-time favourite television show, is not about football, it’s about life. In the first episode, we’re taken into the world of Dillon, Texas, “where high school football brings the community together — and the drama of small town life threatens to tear it apart.”

From the minute Coach Taylor walks into this show as the new coach of the Dillon Panthers, I fell in love with him. He is not only the man who might make this team believe again, he is also the glue that binds them together. He teaches them big life lessons – how to live and play with your heart, how to be men their families and community can be proud of. He becomes a second father to many of the players who are desperately looking for a role model they can aspire to.

Early on in the show, when his squabbling team is working toward its dream of a state championship, Coach Taylor scrawls the following on the chalkboard in the locker room: ‘Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.’ It becomes the theme for the show and is emblematic of what I love so much about Coach Taylor’s character. He is a man of honor.

Eric Taylor is also the sexiest husband on the face of the planet to the wonderful Connie Britton many of you will know from Nashville. Britton works as the guidance counselor at the high school and the chemistry these two share is palpable. It’s tough, sweet, sexy and subtle. All it takes is one glance between them and you can see how he wants to devour her. Their dialogue and interplay is fabulous. As is the give and take between them as they bring up their family in this pressure cooker of a football town. Eric Taylor is also a great dad. The whole package.

Although I write ultra-wealthy, powerful alpha males for Presents, it’s the heart and honor of this character that gets to me every time. It’s what I look to instill in every alpha I write because I think it makes the man. ‘Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.’ No you can’t.

We’d fight Jennifer Hayward tooth and nail for a place on Coach Taylor’s team, but what do you think of this gorgeous Texan hero? (Biased? Us? Never…)

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Interview with… Bronwyn Scott

Bronwyn Scott first sold to Harlequin in 2008. Her Harlequin Historical debut was Pickpocket Countess and since then, she has written 30 (correct as of Dec 2014!) books. Her most recent book is Playing the Rake’s Game.

Follow @Bronwynscott on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook!

