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I have a degree in geology but I've always written stories. I read my first romance novel when I was 23 but didn't get hooked until I picked up authors like Karen Robards and Elizabeth Lowell. Those women inspired me to sit down and pound out 30 pages. But I got no further and I left them in a drawer.
In 1997, two months after I graduated, I thought, Do I want to spend every day as a geologist? No, I want to be a writer. I like romances since I get to have my happy endings --- I'm not big on depressing stories. It took me nine months to turn those 30 pages into a full manuscript. I entered it in a contest but the comments I got back were crushing: my writing craft, my grammar, my characterizations -- all bad. So I took a grammar class. I read Stephen King's book on writing. And I practiced. I wrote like a crazy woman for a good five years. Once I started to get better I began to enter other contests. Eventually I came up with the idea for The Secret Soldier: After reading about a tragedy involving American contractors in Iraq, I wanted to give that story a happy ending. In addition to a dramatic military rescue I added some geology and, of course, a lot of steamy sex.
In 2007 I entered The Secret Soldier in a contest that had a Harlequin editor as a final-round judge. That April Harlequin bought the book, and they published it in August 2008.What I Learned
I used to think that getting published would be the ultimate goal. Now I'd like to get my name established and make more money from writing. My advance for The Secret Soldier was $4,000. Top writers make up to $20,000 a book.
My second Harlequin book, Heiress Under Fire, was just released . I have a novella, Kiss Me on Christmas, that is coming out in November, and Unmasking the Mercenary will be published in 2010.
There was a time when I was embarrassed to say I write romance novels. Now I have absolutely no insecurities about it. I know how much hard work and brainpower it took to get me to this point. I love writing romance novels and I'm going to make money writing them -- hopefully, a lot. I couldn't dream up a happier ending!
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2009.