A long, long time ago in a hopeless author’s galaxy…I thought my career was over. Okay, so it wasn’t so long ago. It was 2016.
At the time I’d had two publishers drop me and my books for low sales, comparison to other authors had taken the joy from my writing, and I’d been told I’d probably never be able to run after injuring one of my Achilles’ tendons. All in the same week. <—true story.
Needless to say, I wasn’t in a great position personally or professionally, and I was on the brink of giving up writing altogether. Obviously, I didn’t because you can see I’m still publishing books as fast as I can. I decided to give this writing gig one more shot by drafting a book for the pure joy of writing. That book became Rules in Blackmail, and here’s behind the scenes of how this book relaunched my career.
First off, I’ve known for more than five years I’ve wanted to write for the Harlequin Intrigue line, but every submission I threw at them got rejected. Not sure how many… But the first spark of inspiration for Rules in Blackmail came from a MSWL (Manuscript wish list) call from the editorial director of Carina Press. Angela James wanted to see a romance series pitch based on a group of mercenaries, and I literally salivated at the idea. I could do that, but the more I read the Intrigue line (because that’s where I wanted to be), the more I realized that element wouldn’t make it past the editors.
Inspired by authors such as Cynthia Eden, Janie Crouch, and Tyler Anne Snell, I took the idea of this band of brothers and created a security team of men and women who would do whatever it took to keep their clients safe. The first thing I had to do: write the entire manuscript.
I’d gotten so caught up in comparing myself and my writing to other authors before this point, I’d literally paralyzed myself from ever opening my laptop to write again, but I’d made myself promise to write this book just for me. Not worry about whether it would get published. Not worry if I’d ever write a book after this. All I had to do was focus on putting one word after another until I’d vomited this idea onto the page.
And in one summer that’s what I did. Every night after my husband got home from work, we’d take our son, who was three years old at the time, to the park. I’d bring my laptop, set up camp at the picnic tables and sprint to write 1,000 words. Every day for three months, I disciplined myself to finish that word count.
It was hard. In all my years as a published author, I’d basically written on my own schedule, leisurely, writing when I wanted to, but that’d never really worked for me in the past. I didn’t have any readers waiting on the next book from me, my social media following was close to zero, and I realized I couldn’t keep going like this if I wanted to succeed.
This time I gave myself a deadline. If I was going to give my career one last shot, I was all in. I had a deadline, and I wasn’t going to miss it. I gave myself three months to write 55,000 words, but most importantly I promised myself to just try to fall back in love with writing.
And I did. Before I knew it, the book was finished, and I was absolutely in love with the story. Enemies-to-lovers, blackmail, bodyguard. This book was everything I’d been missing in my romantic suspense reading. Sure, it needed some revisions, and I’d send it to my critique partner to catch anything I missed, but it was done. I’d given Rules in Blackmail everything I had at the time, and it paid off…seven months later.
After the Contract
I don’t know about you, but the second I signed the contract for my first Harlequin Intrigue, I was immediately motivated to start writing and submit the second book, Rules in Rescue. There’s something about having your ultimate goal and dream reached: you instantly start looking for and working towards the next way to get that same accomplishment high.
I’m not going to say Rules in Blackmail sold millions (it didn’t), or that readers suddenly started flocking to me (they didn’t), but giving my career that one last shot has relaunched a new sense of passion in my work, and I’ve had bigger opportunities come my way because of it.
And that’s more than I could’ve ever asked for.