  1. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
    In my nightgown with coffee (normally I just drink herbal tea but I splurged,  I needed something stronger).  The call came in at 5:30 AM in the morning. My husband had already left for work so it was just me and three sleeping kiddos.
  2. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
    Pickpocket Countess for so many reasons: 1) it has the best cover ever. There were even blogs that went up strictly dedicated to that cover. 2) because it was the first! Nobody forgets their first (wink wink) .  3) It’s a great adventure story with a real sense of pace and tension to  it  as Brandon and Nora escalate their cat and mouse game.
  3. What’s top of your TBR pile?
    I’m actually all caught up  but right now I am waiting expectantly for the next Pennyroyal Green book due out in March.
  4. What book do you wish you’d written and why?
    I have this time travel series I sort of cut my teeth on when I was ‘practicing’ aka seeing if I could actually finish writing a book length story, a story called “Seamless,” and it was meant to be followed up by two other books but I got busy selling Regency manuscripts and never got back to it and it’s still there, the second book too in some unfinished state.  I still really love those characters, but it’s one of those things that will probably stay under the bed in a box.
  5. What’s harder – first or last lines?
    Last lines.   I just love first lines—they are totally my thing.
  6. How do you choose your characters names?
    I read name lists. 1) I read baby name lists 2) I read historical baby name lists 3) I read swim meet heat sheets (my son is a swimmer and he goes to these meets where there are 400 kids swimming and the meets take 3 hours or more. There’s nothing to do but to read the heat sheets. I write down first and last names that l like.  4) When I get desperate, I read the phone book—not just American phonebooks, but international phone books, especially British phone books.
  7. How do you push through writer’s block?
    I try very hard not to get it  in the first place and I seldom do. 1) I outline the book thematically before I start and that helps a lot because I know what needs to happen and when 2) At the end of every writing session, I always write the first paragraph of the next chapter so I have the next day already started while the ideas are flowing and that becomes the prompt for the next morning
  8. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had.
    It’s from bestseller John Saul, who wrote thrillers in the 80s and he was Stephen King’s primary competition in those days. He said  to be a writer, a real writer, you have to do something every day for your writing.  The reason for this is 1) it creates discipline 2)it keeps your writing at the forefront of your personal daily agenda—your writing becomes your ‘normal’ not something you just pull out from under the bed when you have time for a hobby.  3) It makes becoming a writer ‘real’ and possible to you.  It’s like going to the gym.  He also pointed out that you don’t have to actually write every day, you don’t have to do a chapter.  You can edit, you can blog about your latest project etc. There’s a lot of ways to do something for your writing every day.  Not every day is cut out to be a ‘lets write a chapter day.’ But every day, you can do one thing for your writing.
  9. Your preferred writing snack?
    M&Ms
  10. Who is your favourite fictional couple?
    Just one? Here’s my top three:
    Jamie and Claire (not because they’re the new hot thing, but because I’ve loved them since 1999 when I first read Outlander)
    Scarlett and Rhett
    Aragorn and Arwen
  11. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
    Not much at all.  But there are two things.  First, I’d like to have said more to people who are no longer with  us. I don’t think I’ve handled death very well so far in that respect.  Second, I would have liked to have found a way to live in Europe.  Still working on that, but it’s harder now with kids who are entrenched in their activities and you can’t exactly move a horse overseas unless you’re super rich.
  12. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
    That I ‘met’ the Queen of England once, it was unforgettable. I’m sure she would say the same.
  13. What is your most overused word?
    I think it changes from book to book. In one series, I just got hooked on the word ‘exquisite’  for instance. But I think overall, one of my favourite overused words is ‘perhaps.’  There are just so few synonyms for maybe!
  14. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
    a historical author. I want to be Philippa Gregory
  15. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
    About 15 minutes ago, to my son who called from his New Year’s Eve party—his swim group from the team got together to ring in the year with a co-ed sleepover. He was just calling to check in. I end almost all of my conversations on the phone with my family with  I love you. It’s the last thing I say when the kids walk out the door for school and the last thing I tell my husband every night before I go to sleep. But he’s always asleep before me so he doesn’t always hear.
  16. What does love feel like?
    I feel like I’m supposed to have an amazing answer for this and show off my insightful ‘writer-ness’ but I will fail miserably. It feels like a hug. It feels like ice cold champagne going down your throat at dusk on a summer’s night.
  17. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
    Talking about my kids because I know no one is nearly as interested in them as I am but I do it anyway.  Although I really do try to limit my indulgences.
  18. What’s your most romantic song?
    I’ll give you two:  First, Vivaldi’s Adagio and then on the total other end of the spectrum—Bonnie Tyler’s Holding on for a Hero—it’s not necessarily romantic, but it sure gets me fired up, makes me feel inspired and powerful like there’s nothing I can’t do.  And any ballad by Meatloaf works pretty well too.
  19. Every hero needs a…
    weakness because perfect heroes aren’t really all that perfect are they?

Hope you all enjoyed these insights into the wonderful world of Bronwyn Scott… who’s met THE QUEEN! Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met? Go on, make us jealous…

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Confessions of a Harlequin Editor: Kathryn Cheshire

Ever wondered what the Harlequin editors are really like? Then you’ll love the Sold Blog’s new feature, Confessions of a Harlequin Editor! Every two weeks, a new editor will give you the lowdown on herself, what she likes and what she’s most excited to see in a submission. This is your chance to get to know the personalities and tastes of the Harlequin editors, so don’t be shy – we’re friendly and we can’t wait to read your books :-)

KathrynRaindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… Kathryn Cheshire (Assistant Editor/Editorial Assistant on the Harlequin Historical team) reveals a few of her favorite things!

1. Girls’ nights in

I can tell I’m growing up, because just a couple of years ago, this would without question have been ‘girls’ nights out’! But, getting my best friends over for pizza, Prosecco and chick flicks is now so much more enjoyable than squeezing into my highest heels and venturing out in the cold to go clubbing. Friends are such an important part of any girl’s life, so when I read submissions, it’s often something I look in the heroine – seeing how she interacts with other women makes me understand exactly what type of person she is, and whether she’s someone I’d want to be friends with myself.

2. Travelling

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of travelling, and I can’t get enough of seeing new places and trying new things. The food, the beaches, the people, the cities, the history – exploring a new place never fails to give me a buzz I can’t get from anything else. And (ssh, secret tip!), if you want to get in my good graces when submitting a manuscript, send your characters off to somewhere exotic – I will instantly be intrigued!

