Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing for Harlequin Romance by Melissa McClone

Good Morning, all!
I'm so happy to have a special guest author on my blog today: Harlequin Romance author Melissa McClone. My blog happens to be one of the stops on her whirlwind blog tour.
So please give Melissa a hardy welcome and hear how she got started writing sweet romances for Harlequin.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I never thought a high school English assignment would lead to a career as a romance writer, but that's exactly what happened to me. I was a senior in high school. Our class had taken the A.P. English test, and we still had a few weeks until graduation. Our teacher decided to expose us to various forms of writing. This included advertising copy and genre fiction.

One of those genres was romance. A classmate's mother loaned my teacher a brown grocery sack full of Harlequin Romances. I'd never read a category romance before. Each of us, including all the boys, received a book to study so we could come up with an original storyline. The assignment was to write the back cover blurb for our own romance novel.

The book I received was set on the Canary Islands. I can't remember the title, but I recall a postmark on the cover. (Today, I'd call it a flash.) I read the book that night. I attacked the writing assignment with vigor. Not everyone was as serious as some of us—okay, me—but we had fun listening to everyone's back cover copy.

I enjoyed my book so much I wanted to read another. I borrowed more of my friend's mother's books to read. I spent my summer devouring Harlequin Romances. I remember one book in particular, The Devil in Disguise by Jessica Steele. It featured a Greek hero and an innocent heroine. I'm not sure I'd feel the same way about the story today as I did when I was a teenager, but I must have read that book half a dozen times. Maybe more.

I loved the exotic settings, the emotion and the characters. Most importantly, I loved the happy endings. Harlequin Romances were so different from the other books I'd been reading at the time. When I'd finish a Harlequin, my heart would sigh. I loved that feeling (and still do!)

During college, reading romance novels became my escape from studying engineering. My reading expanded to include more category lines, both Harlequin and Silhouette, as well as Loveswept. I remember heading to the Waldenbooks store at the Stanford Shopping Center when the new batch of books arrived each month.

I also bought a book titled something like How to Write a Romance. That thin, little book inspired many daydreams. But I never wrote more than a line or two before a problem set or my work-study job at the engineering library would pull me back to reality.

After college, my reading expanded across the romance genre. But category romances, especially the "sweet" or "traditional" romances, appealed to me the most. I liked being able to finish a book in one sitting after a long day at the office or a night class working toward my MBA. I knew I'd fall in love with the hero right alongside the heroine. I'd be smiling and feeling all warm and fuzzy when I read the words "The End." I also appreciated the characters not having sex unless they were married.

I was in my early twenties. There was enough pressure in real life to have sex. "Sweet" romances gave me what I craved the most…romance. Sure, the rich, powerful, gorgeous hero would have slept with the heroine if she'd said yes, but he was willing to wait (and wait and wait) if she said no.

Fiction. Fantasy. Totally refreshing.

A perfect escape from the reality of the dating world.

When I decided to write my own romance novel, I knew I wanted to write a sweet. I wanted to make readers feel the same way my favorite authors made me feel when I finished reading one of their books.

So that's what I wrote. Rather, attempted to write. I didn't have any luck with the sweeter lines. Harlequin Mills & Boon rejected everything I submitted. But an editorial assistant at Silhouette was willing to read my stuff. In spite of her rejections, she told me to keep submitting. I did. I even quit my engineering job to pursue my writing full-time.

Soon, I began thinking I didn't have a "sweet" voice so I wrote a short contemporary. I sold that one to Silhouette Yours Truly. When that line ended—my book was the last published—I was moved to Silhouette Romance. I was so excited to be at one of my favorite "sweet" lines and wrote nine books for them until that line also closed.

I was then brought over to the Harlequin Romance line edited out of the Mills & Boon office in the UK. Finally. After all those years since my high school A.P. English class, I was writing for the line that first introduced me to category romance. I felt as if I'd come home!

Do you read category romances? Do you have a favorite category line you read?
If so, what line is it?

