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Jennifer Wagner

Jennifer Wagner

"Proud to write for Mills & Boon"

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jenniferwagner.com

Jennifer's top writing themes

Surburbia and neighbours
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Emotional expression - wit
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Coming of age
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About Jennifer

When I was nine years old, my Mom caught me reading Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss under my covers with a flashlight. She was not happy and didn’t quite buy my fervent assurances that I skipped the sex scenes. Strangely enough, I’d read a few already in other books and wasn’t nearly as interested in them as I was the rest of the story.

And so my love of reading romance began. Once my romance-writing mother realised she’d have to keep her stash of books under lock and key, she decided loading me up on the old Harlequin romances was better for both of us. I was voracious and the used bookstore became my favourite haunt. (The owners still like to tease me that this is where I cashed my first check ever!)

Strangely enough, it never occurred to me to actually write my own. I watched my mom type away, attend New Jersey Romance Writers meetings and conferences, but tackling a book myself seemed impossible. While in college, I applied to Meteor Publishing to become a reader for their Kismet line and soon had boxes of manuscripts delivered to my door. I was being paid to read! It was then I first thought I might be able to write one myself. I started with small stories and everything I sent to magazines was rejected.

That’s when mom dragged me to a NJRW meeting. I was busy teaching elementary school at the time and had just mentioned writing again, so she jumped on the chance. At the meeting she cleverly sat me next to a very nice woman who stood up at one point to tell the others about her latest sale. She was Linda Cajio, one of the women whose wonderful books sat on my keeper shelf.

I was hooked.

I joined RWA and NJRW, where those savvy ladies in my chapter mentored me through the learnings of this industry. They also twisted my arm to take on jobs for our meetings and conferences. It was at my first NJRW conference that I was 'forced' into being the moderator for Nora Roberts’ workshop. I managed not to drool or stutter (I think!) and before the talk began, she asked me about my book. Nora Roberts asked ME about my writing!

I kept learning. After every NJRW program I’d take my new knowledge home and tear my manuscript Echoes apart. It was not pretty. A dozen rough drafts later, I started entering in contests, did well in a few and sucked the bottom of the writers’ barrel in others. With the help of my critique partners – my mom, Lyn Wagner and Mary Stella – I kept working at it.

When I turned twenty eight, my life went through a crossroads-type change. I quit my teaching job (I could go into the myriad of reasons why, but now’s not the time for that soapbox). I began traveling all over the US as a photographer. I learned a lot and I’m sure many of those experiences will find their way into future books! It was during this time that I finished Echoes and while at NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference in October, 1999, I pitched the book to Melissa Jeglinski, a Senior Editor with Harlequin. She asked for the whole manuscript, so I hurried to print it off and ship it out. I knew from my writer friends that the average wait time for response from was a year to a year and a half  – so 'The Call' was a complete surprise. My mother frantically paged me at 4:30 pm, but I couldn’t return her call until close to 5:00 pm She was practically hyperventilating, telling me that Patience Smith from Harlequin had called and would like me to call her back.

I did. But it was a Friday afternoon. The offices were closed.

The next forty eight hours were a roller-coaster. Only my mother and immediate family, Mary and my close friend, Anne Walradt, knew about the call. We speculated. They tried to contain their cheer. I was Ms. Negative, figuring they’d lost the last half of my book and needed me to send it out again. After all, it was only four months since I’d sent it in.

On Monday morning, I called Patience and found out that Melissa Jeglinski liked Echoes enough to pass it on and now they wanted to buy it! I was in shock, even though a part of me was prepared and hopeful. I remember staring at myself in the mirror, holding the phone to my ear and seeing my mouth fall open. It was Valentine’s Day and I’d just sold my first romance!

Since then, my life has changed drastically. I’ve learned about revisions, galleys and the title changes. I’ve even found my very own Prince Charming. I didn’t need to travel the country to find him – he’d been in New Jersey all along! Every day with him is a gift of laughter and love and I realised that I could never create a romance hero who could compete with him... but I’m still going to try.

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New Year, New Man

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  • £27.92
  • £9.99