TheLostWifeWhen writing novels, one never knows where inspiration will strike.   A few years ago, I was well into my research for a book on the ways that Jewish artists managed to create art during the Holocaust, when I overheard a story at the local hair salon about a couple who were separated at the beginning of the war with each of them being told that the other had perished. Sixty years later, they miraculously were reunited at the wedding of their respective grandchildren.  When I overheard that story, I felt like I had been struck by lightning.  My mind was filled with so many questions: why had this couple each believed the other had died? What was their initial love story? What were their second love stories that produced the children who were now the parents of the grandchildren getting married?  And most importantly, how did they each survive World War II?

This story would end up being the bookends for my novel The Lost Wife, into which I invented the lovers’ histories both before and after their separation.

I wanted to draw in my readers by evoking the same questions that I had after initially hearing that story.  I wanted those questions to propel them into the same journey I too would undertake while crafting the body of the novel.

TheGardenofLettersThe inspiration for my new novel The Garden of Letters, also began after hearing a story that ignited my curiosity.  While at a dinner party, a friend shared with me the details about how her father had escaped from Hungry through Italy during WWII with forged papers that their family had spent their entire life savings on.  When my friend’s father arrived in Portofino, German guards were scrutinizing everyone’s papers so carefully that he was sure he was going to be arrested.

Suddenly, out from the crowd, a big barrel-chested Italian man cried: “Cousin, cousin, I’ve been waiting for you all week.  Thank heaven’s you’ve come!”

He was able to whisk my friend’s father away and take him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

When my friend’s father asked this man why he had saved him, for clearly he wasn’t his cousin, the man replied:  “I try to come to the port every month.  I try to save the person who looks the most afraid.”

When I heard that story I immediately thought it would make an amazing beginning to a novel.  I imagined the two people whose lives intersect at this occupied Italian port.    One fleeing and in need of shelter.  The other a person who sees that fear and sets upon helping him.   “The Garden of Letters” opens with my young heroine being saved from the Germans at the Portofino port by a doctor.

As in all my novels, I wanted my main character to possess a creative gift.  With The Lost Wife, I explored how art could be used as a form of Resistance against the Nazis.  In The Garden of Letters, I explore how music could be used.

My main character Elodie, is a young cellist who sends coded messages for the Italian Resistance through her performances And the book explores the many creative ways essential information was transmitted during the war.

When I traveled to Italy to meet with partisans and female messengers who were involved in the Resistance, I was introduced to a person who shared with me another unusual way information was sent during the war.  Giovanni Pellizzato, whose grandfather was both a bookseller and an active member of the Italian Resistance, described how codes were cleverly hidden throughout the pages of a book, and how within the back shelves of his father’s bookstore many of the books had their paper carved out to create a space where pistols were stored inside.  This information was so intriguing to me, it inspired the character of the bookseller, Luca, in The Garden of Letters.

As storytellers, we’re responsible for crafting narratives that bring our readers into a world that transport and hopefully inform.  As writers, however, we must also be open to all the stories that surround us, for everyone has a unique history to share.


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At BEA I sat down with Liane Moriarty, author of the newly released Big Little Lies. Liane is also the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

 

 

How did you get started as an author?
About ten years ago, I got a phone call that would change my life. It was my sister calling to tell me that her YA novel, Feeling Sorry For Celia, had been accepted for publication. My sister and I had always wanted to be authors. When we were children, our Dad would commission us to write novels for him. At the time of my sister’s phone call, I was working as a freelance advertising copywriter, writing everything from websites to TV commercials. Although I occasionally wrote short stories and first chapters of novels that didn’t go any further, I’d let my childhood dream slide. My sister’s news was the inspiration I needed to get me back to the keyboard.  In a fever of sibling rivalry I wrote a children’s book which was enthusiastically rejected by every publisher in Australia. I calmed down, and two years later, my first novel, Three Wishes was published around the world.

Do you have a sibling rivalry continuing on, now that you’re successful as well?
No, now we’re both published writers (as is my younger sister) we’re all just happy for each other. Although we do become quite competitive about material. For example, when one sister uses an old family story.

All writing materials aside, what material items in life could you not live without?
Well I couldn’t live without one cup of coffee a day, and without books – does that go without saying (laughs). And chocolate and champagne. Is that enough? And if I had all those things together then I wouldn’t need anything else.

How do you get into the writing mood? Do you have a particular place you like to write, do you listen to special music?
I have two small children so I only have a very limited time to write, so I don’t really have the luxury anymore of ‘getting into the writing mood.’ I just have to sit down and write.