**********
CONTEST:
The tour will run February 14-March 1. Melissa will be giving away $20 Amazon.com GC to one randomly drawn commenter from her tour.
For Melissa's blog tour schedule, click
HERE.



Suddenly a Princess...

It's not every day that a tall, dark, handsome prince strides into your workshop and announces he's your husband! Mechanic Izzy nearly drops her wrench. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she'd become a princess!

Independent Izzy struggles with exchanging her oil-stained overalls for silken gowns, let alone becoming responsible for an entire country! Yet her attraction to Prince Niko tempts her further into the fairy tale. And then two small surprises change all the rules of the game....

Sounds great! Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!



****Side note: The winner of Friday's book giveaway, A Billion Reasons Why, is....
Cindy R. Wilson!!***** Congrats!!

67 comments:

Glynis said...

What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing such an interesting journey into publication.

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks Melissa. Thanks Jennifer. Another great interview.

My first category romance was
Harlequin Presents
The Honey is Bitter -- by Violet Winspear.

I still have my copy. It was first published in 1967 by MIlls & Boon, an my copy was in its 17th printing in 1977. So, there's something to be said for longevity.

Carol Ann said...

Melissa, thanks for sharing your story! I cut my teeth on those Harlequin romances, too. I truly understand that happy feeling at the last page. I'd hug the book to my chest, reliving the wonderful feeling of romance and happily every after. I'm so happy that you realized your dream! Congratulations and warm wishes for future success.
Carol Ann

melanie said...

I love sweet romances. You don't have to worry about coming to a part that makes you blush LOL

Liza said...

One summer, I was working/living at an old inn and found Harlequin romances in the old drawers in the parlor. That was some fun, quick reading!

Nancy Naigle said...

I enjoy the shorter reads when I know I'm going to have a hectic schedule, because I know I can finish the story in the small amount of time I have.

Thanks for sharing your journey. I can't wait to check out your release.
Nancy

Laura Pauling said...

I love hearing how people get involved with writing! it usually comes down to reading a really good book!

Adelle Laudan said...

Kudo's to you for doing your part to keep the sweeter side of romance alive and well. It is very refreshing. Your book sounds lovely. Happy trails on your blog tour.

Jill Kemerer said...

Congrats, Melissa! I love Harlequin Romances. They always have pretty covers and I know I'm getting a sweet romance. The new book sounds great!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I started reading the Silhouette Romance line. I was really bummed when that got canceled. But now I'm reading the sweet Harlequin Romances and really enjoying them.

Melissa McClone said...

Wow! Lot's of early risers here. I thought I'd beat people here. But then again, I'm on the west coast!

I appreciate everyone stopping by and commenting!

Thanks, Glynis! I'm still in touch with that teacher. It was fun to tell her the journey she started for me with that assignment!

Anne, that's so awesome you have that first one still. Someday I'll search for mine. I'd love to have a copy and reread it now.

Thank you, Carol Ann. It's interesting to see just how many of us started our romance reading with the sweet lines. Love the hugging the book to your chest!

LOL on the blushing, Melanie. When I wrote for Silhouette Romance the rule was was no sex unless married and I've stuck to that at Harlequin Romance. Expecting Royal Twins does have a wedding night scene. Not the easiest thing for me to write. A little strange have a story with a little spice in it.

Liza, your summer sounds like mine! So much fun!

Thanks Nancy. The length has always been a huge draw to me too. It's just right for a nicely timed escaped.

Exactly Laura. Something touches us and we want to read more of those good books. And eventually some of us want to try to write them!

Thanks Adelle! I appreciate it. This is my second to last stop. It's been a busy second half of February but fun to discover new blogs and meet romance readers!

Thanks Jill! I appreciate it. The line does do some lovely covers. This cover got some special touches like the ribbon at the top due to being part of the Babies and Brides series.

Okay, I think I got everybody! Thanks again for posting!

Melissa McClone said...

