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We loved your strong-minded heroine Kayla in last year’s boo...
I was introduced to the joy of reading romance at the age of thirteen by an elderly neighbour. Each week I’d visit her and we'd sort through bags and boxes of books – she didn’t know it then but she’d unleashed a monster! A wannabe romance writer monster. At the age of fifteen, totally inspired by the books I'd read, I tried my hand at my first romance novel (an abysmal attempt which still remains shrouded in dust somewhere!)
Many scribblings, many years, a slew of secretarial and sales repping jobs, marriage and two kids later I heard the wonderful Harlequin Mills & Boon author, Susan Napier, speak at a local writers group. She mentioned Romance Writers of New Zealand and its contact details. After about a year I plucked up the courage to join, and spent several years working on their committee. The sheer bliss of meeting with other people with the same dreams and aspirations, was indescribable.
Eventually I learned that to really be a writer you had to actually finish a book, so I did and won a few awards along the way including Romance Writers of Australia's 1999 Emma Darcy Award and Romance Writers of New Zealand's 2004 Clendon Award. In 2005 I changed my target market from Mills & Boon in London and sold to Silhouette Desire, a line I've always loved to read and one I’m thrilled to be a part of.
The morning I got 'The Call' I was in the bathroom, getting ready for work and just finished putting on my make up. When my husband called me to the phone I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard Silhouette wanted to buy my book. My first thought was, 'OMG, this is really happening!' I’d always read other people’s 'call' stories and thought about how I’d handle The Call (I had thirteen good long years to think about it) I swore to myself I wouldn’t go all gushy. Guess what? I gushed. I cried. I told my editor it was the happiest day of my life. Once my family realised that I wasn’t crying because someone had died, they all lay on the bed watching me talk to my new editor, frantically taking notes on everything she said. The make up, by the way, was a total wreck by the end of the call. After we finished talking, I quickly rang two of my best writing friends in Australia (they are two and two-and-a-half hours, respectively, behind me time-zone-wise). I woke both of them up but hey, it meant they could celebrate with me all day long. Then I had to head off to work (a half hour late but I wasn’t in any state to care – or work for that matter :-)).
It’s taken me a good many years to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, but it’s been worth the wait and the support from my peers has been fantastic. If I can impart any wisdom about my journey so far it’s this – never give up. Ever! Keep your self-talk positive. Dream a big dream and be open to continually learning more about the craft of writing. Take ownership of what you do. Be proud of your writing. Tell people about it. If you hide your biggest passion from everyone how can you ever expect them to take you seriously? This last one is a really major soapbox issue of mine – I have had the snarky comments and put-downs about romance writing, the offers to help me with a chapter of my book, the sly winks and too loud laughter. But I’ve held firm. I believe in romance, I believe in what I’m doing and I firmly believe in the power of love in all walks of life and at all ages. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. Be involved in your organisation. You’ll never regret the friendships and the wonderful contacts you make. And never give up! Ever!
Growing up, I wasn’t overly thrilled about moving from one home in one state to another and another. As an adult, however, I’ve realised that each experience – from orange grove-scented air in California to wild Wyoming beauty, from the rich green summers and white-white winters in Minnesota to the inexplicable appeal of the Arizona desert – has proved wonderfully useful when it comes to letting my imagination run riot while writing. I now know I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’ve treasured each place and those people I’ve known along the way. I value the changes, but I also value the constant – which is family. Family is what we make of it; by blood or by marriage or by enduring friendships. I hope I instill in my writing that basic point!