Would you say that would be your top writing advice for aspiring writers, just sit down and write?
Yes, you can spend too much time asking questions about writing and wondering about writing and thinking about writing. In the end you just have to write.

If you were going to pick any country in the world or any city to live in which one would it be? (If you couldn’t live in Sydney.)
I’d live in a mountaintop castle near my family and the beach, where I could ski from my castle door and have a swim before breakfast at the beach. It’s a fantasy question so I’m allowed a fantasy answer!

What skills or talents do you admire most in other people?
I admire all those skills and talents I lack – the  ability to sing, to act, to sew, to speak other languages fluently, to cook gourmet meal without making a mess etcetera, etcetera!

Your books focus a lot around personal relationships and family dynamics. Do you find a lot of your personal life transitioning and spilling over into your writing, or do you like to keep the two separate?
Little bits and pieces of my personal life certainly seep into my writing. And that’s why I find that my characters are getting older as I get older, they’re aging along with me. So I’m sure one day I’ll be writing a book set in a retirement village.

If you were to describe why you think reading is important in one sentence, what would you say?
Reading is important because its one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, I also think that if its not a pleasure for you, that’s OK. For some people life’s greatest pleasure is music or art or scuba diving. I just think its important to find time for what makes you happy.

What are your other hobbies or pleasures?
I love snow skiing and bushwalking, and spending time with my children.

What is your favorite place in the U.S. that you’ve visited? Have you done much travel in the US?
I had a skiing holiday in Aspen once, many years ago, and loved it.

BigLittleLies_LianeMoriarty

 

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal.

A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly

What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads. This is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.



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What better place for inspiration to strike than at your local Midas? So it was for bestselling author Katherine Howe. In the autumn of 2012, as she was waiting for her car’s broken taillight to be fixed, half-listening to the local news on the waiting room’s television, she heard something that caught her attention. The anchor reported that doctors had finally concluded what really happened to the girls of Le Roy, New York.

That previous spring, sixteen high school classmates in upstate New York came down with sudden and strange symptoms, including uncontrollable tics, hair loss, and disordered speech. The story captured the attention of local media, and soon the small town had made national and international news. Experts from across the country came to investigate and to offer their own assessments—the girls were diagnosed with everything from PANDAs to Tourette’s. The HPV vaccine was to blame. Or maybe it was the polluted groundwater.

Meanwhile, as these girls were suffering through a very strange and very public ordeal, Katherine was just miles away, teaching The Crucible to a group of college students in her sophomore historical fiction seminar. As Katherine tells us, she was “eager to discuss the parallels between the ‘afflicted girls’ at Salem and these teenagers that lived so close. To my surprise, my students didn’t see a parallel. After all, the girls in the past were just crazy, whereas the girls in Le Roy had something really wrong with them. The more I watched the story unfold, however, the more struck I was by the disjuncture between what the Le Roy girls thought about their own experience, and what the assorted ‘experts’ brought in to comment on their situation had to say. I reflected at length about the Salem girls, and specifically about Ann Putnam, who was at the very center of the accusations in the Salem panic, who really did issue an apology (which is reproduced verbatim in this story) and who had been effectively written out of the most popular fictional account of that period in American history, The Crucible. In the past, as in the p

resent, the experts had one story to tell about this unique and frightening experience, while the girls, I suspected, had an experience all their own, that no one but them could fully understand.”

Conversion is very much a work of fiction, a novel set in a contemporary all-girls school in Danvers, Massachusetts, as well as in seventeenth-century Salem Village, but the story is grounded in exhaustive research and true-life details. What Katherine has created by weaving together these two narratives is an exciting and unsettling mystery. Working alongside Katherine, I marveled as she wrote, in a seemingly effortless way, a story that is both incredibly fun and a very thoughtful look at the pressures that modern-day high schoolers are under.

In the end, the girls of Le Roy were diagnosed with Conversion disorder, a condition in which the body “converts” psychological stress into physical symptoms. Is that what happened to the girls during the Salem panic?  To our young heroines in modern-day Danvers? Are they truly ill? Crazy? Faking it? Thank goodness for the long wait at Midas—it’s given us a perfect, chilling summer read.

 


1. Bath Time is Awesome. 

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From the early days of washing them in the sink (or bucket or whatever other vessel is at hand) to experiencing their joyous splashing in the tub, nothing is more fun than bath time, and nothing in the world smells more heavenly than a freshly clean baby.  Even the parts after bath are awesome—wrapping them up in a cuddly towel like a big burrito, smelling their hair as you comb through it, and getting those adorably cute pajamas on for bedtime are all sensory gold.  In fact, the only time bath time is not awesome is when it’s been 2 hours and the kid still doesn’t want to get out of the tub.