Jennifer, you snuck in while I was replying! I loved the Silhouette Romance line. It's sad the line had to go away, but it was so nice to find a spot at Harlequin Romance.

Thanks so much for hosting me on this tour stop! I really appreciate it!

Sarita said...

What a lovely interview, Melissa. It warms my hear to see how your dreams came true. I love it that you persevered! Good for you!

I generally pick up books from the Harlequin Romances or Love Inspired lines. It's just so nice to know the romance is there and the storytelling will be solid, and that I'll get a satisfying read every time.

I am looking forward to reading about Izzy and Niko. Their story sounds wonderful. Big congratulations on its release!

Devon Ellington said...

Great interview, Melissa! My mom was a big fan of the Harlequin romance lines.

I remember I liked Violet Winspear's name, and that's when I decided I'd write under pseudonyms! Now I'm a full-time writer with six of 'em!

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks Sarita. I am truly blessed to be able to do what I do. I might get a little panicked around deadline time (I have a manuscript due a week from today) but otherwise it's all good! I read Love Inspired, too! I hope you enjoy the book :)

Hi Devon! I introduced my mom to category romance. She's read it faithfully ever since. And Violet Winspear is a totally awesome writer's name. I've thought that since high school! Cool it led you to pseudonyms! Six of them. I'd wish you good luck with your writing but sounds like you don't need it! That's great!

Kristin said...

What a great "how I got started" story. Her newest book sounds pretty fabulous too. Honestly, I read any and all romance. Well, I do have one type I sort of avoid, the inspirational or religious based romances. Despite my own beliefs, these have always come across as a bit preachy and unrealistic too me.

TheBookGirl said...

Even though I don't read the romance genre, I really enjoyed this interview. My A.P. English class was one of my favorite high school classes. I still remember my teacher very distinctly, and I think its so interesting that the author's experience in that class came full circle to her writing career.
I also love the fact that the author studied engineering; my daughter is currently in a college engineering program and from my daughter's comments about the formidable curriculum, I can fully appreciate the author's need to escape into romance when reading for pleasure during those years :)

Rula Sinara said...

Thanks for sharing your journey story, Melissa. I always find it interesting to hear about authors who switch from working in a science related/left brained field into the world of writing romance. Best wishes!

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks, Kristin. The wonderful thing about the romance genre is there are stories for every reader and taste! Lots of variety!

Thanks, Bookgirl! I have the same memories of my AP English class. It wasn't big, and we all got to be close even though we were all so different. I remember late nights at Denny's ordering milk shakes and french fries. Our teacher would join us. It really was a unique experience considering the other classes at hs. Good luck to your daughter with her engineering studies. I really loved having my romance novels to relax with!

Thank you, Rula. I tell people I use both sides of my brain, but sometimes that left side takes over and I'm like "Whoa, where did that come from?"

Bossy Betty said...

This was such a great story of how you got to be the writer that you are! Thanks for sharing it!

PatriciaW said...

I love category. I read a mix of Love Inspired and Kimani Romance, with the occasional Blaze or Harlequin Romance thrown in.

I remember your Win, Lose or Wed from a few years back. That was a really fun read.

Felicia said...

As an aspiring writer myself (I've published a 2 novellas and a novel) the was very informative. I would liked to have heard a little more about whether Mrs. McClone used an agent to get her publisher's attention.

I wish you all with your career.

Amanda Gardner said...

Do you read category romances? Yes Do you have a favorite category line you read? Yes
If so, what line is it? Romance, Love Inspired, Presents, Desire, Medicals and Super Romance with some American Romance and Blaze every now and then.
My bookcase is mostly Presents, Love Inspired, Desire and Romance.

Melissa, I can't wait to read Expecting Royal Twins! and I had enjoyed Memo: The Billionaire's Proposal and SOS Marry Me! when I read them.

Tana Adams said...

Melissa, I loved reading about your journey! I'm a book addict too and that is exactly how I came to be a writer as well. Your novel looks mighty tempting. =)

Bethanne said...

