I want to thank Tina for inviting me to share my Call story and discuss the Harlequin American Romance line with you. Tina was one of my first critique partner's before I became a published author. Tina, how long ago was that--twelve-thirteen years? Time flies. Lives change. People move. But memories live on and I have many fond memories of my
critique group. Not until I sat in Tina's dining room with a small group of aspiring writers did I finally admit to myself that my writing wasn't just a hobby and that I really, really, really wanted to become a published author one day. Colorado
Okay, so here's my Call story--are you sitting somewhere comfortable? Need a refill on your coffee? Grab it now because this may get long-winded! I had written a manuscript (re-titled, The Cowboy and the Bride, June 2004) and had sent it off to the Desire line--just goes to show you that not all writers understand their voice or where it's best suited J.
The editor at Desire rejected the manuscript, but made some nice comments about my writing and encouraged me to send it to the American Romance line where she believed my voice fit better. I remember thinking to myself…Voice? What's she talking about? And American Romance line??? What was that? I couldn't remember if I'd ever read an American Romance.
I did as the Desire editor suggested and sent the manuscript to Harlequin. The only explanation I can come up with for the events that followed is that I may not have explained the situation with the Desire editor correctly in my cover letter, because less than a week after returning from the post office, I received a form rejection letter from the editor stating the manuscript wasn't right for the Desire line--well, I knew that! Assuming a miscommunication had taken place I decided to call the editor. My timing stunk to say the least--I phoned her at approximately 9:00 A.M. on September 11, 2001.
I had only given the editor my name and the name of the manuscript before the first
had been hit and chaos broke out in the Harlequin offices. The phone call ended quickly and I'd decided to wait a month if need be before phoning again. But that plan was dashed when I received a second rejection from the same editor two weeks later--this one educating me on the "definition" of a rejection letter. I broke down and cried. I thought for sure I'd been blacklisted at Harlequin and I'd never be able to submit another manuscript to them. Trade Tower
After a short pity party I went on the hunt for an agent--most wouldn't touch the manuscript after it had been rejected twice--even after I explained the whole fiasco. Fortunately Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Management liked challenges and took me on. She made a few calls and shortly after, the manuscript was read by Paula Eykelhof who headed the American line at that time. I received a request for revisions and a few months later Paige phoned to tell me that the American line wanted to buy my book. This all took place over a year's time. But wait!! My excitement was short-lived. Not long after receiving a release date my editor informed me that Harlequin wasn't sure they would continue the American line, so they'd put a freeze on buying future books. I thought great, I just sold and it was a fluke! Thankfully Harlequin decided to keep the line and I've been fortunate to sell more books to them.
I love the American Romance line. Senior Editor Kathleen Scheibling, Associate Editor Johanna Raisanen and Editorial Assistant Laura Barth are terrific ladies and a pleasure to work with. And they're always searching for new talent to add to the line. The sensuality level varies from book to book. Fleshed out sex scenes, to author's closing the bedroom door on the couple. It's really what the author is comfortable with.
Many of the American books are set out west--cowboys remain a reader favorite with this line. My April 2009 book, A Cowboy's Promise is part of their new Men Made in
series, which launches January 2009. America
Did you know that July 28th is National Day of the American Cowboy?
"Whereas pioneering men and women, recognized as cowboys, helped establish the American West...that cowboy spirit continues to infuse the nation with its solid character, sound family values, and good common sense; Whereas the cowboy embodies honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism."
Although the western theme is popular you'll still find diversity in the four books released in the series each month--this is one of the reasons I love writing for the line. Kathleen Scheibling has allowed me to explore some non-traditional settings in my romances--my Hearts of Appalachia series revolved around a Scotch-Irish clan in Heather's Hollow--a fictitious community in the mountains of
Eastern Kentucky. I was thrilled when the first book in the series, For the Children won Honorable Mention in the romance category of the 2008 Hollywood Book Festival competition, this was big news for a series romance.