 

2.  The only thing routine about bedtime routine is that it’s never routine. 2

Bedtime is an emotional roller coaster.  The first 15-20 minutes, when you’re tucking in, cuddling, reading stories, singing silly songs, are everything that is good about being a parent.  But beware—these calm moments will lull you into a false sense of security, multiplying your pain a thousand fold for the next one to three hours while your demon spawn is suddenly “NOT TIRED!” and demanding treats, water, 75 more stories—basically anything to keep them from getting the sleep you know they so desperately need.

 

3. Privacy is a thing of the past. 3

Curiosity and a complete lack of any sort of sense of boundaries means that you are going to be seeing a LOT more of your toddler (and vice versa) than you probably ever anticipated.

 

4.  The house will get trashed and your favorite things will be destroyed. 4

And this is ok.  Material possessions become less important when compared to the sheer joy of watching your child develop, and a great anecdote is always more valuable than a new coat of paint.

 

5. Tea parties can actually be fun. 5

As can Legos, fire trucks, dollhouses, digging for worms, and eating imaginary food for the millionth time. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that your opponent is ALWAYS going to cheat at Chutes n Ladders or that the tea party you’re currently attending is going to keep you from checking your email for the next 3 hours, it’s fun to just let go and enjoy these moments that will all too soon be nothing more than fond memories.

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Dave Engledow is the author of Confessions of the World’s Best Father, a hilarious pictorial parody of a clueless father and his adorable daughter.

Happy Fathers Day!


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Welcome to Penguin This is my desk.

Welcome to 375 Hudson Street!

With the warm weather approaching, things are getting busier and busier here as we gear up for our summer season. Next week Penguin heads to Book Expo America (BEA), the industry book and author conference in New York City, which we are all very excited for. (Stop by the Penguin Booth and say hi if you are attending this year!) We have a lot of great authors going and it should be a lot of fun—look for our BEA wrap-up post coming soon where Amy, Lindsay, and I will all share our BEA 2014 photos and stories!

There is always something going on in our offices and this week (for me at least) it has been a busy one, but let’s focus on the fun bits from the last few days!

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This Wednesday, the Penguin Twitter Book Club held its second May #ReadPenguin chat with Jolie Kerr, author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…And Other Things You Can’t Tell Martha—my favorite question from the chat was “How do you clean a lasagna spill off the street?” If you are not already joining our Book Club chats you should, because we get to talk about fun things like lasagna (and books too, of course!) Next month we are chatting with Yours for Eternity authors Damien Echols and Lorri Davis.

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Beartiz Williams signing her new book THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT

 

On Thursday, New York Times bestselling A Hundred Summers author Beatriz Williams stopped by to say hello and sign copies of her new book The Secret Life of Violet Grant, which comes out next week on Tuesday, May 27th and which I am very excited to read. Amy and I went up to say hello and grab a picture. See you next week at BEA, Beatriz!

Today, Friday, we have a half-day to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

Just your typical week at the office…and now I am off to sunny (fingers crossed) Long Island to sit outside and enjoy the weekend. What are your Memorial Day plans?

Until next time,

Shelby


Women have done amazing things for literature and have been an instrumental part in shaping the literature of today as well as the current publishing industry. In honor of National Women’s History Month we wanted to recognize these impressive women for all that they have done and will continue to do in the future.

There are too many amazing women, inspiring female characters, and wonderful authors to name, so instead I am going to discuss the ten books that have most inspired and/or deeply affected me in the last year. As a happy coincidence, ALL of these ten books were written by women. Today you get the second half. Check out My 10 Favorite Books from the Last 10 Months (Part 1) for the first half of this list.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

This is hands down my favorite book (at the moment). It also happens to be one that truly encapsulates Women’s History Month. The Invention of Wings follows the lives of two women from opposing backgrounds. Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a wealthy family in early nineteenth century Charelston is given a present that alters her life. Meet Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave and Sarah’s eleventh birthday present. Kidd follows the lives of these two women from childhood into adulthood. We watch as they grow up, grow apart, and rebel against the lives they were born into.

What I think is particularly compelling about this book is that it looks at slavery from the slave, the slave owner, and the abolitionists perspectives all at once. On top of the slavery discussion, this book also looks at gender roles and the strict confines of society on women. Sue Monk Kidd presents an interesting comparison between abolitionism and women’s rights that is still relevant today. This is a book that I would recommend to anyone, but particularly to a female audience.