3. Food

I’ve always loved my food – what girl doesn’t! – and trying out the latest restaurants in Soho (always rounding the evening off with an ice cream!) is one of my favourite past-times. And, my love of food affects the way I read submissions too! If an author can use all the senses to really transport me to another place and another time, the story instantly comes to life for me, and I’ll be guaranteed to want to read more!

4. Adrenaline

I didn’t know I was a bit of an adrenaline junkie until quite recently. Yes, I was always first in line for all the scariest rides at the theme parks, but that was about as far as it went. Then, on my gap year, I went skydiving, did the second highest bungee jump in the world (8.5 seconds freefall, eek!!) and went underground rafting. And, I LOVED it! So for those of you who agree that a combination of fear, excitement and drama is the best combo, feel free to send me all those submissions that will get my heart racing – the crazier the activity your hero and heroine are doing, the better!

5. Reading

There’s a reason I chose to work in publishing, and mostly, it’s simply because I love reading! Curling up with a book and a hot chocolate by a roaring fire or lying by a pool, cocktail in one hand, Kindle in the other is, to me, the perfect way to spend a day. And, , last night I missed my bus stop because I was so engrossed in The Secret History. That’s my ultimate test for a gripping read :-), and I challenge anyone out there to send me a manuscript which will do the same (I might just hold you to blame if my boss asks why I’m late in to work!).

So, there you have it – an introduction to the lovely Kathryn Cheshire! Do you share any of her favorite things?  Or, even better, have any questions for her? Then get in touch with her below, or follow Kathryn (@CheshireKat3) on Twitter!

 

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Series Spotlight on… Harlequin Presents!

Graham If you haven’t yet dipped your toes into a Harlequin Presents novel, please allow editors Carly Byrne and Pippa Roscoe to welcome you to the sensational and sophisticated world of alpha males, decadent glamour and jet-set lifestyles!

We do love an alpha hero in Presents – rich, ruthless and really sexy!  Whether he’s a royal or a rogue, a Sheikh or a sexy Sicilian, he’s guaranteed to get your pulse-racing!  And our heroines are just as varied – from chambermaids to CEOs, mathematicians to socialites, princesses to politicians every heroine has a home at Presents! The popular themes – marriages of convenience, secret babies, working together, bought and blackmailed – told in unique ways by our talented authors, provide drama and emotion that make each story un-put-downable!

Read on for more of what we love about Presents…

Presents opening lines that have really stuck in our minds…

Pippa: Either die, or abdicate. I’m not particular about which one you choose, but you’d better make a decision, and quickly.

It plunges you straight into the story, you know you’re dealing with royals and there’s a time crunch from the very first line.

Carly: The day that Jared Stone’s manifesto sparked an incident of international female outrage happened to be, unfortunately for Stone, a slow news day.

I immediately want to know a) who the mysterious Mr Stone is and b) what on earth he did to inspire international female outrage!

Don’t you just hate it when…

Pippa: The heroes have perfect, white teeth and the heroines run their tongue over their lips, just before they’re kissed. Visually, the image reminds me of toothpaste adverts and is perhaps the last thing I would ever want to do before kissing a man!

Carly: the heroine’s nipples hardening at the mere mention of the hero’s name.  Get a hold of yourself woman!

Don’t you just love it when…

Pippa: The heroine gives just as good as she gets! There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a heroine take an alpha male down a peg or two!

Carly: …there’s an epilogue!  I love knowing what kind of wedding dress the heroine wore, which exotic location the couple spent their honeymoon in and how many children they had!

What is your Presents guilty pleasure?

Pippa: I do love ‘the other woman’… when she’s used properly! She should never affect a change in the relationship between the hero and heroine, or their individual journeys. But when used well, she can be both a source of hurt for the heroine, irritation for the hero, but also a source of delicious guilty pleasure for the reader!

Carly: A self-made hero.  I love a hero who’s pulled himself up by the bootstraps to get to the top and has a dark past begging to be uncovered…

What is your favorite Presents reading moment?

Pippa:  When I ordered the entire Presents series The Notorious Wolfes. I sat with a glass of wine, a box of chocolates, turned off my phone, told everyone I was away for the weekend, and read the whole lot back to back!

Carly: Missing my stop on the train because I had reached a particularly dramatic moment in the story!  (Obviously not such a favourite moment when I realised and was subsequently late for work!)

What are you looking for from aspiring authors?