What a great story, Melissa! High school, invaded by Harlequin. My parents would have been furious! :D Thanks for sharing your journey. I love your covers, btw. Have a great week and good luck on the tour.

Dru said...

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for sharing how you got started writing and what you like. I'm glad you stayed with it.

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks, Bossy Betty. Glad you enjoyed it!

Appreciate you chiming in, PatriciaW! Thanks for remembering Win, Lose or Wed. That was an Amazing Race fan paying homage to her fave show at the time. I had a lot of fun with it!

Felicia - Thanks! Good luck with your writing. I did not use an agent to make my first two sales. You really can do it on your own if you want to with Harlequin-Silhouette. After my second sale, I did find an agent. I was pregnant with my second child and thought it was time to hand the business side off to someone else. I didn't like the contract stuff. So now my agent deals with that, I work with my editor on the creative stuff. Works great.

Thanks so much, Amanda. I really hope you like the book! And I appreciate hearing you enjoyed the other two! Puts a big smile on my face!

Tana, thanks! I think many of us who are addicted to reading get to a point where we start thinking about writing. Sometimes it's a certain book we read or an idea, but once that spark is there it keeps growing. Good luck with your writing!

Thanks Bethanne! LOL on your parents being furious. This was the early eighties so the Sweets then were very sweet. TV shows were much racier so none of the parents minded at all!

I'm so glad you stopped by, Dru! Thanks! Perseverance is very important if you want to publish. It can happen overnight but often takes years, as in my case. Lots of people get discouraged. But those who stick with it really do see their dreams come true.

ingakaye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leni said...

A few that I enjoy reading are contemporary, spice, and love inspired.

lenikaye@yahoo.com

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks, Leni! I read many different ones myself, but my faves are the Harlequin Romance line and Love Inspired. Harlequin Presents is my other go to line when I just need to get away!

Helen Lacey said...

A wonderful journey Melissa. Other than Special Edition, Romance is my must read line. I remember the first M&B I read when I was young, called Winds of Enchantment by Rosalind Brett - five pages in and I was hooked. Great to see other's got their love for category romance the same way. All the best with you books.

Melissa McClone said...

Oh, Helen, I know that five pages in and hooked feeling. I'm a little envious that you and commenter Anne both remember that first title. I really am going to have to figure it out one of these days. And thanks!

Tamika: said...

I love hearing about your journey to publication, it cements my heart to sticking to my stories.

Thanks Ladies!

Melissa McClone said...

Glad you commented, Tamika! You have to stick with it. If you don't then know one else will. Sometimes that means a very long wait to hear back on something. My first ms. that sold took 17 maybe it was 19 months until the call came. So keep going with those stories! Good luck!

Kelly H-Y said...

What a great story ... thanks for sharing (my high school English classes never got to read Harlequin Romances!)!

cleemckenzie said...

Sometimes those first steps we take turn out to take us on the best of journeys. Loved the story.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

That was a great story, thank you so much for sharing it. I've always loved a nice romance whether its sweet, mystery or suspense filled, I just adore my happy endings!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great story. I don't read category romances. Until recently, I was read YA. Now I alternate between YA and romantic suspense. I love to write about romance and danger (in my YA novels), so RS seemed like a good choice to pick up. Now I'm addicted to them.

Maria Zannini said...

I love this story! I especially like the image of high school boys writing a romance. That just made me giggle.

Good for you for sticking with it. You picked the perfect job!

Melissa McClone said...

I just got home from taking my son to a Speed & Agility clinic and found all these comments! Thanks!

Kelly - we lucked out when we got Mrs. Cooper. She was one in a million! I still look forward to getting my yearly card from her. Quite a woman!

cleemckenzie - so glad you enjoyed the story. What you wrote is so true!

Holly Brown - you're welcome. Big fan of happy endings here. That's one reason I have to prepare myself when I read outside the genre. Can set myself up for a rude awakening if I don't!