Sue Monk Kidd is also the author of The Secret Life of Bees, another book that I would recommend.

 

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Coping with death and loss appears regularly in literature. This is a middle grade novel told from the perspective of twelve-year-old genius. Willow is not your average middle schooler, she is incredibly smart, and prefers her garden and her medical textbooks as opposed to other kids her age. When Willows adoptive parents both die in a car crash she is forced to come to terms with her parents’ death and her grief while simultaneously finding herself and her place in the new world she has been thrust into. Told through Willows’ unique, intelligent, and scientific-minded voice we follow along as this young girl turns her grief into a discovery rather than a tragedy.

I bet you were not expecting to find a middle grade novel on this list, and I can assure you that when I picked it up for the first time I was not expecting this book to be in my Top Ten either. But the surprise is what makes this book so special.

 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot is the saddest books that I have ever read and I like sad books so that is saying a lot. I’m a fan of any book that I am still thinking about days, weeks, and months later and this book is exactly that!

Married couples splitting up have become the norm. Divorce rates are high. I am just entering the phase of life where weddings are a regular event. I have been told to enjoy this “wedding phase” while it lasts because after that comes the “kid phase,” and then the “divorce phase.” What Alice Forgot deals with all of these three phases of life. Alice has amnesia. She wakes up in the middle of a ugly divorce and her children are in their early teens. However in Alice’s head, she is a newlywed, floating in marital bliss, and pregnant with her first child. She is quite confused, as you might imagine.

Moriarty magnifies both of these two pivotal times by examining how Alice fell in and out of love. I am a fast reader and I like to start and finish a book all in the same week. This book took me a while. I found myself regularly having to stop and think about what I had just read, for a day and often for a week. This is a difficult book to read in one sitting and is not necessarily one to take on vacation. What Alice Forgot will make you pause and really think about the ways we treat others and ourselves.

 

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi

Every book on this list is here for a reason and Ghana Must Go is here for several, one of which being that it may be the most beautifully written book that I have read in my life.

Kweku Sai, a divorced father of four and renowned surgeon, is dead. His death starts the ripple of events that bring his estranged family slowly back together. Secrets and disappointments have drawn the family apart over time and it takes the death of their father to bring them back together. This novel looks at the unconditional love of family and “teaches that the truths we speak can heal the words we hide.”

This is a book that spans generations, moving seamlessly through time, point of view, and voice as it looks at how a single family grew up, grew apart, and what it took to bring them back together. Taiye Selasi is a beautifully eloquent writer who I cannot wait to read more of.

 

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

Golden Boy, by Tara Sullivan

This is a book truly unlike any other I have ever read. Golden Boy looks at the life of thirteen-year-old Habo, who is growing up in a small Tanzanian village. His father abandoned the family because he could not accept his son. His mother will not look at him. His brother terrorizes him. The other children in the village have never asked him to play. Habo is alone and different. When Habos’ family is cast out of their village, he knows his yellow hair, light eyes, and white skin is the reason why. As his family travels across the Serengeti in order to seek refuge in Mwanza, Habo discovers his curse has a name: Albino, and there are people hunting him.

When I think of oppression and discrimination, in terms of history, there are three things that come to mind: slavery, women’s rights, and the holocaust. Maybe this is because I commonly have more access to books that discuss these issues, maybe it is because these are common topics in literature, but it is both refreshing and upsetting when you come across a case of discrimination as graphic and disturbing as the one discussed in this book. Particularly when you did not previously know it existed.

Golden Boy is a Young Adults book and while aimed at a younger audience, was one of the more enlightening and educational books that I have read this year.


While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell I’ve never been known as a trendsetter. So imagine my surprise—and delight—when I found out my Sleeping Beauty–inspired novel, While Beauty Slept, would be published the same year a high-profile Sleeping Beauty reboot hit movie theaters. Invariably, I knew, my book would be compared with Angelina Jolie’s big-budget Disney film Maleficent, even though I suspected the two stories would take very different approaches. I had always intended my book to read as historical fiction rather than fantasy, imagining the dramatic events of the fairy tale as if they had happened to real people.

I was pretty sure Disney would be going in the opposite direction—and judging by the recently released Maleficent trailer, I was right.