Pippa: I love a hero with throw-down. (This was carefully defined to me by a friend as a guy who would ‘throw you down’ on the bed – my new favourite phrase!) A heroine who can stand up to him and a fabulous location that whisks me away from a grey, dull London day. But most of all, I’m looking for a conflict that will make me cry, and a happy ever after that will make my heart soar.

Carly: Contemporary characters – a hero who can make me laugh and a heroine I’d want to be friends with – lots of sparky dialogue, a glamorous location that’s less travelled, and a story that makes me sit up and say ‘I didn’t see that coming!’

What are you most excited about in Presents in 2015?

Pippa: It’s all about The Chatsfield in 2015! Having introduced you to the scandalous, outrageous and incredibly fun family last year – now meet the latest set of Chatsfield cousins out to prove their worth. Stunning locations, incredible stories, fabulous authors and books you will not be able to put down for one minute. Clear the decks, ladies, The Chatsfield is back – you won’t want to miss the first book in this fabulous continuity, Sheikh’s Desert Duty by Maisey Yates!

Carly: Society Weddings – a quartet by some of Presents’ newer voices showcasing the amazing new talent that has joined the series.  And we all know the drama and emotion that a wedding can evoke – especially when it doesn’t go to plan! This quartet kicks off in April but if you can’t wait that long, make sure you check out Society Wedding Secrets by the wonderful Jennifer Hayward – it’s a free online prequel, and it’s available to read here.

Thanks to Carly and Pippa for all these great insights! Do you have any burning questions about Presents that you’re still desperate to ask? If so, do post them below, and the Presents team will be on hand with answers and advice :-)

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My Ultimate Crush: Captain Jean Luc Picard

Harlequin Romance/ Harlequin Medical Romance author Scarlet Wilson kicks off our new weekly My Ultimate Crush column, where your favourite authors explain who their number one crushes are, and why! Enjoy :-)

KirkCaptain Jean Luc Picard.

My favourite ever Star Trek Captain and there are lots of reasons why.

Patrick Stewart was apparently puzzled to be cast as the new Enterprise captain as he wondered if people would connect with a bald middle-aged Englishman. How little he knew!

Picard has one of the most interesting character developments of any TV series. He starts as prickly, ethical and a huge moral compass. Any Star Trek fan knows how often the Prime Directive is actually ignored!

I have several favourite episodes, the first where he is introduced to Q. The 3rd season finale called The Best of Both Worlds where Picard is assimilated by the Borg. The words, “I am Locutus of Borg, resistance is futile,” will always send a shiver down my spine.

The huge amount of character development when he comes back to his ship, tormented, having flashbacks, the guilt of his actions as a Borg are done so well. This backstory is the whole basis for the film First Contact, which reveals he still has traumatic memories and after effects of assimilation.

In the fourth season we learn of his prickly relationship with his brother Robert, who looks after the family vineyards in La Barre after Picard joined Starfleet. Picard has always been a bit of a loner and the poor relationship with his brother made us more sympathetic towards him. When it is revealed in the Star Trek film Generations that his brother and his nephew Rene have both died in a fire we finally see him devastated and weeping for his family. This film also reveals his jealousy of his brother having the wife and child that he never had.

And what about his love life? Well, Picard has numerous encounters with women from other planets, all of whom fall for his accent and good manners. In later films it was revealed Picard married Dr Beverly Crusher. But we’re not going to discuss that. Ever.

Captain Picard is my secret crush. I love his demeanour, his manner, his panache and his strong sense of ethics. How do I join Starfleet?

Make sure you check out Scarlet’s new Harlequin Romance, The Prince She Never Forgot, available now! 

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Interview With…Maisey Yates

Maisey Yates first sold to Harlequin in 2009. Her Harlequin Presents debut was His Virgin Acquisition and since then, she has written 43 books for Harlequin across various lines. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the fabulous editors and the incredible art department! Such a creative and supportive group.

Find @maiseyyates on Twitter, vist her on Facebook and check out her blog!

1. What book first got you hooked on Harlequin? The Tycoon’s Trophy Wife by Miranda Lee was my introduction to Presents, and from there I read as many as I could get my hands on!

2. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript? We had to do registration for my son for school that day, so we did that. Then went shopping at Target for school supplies and my husband told everyone we saw that I’d just sold to Harlequin! Then we ordered Chinese food and ate a big dinner at my parents’ house.

3. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why? That’s such a hard question to answer! A few have really stayed with me for different reasons. The Inherited Bride was such a tough book to write and I think it grew me as an author, so I love that one. Her Little White Lie was the first book I wrote that made me cry so hard I had to walk away from the computer to compose myself. Part Time Cowboy was the first book I wrote set in the world of Copper Ridge and I’ve fallen so deeply in love with that world that the book holds a special place in my heart.

4. What’s top of your TBR pile? Oh, I have so many! At the Count’s Bidding by Caitlin Crews, Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden and Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long to name a few!

5. What book do you wish you’d written and why? What I Did For a Duke by Julie Anne Long because it is perfect in every way!

6. What’s harder – first or last lines? Last lines for sure!

7. How do you choose your characters names? Sometimes they choose their own names. I have a upcoming character named Tabitha and she chose that name for herself. She just WAS a Tabitha. Sometimes it’s a lot of googling and trawling through baby name sights.

8. How do you push through writer’s block? I don’t believe in writer’s block! Some days I feel like writing, some days I don’t, I have to do it anyway. If something feels blocked then it usually just means my characters don’t have a goal, so there’s nothing driving the story. That’s when I have to go back and do more work on my character.

9. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had? I’ve been given so much wonderful advice by so many generous people it’s hard to choose just one thing. But the one I really LIVE by is: No matter what, write the next book.

10. Your preferred writing snack? Pita chips. And dry cereal. Not healthy cereal: Lucky Charms.

11. Who is your favourite fictional couple? That’s hard too. I love Maddy and Christian from Flowers from the Storm and Vin and Kara from Having Her.

12. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change? Well, I think it goes without saying that I would write illness right the heck out of it. :) Otherwise? Nothing, as cliché as it sounds. All of the financial worries and things like that really brought my husband and I closer together, so I consider the trials part of our triumphs.

13. What would your readers be surprised to know about you? I’m a small town girl! Which I think is less surprising now that I’m also writing the small town romances, but my Presents readers might be surprised to learn that until a couple of years ago I’d never even BEEN to a big city!

14. What is your most overused word? I have a little Yates drinking game over the words: And, but, because, massive and… * cringe*

15. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…A singer. I love to sing. I was actually doing that before I wrote.

16. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’? Earlier today. We say it a thousand times a day around here. With three kids, my parents next door and a wonderful husband there are so many opportunities!

17. What does love feel like? When I really stop to feel it, it’s like something huge and expanding that fills my whole chest. Overwhelming and fantastic.

18. What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I don’t feel guilty about pleasure, I enjoy it!

19. What’s your most romantic song? I love anything by Dierks Bentley, his lyrics are incredible. But my husband (Haven Yates) writes songs, and he’s written a few for my books, and we’ve done some duets together. So that’s got to be the most romantic!

20. Every hero needs a… I can’t finish that sentence without being a little rude. ;)

Make sure you check out Maisey’s most recent book for Harlequin Presents, Sheikh’s Desert Duty, available now!

We hope you enjoyed this Interview with… post! Check back in on Monday for more great author insights as we launch our My Ultimate Crush column – kicking off with fabulous Harlequin Romance/ Harlequin Medical Romance author Scarlet Wilson!

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Advice From The Archives: Don’t Let The Plot Get In The Way Of The Story

Welcome to the first in our new monthly Advice From The Archives column! This is where you’ll be able to find timeless advice from the Harlequin editors on how to write the perfect romance. This blog dates from the 2010 New Voices competition that Harlequin UK ran – so please forgive all the British-isms! It’s a long one, but it’s a total gem – enjoy!

Have you ever wondered why you can’t get your characters to behave in the way they should? Or why your ending isn’t as satisfactory as it ought to be? Well, worry not, for Romance HQ has the answers! Well, some of them…  We’ve polled our trusty editors and come up with what we think are some of the most common pitfalls of plotting a romance novel.

Your enemies are…

  • Clichéd Openings
  • Puppet Characters
  • Plot – Show and Tell
  • ‘Crunch Time’ – Your Ending

Let’s begin with those pesky first scenes…

Here, collated for your reading pleasure, are the official Mills & Boon Top Ten Most  Clichéd Openings:

#10 “It’s not you…” We’ve all heard this one! Dumped, heartbroken heroine discovers ex is a faithless devil and swears off men.