Stina - lol on your addiction. Many of us here can relate. Good luck with your writing!

Maria - thanks. I'm glad I stuck with it, too. And the boys blurbs were...interesting!

Time to grab something to eat and get some more writing done! I'll check again later.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Thanks for sharing your great story with us!!

I actually haven't read many of these kinds of romances, i'm addicted to historicals, so i've read a lot of harlequin historicals!

Amy W. said...

Hi Melissa,
I loved hearing about your writing story. When I was in high school I worked at the library near my house, instead of checking out the new Harlequins I could just take them home for the night and bring them back the next day I worked. I probably read quite a few during those years. They were good company.

Amy

Melissa McClone said...

Glad you could stop by, Carrie. Thanks!

You're so lucky, Amy! That would have been cool to have access to all those books like that. Appreciate you dropping by!

Carolyn V said...

I haven't read a plain romance for a while. I love action with romance blended in. Because everything is better with a little romance. =)

Awesome guest authoring Melissa! Thanks Jenn!

Melissa McClone said...

Carolyn V - I agree, everything is better with a little romance! Thanks for stopping by!

Patti said...

I love reading author's stories about publishing their books. Sounds she's had an interesting journey.

blueviolet said...

The only romances I have ever read are those by Danielle Steele. Since they are all basically the same story recycled, I've really only read one romance in my life. So there you have it.

Susan Fields said...

I took Creative Writing in high school, but it sounds like your class was much more fun. How I would have loved an assignment like that one!

Congrats on your success and for writing for that first line that started it all for you!

Theresa Milstein said...

I used to read so many Harlequin Romance novels, but I haven't in awhile. I should pick one up again.

Melissa McClone said...

blueviolet - thanks for the smile today!

Susan - thank you! It was a great class. So many fond memories!

Melissa McClone said...

Theresa - Lots of really talented writers at Harlequin Romance. I feel fortunate to be there with them! Thanks for stopping by!

Melissa McClone said...

Patti - thanks for posting. It has been an interesting journey that's for sure!

Amie B said...

thanks for sharing your writing journey with us! although i've read many books that have inspired me, it was a book in my high school english class that had a direct inpact on my writing, as well!

Melissa McClone said...

Amie B - You, too! That's so great. I wonder how many of us are like that. I figured I couldn't be the only one. Does your teacher know?

Charlie King said...

And they say we need to remove collective bargaining rights from teachers! #Ohio Senate Bill 5

Cheryl Klarich said...

Thanks for the inspiration! I discovered Harliquin at a church Bazaar (I was in the fifth grade) it was love at first read... ;)

Melissa McClone said...

Your welcome, Cheryl! Love how you found romance novels. That's so great!

Ruth J. Hartman said...

Great post! I was nodding right along with you when you talked about loving the sweet romances. I get some flack sometimes for writing only sweets. But that's what I love! I figure there are more than enough books out there with page after page of sex scenes. Sometimes they go on so long, I'm thinking, "Oh please! No one really does that!"

Why not write about true romance?

Thanks for the post!

Ruth

www.ruthjhartman.blogspot.com

Stephanie Faris said...

I love Harlequin. Such fun little books. I'll have to check one of hers out.

Janna Qualman said...

Yes! First of all, I love anything sweet. :) And I relate to the strong foundation from hs English. Great piece!

Best to Melissa. And to you, Jennifer!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

My aunt used to give me hers after she read them when I was in college. I don't read many now but kudos to your high school English teacher for her open mind and exposing all of you to different genres than the literary stuff we force feed students.

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ruth! Glad to meet another fan (and writer) of sweet romances.

Thanks, Stephanie. Appreciate it.

Thank you, Janna. Glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks, Susan! Mrs. Cooper figured we'd already read the classic stuff so why not explore and have some fun with writing before graduation. She was and still is awesome :)

Em-Musing said...

A sweet, sweet story.

Terri Tiffany said...

I think her journey story is one of the coolest I've read! To think it started in high school English:) So glad she found her home!

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