There’s lots to love about it, from the appropriately eerie Lana Del Ray cover of “Once Upon a Dream” to the overall creepy tone. We like our fairy tales dark these days, focusing less on the “happily ever after” and more on the dangers that come beforehand. The Maleficent of the 1959 animated movie is one of the great Disney villains, right up there with Cruella de Vil and Snow White’s Evil Queen, and when I wrote my book, I renamed her Millicent so that she wouldn’t come across as a cartoon bad guy. If I wanted my story grounded in reality, it didn’t really work to have a character whose name literally means “I do terrible things!”

I’ve still got a soft spot for the original Maleficent, though, and Jolie perfectly captures the character’s magnetic evil. With her glowing eyes, spine-chilling cackle, and one-of-a-kind black antler hat, she’s mesmerizing. The only thing that took me aback was when one of her freaky-sharp cheekbones nearly popped out of the screen; I hope that effect was achieved through makeup or special effects, rather than a starvation diet.

There’s plenty more movie magic in the trailer: flying fairies, a levitating Elle Fanning, and trees that morph into soldiers. There are battle scenes and rugged castles that look like outtakes from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, both series I love. But I worry about all these epic fantasies blending into one indistinguishable mass of CGI overkill. A friend of mine once expressed her distaste for traditional westerns by saying she didn’t like movies “filmed in brown”; it seems we’re now living in an era of fantasies filmed in gray.

Maleficent is an iconic character, and Angelina Jolie has the star power and talent to pull off that tricky role. Self-interestedly, I’d love the movie to be a huge success. But I also hope the film is able to create a sense of real magic: the kind that comes not from clever programmers sitting at computers, but from a story that whisks you away from the everyday. With While Beauty Slept, I wanted to create a world where the drama arises from human actions and emotions. I believe the story of Sleeping Beauty has resonated all these years because of its characters and its imagery: the dramatic curse, the finger pricked on a spinning wheel, a princess sleeping alone in a tower. None of these moments needs over-the-top special effects to cast its spell on an audience.


The Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price

August 26, 2004. My alarm goes off at 3:55 in the morning. I lumber through darkness, nearly skidding across the kitchen on my cat’s empty food bowl. I sit down at my desk and croak out several test words until I stop sounding like Sylvester Stallone on diazepam.

Right on schedule, the telephone rings. A chirpy young woman greets me and asks me to hold for the host. I grunt in agreement. My latest interview is about to begin.

Long ago, in the dark and rustic age and before social media, authors once promoted their books through wireless aural transmissions called “radio.” My mission, which I chose to accept, was to explain my debut novel to a bunch of East Coast morning listeners, dazzling them so much that they pull their cars over and add my book to their “Holy Crap/Gotta Buy” list.

I wasn’t optimistic but hey, any exposure is good exposure. And this host is clearly skilled at dealing with semi-conscious phone guests. He steers me through the interview like a pro. By his fifth question, the fog is lifted from my head. The two of us chat like old college buddies.

Suddenly I hear a familiar creak behind me. A feline comes traipsing in through the flap in the porch door. He’s an orange and white tabby with a long, narrow body. Ridiculously long. If he could stand upright, and if he wasn’t neutered, he would be the Wilt Chamberlain of cats.

His name is Jake. And he is home.

A little backstory: Jake had lived his first two years under the care and collar of my next-door neighbor, until my neighbor abruptly moved away. Jake informed me in no uncertain terms that he was taking over my place, but I could stay with him if I wanted. I was okay with that. Though he was Keyser Soze to the other cats in the neighborhood, he was well-behaved and eminently pettable around humans, especially me.

But he had one big problem. I can only assume a mad scientist had implanted a megaphone into his larynx because when Jake meowed, the walls shook. Birds fluttered out of trees. Dogs in the next town raised their heads in tense query. Jake’s favorite pastime was to sneak up behind me, ninja-style, and then blast me with his sonic mewl. To this day, I remain the only novelist on Earth with a detachable skeleton.

Now Jake is back from his late night thuggery and utterly confused to see me awake. I cover the phone just in time to block his inquisitive yowl, then brusquely motion him away. Go! Go!

While I answer the host’s question about the origins of my story idea, I nervously watch Jake. He has difficulty processing behavior that doesn’t revolve around him, and assumes I’m only up at this hour because I’m so damn excited to feed him. He hurries over to his empty food bowl, then shoots me a hot-eyed glare that only a cat can conjure. You…bastard.

“Raer!”

I cover the receiver again, a split-second too late. I can hear the brief, addled skip in the host’s next question.