From my McKade Brothers series, Aaron Under Construction took place in a Hispanic Barrio of Los Angeles. Ryan's Renovation took place in the
New York City borough of Queens. And this month's release, The Cowboy and the Angel, takes place in . Detroit
One thing I'll add about my writing is that sometimes I'm inspired to write a story that has more depth than the traditional romance. There's usually a social message buried in the story that for whatever reason I felt a need to convey to my readers. The hearts of Appalachia series was inspired by my great aunt who grew up in the hills of
. Her stories of living in the "woods" left an impression on me and a desire to bring awareness to this unique but often forgotten group of Americans. I tried to provide a glimpse into the Appalachian culture and some of the real struggles they face today in the areas of education, healthcare, land management--logging, increase in illegal drug trade (growing marijuana in the mountains), and moonshining. The Appalachian culture is slowly disappearing as the old ways struggle to survive alongside modern technology. I did a ton of research for this series and hope in the end that I was able to enlighten readers and bring about a better understanding and appreciation for this very unique area of our country whose traditions and culture date back hundreds of years. Tennessee
My current release, The Cowboy and the Angel (Nov 08) takes an in depth look at the complexities of social work in large cities. I hope that this story brings a greater awareness to the plight of runaways and children who fall through the cracks of our foster care systems. In the end my greatest wish is that the book inspires readers to give back to their communities in ways that directly help children. Each year my kids bring home a couple of "Angels" from the school Christmas tree and we buy gifts for teenagers who might not otherwise receive a present. And we're contributors to our local food bank--little things can make a big difference in the lives of needy children.
Speaking of communities…If you're targeting the American line keep in mind that a sense of community is important and often showcases the secondary characters who often play a prominent role in the hero and heroine's lives. I have a soft spot for the elderly and often create quirky and eccentric old toots to add humor to my stories--like Granny from my Hearts of Appalachia books. Always remember to keep the primary romance central--my editor reined me in after reading In a Soldier's Arms (Feb 08) because the heroine's relationship with her grandmother (Granny) was extremely strong and I had to go back into the manuscript and beef up the hero and heroine's romance.
At www.eharlequin.com you'll find these guidelines to writing an American Romance:
"American Romance features fast-paced, heartwarming stories about the pursuit of love, marriage and family in
today. We're looking for energetic writing and well-constructed plots based on contemporary, credible, appealing characters." America
"We're open to a range of tones and story types, from comedy to drama. Popular themes and story elements are welcome. Level of sensuality varies. Above all, it's important that these stories have a sense of adventure, optimism and a lively spirit—they're all the best of what it means to be American!"
The heroes and heroines in American Romance books struggle with the kinds of real-life issues many of us contend with on a day-to-day basis. In a nutshell a Harlequin American Romance reminds us of what's really important in the grande scheme of life--family, friends and love. And this is all accomplished in 55-60,000 words. I do a lot of cutting and tightening during the revision stage and most of my books come in under 55,000 words.
Whew! Am I a blabber mouth or what? I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about writing for the American line or just writing in general or maybe you have a questions about what Tina was like all those years ago
Thanks again for having me today!
P.S. Just for fun….the name Marin is pronounced "Mer-in"--like
Marin County in northern . Depending on what area of the country you're from some people pronounce it Marr-in, or Mair-in. No worries though, I answer to all three names California
Marin Thomas hails from
. She played basketball for the Janesville, Wisconsin University of Arizona Lady Wildcats at , where she obtained a BA in radio-television--which she has done nothing with all these years. Upon graduation, she married her college sweetheart in a five-minute ceremony in Tucson . Her husband's career in public relations has taken the family to Las Vegas Arizona, California, New Jersey, Colorado, Texas and Chicago, where she now calls the home. Windy City
Thanks for being with us in Seekerville, Marin. Marin has kindly offered to give away two copies of her latest release, The Cowboy and the Angel to two Seekerville posters!!!