#9 “I’ll be back…” Absent husband returns to seek revenge.

#8 “Promise me! Promise…meee…!” Deathbed vows to contrive a meeting.

#7 “You see, there’s something rather unorthodox…” Will readings to force conflict. Or even “Till death do us bring together.” Funerals, what a cheery way to start a romance ;-)

#6 “I’m getting on the next plane to…” Heroine leaves To Start A New Life.

#5 “To sir, with love” Your new boss, that one-night stand.

#4 “Insufferable man!” Heroine and hero take an instant dislike to each other.

#3 “Crying over spilled coffee” Accidentally bumping/crashing into each other.

#2 “The name’s Jones. Bridget Jones.” Hero catches heroine in embarrassing situation.

#1 “Fancy meeting you, ex, in the middle of my desert trek…” Coincidental reunions (Yes, SATC2 – we’re talking to you…).

But wait! Before you scrap those opening chapters, remember that clichéd openings are clichéd for a reason.

When and how clichéd openings work:

  • They can be an easy way to get straight into character and conflicts, e.g. “dumped” is an easy way to bring out the heroine’s back story.
  • They involve an immediate event to pull the reader in. You need to grab the reader by the throat/heartstrings/whatever you can and keep her attention!
  • A familiar plot allows the reader to understand immediately the sort of read they are getting, and with your feet on safe ground you can play with other elements!
  • They can help you engage readers immediately to your characters. Who can resist a heroine who’s struggling to get into big pants for a hot date! A heroine in an ‘embarrassing situation’ immediately gets the reader onside.
  • They’re a useful springboard to your plot – it’s not always easy to get your hero and heroine on the same page!

When clichéd openings don’t work:

  • They can lack individuality in their detail and voice.
  • When they’re plot driven. If the plot is just used as a vehicle to get characters together it can feel contrived, it’s the characters’ unique reaction to the situation that creates the magic.
  • They often involve too much focus on mundane details.

A talented writer uses these openings to showcase their individual voice, and often gives these openings a unique twist of their own, rather than relying on them. To help avoid the pitfalls, here are three basic steps to follow:

  1. Choose your set-up carefully and be aware of why you are using it.
  2. Question if this is the best way to bring your characters together.
  3. Understand the convention before twisting it.

Now, onto Characters Behaving Badly…

Acting out of character for the sake of the plot is a no-no. If your characters start bending every which way just to reach your desired conclusion then you are writing puppets, not people. Individual motivations and reactions are key – if these are not believable then your story won’t work. Remember how annoying it is when your favourite characters start acting crazy?

Just remember, never EVER let the plot get in the way of the romance – change the plot, not your characters!

Next let’s deal with the back stage/front stage struggle…

When To Show, and When To Tell?

Events that should be front stage are anything that moves on the romance or creates conflict and has its basis in emotion. Anything else is window dressing – watch that it doesn’t start blocking the view.

Ah hah! I hear you say – what about back story? The thing is, the most powerful back story is the one the reader sees through your characters’ reactions. Ask yourself how your characters’ story can be brought in through dialogue or their natural responses to situations and woven in to the story. If you are portraying your characters with enough sensitivity, subtlety and detail, we should get a sense of their back story before knowing any of the details.   

How To Grab Them at Goodbye!

Plot devices have no place in your final crisis. Think about the most powerful endings you’ve seen or read – they’re all about the emotional turmoil, not the action. In Bridges of Madison County there’s actually negative action in that final moment – Meryl Streep doesn’t get out the car! If you find yourself inserting a plot complication, involving a secondary character or an elementary misunderstanding, ask yourself – does your story need it? Can it be an emotionally black moment without the physical drama?

So folks, there we have them. The Pitfalls of Plotting. Whether putting pen to paper or finger to iPad, keep in mind these all-important points:

  • Choose your set-up carefully
  • Make sure your characters are driving the plot
  • The reader is interested in reaction not action
  • Know what plot needs to be on the page
  • Your reader will go with any plot if they believe in your characters
  • The characters are going on a journey – think of the plot as the road not the destination!

You’ve heard from the Harlequin editors, but make sure you tune in on Friday for the inaugural weekly Interview With… column with Harlequin Presents author Maisey Yates! 

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