Jake isn’t done registering his outrage. My heart hammers as he draws closer. I don’t have the time or mind to explain the concept of live radio to him, so I try every gesticulation imaginable. I shush. I wave. I plead for him to be quiet. I draw a frantic finger across my neck, proving beyond all scientific doubt that cats ascribe no meaning to the slit-throat gesture.

“Raer! Raer!”

Soon the interviewer has no choice but to address the elephant in the room. I can hear the rolling chuckles in his voice, the laughter he’d been suppressing for thirty seconds now.

“Is that your cat?” he asks me.

By now, my mind’s working at full emergency power. The red hot embarrassment has made me hyper-alert to the point of giddiness. I am backed into a corner, a mile out of reach of any sane retort.

“No, it’s my dog,” I reply. “He has issues.”

This all happened nine and a half years ago. The world’s moved on to bigger and better things—Facebook and Twitter and blog tours and Goodreads, all venues that are much more flexible to a poor writer’s schedule, and utterly impervious to cat noise. I don’t remember the name of the man who interviewed me that morning. But I’m pretty sure he remembers me.


Romance is My Day Job, Patience BloomI often encounter people who say, “I’m going to write a romance novel. It’s so easy. Just write to a formula and send it in.” Romance writers and editors laugh a little at this because it’s not so easy. Believe me, I’ve tried it—at least ten times and can’t get past chapter three. But say you do have that true drive to publish in romance, here are a few steps you need to take.

  1. Love writing. Love love. To write a romance, you have to immerse yourself in the goo of love—how exciting, difficult, invigorating, frustrating, and life-affirming it is.
  2. Write a good book. Throw your heart and soul into your romance. This could be the beginning of a new life and you want to give it your best shot. You will find many references and I’d recommend first off Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger. Also read GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon, along with every romance-how-to you can find.
  3. Don’t do it for the money–even though money is nice. If I had a nickel for how often I’ve heard, “To make some extra dough, I’ll just write romance novels.” Many paid writers learn that you can’t count on a paycheck when you write. And this paycheck depends on your next book, which may not sell. There has to be another reason for writing a romance.
  4. Try not to get too attached on the outcome: I must get published. I’m desperate to get published. If I don’t get published, I’ll be miserable forever. Please publish me now. When you write because you love to write, it shows in your work.
  5. Make one new contact a day with fellow romance-aholics/industry professionals. It’s easy to develop a one-sided relationship with your computer. Get some fresh air, interact with others and move ahead.
  6. Have other people read your good book and take their suggestions seriously. The romance world is a nurturing business, for the most part. Sure, it’s not perfect but adopting a positive relationship with your fellow writers is key. When you show your work, expect suggestions and support. We all want your book to be amazing! Just think, you could be the writer who makes me forget all my problems and get lost in your story. This is a gift to a reader.
  7. Map out your publishing ambitions: traditional publisher vs. self-publish. If the former, which houses/editors would like your book? Do research on publishing houses’ lists. I suggest doing this when you’ve completed a rough draft of your book. If you go the self-publishing route, be sure to strategize how you will tackle the many hats you’ll wear as your own publisher. It’s all exciting, but planning is crucial.
  8. Have your next story in mind. If you meet with an editor and she isn’t so hot on your project, tell her what else you have. In romance, we want to build you as an author. The more you write, the more possible this is. No achy breaky one-hit wonders here.
  9. Go to conferences and chapter meetings. Follow up on the inspiration you get from these outings, i.e. read the books you find, chat with new friends, go through your notes from the workshops and revise your book accordingly.
  10. Rewrite your page-turning romance until your brain nearly explodes. When you read your book without an iota of boredom/frustration/misgiving, unleash it on the editors and see what happens.
  11. Patience is a virtue. You know I had to throw that in. There is a lot of waiting when you submit to traditional houses. It’s part of the deal. What do you do while you wait? Repeat tip #2.
  12. If at first you don’t succeed, never ever give up writing or trying to get published. One of the heartbreaks we editors experience is when a writer abandons her craft. Life can intervene or maybe that drive has fizzled. One must obey that call to other bliss, of course. But if there’s a morsel of yearning that keeps you obsessing about writing, just do it, keep doing it and submit until you can’t submit no more (also read Chicago Manual of Style, which would tell me not to use a double negative).

Because of our readers’ voracious appetites, we constantly need books. You’ll see us on Twitter, Facebook, at conferences begging for a great new story. Face it, romance writers keep us in business (you don’t want us to starve, do you?). So, keep these tips close and if you ever feel discouraged or inspired, read them again them, stay positive, and submit your story.